Bedside Thoughts

Author notes: Takes place as Faith sleeps in Angel's bed during season one, "Sanctuary."

Angel frowned as he stood over the figure lying on her side in the bed. He was half stooped over her, hunched as if he could not quite decide whether to sit on the bed's edge beside her or straighten and walk away from the room, leaving her to lie alone. He had been watching Faith's fitful sleeping for almost ten minutes now in silence, unable to really explain to himself why. She posed little threat to him or anyone else now, he knew- she was too weakened, drained emotionally as well as physically. So why did he feel such an urge to stand half bent over her bedside, watching over her?

The dark-haired Slayer was fully dressed, other than her shoes; Angel had removed those for her when he had gently directed her silent, nearly shellshocked form to his bed. Faith's hair and clothes were still damp from the rain, and minor scratches and scrapes from her fall through the window marred her pale face and arms. He could see the bruise-like shadows under her eyes, th tension and unrest prominent in her features, even in her uneasy sleep. Angel wondered when the last time was that Faith had slept, since awakening from her coma. He wouldn't be surprised if she hadn't at all- but she seemed to be getting no true rest now either, but rather nightmares that would only further weary her.

It saddened Angel to look at her, to see the small body of a girl who had always fought so hard to be strong, curled into a fetal position, conveying such fragility. The vulnerability that Faith had so long tried to deny and hide away was now all too visible in her motionless form, the pain and exhaustion etched across her features even in sleep.

It would be hard for anyone who happened to just look at her then to believe that this young girl was the same girl who had killed two men, tortured Wesley, and plotted the deaths of many others… but not for Angel. He had seen through Faith's desperate actions all along, had recognized the overwhelming anguish and sorrow of the lost girl she was inside. He had understood what she tried so hard to deny existed within her… for he had once been like her. No, not like her at all. Worse- Angel, as Angelus, had done much worse than any human girl, even a Slayer, could ever even contemplate.

He had feared in certain moments that he would not be enough, that he could not stop Faith's downward spiral, could not save her from herself. She had certainly tried hard enough to help him maintain this fear… but eventually it had finally happened. Faith had finally broken, and now here she was, waiting for Angel to help her find the strength she would need to redeem herself once more.

Watching her, he felt a surge of compassion for her, along with a strange paternal protectiveness. Looking at the suffering girl before him was like looking at himself, in a way…

He reached out with one hand towards Faith impulsively, meaning to brush back some of her hair from her face, but instead, he found himself gently touching her face. She twitched slightly but did not awaken, her eyes moving restlessly beneath their lids.

He would help her, Angel thought with determination as he kept his hand lightly on the girl's cool cheek. He would bring her back to what she really was, who she had once been. By the gods, he would…he had to.

The end