Angel On the Outside

Angel stood on the sidewalk, outside the office. He'd stood here often enough before now, but this time was different. If caught, he wouldn't have to apologise or stammer a flimsy excuse. He was allowed here, now. Belonged. Invited. They wouldn't mind that he was here. He'd rejoined the fight, even if it wasn't quite the same.

He didn't expect them to understand. Didn't expect them to offer forgiveness, forgetfulness, friendship. Didn't expect anything from them beyond maybe a second chance. Or third, or whichever chance he was up to now. That was all he'd wanted -- the opportunity to offer.

If they'd said no, he would have been OK with that. Not 'OK' OK, but he would have nodded and left and gone back to his hotel, and kept fighting one day at a time. Maybe he'd have followed them at night, maybe he'd have gone on his own. He didn't really know, but it didn't matter, since they'd said yes.

They didn't trust him, not really, and he was familiar enough with the side-long looks to know they didn't forgive. There were overtures of maybe one day friendship again, and that was nice. It made it easier to come by the office after dusk -- there was no sewer or tunnel access to this office, and he didn't know if that had been deliberate.

Didn't ask. It didn't matter because there wasn't any, and it was something he had to work with.

He was being awfully accommodating these days, he noticed. A splash of humility, a large dose of working off the balance of what he'd done, but mostly his reason was just that when you understood what the fight was all about, you stopped worrying about a lot of things. Consequences tomorrow and next year and a thousand years after that stopped being so important. What mattered was what you did right *now*, and that was why he didn't expect them to understand. Didn't mind that they were still in it for the Big Fight, while he was just doing his time, because it was what he did.

Not because he didn't care about evil, or good, or wanting more good than evil to be around. Not because he still didn't care if people were hurting, suffering, trying to destroy the world one tiny piece at a time. If anything, he cared more now -- he could see it more clearly, now, and could see what evil was doing. Made it easier and harder to stop. But he understood the way the battle was supposed to be fought.

One tiny handshake at a time. One smile, one hand held out, one silent, accepting, listening ear.

He didn't expect them to understand. They'd grown up on battlefields, had been trained by tradition and fortune to be warriors in greater things than cruel words and a tired backhanded blow. Evil could be fought at any level, and he was content to follow them into their war, knowing that all he really had to do was offer peace by piece. That was all.

He was content. Didn't expect them to understand his battle might have been the nobler one, the better one, the more effective one. It didn't matter if they didn't understand his reasons, his fight, or anything else that he did. Didn't matter if he stayed outside watching them, inside, sitting together talking, laughing, sharing stories and beer.

He didn't expect to understand.