Author notes: Takes place during Sanctuary in season one of Angel. Instead of showing the knife scene where Angel takes the knife from Faith while she is in a fugue state, this happens. Leads into Faith trying to flee later in the episode.

When she first awakened, she felt nothing.

She knew where she was, knew what had happened, what she had tried to do…and what she had tried to make Angel do to her. But in those first few moments lying in Angel's bed, her damp clothes still clinging to her, tangled hair leaving wet spots on his pillow, she felt nothing but a dull, weary numbness that almost rendered her immobile.

And then it all came back to her so quickly then that she actually uttered a little cry out loud, her dark eyes glittering with the shock of it as everything, all she felt, all she could not yet deal with, came rushing back in one confusing, painful tangle, so that her every muscle stiffened with the shock of it. Anger, despair, guilt, self-hatred, need…and above all, desperation. Desperation to be hated, and to be loved, to be cursed, and to be comforted… to fix her life, and to end it.

It all returned to her, heightened further by her physical and emotional exhaustion, and she began to tremble, the soggy nature of her clothes even under Angel's blanket doing nothing to stop her shaking or warm her suddenly icy skin. She curled even more tightly into the near fetal position she had already awakened to find herself in, but still the shudders rippled up and down her spine, goosebumps rising on her scratched arms. Her breath came in shallow spurts, and her throat felt tight and closed over, as if she were slowly choking to death.

She lay there, her memories playing over her, old and new both. Eventually one came to her in particular, a recollection of her mother's frequent drunken sneer, and never before in her life had she so fervently wished that the woman's spoken desire had been true…

Lying there alone, Faith the Rogue Vampire Slayer wished she had never been born.

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She wasn't sure for how long she lay there, or when it was that she got up…all she knew was that she suddenly found herself standing alone in Angel's kitchen, a knife tightly held in her hand.

Faith stared down at it dully, her eyes slightly unfocused, seeming almost bruised in appearance as she tried to work through the muddle that was her mind, to make sense of what she was doing. But she did not know, she could not remember, and her stomach tightened with anxiety, her heartbeat quickening. Whenever she had used a knife before- the only thing she could have been about to use it for now that she could think of- was to kill.

Images began to flicker rapidly across her mind, vivid visualizations of all she had done, the evil she had committed… the evil she was. She saw herself shooting at Angel, torturing Wesley, knocking out Cordelia with her elbow… she saw herself fighting Buffy, poisoning Angel with the arrow she shot at him, choking Xander, holding a knife to Willow's throat… she saw herself killing Lester Worth, and then, back in the alley where it had all started, she saw herself staking Allen Finch…

No…no, it hadn't started there… it had started way before then. Before she ever came to Sunnydale, before she ever failed her Watcher… before she ever became a Slayer at all. It had started before she was aware of it, maybe from the moment she was born… if not before.

She didn't deserve to be here… she never had, and hadn't everything she'd done proved that? Her mother had been right… Faith should never have been born.

Faith found herself staring at the knife, wondering dimly how badly it must have felt for all the people she had hurt, all the people she had killed. Though nothing but deadened skin and tissue now, a sharp pain suddenly shot through the scar on her abdomen, as if in answer.

It had hurt her when Buffy had stabbed her, hurt her in a way that she had never hurt before. Broken bones, beatings, burns, gashes, dislocated shoulders…nothing had quite compared to a knife in her gut, a knife driven by the hand of Buffy. But in the same way, it had almost been a relief, almost felt good… for she could, in focusing on her pain, see an end approaching.

The end had not come… but Faith could still remember the almost peace that had come over her as she expected it, as she waited for it.

She found herself staring down again at the knife in her hands, slowly turning it so that she could see her reflection in the blade. And then she was walking, making her way into a bathroom and shutting the door behind her.

Faith wasn't quite aware of her thinking, didn't really have a plan… all she knew, just as she had suddenly found herself holding a knife in the kitchen, was that she now found herself in the bathroom, holding that same knife to the scar on her stomach.

Becoming aware of this, however, did not stop her… realizing where she was and what she was about to do only gave Faith pause for a few moments. And then, deliberately shoving all doubts, all confusions and exhausted wonderings aside, she pressed the knife down into her scar, opening the wound once more. As she ran the blade back and forth, breaking the healed skin, intending to deepen the wound that had never been deep enough the first time, she barely felt pain. All she knew was her repetitive thoughts that for once, she would finish what Buffy had started, succeed where the other Slayer had failed…

The bathroom door flew open then; in her total focus on herself and her own thoughts, on her actions with the knife, Faith had failed to hear anyone in the hallway. She heard her before she saw her… her loud gasp and sharp intake of breath, followed by her shrill cry of disbelief.

"What the hell are you doing?! What the hell is WRONG with you, you psycho?!"

Faith's head jerked up, her eyes darting up to meet the older girl's, still somewhat dazed in their surface. As Cordelia Chase strode toward her, more frustrated and angry now than afraid of her, a sudden panic came over Faith, and she tensed, tightening her hand around the knife and holding it close to her protectively. She had been startled out of continuing to cut herself at Cordelia's appearance, but blood continued to seep from the re-opened wound in her stomach; she felt only a dull sense of pain, however.

"What are you doing?!" Cordelia repeated, the shock gone from her voice now, replaced with indignant demanding. "Are you trying to gut yourself in here?! Let go of that!"

Recklessly, driven by her annoyance and shock more than anything, Cordelia grabbed Faith's hand, trying to pry the knife out of them. Immediately Faith panicked, a wildness coming to her eyes that had been entirely absent before. Tightening her fingers around the knife, she violently yanked it out from under Cordelia's grasp, almost slicing the other girl's fingers in the process. Cordelia yelped, fear now coming to her eyes as both girls misunderstood the other's intentions. All Cordelia wanted was to take the knife from her… but Faith saw it as being stopped from doing what she felt she needed to. In return, Cordelia viewed her struggling as an attack, an attempt to escape.

"ANGEL! ANGEL, HELP, ANGEL!" she screamed, and Faith, barely hearing, added her own yells to the mix as she screamed for Cordelia to back off, not to touch her, to just leave her alone…

Almost instantly they heard Angel's footsteps thundering down the hall…he must really have been hurrying to make such noise, because as a vampire, he was usually almost completely silent. As he burst into the small bathroom along with the two girls, his eyes darted about anxiously; he had called out to them before he ever even entered.

"Cordy? Cordy, what is it- what-"

Now, standing in the doorway, he took in the scene before him quickly, assessing what had happened. Cordelia stood near him, her eyes wide, glancing between him and Faith, for she had backed away from her. And Faith… Faith had backed herself up against the wall diagonal from Cordelia, as far from her as she could get.

The knife was still clenched tightly in Faith's hands. Her still-shoved-up shirt showed all too clearly the wound she had recreated, dripping blood Angel no doubt smelled even at his distance. She was breathing in shallow pants, her chest heaving, her stomach moving visibly as well, and her eyes shone with the complexity of her emotions, darting about the room…

Cordelia spoke before anyone else could, her words tripping over themselves in her anxiety. "I just, I come in here, and she's doing that, Angel, she's cutting herself, and when I tried to take it she totally flipped out! She's a psycho…I don't know why-"

"Cordelia," Angel interrupted quickly, glancing once more between the frightened young woman beside him and the wary, desperate one before him. "Cordelia, will you please leave us now? Let me talk to her…okay? Thank you for calling me- but let me talk to her alone."

Cordelia stared at him with something between incredulity and indignation, as if she couldn't believe what he was asking of her, that he would want, especially ask, to be alone with Faith. But he saw as well the relief in her eyes, even as she tried to hide it. She hadn't wanted to be alone with Faith, or even in the same room with her, even with Angel there, regardless of what she might have said to the contrary. She seemed to be about to protest, but then just shook her head, seemingly in disgust.

"Whatever, Mr. I'm-so-understanding-of-psychopaths-that-want-to-kill-me…you need help, don't' think I'm gonna come running. In fact, I'm thinking now would be a great time for my paid vacation leave, don't you?"

With that said, she spun around abruptly, striding out the door… but Angel had seen her look at him quickly once more, the concern in her eyes. He wished she knew that there was no reason for it… not where he was concerned, anyway. With Faith, on the other hand…

She was still backed up against the wall, still eyeing him warily, her eyes glinting with anger, suspicion, pain, and near panic. Had Angel's heart been active inside him, it would have twisted in sympathy for how clearly lost and hurting she was.

So young… so utterly young and human, even after all she had done…

He stayed back for the moment, trying to meet her eyes with his as he extended a hand to her slowly, showing her that he would make no sudden movements, that he meant her no harm. When Faith did not move, did not speak, only continued to clutch the knife while blood slowly seeped from her stomach, he spoke to her gently, soothingly, still keeping his distance.

"Faith…Faith, it's okay. It's going to be okay…but you need to put that down. Do you hear me? You need to put that down, Faith."

Faith continued to stand there, her breath coming in shallow, near panting. She was beginning to shake, suddenly feeling weak, almost dizzy. She had not hurt herself badly, not nearly as deeply as the original cut had been… but the pain was starting to sink in now, physical as well as emotional. Her legs felt shaky, and she swallowed, hardly able to understand Angel's words. Everything seemed to be pulsing in her ears…

Angel continued to move toward her slowly, practically inching, wanting to convey to her that he wouldn't rush her, wouldn't do anything to make her feel more threatened than she already did. Continuing to speak to her softly, almost as if he were trying to tame a wild animal, he continued toward her at a painstaking pace- from concern for her safety more than his own.

"Faith, it's okay… I won't hurt you, I'm not mad at you. You don't need to do this… you don't have to do this. I want to help you… it's going to be okay…"

Finally he was standing right in front of her, still talking to her quietly, still keeping his eyes fixed on hers. Faith had not moved, though her eyes had darted frequently toward the door. She just stood there, her shoulders drawn up high, and she continued to breathe out in loud, shivery exhalations, utterly torn…

Stopping his soothing run of words to her for a moment, still watching her closely, making sure that she was also watching him, Angel slowly reached to cover her hand with his. She glanced at it rapidly, panic flashing across her paled features… but ultimate she let him take the knife.

Still holding Faith's hand carefully, with his other hand Angel dropped the knife to the floor, kicking it behind them. Watching her closely, Angel reached for a washcloth, slowly taking it up to her stomach and holding it very carefully and firmly. He wasn't trying to clean or dress it yet- he probably thought she wouldn't yet be able to handle that. He was simply stopping the bleeding. Again Faith let him; her only response was to let out a shuddery sigh.

She didn't know why she was letting him do this, why she wasn't screaming, lashing out at him, knocking his hand away from her, killing the concern in his eyes. She didn't know why she didn't take the knife and plunge it back into her stomach, just get it over with once and for all… why the slow careful cutting, instead of the swift stab she had originally experienced? Why did she even fuck up this?

But Angel was talking to her again…she looked up at him dully, trying to focus, to listen…though god knows why she was bothering. She certainly didn't…

"Faith, look at me… I'm not angry. It's going to be okay…but I want to hear why you did this."

She drew in a sharp breath, suddenly overwhelmed by the weight of a question that was now reverberating in her mind, repeating itself over and over. For suddenly she didn't know… all she knew was that she had to, she needed to. It was the only way that was right… the only way…

"Faith?"

She saw the concern in his eyes, even the hurt…hurt not for himself and his own feelings, but for hers. He cared about her, she realized suddenly, with a shock that made her temporarily pause in her breathing. After all she had done to him, all she had done to the people he loved, he still cared about her… he still wanted to help her.

Without even realizing it was about to occur, Faith was suddenly sobbing, crying so hard that she felt her body buckle with the force of it, so that she nearly fell to the floor. Angel caught her quickly, dropping the washcloth he had been holding to her, and hurriedly gathered her into his arms, holding her close. Faith knew that her blood was probably now staining his clothes, knew that the smell must bother him… but he ignored it, splaying one hand protectively across her back, using the other to stroke back her hair.

"Shhh….shh, Faith, it's going to be okay. Shhh….it's okay…"

Even as Faith cried, helpless to prevent it, for the second time now in less than two hours…even as he held her, whispering words of comfort in her ear…she knew that it wouldn't last. Within a few minutes she would pull away, panicked, and try to flee. Within a few minutes, she would shove her tears back down as Angel went after her, playing the psychiatrist as he convinced her to stay, convinced her of what she needed to do.

But right then, in that moment… right then, there was only her tears, and the small, temporary relief that came with being held by someone who wanted to understand.