First visit

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.

Author notes: Takes place first season of Angel, post Sanctuary.

He watched her as he approached the glass division, closely observing her reaction upon recognizing him. First her features stiffened, her lips parting slightly, and she blinked several times in a row, her shock plainly spreading across her features. Unconsciously she sat up straighter in her chair, her chin lifting, even as she quickly tried to alter her expression to something more nonchalant, something revealing considerably less about her thoughts or feelings. She was partly successful at this, and he knew she had had a lot of practice in doing so. But he hadn't missed the brief flicker of a smile quickly turning up the corners of her lips, or the flash of strong gratitude, even awe, flashing across the surface of her eyes, and he was even more certain that his decision to come had been the right one.

"Angel," Faith said, her voice low, and despite her careful efforts to control it, the surprise leaked through as well. "You came."

She shook back her hair from her face with a quick, almost nervous gesture, though the thick dark waves did nothing in response to this but immediately return to their previous position, partly covering her cheek and the hand gripping the phone on the other side of the prison's glass dividend. Even so Angel could see her hand tightening around the phone, her fingers unconsciously adjusting their grip, as her eyes narrowed, watching him through the glass as if she expected him to suddenly disappear.

"Yes," he replied through the phone's receiver, keeping his eyes on hers as he looked back at her steadily, giving her a brie and faint smile in return. "I did."

He thought she looked tired; there were dark shadows under her eyes, seeming almost bruises, and even though she was sitting upright, something about her posture signaled weariness. He had rarely seen Faith without makeup before- once, in fact, when heavy rain and tears had simply stripped it from her face. Looking at her now, he thought she looked almost shockingly young without the painted near-mask of cosmetics, young and softer…more human. Studying her, Angel thought to himself with some sadness that whatever had happened, Faith was still hardly more than a child…a child with the strength, the ability, and the power o the warrior that she was. Not to mention the guilt, the sins, and the long battle stretched before her, a battle she had only just begun.

"Why?" she asked him, her voice still closely guarded, and Angel replied lightly, with an answer that he knew her question was not asking.

"Well, this is the only evening visiting hours available here. I would come in the day, but you know how well that would go."

"You know what I mean, Angel," Faith shook her head slightly, breathing out in seeming exasperation, but when she raised her eyes back to his, there was nothing but confusion present. "Why did you come."

Angel took a few moments to answer, making sure first that her eyes were still on his, that she was listening, carefully considering his words before giving her his reply.

"Because I want to, Faith. Because I'm going to keep coming, even I you say you don't want me to. Because I want to see how you're doing, that you're working towards being okay…because I want to keep in touch, and this is the best way to do it."

Faith stared at him, her narrowed eyes widening, and she shook her head, chuckling without humor as she shook back her hair from her face again, her voice crackling slightly into the phone's receiver.

"And they all think I'M psycho. After everything I did, why the hell would you want to come see me? I'm doing the right thing, the redemption thing, so why would you come?"

"That's why," Angel replied quietly, continuing to focus with quiet intensity on her face. "Because you are. You asked me to help you, Faith. And I will. I didn't agree to do that lightly."

An understanding came to Faith's eyes then, as well as a sudden reticence, and she shrugged, her hand playing with the cord of the phone as she replied.

"Oh, I get it now. So I'm another job to you. Your duty. Another soul to save, all part of the redemption scene you've got going for you…another rung on the ladder or something. Another client who's not gonna pay. Look, you probably mean well and all, but I don't need to be that to anyone, I can do this on my own. I don't' want to be anyone's 'good job' sticker, alright?"

"No," Angel countered, and though his voice was still quiet, it was so firm and forceful that Faith frowned, confused. "No, Faith, you're not a job. You're not duty or a client or…a sticker," he said, blinking, somewhat bewildered by that part. "You're a friend. And right now, you're the only person alive who can even partly understand what I am, what I'm trying to do in the world, because you're trying now to begin a similar path. And I want to help you with that, Faith. I'm going to. Not from duty. Not to earn something for myself. Not because I think you can't do it alone if you really try. But because I care. Because I know how hard it is…how lonely. And because I don't want you to have to try alone."

For several moments Faith was quiet; he heard only the sounds of her slightly uneven breathing, crackling into the receiver, before he spoke again, his tone gentle, but expecting a response from her.

"So how are you doing, Faith?"

She shrugged, her eyes moving aside briefly, her words slow in coming. "Getting by."

Angel waited, expecting more, and the unmoved expression on his face told her he wouldn't let the matter drop until he got it. Exhaling, Faith slowly moved her eyes back to his, her words coming out with some difficulty.

"It's…hard. Being here. Being told what to do. Knowing I can leave. Knowing I can do anything, and no one could stop me. And not doing it."

She paused, her shoulders tensing, and glanced towards the prisoners on either side of her before looking back at Angel, her eyes intent.

"When they try stuff on me…try to fight me…I just want to fight back…get them back. I want to hurt them."

"But you don't," Angel stated, watching her, and Faith's lips quirked into a quick, faint smile, just a hint of wry mischief coming to her eyes.

"Not much."

Angel smiled back, enjoying the brief sight of her smile; he could not remember the last time he had seen Faith smile without rage and vicious, homicidal intent behind her gaze.

"Good. Are you eating okay, sleeping?"

"Unfortunately, yeah, for the first part…thought I was done with the mystery meat once I quit school," Faith replied with her eyes rolling slightly, her tone not quite so sarcastic as she continued. "Not so much with the sleep. Kinda loud here at night…and too much going on here too," she muttered, tapping her forehead lightly with one finger before averting her eyes. Angel nodded, understanding.

"Guilt can do that."

"Wouldn't have known until now," Faith muttered, and she inhaled slowly, let it out, then met Angel's gaze with a shadowed poignancy in her eyes.

"How are you…Wesley, Cordelia…"

"Healing," he replied truthfully, knowing she didn't' want or need to hear much more than that, and Faith nodded slightly, exhaling again.

"Do they…do they know you're here?"

"Yes," Angel told her, his tone and expression giving no hint as to their view of this, but Faith's mouth tipped, indicating that she thought she had a pretty good idea all on her own.

"Bet that went over well." Her posture tensed, and though she spoke carefully, Angel heard the nerves in her voice when she asked, "Does she know you're here?"

"Buffy?" he questioned, his forehead creasing slightly with his frown, and when Faith nodded slightly, he shook his head. "Faith…this isn't about Buffy. None of this."

"Yeah it is," she countered, giving a slight shrug. "She's the one I'm doing this for."

There was so much left unspoken in that statement, in the way she said it, the way an odd light flickered across her eyes… and Angel couldn't let the moment pass, couldn't leave her words unchallenged.

"No, Faith…you're doing this for you," he said quietly, his eyes on hers, not letting her look away. "And I'm proud of you."

Faith's shoulders hunched, her lips thinning, and she licked them unconsciously as her fingers tightened again around the phone in her hand.

"You shouldn't be," she almost muttered, but Angel shook his head again.

"I am. You'll make it, Faith. You will."

Faith shook her head, laughing slightly, but there was no real humor in her tone, and Angel saw her blink away a glistening wetness in her eyes.

"Well damn, if I will, we all know you will, then, so you can stop with the brooding already."

"We both will," Angel replied, his tone still serious, his eyes holding hers until she looked back, all masks slipping away. "One day."

As Faith's prison guard came up behind her, gesturing for her to wrap up the conversation, she looked at Angel, an unspoken question in her eyes. Angel smiled back slightly as he spoke one last sentence before hanging up the phone.

"I'll see you next week, Faith."

Before he turned away, he saw her slowly spreading smile.