*A/N: Thanks to cookiesarefood for her betaing skills.*
Previously in Chutes...
“Go,” the blonde told her. “I’ll wait for you.”
Nodding, Faith leaned closer to press a quick kiss to the other slayer’s lips. “Okay.” Standing, she followed Giles through the doors to recovery.
With the Mayor’s plans averted, at least for the time being, the gang’s activities returned to normal. College acceptance letters were arriving. Joyce had the scratch on her car buffed out and allowed Buffy off major chore duty. Doyle and Wesley had both been released without complications. Spring was in full bloom, and love was in the air, especially at Sunnydale High School. It was the night of the Senior Prom.
While their classmates were having fun, Buffy and Faith were locked in a faculty bathroom by the library, shucking off their disheveled clothing. “Just once,” Buffy said, “I’d like to not be late for a major life event because someone releases hellhounds.”
“I thought it was fashionable to be late?” Faith laughed, shaking their dresses free of the bag they’d brought with them.
“Not this late,” the blonde grumbled. She accepted her dress from Faith and slipped it over her head. “Zip me up?”
“I’d rather just rip it off you,” Faith told her frankly. “How about we skip this thing and head straight for the after party?”
“Faith!” Buffy whined.
Faith took the smaller girl by the shoulders and turned her so she could zip the back of her dress. “I’m just playing. I know how much this stuff means to you.” Her fingertips left the dress, sliding up Buffy’s bare shoulders. Tugging the blonde closer, she gently pressed a kiss to the back of her neck.
Buffy turned in her arms. “You’re sweet. I like you.” She squeezed Faith tightly around the waist.
“I like you too,” the older girl grinned. “You wanna let me put my dress on now or should I just go like this?”
Buffy glanced at the skimpy panties Faith was wearing. “Dress. You, dress, now.” She stepped away, unearthing her makeup from the bag and beginning to apply it. When she was satisfied with it, she unclipped her hair and shook it out. It was thankfully unflattened by chasing hounds from Hell around town. Satisfied that she looked presentable, she turned to see how Faith was doing.
The other slayer was bent at the waist, carefully buckling the strap on her heel. She wore a slinky white gown that wasn’t quite skin tight, but still showed off her well muscled body. Her hair fell naturally around her shoulders. As she straightened up, she glanced at Buffy.
“Wow,” the blonde said. “You look beautiful, Faith.” She wasn’t exaggerating. Butterflies appeared in her belly when she looked at the other slayer.
Faith flushed, running a hand quickly through her hair. “I’ll be the second hottest chick there,” she said, looking her girlfriend up and down. Buffy looked gorgeous in her pink dress. Although she’d teased about skipping the Prom, she wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Buffy loved stuff like this, and she deserved to have a good time. If the people of Sunnydale knew how often she’d saved their bacon, they would be throwing a parade in her honor every week.
“You’ve never been the second hottest anything,” Buffy replied sincerely, taking a step closer. Her arms snaked around Faith’s waist. Their dresses rustled as they pressed against one another. Forgetting her carefully applied lipstick, Buffy eager kissed the girl in her arms.
Faith left out a soft mmmm, her hands sliding up the blonde’s back to entwine in her hair. Kissing Buffy always made her skin hum. She didn’t know if it was the slayer connection, or if everyone felt this way when they were in love. Either way, she loved the feeling. When Buffy’s lips traveled to her neck, Faith chuckled softly. “Second thoughts about actually making it to the Prom?”
“No,” Buffy replied uncertainly, and then louder, more sure, “No.” She pulled away, smiling sheepishly. “You distracted me.”
“I have that effect,” Faith agreed wolfishly. She glanced in the mirror, making sure her makeup was still intact.
A little touch up on the lipstick and both slayers were perfect. “Ready?” Buffy asked, holding her hand out.
Faith took it. “Time to party like it’s 1999.”
The two entered the gym hand in hand, waving at their watchers. The gym was decked out in balloons and streamers in maroon and gold, the Sunnydale High colors. The lights were low, a disco ball flickering over the people dancing in the center of the gym. Buffy’s grin was enormous. Everything was perfect. Faith looked at her beaming, beautiful girlfriend and practically swelled with pride. Buffy was amazing, and she was all hers.
Faith’s hand firmly in her own, Buffy sped toward their friends, who were seated at a table already.
“Hey!” Willow beamed. “You guys look great!”
“So do you,” Buffy complimented. “Oz, Xander, looking quite suave.”
Up on stage, a throat cleared. The awards portion was about to begin. The slayers sat down at the table, and everyone turned their attention to the speaker. Well, almost everyone. Faith was mostly just watching Buffy. She held the blonde’s hand in her lap, lightly stroking the inside of her wrist. Goosebumps slowly appeared on Buffy’s arm, letting Faith know the light touches were getting to her.
There was interruption in the speeches, as someone else was called to stage. Buffy turned to her and raised an eyebrow. In a low voice she asked, “How is it that you can make handholding feel dirty?”
“Natural gift,” Faith whispered back, smiling.
Buffy was about to respond when she heard her name being called. Her gaze swiveled to the stage in surprise. Jonathan stood there, nervously gripping the microphone. A spotlight found their table, centering on Buffy, who blinked, not understanding what they were doing.
On stage, Jonathan addressed the crowd, "This is actually a new category. First time ever. I guess there were a lot of write-in ballots, and, um, the prom committee asked me to read this.” He glanced down at the card in his hands. “‘We're not good friends. Most of us never found the time to get to know you, but that doesn't mean we haven't noticed you. We don't talk about it much, but it's no secret that Sunnydale High isn't really like other high schools. A lot of weird stuff happens here.’”
From the crowd, students shouted out some of those events. A ripple of laughter passed through the room.
Jonathan looked a bit flustered at the interruption, but he managed to continue reading, “‘But whenever there was a problem or something creepy happened, you seemed to show up and stop it. Most of the people here have been saved by you, or helped by you at one time or another. We're proud to say that the Class of '99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history.”
The crowd began to clap loudly. Faith clapped hardest of them all, grinning from ear to ear. Buffy looked shocked, glancing around with tears in her eyes.
“And we know at least part of that is because of you. So the senior class, offers its thanks, and gives you, uh, this.” Jonathan held up a glittery umbrella with a little plaque attached to the handle. “It’s from all of us,” he said. “And it has written here, ‘Buffy Summers, Class Protector.’”
The applause rose, and several people cheered. “Go on, B,” Faith nudged her. “Get your award.”
The blonde rose from her seat and headed for the stage. Jonathan handed her the umbrella, stepping back and clapping for her. Buffy smiled her thanks, looking out at her classmates. In the back of the room, she saw Giles brushing some moisture from his eyes. Even Principal Snyder was clapping, although probably just to avoid being the only one visibly refusing to do so.
As she left the stage, she was surrounded by her friends. “Did you guys know about this?” She asked, overcome with emotion.
They all nodded, grinning at her. “You deserve it, Buffy,” Willow said sincerely, pulling her into a firm hug.
Xander wrapped his arms around them both. “You do,” he confirmed.
When they released her, Faith stood there, practically glowing. She was really happy for Buffy. Being a slayer was often a thankless job, but tonight, the blonde had gotten a small bit of the recognition she deserved.
“This should be for both of us,” Buffy pointed out with a sniffle.
“Nah,” the brunette scoffed. “You’ve been here way longer than me. This is your night, B. You enjoy it.”
Buffy placed her umbrella at their table. “Dance with me?” She asked.
Faith took her hand, leading her on to the dance floor. It wasn’t exactly Faith’s preferred type of dancing. If the look on Principal Snyder’s face was any indication, that kind of dancing was strictly prohibited. But she had Buffy in her arms, and that was enough to put a big dumb grin on her face.
“You having a good time, baby?” She asked, her breath tickling Buffy’s ear.
Buffy nodded, laying her head on Faith’s shoulder. “The best.”
The morning of graduation was bright and beautiful. Buffy bounded downstairs, looking forward to the graduation pancakes she’d been promised. Joyce stood in the kitchen, flipping pancakes and sizzling bacon.
“Morning, Mom,” Buffy chirped, heading to the refrigerator for juice.
“Oh, honey,” Joyce put down her spatula, intercepting her daughter midway to the refrigerator. She wrapped Buffy in a tight hug.
“Uh?” Buffy verbalized, hugging her mother back. “Good morning?”
Joyce pulled back, sniffling. “I’m just emotional, don’t mind me.”
The slayer smiled. “You do know I’m not going far away for college right? You’ll still see me all the time.”
“I know,” Joyce said, almost as if she were reassuring herself. “But you’re all grown up now. It won’t be the same.”
“Mom,” Buffy said sympathetically, but she was cut off by the ringing of the phone. “Hold that thought.” She plucked the phone from the counter and clicked it on. “Hello?”
“Buffy,” Giles said from the other end. “Turn on the TV. Channel six news.”
“Okay,” the slayer agreed, heading to the living room. “What am I looking for?”
Buffy flicked to channel six and turned up the volume. A newscaster was speaking. “In our top news story, Sunnydale mayor, Richard Wilkins III, was rushed to Sunnydale Memorial early this morning. The Mayor was reported to have suffered some sort of animal attack. Sources are now confirming that the Mayor has passed away from his injuries. No word yet from City Hall on who we can expect to fill his seat. In related news, today’s commencement ceremony for Sunnydale High, which Mayor Wilkins was scheduled to speak at, has been postponed. The city is in mourning today for this great, great leader.” The newscaster shook her head sadly. “Chet, how’s the weather today?”
Muting the TV, Buffy said, “I’ll be right there.”
Willow’s fingers tapped furiously across her keyboard. Although she’d been working on her witchcraft, she was still their go to hacker. She scanned the private files of the Sunnydale morgue, quickly identifying the case she was looking for.
“Are we in?” Buffy asked, pacing in front of the table. Giles looked like he wanted to join her, but he managed to hold himself in one location.
“Yeah,” the redhead responded, still reading. “Looks like we were right. Two puncture wounds to the neck, near complete exsanguination.”
Buffy stopped pacing, instead dropping herself into a chair across from her friend. “Okay, no surprises there. But why would a vampire kill the Mayor? I thought they were working for him?”
The library doors swung open as Faith and Wesley arrived. “What’d we miss?” Faith asked, taking a seat next to her girlfriend. Her fingers skimmed Buffy’s back briefly.
“Vampires ate the Mayor,” Willow supplied.
“Hmm,” Faith murmured. “Vampires doing our job for us. But why would they want to off him?”
“That’s what we were discussing,” Giles answered. “Perhaps they felt disenfranchised when it became clear he wouldn’t be ascending.”
“But you said he could try again,” Buffy pointed out.
“Well, vampires aren’t known for their patience,” Wesley replied.
“Okay,” Buffy said, “so the vamps didn’t want to wait around for the Mayor to make new plans. But why kill him? What are they up to?”
“Whatever it is,” Giles said with a grimace, “it can’t be good.”
The graduation ceremony was rescheduled for three days later. The gang had planned a barbecue for afterward, to celebrate themselves. With Cordelia heading for LA, this would be the last time they would all be together for a while.
“I still can’t believe you’re leaving,” Faith complained, as they all stood together, waiting for the ceremony to get started.
“Come visit me!” Cordy responded. “You could get out of this town every once in a while, see how real people live.”
“Real people like Doyle?” The slayer asked knowingly.
Cordelia flushed. “Doyle happens to live in LA, yes.”
“Uh huh,” Faith said, deciding not to torment her further. “Well, I’ll be up. I’m sure they got things to slay in LA, too.”
Cordy nodded sarcastically. “The city’s really known for the demonic tourism scene.”
Faith just smiled. “Think they’re calling your name now.”
Cordy headed toward the stage to check in.
“They’ll be calling you in a minute,” Faith said to Buffy, wrapping an arm around her waist. “Just wanna tell you how proud of you I am.”
Clad in her graduation gown and grinning, Buffy groaned, “Oh God, not you too. Mom’s been crying on and off all day.”
Faith laughed. “I’m not gonna cry.” Her fingers traced small circles on Buffy’s back through the gown.
“Good.” The blonde snuggled in closer, nuzzling her nose against Faith’s cheek. “I’m really proud of you too, baby.”
“What for?” Faith wrinkled her brow in confusion.
“Wesley told me about the GED,” Buffy said. “How come you didn’t tell me?”
Faith shrugged, flushing. “Wasn’t a big deal.”
“Yeah, it is,” Buffy insisted. “Do you know how many slayers before us were able to finish high school or earn a GED? Not a whole lot.” She ran her fingers through Faith’s hair. “We did it, because we have each other.”
“The Chosen Two,” Faith said, smiling.
“That’s right,” the smaller girl agreed. “Kicking demon butt into our 80s, that’ll be us.”
“Hope so,” the brunette said.
“I know so,” Buffy said. From the stage they called her name. She pressed a soft kiss to Faith’s lips. “See you after the ceremony?”
“I’ll be here,” Faith promised. “Good luck, B.”
“Love you,” Buffy said softly, pulling free from Faith’s arms.
“Love you, too.”
Buffy made her way to the front, quickly sitting beside Xander, Cordelia, and Oz. Willow followed a few moments later.
“I wonder who they got to speak in the Mayor’s place,” Willow said, as they all looked up at the stage.
“I think we’re about to find out,” Oz said, noticing that Principal Snyder was ushering someone on stage.
The man took his place at the microphone, holding some index cards. “Good morning, Class of 1999!”
The graduates all dutifully said good morning.
“For those of you who don’t know me, I’m former Deputy Mayor Alan Finch. With the untimely passing of my dear friend, Mayor Richard Wilkins, I’ve been asked to step into his shoes. Assisting me as Deputy Mayor will be Mr. Jeffrey Trick, a close advisor to Mayor Wilkins.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. Mr. Trick… as in the vampire who’d tried to kill her?
On stage, the new mayor continued to speak. “Mr. Trick and I have been putting our heads together, and I can tell you, we’ve got some very interesting things planned for the city.” He smiled widely, settling his eyes firmly on Buffy. “I can’t wait to show you what we’ve got up our sleeves.”
That's all, folks. Thank you for reading.