Title: Into The Mirror
Category: Drama
Rated: R for violence and sexual situations, though not much worse than what's been on the show itself. Mild language, consistent with the show.
Spoilers: Takes place late in Season 5, after Intervention.
Teaser: Even forgiveness has a price.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon is the boss, I only wish I could work for him. Although he'd probably smack me upside the head after reading this.
Feedback: Show me yours and I'll show you mine.

PART ONE - NIGHTMARES

Three gentle raps on the door. Cordelia wasn't even sure if she had heard them. She looked up from the pile of unpaid bills on her desk and glanced at the clock. Ten o'clock. Angel should've been back by now. And suddenly Cordelia couldn't remember if she had locked the door.

Three gentle raps on the door, this time louder, this time more urgent. To save money only the desk lamp was on. The darkness between the door and her seemed deeper than only a moment ago. Cordelia reached up and turned off the lamp. Now at least they were on equal terms. She stood up, pushing the chair behind her with her legs as she did.

One more rap...and then, faintly, another. Cordelia was at the door, not remembering how she got there. She fumbled with the chain above her only once before sliding the bolt into place. Relief washed over her from that simple act. Pressing her cheek against the cold door, she slowly exhaled. Then, leaning back, Cordelia peered through the spy hole to see who was in the hall.

One hand flew up, covering her mouth as she stumbled away from the door. Any sense of security Cordelia had vanished. The barrier between them felt paper thin. There was nothing within reach that she could use as a weapon. Cordelia's shoulders sagged and she closed her eyes.

"What do you want?," demanded Cordelia, trying to sound confident but failing. Miserably.

There was no answer.

"What do you want?," whispered Cordelia, her lower lip trembling.

Silence.

There was nothing else she could do. It was useless to hide. Cordelia slid the chain aside, expecting at any moment the door would explode inward. Inhaling one last time, she gripped the handle and flung the door open.

She was sitting on the floor, wearing a simple gray sweatshirt and matching pants, both hands holding her stomach. The girl looked up at her but didn't seem to recognize Cordelia. Her body was shaking and her eyes...her eyes held a look of terror that froze Cordelia. Shocked her. And then she realized that Faith was bleeding.

"Help me...please?"

Faith's plea was barely a whisper. Cordelia only hesitated for a moment and then knelt down beside her, staring at her bloody hands. Faith moved one hand aside. It was an ugly wound.

"What happened?," grimaced Cordelia.

"Gunshot," replied Faith through clenched teeth.

"I'll call an ambulance," said Cordelia.

Faith lashed out, grabbing Cordelia's wrist. Cordy's eyes flew open wide, fear slamming her stomach into a knot.

"No time...Angel...call Angel," whispered Faith, loosening her hold on Cordelia. Faith collapsed onto her side as Cordelia pulled free of her hold, ignoring the blood on her wrist and forearm.

"But..."

Cordelia looked from Faith's eyes down to the wound and then, slowly, again made eye contact with her. Now she was scared for another reason. Cordelia sadly nodded in agreement. Faith briefly smiled and closed her eyes.

Even before Cordelia was fully standing he appeared, a shadow that had taken form.

"Angel! She's been shot! Should I call an ambulance? She didn't want me..."

Angel glanced at her and ever so slightly shook his head.

"Oh," said Cordelia, now accepting what Faith had said. No matter what her feelings were towards the Slayer, she didn't want to see her die. Cordelia bit her lower lip, fighting back tears.

Faith opened her eyes.

"Angel," said Faith softly, smiling.

He knelt down beside her, slipping one arm under her neck and the other under her knees, lifting her as gently as he could.

"Guess I really screwed up this time," sighed Faith, her smile fading as she winced in pain.

"Let's get you inside," said Angel, forcing his own smile.

"Not on the carpet, I just had them cleaned," warned Cordelia, holding the door open just to have something to do. Angel glared at her.

"What? I only meant...put her on the bed," said Cordelia, rolling her eyes. She shut the door behind them, her eyes pausing on the blood stained carpet in the hall.

Angel eased Faith down onto the bed as Cordelia adjusted the pillow for her.

"She doesn't seem to be bleeding as badly as before," noticed Cordelia.

"No, she isn't," agreed Angel, fighting the arousal of the demon within as its bloodlust emerged.

"Cordelia, could you..."

"I'm leaving," nodded Cordelia. "I'll call Wesley."

"No, he..."

"Angel, he was her Watcher," snapped Cordelia.

Angel hesitated but then nodded his assent.

"Cordelia," called Faith.

Both heads immediately turned to her. Cordelia took a step closer to the bed.

"I know...it isn't much...but I'm sorry. It's...it's all I can offer," gasped Faith.

"Thank you," replied Cordelia, tears clouding the corners of her eyes. She glanced at Angel and shut the door on the way out.

"Angel."

Angel sat on the edge of the bed and held one of Faith's hands in both of his. Her skin was already cold beneath the stickiness of the blood.

"I'm glad you're here," whispered Faith, again forcing a smile. "You're the only one who ever believed in me...the only one...who understood."

"That's not true. Wesley was your Watcher. He blames himself for what happened, you know."

"He knows...it wasn't his fault...deep down, he knows," said Faith, shaking her head and fighting to keep her eyes open.

With one hand Angel brushed Faith's hair to one side, out of her eyes.

"And Buffy, she believed in you. Even after all the others gave up on you, she defended you. She..."

"And look at what I did to her," interrupted Faith, closing her eyes in pain.

"Faith..."

"Angel, I'm cold. I'm so cold."

"I know. But it'll be okay soon. I promise," whispered Angel. He leaned over and kissed Faith on the forehead.

"What was it like? Angel...what was it like?," repeated Faith, opening her eyes wide and gripping his hand just a little tighter.

"What was..."

"Hell. You've been there, so I know it exists. We both know that's where I'm headed. It's not like I don't deserve..."

"No! No, you're not..."

"Angel, I wanted to be good. I did. And I tried...I just, I just ran out of time. And it's not fair, you know? It's not...it's not fair."

"Faith, I know what is in your heart. The good and the bad. And maybe that's enough. Maybe just one person believing in you is enough," comforted Angel, trying to accept his own words.

"I never thought...Angel, I'm scared. It's not supposed to be like this. I mean, I'm a Slayer...we die...it comes with the territory...part of the package. But I never thought I'd be afraid."

"Faith, when the time comes, we're all afraid."

"Not like this," whimpered Faith. "Damn it, there were times that I welcomed this, wished for it! And now..."

"Faith..."

"Angel...I don't want to die. Not this way. Not a meaningless death."

Angel was glad that Faith closed her eyes so that he didn't have to look away. Her head rolled to one side. She was so young...

Angel glanced behind him. The door was still closed.

"Faith."

She didn't stir.

"Faith," he called again, a little louder, shaking her shoulder. Her eyes opened slightly but didn't focus on him. There wasn't much time left. Angel placed his hands on either side of her face

"It doesn't have to end. Not this way."

She opened her eyes fully and winced as she swallowed.

"But it has to be your choice, your decision. Not mine," said Angel, shaking his head.

"What?"

"You can become like me. If I turn you, there's a good chance you'll retain your soul. It's the curse."

"No."

"Faith, listen to me!"

"No!"

"Faith! This is your only chance at redemption! You don't want a meaningless death? Prove it! I'll help you. I promise you won't be alone. I promise."

For the first time Faith cried. Her tears ran slowly down her cheeks and crawled to the sides of her face.

"Angel...I'm wicked scared."

"I know. But I can help. Let me...please," begged Angel.

"But...my soul...what if..."

"I'll chain you. When you rise, I'll know. If you're only a demon possessed vampire, I'll stake you myself. But you won't be. Faith, you have to trust me. You have to!"

Faith stared at him for a moment. And then she simply tilted her head to one side, exposing her neck. She didn't close her eyes.

It was so easy to slip into this form, his true form, his true face. And for a moment Angel was more afraid for himself than he was for Faith. Was this really her choice or did he want this, want this even more than her? His nostrils flared with the scent of her blood and any thoughts of remorse faded with his desire. Angel leaned over her, his lips pausing just above her skin, prolonging the moment, the anticipation only fueling his need.

To the demon the only thing more sensual than the first hot drops of its victim's blood was the adrenaline rush brought on by the power of fear. Angel couldn't resist searching her face for even a hint of that emotion. Glancing up at Faith, he recoiled at what he saw. Staring back at him were Buffy's lifeless eyes. There was no fear on Buffy's still face...no pain...her lips were slightly parted in surprise, forming a whisper as if to call his name. A single tear welled up in the corner of one eye, hinting at betrayal...she had trusted him, just as Faith had trusted him now.

Angel shook his head and growled, clearing his vision. Almost unseen, Faith's eye twitched, acknowledging her fear to him. Unsatisfied, curling his lips back in anger, he leaned forward and caressed her neck with his lips.

As his fangs pierced her flesh, Faith let out a gasp. Whether it was a sigh of pleasure or pain, Angel couldn't tell. And now he didn't care. His feral eyes rolled back into his head as her blood warmed his mouth, the sensation only demanding more of him. As he swallowed her body rose to press against his, one hand tightly gripping the bedspread. Angel fought the urge to rip into her neck, to shake his head and tear through the taut muscle.

He pulled away with a moan, the room spinning around him. Angel violently shook free of his leather coat and pulled at his shirt sleeve, the buttons popping free from the fabric. He sunk his teeth into his wrist, ignoring the pain. Slipping a hand behind Faith's head, he forced her mouth against his arm. His blood flowed into her mouth and oozed from the corners of her lips, dripping down onto her neck. With his other hand Angel massaged Faith's throat, forcing her to accept the blood, demanding her to accept his will.

Her lifeless eyes stared absently at the ceiling above them. Faith didn't respond, didn't move. Angel pulled his arm away and his blood poured over her lower lip. He was about to call her name when he saw it. Just the slightest twitch of her tongue. Faith surrendered and swallowed his gift, accepting her fate. Once more gaining control of himself, the demon reluctantly withdrew and Angel's face morphed back to human form. He wiped his sleeve across his mouth and slid the other shirt sleeve back into place, the wound having almost closed over.

Faith's heart stopped beating. Angel sensed this and suddenly realized that he was crying. He leaned over and tenderly closed Faith's eyes. Forcing himself to look away, Angel picked up his coat off the floor and slipped his arms into it. He hesitated at the door for a moment but fought the urge to look at her again. Angel left, closing the door behind him.

"Angel. Is she..."

Angel interrupted Cordelia's question with a single nod.

"I'm sorry. I know what she meant to you," said Cordelia.

Before he could respond the front door flew open. Wesley stood there, out of breath, whatever he was about to say forgotten as he saw the looks on his friend's faces.

"I'm too late," he sighed. It wasn't a question, just a simple statement of fact. Wesley slumped back against the doorframe.

"Angel?"

Angel turned to face Cordelia.

"Why do you have blood on your lips? You didn't...good God, what did you do?," questioned Cordelia, wrinkling her nose.

"I can explain."

"Explain? There's something to explain?," shouted Cordelia.

"Listen to me, both of you," said Angel, turning to glance at Wesley. "I had to do this. It was her only chance."

"Only...Angel, what are you saying? What have you done?," asked Wesley, his eyes growing wide.

"It's what Faith wanted. She needs to redeem herself, to make amends..."

"Needs, as in the present tense? You didn't! Tell me you didn't...oh God, I think I'm going to be sick," said Cordelia, leaning back against the wall behind her for support.

"Angel, have you lost your mind? Do you realize what you have done?," shouted Wesley.

"She will have her soul. I know it! I was almost tempted to try it with Darla, but I wasn't sure. But now I am sure! You have to trust me," said Angel, trying to remain calm.

"Trust you? Psycho-chick was out of control when she was alive! And now she'll be a vampire with the strength of a Slayer? Hello? Where's the up side here?," demanded Cordelia.

"You don't understand! I had to try!," yelled Angel

"You're right," said Wesley.

"He is?," asked Cordelia, astonished.

"I don't understand," said Wesley flatly.

"We'll chain her to the bed. If she rises without her soul, then I'll stake her myself," announced Angel, throwing his hands into the air.

Cordelia turned and ran into the kitchen. When she came back she was wielding a long butcher knife.

"Cordelia!," shouted both Angel and Wesley.

"Get out of my way! I'll cut her freakin' head off myself if I have to!," screamed Cordelia.

Angel stepped towards Cordelia and she tried to move past him. He easily grabbed her wrist and the knife fell to the floor. She began to punch him in the chest with both hands and at the same time began to sob.

"Damn you! Damn you, Angel!"

Cordelia stopped hitting him and covered her face with her hands. He tried to hug her but she pulled away in anger. She just stood there crying until Wesley came to her and held her. Cordelia pressed her face into his shoulder and wept. Wesley glared at Angel.

"Knowing what your...life...is like, how could you do that to her? You really think she'll be grateful?," asked Wesley, not masking his disappointment.

"I didn't know that I disgusted you that much," sneered Angel.

"You know I'm right," answered Wesley, clenching his teeth.

"We do more than just help people. We're here to save souls. Faith needs a second chance. If that's not enough, then ponder this. You ever consider the possibility that you are wrong in your translation about my prophecy?," asked Angel.

"Your prophecy? You mean...the vampire with a soul? To sanshu..."

"That's the one. Maybe it doesn't apply to me. Or maybe it would apply to both of us. Prophecies have been known to be, shall we say, slippery? Interpreting their meanings have been hit or miss at best. Even after they come to pass we don't always understand them fully."

Cordelia stepped away from Wesley and they both stared at Angel.

"I'm reaching, I know. Prophetic mysteries aside, if she rises without a soul, I will kill her. I promise you," assured Angel.

"And if you're wrong...I can't think of anything more dangerous than a vampire with Slayer strength," said Wesley, shaking his head.

"No? How about a pyscho-Slayer with Slayer strength?," offered Cordelia loudly.

"She'll be chained. If it's not Faith, I'll kill her," said Angel calmly.

Wesley looked at Cordelia. She lowered her eyes but nodded in agreement, wiping her cheeks with her hands. Wesley placed a hand on Cordelia's shoulder and turned to face Angel.

"Okay," agreed Wesley.

"Thank you," nodded Angel.

"And you owe me a set of new sheets," added Cordelia.

Angel couldn't help but smile.

"I'll be back in about half an hour. We'll need a few things from the office."

Angel turned but hesitated at the door.

"Thank you," he said once again, not turning around. As he left Cordelia put her head on Wesley's shoulder.

*****

Quentin Travers had just finished breakfast when his phone rang. He stared at it, letting it ring one more time, before reluctantly picking up the receiver.

"Yes?"

"When?"

"I thought we had someone...oh, I see. Just one dead?"

"Very well. Assemble a team. I'll make the usual arrangements."

"Is that your recommendation? He failed miserably when she escaped from the hospital."

"Fine. Just remind him this is his last chance. And that this is a kill, not a capture."

Quentin Travers gently hung up the phone and glanced at the grandfather clock across the room. Although the single malt scotch in his bottom drawer called out to him, it was too early in the day to start drinking. Even for him. With a shrug he once again picked up the phone, dialing a number that only two other people in the Council besides him knew.

*****

Angel unlocked the door but didn't bother to turn the lights on. Not only didn't he need the light to see, but he knew exactly where everything was that he needed. He took two steps into his office and froze.

"Who's here?," he asked of the darkness.

There was no reply. Angel listened for what a human would've been two heartbeats. And then he smiled.

"Kate. Make yourself at home. Oh, my mistake, you already have."

The desk lamp came on. Kate was sitting in the chair behind the desk. And she was smiling.

"Impressive. How did you know it was me?," she asked.

"Your scent."

"I've changed perfumes, Angel."

"That's not what I meant. I've tasted your blood," he reminded.

"Oh," managed Kate, suddenly uncomfortable.

"We have a connection now. It's...kinda hard to explain," said Angel, shrugging one shoulder. "And speaking of impressive, how did you get in here? The door was locked."

"Simple street smarts, Angel. You should know me better than that," added Kate, standing up. "Where is she?"

"Where is who?," asked Angel, his voice emotionless.

"Faith. She escaped from prison tonight. One guard is dead, but from the blood they found I'm pretty sure he managed to get a bullet into her. So, I'll ask again...where is she?," demanded Kate, leaning forward and placing her palms on the desk.

"You think she's here? Feel free to search the place," smiled Angel.

"Already did. And every hospital is being watched. With a wound like that, Faith will need help."

"Or she could be dead already," sighed Angel.

"You don't seem very concerned," said Kate, knotting her eyebrows together.

"Well, if you'll check the logbook at the prison, you'll notice I haven't been by to see her in a few months. We've...grown apart. And why should you care about her? Last I heard, you weren't even on the Force anymore," challenged Angel, his hands on his hips. "How did you even hear about her?"

"No, I'm not still employed by the LAPD," admitted Kate. "But I have a police scanner, you know. And I still have a few friends...a few connections on the inside who feel that I got screwed over. Let's just say I have a special interest in her case."

"Care to elaborate?"

"No."

"Fair enough. If I ever see her alive again, I promise to call you," said Angel coldly.

Kate straightened up and picked her coat off the back of the chair, tossing it over her shoulder. She walked up to Angel and stared him in the eye.

"Thank you," smiled Kate.

She continued past him. When Angel heard the door click shut behind him, he shook his head and began to gather up what he needed. The first object he grabbed was a sharp wooden stake.

*****

"I need to do something. I can't sleep," sighed Cordelia, pacing around the kitchen.

"Too much coffee?," asked Wesley.

"I mean she's in my bed!," snapped Cordelia.

"Oh," nodded Wesley.

"I'm sorry. It's not you I'm mad at. Look, there's only one container of blood in the refrigerator for Angel. Obviously we're going to need some more. Geez, he'd better not invite anymore of his friends over," said Cordelia, making quotation marks in the air with her fingers when she said the word 'friends'.

"Cordelia, it's not quite dawn yet," said Wesley, stating what they were both well aware of.

"So? The butcher likes me. Best to get there when he opens," replied Cordelia, grabbing her pocketbook off the back of a chair.

Wesley stared at her with a look that showed he was still confused.

"That way I know it's fresh! Besides, you think we're the only people who get in line for blood down there? Wonder what he thinks everyone does with it? Smart guy, Ralph. Knows better than to ask questions."

Now Wesley raised his eyebrows as Cordelia undid the top button of her blouse.

"You flirt with the butcher?," asked Wesley timidly.

"You have no idea of the things I do for Angel Investigations, do you?," said Cordelia, pulling her coat from the closet and draping it over one arm. "First thing next week, Angel and I are sitting down and reviewing my job description."

Cordelia opened the door and looked back at Wesley.

"Oh, don't call Gunn yet, 'cause we wouldn't want him to lose any beauty sleep, but when you do, tell him to pick up a welcome mat on the way over. I'm never getting this out of the carpet," sighed Cordelia, looking down at the floor. "Hmm, maybe white wine...no, that gets out red wine."

Cordelia shut the door.

Wesley stood next to the bedroom door and raised his hand to knock but his knuckles never touched the wood. He slowly lowered his hand and opened the door. Angel was sitting on the bed with his back to him. Although his view of Faith was blocked, Wesley could see the thick chains that were wrapped around bed. He stood next to Angel, his eyes moving from the chain across her legs to the chain around her waist and finally the chain over her chest that pinned her arms against her side. And Wesley noticed that a blanket a been thrown over the dresser mirror across from the bed.

Faith did not look like she was sleeping. Her skin was too pale. There was no doubt that she would be cold to the touch, nothing more than a corpse. Knowing that wasn't true, Wesley couldn't bring himself to look at her face. Sadly shaking his head, he glanced at Angel. He hadn't realized what Angel had been doing. Holding a stake in one hand, Angel was sharpening the point with a knife. There were three other freshly whittled stakes on the nightstand.

"Having second thoughts?," inquired Wesley.

"Not at all. Just being cautious," replied Angel, not looking up from his work.

"I see. Angel, I...for what it's worth, I agree with what you're doing. This is no different than when you reached out to her the last time...after she had tortured me," swallowed Wesley. "We...I...had failed her. And only you saw through her rage...her pain. That, deep down, Faith wanted help. Not only couldn't I see that, but..."

Angel stopped what he was doing and looked up at Wesley.

"I wanted to kill her. And worse yet, I would have, given the opportunity," sighed Wesley.

"I only saw myself in her, Wes. That's how I understood. You couldn't have known," said Angel.

"I wish I could believe that, Angel. I really wish I could."

"Wesley, you came into her life at a bad time. It wouldn't have mattered who the Council sent to be her Watcher. Faith wouldn't have accepted anyone. Did you ever stop to consider why?," asked Angel.

Wesley finally allowed himself to gaze upon her face.

"More times than I can count. I was...inadequate for the job."

Angel smiled, stroked the wood once more with the knife and placed them both on the dresser next to the others.

"You couldn't be more wrong. Oh sure, you two never really bonded, but it was because she couldn't allow it, wouldn't allow it. Her first Watcher was killed, remember? She still blames herself. Faith didn't want another Watcher because she was afraid to get hurt again, afraid to make that connection with another person."

Wesley met Angel's stare and considered this.

"Watcher, boyfriend, friend...it didn't matter who it was. She was shutting down, withdrawing, becoming more alone. I don't think she even knew she was doing it, but Faith eventually lost her ability to trust anyone. And the smallest setback for her would just reinforce her doubts," explained Angel.

"Angel, it can't be that simple," protested Wesley.

"Of course not. Nothing ever is. Very rarely does one big event in a person's life change them. It's all the little things, the choices you make along the way. Water eventually wears away a rock, but not overnight."

Angel stood up and looked at Faith.

"I don't know...this event sure changed her," sighed Wesley.

"There's that. Guess she'll just have to trust me," smiled Angel.

"Are you leaving?," asked Wesley.

Angel nodded.

"It'll be light soon. I'll be at the office, at least for most of the morning. She won't rise until sometime after sunset tonight."

"Get some rest," said Wesley, putting a hand on Angel's shoulder.

"You too," answered Angel.

Angel stepped over to the drapes, adjusting them so that no sunlight would enter. Satisfied, they left the bedroom and shut the door behind them.

The thing that had once been Faith opened its yellow eyes.

END OF PART ONE