Trish Burkle did her best not to glance at the watch on her wrist, or at the clock on her phone or stare at the one at the wall. She was anxious, but she didn't want to betray that fact to the family that she was expecting.
"She's only a few minutes late, honey," said Roger Burkle, "she'll be here."
"I know, I know," Trish said, "but we don't get enough time as is…"
"Sorry, sorry!" Jenny Burkle made a quick line through the diner's customers to her Grandparent's table. Both Trish and Roger were on their feet in moments, and hugged their granddaughter in turn, "I was editing one of my Thesis papers, and I really got into it and forgot the time, I'm so so soooo sorry."
"Oh, don't worry about it one bit," Trish waved her hand dismissively, as a heart-felt smile came across her face, "we're retired, sweetie pie. We don't have any place to be except where we want to be."
"And that's right here," Roger Burkle said, placing his hand over Jenny's.
Jenny tried not to blush. Handling the unabashed love and flattery of her grandparents was still something she was getting a handle on. It was like being in the center of a well meaning but still gaudy party, but in a good way.
"Well, all the same, I didn't mean to be late," Jenny said.
"Just like your mom," Trish laughed, "she'd get a book and we'd have to pull her away by hand. I swear, I felt like a bad parent at times, always making her put down those books."
"Well, she did have to eat," Roger said, "speaking of which, what do you recommend, Jenny?"
"The Federal Bureau of Supernatural Intervention," Roger said, reading off the sign just outside the rather impressive federal building. He shook his head, "sounds like a real mouthful."
"Oh, I know," Jenny said with a tired sigh, "blame some congressional committee, they wanted something that sounded FBI-ish and that's what they came up with."
"So you have a lab here?" Trish said.
"Yeah, and it's so freakin' cool," Jenny replied. She motioned for them to follow her inside, "I have to share it with some other researchers, but I totally have my own little lab and can do almost any research I want!"
"Still, that's so amazing," Roger said, "and you're so young!"
"Well, the timing kind of worked," Jenny shrugged, a little self conscious, "it's kind of like the bubble, the government's just acknowledged magic as real and official, and I'm one of the few people with hands on experience with it and actual science. You would not believe what they were willing to pay!"
"Still, that's so impressive. I'm so proud of you," said Trish, "you are going to show us your lab?"
"Yeah, but only for a second," Jenny said. She fished into her pockets, and removed two temporary passes to her grandparents, "here, put these on. We're still in the early stages of getting everything installed, including security. We're just here to run an errand, then we can go to that artist exhibit, okay?"
"Of course, honey, lead the way."
Jenny knew that, generally, it was frowned upon to bring family members to your office to look around, but as luck would have it, the building was still largely empty, save for construction personnel and a (figurative) skeleton crew of agents. Most were unloading their offices, so Jenny felt safe cutting through the cafeteria, thinking no one would notice.
Of all the people Jenny expected to see in the cafeteria, eating a bag lunch, was the newly appointed director, Riley Finn, was not one of them.
In fact, Jenny had picked today because she had heard that Riley was going to be in Washington, working on their budget or some such. Of all the people in this building, he was the one she wanted most to avoid today.
So of course, there he was, having just finished his lunch. Director Riley had just crumbled up his bag, and tossed it in the trash, when he saw the Burkles.
"Mr. and Mrs. Burkle, so good to see you again," Riley offered his hand, and they shook it vigorously as if he were their favorite celebrity (in many ways, he was), "what brings you by? Come to see Jenny's lab?"
"She just had to show us," Trish said, "we're so proud!"
"You should be," Riley said, "mind if I walk with you? We're both going the same way."
"Not at all," Trish said, "tell me, how is Sam?"
"She's doing well," Riley said, "she's in Florida right now, actually, interviewing possible agents."
"You must need so many. Jenny tells me she's actually an agent…"
Jenny felt the blood drain from her face.
"…how is that possible? She's still so young."
"Trish…" Roger chided.
"It's alright, Mr. Burkle," Riley replied, as he gave Jenny a sympathetic look, "you see, the government's actually had an agency assigned to handling the super natural for decades now. But each agency had the same problem, finding enough competent staff."
"Training people has always been our biggest hurdle. You see, the strength of an army depends on regularity."
"So does that of a senior!" Roger chuckled, and Jenny swore that she died, for a split second, of pure embarrassment.
"You can send almost any kid into the army, and come away with a soldier," Riley said, pretending as if he hadn't heard Roger, "and you can turn that soldier into a cop, into a US Marshall or FBI agent with just a little retraining. But handling the super natural, well…it's hard to define the requirements of what's required for that, let build a program around that."
"I was actually part of a program that tried to train young agents specifically to handle the super natural. Unfortunately, we lacked proper intel, and barely made a dent."
"So Riley fought for years to be able to break reasonable hiring standards for law enforcement," Jenny said with a smirk.
"Not quite how I'd put it," said Riley, "but I have said for years that we need to recruit from the free lancers who've been handling the super natural for most of their lives. Like Mr. Gunn, Jenny here, these two brothers and more. It's not been an easy process, but your granddaughter had really been a star of the program."
"Oh, I'm sure she is," Trish beamed, "but you know, we worry…"
"I understand," Riley said, "but you needn't worry. Jenny being the youngest federal agent is more a default prize than anything else. Short of an end of the world emergency, Jenny won't see a single day in the field until she's eighteen. She'll just consult with our science division, nothing more."
Jenny was silently thankful that Riley didn't mention how common 'end of the world emergencies' were in their line of work.
"That's actually very comforting to hear," said Trish, "thank you for explaining that."
"Of course," Riley said, "if you'll please excuse me, I have to take an important call soon. If you have any more questions, please let me know. I hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation."
Jenny blew a sigh of relief as Director Finn left. She had expected a few questions from him, but suspected he didn't want to press the matter in front of her grandparents.
Which was good, because Jenny wasn't being completely honest with her grandparents about why she wanted to bring them here in the first place. The less scrutiny she had to handle right now, the better.
"So this is my lab," Jenny swept her hand out. The room was unremarkable in many ways, no different from the labs they'd passed on their way here, but that it was Jenny's still made her feel proud, "not much, but I thought you guys might like it."
"It's…pretty impressive," Trish said, hesitantly.
Jenny raised an eyebrow at her grandparents, wondering why all of a sudden their enthusiasm had died down.
It took her a second to realize that a lab was the last place they had seen their daughter, her mother, alive. Seeing Jenny's own lab, however humble compared to what her mother had at Wolfram and Hart, it must have struck them as uncomfortably similar the path their daughter and granddaughter walked.
"It's not much, might actually get dusty," Jenny said dismissively, "can I borrow your cell-phones real quick? I need to install an app real quick."
"Of course, honey," both phones were handed over, and Jenny wasted no time in placing them atop a special consul she had created. She flipped open the laptop that was next to it, and typed in several commands.
"This'll only take a few minutes," Jenny said, though truthfully, it was done in seconds. She was just afraid that if she finished too quickly, they might grow suspicious.
A newly created federal law enforcement branch meant to police the supernatural had sent shockwaves through the once secret and hidden societies of demons and magic wielders. No one was sure what to make of it.
For so long, even after the destruction of Sunnydale, magic was at best an open secret. In part because most didn't want to believe, but also because no one really knew how to respond. How do you arrest a ghost? Did a two hundred year old vampire count as a legal person if they existed before the state?
So this new branch of law enforcement was in for some untraditional encounters. Knowing that, Jenny was determined to protect the family she'd just found, and was prepared to do far more than install a few apps when Faith pointed out that her grandparents probably wouldn't appreciate being lo-jacked
But then, Faith always said, 'What's a few civil rights violations between family?'.
(That was actually a thing Faith said long before she became a member of law enforcement. Jenny hoped she was at least smart enough not to say that anymore).
"Done!" Jenny disconnected the phones, and handed them back to her grandparents, "so, ready to hit the art exhibit?"
"I know you're probably hungry, Jenny," Roger said as he opened his hotel door, "but my dogs are barking. Would it be alright if I laid down for a bit?"
Jenny smiled despite herself, "You don't have to ask for permission, Grandpa. You sure you wouldn't rather call room service and have dinner here?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Roger Burkle said, "I won't be more than half an hour, promise."
"Hour, at least," Trish whispered to Jenny.
"Would you like to rest, Grandma?" Jenny said, "I can keep myself busy if you'd like."
"I'm from Texas sweetie," Trish said with a wry smile, "being on my feet all day is nothing."
"Is from Alabama," Trish said, "he's really a city boy. I wouldn't mind sitting down for a spell on the balcony, though."
The two Burkle women reached the balcony as the sun was beginning to set, and took a seat. Jenny had spent most of the day showing her grandparents the city, and if she was being honest, she was a little sore too.
"Used to always love a good sunset," Trish said, "especially out on the ocean."
"You know," Jenny took a deep, steadying breath. She reasons if her Grandma was a little tired now, now was the perfect time to try to wear her down just a little further, "tomorrow, Dad's not…"
"No," Trish's spine straighten and her voice was like steel, and even though she hadn't turned her head to face her granddaughter, Jenny could all but physically feel her disapproval on her, "I have no intention of ever speaking to that man, if I have anything to say about it."
"Jenny," Trish Burkle faced her granddaughter, "I love you, and an forever grateful that you're a part of our lives now. But Angel kept you from us for too long, and I'd sooner push him into the daylight myself than ever speak to him again."