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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)IronbearFR1833190,3063016967,14629 Sep 0718 Oct 13Yes

Conversational Interludes 1.0

Chapter 28: "Conversational Interludes 1.0 - That'll teach me..."

Abby sat for a long time wrapped in her own thoughts after Faith finally dragged herself together and wandered off for a shower and change. Faith had spent a number of extremely stressful and intense days with them after Blade had brought her home passed out after a fight with several vampires. She'd seen the other girl in just about every frame of mind over the course of that; from depressed to delighted to intensely dangerous when they'd been out crashing demon bars together.

This was the first time she'd seen her rattled enough for the tough girl facade to fall away completely...

'No. Not a facade. Faith is tough - it's a part of her,' Abby thought. 'That's the problem... ' Abby'd come close to breaking when Drake and his vampires had tortured and wiped out her surrogate family, the Nightstalkers, and kidnapped Zoe. It doesn't matter how tough you are when something completely bypasses the armor and shatters you. Bypassing the armor was exactly what the vampire bitch had done during that little psychic rape attempt that Faith had described. She couldn't blame Faith for being shaken... she wasn't certain how the hell she would deal with something similar.

'It's easy to say we won't let you fall. Figuring out how the hell to make good on a promise like that is something else.' Abby clicked off the news program she hadn't really been following and went looking for her friend.

She found Faith in the gym at the back of the temporary headquarters, listening to news with her eyes closed and doing some graceful kata at a speed that required Abby to shift her vision up to slayer levels just to follow it. Different forms than the ones she normally saw Faith using or practicing. Abby leaned against a wall to watch while studying her.

"Terrorists, huh?" The unexpected question made Abby jump, startled.

"Jeeze." Abby uncoiled, relaxing back against the wall behind her. "You're like Blade sometimes. Completely focused inwards, distractions all around, and still not missing anything around you."

"Sorry." The corners of Faith's lips curled up slightly in a small grin. She jerked her head towards the wall mounted television without slowing her kata forms. "Terrorists are the official explanation? So, are the vamps the evil terrorists? Or are we the terrorists and the vamps the innocent bystanders?"

"Ha. Depends on which news station you listen to." Abby snorted. "According to FOX, we - whoever 'we' are - are the terrorists carrying on a campaign against the police, public landmarks, and public officials yata yata. CNN's speculating it's a retaliation against the Bush administration for their Iraq policies. Justified, no doubt. MSNB's playing both angles against the middle and giving plenty of air time to various 'experts' analyzing the situation. Other ones are running the gamut."

"Wonder how many of the experts are Familiars?" Faith asked in a rhetorical tone.

"I wonder how many of the news casters and anchors are?" Abby laughed. "No one's mentioning vampires. Or blood factories. Or mysterious creatures."

"Not surprised."

Abby nodded. "That's new. The forms I mean. Graceful... looks a Shaolin style?"

Faith nodded, continuing. "Several of them combined."

"You usually use harder styles."

"Yeah. Krav Maga, Mui Thai, boxing, others... Stuff Sensei Kanno taught me." Faith was silent for a few moments, continuing the combat dance. "Learned these from Master Caine in New York. It's not really combat for me... it's meditation. They're centering like."

Abby grinned. "Didn't know meditation was done at warp speeds."

"Ha!" Faith shook her head. "Not usually. Trying to figure out what effects this thing had on me inside."

"Ah." Abby cocked her head, watching. "Pinned any down so far?"

"Yeah." Faith's voice went flat. "I'm doing these at about two-thirds maximum speed right now."

"Whoa... " Abby blinked, then narrowed her eyes. "Can you show me maximum?" Faith nodded, and sped up gradually until her movements were blurring even to Abby's slayer reflexes enhanced vision.

"Ok, that's spooky." Abby stated. Faith nodded again, easing to a halt and dropping into a relaxed stance. She dropped gracefully into a sitting position cross legged on the mats and picked up a bottle of water from nearby.

"Yeah. Been afraid to try Blade's weight machines." Abby nodded and, grabbing a couple more bottles of water from the small fridge, went over to sit across from her on the mat. "Thanks," Faith finished her first bottle and picked up the new one, holding it without opening it right away. "Figure I'm about a quarter to a third again as fast as I was. And I weren't slow."

"No, you weren't." Abby bogged slightly inside. She remembered something Vi had mentioned once, on one of Abby's rare visits to the slayer school: about how the other senior slayer had mentioned getting freaked out once when she discovered that watching a movie was like viewing a slide show - and she didn't know if she'd ever be able to see another movie. "Think it's permanent?"

"Going to try very hard to not give you 'The Look'," Faith laughed softly, shaking her head. The laugh wasn't reflected in those eyes. "How the hell do I know? Maybe, probably... feels like?"

"Could be, sorta, no fucking clue?" Abby nodded and they both laughed. "Sorry."

"No big." Faith put a hand on her arm. "Spooky is the right word... " She trailed off, "It's like... like I absorbed whatever was left of the Slayer Essence in Elora. Other stuff too. Like suddenly knowin' French if I dig for it for a minute. Or some weird French martial arts style I never heard of... savate?" Abby nodded. "And... sword styles. I was never really a trained swordswoman. Just patched with reflexes and speed. Now... did you know they had a dueling style for those big two-handed swords? The ones that are taller than I am?"

Abby frowned, thinking about that. It made sense given what Faith had described earlier. "Can you do those styles?"

"No." A furrow appeared between Faith's eyebrows. "Not without concentrating for some time - they're not in muscle and reflex memory yet. It's like... " Faith appeared to be searching for words, and spread her hands. "Like being able to see it in my head, how it's done."

"Hrmm." Abby gave her a concerned look. "What about the other vampiric stuff? The thirst?"

"Yeah." Faith looked away, then back to Abby's eyes. "It's there, like the feeling that my Inner Slayer is supercharged... but fainter. Don't think I'm going to need B-man's daily injections or Angel's pig blood cocktails or anything." Faith made a face. "Thank gods... "

Abby nodded, but her eyes went distant, looking past Faith through the dojo walls. After awhile, she said: "Don't think I've ever seen you that spooked, or that shaken up before. Can't say I blame you." Her eyes came back to Faith's. "Thanks."

Faith forehead furrowed in an honestly puzzled expression. "For what?"

"Not walling me out on this."

"Ah." Faith looked away. "Gettin' tired of walling people out. Tryin' something new for a change." It came out low enough that Abby could pretend slayer hearing couldn't pick it up, if she wanted to. "So... " Faith glanced back at her. "How'd you get stuck with Faith sitting? Draw short straw?"

"Volunteered."

"That'll teach you."

"Yup. Never happen again," Abby nodded. Faith snickered and gave her an 'uh huh, sure' look. "Oh - while you were in the shower, your cop friend called. Said they'd be by in an hour or so after they wrapped some things up."

"Cool." Faith looked distracted for a moment. "Still feels wicked strange to hear 'your cop friend' in something directed at me."

"Can't say it doesn't make the back of our necks itch having O'Brien and his people know about this place." Abby shook her head. "But they proved themselves pretty thoroughly the past few days."

"O'Brien's good folks. Solid." Faith agreed. She glanced away, picking at the seam of her sweats. "Can't believe he's not blaming me over his Nikki."

"He's too busy blaming himself."

"I know that story," she nodded. She gave Abby a thoughtful look. "Can you call King and B-man, ask them to meet back here tonight? We need to get you guys, Vince, and O'Brien's people together and have a strategerizing session."

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

Dean worked the CD case open and grabbed the first thing that came to hand, not caring what it was. He slid the disk angrily into the changer and hit play. Old metal band: Heaven's first track came rolling out of the Impala's speakers. 'Suits,' he thought. 'Close enough, anyway. Getting tired of listening to radio news jockeys talking about the 'wave of terrorist attacks in Philadelphia'. Terrorists my ass.'

"I'm going to point out the obvious here: this isn't the way to New York or Jersey." Sam had his arms folded across his chest, glowering out the window. They'd spent the first night at a motel about 70 miles outside of Philly, and gotten an early start the next morning. Except for rest stops and meal breaks, they'd been driving ever since.

"No." That got the glower directed across the car at Dean. He glanced over, "Detour to hit one of Dad's old weapon caches first, then Ohio. That Bloody Mary thing isn't going to fix itself."

"At least that O'Brien stuck all of the legal stuff back in the trunk when he had the car dropped off," Sam remarked. He narrowed his eyes slightly, and said "Thanks to Faith," at just above under-his-breath volume. He saw Dean hunch slightly, scowling, and hid a grin. If Dean wanted to be a royal dick, little Bro could play too.

"We need the heavier stuff too," was all Dean said, his eyes fixed on the road ahead.

"Still don't want to talk about it?"

"Nothing to talk about," Dean stated in a flat tone.

"Right." Sam went back to watching the scenery go by. A few minutes later he remarked, "'Cause if there was something to talk about, that would mean you were avoiding talking about it."

Dean's knuckles clenched on the steering wheel for a moment, then he reached over and turned the volume up on the CD player. Sam reached over and turned it back down to a more conversational level, getting another glare for his troubles.

"So. Get everything squared away with the hospital and that lawyer before we took off?" Sam made the question conversational, as if he didn't really care one way or the other about the response.

The response was a long time coming, and when it did, it was almost to soft to hear over the beginning strains of Heaven's version of 'Knocking on Heaven's Door'. "No. Well... not really."

"Huh?" Sam stared at his brother. "What does 'No. Not really' translate to? You mean we're going to be dodging bill collectors and annoyed lawyers from now on?"

"No." Dean scowled again, shaking his head. "Nothing like that."

"What then?" Sam's glare was as well developed as Dean's. He studied his brother for a minute. 'Uh huh. When Dean's pissed and he won't meet my eyes, it means something's up that's not kosher'.

"Means 'I didn't take care of it, but it's taken care of', all right?" Dean stated, white knuckling the steering wheel.

"Huh. Ok... " Sam didn't let up on the glare. "You mind unpacking that for me a bit? It's not scanning from where I sit."

"Hospital said Faith put it on her medical, ok? Gunn said not to worry about his fee - he'd square it with her." Dean shook out a cigarette and lit it. "It's taken care of - no collection agencies, no lawyer dunning."

"Right." Sam looked away, staring out the window for a few minutes again before turning his head back. "You really are a piece of work sometimes, bro, you know it?"

"What the hell does that mean?"

"Well... let's see." Sam grabbed the pack and shook one out for himself, lighting it and staring through the smoke. "Girl you've known for one night and a day spends several nights sitting and watching over us in the hospital, gives blood, gives me a transfusion, gets us a lawyer, and pays our hospital bills. And we're taking off in the middle of a huge brawl without even sticking around long enough to say 'thanks, now fuck off?'." Sam shook his head, "Figured it was something like this when you were in such a rush to get us checked out AMA and out of there."

"Hey! It wasn't like that." Dean's head whipped around to glare at his brother again before wrenching his attention back to the road.

"I'm curious. What was it like, then?" Sam gave his brother an infuriating smirk. "'Cause that's what it sounds like to me."

Dean gestured at the radio. "Hell - you've been listening to all of that just like me. Homeland Security, 'terrorist attacks on police and city officials', 'riots'... You really want to be stuck in a hospital room with the Philly PD looking for a scapegoat to feed to Homeland Security as a material witness set?"

Sam frowned. That was hard to argue with. He could see Major Cases getting squeezed enough over what little Dean had told him about the activities of the night before they'd left to decide to feed him and Dean to DHS along with a stack of illegal weapons charges. Those detectives, O'Brien and Giambione, seemed to like Faith enough to cover her... but that might not stop them from needing someone handy to use as a distraction. Sam settled for a sarcastic sounding "Uh huh," as a response while he thought things through.

Possibly too sarcastic - that got Dean to whip his head around again. "Uh huh? And what's that mean?" Dean said in a dangerous tone.

"Means you probably want to watch the road before we end up in another hospital, bro." Sam pointed out the windshield. Dean scowled and turned his attention back to his driving. Sam nodded thoughtfully. "So we're leaving your one night stand as a possible scapegoat instead, huh?"

"You think you could possibly make that sound any more cold blooded if you worked at it a bit longer?" Dean shot back at him. "Faith has that O'Brien covering her. And Wolfram and Hart. She can take care of herself."

"Right. Did you at least call her and let her know why we were scramming out?" There was a long silence in response to that question that Sam really didn't like. "You didn't, then," he stated.

"Tried." Dean's voice was low. "Voice mail picked it up." Dean didn't say that he hadn't been able to come up with anything that he wanted to leave on the voice mail that didn't sound idiotic in his own ears, and had hung up on it.

"Guess you didn't mention to her that we'd be leaving when you guys wrapped up that night, either."

"Hadn't decided we were until I got back to the hospital and started watching the morning news." Dean said. He added, "She was probably still out of it by then, anyway." He hadn't intended for that to come out...

Sam shot him a sharp look, expression slightly incredulous. "Out of it? Faith got hurt again?"

"Not exactly," Dean said. It sounded lame even to him.

"Define 'not exactly', Dean."

"Something weird happened to her during the fight when she killed that blonde. That Blade guy and his chick carried her off the prison roof unconscious." Dean wasn't meeting Sam's eyes, which infuriated him even more.

"And you left without finding out what," Sam said, his voice flat. "We left. Were you planning to mention this to me?"

"Wasn't time." Dean's jaw clenched. "Blade and that cop weren't interested in having me follow them to find out anything. Or that Gunn guy. So I headed back."

"Right." Sam shook his head again. "Pull in at the next truck stop we come to. I'm getting out."

"What?!? No you're not." Dean took his eyes from the road for a quick glare at Sam. "What the hell for?"

"I'll catch up with you in Ohio later. I'm going back to Philly to sort things out and find out what happened to Faith."

"The hell you are." Dean shook his head, "Sam - we have a demon to track down and our dad to find. That's not a part of it."

"Should have figured that out before you went home with the girl, Dean. You really want to find Dad and tell him we abandoned someone who helped us out? I don't," Sam stated while giving his brother a hard look. "Either I get out up the road, or you pull over now and I get out. One way or the other."

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

"Five-oh!" Faith jolted up from her spot on the couch and her eyes lit up when O'Brien, Giambione, and Christine came in behind Abby. "And Detective Junior." She took a step forward, then stopped and jittered slightly in place, her hands curling at her sides.

Abby blinked. Faith didn't jitter. She paced, slouched, bounced, prowled, or stalked. She didn't 'jitter nervously', ever.

"Faith." Giambione smirked slightly at the 'Detective Junior' crack. Faith threw him a half grin, but her eyes immediately went back to searching the older detective's face.

"Kiddo." O'Brien gave her a short nod, standing relaxed in the doorway with his hands in his pockets. "You look better." Whatever Faith had been searching for, she evidently found it, or didn't. She relaxed abruptly and gave him a sharp nod back.

"Kinda annoyed with you, copper. Missed seeing your sour mug first thing when I came conscious."

"Got busy."

Faith gave him the full wattage grin at that and threw herself back onto the sofa. "So I heard. And I slept through it all, again." She drew her feet up under her and wrapped her arms around her knees. "Gettin' kinda tired o' that," she remarked.

"I'd imagine," O'Brien smiled sourly back at her. "Don't worry. You didn't miss out on anything enjoyable."

"Well... considering Faith's idea of 'enjoyable'... " Giambione started and O'Brien shot him an amused glance.

"Grab yourselves a place to sit," Abby suggested. "I'll get the coffee pot and some mugs." She left them to it and headed off for the kitchen. The three detectives pulled up several of the fake wicker patio chairs that were serving as furnishings and sat.

Faith glanced over at Christine. "I'm glad you made it out with them." She paused, and then gave Christine a direct look. "I owe you an apology." Her tone made it clear that that wasn't something she said casually, and Christine nodded. "I was right that we'd run out of time... but that still was a sucky way to have to do that. I'd rather I'd of figured out a better way."

"Hindsight." Christine considered for several minutes, then shook her head. "It's done. We go on." She glanced at her partners, "You were right, anyway. I put off dealing with it for reasons that don't make as much sense in hindsight from my end."

Faith nodded and accepted a mug of coffee from Abby with a grateful look. "So... we're cool, then?"

"Yeah." Christine sipped from her mug. "Just don't do it again.," she smiled slightly to take any sting out of the words.

"Deal." Faith nodded seriously. "I promise I won't throw any more tire tools at your head from now on. Of course, that leaves knives, crowbars, short swords, shot glasses... " The corner of Faith's lips curled up in a grin and they both laughed. Faith looked at the three of them. "Ok... so, can you fill me in on what's been happening since I passed out?" She waved in the general direction of the television. "News' been a bit useless for information gathering."

O'Brien and Frank spent the next hour or so filling her in on recent events, with Christine adding details when needed. Aside from breaking off at one point to make more coffee and bring it in when it was done, Faith interrupted only for questions when she needed something clarified.

"Huh." She considered things for a time after the discussion wound down. "You guys have been busy. What happened with that Agent Whassiname? Hagerby?"

"Hagerman." Giambione shrugged. "Vaporised on us."

"It's possible that he went underground more to avoid the attention of the two DC agents that showed up," Christine interjected. "They seemed extremely interested in him."

"Right. Reyes and Doggett? 'Anomalous Crimes Division'." Faith snorted. "Sounds like something from that TV show... the X-Files?"

"Except that Doggett's no Fox Mulder." At Faith's raised eyebrow, O'Brien elaborated, "Main X-Files show agent. FBI Hollywood style. Doggett's a different breed of animal: very sharp, LEO to the core, extremely professional. So's his partner."

Nod. "Not much of a TV watcher. Think maybe I caught two-three X-Files episodes in the past five years... " Faith's eyes went distant. "So... these two work for a department that investigates BBQ-fork incidents." O'Brien snorted at the description and she grinned.

"I've heard the name," Abby put in. They all looked at her expectantly and she shrugged. "He and Reyes were involved in the postmortem investigation following that business with Drake. We kept an eye on them, but they didn't pursue it far beyond Drake's body in the morgue." Faith nodded, considering. She'd heard bits of the story from King and Abby. As far as the NYPD and FBI were concerned, Blade was dead and the Drake/Blade corpse closed out the 'vampire killer' case from the official books. "Doggett and his partner seemed straight to me. I doubt that they were fobbed off by the 'official' resolutions."

"Doggett also seemed pretty interested in you, LeHane." Giambione said. He shrugged at the sharp glance Faith threw him. "Possible material witness."

"We've listed you as an outside consultant and bystander," O'Brien added. "We covered for you. Doggett and his partner don't seem to be interested in producing any warrants or subpoenas, and Hogan made it clear that he wasn't interested in producing you without one." The 'we take care of our own' went unsaid and it was evident in his tone of voice.

"I'll talk to him. But only with Gunn present after he gets back from LA," Faith surprised them by saying. She noticed the looks. "What? I'm clear now. I don't want to have to be looking over my shoulder for the Spook Patrol everywhere I go from now on." She shrugged, "Besides: we need to know if they're Familiars, and my sensitivity's probably better than Chris'."

"All right," O'Brien gave her a judicious nod. "Let me know and we'll set it up." Faith gave him the half grin and nodded.

"So. FBI and Homeland Security. Hrmmm... " Faith considered. "Let me see your notepad, Frank. And a pen... " Giambione pulled the small notebook from his jacket and slid it over to her.

Faith thought for a few minutes, then wrote several sets of names and numbers down on a blank page and slid it back along with the pen. "There you go."

She tapped the page with a fingernail, "Top number. Call it *only* if you have government problems that you can't deal with through regular means. Use my name as a reference, and ask for an Agent Finn, or an Agent Graham. Give them my private cell number to use if they need to verify it with me, and they will. Don't draw on that resource lightly - it involves calling in a favor I don't like using, and I don't like getting indebted to these people. It'll also involve non-disclosure agreements and suchlike, probably."

"Government connections too?" Giambione raised his eyebrows.

"Who do you think's responsible for that black file I have?" Faith grinned, winking at him. "Don't ask... long story, and most of it isn't mine to tell." She paused, thinking, "Odds are pretty good that if the DHS is here, then this outfit is around somewhere as well."

"We already have Gunn's number." Christine said, looking at the list.

"That's his direct number, private. And Angel's. Gets you either of them without going through Wolfram and Hart's phone lines." Faith gave O'Brien a serious look. "I set things up with Gunn and Angel before we headed out that last night. If you're going to be going up against this stuff... a point may come where you'll need some serious legal firepower. Don't hesitate to call it in if you need to. But - DON'T sign any contracts, and make sure you have a competent outside lawyer that's *not* connected in any way to Wolfram and Hart look over any documents thoroughly."

"You sound like you don't trust them," O'Brien gave her a curious look.

"I trust Angel and Gunn implicitly. And Wes, and Angel's personal people." Faith frowned. "I don't trust Wolfram and Hart any farther than I can throw their skyscraper, or less. Angel and Gunn will take care of things off the books and off the records, if at all possible, or they'll direct you to someone trustworthy who can." The 'we take care of our own' was implicit in her voice as it had been in O'Brien's earlier, and he nodded.

"The last?" The question came from Christine.

"New International Watcher's Council. You'll be meeting them along with your partners after I've had a chance to call Vi and set things up." Faith refilled her coffee from the insulated pot and leaned back with a sigh. "They own the school I worked for up until... huh. It's only been a month, month and a half ago? Jeeze... feels like longer."

"It's been an intense month and a half, if the last few weeks are any indication," O'Brien suggested.

"That it has." Faith nodded. "Ok." She gave Christine a direct look, "There's a lot of things I didn't have a chance to lay out for you earlier. Now's the time, I guess... The IWC considers themselves responsible for locating and managing the newly Awakened slayers around the world. Providing training, assistance, resources, etc... 'Responsible' is a good word for it. I'll explain that in detail if you want, after we get the basics out of the way." She paused, gathering her thoughts. "In addition to being a weapons and hand-to-hand instructor, I was one of the people responsible for finding newer slayers and explaining to them what happened and what their options were now."

"You came here to locate me for these people?" Christine gave her a hard look.

"I said 'was'. I don't work for the IWC any more. I came here to try and locate some of my family background, like I told O'Brien and his partner." Faith considered, then shook her head. "Let me back up a bit. That wasn't completely honest... " She frowned, "I do contract work for them on occasion now. Have to see how that's going to work out... I contracted to locate a newly discovered slayer here in Philly as long as I was going to be in the area for awhile dealing with our blonde vampire problem."

"Which would be me," Christine was regarding her with a wary and slightly irritated expression.

"Which turned out to be you." Faith nodded. "More or less happy accident. I was sent a list of several "Christine Meadows" and "C. Meadows" in this city to check on, but you weren't one of them... Suppose to be thorough I should follow up on those just to be sure. Odds of there being two newly awakened slayers in Philly by that name are kinda slim, I'd think, but... " Faith shrugged. "I didn't realize you were probably it until you were introduced to me at the blood factory scene and I felt the ping."

"Ping?" Chris raised an eyebrow. Faith noticed that both O'Brien and Giambione were staying out of the discussion for now, as was Abby.

"Kind of like what you felt from the demons and vampires the other night. Only different." Faith made a vague gesture and pushed her hair back from her face with one hand. "Some of us can sense other slayers by the slayer essence in them. Been told that not all of us can... I seem to have the talent."

Christine nodded. "A list? How do they go about coming up with newly awakened slayers to check out?"

"Hrrm." Faith frowned. "You're going to have to ask them if you want the technical details. I usually zone out part way into the explanations. Some of it's research: looking through news reports for indicators and suchlike. Sometimes magic, but that's not reliable. Sometimes tips; sometimes rumours in the demonic communities." She shook her head, "Never bothered with it before. Was more a 'Where to and what do I look for?' type."

"So now that you've located me, you're going to turn me in to the IWC?" The older slayer's expression was hard for Faith to read - Christine had her version of the cop mask fully in place now.

"Faith has a tendency to not do things that way," Abby stated. She shot Faith an amused look. "It causes her trouble with them from time to time."

"One way to put it," Faith agreed. One of these days she was going to have to try to pry out some details from Abby on her discussions with the IWC... "Not 'turn in'. Explain things to you, give you the contact names and numbers, and introduce you to them." She regarded Christine evenly. "The last is kinda unavoidable now since there's several of them here poking into what went down a few days ago, and they're a part of the 'set things up so you guys can keep a lid on this' solution I'd mentioned."

The blonde detective nodded. "What happens then?"

"That's going to be kind of up to you and your partners, I think." Faith gave her a considering look, "Usual is to make the new slayer an offer to join one of the schools for training and assign them a Watcher if needed. Or let them know what's available and what the risks are if they decide they don't want any part of things. Or their families don't... " Faith paused. "You're not a fourteen to seventeen year old girl who's just found out she can throw a three hunnert pound bodybuilder across the room, though. You're a trained and experienced cop with combat skills who already has support people and resources to draw on."

"Thirty six," Christine smiled for the first time since Faith had started discussing this with her. At Faith's raised eyebrow she said, "Not a fourteen to seventeen year old. I'm thirty six going on thirty seven."

"I thought you were thirty two, Chris?" O'Brien's eyebrows went up.

"I'll take that as a compliment." Christine smirked. "Obie.. the only time you remember birth dates is when you read them on an arrest report or a suspect's jacket." O'Brien had the grace to look embarrassed when Faith and Giambione snickered at that.

"She's got you there, Five-oh. That's how you remembered mine." Faith smirked.

"Watcher?" That was from Giambione.

"Watcher." Faith nodded, returning to the topic. "Kinda the Slayer Support staff. A Watcher does research and finds out things about whatever supernatural crisis is at hand, and helps the Slayer deal with it. In theory, and usually in practice." Faith looked back to Christine, noticing that she seemed more relaxed and the cop face had mosty dropped away. Mostly. "That's probably the main benefit you'd get out of the association. You bring a lot of investigative skills and resources to the table, but as you probably guessed from the other night... the research skills involved with this are kinda specialized."

"Who's yours?" Christine raised an eyebrow at her after a short nod to concede the point.

"Officially? Don't have one - I'm probably considered to have gone rogue by now." Faith grinned. "Unofficially? Wesley Price. Who isn't a member of the IWC any more than I am now, and it'd probably scandalize a lot of people if they heard me say he was my Watcher."

"Why'd you quit?" Giambione asked. Faith resisted giving him a surprised look. She knew O'Brien had heard parts of the story during their discussion - she'd figured he'd have passed them on to his partner. Evidently not.

Faith poured some more coffee and sat back again, staring through the wall for several minutes. "Came to a parting of the ways." She looked at Giambione. "You'd asked me a month or so back an' - if I didn't tell you to piss off - I'd have said that I needed some space to figure some things out. Now... " She shook her head, "Thinking on it, I'm starting to figure out I've got some... philosophical differences with them."

"Such as... ?" Christine asked.

Faith shook her head, her eyes distant. "I get it all sorted out in my head, I'll let you know. Or at least, I'll let O'Brien know." She gave the older cop a slight smile. "Just say... the Old Watcher's Council used to view the Slayer - there was only one at a time back then - as a disposable weapon. Aim, fire, discard when killed. No big deal: new one will be called afterward. All of that changed when the Old Council was blown up and most of their members were hunted down and killed by demonic agents." She took a drink of coffee, thinking, "The New Council is determined to rebuild differently without doing things the way the old one did. I just have reservations on how well they'll be able to do that, and if it'll really turn out different. I've gotten to be kind of an expert on how hard it is to change old mindsets." Faith smiled ruefully.

Faith shrugged and continued, "Doesn't help that there's a lot of history between me and a lot of the movers and shakers in the IWC that makes trust not come easy. A lot of that history my fault," her eyes darkened.

"But still, you listed them on the contacts list," O'Brien stated.

"Yeah. Chris shouldn't have to join the IWC for you guys to work together," Faith said. "If I can get Vi to agree with what I have in mind, then that'll get a team of slayers assigned here with some Watcher support, and that'll be a big help in enforcing that 'Vampire Free City' thing."

"If not?" Chris asked.

"Then it'll be up to you guys," Faith looked at Abby and the others in turn to emphasize she was including Abby's people in the 'you guys', "and Vince, and Gunn. And you'' have to work out not getting in each other's way with Vi's people." She shrugged again. "Not optimal, but it could break that way." Faith paused, looking at O'Brien thoughtfully... "We need to all get together tonight with Hogan and the rest of your people, here, and have a... hrrm. Started to say 'Council of war', but I'd rather not give the Universe any bad ideas."

"Strategy and brainstorming session?" Giambione suggested.

"Works. Let's run with that one."

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

Explaining the background of the Old Watcher's Council history and why the new one had to be rebuilt took some time, considering it involved backtracking to The First and how all of the Slayers became awakened. Even with paring things down to the minimum, and with Abby relating her impressions of the new IWC, it was still late afternoon by the time they wrapped up and Giambione and Christine wandered off on their own pursuits.

O'Brien stayed after, ostensibly for the invitation to a late lunch with her and Abby. They settled on hoagies from the kitchen's well stocked supply of cold cuts and sliced meat in lieu of cooking.

"I think we're corrupting you, O'Brien," Faith joked. "You're starting to look comfortable relaxing with hoods, vampire hunters, demonic mobsters, and ex-cons."

"I'll have you know that cops tend to spend more time with the criminal element usually than we do with normal people," he returned the bantering tone and her eyes crinkled at the corners.

Faith laughed. "I'm glad you made it through ok," she added in a more serious tone.

"You too." O'Brien said. "You're going to have to stop getting carried away unconscious from fights."

"I told Faith you'd been by to check on her," Abby stated. She studied the older detective curiously. O'Brien wasn't exactly the kind of friend she would have expected Faith to acquire, and yet the connection between the two of them was unmistakable.

"Before we get sidetracked again," O'Brien reached into his jacket and took an envelope from his inner pocket and set it on the table in front of Faith. "An envelope with this inside was given to one of the nurses at the hospital for me with instructions to make certain it got to you." He met her curious look with a shrug, "The younger Winchester left it."

"Huh." Faith picked it up slowly, turning it in her hands, a line between her eyebrows. The front of the envelope simply had 'Faith' written on it in pen with a nice hand. She tried to remember if she'd ever told Sam her last name, and the answer honestly escaped her. Unopened - O'Brien obviously hadn't looked at it, not that'd she'd expected he would. She opened it carefully and pulled out a single sheet of unlined paper.

"Faith -

Looks like we're leaving in a bit of a hurry, so since I didn't get your cell number, I hope this gets to you. I'm writing this in a bit of a hurry while Dean's handling the checkout stuff, so excuse the handwriting.

I'm not certain what happened between you and Dean. What little I've been able to pry out of him tells me you had words of some kind. I'm not certain if that's connected to him being in such a rush to take off. He says that it's because of all of the federal interest coming down on this city according to the news reports on last nights 'riots' and 'terrorist incidents', but there's something else under there too. I remember that you two had differences of opinion on methods earlier...

Whatever.

Look. I know you said that one can't apologize for other people, only for oneself. Be that as it may, Dean's my brother and covering his rear comes with the territory. Even when that means apologizing for him when I think he's being a bit of an ass. So... whatever is up, accept my apologies. I'm sorry that we're not sticking around to see how things work out, and I'm sorry that we're not going to be there to help cover your back.

I want to thank you again for everything that you've done for us. You may not think it's any big deal, but it is. You didn't have to stick around and you definitely didn't have to do all of the extra things you did, from the lawyer to the blood donations. It's definitely greatly appreciated, and it goes a bit beyond simply 'paying it forward' in my books.

If there's ever anything I can do for you, don't hesitate to ask.

Take care of yourself, Faith, and be well.

Sincerely,
Sam Winchester"


There was a cell phone number at the bottom under the signature. Faith folded the note with equal care and put it back in the envelope, blinking rapidly for some reason.

"Huh." The corner of Faith's lips curled up in a slight smile. "Think I may have gone for the wrong Winchester," she said. "That'll teach me."



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