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Life is a Road...

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This story is No. 4 in the series "Oh, the people she knows...". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Looking into her birth records takes Faith not to Boston, but to Philly, of all places. A chance encounter leads to more mystery and deadly dangers... (Update to add cover art)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Faith-Centered
Marvel Universe > Blade
Television > Night Heat
(Current Donor)IronbearFR1833190,3063016764,06629 Sep 0718 Oct 13Yes

"This mean we own each other now?"

Chapter 12: "This mean we own each other now?"

(Day 8; Friday, December 12, 2003)

'Dark out there and it hurts. ow.' She was reluctant to open her eyes in spite of the aches and the raging thirst and mouth-like-an-ashtray feeling, instead choosing to lay still and keep her breathing even while committing her slayer dream to memory. She went over it several times in her mind's eye, making certain to fix all of the details: sights, sounds, smells, textures, and voices in her memory, as well as the words and events. 'Thanks, Evan. I don't know why my mind picked you to draw here... but I think I'm glad it did,' she sent down the connections to her dreaming self. Hopefully it would make it across, somehow, somewhere.

She'd read somewhere once that 'normal' people often dreamed in black and white, not in full technisenses like a slayer. She felt a bit sorry for them: as far back as she could remember, all of her dreams had always been in vivid colour. Even before she'd been Called...

She'd been aware since she first swam back to what she was going to laughingly call 'reality', once it didn't hurt to laugh again, that she wasn't alone in the room. She could hear breathing, the occasional movements, and rustling of fabric. Smell the scents of gun oil and leather and male sweat and aftershave, even hear the heartbeat if she concentrated. She didn't have to open her eyes to identify the scents and sounds, she recognized them from... how long ago?

Faith finally decided that she wasn't going to fix things in her mind any deeper and opened her eyes. She immediately groaned and closed them again. Lights - bright, and her head felt like it was going to crack open from the dazzle.

"Easy there," the voice was soft and surprisingly gentle.

She opened her eyes again, a bit more slowly and waited for her vision to adjust, then looked at him without moving. "Hey, Five-oh. Didn't realize you were a medic, too." Faith attempted a lopsided grin, and didn't even want to imagine what it must look like, given the way she felt. "Find a medical degree in your Cracker Jacks?"

O'Brien snorted, and shook his head, "Half dead and out of it. Should have figured you'd wake up a smartass on top of that."

"Stayin' true to type," she whispered. "How long... ?" She tried to lift a hand to brush the hair from her eyes, and looked at it when it stopped short in a leather cuff. "And why am I in restraints? Thought Frank was the one with designs on my tender young bod..."

"Three days," he said. "And you were thrashing around in some sort of nightmare yesterday: they were afraid you were going to hurt yourself. Hurt yourself worse... " He frowned, looking her over critically, and reached over to smooth the hair away from her face. "I'll get a nurse to get you out," he said, reaching for the call button.

"Wait. Talk first, nurses and doctors later," Faith would have shaken her head, but she was afraid it would fall off. Ow. "You can undo them and then put 'em back if you think they'll freak." She curled the corner of her lips up, "Cop - you should be good with cuffs an' shit."

He frowned, considering, then nodded. He undid the cuffs after a bit of fumbling at the buckles.

"S'good. Water?"

"Don't see any reason why not," he picked up the bed control and raised it to a sitting position for her, then handed her a plastic water container with a bendy-straw in it.

"Didn't think water could taste that good," she remarked a few minutes later. "Thanks." She looked down at herself, taking in the tubes and IV, "How bad? Before I do something AMA like gettin' up?"

"Fractured skull. Dislocated and separated shoulder. Massive spinal bruising along the back where you hit that pole. Cracked vertebrae. Four cracked ribs, two broken ones on the left side. Three broken ribs on the right side - one of them sent bone splinters into your lung. And the tears on the left side of your neck over the jugular... "

"Damn. Bitch did a number on me." Faith frowned.

"Yeah," O'Brien shook his head. "They're kind of surprised you're alive. It's probably a good thing we didn't wait for the ambulance: we bundled you into Frank's unmarked and drove you to ER while putting a field dressing on your neck."

"Frank?"

"Giambione showed up off of my backup call just after you passed out."

"Ah." The left corner of her mouth quirked up. "My hero. And I slept through it." She looked at him, eyes crinkling, "No worries. I'm kinda hard to kill. And I heal fast."

"So we noticed," O'Brien gave her a sour grin. "I think the staff wants to write medical papers on you. I convinced them it wouldn't be a good idea."

"Thanks," she whispered. "I don't want to be a lab rat."

"No problem. A lot of the staff here are used to dealing with unusual injuries and keeping their mouths shut. This is where we bring a lot of our... problem victims."

"The ones from the crimes that don't happen committed by the criminals that don't exist?" O'Brien nodded. "Cool. Sunnydale ER was like that, except their rooms weren't as nice. You should have seen the abandoned wing I woke up in after my coma," she made a face. "Hey - why are you here?"

"You saved my life," he gave her an unreadable look, and then lifted a compact submachine-gun off of the window counter. Faith saw it was one of the 'special' 10mm MP5's from the blood farm and her eyes smiled at him. "I'm alternating with Frank on playing bodyguard."

"You saved mine. We're even." Faith got tired of the effort of keeping her eyelids propped up and closed her eyes. "Some cultures that's got kind of a mystical thing going. This mean we own each other now?"

"No. Just a leasing arrangement," he replied in a deadpan tone. Faith snickered, and regretted it.

"ow. Stop that," she said. "Nightmare... ?"

"Yeah," she heard his voice coming from what sounded like a distance away. "You started thrashing around and mumbling 'No. It's not. It's not all I am. It's not... ' over and over again."

"Ah. Yeah.. that was a bad one," Faith murmured. "I think you'd better get that nurse. I'm fading on you... "

.................................................................................

A nice little apartment, she decided after looking around the place. Stylish, cozy, and it had a homey feel to it that her more expensive and elegant place the Mayor had given her had never had. Of course... that wasn't ever really a home, was it? Faith shook her head. She wasn't going there: all of that was done past, and 'home' or not, it had beat hell out of where she had been living before. She wandered around for a bit, examining the place and the things in it.

"I thought I told you that you weren't allowed to die on me?" the voice from behind her was amused, and slightly exasperated. Faith damned near hit the ceiling jumping out of her skin. She whirled, landing turned towards the source of the voice.

"Jeeze! Don't freaking do that if you don't want me to croak - you nearly gave me a heart attack!" Faith uncoiled, grinning at the other woman. "Heya, C. PTB finally decide to look in on their pet killer?"

"Not often that I'm able to sneak up on a Slayer. Don't begrudge me my fun," Cordelia laughed, and stepped forward and grabbed Faith into her arms. Faith stiffened under the contact, then relaxed finally and hugged her back. Cordy leaned back and smiled down at her. "No. Personal visit - I dropped in the first chance I had to shake loose."

"They allow you to dial out on the company phone?"

"Don't know. I didn't ask for permission: I told them I was going to," Cordelia grinned, stepping back. She released Faith, but left a warm hand on the shorter girl's arm.

"Gonna get in trouble bucking the bosses, C," Faith shook her head. She cocked her head slightly and gave the dark haired woman a curious - and suddenly stricken - look, "I didn't, did I? Die?" She had sudden visions of dying in the ER and being brought back by one of those electric things. And of another young girl being Called in her place...

"No." Cordelia shook her head, "But it was pretty close." She understood suddenly and gave Faith a remorse filled expression. "I'm sorry - I didn't mean to scare you, Faith. Idiotic wisecrack, that was all."

Faith didn't bother with any meaningless 'didn't scare me - I don't scare' bullshit. Never bother with lies that someone else isn't going to believe. "S'allright. Try not to do it again, though."

"I promise." Cordy grinned. She made an 'after you' motion and suddenly she and Faith were sitting on the comfortable looking leather couch in the living room. "I'd ask you to promise to be careful.... but that's kind of hard, isn't it?"

"Yeah." Faith leaned back, shaking her head. "I am careful. But sooner or later I'm going to run into someone better than me." She paused, "Maybe I already have... "

"Maybe," Cordelia eyes went soft. "Then don't take her by yourself. Call in help and set her up."

"Already working on that. Or was... kinda got derailed by a sudden case of near death," Faith frowned. "I don't want to get anyone else killed by my problem, either. Damned near came too close to that already."

"Faith... if you die, there won't be anyone in the way to stop them from getting killed," Cordelia said softly, shaking her head. "As far as some of your other friends getting killed helping to watch your back, you know as well as anyone that it can happen anywhere, no matter what they're doing. They're in the business, too."

"Yeah... I know." Faith looked at her, crossing her arms over her chest. "Is this where you remind me that B survived all those years because she had all of you guys around?"

"No, this is where I remind you that *you* don't have to do it all alone any more," Cordelia glared at her. "Buffy is Buffy. I'm not comparing you to anyone but you. In fact... the only one that keeps comparing you to Buffy any more is you."

Faith glared back, then after a moment the corner of her mouth curled up in a lopsided grin, "I'd kick your ass for being right, but someone told me once that it wasn't nice to beat up on comatose people." Cordelia stared at her for a moment and they both started laughing.

"Damn straight," Cordelia said. "Invalids have rights, you know." Faith snickered, and Cordelia grinned back at her, "Quit being so damned prickly. I've already told you that you're not anyone's backup slayer. You're already going your own way - just let in some of the people you keep acquiring and let them help, dammit."

"I know. Guess I'm just having a hard time dealing with the concept that you don't hate my guts any more," Faith remarked. "It brings out the pricklies. But... like I started to say, I was working on just that before I got derailed." She explained what she had in mind, and the groundwork she'd started laying to set it up before the blood farm and the parking lot fight.

"Not bad," Cordelia said, finally. "My apologies. I jumped to the conclusions that you were doing your usual half-cocked charge in thing. You're given this some thought already... " She inclined her head slightly, "A hazard of not having been able to look in on this since the PTB doesn't seem to think it's important, just because it's not an apocalypse level deal."

"Yeah, well... can't say that not having them joggle my elbow with cryptic messages bothers me none," Faith remarked. "They ain't real helpful when they're helpful, if you catch my drift."

"Oh yeah," Cordelia laughed. "Just be glad your vague hints don't come with skull splitting headaches." She looked thoughtful, "They do have some restraints that they can't work around, though, I believe. It makes it difficult to be anything except cryptic."

Faith snorted, but didn't say anything. She'd decided to keep her previous slayer dream walk under her hat for now... no point in letting the PTB in on it if they hadn't already discovered it and the odd bits of info her dream source had given her. She still wanted to find time to meditate on that one and think through the various implications there.

"Whatever. No offense, C, but that doesn't change my 'damned near useless' appraisal of your bosses any."

"I'm not trying to change it," Cordelia nodded. "I have my own issues with them." She glanced away for a moment and her eyes became distant, then refocused on Faith, "Dammit. I think your reality is starting to call you back to it. I was hoping we'd have more time here."

"I know. I can feel it too," Faith said. "No worries... and thanks." She started to say something else, but instead felt that space starting to dissolve around them both as the waking world drew her back to it, and settled for throwing Cordelia a wink and a grin as she faded out...

"... we're going to have world enough and time, at some point, C, promise. Somehow,"
she murmured and drifted back into normal sleep before waking up again much later.

.................................................................................

(Day 9; Saturday, December 13, 2003 - Continuity Note: AtS "Unleashed" occurs around this timeframe)

Same scents and similar sounds and odours this time when she awakened, with the rustling of pages added to the mix. It didn't take Faith quite as long to fix the details of this dream in her memory, and she didn't need to lay still pretending sleep for as long. No restraint cuffs on her wrists this time. Cool.

It was the younger one, Giambione who met her eyes this time. He was sitting in one of the room's two chairs flipping through a magazine in a bored fashion when she caught his attention by croaking, "O'Brien - you found the fountain of youth and didn't say."

Frank put down the magazine hastily and stood up, coming over to the bedside. "I think me or Obie was just insulted. I'm not sure which."

"I'll never tell," Faith winked up at him. "Water?"

"Sure. Hold on," Giambione raised the bed to a sitting position and poured some ice water from the pitcher into her drinking container and handed it to her.

"Thanks," Faith drained about a quarter of it. "Man... whatever they're putting in this IV, it's not doing much for thirst." She looked at him, "How long... ?"

"It's just past daybreak. So... about eight hours after the last time you went under," he replied. "I'm going to ask a stupid question: how are you feeling?"

"Like I was eaten by bears and shit down the side of a skyscraper," Faith said, sourly. "But better than I did last time."

"Checking," Giambione grinned. "Docs are still all a-twitter - quietly - about how fast you're recovering."

"Yeah. They do that." She looked out the window and at the wan early sunlight streaming in through the blinds. "Don't have to worry about being attacked in my bed for awhile, then." She gave Giambione an impish look, "Well... maybe."

He laughed, "I'll wait until you're recovered at least," and grinned back at her. Something caught her eye on the window ledge and , when she looked around the room, on the counter and table, and her eyes widened slightly. She noticed some other things, familiar ones, stacked carefully in a corner, but left that one alone for now...

"Damn. Who brought the w--- " Faith bit off the sarcasm and swallowed it before trying again, "all the flowers?"

"Let's see... " Frank flipped over a card on one arrangement. "Kirkwood brought these up last time he was here. Those are from the two patrol guys in the squad car that pulled in while you were fighting the blonde. This one's from Major Cases - we all chipped in. The big one over there's from your lawyer." He saw her face and gave her an amused look, "You're a bit of a hero right now."

"wow." Faith shook her head, fighting to keep her eyes from flooding. She wasn't sure if it worked. Damned eyes, anyway. "I don't think I ever got flowers in the hospital before," she said, and her voice sounded small to her ears.

"Never?" Giambione gave her a startled look, raising his eyebrows.

Faith blinked several times and took a deep breath, "I'm not in the hospital often, ever, but... no. Never." She shook her head, "When I woke up from my coma... I was in the abandoned wing of Sunnydale General where they put the people they don't expect to get better. No flowers, no cards... no sign anyone'd been there ever except the staff." She made a harsh noise, "I can't blame any of them really... "

Frank was quiet for a time, looking at her. Finally, "Well, see? Even good things come out of being beaten half to death sometime. Flowers, bodyguards, even visitors."

"Yeah. Visitors?" Something he'd said earlier registered on her, "You said... lawyer?"

"Yeah. You forgot to mention you lawyered up Dean and Sam Winchester on us," Giambione gave her a sour look, then grinned. "Tall black guy from Wolfram and Hart. Charles Gunn."

"Damn - Angel sent Gunn?" That startled her more than the flowers. She'd been expecting a flunky. "Gunn's not my lawyer... he's kind of a bud, maybe." Sort of, she thought. She hadn't had more than time to barely meet him after Wes had broken her out of prison, but she'd gotten to know him a bit, along with Fred, during the month or so they'd stayed at the Hyperion following the Sunnydale collapse.

"Yeah. He wants to see you when you're awake enough. So does Dean Winchester," Giambione nodded.

"Dean's up and around? Wicked." She laughed softly. "What about Sam?"

"Define 'up and around'," Frank said, dryly. "They let him out in a wheelchair now so he won't tear open anything. He's... not real thrilled about it but he's going along with it for now," he grinned. "Sam's better at least. He's been awake off and on since about a day after Obie got him moved into Dean's room."

"Cool. I'm glad," Faith said. Her eyes went hard suddenly, "Anyone else try to get up to see us?"

"No. At least not that we're aware of," Giambione hadn't missed the hardening of her eyes and voice, nor misinterpreted it. Good cop. Lots of donuts. "You've had several visitors, but we don't think they're attached to our playmate. You seem to be a popular girl." Giambione frowned, "There have been people around the entrances to the hospital periodically, but we haven't caught any of them."

"Several?" He nodded.

"Let's see... guy in a suit, talks like a hood. Said his name was 'Vince'. We couldn't dig anything up on him," Faith's eyes widened slightly again. "A big black guy and a skinny white guy with a beard came up yesterday to ask about you at ER - they managed to vaporise before any of the uniforms or plainclothes down there could have a chat with them. Let's see... " Frank took out a small notebook and paged through it, "And a nice looking lady in her forties name of Angela Bassett the day before yesterday," Faith shook her head, the name not ringing a bell at the moment. "She has a doctorate in homeopathic and alternative medicines. Said that you'd called her about consulting on the Winchesters? She was up the night of the attack also, but didn't get in to see anyone." He paused, "She checks out, as far as we can tell."

"Oh yeah... I did call her. Wanted her to look at Sam Winchester." Faith said, "Name just didn't register. Sorry - not tracking real well, it seems." She drank some more water.

"Not surprised," Frank shook his head. "Even with your faster healing, a fractured skull will do that to you," he remarked in a dry voice.

"Yeah... " Faith's reply was distracted. "Ok. If it really is Vince... he's a friend. Did the big black guy have tattoos along the back of his head and neck? And real dark sunglasses?"

Giambione checks his notes, "According to the description we got... yeah." He nodded.

Faith nodded slightly, surprised to find that her head wasn't splitting any longer. "He's ok too, then, and the bearded guy." She paused, "Just in case... better send any of them that come back to see me first so that I can check them out."

Giambione's eyes went suddenly hard. Interesting... "No one is coming up to see you unless either I or O'Brien are in the room while you check them out," he said, softly.

"Thanks. Down boy. Good boy. Scooby snack," Faith gave him an amused look. "Appreciate that. I will need to talk to them alone afterwards, though."

"Sure," he nodded agreeably. His eyes relaxed as quickly as they'd gone cold. "I'm sure your man eating laywer will make sure we adhere to all the proper privacy procedures."

"I'd snicker, but my ribs hurt when I do. Consider me snickering." Giambione laughed. "So... I see my stuff made it up here?"

Frank nodded again, "Obie and I decided it wasn't a good idea leaving it for any of our playmate's friends to paw through or steal. We convinced the hotel manager to let us clean out your room and brought it all up here for you." He gave her an even look, "We didn't go through any of it."

Faith gave him a searching look, then nodded. "My bike?"

"Hidden under a tarp in the parking garage," Giambione said. "Nice bike." He paused for a moment and added, "Your hardware is in the trunk of my car, along with your jacket and long coat."

"Thanks." Faith closed her eyes for a moment, and then opened them again.

"Hate to bring this up right now... but any thoughts on our little blonde friend?" He asked, changing topics.

Faith was quite for a minute, "Yeah, I do. I have a plan, I think. It even has an escape route." Giambione laughed.

"That's always a good feature for plans," he said.

"Yeah, so I'm told." Faith's mouth quirked up in a half grin. "I'm going to need to be up and out of here first, though. Speaking of... " She was quiet for a moment, then, "You'd probably better get the docs and nurses so we can see about the medical stuff so that I don't have to leave AMA. And I need to see about getting unhooked from all this so I can use the bathroom." Faith thought for a moment, "Cell phone and computer would be nice, also."

"It's in the drawer over there. I'll get it for you after the docs are done, how's that?"

"Suits, thanks," she said. Giambione nodded and picked up another one of the blood farm H&K's from the other chair and got up to head to head out the door.

"Hey... " Faith's voice came out softer than she intended. He paused with his hand on the door and turned back. "Thanks."

Giambione looked at her curiously, "For what?"

"All... this," Faith made a vauge gesture. "I'm not used to cops being... nice. Still trying to adjust to the idea that you didn't arrest me the first time we met, and then all this... " She made a sour face, "And with my record... Let's just say that Southie cops when I was growing up had some different ideas on what their badges entitled them to from girls living on the streets, ok? And all of the Sunnydale cops were corrupt - I had a pretty good vantage point for that. Maybe not the best examples."

"You saved my partner's life, as I understand it," Giambione said. "It's appreciated. We're... not all bad guys, LeHane. Just most of us, these days." He turned again to go out the door, paused with it partly open and turned back to look at her, "Have to admit - you're probably best off running with the assumption that we are until proven otherwise, though. I'll go get the nurses." He closed the door behind him.

"Huh. And damn."



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