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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)IronbearFR1833190,3063016865,76729 Sep 0718 Oct 13Yes

Epilogue: "Those quiet euphemisms... "

Epilogue: "Those quiet euphemisms... "

He remembered when he used to use a clakety Underwood to write his columns on. Ink stained fingers, ribbons, sheaves of white bond paper... correcting an error or a typo wasn't a matter of 'Highlight' [Backspace] back then: it involved strike outs or Whiteout and type overs. No spell checkers. Sometimes a major error resulted in throwing away a crumpled half page of column when you discovered that your mind had led you into writing yourself into a corner you couldn't back out of...

You were careful not to make mistakes when you worked.

Things were a lot simpler in the old days.

'Used to be, the hardest part about this damned job was finding the right words,' Tom Kirkwood shook his head at the bemused thought. He pushed his glasses farther up on the bridge of his nose from where they'd slipped down. 'Then time passed and I got comfortable at it, got good at it - hey, no false modesty here, boy - and finding the right words got easier. It was finding things worth writing about that got hard... '

'Not to mention figuring out how to put them into words,' Kirkwood gave up for the moment, leaning back in his chair and stretching to work the kinks out of his back.

After a time he cracked his knuckles and bent back to his desk. No time worn Underwood here, now. His column gets done at the office on a black box with a gleaming nineteen inch monitor. At home, where he's writing now, it's a flat Sony laptop, minuscule in comparison to the massive old typewriter that still lurks on a shelf in his back closet. No whiteout, no overstriking, no ribbons, no wheels to change. Make an error and you just highlight, hit a key, and *poof!*, gone - vanished like it never happened. Magic.

It didn't mean you couldn't still write yourself into corners. Just meant you could hide the evidence a lot easier.

Night Heat
by Tom Kirkwood


'There you go. Got that out of the way,' went through his mind. Not for the first time, he snickered imagining his editor's face if he turned in eleven blank column inches with nothing but that at the top and said, "Here you go: that's all there is to say about it this week."

The expression would probably be priceless for all of the fifteen seconds it'd take her to color all the way up to the hairline and stare at him looking for the punchline. He doubted there'd be any amusement when she figured out he was serious. Back around full circle: finding things to write about isn't hard any more. Figuring out how to put them into the neat, careful words that don't really say anything about the things that no one wants to print is hard.

And yet there's still column inches to fill...


We cover the night with quiet euphemisms. Terrorism, riots, ritual killings, mass murder - words that never quite describe the things that lay beneath them. Sanitized words. They're comforting: we don't really want to see the things that they're covering up.

It will be just after Christmas by the time this sees print, and there'll still be a blanket of snow covering the Philly streets. By that point, there'll still be a blanket of words covering the events of the past week or so, as well. It's probably better that way, when you get right down to it.

We don't really want to see it, because what's underneath that blanket of snow out there isn't always very pretty.

Ditto for what's under the blanket of words...


No... not very pretty. Not at all. A secret world filled with demons, vampires, and things that go bump in the night. Secret warriors that do battle with them.

Tom Kirkwood doesn't sleep very well any more. When he closes his eyes, he sees rows upon rows of bodies sandwiched in plastic with tubes. And lambent eyes, a distorted mouth, and fangs... 'Slayer... why did you stop him? So hungry... ' Kirkwood jerked his eyes open. Heh. He tries not to close his eyes to think much, any more, either. No telling what you'll see behind the lids...

A small arm, impossibly strong, grabs him and hurls him back away from the thing that used to be his friend's ex-girlfriend. Stands between him and something ravenous as he sprawls spraddle-legged on the concrete by an alley. 'That's not Nikki. Not any more... ' Something ravenous that used to be a friend.

No, better to keep them wide open. Not that that helps any. You can still see what the words are covering up.


Riots and violence blanketed our city a number of days ago, the way the snow blankets it now. I'm sure by now you've all read the explosion of regular reports, seen the newscasters babbling into their lapel mikes with their lacquered hair, and watched the talking heads endlessly putting you at ease. Riots. Terrorist attacks. Breakdown in civil order. Co-ordinated assault upon police and civil authorities. Right-wing, Left-wing, fanatics...

By now you're probably as sick of the blanket of words as you are of the constant interruptions to your televised entertainments. And yet, here I am layering even more words on top of you. At least I can comfort myself somewhat with saying it's my job to layer words on you, to attempt to make some sense of the whole thing, or to at least divert you a bit.

It's not like you read the editorial columns for sense, anyway. Good thing: we generally don't have much to offer you. We're usually still trying to make sense of things ourselves, and typing out reams of column inches to hide the fact that we're just stumbling through the dark like you are.

Stumbling through the dark, and bumping into things with sharp corners. Only instead of cursing when the edges hurt, we type. It's our way of trying to find a light switch.

Just under ten days ago, the detectives at Mid South's Major Cases lost two of their own. "Lost" literally in the case of one of them: Nicole Rimbault's body has yet to be found, nor has any trace of her been seen since the ashes of Rimbault's Bar cooled enough for firemen to search the debris.

"Lost" euphemistically in the case of Detective Fred Carson, age 39. Died in the violence that struck Eastern State Penitentiary on the night of December 17, 2003 in the wee hours of the morning. Body cremated.


'Body cremated,' Tom snorted. 'Nice quiet phrase that says he was burned to ash to make sure he didn't get back up and go looking for his former partners, only much... thirstier than he was before. Says nothing to anyone that doesn't know the score... and volumes to anyone that does.'

He shook out his hands and then took a fresh carton of milk from the small bar frige next to his desk. Plastic litre cartons: no need for a glass these days, not like those old fashioned cardboard cartons you could never quite open without tearing the little 'Pull Here' triangle. Progress, of sorts.

Oh well. They fit a lot better on the shelves, and they serve the function. Better than reaching for a chilled Bushmills like he used to. Get lost in that, and soon you find your column inches dwindling down to zero, and you no longer have to wonder what the editor's face looks like when you hand in a blank page...

Not a good trade. Not even if the milk doesn't help make the things behind your eyelids go away for a little while.

At least the keys on the laptop have a nice, solid, clickety feel to them. Not the rattle and clatter of an Underwood, but they're solid. Reassuring.


"Lost". That's another one of those quiet euphemisms. It sometimes means that we can't find them in the aftermath of violence and tragedy, like Nikki Rimbault. It sometimes means dead, like Detective Carson and all of the other police officers, firemen, and paramedics that were slain on the night of December the 16th and the early morning of the 17th. It sometimes means "not there any more", like the Bolton Estate house and Penn Ryan Manor - both burned to the ground on the same night. Quiet euphemisms. They cover a multitude of sins, both literary and actual.

'Covering up sins seems to be what newsmen do. Like politicians. We do it with words, just like they do. Funny... ' Kirkwood snorted under his breath, 'I once thought our job was to uncover them. Wet behind the ears, then. Guess those days are gone forever. Wonder if I can sneak that line into the column without getting it red penciled?' Worth a shot. He pressed keys again, glad to feel the words flowing...


Covering up sins seems to be what newsmen do. Like politicians. We do it with words, just like they do. Funny: I always thought our job was to uncover them. Times they do change.

"Assault on Civil Authority" - that's another euphemism, if you hadn't guessed. It's words to explain the disappearances and deaths of several dozens of people in the Mayor and City Council's offices, to cover the abrupt resignations and relocations of a large number of police brass since the 17th. It covers the unexpected deaths of several of them, as well. And it sounds so much more professional than "death by wild animal attack" that you've read in the front page accounts of the patrol officer's deaths.

Like "Mass Murder" - it's a sanitized phrase to describe the warehouses filled with plastic encased bodies you've seen on the nightly news. It puts a layer of remove between the reader and the images.

Politicians use them to cover the fact that they don't have control. Newsmen to sound like we know what's going on. FBI and Homeland Security uses them to soothe and prevent panic, or so they say.

What we're really doing is using them to try and make the incomprehensible something that we can grasp and deal with. Death, murder, assassination, and all of the other words that describe the explosion of voilence of past evenings are too bleak. They're a bit too large to take in on that scale. The euphemisms make the horror of those warehouses a bit easier to swallow and keep down.

They make it a bit easier to avoid the fact that the "Civil Authority" may not have any more control than us "Newsmen" know about reporting on these things. Those really aren't bleak words that anyone wants to wake up and contemplate with their morning papers a day or so after Christmas.


Better that than waking up and contemplating the fact that quite a few of those 'Civil Authorities' work for the monsters, and they're quite happy to feed you and yours to neat plasticine bloood factories. Just wouldn't do to point out that the politicians and more than a few of the law enforcement really aren't on your side and it's not just an old cynical saw.

Might cause panic in the streets. Can't have that.

Printing it might get good old Kirkwood of the Eagle suddenly unemployed. Or eaten by things with lambent eyes and far too many teeth. Can't have that, either. Just wouldn't do.

And people might suddenly get the idea that there's no Security in the Homeland, and a vote really is a vote between two evils. Just like you always thought. Merry Christmas, would you like a cup of nightmare to go with your paper, sir?


New Year's is coming after all. That's supposed to be a hopeful time: a time of change and rebirth. It's really not a time to strip away the comforting euphemisms. Because without the euphemisms, it's too easy to realize that when you strip away the blanket of words, strip away the reassurances, and remove the layers of snow...

You're left with the fact that it's dark out there, and there's things in the darkness with teeth. Metaphorically, at least. One hopes.


It was nice to be able to leave the readers with that hope. A pity that they really weren't metaphorical, nor were the teeth.

That's another area where life used to be a lot simpler in the old days. He hadn't known back then that the things from the late night movies came out of the screen and wandered the streets at night.


One thing the words can do though, is illuminate the fact that not all of the death was meaningless. Sometimes they do serve a purpose - they can remind us of the patrol officers on the city's highways that died attempting to shield bystanders from the violence. They can remind us of the paramedics and rescue workers whom various officers owe their lives to. They can remind us of Detective Fred Carson, who was reportedly killed shielding a partner from attack.

They can remind us that even when we strip away the words and the snow to reveal the darkness underneath, we're not alone in it.

There's people who stand between us and the dark. Sometimes, that just has to be enough.


Not many people, mind you. But after the past few weeks... there's a few more than there were. After seeing some of the things behind the teeth, and having Kevin O'Brien describe them, Kirkwood found himself wishing that was a more comforting thought.

A small young woman and those like her, a few demon hunters, and a handful of cops just didn't seem like enough.

Kirkwood stared for awhile at the display, rereading his efforts. He decided he wasn't completely satisfied, but it'd do. Time tomorrow to reread it and do some rewrite, if needed. Another night, another column. Nice, sanitized bullshit that managed to say nothing while saying... not quite everything.

He swiveled his chair to look out the window at the falling snow. News reports earlier had said that this could turn into a blizzard... He found himself running the last line of his column through his head, and thinking about a small, dark haired girl moving between bodies and piles of ash with inhuman grace and precision.

'Screw it,' Tom shook his head. 'Sometimes, that's just not enough. But it's all we have... '

On an impulse, he snagged the handset to his cordless phone and picked an LA number off of his speed dial. The gruff, sardonic, familiar voice that answered "Beacon. Kolchak. Talk to me," after a bare three rings made him grin.

"Hey, Karl. Surprised to find you at the Beacon at this time of night on Christmas."

*Questioning pause*

"Yup. Got it in one - s'me, Kirkwood. How've you been?"

*pause*

"Doing all right. Your dad still living in the Keys?" *pause* "Good to hear. How's the old bastard doing?"

*pause*

"Yeah yeah - Merry Christmas to you, too. And say a Merry Whatever to that sexy lady reporter you hang with, while you're at it."

*Laughing pause*

"Same as you. Working on getting some column inches done for the post holiday rag. Only *I'm* doing it in the comfort of my home," Kirkwood snickered.

He paused to listen for awhile.

"Ha. Yeah... if you've been watching the news lately, I'm pretty sure you've heard we've been jumping out here."

*pause*

Kirkwood made a snorting sound, followed by, "Why Mr. Kolchak - whatever would make you think there's more going on than you'd read in the Eagle? I'm shocked - shocked I say - that you would ask such a question."

*long pause*

"*snicker* Yeah yeah. Sure, I can fill you in, off the record, natch," Kirkwood laughed. "What're friends for? You happen to have a few hours handy... ?"

The End



Author's Note: For those who saw this jump up on the list and just hit "last new chapter" and missed the note at the (new) beginning page -

My apologies, but this is NOT an update with added chapters per se to the story. I wanted to add cover art and a teaser to this story, as I've done with several of my more recent postings, and there didn't seem to be any way to add a chapter and move it to the beginning without also bumping the story to the top of “Latest Stories”.

So, again: apologies. The only addition here is the front and rear cover art, and the banner to the beginning of Chapter One. There's no need to go and reread this story if you've already read it... (If you haven't read it, or you just want to do a reread, hey – knock yerself out. I certainly won't say no.)

I will be updating these as I go along, but they'll be just minor edits: catching typos that slipped past me an my betas the first time, and cleaning up a bit of the phrasing and wording here and there.

- Thanks, Ironbear.




Afterword for "Life is a Road ":

I was rereading this story recently to refresh my memory on details in preparation for writing the sequels, and I realized that I'd promised an after word several times in the author's notes and never delivered. Heh heh heh. Err... oopsie? ;)

Ah well. Better nate than lever. *snicker* So, here it is, belatedly. If afterwords aren't your thang, then move along, nuthin' to see here, and no hard feelings. As always, this is the spot where you're going to find all the odd stuff and little bits of trivia I didn't include at the front because it would ruin the story to give it away ahead of time, or because I didn't want to clutter up the narrative with Author's Notes any more than necessary. Feel free to ignore it if you're one of those people who don't like author's commentary. But, if you like the ocassional glimpses into the warped mind of the author, then this is the place. (And if you're just here from seeing this pop up on the Whut's New Page and don't care what the idjit behind the keyboard has to say about the story, feel free to page back and read the story while ignoring the postscript. I won't mind - honest.)

This was a surprisingly difficult story to write, considering how well it flowed. My usual style of writing is to have a beginning and an ending, plus a general outline of the story in mind, and once I have those: I write the ending and the first several chapters and fill in the middle.

Yes, I realize that may not be how other people do it. It usually works for me.

In this case, however, I wrote the first eight chapters and the three chapters of the ending in a rush of inspiration, then got partway through filling in the middle - and I realized that Chapters 4 through 10 no longer worked properly because my "minor characters" had taken on lives of their own and demanded a much larger part of the storyline than I'd planned. Oops. Hate it when that happens.

Well, actually, I don't. That usually tends to make for *much* more fully rounded characters and a more interesting set of dynamics, even if it does make my brain hurt. ;)

On the other hand... it does make for one hell of a lot of rewriting and staring at a blank WordPad muttering vile imprecations to myself as I try to make things flow properly and deal with all of the character dynamics.

This did start out as a more or less "straight" Faith/Supernatural crossover. Honest. Really. It did. And then Obie, Giambione, Hogan and the others grabbed a bigger part of the spotlight and Abby, Hannibal, Vince, and Blade decided they didn't want to be left out of the sequel to "Anything for Love" and, well... there ya go. So here we are, roughly thirty three chapters later - which is about twelve chapters more than I'd plannned on. And somewhere along the line, poor Sam and Dean became relegated to the roles of supporting cast in a Faith/Night Heat crossover...

Heh heh heh. Err... sorry, guys. I'd promise to make it up to you, but I'd be lying through my fangs. Oh well.

K.O. Ennyway... Assorted notes and explanations:

* It has been noted in comments that the characters of Sam and Dean Winchester seem a bit OoC. There's a reason for that: I'm not a slave to canon, and I made them fit my fic, my story, and my worldline the way that they wrote themselves in my head, not the way they came across in Supernatural's first season, neccessarily. (Considering that, as I stated in the foreword, this is set between "Phantom Traveler" and "Bloody Mary" in Supernatural S1, then possibly, this adventure had something to do with their character's evolutions in the series. Or not. Wah.) This is the way that Sam and Dean are, character and personality-wise, in this Alternate Universe. Deal with it. Or don't.

* Obviously, since this fic takes place in 2003, Supernatural's first season has been moved back several years to meet with the AtS time line. As noted in the foreword, Sam and Dean have remained the same ages: Sam is still 22 here, and Dean is still 26. (Going by Wikipedia's listing of their ages and moving their birthdates back to compensate.)

* Other vampire breeds: If you've been following comment discussions, you've already gathered this. If not, then... the "Kindrel" in this series are *NOT* World of Darkness/Vampire the Masquerade "Kindred". Period, end of discussion, are not. While I borrow a bit from WoD for the inspiration and a few abilities, and a rough idea of vampire societies, that's about it: that and the name resemblance is as far as it goes. My "Kindrel" are an amalgamation of several different fictional and mythical vampire types blended together to create a "new" breed to fit my world line. ('New' in scare-quotes because no matter how you reblend the myths and source materials, if they're going to be recognizably European style vampires, they're always going to have certain similarities to other vampire types.) Please refer to Chapter 5: "Practical Like Stuff" for explanations of what the Kindrel are in *this* worldline, what their antecedents are, and where they come from. It really is explained in story context. Honest. And it really is "canon" for the purposes of this AU series: I'm planning to stick with the storyline context when I use the Childer of Lillith and Kane in the future.

* Ditto for Elora. She is/was NOT an Underwold "Death Dealer" and this is *not* an Underworld crossover. Her self-claimed title is a surface resemblance only. I happened to like the combination of words. More will come out and be explained in story context during the series as time goes by. We are going to be exploring Elora's memories and Faith's efforts to integrate them as time goes by... and there's a wealth of history and background in there that may or may not be completely exposed within story context. (I gave up on even pretending to tell Faith what to do part way through "Anything for Love": she makes her own decisions and I just write about them.) At least some parts of that background and knowledge will come into play in future plotlines, and I wil be elaborating on Kindrel society and politics as time passes.

* On the other hand, other than giving them a breed name, "Draaken", that fit their origins as Childer of Dagon/Children of Drake from Blade Trinity, I made only minor changes in the Blade vampires to make them fit the Buffyverse.

* The "X-Files" exist in this AU, obviously, as you'll notice reading through. However, that particular FBI branch is named something different and it's always been Agent John Doggett and his dark-haired partner - Agent Monica Reyas - and one other red-haired woman agent (not Dana Scully and not shown in this episode). The "X-Files" here is a TV show and is fictional, and Scully and Mulder are TV characters. There were too many X-Files and "Mulder & Scully" jokes in the Buffyverse episodes for me to be comfortable doing it otherwise. But - life mirrors fiction and naturally Doggett's wierd little branch gets called the X-Files a lot after the show. If you want to assume that all of the Mulder and Scully episodes in our universe happened to Doggett and Co rather than Mulder and Scully, cool. If you want to assume they were all TV episodes and Doggett's cases and adventures were different ones, that's cool too. I'm not telling. Yet.

* Yes, Wormhole X-Treme *is* a Sci-fi Channel television series in this universe, as is Special Unit 2. As for whether there's an SG-1 and a Stargate in Colorado Springs in this AU... I'm not telling. Yet.

* Buffy Season 8 (The comics) never happened in this universe. Period. No Giant Dawn, no Nick Fury Xander, no new Initiative, and definately no Giles leaving Faith in poverty in Cleveland and coercing her to act as his assassin. My Giles may not be perfect - but he's not as... vile... as Whedon's "canon" version seems to be turning out. So, if you consider Buffy Season 8 to be Official Canon (I don't: IMO it's mediocre Authorized Fanfic written by Joss Whedon), then this is AU from Chosen on. Season 8 ala Ironbear, the way it should have been done were I the owner of the Bufffyverse, Blade, Night Heat, Supernatural and the other series. Done the Right Way. ;)

(Why yes, I am arrogant and secure in my ego. Why do you ask? *g*)

* Some editing will be done as time goes by to fix the odd typo, punctuation, and speeling eeror that I caught belatedly once I saved this out to PDF and reread it carefully. I usually catch those in speelchucking, or my beta reader does, but hey - accidents happen.

Various Credit Where Credit is Due stuff:

1. Tail-kinker to Ennien -slash- Evan Wilson was drawn from Janet Kagan's delightful "Uhura's Song" Star Trek novel. Excellent read if you like Star Trek Origional Series fiction and can find a copy. She's good people, too. Buy her books. Gratuitious plug inserted free of charge by the Author.

(PS: I discovered recently while visiting her site that Janet Kagan has passed on. *sigh* Rest ye gentle, sleep ye sound: ye shall be missed.)

2. Vince Kroenen, Agent Hagerman, and Elora Ménard are my own original characters/creations. (It should go without saying that Giles, Vi, Angel, Charles Gunn,and the other Buffyverse characters mentioned belong to Joss Whedon.)

3. Song lyrics are credited at the bottoms of the chapters they're used in. To recap: "There goes another love song" is by The Oulaws, "Dancing in the Dark" by Bruce Springsteen, and "Allstar" is by Smashmouth.

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Series dialogue quotes were drawn from the transcripts at Buffyworld.com, and the quotes in Chapter 26 are from: "Faith, Hope, and Trick", "Homecoming", "This Year's Girl", "Consequences", "Touched", "Five by Five", and "Salvage". Insights into Faith's mindset and thought processes during those episodes were drawn from Faith: Solace.com

5. Listing of various Crossover characters: X-Files, Night Heat, Supernatural, Blade III, Uhura's Song, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Series. Karl Kolchak from the new Night Stalker series at the very, very end. And there is at least an implication of Highlander Immortals and the Immortal Watcher's Council.

6. Timelines: AtS "Just Rewards" takes place during the first few chapters of Life is a Road. AtS "Unleashed" takes place around Chapter 12, Day 9 in this timeline. AtS "Hell Bound" takes place between Chapter 26 and Gunn's return from LA in Chapter 29, "Conversational Interludes 2.0". (Why yes, I am taking liberties with the Angel Season 5 episode dates as I noted I would be.) There's a hiatus between "Hell Bound" and the end of this fic where no other Angel episodes occur before New Year's. Episodes post-New Year's I shall fit in where I need them to fall.

Many thanks to my beta reader SamanthaDancer, and to NWHepcat and litmouse for some of the inspirations I've drawn upon in this fic. Noteably: litmouse inspired Faith's cigar habit, Angel giving Faith a motorcycle (Although I had him give her a custom BMW rather than a hog - I like BMW's better: they're better bikes), and the Xander "Clint" nickname reference. Also, many thanks to Kiwikatipo for letting me bang my head against theirs in email and in comments while I was struggling with the rewrites on the final chapters.

I am working on sequels, however I am making no promises as to when they'll be posted.

- Ironbear



The End

You have reached the end of "Life is a Road...". This story is complete.

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