She doesn't want to wonder what it is that he's doing right now, but she does. She wonders. She can't help it. It's like scratching a mosquito bite even when she knows that it won't make the itch go away.

She should be proud of herself. She graduated high school when no one-including herself-thought she'd even survive it. Nothing short of a miracle, right? Her maroon robe is hanging on the back of her bedroom door, not quite ready to be put away, shut up in a closet and taken out years in the future to remind her that she accomplished something.

Some accomplishment. She graduated, sure. To a life without him.

"Can I be sixteen again?" she whispers, not quite looking at herself in the mirror. Maybe sixteen wasn't the best year overall, but she had him. She could hold him, and be held by him. There wasn't the trauma of Angelus when she was seventeen, nor the heartache of keeping each other at arms' length as she turned eighteen. So sixteen, in terms of Angel, was the perfect year.

"Maybe I could call him," she murmurs to herself, glancing quickly at her phone. Just a simple phone call. A hi, a how are you doing. What are you doing? When will you be back in Sunnydale? Can I come to L.A. and see you? My dad still lives there, it wouldn't be a special trip. No? Why not? Yes, I know we're not supposed to see each other, but you chose that, not me. Who says it's the best thing? It's not for me. Did I ask you to run my life? How come you get to make these decisions and I don't get any choice at all? My entire life is proof that I don't have any rights, just give me this one thing?

No. Best not to call.

She can't hold back the sobs as she collapses back onto the bed. Tears leak out of the corners of her eyes, running down her temples and curling into her ears. Her hair is damp at the edges and she pushes it away, eyes open wide, aching, staring at the ceiling as if it might have an answer for why she hurts so bad.

Has she stopped crying in the three months since he left? Has there been a day that she didn't wake up and crumple, knowing that he wouldn't be there? She doesn't think so. If there has been, it's blurred into the monotonous series of empty days she's existed-not lived-since he walked out of her life.

She wants to know what he's doing. Is he out fighting the good fight? Is he with friends? Is he alone, brooding? Is he thinking about her, too, and wondering what she's doing?

Maybe. He's tried, but he can't get rid of her that easily. It's a small measure of comfort that she knows this. Very small.

She rolls over, hugging her pillow to her chest. Tears slide down her cheeks, leaving shiny tracks that will dry quickly into salty streaks. Or so she imagines. She'd have to stop crying to tell for sure.

"Just this once," she bargains with herself, and reaches for the phone. She dials, his number etched into her memory. He wasn't pleased that she'd acquired it, had asked her not to call. He didn't want her to make it harder on both of them. But he'll understand, she promises to herself. She has to talk to him. She has to know he's okay, that his life isn't the wasted void that hers has become, without him.

She bites her lip as the phone rings once, twice, three times. Her face falls, shatters, as it rings for the twentieth time, and she slowly lowers the receiver back into the cradle.

In the city of angels, a fallen one closes his eyes until the sound of the ringing stops, and weeps.