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Author's Note: I swapped continuity around for some of this episode, cut some scenes, and changed conversation between Buffy and Angel, and Buffy and Joyce where necessary, due to my alterations through the season. Other than that, nothing much has changed. Most of the dialogue has been taken from the actual episode. And if anyone is wondering where I got addresses from; Willow's, along with all the others are in The Watcher's Guide, Volume 2, and Angel's is my own creation, which is a reference to the year Arthur Conan Doyle published Sherlock Holmes Adventure of the Sussex Vampire. Enjoy.


Graduation Day: Part I.

It was said that after the first time, it was easy. That the second time was better than the first.

Trouble was, Faith could barely remember the first time. She could remember the force of her thrust, the blood on her hands. She could recall the look of surprise upon his face. The rest of that moment however was clouded by what happened when Buffy and her friends decided to teach her what was right and wrong about what she had just done. She had no time to savour the moment, to look at the corpse before her and let the revelation run through her mind.

She could remember the first time she had staked a vampire. Boston, a week after she had been called. There was no hellmouth there, vampires and demons were few and far between. Still, that first stake was imprinted upon her memory. She could remember being fascinated by the dust it had left behind; how quickly the body transformed into ashes, as though it had self-combusted right before her eyes, which, in a sense, it had. How quickly that dust fell upon the ground and disappeared. Leaving no trace.

Perhaps that had been the first sign. Her fascination back then had been a key to how her future would turn out. This hindsighted view would have been useful back then, but it was not useful now. For she had already moved on to the next stage. And nothing, not even hindsight, could have prepared her for the difference.

Humans left a trace. They did not turn into ash. Humans bled. Humans looked up at you with a mixture of surprise, grief, shock and betrayal.

"Just a moment!"

Faith blinked at the sudden sound, and came out of her introspection. This was no time for deep thoughts, she remembered.

She had a job to do.

The door opened and she put on her best acting face, trying not to laugh at the man who stood before her, balding, tweed suit, glasses and a bow tie. "Hi, I'm looking for Professor Worth."

"Oh, well, that's me, but I should ask you to come back during office hours. Students generally make an appointment."

"Uh, I'm not from the college. I work for Mayor Wilkins. I'm Faith."

"Oh, well, come in, please. I was so surprised when he called. Didn't expect a politician to be interested in my research."

Faith stepped inside the apartment. "He's a big fan, professor."

"Oh, Lester's fine."

Faith looked about the front room. "We alone here, Lester?"

"Well, yes. Lifelong bachelor. I like my space."

"I hear that." All deep thoughts were behind a locked door in her mind now. She was following orders. Slowly she produced a knife from her jacket. "You want to turn and face the wall, Lester."

"What are you doing?"

There was the surprise. "I'll make it quick."

"Put that away. I'll scream."

Next, disbelief, shock. "Who wouldn't?"

"Please."

Now the betrayal and grief. "Sorry, friend, boss wants you dead."

"Why?"

"You know, I never thought to ask."

She stabbed him. He fell on the floor, eyes glassy and still. Faith looked at the corpse for a moment, then bent down and removed the knife. She wiped the blood off it with a piece of cloth from her pocket, then put both away.

Faith walked to the door. Before she opened it, she stopped, turned, and looked back. The corpse was still there, blood pouring out from the wound. She opened the door and walked away.

They were right. The second time was easy.

 


"And everything went smoothly with Mr. Worth?" Mayor Richard Wilkins the third asked her when he arrived at her apartment later.

"Not if you're Mr. Worth."

Wilkins laughed. "Well, that's swell. You know how I feel about loose ends. And the big day is so close, you can smell the excitement in the air. Say, are you ever coming out of there?"

Faith looked down at herself, wondering why she had agreed to this. "I don't know."

"Aw, come on."

He was her boss, that was why. She entered the room, feeling suddenly uncertain in the white and pink pattern dress he had insisted on getting for her.

"Wow, aren't you a vision?" Was the Mayor's reaction.

"I feel I look stupid in this."

"You look lovely. Perfect for the Ascension. Any boys that manage to survive will be lining up to ask you out."

"It just isn't me, though," Faith argued. Both to her boss and the voice in her head.

"Not you? Let me tell you something. Nobody knows what you are. Not even you, little Miss Seen-it-all. The Ascension isn't just my day. It's yours too. Your day to blossom, to show the world what a powerful girl you are. I think of what you've done, what I know you will do," He caressed her face, "no father could be prouder."

Faith shivered. "I hope I don't let you down."

"Impossible. Now come on, change back into your street clothes. I'll buy you an icee."

The Mayor smiled and Faith smiled back. But her thoughts were in turmoil.

And she had no idea that it was about to get even harder.

 


"Kids are here. Parents off to the side there. We'll go up, they'll play the processional, and then you'll give the address."

Mayor Wilkins finished surveying the arrangements for the ceremony, and smiled at Principal Snyder. "It all looks wonderful."

The Headmaster of Sunnydale High was grim. "As long as nobody makes any trouble."

"Oh, stop worrying. You just make sure the kids show up. Anybody who doesn't feel like coming to graduation, well, they'll just have to live without a diploma."

"They'll be here, sir."

"Call me Richard. You've done a great job here. I know things are, well, different here in Sunnydale. We've both seen all sorts of things. What's important is that we keep it under control, and that's what you've done."

"I believe in order," Snyder replied almost devoutly.

"Sunnydale owes you a debt. It will be repaid. Yes sir, we'll mark that invoice paid in full."

 


"Faith."

Giles briefly halted in his fencing practice. "You sure?"

Buffy looked up from the front page of the newspaper she had been examining, with a large picture and a grim headline to match. PROFESSOR FOUND MURDERED. "Its one of her pieces. I recognise the brush work."

Giles took the paper from her, holding up to his face to read while he parried Wesley Wyndam-Pryce's thrusts. "Brutally stabbed. Mr. Worth, visiting professor of geology. There's nothing in here that bellows motive."

"Random killing, perhaps?" Willow suggested.

Buffy shook her head. "Doesn't read. I think it's homework."

Giles stopped sparring. "The Mayor wanted the good professor out of the way," he remarked with sudden, deadly certainty.

"Which begs why?" His slayer continued. "I'm gonna destroy the entire city, but I take the time to kill harmless Lester first?"

"Tying up loose ends? Lester had something or knew something?" Willow suggested.

"I say we go seek," Buffy replied.

"Ah," Wesley remarked. "By attempting to keep a valuable clue from us, the Mayor may have inadvertently led us right to it," he finished with a sword flourish.

Buffy shook her head. "What page are you on, Wes? 'Cause we already got there." She took the paper from Giles and laid it on the reception desk where she was sitting. "I'll go tonight."

"Be careful," Giles warned her. "If Faith should show up..."

"I don't think she'll show. Been there, killed that. She's not much for follow-up."

"Nonetheless, keep watch. Faith has you at a disadvantage, Buffy."

"'Cause I'm not crazy or cause I don't kill people?"

"Both, actually."

"I'll go with her," Angel replied from his position beside his girlfriend, leaning his arms on the reception desk.

"Agreed," Giles replied before returning to fencing, catching Wesley off-guard.

The library doors swung open at that moment, and Cordelia and Xander entered the Scooby headquarters, carrying graduation gowns in their arms.

"I can't believe this loser look," Cordelia moaned. "I lobbied so hard for the teal. No one ever listens to me. A lone fashionable wolf."

"I like the maroon," her boyfriend remarked. "Has more dignity."

Cordelia looked at him perplexed. "Dignity? You? In relation to clothes? I am awash in a sea of confusion."

Xander shrugged as he explained. "I just want to look respectable in this, considering I'm probably gonna die in it."

"Excuse me?" Buffy queried.

"I'm telling you. I woke up the other day with this feeling in my gut. I just know there's no way I'm getting out of this school alive."

"Wow, you've really mastered the power of positive giving-up," was his girlfriend's response in agreement with Buffy.

"I've been lucky too many times. My number's coming. Especially when I heard who our commencement speaker is."

Buffy saw her friend's grim face and groaned as she realised. "I don't believe this."

"Lends credence to my whole 'I'm gonna die' theorem, doesn't it?" Xander replied

"The Mayor at graduation," Buffy concluded, looking up towards the sky to the fickle Powers That Be. "A hundred helpless kids to feed on. Got any other surprises for us?"

The Powers decided to be generous and instantly provided one, in the form of the Mayor entering. Giles and Wesley stopped fencing, the former holding his sword at rest, but ready for action. Willow and Oz stood up, joining Cordelia and Xander. Buffy remained seated, hiding the newspaper she had been reading behind her and out of the Mayor's sight. Angel adopted the same casualness with his own posture.

The Mayor was just as casual. "So, this is the inner sanctum. Faith tells me this is where you folks like to hang out, concoct your little schemes. I tell you, it's just nice to see that some young people are still interested in reading in this modern era. So, what are kids reading nowadays?"

He walked to the table and picked up a book. The Scoobies let him proceed, watching and biding their time.

"'The beast will walk upon the earth and darkness will follow. The several races of man will be as one in their terror and destruction.' Aw, that's kind of sweet. Different races coming together."

"You never get even a little tired of hearing yourself speak, do you?" Buffy remarked.

The Mayor chuckled. "That's one spunky little girl you've raised. I'm gonna eat her."

Giles whipped up his sword and put it through the Mayor's chest. The move was so fast that Mayor stumbled. But he quickly recovered.

"Whoa! Well now, that was a little thoughtless," he remarked as he pulled out the sword. Like the time Angel had stabbed his hand with the letter knife, the wound sealed immediately. "Violent outbursts like that, in front of the children? You know, Mr. Giles, they look to you to see how to behave."

"Get out," Angel commanded, with a deadly tone.

The Mayor turned to him. "No classes today, Mr Professor?"

"Not until this afternoon."

"You know, I am very good friends with the Dean. I don't think she will be pleased to hear what I have to say about the conduct of one of her teachers. I could even ask her to check her records."

"And I could ask her to check yours," Angel replied.

"She won't need to when she discovers yours are fake."

"Who says she will?" Angel countered.

"I smell fear," Wilkins remarked, changing the subject. "That's smart. Some of your deaths will be quick, if that's worth anything. Well, see you all at graduation." He tossed the sword back to Giles, who caught it cleanly. "You don't want to miss my commencement address. It's going to be one heck of a speech."

There was silence for only a second after the Mayor had closed the door.

"He sounds rattled," Doyle commented mildly in his soft, Irish brogue.

Buffy nodded. "Its not over yet."

 


"Buffy, I'm home. Do you wanna go to, uh, ..." Joyce entered her bedroom to find her daughter packing her clothes. "What are you doing?"

Buffy stopped and looked up at her solemnly. "Mom, I need you to leave town. Tonight."

"Buffy, I'll miss your graduation."

Her daughter turned back to the packing. "Yeah, that's sort of the idea."

Joyce shook her head. "There's no way. I wouldn't dream..."

"Mom, graduation is a pointless ceremony where you sit around and listen to a bunch of boring speeches until someone hands you a piece of paper that says you graduated which you already know and maroon does nothing for my complexion, so don't argue, okay?"

Joyce said nothing. She just reached out and gently took her daughter's shaking hands in her own, and sat down on the bed. "That's when its going to happen isn't it? When the Mayor makes his speech at Graduation. Well, I'm not going. Not unless you and your friends, and everyone else comes with me."

"Mom, you know that we can't."

"Well then I can't either."

Buffy sighed and joined her on the bed. "Mom, I know that sometimes you wish I were different," she commented sadly.

Joyce rapidly put an arm around her. "Buffy, no. I'll admit, when I first learned about you being the slayer, I was scared. Not for myself, but for you. You're my daughter. I wanted to protect from all the horrible things in the world. But after you left and I went to Rupert to find answers, that fear went away. Not because I was disappointed in you and what you had become, but because I was proud. Proud of who you are and what you could do. I watch you at what you do, and I know that you've never been happier. Even when an Armageddon is on the horizon. I see you with your friends and with Angel, and I realise moving to Sunnydale was the best thing I could have done for you."

"Mom, I don't know...." Buffy trailed off, tears choking the rest. She opted for a hug instead. "You realise I still want you to get out of here, don't you?" She remarked when she had drawn back.

"Yes. But I want to stay."

"Why?"

"Because I want to help, Buffy. Its time you let me join the Scoobies."

Buffy smiled. "All right. We'll go to the Library and tell Giles. Then I have to go and investigate a crime scene."

 


"Oh, this is so frustrating."

Oz looked up from the book he was flicking through to where his girlfriend was sitting, her open laptop in front of her. "Nothing useful?"

"No, it's great. If we want to make ferns invisible, or communicate with shrimp, I've got the goods right here."

"Our lives are different than other peoples.'"

Willow pressed one last key on the keyboard, then pushed away. "Oh, who am I kidding? I'm not going to find a spell to stop the Ascension. I'm no witch. I can't even change poor Amy back to a person."

"But you managed to give Angel the chance to go into the sunlight. And you got the swinging Habitrail going. I think Amy is in a good place emotionally."

"Oz, could you just pretend to care about what's happening? Please?"

"You think I don't care?"

"I think we could be dead in two days time and you're being ironic detachment guy."

Oz closed his book and closed her laptop. "Would it help if I panic?"

Willow suddenly felt nervous. "Yes, it would be swell. Panic is a thing people can share in times of crisis. And everything's really scary now, you know, and I don't know what's gonna happen. And there's all sorts of things that you're supposed to get to do after High school, and I was really looking forward to doing them, and now we're probably just gonna die and I would like to feel that maybe you would ... " she had to stop speaking.

Mainly because Oz was leaning forward and kissing her. Slowly.

"What are you doing?" She asked him when he pulled back.

"Panicking," Oz replied before kissing her again.

 


"Ow."

Buffy looked up from the papers she was gathering, to see her boyfriend return from his first trip to the car with papers, stumbling as he entered. "Stealthy."

"Not my best entrance. I think they were mopping in the halls," he paused and took in the file she was studying. "What's that?"

"A report. Excavation of some old lava bed. Guy was a volcanologist or something."

"Anything in there that connects him to the Mayor?"

"I looked through it, but the only thing I understood were the commas."

"Another thing to go to Giles." Angel held out his hands. "Let me give you a hand."

Buffy handed him the box and they walked out of Professor Worth's apartment and into the night.

Suddenly there was a whistling sound as something flew through the air. Buffy and Angel instantly went into attack mode, but nothing could have prepared them for the arrowhead which suddenly appeared through the latter's chest.

"Angel!"

Behind a neon sign atop a nearby building, Faith and a vampire looked down at the couple, as the blond slayer caught the souled vampire, cradling him in her arms.

"Missed the heart," the vampire next to Faith commented with distaste.

"Meant to," Faith replied.

 


"There," Giles commented as he cut the end of the arrow off from behind.

Buffy grasped the arrowhead. "Okay, ready?"

"Yeah," Angel answered.

"On three. One." She pulled the arrow out.

Angel held back a groan. "I knew you were going to do that."

"Not too much blood here," Giles commented.

"I heal pretty fast. I should be alright," Angel tried to assure them all.

"I'm just glad Faith's such a suck shot," Buffy replied, wiping the exit wound.

"You sure it was her?" Giles queried.

"Well, I've narrowed down my list of one suspect."

"Fascinating," a voice noted at that moment.

"What?" Giles asked, looking towards his fellow watcher. The entire group, including Joyce, but minus Willow and Oz, were gathered in the Library.

"It seems our Mr. Worth headed an expedition in Hawaii, digging in old lava beds near a dormant volcano. He found something underneath. A carcass, buried by an eruption."

"A carcass?" Jenny queried.

"A very large one. Mr. Worth posits that it might be some heretofore undiscovered dinosaur."

"A demon?" Joyce wondered.

"Yes, that would be something that the Mayor would want to keep a secret. If it's the same kind of demon he's turning into and it's dead, it means that...."

His conclusion was suddenly cut off by Angel muttering 'Damn,' before falling upon the floor for the second time in one hour.

Buffy dropped to his side while Giles picked up the arrowhead and sniffed it. Angel answered his suspicions. "It's poison. I can feel it."

"Call the others," Giles ordered, meaning Willow and Oz, who had yet to arrive. "Get them here. We need to get to the mansion."

"Will you be able to find out what this is?" Buffy asked him.

"The Council has all the known toxins on file, mystical or otherwise," Wesley said, getting up. "I'll contact them immediately."

Buffy looked up at him gratefully for the first time. "Thanks." She turned back to Angel. "You're going to be okay.," she assured him softly.

Little did she know what she would have to do before he was.

 


At 6305 Westminster Place, a couple lay snuggled in bed, their minds not even on the Ascension or anything connected to it.

"I feel different, you know," Willow commented. "I-I guess that makes sense. Do you feel different? Oh, no, you've already, probably, no big change for you. It was nice. Was it nice? Should this be a quiet moment?"

"I know exactly what you mean," Oz remarked, seeming unable to cease stroking her red hair.

"Which part?" Willow asked him.

"Everything from 'it's different.'"

They kissed just as the phone rang. Willow picked it up. "Hello." She listened to the voice on the other end, then put down the phone, all thoughts but one gone. "We've gotta go," she told Oz.

Oz took one look at his girlfriend's face and decided not to ask what was up.

They would find out soon enough.

 


"He's dropped, boss."

The Mayor looked up to see his girl return from her mission. "Applause, applause."

"Right in the back. He pitches over and Buffy's freaking, looking around, all panicked. It's a good time."

"Well, that should keep her occupied for a spell."

"What next?"

"The Ritual of Gavrock. I have to ingest several of the inhabitants of this box."

"Ingest?"

"Eat."

Faith shuddered, remembering how the creatures looked that night she had seen them. "You're wicked gross."

"Well, you don't have to watch. Just, you know, go home, take it easy. It's a big day tomorrow."

"You gotta give me something to do. There's no way I'm sleeping. Don't you need anyone dead? Or maimed? I can settle for maimed."

The Mayor smiled at her. "You little firecracker."

Faith looked away, suddenly feeling distant. "My mom used to call me that when I was little. I was always running around." She paused and shook off the nostalgia. "Tomorrow, at the Ascension and all that, am I going to get to fight?"

"If everything goes smoothly, you won't have to. But how often do things go smoothly?"

"So you'll still need me in there."

"Always."

"Good luck with your spiders there," Faith replied before leaving.

 


At 1902 Crawford Street, Angel was wrapped under the silk sheets of his bed, sweating.

Buffy wiped his forehead with a wet cloth. "You'll be okay," she uttered softly, more for herself than for him, for he was too delirious to notice her presence.

The sound of the front door opening reached her, and she reluctantly moved to the living room where the others were.

Wesley had arrived, his face grim. "Did you reach the council?" Giles asked him.

"Yes. They, couldn't help."

"Couldn't?" Buffy repeated.

"Wouldn't," Wesley corrected truthfully. "It's not Council policy to cure vampires."

"Did you explain that these were special circumstances?"

"Not under any circumstances, and yes, I did try to convince them."

"Try again," Buffy asked him desperately.

"Buffy, they were very firm. We're talking about laws that have existed longer than civilisation."

"And I'm talking about watching my lover die."

"Buffy, we'll find a cure," Giles assured her.

"The Council's orders are to concentrate on,"

Buffy cut Wesley off. "Orders? I don't think I'm gonna be taking any more orders. Not from you, not from them."

"You can't turn your back on the Council," Wesley replied horrified. "Don't you see what's happening? Faith poisoned Angel to distract you, to keep you out of the Mayor's way, and it's working. You need a strategy."

"You don't think I know that!?! I know exactly what the Mayor's weakness is come Graduation day."

"What?" Wesley asked.

"Once he's a demon, he's no longer invulnerable." Buffy turned to Giles. "Giles I can't stay here doing nothing. I can't sit and watch him...." she paused to fight back the tears which had formed in her throat. "I'm going to see what the others have found out."

 


"Finding the poison wasn't that hard," Willow reported to her best friend she had arrived at the chemistry lab the Scoobies had taken over. "It's a mystical compound. The Latin name translates roughly to Killer of the Dead. Used on vampires."

"And the cure?" Buffy asked her.

"There aren't a lot of instances of it being cured," Willow replied sadly. "One or two, pretty vague accounts. How is he?"

"Hold it," Oz said, looking up from the book he was studying.

"You got something?" Xander asked.

"There's a vamp that walked away from it. Damn."

"Nothing?" Cordelia asked.

Willow had a look. "Wait, it completely reversed the effects. Oh."

"What?" Xander asked.

"The only way to cure this thing is to drain the blood of a Slayer," Oz answered.

"Good," Buffy remarked.

"Good? Cordelia queried. "What did I miss?"

"No, it's perfect. Angel needs to drain a Slayer, then I'll bring him one."

"Buffy," Willow began, realising what her friend had in mind, "if Angel drains Faith's blood, it'll kill her."

"Not if she's already dead."

Her four friends looked at her. Xander was the first to speak. "I don't mean to play devil's advocate here, but are you sure you're up to this?"

"It's time," Buffy replied.

"We're talking to the death."

"I can't play kid games anymore. This is how she wants it."

"We just don't want to lose you."

"I won't get hurt."

Xander shook his head "That's not what I mean."

"Just get me an address."

There was another long silence. Then Willow brought out her computer and began to type.

 


Faith was reading a comic book and listening to some music when the other chosen one opened the door and entered her domain, turning off the stereo.

"Thought I'd stop by," Buffy said in greeting.

"Is he dead yet?" Faith asked.

"He's not gonna die. It was a good try, though. Your plan?"

Faith shook her head. "Uh-huh. The Mayor got me the poison. Said it was wicked painful."

"There's a cure."

"Damn. What is it?"

Buffy held up the knife. "Your blood. As justice goes, it's not unpoetic, don't you think?"

Its owner was incredulous. "Come to get me? You gonna feed me to Angel? You know you're not going to take me alive."

"Not a problem."

Faith slid off her bed, and advanced towards Buffy. She took a knife out of her coat. The same one she had used to kill Lester Worth. She looked into Buffy's eyes.

Buffy stared back. She knew what Faith could see. That for all her bravo, she was bluffing. She was not ready to kill.

And she did not intend to. Just unconsciousness. That would be enough.

The two slayers began the fight. Thunder sounded around them, and lightning crackled across the sky. Rain pounded down upon them.

And in the distance, in the bedroom of the house on Crawford Street a voice cried out in grief at what was about to occur.

"Buffy."

 


"Right. Right," Giles put down the report from Worth and walked to the bookshelves.

"Something about the demon?" Doyle asked from his seat at the table.

"The local villagers near the volcano site made reference to the legend of Ollokai. Might be a bastardisation of Olvikan." Giles laid down the volume and began flicking the pages open.

Doyle put his hand to his head and shuddered as a vision swamped his mind. "Giles, I think there's something you ought to know."

Giles looked up. "What did you see?"

"Buffy. She's...."

Xander meanwhile had been looking at the centerfold which the watcher had laid open. He gasped, shocked at the to scale math.

"We're going to need a bigger boat."

 


"Mmm. My god, what a feeling. The power of these creatures. It suffuses my being. I can feel the changes begin. My organs are shifting, changing, making ready for the Ascension. Plus these babies are high in fibre. And what's the fun in becoming an immortal demon if you're not regular, am I right?"

The vampire with the Mayor said nothing. He was just glad he could drain humans, not the spiders he had watched his boss eat for this ritual.

Another vampire burst into the room.

The Mayor looked up. "What, we don't knock during dark rituals?"

"Sir, there may be trouble. At Faith's."

 


"What's the matter? All that killing, you afraid to die?"

Faith shook her head, coming out of her slight stun, to find Buffy had handcuffed their hands together. She jumped up, using her slayer strength to snap the metal apart.

Buffy was in slayer mode now. Refusing to think about her actions, only concentrating on the kill.

Not what species the prey happened to be.

She struck, stabbing her enemy in the abdomen.

Faith, stunned once more, backed away, a smile upon her face. "You did it. You killed me." She reached the edge of the building and took a look behind her. Then she turned back to Buffy. "Still won't help your boy, though. Shoulda been there, B, quite a ride."

Faith fell off the roof. Buffy dropped the knife and rushed to the edge. She looked down and saw Faith lying in garbage truck, which was driving away.....

To Be Continued In
Graduation Day: Part II.