He stood, half hidden by shrubbery, peering at the house in front of him. Whistler had promised him that this was the last stop. He was half tempted to leave now and tell Whistler he had seen whatever the hell he was supposed to be seeing and go home. Not that a rat-infested alleyway was anyone's idea of home, but spying on the newly called vampire slayer was even less appealing.

And yet, he found himself unable to leave. He wouldn't say he was curious, that was a bit too strongly worded. Interested was closer to the mark. Because the girl curled up on the bed in front of him wasn't acting the way he imagined a vampire slayer would act. Through the slightly opened window, he could easily smell the fear and sorrow; it was practically masking the base scent he thought of as "slayer". Shouldn't she be ecstatic? She had dusted her first vampire. That's what she was made for, after all.

A half buried memory surfaced. He had wanted to see Mozart perform, but Darla had adamantly refused, saying that they would stay in that night. Past experience had made it clear that when Darla was this opposed, crossing her would lead to major unpleasantness. So he had tried all of his seduction techniques, reminded her that she could wear her new blue gown and that they could feast grandly later. And still, Darla had remained unmoved. Finally, she had explained about the one girl in all the world and how the slayer would be in the audience that night. Only a newly minted vampire would blindly walk into so blatant a trap. And then she had continued speaking, words that he had now remembered with startling clarity: "The slayer has no family, no friends, no earthly ties. She has no wants, no needs, no desires other than to hunt us down and see us made dust. She is less human than any vampire that has ever walked the earth."

"Dinner's ready."

The voice broke him from his reverie and he was wrenched back to the present. He watched as the new slayer slowly trudged from the room. The room was painted a light color, yellow, if he had to hazard a guess. He tried to remember the dandelions that had dotted the fields of his youth, but as always, he could only visualize the grayed tones in which he now viewed the world.. He suspected the room was cheerful during the day. The walls were dotted with large pictures taped directly to them. They seemed mostly to be photos of vaguely prepubescent looking boys. She had a bed which had a variety of stuffed animals propped on top, a dresser that contained a tangle of stuff he couldn't begin to identify, a desk with various books, pens and paper, and a vanity that possessed more make-up, lotions, creams and perfumes than even Darla had owned. Directly across from him, hanging over the desk, was a calendar. There were notations on almost every single date. "CL" at least twice a week, various names, "party - Ben", "party - Steph", "party - Deede" and a lot of notations that he couldn't make heads or tails of.

He furrowed his brow as he tried to reconcile the evidence in front of him with Darla's long ago words. This girl obviously had a family; she was eating dinner with them. And she appeared to have a lot of friends. None of this was making much sense. Spike had regaled him (over and over and over) with his tale of killing the Chinese slayer and how difficult the win had been. While Spike was certainly prone to exaggeration, Angel honestly couldn't imagine this girl giving any vampire a run for his money. She had survived her graveyard encounter with that newborn out of sheer dumb luck.

She walked back into her room and Angel was surprised by how tiny and worn out she looked. She made a noise that was halfway between a hiccup and a sob. She walked over to her desk, angrily scrubbing her eyes with the back of her hand as she picked up the phone.

"Crystal? Yeah, hi, it's Buffy. Listen, I can't make practice tomorrow." He could see her hand tightening around the phone and when the crack appeared, her eyes flow open, startled.

"Nothing, I dropped the receiver, that's all. I know the regionals are in two weeks. I just can't tomorrow. I'll be there Tuesday, no problem." She hung up the phone listlessly and then picked it back up, staring at the crack in the plastic casing. Finally, the phone began to make a shrill noise and she replaced the receiver once more.

He had no idea what she had been talking about, but he did know it was important to her. Weapons training, he realized. She was not going to wherever she had planned because she was going to be training with Merrick.

"I'm sure the time just got away from her."

"Stop making excuses for her, Joyce."

The murmur of her parents' voices had gotten steadily louder. He could hear her father's heavier tread and wasn't surprised when her bedroom door opened a moment later.

"I want you home the rest of the week. Come home right after school, no running around at all. Understood?"

Her eyes widened and then immediately her gaze shifted to her bedspread. "I can't." Her voice sounded small and thready without a hint of defiance. "I have cheerleading practice. And I promised Tacy we'd go to the mall to look for dresses for the spring fling. And tomorrow I have chemistry study group. And on Friday I'm going to the movies with the gang. And…"

"And you're not going anywhere."

Angel watched as she picked at a loose thread on the bed cover, her eyes darting back and forth, her heartbeat increasing ever so slightly. Her father didn't know it but as far as Angel was concerned, she might as well have been shouting that her entire speech was a lie. In that moment, he knew that she would be calling Crystal again to tell her she couldn't make Tuesday's practice either or any other practice, for that matter. All those entries on the calendar. Each one an occasion that she had been looking forward to. She would be calling Crystal and Ben and Steph and Deede to break every single one.

I am tired of your irresponsible behavior, young lady." She didn't even try to meet her father's angry gaze; she just dipped her head lower.

Angel watched, shifting his weight uncomfortably from foot to foot. He was an expert on the subject of diminished parental expectations; he suddenly felt like he was watching a scene from his own home life from several centuries ago. He could barely recall his father in any other mode besides disapproving as he loudly proclaimed his only son a disappointment, a stain on the family's good name, a wastrel, a liar, a thief. Of course, he had deserved all of his father's appellations. He had been too weak to stand up to him and go after the life he had really wanted, but he had been willful enough to refuse to do what his father had planned for him. Instead, he sunk into a life of carnality, numbing his bitterness with sex and alcohol, until finally he stumbled into Darla. After that, he found many ways to make sure that the rest of the world suffered for his earlier unhappiness.

But this situation was only superficially the same. The door slammed as her father stomped out of the room. Just a few hours ago, she had been laughing and smiling, carefree and surrounded by friends. As of right now, she was the slayer and from here on in, she would be spending her evenings protecting the world and courting death. And from the looks of things, getting criticized on a nightly basis for her perceived failures. It didn't seem fair. She was pressed into the bed, her shoulders shaking, as she silently cried. She couldn't have been more than sixteen and was likely younger.

In his time, she would have been married already, a babe at the breast. Times changed though, and she was still a child. She had been so frightened earlier tonight. Everything she thought she had known about the world had vanished like the vampire she had consigned to the wind.

Ninety years ago, his soul had been forced back into his resisting body, but it had taken him two more years to realize that there was no going back, that he could never be what he once was. That day was the single loneliest day of his entire existence. He was man and monster, with the desires of both and belonging nowhere. Even in the years when he hadn't been a homeless bum, he had been apart from the rest of the world, never connecting with anybody, permanently rootless.

Today he witnessed the same fate, pushed onto another. He had no doubt that he deserved every day of misery. He could never suffer enough for all the torment he had gleefully caused. What could she have done to be singled out like this? No family, no friends, no earthly ties. She had been marked, made different. He understood that now.

She sat back up, her face red and blotchy, but she was no longer actively crying. She stood in the middle of her room for a long time, obviously contemplating something. Finally, she closed her eyes; her posture straight and true, with her hands fisted her sides. She bent her knees a little, jumped straight into the air, and pulling her shoulders back, did a one eighty summersault landing right back where she had been. She allowed herself a small grin of satisfaction and with a nod of self-assurance and a flounce of her hair, closed the door as she went into her bathroom.

It took a minute before Angel closed his mouth. And then he felt a small smile grace his face also. For the first time in ninety years, he felt hopeful. He would help her in any way he could, although she would never know it. He knew if she ever saw him, she would stake him. He would have to figure out an indirect way to be useful.

He closed his eyes briefly and felt a calmness settle upon him. Throughout his entire existence, he had never had a purpose in his life, or never a good purpose, at any rate. "Buffy." He said her name softly and for a moment, it hung in the air before it vanished like a soap bubble. He looked at her empty room for a long time before he finally left to go talk with Whistler.

The wonderfully intriguing lyrics were provided by Ligeia

Artist: Lake Of Tears

Song: Demon You / Lily Anne

I met the demon on a summer's day

Her name was Lily Anne was what she said

She was standing there alone waiting for the fall

So I asked her would she wait with me

For the night to take this day away

But with the night she ran away the demon clad in grey

b I summon the demon you /b

So I learned the ways the demon plays

From this beauty clad is ashen grey

How she left me with the fall left me all alone

Only sorcerers of death remains

Only shadowed ones as some would see

And the night that sings to me of Lily Anne the grey

I summon the demon you Lily Anne