February 1998

Angel watched as the slayer's father drove the dark blue Ford Taurus onto the driveway. He and his wife exited the car and walked to the front door without as much as a glance at their daughter. She had gotten out of the car hesitantly, like a wobbly colt stretching its legs for the first time. He had to fight the urge to rush to her aid. He hardly knew the girl, but the desire to protect and help her was strong.

He had no idea what he was supposed to do now. He had been sent to wait for her in Sunnydale over a year ago. She had never come. Oddly, Angel had memories of her being there despite knowing she had not. The annoying demon named Whistler who had sought Angel out in the first place paid him a second visit recently.

"Get her to the hell mouth."

"How am I supposed to do that?"

"Now, that's not my problem. You were selected to do the job. I don't care how it gets done, just do it."

So he had returned to LA not knowing what had happened to delay the slayer's arrival in Sunnydale. He had been horrified to find out what her parents had done. Asylums were not as bad as they had been in his human days, but they were not posh hotels either.

He watched her as she walked on unsteady legs toward the front door. Her hair was a mess, as if she had not run a comb through it in days. Her skin was paler than he remembered and the black patches around her eyes were positively hideous. Her eyes looked sunken in and skeletal like. Her clothes hung loose as if she had lost far too much weight on a form that did not need to lose weight to begin with.

He watched as she scanned the area around her house. Her eyes focused where he was hiding for a moment before moving on. He wondered if she sensed him, a vampire. Was he causing her distress her first day home in over a year? He stepped back immersing himself further in the shadows of the neighboring yard. He realized if she sensed him that this slight increase in distance would not matter.

His mind gave him a comforting image as he watched the slayer he was supposed to help get more distressed.

"Truth is, I thought you'd be taller, or bigger muscles and all that. You're pretty spry, though."
"What do you want?"
"The same thing you do."
"Okay. What do I want?"
"To kill them. To kill them all."
"Sorry, that's incorrect. But you do get this lovely watch and a year's supply of Turtle Wax. What I want is to be left alone!"

He was not sure where the vivid memory came from. It was not the first one he had conjured up either. None had happened, that much he was certain of. He had spent the last year in Sunnydale alone, fighting the creatures of the hell mouth assuming she would be there. The only thing he could attribute it to was Whistler, or whoever he worked for, playing tricks on him. The girl in his memories was strong and lithe, nothing resembling the girl he had just seen. The girl in his memories was the one he had seen outside Hemry High School that fateful day when he had decided it was time he did something with his existence.

She made it to the house, though she took one last look in his direction before closing the door. He noticed something odd about the whole scene he had just watched unfold. She had no luggage. She had brought nothing home with her but the clothes on her back. What had she been living like for the past year?