Emma couldn't believe she hadn't seen it sooner. As he took the sunglasses off the first things she noticed were his eyes. They were grey like cold steel, sharp and intelligent, around each pupil was a ring of gold, the hint of colour that accentuated his features.

She knew she had heard the voice before, she had known that the stranger had known her. She thought about the way he had spoken, quiet and steady, sure of himself, just like the way he walked. Just as she realised who he was she realised she never would have known, even now as she stared at the evidence she didn't believe it.

Damien Grey was her arch nemesis, the one boy she had had her claws in that had shaken her loose and fought back. The moment she recognised his face her body recoiled instinctively, her face screwing up in the disgust she had always reserved for him. She registered the strong emotions she had always associated with Grey, but this time they were different, she had focused solely on hating him, but now that she had seen him without his name, without the school influences she knew him to be different. The fat, unsure, self-loathing boy she had known in highschool was gone, this fit, confident, capable man stood before her.

Despite all of this she couldn't shake years of training, she had trained herself to hate, trained herself to despise the very ground he walked on. For years she had prepared herself for another face-to-face meeting with him just so she could throw him her most disgusted look and walk away haughtily without a word. Despite the face she hadn't seen him in over four years she had still dwelled upon their next meeting, the way she would destroy his every hope of a winning argument by sneering at his burgeoning frame. He had hurt her when he refused to be drawn in, so she would hurt him by refusing him the credit for the distance.

Now she lay in a bed in his house, saved, cared for, fed and sheltered by him. He had shown nothing but compassion and a will to protect her. He had known who she was and how she felt about him. Yet he had still chosen to risk his life, his freedom, to save her. Now as she scrunched up her face in disgust and drew her knees up to her chest, she wondered why she was doing it. Never before had she imagined Grey would change, would become someone wholly different. She hadn't changed, neither had Jason, nor her friends, they had all continued their highschool careers outside. Even after over four years in the adult world her friends hadn't changed. Grey had.

She was too late in stopping her instinctive reaction, however, and Grey saw it, she saw it register on his face and then she saw his neutral mask shatter and the sheer devastation he felt was written on his every feature. Normally this powerful a reaction would be a reason to celebrate, but as she saw his hope crumble, she felt the same reaction in herself. He stood up straight and shrugged as she sat frozen, the look of disgust still fixed firmly in place without her wanting it to be there.

'Yeah, I thought that was going to be your reaction, surprise.' He muttered coldly, 'I'll get my car keys, you might want to get your shoes on.' Emma was dumbfounded, then realised she needed to fix her face, but after she did so Grey was gone and she heard the tinkle of keys. He came back in and scowled darkly.

'Do you need help getting your shoes on?' The coldness of his voice shocked her and she felt her ire rising.

'No, I can do it myself, thanks.' She shot back scathingly, Wresting herself from the bed and slipping her trainers on sockless feet. He handed her a plastic bag with all of her personal items.

'That's everything you had, let's go.' He started out without her; she didn't even look around as he led her down a corridor and to a beautiful oak door with a thick stained glass window panel in the centre.

In fact the whole ride back was a blur; she didn't even remember what car he drove. All she could remember was the burning anger that grew within her as they rode back in silence. By the time he pulled up in front of her house the old, bitter hatred was back. She reasoned away every effort of his to help as some ploy to get into her pants; perhaps he'd even hired her attackers so he could act the hero. The dark thoughts swirled in a hurricane vortex in her mind, driving her into a rage. He stopped the car and she got out, spitting out "go to hell" before slamming the door. He didn't say a word and drove off. Later on she would remember seeing tears on his face as he watched her get out of the car but at the time she figured he was happy to see her go.

She went into her room and slammed the door, lying down to relieve the pain in her ribs. She knew they were going to take some time to heal, but already they felt better, the steady pressure of the Stranger – Grey's – bandages easing the agony. Her jaw was still stiff but she found it more mobile than the first morning. As she lay in her bed, staring at the familiar ceiling and wishing for another set of surroundings she vowed she wouldn't think about him again. Starting when she woke up he would be nothing but a nasty memory.


Her mother hadn't even registered her absence, nor did she notice the obvious bruise on her jaw or the awkward way she hobbled about the house for weeks, trying to avoid jostling her fractured ribs. She did notice that Emma hadn't cleaned in a while and the bins hadn't been taken out. Emma bore her mother's vapid ranting with a grim stoicism. Hayley eventually came around to check on her, ignoring the fact Emma hadn't returned any calls to any of her friends. Emma was thankful for the company for a while but then Hayley started asking questions about her injuries and when Emma refused to answer she quickly grew frustrated and left. Emma held resolutely to her vow.