Subtlety >> Haunted

C/A spice: Medium

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"Quiet," Angel said. "She's on." Cordelia had suddenly come onto the screen, and Angel found himself leaning forward, almost as if he might reach out and touch her. That was his Cordy on a national television show, the girl he'd know since she was a spoiled high school princess and had watched grown into a beautiful and confident woman. At the moment, though, she looked lovely but a little peaked. Then she was speaking, and the room settled into a hush.

"... a guardian angel like Kirsten has to look in on me from time to time, that's for sure." Cordelia was saying. "Someone to keep me out of trouble."

* * *

Angel paked in the alley behind Kristen's apartment building for this nightly pilgrimage. He couldn't say exactly why he was so obsessed with finding this young woman. Obviously the impact her disappearance was no doubt having on Cordelia was part of it. For a long time - too long, he knew, now - he had hurt Cordelia, and Wesley and Gunn, by turning his back on them...

But it seemed like he'd just gotten his family back when Cordelia had gone off to be on this TV show, and her week's enforced absence just pointed out to Angel how much he'd missed her. Her wit was caustic and knew no boundaries. She would say anything that popped into her head to absolutely anyone. She had grown past the stage where she did it specifically to be mean, and now there was, he believed, atually an innocence to the way she didn't bother with the kind of self-editing that other people di. And he missed that. He missed the sound of her read laughter, the arch of her voice when she was annoyed, the shriek when she was startled. He even - though he hated to admit it to himself - missed the way she and Wesley bicked like adolescent siblings or some elderly couples he'd known.

Soon, he thought. The game can't last forever, and then she'll come back...

He climed the stairs as quitely as he could, and when to Kirsten's door. As always, he felt a sudden wave of anxiety when he reached for the knob. One of these days he might open the door and walk right in, and that would mean he was too late, watever had taken her away had killed her.

But not tonight. He opened the door, tried to go in, and was prevented from doing so by the invisible barrier that prevented vampires from entering unbidden. He had never felt such relief over that stupid rule in his life.

He'd been frustated by it more than once in his Angelus days, when cahsing a tasty morsel who slipped away from him by dashing across her own threshold. But now he was glad that it existed, one of the inviolate rules of vampirismm because it confirmed for him that Kirsten yet lived. As long as she did, he could find her. As long as she did, he hadn't let Cordelia down.

* * *

He backed away from the door before she reached it, so she wouldn't think he'd been watching her. By the time she ented, his back was turned. "Hi, Angel," she said brightly.

"Oh," he said, trying to sound stateled. "Hi, Cordy."

"What are you doing" she asked.

"Me? Just... um... thinking."

"Because standing there in the middle of the floor, facing a blank wall, is where you do your best thinking, right?"

"It's a good thionking spot. Nothing to distract me, you know. Good for serious contemplation."

"No brooding?"

"No brooding."

"What are you really doing?" she demanded.

"Okay," he said. "I was watching you."

"I knew it!" she said triumphantly...

She has me pretty well trapped, Angel knew. "Okay," he said again. "I missed you, all right? Happy now?"

Cordelia crossed the floor and put her arms around Angel in a strong, friendly hug. He returned it, glad she was back safely once again.

"Yeah," Cordelia said. "Definitely. Happy now."

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