Disclaimer chapter 1
She never did find out how he got hold of it. But when Faith opened the door to Angel’s room one night after patrol, a bag of blood in her hand, and found him hunched in the corner, a stake in his hand and positioned with the sharp point against his chest, she lost it.
She flew out at him, the blood bag dropping to the floor, screaming, swearing, shoving him down to the ground and ripping the stake from his hands. Gesturing with it wildly, she loomed over him, demanding in a shrill, anguished voice she didn’t recognize for him to tell her when he would stop it, when he would just snap out of it, just give her a break, just give her a hand, when would he give her something, anything, when would he give her something, anything, when would he show her that what she did mattered, that the one person who gave a shit, about him anymore mattered, when would he do that, when?!
When would he let her help him…when would he let her exist with him…when would he be better. When.
When her tears came, hot and scalding down her cheeks, and the sobs tore apart her voice, Faith lay her head on his chest and hugged him furiously, crying from anger and frustration, exhaustion physical as well as mental, and the deep fear and stunned memory of the way his face had remained so empty even as she yelled at him, even as he held the stake to his chest. She cried as she seriously considered for the first time the possibility that nothing she did would matter, because Angel was truly gone.
But even as she feared, it did not escape her notice that Angel did not cringe away from her touch…nor that his arm very slowly curled around her, circling her in a light, tentative embrace.
Faith didn’t leave Angel’s room that evening. She didn’t remember falling asleep against him, somewhere in the time of their embrace, but she must have, for when she opened her eyes, she was lying on his bed, his blanket carefully tucked around her shoulders. The only explanation, as seemingly incomprehensible as it was, was that Angel had carried her there.
She sat up slowly, her eyes flickering about the room in its darkness, and came to rest on the huddled form in the corner. Angel was turned away from her, back hunched, head lowered, and his shoulders were shaking slightly.
Slipping slowly and quietly out of bed, Faith approached him; when Angel did not turn or acknowledge her awakening, she reached out a hand, gently grasping his shoulder.
He turned towards her so suddenly that Faith was startled, and when she saw the blood dripping out his mouth and down his chin, streaked over his palms, her heart leapt to her throat, and she took a step back, barely stopping herself from screaming. But when her eyes took in the mostly emptied blood bag she had brought him the night before, lying at his feet, she relaxed visibly, raising her eyes back to his face in time to see the tears, streaking down his cheeks and mingling with the blood on his chin.
Her heart thudding rapidly in her chest, her palms growing clammy, tingling, Faith slowly reached out for him again, her brow creasing as she spoke his name. This was the first time she had seen him show such overt emotion in months, and she wasn’t sure, now that it was there, what to make of it, or what to do.
“Angel…it’s okay. Angel?”
He didn’t pull back from the hand on his shoulder. He stood shaking, swallowing several times, and his lips parted with no sound emerging, new tears making their way down the path of the old. When he spoke, for the first time in months that Faith knew of, his voice was hoarse and dry, barely more than w hisper.
“Faith…why are you here…why do you do this?”
She looked into his eyes, his trembling lips, his pale face, painted with blood and tears, and in it all Faith saw herself reflected back at her, who she had been, who she was, and who it was that she wanted to be…, and at last, who it was that Giles had believed she could be. Who Giles had believed she was. She saw it all, and she took Angel’s bloody hands in hers and squeezed them with strong but gentle emphasis.
“Because you taught me well once…and now, I’m all about forgiveness.”
Two pairs of palms touching, one large, marked with blood, the other smaller but no less capable of great force, taking on the stains of the other. And as they stood face to face, slowly, deliberately, two sets of fingers began to intertwine.