"Wonderful. A fuckin' bar," muttered Faith, standing in the park across the street from the hotel sign that indicated where to take the steps down to a lower level tavern. As the dark-haired woman glowered at a building that didn't seem to be all that deserving of her ire, Faith considered how exactly she'd wound up here.
About a week ago, it had been a peaceful Sunday morning in the small London apartment a couple of blocks from the International Watchers' Council main headquarters. That residence was used for those visiting Slayers and Watchers and other employees of that organization against the dark forces while they were in town. At this moment, the only occupants currently living there totaled three people, of which two were seated at the kitchen nook table after finishing their breakfast.
Dawn Summers had her chin perched on her fists, elbows resting on the table, and lying flat on this before her was The Observer newspaper, opened to the crossword puzzle section, still fully blank. Her eyes half-closed, Dawn was musing over the puzzle, concentrating on solving it completely in her head.
Faith Lehane was slouched back in her own chair, her left elbow propped up on the armrest and her left hand supporting that side of her head tilted to lay in her cupped palm. That woman's eyes were completely closed as she recovered from a night of clubbing, remaining motionless in her seat, except for the occasional sipping from her cup of steaming coffee clenched in her right hand.
Suddenly, Faith's coffee was plucked from her grip. The Slayer didn't react the slightest to this, even though she'd listened to every step of the coffee thief, from moving downstairs, walking through the ground floor to the kitchen, and coming to a stop just behind her. It was true that Faith could have tightened her grip on her cup to keep it from being stolen, but the dark Slayer knew better, even as she now opened her eyes and twisted around in her seat to scowl at the young woman in the green bathrobe moaning in ecstasy as she drained the coffee to the very last drop.
Wise people didn't get between the Red Witch and her morning caffeine.
"Pulled another all-nighter, Willow?" amusedly spoke Dawn, looking up from her crossword.
Smacking her lips, a blissful Willow Rosenberg nodded.
"Guess it was successful," snarked Faith. "What'd ya do, worked out how to turn every frog on earth into a beautiful princess havin' a serious lust for redheads?"
Willow giggled with delight, now pulling out a third chair from the table and plopping down into this, as she smiled at the other two women. Reaching in the front pocket of her bathrobe, the witch took out a thin metal disk the size of a CD, and triumphantly laid it down on the table.
Both Dawn and Faith looked at the disk, and then glanced at each other, before simultaneously shrugging, indicating that neither had any idea what Willow was so proud about. The Slayer and the Key now shot inquiring glances at their friend.
Looking a bit more serious, Willow said, "You remember, a month back, the DiMarco incident?"
Faith and Dawn's own faces also changed into grim expressions. In New York City, Julissa DiMarco had become a new Slayer, and before the Council could get in touch with the fifteen-year-old girl to explain what she'd become and how to deal with it, that young woman and her entire family had been kidnapped by a demon crime family who had wanted a Slayer to work for them, and these villains weren't going to take "no" for an answer. Using Willow's magic, the Council had managed to find and safely rescue their missing Slayer, along with that girl's parents and younger brothers.
Those nasty pieces of work who'd been stupid enough to try to use a Slayer for their own ends had been terminated with extreme and enthusiastic prejudice by the other warrior women and their Watchers, in a clear warning to anybody else who might consider doing the same.
Willow continued her opening statement. "Well, it was easy enough to track that Slayer, due to her being part magical from the spell that turned her into one, and thankfully her family was with her, so we managed to get them all back. But what if they'd been separated? So, I went to work refining my tracking spells. That's the result," smugly concluded Willow, pointing at the small metal disk resting on the table.
Puzzled, both Faith and Dawn leaned forward to peer at the disk. Around the disk's edge were engraved numerous tiny mystic runes and symbols, while in the center of the disk were two large symbols that Dawn recognized at once. Faith, on the other hand, just stared in bafflement at two circles next to each other. The circle on the left had a arrow line attached to the upper right side of the circle, pointing up and away diagonally to the right. The other symbol had a line heading down from the bottom of the circle, with the line ending in a little cross.
"Mars and Venus symbols, man and woman," pronounced Dawn.
"Correct," nodded Willow. "It's a prototype, but this tracking disk will find someone's parents, anywhere in the world, and reveal whether they're living or not. Here, let me show you." The witch reached out to press the tip of her index finger between the two major symbols, and muttered a single word, "Seek."
An instant later, the gender symbols appeared, floating in the air about a foot above the disk and glowing solid white. Right after that, the symbols vanished and were replaced by a small globe of the world, a perfect representative of a foot-wide Earth that now spin once on its axis, before stopping. Still holding her finger pressed on the disk, Willow nodded at the globe, and suggested, "Look at where it's in front of me."
Craning their necks, both Dawn and Faith were able to see two tiny points of white light on the surface of the globe, about somewhere in the upper midwest of the North American continent, at the lower edge of one of the Great Lakes.
"My parents, in Chicago," shrugged Willow, going on to say coolly, "At one of their medical conferences."
The other two women there glanced at each other at Willow's change of tone. Both knew that their friend and her parents had never healed their strained relationship with each other since Sunnydale had collapsed, and from Willow's reserved expression, she evidently didn't care all that much.
In an abrupt effort to alter the icy mood that had suddenly appeared in the kitchen, Dawn blurted out, "Hey, Willow, can I try?"
"What?" blinked Willow, evidently jarred from her recent brooding. She looked startled, and then a bit worried, her eyes darting to Dawn's face, with the redhead uneasily swallowing and opening her mouth to release a slightly panicked babble, "Uh, well, it's a prototype, so, uh, I didn't put in everything I could, so it might not--"
"Wils, relax!" snorted Dawn. "I know what I am, so I'm not going to be offended at whatever, if anything, this shows me. I just want to see what happens."
"Um," muttered Willow, her expression clearly torn, showing unease over potentially upsetting Dawn at being reminded she might be in human form, but that woman had been created from magic, so it was extremely unlikely Dawn would be shown she did indeed have parents. However, also in the witch's expression was sheer curiosity at seeing if her construct would work or not. Finally, Willow shrugged, and took her finger off the disk, directing, "Just do what I did, okay?"
Dawn nodded, and then put her finger on the disk at the same place where Willow had put hers. Then, she said a bit tentatively, "Seek."
An instant later, the gender symbols reappeared, again floating in the air above the disk, though they were different from what they had been before. The male symbol, instead of being a solid white, was now transparent, as if it was made of glass. Also different was the female symbol; instead of being solid white, it was now solid bright green.
As all three women there stared at this, the symbols vanished and the globe reappeared, spinning once, and stopping. Fascinated, the trio bent forward to look, with Dawn being the first to exclaim, "Scotland?!"
Willow gasped, and then turned bright red as the other women looked at her. The witch sheepishly muttered, "Uh, Dawn, remember way back when we learned you were made from Buffy…."
"She's my mother?!" shrieked Dawn, who now glared at Faith abruptly giggling in her chair.
"Look, it's just the way the tracking spell tried to show it. It really doesn't mean anything, um, weird…." Willow trailed off at this, joining with Dawn in glowering at a now guffawing Faith.
Finally getting herself under control, Faith wiped away a tear of mirth, and crowed, "Ohhh, I got good blackmail material here. You both better be nice to me, or B's gonna get a pink card from me at her place in the IWC's castle there, congratulatin' her on havin' a bouncin' baby girl, five-seven and one-thirty--"
"She knows!" snapped Dawn, only then adding a bit more haughtily, "One-twenty-four."
"Yeah, well," snickered Faith, "what was that with the guy thingy?"
Willow looked thoughtful, and then hesitantly said, "I think it represented, as close as it could get, the fact that there was no real male parent--"
"Yeah, you pretty much described Hank Summers," snorted Dawn. Her expression slowly changed from grumpiness into true melancholy, as the woman clearly remembered how during all of her actual existence for the last several years, her supposed father had totally ignored her.
At seeing this, Faith felt actual compassion for her friend. In an effort to distract Dawn from her depression, the dark Slayer hastily said the first thing that came to mind, "Hey, Red, you said livin' or not. Does that mean this thing shows your mom and dad bein' dead, if they are?"
"It's linked to the parents' life-force," Willow told Faith, glancing over at Dawn's now-interested face, and understanding why Faith had asked this. "I, um, think it'll show a negative answer."
"Cool. Lemme try."
Dawn took away her finger from the disk, and looked surprised. "Your dad's dead? I know about--"
Putting her index finger on the disk, Faith brusquely said, "Yeah, she said that once, when I was a kid." Her fierce face now closed to show a blank expression, as the Boston-born woman muttered, "Seek."
An instant later, as all the women watched, the gender symbols appeared again. The male symbol was now pure black, but what really shocked Willow, Dawn, and especially Faith, was the manifestation of the female symbol, in its pure white form, that lead to the appearance of the globe again, showing a single white light on the sphere at the upper east coast of the United States.
"NO FUCKIN' WAY!" shrieked Faith, leaping to her feet, sending her chair skidding back, to then storm out of the kitchen into the house living room.
Dawn and Willow gaped at each other, both of their mouths wide open, until Willow abruptly closed this, and a concerned look on her face, the witch made a quick flutter of her hand towards where Faith had disappeared, a gesture that was clearly explanatory. Dawn promptly nodded, and getting out of her chair, she also headed towards the living room, her pace slowing and finally coming to a halt when the Summers sister caught sight of Faith.
The dark Slayer was standing before the main front window of the apartment, unseeingly looking out at the quiet street, her posture stiff and her hands clenched in fists. Dawn stood there behind the brunette, not daring to speak, but knowing Faith was conscious of her presence, and hoping this would bring some measure of comfort to her friend.
That was indeed what the two women were now. Despite their early experiences together in Sunnydale, all that had later taken place had caused the pair to genuinely like and respect the other. Dawn thought she probably was now the person most trusted by the Slayer, an opinion that was promptly confirmed, as Faith, still looking out of the window, started muttering, as if to herself.
"I heard 'bout it, a few months after I….split. Not sure exactly when -- out in the street, you know time just by the seasons and the shop decorations -- but I heard a rumor she'd been in the middle of a drug deal that went bad, with everybody shootin' at each other, and she got killed. Coupla weeks after that, I went back to where we was livin', heard the same thing from the landlord that sold alla the stuff she had. Never bothered to find out more, 'cuz I wasn't alla that surprised. It was gonna be that, or an OD, or gettin' wasted by a john. After that, I got found by my first Watcher, then….well, you know."
Impulsively, Dawn stepped forward to stand directly behind her friend, her arms going out to embrace Faith's lower body and the Key's hands interlocking her fingers over the Slayer's stomach. Dawn then tilted her head forward to rest her forehead against the back of Faith's skull. There was no reaction by Faith to this, so Dawn knew the brunette had accepted her unspoken sympathy.
Still, after a few moments, Faith's fingers gently tugged apart Dawn's hands, and the older woman stepped out of the embrace and turned to head to the front door, muttering, "I'm gonna go for a run. Thanks, Dawnie." Faith hadn't looked at Dawn when saying that, but the California native wasn't all that offended, particularly since when Faith had pulled open Dawn's clasp, just before that, a clumsy pat of thanks had been bestowed on the younger woman's hands.
After the front door closed, Dawn turned around to look at where Willow was worriedly standing in the living room entrance from the kitchen. Meeting her gaze, the witch started apologizing, "Dawn, I'm so sorry, I never intended this--"
"It's not your fault, Wils. But, look, can you find out more?"
Willow blinked in surprise, and then nodded in the general direction of the front of the house before concernedly saying, "Are you quite sure about that? She didn't say anything about wanting to know what happened."
Dawn knew quite well what Willow meant, and shrugging, the younger woman told the witch, "She didn't say she wanted us to leave it alone. To me, that's close enough for her agreeing to it."
A dry expression flashed over the witch's features, as she sardonically remarked, "You've been around Xander too long. He really lives by the phrase 'better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.'"
At Dawn's sudden puppy-dog eyes, Willow promptly crumbled, heaving her shoulders in a resigned shrug. "All right, but if things head south, I'm going to hide behind you."
"Fair enough." As Willow turned around to go back into the kitchen, Dawn also spun to step forward in front of the house window, and stood there for a few minutes, also unseeingly looking out and thinking about how quickly life could change for you.
For the next few days in the house, things were both tense and calm. All of the women there went around their daily business, being polite enough to each other, but there was an evident strained atmosphere in the house. Finally, late one night, Faith came into the apartment to find both Willow and Dawn waiting together for her in the living room. The witch was standing there, a nervous expression on her face while clutching several sheets of paper. Dawn was a bit calmer, but her eyes lighted up at seeing Faith, as if the Key was eager to get things over with.
Faith stopped dead in her tracks, a sick feeling suddenly appearing in her stomach. Her face lowering in an angry frown, the Slayer opened her mouth to express her feelings, only to be interrupted by Willow hastily saying, "Faith, we need to talk to you. It's Scooby business."
Faith was stunned speechless by that last statement, especially when her eyes darted over to Dawn, who was nodding in agreement, and how that younger woman's index finger came up to point at her own neck.
Only for Dawn would Faith accept this situation. Years before, it had been that Summers sister who had set up everything, including the meeting of reconciliation between the dark Slayer and the surviving members of the Scooby Gang. In that emotionally-charged gathering, Dawn had been the one to demonstrate how to act, stepping up and fully and completely apologizing to Faith over the Key's thoughtless and careless actions against the Slayer during her time in Sunnydale.
None of the others of the group named after a cartoon dog could do any less. One after the other, all of them did the same, admitting their offenses and asking for forgiveness from a young woman who'd appeared among them back then, whose rage, grief, and fear had expressed themselves in a sultry, offhand, wild-child attitude that had completely covered up an overpowering longing for love and acceptance.
In the end, things at the gathering had ended satisfactorily. Contrition and regret had been accepted by Faith, and cautious relationships began again, much better than in the past, as they should have done back then. One last gesture by Dawn had sealed the whole settlement. To Faith's surprise, her new friend had then presented her with a small, flat, gift-wrapped box. Looking around in puzzlement and a little wariness at the others' sudden grins, Faith had uncertainly held her gift until Dawn firmly told her to open it right NOW.
Cautiously opening the box, Faith had boggled at the contents, instantly recognizing what she had. The purpose of the thin circular strip of leather was obvious, particularly combined with the numerous images of the head of a goofily-grinning cartoon Great Dane embossed on the outer side of the collar and the small disk attached to the front, with a single name engraved on the dog tag: FAITH.
Looking up with a stunned expression on her face, Faith had disbelievingly watched as Willow now ended the minor glamour she'd previously done, and everyone else there had then revealed their own dog collars around their necks that they'd all been wearing the entire time:
For the first time in her life, Faith had cried in front of them all.
Back in the London apartment, remembering this, Faith stood there in the living room, and now said gruffly, "Lissen, 'fore we start, I wanna say somethin'." Looking at the others, she went on, "Red, Dawnie, I been pissy at ya the last coupla days, over somethin' that wasn't your fault. I….I'm sorry 'bout that."
Right after that, Faith was hit by a Dawn-projectile, being engulfed in a fierce embrace by that woman, and seeing over her sniffling friend's shoulder the redhead witch brushing away her own tears. Starting to edge over to the room's sofa, dragging a still-hugging Dawn along with her, Faith sat down, and growled, "Okay, let's get it over with. I s'pose I'm not alla that surprised the devilbitch's still alive, considerin' how she managed to wiggle outta everythin' else when I was with her."
Dawn finally let go, and leaned back in her own seat on the sofa, looking a little nervous over what Faith had just said. A growing-worried Faith glanced from Dawn's face to Willow's own strained expression that matched the Key's apprehension, and the Slayer sighed, knowing there could only be bad news to come. "Screw it. Just lay whatever it is on me, 'kay?"
Willow blinked, and cleared her throat, clutching her sheets of paper that she really didn't need, as she'd memorized all of what was on there. The witch cautiously spoke, warily watching Faith, "Er, your mom is alive, yes. But….the woman who raised you….she's dead, Faith."
Gulping, Willow rushed ahead, "Faith, you were adopted. Twice."
The dark Slayer fell back against the sofa back, her ears roaring and darkness descending in her mind over what she'd learned. A few moments later, Faith became conscious of her cheek being gently patted and an angry voice snapping at Willow. With a shake of her head, Faith became aware of her surroundings again, and lifting up her own hand, she gently grasped Dawn's hand that had been touching her in concern. As both of the other women now stared at Faith, the brunette woman managed to husk out, "Okay, that was a pretty good hit. But….look, just say it straight and clear, Red. I don't think I can take any more shots like that again."
A shamefaced Willow sitting in her own chair across from Faith quickly nodded her head, and started over again. "Um, the first thing I checked about you, Faith, was your birthdate -- December 14, 1982 -- which is how I found you were born in St. Mary Magdalene's Home for Unwed Mothers in Boston on that day."
Faith looked a bit startled. "So, I'm really a Catholic? Well, I kinda always thought that, havin' a name like Lehane--"
"Er, yes. But that isn't your name. You see," Willow turned brick red over her next words, "your, uh, birth mother had you a month before her fifteenth birthday."
Dawn, already knowing this, glanced quickly over at Faith's pained groan at this news, and anxiously watched her friend scrub hard her face with the palm of her hand. Right after that, Faith dropped her hand back down, and glumly regarded them both, muttering, "Looks like the apple don't fall far from the tree, right? Christ, that 'bout matches my own record, though at least I didn't get pregnant!"
"Ah, yes, well…. Anyway, that seems to be the reason for what happened next." Willow determinedly went on, "Due to….everything, it helps explain why you were given up for adoption the day after your birth, to Charles and Jessica Parker."
"WHO?" blurted out Faith, abruptly sitting straight up on the sofa and staring incredulously at Willow. "Red, I never heard of either of those guys!" The Slayer felt a soft hand touch and then clasp hers, and unthinkingly squeezed back Dawn's grip, while looking into Willow's saddened face, as the redhead went on with her story in a subdued voice.
"There's….good reason for that. According to the records, they seemed to have been nice people who loved you very much. Until, when you were eighteen months old, a drunk driver ran a red light and plowed into their car, which killed them both, though you weren't hurt."
At this sudden shock, Faith unexpectedly felt tears in her eyes, and quickly took her hand from Dawn's to brush them away, looking around at the other women sympathetically gazing back at her. She muttered, "Aw, fuck. Looks like I started early on the bad shit in my life happenin', right?" Swallowing, Faith asked the question she already knew the answer to, "So, I guess I was adopted again, by somebody I ain't gonna win any prizes for knowin' who--"
Willow sighed. "Yes. Your….stepmother's maiden name was Lehane, so when the closest family member, her older sister, was contacted--"
"I woulda been better off bein' raised by wolves!" Faith snapped. Shaking her head, the Slayer disbelievingly asked, "Christ, didn't anybody check on her, or was I just handed to her in a shoppin' bag?"
Wretchedly, Willow mumbled, "From the police records, while she was charged with several minor offenses, she was never actually arrested, and that was years ago, before she adopted you. So, it was assumed she would care for you well enough, considering she inherited a good sum of money from your stepparent's estate." Now, Willow really looked miserable. "I'm afraid that even before everything, she had a reputation as a party girl, and now that she actually had money, she blew it all in a couple of years, and in the process, she became an addict, to both alcohol and drugs."
From where she was leaning forward, head in her hands, and her face looking down at the floor, Faith muttered, "No big surprise there. From what I remember, she drank, snorted, smoked, and shot up every cent she could grab." While she didn't show any signs of it, Faith was nevertheless really grateful for Dawn's sympathetic hand now rubbing her back.
After a few moments of silence in the quiet living room, Faith sat back up, and shot a crooked smile of thanks at Dawn taking her hand away. The younger woman tentatively smiled back, and then watched her friend look at Willow and say, "So, Red, after alla that, things really did go the way I heard, her gettin' shot?"
Willow nodded. "She was one of the casualties, found dead on the scene. Your, um, step-aunt had no other known relatives and no assets, so she was buried in the local potter's field. And, uh, her records end there."
Faith snorted, "Fittin' end of her story. She never meant anythin' to me, so I ain't ever gonna break into tears over it."
Both Willow and Dawn winced at Faith's bitter remark, though both had to admit there was cause for it. Still, something concerned Dawn, prompting her to speak for the first time through the emotional shocks over the last few minutes. "Faith," this causing the named woman to inquiringly glance at Dawn, "how -- why didn't anybody help you, during all your time with your step-aunt, and after that? I mean, when mom died," Dawn had to pause to swallow over one of her own most painful memories, "Child Services was really all over us both, me and Buffy."
Faith's brooding features over her recollections of her hellish life as a child softened, as the Slayer knew that for Dawn, Joyce Summers would always be her mother, in spite of everything the Key was. Faith still had guilt over what she'd done during her dark time, and one of her biggest regrets was never being able to ask that older Summers woman for her forgiveness. Which was why Faith honestly, if more than a bit cynically, answered her questioner.
"Dawnie, there's a big difference between a small, whitebread town, even if it was Sunnydale, havin' maybe a few dozen files for whatever bureaucrats was in charge of lookin' after kids, and a big-time city like Boston, which was swamped with thousands of cases. I ain't sayin' my hometown didn't have good people tryin' their best, but, well, things just didn't work out with me. Fuck, it didn't help that the devilbitch moved us 'round every coupla weeks, keeping me outta sight of CPS. With you, you gotta admit they knew where you and your sister was, and they were on the job."
Dawn considered this, and had to admit its truth, but she still opened her mouth for a follow-up question, only to close it at Faith's firm headshake at her. Sternly looking at Dawn, and then Willow, Faith decisively stated, "Look, I don't wanna talk 'bout it no more. I got a whole 'nother question, anyways."
Willow blinked at Faith's steely eye now on her, as the dark Slayer asked in a no-nonsense tone, "Red, in alla what you said, you never gave out the most important thing. Who's my real mom?"
The witch had really hoped this wouldn't come up. Looking down at her feet, Willow mumbled, "Faith….I don't know."
"What the FUCK?!" shrieked Faith, incredulously staring at the blushing redhead. "What'd you mean, you don't know?! Isn't it in there in alla those papers?" continued a still-shouting Faith, pointing at the sheets of papers in Willow's shaking hands, as a disregarded Dawn winced and clapped her hands over her ears, protecting these from a Slayer yelling at full volume.
"Can I explain?" squeaked Willow, after Faith finally ran down and just sat there on the sofa, simmering. A curt nod from that angry woman encouraged the witch to meekly go on. "Faith, regarding all the records of the adoption, as was the custom back then, the papers and the documents were physically sealed. They were never put on a computer, so I couldn't hack into them."
"Well, what 'bout your other stuff? I mean, you got the mojo to find out God's shoe size!"
Willow's lips twitched over that, but the witch answered seriously, "That's….kind of the problem, Faith. Those records are in the custody of the Catholic Church, and they've got serious mystical protections on them, continuing the tradition of keeping the names and identification of souls newly brought into the world under guard. If you really want me to, I could try, using my magic, but whether I succeed or fail, there would be serious….repercussions."
"Oh," muttered a taken-aback Faith at what Willow had just pointed out.
Frowning, Dawn suggested, "Willow, Faith, couldn't it be done legally and openly? I mean, surely the Council has the contacts and influence to ask to unseal those records--"
Both of the other women stared in shock over Faith's abrupt rejection of Dawn's proposal, especially when the Slayer jumped off the sofa and paced back and forth in the living room, fiercely scowling. Finally, after a few uncomfortable moments, Faith stopped, and looking at her anxious friends, she gruffly said, "Dawnie, there's a few coupla problems with that. First, if it goes ahead, it'd take a helluva long time, with the guys with the collars wantin' to know all 'bout it -- the who, what, why, and alla that -- plus they might turn us down flat, anyways."
Dawn and Willow looked at each other, and admitted this truth, and then their attention was drawn back to Faith, as the brunette continued, "Second, it just ain't gonna happen, 'cause I ain't tellin' anybody on the Council -- not even Giles -- 'bout this. This is private. Period. Just for us -- me."
Still watching Faith, Willow and Dawn now concernedly saw Faith's stricken face and heard her nervous swallow, as she croaked out, "Last….there's a faster and easier way. I made up my mind. I'm gonna go see her."
"WHAT!" came from both listening women, who bounced up from their chairs, to cluster around Faith. Dawn was the first to fretfully ask, "Faith, are you sure about this? Doing it on your own?"
"Yeah. Right now, it seems the best thing to do. Go find her, see her, what kinda life she has. Maybe then I might actually talk to her, tell her 'bout me."
Hesitantly, Willow asked, "Uh, Faith, you're okay….with all that? You…don't blame her for anything?"
"What?" frowned Faith at the redhead, who sheepishly cast down her eyes. Shaking her head, the Slayer told both her friends around her, "Shit, she didn't do nothin'. I mean, as far as she knows, she had a kid, and that was the end of it. Wasn't her fault alla the crap that came next. I don't even blame her for givin' me up. I woulda done the same, bein' in her shoes and seein' my belly swell, and knowin' I couldn't care for it. Him. Her."
At these last words, with tears in her eyes, Dawn embraced Faith, dropping her face on the Slayer's shoulder, and sniffling. Faith looked over at where Willow was also about to cry, and rolling her eyes, the brunette held open her free arm, wordlessly giving permission. Willow promptly stepped forward, throwing her arms around both Faith and Dawn, and softly weeping in shared hope and happiness with the Key.
Only Faith refrained from crying, though her eyes did prickle, and she suppressed her emotions with her usual sardonic remarks, saying, "Christ, I feel like the last two minutes of a Full House episode. Well, if that's what's happening here, I wanna be the cool rocker with the great hair."
"I always liked Joey," commented Dawn, still keeping her head pressed against Faith's shoulder.
Among the embrace, Willow brightly said, "I guess that makes me Danny, taking care of everyone."
For a minute or so after that, they all clung to each other, until the women finally let go and stepped back, those who needed to wiping their faces. Willow was the first to speak, softly saying, "Faith, I'm going to start my tracking spells. I'll also set up whatever documents you need, proving that you're her daughter, if you actually have to use them."
"'Kay. Thanks, Red."
Nodding, Willow started to turn away, until she stopped and looked again at the dark Slayer, to hesitantly offer, "Um, Faith, there's one piece of information in the records I found that didn't come up before." At the sudden appearance of worry on both the faces of the Slayer and the Key, Willow hastily went on, "Nothing bad! It's just that, well, it was your birth mother who gave you your name. Faith."
"One Corinthians thirteen thirteen," beamed Dawn. "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
Several days later, Faith of the unknown last name stood at the edge of the Boston Public Garden, doing one last check of her watch, which had Willow's tracking spell emplaced upon it. A tiny dot of light glowed at the edge of the dial, pointing at the building across the street when Faith held up her watch to confirm this. After a few seconds, the signal began blinking slowly to show the person it was tracking was somewhere below ground level, which meant she had to be inside the basement tavern that had a sign outside on the face of the building naming it 'Cheers.'
"I already had one drunk and worse for a mom," muttered Faith. "Please let her be workin' there or somethin' like that." Nervously, she brought up her hand to her neck, to slip under the top of her blouse and finger what Dawn had given her when that woman and Willow had seen her off at Heathrow. Faith had been waiting for her flight (she had politely turned down the witch's offer to magically send her straight to Boston, explaining she needed time to adjust to the fact she was actually going to find her mother), when Dawn had pressed something into her palm.
Surprised, Faith had stared at what was in her hand, an antique Victorian silver brooch attached to a necklace and composed of three charms interlocked together: a cross, an anchor, and a heart. A confused Faith looked up at Dawn in the airport lounge, and the smiling Summers sister had then murmured, "Believing the incredible, hoping when all is lost, and forgiving the unpardonable."
Faith let her fingertip run over what was resting in the hollow of her throat, and nodded to herself. *Good words, those. Well. Move it, sister. Don't take all day 'bout it.*
The woman now walked across the street to the steps leading downstairs to the tavern. She was so deeply engrossed in her own thoughts that she missed the chubby man briskly walking towards her along the hotel sidewalk, until he brushed past her while Faith was right at the head of the stairs With a muttered, "Excuse me," the man then determinedly went down the stairs.
A bemused Faith followed a few steps after, thinking, *Guy must have a serious thirst.* Continuing her descent, the woman watched as the man pulled the tavern door open and entered, without courteously holding the door open for her. Now really sardonic, Faith changed her opinion to, *Make that a major thirst for chunky.* She now reached the door and pulled it open.
Blasted back from the doorway, Faith staggered into the rear wall of the staircase, letting the door slam shut, to dazedly shake her ringing head. She brought up her right hand to delicately insert the tip of her pinky into her right ear, which had been closest to the roar of greeting, and wriggled hard this digit, flexing her jaws all the while. When done, she eyed the door again, and stepping forward, she cautiously opened it and peeked into the tavern.
Only quiet conversations greeted her. Warily taking a few steps forward onto the threshold, Faith looked around, and found herself to be in a pleasant tavern, with a bar in the middle of the room, surrounded by chairs and tables. It was a bit more placid than the bars Faith usually went to, and with much better lighting, but she wouldn't have minded having a drink herself at this place anytime else. Except, of course, she was here today for an entirely different reason.
Pretending to check the time, Faith lifted her watch and glanced at the dot of light, which was pointing at the bar and the woman there….? Faith had her mouth fall open, and mentally groaned to herself, *Not another blonde!* Then, the Slayer frowned and thought to herself the main objection to the possible success of her search. *No way. She's gotta be no more than ten years older 'n me.*
A faint frown on her face, Faith headed for the bar, sitting down on one of the stools along this counter. About to check her watch again, she looked up as the bartender come over, a tall, handsome guy with hair that been maintained, cared for, and cosseted more tenderly than anybody this side of Angel. "What'll it be?" asked the bartender.
"Um," considered Faith, who wasn't planning on ordering anything, but shrugged anyway and said, "Beer. What you got on tap."
"Can I see your ID, please?" politely asked Mr. Hair.
"Huh?!" spluttered Faith, who really hadn't been expecting that. Digging into her back pocket for her wallet, Faith threw the waiting bartender an half-exasperated, half-amused look over being carded, and then she produced her international driver's license. That seemed to do the trick, and a filled beer mug was soon placed before Faith, who absently picked up the glass and drained it in a single, smooth swallow.
Putting down her glass, Faith saw motion out of the corner of her eye, and turned on her stool to see at the end of the bar counter the guy who'd come into the tavern before her now in his seat, beaming and holding up his own empty beer mug in a clear salute to her. The woman's eyebrows quirking over this, Faith cautiously nodded back, and then turned away, to once more check her watch. The tracking spell now pointed to the other side of the room, at where a passageway started, with a wall telephone there just before the restrooms.
Faith promptly decided that whatever else, she didn't want to meet her mother in the ladies'.
Shifting nervously on her stool, Faith resigned herself to waiting some more, idly shoving her empty mug back and forth on the bar counter. She ignored what her heightened senses were bringing to her from the low conversations around the bar, and the click and clatter of a pool game coming from somewhere past the passageway. There, the sudden gleeful rasp of an older woman's voice suddenly struck Faith's ears.
"Clavin, even if you were the last man on earth, had every tampon in the world under lock and key, and owned a magic lamp that granted you three wishes, you still wouldn't get a date!"
Faith snickered over this flawless insult, and interested, turned in her seat to see who'd said that.
Carla Tortelli, triumphantly holding her drinks tray filled with empty glasses, stalked out of the pool room into the main bar, with the whine of "Carla!" sent after her from Cliff putting an actual spring in her step. As she dodged past a young woman arising from her seat, Carla smirked and awarded herself another ten points into her lifetime score against the world.
Astonished, Carla spun around, and looked at the young woman standing there, staring at her.
The older woman knew at once who she was.
The sound of a drinks tray falling and glasses shattering cut off every conversation in the bar, allowing all there to hear the whispered name from a woman who hadn't let this pass her lips since her first child had been born, but had never forgotten it. Or her.