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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 > Faith-Centered
Television > Night Heat
(Current Donor)IronbearFR1833190,3063016967,14329 Sep 0718 Oct 13Yes

Paying it forward...





Life is a Road...

by Ironbear




“Life is a Road” – Faith Lehane, Supernatural, Night Heat; Blade, and the Nightstalkers (BtVS/Blade movies multiple Cross-over)

Story Blurb: 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...

Title: “Life is a Road”

Author: Ironbear

Rating: PG-13 (FR-18) Lots of violence, hopefully none of it *too* graphic, foul language, not much sex and none of that explicit. Not a kiddie fic, but not "erotic Adult" either.

Disclaimer: Buffyverse characters belong to Joss Whedon and their associated studio owners: Mutant Enemy, Fox, and etcetera. Supernatural characters belong to their creators and corporate masters: notably: WB, CW, and Eric Kripke. Master Caine belongs to Ed Speilman. Night Heat characters belong to CBS, Sonny Grosso & Larry Jacobson. All other characters belong to their various creators and corporate owners. I'm merely borrowing them for the duration, and I promise to put them back relatively undamaged when I'm done. Even the dead ones. ;) All of the stories in this series are fanfics, and not done for profit, only for my own amusement and the entertainment of possible readers.

This is a work of derivative fiction. All persons, characters, names, places, locations, entities, personages, and/or deities contained within are purely fictional, or fictional representations thereof, and any resemblance to any real persons, characters, names, places, locations, entities, personages, and/or deities are purely coincidental, or they are used in a purely fictional manner.

Summary: She really had just wanted to drop in to check the birth records at the hospital where she was delivered. Faith didn't really plan on having a former Slayer turned vampiric hit woman after her head, nor have any idea she'd end up in the middle of a supernatural turf war. But now that she does, and she is... hey: let's just rock and roll, folks. Faith is real damned good at playing both of those games.

Type: Action-Adventure, horror, sci-fi, and urban fantasy

Word Count: 186,035 so far, not counting notes, title, and disclaimer.

Chronology: In order to make Supernatural fit both the Buffyverse and my universe, I had to move the Supernatural time-line back several years to 2003, although Sam and Dean are still the same ages as in the series. Oh well... I'm sure they'll take their sudden time mis-location in the spirit it was intended. Or not. ;) For chronology buffs, this takes place between "Phantom Traveler" and "Bloody Mary", and around eight months post “Chosen” for BtVS.

Buffy/Angel-verse Continuity Note: AtS "Just Rewards" occurs concurrently with Chapter 1: “Paying it Forward”.

Pairings: None. Faith/Dean Winchester temporarily

Author's Note(s): This fic is the second novel length installment in my "Oh, the people she knows" series. It picks up shortly after "Anything for Love". This is not *primarily* a Supernatural crossover, even though the characters play a major part in it. I'm also crossing in characters from a couple of other older television series, and the various Blade characters have cameos as well. This is going to be reasonably AU for Supernatural... crossing it in with the Buffy-verse necessitates a bit of bash to fit, file to hide for both series.

A/N2: Yes, Eastern State Penitentiary is a real place, and it is located in Philadelphia. It also really is host to a number of historical tours, as well as the Terror Behind the Walls haunted houses tours. Supposedly, it's also really haunted as well. The layout is more or less as I described. The Old Penn Ryan Manor and the Bolton Estate are real places also, and are also supposedly haunted. They're just kinda fire damaged in this universe now.

Awards and Nominations: "Life is a Road" was nominated in the Best Unfinished Crossover (Other) category at the 2007 Twisting the Hellmouth Crossing Over Awards and at the Fang Fetish Awards in several categories.


Now that that's out of the way, on to the story...



Life is a Road 1 poster sm

Life is a Road...

Ride it hard.




Chapter 1: "Paying it forward... "

(Day 1, December 5, 2003: 7 days after end of Anything for Love. Continuity Note: AtS "Just Rewards" occurs concurrently)

Boston would have seemed the logical place to start researching, and that had been her very first impulse. However, a call from Wesley to Fred before she'd gotten completely out of New Jersey and a check of the files Wolfram and Hart had maintained on her from when they'd hired her years ago to assassinate Angel had netted the surprising information that while she'd been raised in Boston from as early as she could remember... the hospital of note on her birth records was located in Philadelphia.

Didn't mind that. Nothing in Boston she wanted to go back to.

That it was was something she'd never known, the only copy of her birth certificate she'd remembered seeing had listed Boston General, she'd thought. Or possibly had only assumed it. If the Philadelphia information had come up during her trial or rehearing - as it probably had - it hadn't registered on her.

Of course... she hadn't been tracking reality all that well during her trial, she reflected. And during her rehearings, panic over the possibility of not getting cleared by Angel and Gunn's efforts and having to go back to maximum security had kept her from tracking much of anything. There had been plenty of times during that month or so when she'd regretted not having followed up on Willow and Gile's suggestion of hacking her records with a combination of Willow's computer skills and techno-magic and setting her up a completely false but new identity. Instead, she'd gambled again on Angel and he'd come through for her, with the aid of the resources of the same evil law firm that had hired her to kill him. Irony, much?

End result being that she was free and cleared, with her own name and no need of an alias unless she wanted to use one... and she didn't have to look over her shoulder constantly nor hit panic mode when a state trooper pulled her over for speeding or she accidentally got caught in one of the increasingly frequent DUI check points or some such. Small thing maybe, but the small things matter.

Little things like not having to remember to answer to a name that wasn't hers or needing to memorize fake details of a life she'd never led in a place she hadn't been born or grown up in. Being able to vote if she wanted (which she didn't: she'd decided that in stir), buy a firearm legally, and pass background checks if needed.

And even smaller things... like not having to explain why someone with an unrelated name was attempting to find out birth details for a 'Faith Michelle LeHane' and current contact information for the attending obstetrician and nurses at her birthing at one of the bigger public hospitals in Philly. Minor things like that.

She didn't find any indication in the records or data she could access via wheedling or bribery that she'd been twinned at birth and her twin adopted out. Nor had she expected to: W&H's research would have contained that already if it were going to be that simple. She did locate names of the nurses who'd been involved, as well as the information that none of them currently were located at that hospital any longer and apparently no longer residents of Philly. Figures. As was also the case for the doctor involved: some work turned up a (possibly no longer current as well) ten year old forwarding address for him in Oklahoma City. She passed on the nurses info to Wes and turned him and Fred loose on digging up current locales for them: Wolfram & Hart had better resources for that, anyway.

Several frustrating days of wending her way through an impersonally hostile hospital bureaucracy later, she found herself at loose ends in Philly with everything she could possibly accomplish on her end done. Bags parked in a nice hotel room that was a far cry from the rat bags that had been all she'd been able to afford as a teen in Sunnydale... and in no real hurry to head out on the road right away and start picking up the long cold trail in Oklahoma City.

She had no idea why her mom had had her in Philly and how they'd ended up living - and her growing up in - Boston, and with her mom dead... she couldn't even ask. Nothing that she had any memories of: her earliest memories were of South Boston and places around the city. It's possible that the old Watcher's Council could have provided answers, but that avenue had been closed off pretty thoroughly by the First Evil and none of their surviving records on her had contained anything useful. (Giles had checked for her following the collapse of Sunnydale So had Wes in his copies of the Watcher's journals. She didn't think either of them would have concealed anything they'd found.)

Following a workout, a swim, a long shower and a longer soak in the hotel's whirlpool, and a good meal, she grew bored with flipping cable channels to find nothing of interest and decided to go explore a bit. Maybe find a bar and sample downtown Philly's nightlife - or go hunting and sample Philly's other nightlife. Or both, in no particular order.



Earlier...

It had taken her longer than she'd hoped to settle things with Vi and Giles, gather the rest of her stuff, and ride out. She couldn't really begrudge them the time spent either: whether they were ok with it or not, her quitting in the way she had was leaving a hole in things here that Vi was going to have to fill in behind Robin, who wasn't coming back to his former position. Other things had surfaced when Giles finally started taking a hard and up close look at the New York school set up, in addition to Robin's affairs with several of the older students while Faith was on the road. Not the only secret he'd been keeping... Robin Wood had evidently had aspirations to set up his own alternative Watcher' Council, and slayer group resources. THAT was going to take a while for Vi to root out.

Plus there was the hole in the training staff that Giles was going to have to figure out how to fill...

She hadn't lied in their phone conversations, though. If she'd done her job right - and she had - Andrea, her assistant was ready to move up. Faith had trained the girl herself, and she'd been doing the job as often as not over the past six months while Faith was on the road. Only real gap was someone to do the 'on the road' bit of locating newly Awakened slayers and filling them and their families in on what they were, what had happened, and on the resources available to them.

And if in all the months since the First and Willow's spell through the Slayer Scythe, they only had Faith doing that particular job in the US... well, high time that shortfall was rectified anyway.

Not all that much stuff to gather and pack up, at that. Faith looked around the room double checking. Hers, not 'hers and Robin's'. She'd wanted one of her own for her things and a bit of space if she needed it, even if she hadn't slept here more than once in a while so long as she and he had been together. The big leather covered wooden box that Willow had made for her, along with her gear bag, back when Wills had been experimenting with extra-dimensional space magics. Just the right size to strap onto the bike's rear carrier, with little drawers and compartments for all sorts of items. And keyed to her: anyone else opening it found either empty drawers and spaces or only normal items and suchlike. Ditto for the saddlebags. And her guitar case... last thing left to pack up and close.

"Not going to be the same around here," Vi remarked from the doorway. She'd come up to lean against the door frame watching as Faith sorted the last of her gear.

Faith ran a finger across the strings of the resonator acoustic, getting a soft charge out of the pure, sweet note. "Things change, kiddo."

"Yeah. Abruptly sometimes." The red headed younger woman cocked her head and gave Faith a long look. "Giles doesn't want you to go, either."

Faith shook her head and set the guitar gently in its case. "For the best. Besides... you sat in on the last few discussions we had. He doesn't trust me enough to not second guess me, and I don't have the patience right now to fight with him over it." She closed the lid and latched it, met the other woman's eyes. "And there's too many memories here right now, as well."

She didn't mention her other reasons for wanting to hit the road, and wasn't going to. No one's business but hers.

"Yeah. Well... " Vi shrugged, obviously unhappy, but letting it go. "He said to let you know, again, that there's work for you on a contract basis if you want it. Just keep in touch."

"Thanks, I will." Faith smiled, "Be good to not have to shake down demon bars for income when my bank account runs low." Nodded, thinking... after Giles and Willow had managed to access the accounts of the old Watcher's Council and discovered just how much Quentin Travers and his cronies had locked away in numbered accounts, investments and interest bearing funds, they'd been more than a bit stunned. Monies that hadn't been used for the benefit of the girls and field Watchers they'd thrown into the supernatural grinder and used up. Used instead to support the lavish headquarters and Travers and his cronies lifestyles.. Each of the survivors of Sunnydale and the First had gotten a nice lump amount plus their own share of the investments and interest accounts before they'd sat down to plan out just exactly what to do with the rest. And how to do it...

'Survivors' including Faith, Vi, and Buffy's younger sister Dawn. Faith wouldn't live rich off the interest and dividends... but she really didn't have to work much if she didn't want to, as long as she didn't get spend happy. And she wouldn't have to live in roach trap motels like she had when she'd first arrived in Sunnydale...

"Faith LeHane, Freelance Troubleshooter." Vi laughed. Her mind had evidently gone down a different track than Faith's and she'd misread the nod. No worries - Faith didn't correct her impression.

"For trouble that shoots back," Faith grinned. "Demons killed, Apocalypses averted, mystical items recovered, yup. For a nominal fee." She slung the saddle bags and strap for the big box over shoulders, and picked up the guitar case. Forestalled hugs and crap if she had her hands full. Judging from the laugh in Vi's eyes... she wasn't fooling her friend on that, either. "Take care. And keep the Wild Bunch in line, y'hear?"

"That's going to take some doing." Vi nodded. "You take care as well."

Finally. Everything loaded and strapped down on the big cruiser, and almost on the way. Almost...

One last stop to make before heading south. Fortunately, one a lot less stressful than the last, even if it wasn't any more enjoyable.

'Never be so glad to see a town fall behind me,' she thought. 'This city is freaking insane.' At least now she was into what she considered the best part of New York. Only part of the place she really cared for... could nuke the rest of the place from orbit for all she was concerned. Chinatown damned near made up for the rest of the burg, to her mind though. She'd fallen in love with the place from the first time she'd laid eyes on it: the sounds, the smells, the people, the foods, the language even... the rich kaleidoscope of lights and alien color fascinating her. When she'd been in NY, she'd spent almost as much time down here as she had at the school. She'd located and briefed a couple of Chinese newly Awakeneds not long after they reached New York... how she'd met the aging Priest she was heading down here to see, as a matter of fact.

'At least there's lights on,' Faith reflected, pulling the bike to a stop in front of the old apothecary shop and putting down the stand. Not that it'd mattered - if there hadn't been, she'd have curled up on the stoop and waited until daylight if needed. She pocketed the keys and headed in. No need to worry about the bike and gear, here. No one in Chinatown would touch a vehicle parked in front of this building.

Very few people would touch that particular bike or anything on it anywhere in this neighborhood.

She paused to take off her boots before going in, carrying them in one hand with her guitar case's strap over her shoulder, as she went through the shop and up the narrow stairs to the small dojo and residence above. Set them down just inside the doorway along with the case as she entered.

"Master Caine," Faith bowed formally to the tall figure, after waiting for him to finish lighting a set of candles at the back of the practice area. No students here at this time of night, only her and him. Made this easier, if anything.

"Faith," he nodded. "Welcome." He shook out the lit taper and made a gesture towards the low table. "Sit. What brings you here so late?"

"Heading out. Wanted to say goodbye," she settled in cross legged on the floor across from him.

"That sounds final." He looked at her.

"Is. For now," she nodded. "I'm hitting the road for an extended period. Probably won't be back for a long time. If ever."

"I see," he gave her a long look, then inclined his head gracefully. "Not a trip for your job, then?"

"No," Faith smiled. "I'm quits there. No more job."

"Indeed," a longer look, and a slight frown. "Tell me about it, if you wish to?"

"Yeah... " She frowned, "Kind of a long story, though."

"I have time." He nodded, "Let me make us some tea while you get started."

It took her awhile to relate the events leading up to her ride away from the New York IWC school, and her aborted alphabetic drunk. And to relate the events of the past several... days afterwards. She was startled to realize it had only been several days. It had felt like weeks at the time. Still did in her memories. She left nothing out, except for personal details on Blade and his odd little family that weren't important. If anyone, Master Caine knew more than enough about New York's odder 'nightlife' and the supernatural to not need background explanations. And enough about what she was and did.

They were both silent for a time after she finished. He poured them both some more tea, and lit another stick of incense. Waved his hand gently through the smoke and gave her a considering look.

"I see," he said finally. "That was why you were so insistent that we watch for any signs of disruptions on the mystical fronts during your last call several days ago?"

"Yeah, or physical," she nodded. "I couldn't be more specific at the time because I hadn't figured things out yet. Then... things kind of accelerated on me." She shrugged. "I figured that of anyone, you and your son could deal with whatever came through here if it went sideways... and that you needed to be one of those on the second line."

"No matter." He made a dismissive gesture, waving away any apology she might have started. "You handled it. And well, it seems." He smiled at her, "Commendable."

"Thanks. With help... " She grinned suddenly. "Did my best."

"So, you're off on a quest then, to seek this... sister you mentioned?" He gave her a curious look.

"Sister, clone, double... other half? Whatever she is." Faith nodded. "And it gives me a reason to move on, rather than just... moving on."

"And you are certain that moving on from what you were is what you really wish?" His eyes were measuring. Not of her, but her resolve and reasons, she guessed.

"Yeah. Things weren't.. quite there even before this came up." She frowned. "I'm not really an admin type, I don't think. Or a teacher."

"I beg to differ," Caine smiled. "You've done excellently with some of the more troubled students at the dojo here. You'll be missed."

"Really?" She gave him a surprised look. "I always thought I was too harsh on them, compared to you. But you never said anything, so... "

He shrugged, "Some students respond to gentleness. Some respond better to hardness, when it comes from someone they can sense has been to the same places they've been." He was referring to some of the street kids he'd taken in, that he'd placed in her group after he'd gotten to know her a bit, she knew.

"Yeah... " She shook her head, "Still not me though. Not right now. I might have managed to make myself fit, but... now there's too much in the way."

"Yes. I can see that," He met her eyes, "The world needs hunters and warriors, as well as teachers, Faith. Just don't lose yourself while you're searching."

"I'll try not to," she had a wry expression. "Don't plan to. This does sound a bit silly though, laying it all out to you. I don't have much to go on... a dream image, a remembered connection, and a feeling."

He made another dismissive gesture at that and shook his head. "Long ago, my great grandfather came to this country searching for his brother whom he had not seen. He spent decades wandering about seeking, with far less to go on and fewer resources than you have available."

"Did he find him?" Faith raised an eyebrow. This was something she'd not heard before, neither from the older man nor his detective son.

"Yes." Caine smiled. "Finally, along with a great many other things along the way." He followed the smile with a stern look, "Do not grow lax on your meditations, Faith. Nor on your katas while you are searching."

"Ha. Got that one five-by-five, Sensei. I won't," she promised, standing up. He stood as well, giving her a formal bow, which she returned.

"I may look up Vi and offer to assist if needed after you've gone," he said. "Good fortune to you."

"Thanks. And thanks again, Master Caine. Vi will probably appreciate that." She grinned suddenly, "Say goodbye to the kid for me. He's ok, even if he is a cop."



'Shoulda thrown Robin harder through that door,' she thought. 'He not only managed to wreck my comfortably vague plans for the future, but gave me just enough of a glimpse of it to ruin my taste for grab-n-roll. Either that, or I'm going nuts-er, as Hannibal suggested more'n once.'

Bored, lonesome, and vaguely horny. And nothing male in her current bar that she found even vaguely intriguing, much less interesting enough to want to drag back to her room. Probably not fair to blame Robin Wood for that: last six to eight months she'd increasingly found herself exposed to a higher caliber of male, and mental comparison with Blade, Wesley, or King left her snickering inside at the various specimens she'd seen so far tonight. She nursed her Sam Adams and warned off yet another hopeful with a dark, disinterested stare that went through him and veered him away to less... intimidating targets.

Not counting the blowup, things with Robin hadn't been bad, really. First real relationship she'd ever been in - numerous cases of 'want, take, have, get some get gone' with various boys, men and women from the time she'd hit puberty didn't count. That wasn't 'relationship', even if you took a *real* liberal definition of the word. Robin had enjoyed showing her the better side of things: clothes, nice restaurants, shows in NYC both off and on-Broadway, books... even if his idea of her 'dressed up' ran (in her opinion) at times to 'trophy girlfriend' rather than date, it hadn't really bothered her. Her idea of 'dressed' ran to leather and jeans usually, after all, so it was a nice change. Correcting her grammar and street slang had on occasion gotten annoying... but she bit her tongue and dealt, and after all, she was supposedly an instructor and school admin now, having to deal with the public. Talking like a barely literate hood definitely clashed with that image, so she'd applied herself to watching other people and figuring out how they talked and acted.

Her prison reading addiction hadn't included Lolita or Pygmalion, or her reflections on the past six months with Wood might have taken an even darker cast...

Out off the highway she'd have called this place a road house. Tucked in here in a converted warehouse off of one of the more decrepit ends of Philly's downtown business district, she wasn't quite sure what category to put it in. Neither skanky dive nor club, really. Pool tables at the back, dance floor, and a mix of modern country, country rock, and classic rock covers on the play list, with a mixed assortment of beat up blue collars, wannabe biker types, truckers, and the usual run of b-gals and female companions.

In her leathers, bored expression, and with the tribal tat on her bicep, she looked to fit right in. And inside... she couldn't have fit less if the place was on Mars and she'd just phased in from the Enterprise.

Bars hadn't changed any since she'd gone away. She had, she suddenly realized. She didn't fit, and was aware that she'd felt more comfortable in Jersey City's demon bars - even the hostile ones - than she did in here surrounded by her supposedly fellow humans.

'Heh. And I'm not about to start shagging vamps and demons,' ran through her mind. 'Tired of being a cut-rate Buffy.'

Hello there. The two newer entries to the urban roadhouse scene were definitely a pleasant change in scenery. The older one was good looking in a pleasantly dangerous fashion, and carried himself with an instinctive awareness of himself and his surroundings that struck her interest. Beat on a bit, here and there, both by life and other people, she noted. The other was too young for her tastes, but cute, and he had more than a touch of the older one's dangerous air. She watched them head to the back where the pool tables were and decided they were brothers. Had to be: the resemblance in features were too close.

Of course, she was the one hunting for a line on a near twin that might not even be related to her, so her judgment on that might not be all it should be. She watched the pair for a time as they waited and then took up a free table, paying more attention to body language and voice than to features and affirmed her earlier opinion.

'Brothers, and hustlers,' she swallowed a grin as she watched the two set up and play off of each other expertly, the older one losing to the younger carefully. 'This should be interesting,' she thought. She watched the older pass money to his sibling and set up for another break. Fishing for suckers.

Finding some, too, she saw. When the elder paid off in obvious disgust on another close loss, a couple of apparent sharks from a nearby table went up and challenged the younger. Exchange of words was too low to hear over the bar sounds and music, even with her hearing, but she didn't need to to fill in the dialogue. She ordered another Adams and drifted back, finding a stool near the brothers table where she could watch. Watch and probably be noticed by them if they were fishing for more than marks.

Something vaguely familiar about the two. Something about the look. She studied the older one casually, and decided that she hadn't ever seen him before, even in passing. But still...

He noticed the casual scrutiny and drifted over to find a section of wall nearby to lean against. Studying her back, frankly, in between watching the game. When she caught his eye he grinned and nodded, then went back to watching the table. Not fishing for more than marks, then. She made a mental bet she could change his mind on that if she decided to. The younger one lost the first round - not by much, but enough - and offered the shark a chance to win more on a double or nothing. Accepted and he moved to set up the table. Idiot shark. Not even figuring out he was being used as bait for bigger ones.

He won the second game... not by enough to make the wanna be shark figure out he'd been hustled, but definitely by enough to make him hungry to get it back. Money passed hands and they upped the bet, the loser racking the balls for another.

"Your brother's good," she remarked, taking a slow chug off her brew. Aware of him watching the movements of her throat as she swallowed.

He raised an eyebrow, "What makes you think he's my brother?" Leaning over and speaking low as she had so as to not be overheard at the tables or by other bystanders.

"Looks. Way you both move and react to each other," she grinned.

"Ah." He nodded, "I'm Dean." Neither confirming or denying her speculation, she noticed.

"Faith," she stuck her hand out. Nice grip. Firm. Nice hands, too. With weapon and gun callouses, she noticed.

"Interesting name."

"Don't blame me," she laughed. "My mom dug it up from somewhere."

A disgusted exchange at the table drew their attention back briefly. Little shark paid off with a curse on the second game, and evidently wasn't happy with the 'beginner's luck?' quip or the not well enough hidden smirk of the younger brother. Not unhappy enough to start a fight over it though, neither he nor his buddy. Looked like it had cleaned him out well enough that a 'double or nothing again?' just got back a snort and another curse as the two - now poorer - sharks moved off. Faith made a mental note to watch them just in case they decided to renegotiate in the parking lot later.

It caught the attention of another player as well, and he called out that he'd take some of the brother's action as he moved in. They set up for the game as Faith and Dean watched. More confidence in this one: obviously a better player, or he at least thought so. Bigger wallet too, judging by the size of the offered bet she overheard. Four of them... shark number two and three buddies. Not-quite-biker-types, she figured. Steel workers in jeans and motorcycle boots, big across the arms and shoulders. Weekend riders.

Dean shook his head, hiding a smirk, and caught Faith's eyes and laughed. She nodded, laughing as well. "Boston, huh?" he asked.

"The accent?" She raised an eyebrow, "Yeah. But not for a long time now."

"Philly now?" he asked.

"Naw. Just passing through," she finished her beer. "Traveling for awhile."

He offered to buy her another beer and she accepted, smiling. They went back to watching the game for awhile. Faith noticed with amusement more than a few of the bars female patrons checking out the pair of brothers. About an even split between the older one, and the cute and cocky younger bother. And more than a few shooting her speculative looks for her apparently having snagged the older one. 'Don't get too bent, sis,' the inside of her head snickered at one bleached blonde. 'Haven't decided I want him, yet.'

When it broke out, she realized she'd been half expecting the fight all along. Shark number two didn't take losing quite as well as the earlier one had, and after his third, decided to object. Voiced his objection with an attempted fist to the mouth, blocked by the younger brother and returned with interest in a below the belt punch that left him doubled over and gasping. And a rabbit punch to the back of the neck that laid him gasping harder on the pool table. Dean uncurled from his wall and she slid off of her stool, Faith eying the altercation and surroundings with a professionals appraisal.

One of shark's friends decided he didn't like the turn the discussion took and lifted a pool cue to voice his opinion, heavy end first. Dean shouted something, not clear what, and moved in. Faith reached it first, anyway, and caught the cue one handed as it came down.

It stopped, dead in midair, and when the guy's eyes widened she twisted it back on him smiling and smacked him between the eyes with the butt end. Hard, and his eyes crossed and rolled up as his knees buckled. She used the same butt end on his other friend to the diaphragm when he levered himself up off the table, remembering as her hand moved that he wasn't a vamp or a demon, just a normal guy, and kept the shot just hard enough to drive all the wind out of him without punching it out through his back.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Dean knee and then deck buddy number three, as younger bro snagged his winnings off the pool table edge and ducked a cue from number four. Scrambling back. Number three straightened, whipped his head around to glare at Dean and grinned. 'Whoulps. You done caught yourself a bad one, guy,' she thought. She yelled at Dean to get back, dropping her cue, grabbed a handful of collar and belt on her still doubled over partner, and threw him at number three. Sent them both backwards and over across another table. Stepped and side kicked the cue number four was using, breaking it in half as younger brother dodged sideways and back away again, then snap kicked four across the jaw. Remembered again to pull it. He went down and across the floor, groaning.

'Not used to fighting normals,' she thought. 'Have to remember they're not as durable as my usual dance partners... '

Dean and his brother were backing up, scanning the area. She took a fast look around, counting off seconds in her head. None of the other pool players were joining in yet, but the two that had suddenly gotten a pair of fighters across their game didn't look happy about it. Bouncers would be back here in less than a minute, and maybe even an undercover cop or two if there were any in the joint. Time to scoot... she slung her coat over her shoulder. Good thing she'd grabbed it when she stood, she thought, 'Good coat and the hardware inside would have raised a lot of eyebrows on someone.'

"Back door!" She pointed at the short hallway under the 'Restrooms' sign and neon at the back of the pool area, and they nodded and made for it. Her just behind, pausing just long enough to throw a brilliant, high wattage, and apologetic grin at the two guys who's table she'd thrown the two remoras across. At least one grinned back, so they couldn't be too pissed.

Faith made it out just on their heels, both brothers stopping briefly to look around. Dean obviously had questions in his eyes, probably about the cue thing or the throwing thing, but was holding them. Good...

"You guys around front?"

Dean shook his head. "Side lot, at the through street." She nodded.

"My bike's out front. I'll catch up to you on the street and follow." She spun on her heel and took off around the building, fast. Put on slayer speed when she was around the corner.

No one was running out the front yet searching when she came flying around the corner shrugging into her coat. Only new arrivals heading into the place. She ran to her bike and threw a leg over the big BMW, yanking the keys frantically out of her pocket. Got it started, breath frosting as she took it off the stand, wheeled it backwards and put it into gear.

She caught up to them just as they were pulling out of the side exit of the lot, recognizing Dean's profile through the driver's window. Older hot rod of some type. Not a beater - nice car and obviously restored, hopped up from the sound, and well maintained. She fell in behind them as they took off, tires smoking.

Dean rolled down his window as they pulled up at a stoplight some six or so blocks from the bar, and she pulled up along side in the other lane, twisting to reach around behind her for the helmet. Entire damn coast was anal about the things - riding without was asking for more LEO hassle than a bar fight.

"Thanks for the hand back there," he yelled across over the engine sounds, grinning.

"No probs," Faith grinned back. "Watch the tire smoking now that we're clear - asking for a cop to wonder what you're running from."

"Ha. Yeah." He laughed and gave her a curious look. "Where you heading now?"

"No place, since you ruined my evening out," she cocked her head, considering. "There's a decent diner about twelve or so blocks that way, toward my hotel, if you want to make it up to me. You can buy me a burger with your brother's winnings?"

He nodded and yelled 'Ok!' and made an after you motion as the light changed on them. She pulled around shooting ahead, then slowed to speed limit as they fell in behind.

They made it to the diner without incident, and without passing any squad cars. Either the other pool players had vouched for the shark starting things to the bouncers, or any law enforcement was taking a different route. Short incident without too much ruckus, and not too many big guys wanted to explain to the police how they got mostly beat up on by a five-five girl... so possibly the former. Doubtful that was the first pool table brawl that joint had seen. She found a slot and pulled into it while Dean was hunting for another space, and got off, pulling the helmet off as she walked back towards them.

"Nice wheels," she nodded as she came up. Looked to be a late 60-something Impala, black, nicely restored - it almost looked new. Definitely souped up: she didn't know much about cars, maybe, but she could tell from the sound when one had a hell of a lot of muscle under the hood.

"Thanks," Dean started explaining something about the car, and she shook her head after a minute, grinning.

"All Chinese to me. I don't know from cars," Faith laughed, "Just bikes, jeeps, and pickup trucks." His brother elbowed him, and Dean gave a sheepish grin. Not offended though, cool.

"My brother's a gear head - don't mind him," the younger one put in. He was definitely giving her frame a once over. She returned the favor. 'Young, but he could grow on you,' she decided. Young, ha. Probably about her age, more or less. Hers was mostly mileage making her head feel old inside.

"No worries," she nodded. "So... how'd you do?" She raised an eyebrow.

"Not bad. Few hundred," he said, a bit cautious.

"Cool. Not a living, but you can eat off it," she agreed. "Speaking of... " She gave Dean the eye and he laughed, gesturing toward the diner. They settled into a booth, the two of them across from her. She folded her coat into the seat half next to her and laid the helmet on top. 'Not as good as rubbing thighs with Dean-o, but... ' she thought. 'Down, Faith. At least this way you can study both of them without having to sit sideways and whip your head back and forth.'

"Yeah, Dean said he promised to spend all my money on you," the younger one remarked as he opened a menu.

"Hey - my seed money," Dean objected.

"Yeah, but I did all the damned work. As usual." Faith grinned, watching the byplay between them.

Dean snorted, "From where I was, looked like Faith did most of the work." He glowered, "You were about to stop a pool cue the hard way."

"Can't earn a living without brain work," came the objection. "Besides - no vital organs up there." He winked at Faith and she snickered. "Hey - where'd you learn to fight like that, anyway?"

"Around." She shook her head, not wanting to go into anything beyond that, "Studied with various people over the years." She saw Dean studying her, as well as her answer.

"Must've been good teachers," younger brother responded amiably. "I'm Sam, by the way. Sam Winchester. You've already met my ill-mannered brother Dean, I gather."

"Faith," she nodded. "Faith LeHane."

"Cool." He nodded, then looked up as a waitress made it over to take their orders. They ordered and studied each other some more while she brought their coffee.

"Hrrmm... Winchester?" Faith was looking at them oddly from that, frowning slightly and eyes searching their faces intently.

"Yeah... ?" He looked sidelong at Sam, and got a puzzled quirk of the eyebrows in return. Evidently what she saw answered something for her, for she nodded abruptly, very slightly.

"Any relation to a John Winchester?" She looked at Dean. When he gave her a curious look, she described who she was talking about.

She didn't have any threat behind the question, or in the barely suppressed excitement she could feel dancing in the eyes, so he nodded, carefully. "Yeah. He's our father."

"Wow. Wicked cool!" Her eyes lit up. "Thought there was something vaguely familiar about you two. You both look a little like him."

"You know our Dad?" Sam raised his eyebrows. "How?"

"Number of years back now," Faith grinned, nodding. "I met him when I was running away from Boston. Tried to pick him up, actually." She laughed.

"Tried?"

"Ha. Yeah," Her eyes crinkled at the corners and she looked distant, smiling. "He turned me down, very gently and charming. Then he bought me dinner, listened to my kinda wild sob story, dropped me off and bought me a bus ticket to California." Pause... "I found out later that he slipped a hundred dollar bill in my pack when I wasn't looking, and a note that said 'I hope you find what you need. Don't pick up strange men any more - it's dangerous.'"

Dean laughed. "Wow." He looked slightly stunned. Sam cocked his head and asked, "Did you?"

"Find what I needed?" She gave him a curious look. "Yeah. But it took me awhile. And I didn't stop picking up strange men." She ran the tip of her tongue lightly over her lips and winked at him. "Are you strange?"

Sam blinked. Dean elbowed him, "Stop that. You're not old enough."

"Am too."

"I thought he was nine kinds of an idiot at the time," Faith chuckled. "Took me awhile... but I figured out later just how rare that was. I never forgot it." She looked away, lost in thought for a moment. "Special man."

"He was." Dean nodded.

"Was?" She felt her eyes suddenly go bleak, just a bit.

"Is. Probably." Sam put in, "We're trying to find him."

"Ah." She cocked her head, "So, years later... I got to do something for his kids. Cool."

"Paying him back?" Dean looked at her curiously.

"Paying it forward," She shook her head. "Some things, you never pay back."



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