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THE OTHER HALF LIVES
"Angel! Behind you! It's the -- oh, blast!"
"Wesley!" Angel yelled. Too late -- Wesley had stepped on a rotten plank of wood and was now
caught with one foot on the pier and one in it. Angel was only ten feet away, but those ten feet
contained six Velga demons in a bad mood.
Then again, maybe they were in a good mood. Mayhem and murder probably constituted a high
old time for Velga demons. With tusks twisting their mouths into a perpetual grimace, their
expressions weren't particularly easy to read.
One made a barking sound Angel had learned to recognize as a laugh and began advancing on
Wesley. "I wouldn't do that, if I were you," Angel said.
Six barking Velga demons seemed to disagree. They were so unimpressed by the sight of Angel -- who was, he liked to think, reasonably intimidating in his own right, particularly when, as now, he was carrying a double-edged ax -- that he wondered what the problem was.
Then he asked himself: now, what did Wesley just say?
Angel looked behind him to see another Velga demon, just like the others except for being
roughly three times their size. It snarled as it took another step toward Angel and raised its spiny
"How nice of you guys, asking me home to meet your mother," Angel said, as he swung the ax
hard into the largest demon's gut.
It howled, and Angel swung back around just in time to fend off the three demons that had lept to the mother's defense. "Wesley, just stay put and keep swinging!" he shouted.
"No problem -- with the -- staying put --" Wesley gasped. Through the melee, Angel could see
Wesley's sword slice through a Velga demon's arm. It squealed and jumped into the sea.
"Not in for the long haul, huh?" Angel pushed back the demon in front of him and glanced over his shoulder; sure enough, the mother demon was slumping into the water. These creatures weren't of the rabid-fighting-to-the-death variety.
He stopped targeting his opponents and just started slashing wildly. Sure enough, no sooner had
he hit each demon than it ran away. Wesley seemed to catch on quickly; that, or he had just been
slashing wildly all along. In either case, almost all the demons were driven off in just a few
One of the last circled Wesley, growling angrily. Angel made a stab at his remaining Velga demon and struck home, skewering it through the thigh. It hissed at him as it began limping back toward the water. The one near Wesley lunged forward and clawed him in the arm. His cry of pain made Angel spin toward him and swing the ax at the final demon.
It screeched and jumped off the pier with a heavy splash. Wesley stared after it. "Are you all
right?" Angel said.
Wesley cleared his throat. "I -- I think so. Yes."
"You need to bandage that," Angel said, trying hard not to look at the blood seeping through
Wesley seemed oblivious to Angel's concern or his own pain. "They're all gone."
"They're all alive," Angel said. "We'll have to take them out eventually. But by then we
should have the research to help us do it right."
"We should," Wesley said. But he still was looking absently out at the water.
"You talk like all that information was going to drop from the sky," Angel said. "You're Research
"That's right, I am," Wesley said, finally breaking out of his disorientation. "But, at this moment,
Research Guy is trapped."
"Hang on," Angel said. He broke the board away from Wesley's ankle. "Does it feel sprained?
"No. Just a bit sore. The arm, now --"
"You need to get that looked at," Angel said.
Wesley shook his head. "No, I don't think a doctor is necessary."
"I was referring to our de facto nurse "
"Helloo? The slayage done?" Cordelia looked up from her magazine and smiled one of her
million-megawatt grins as she saw them come in.
"We have a lot of -- slayage -- left to do, but we're done for the time being," Angel said. "But Wesley's hurt. Come and take a look at this, will you?"
Cordelia hurried forward to see to the wound; Angel took the excuse to step away from the sight
or smell of the wound. "Eww. What happened?"
"Well, it's all a bit cloudy, but I think it may have had something to do with fighting demons,"
Wesley said. "Not nearly so crucial as taking the Cosmo quiz."
"Excuse me, but you may recall that I spent the evening shopping for reference books for
someone who shall remain nameless but is really bitchy when he gets hurt."
"Are we expected to throw a parade?" Wesley was being a bit cutting, Angel thought; then again,
humans were so susceptible to pain. Cordelia, strangely enough for her, seemed to understand.
"Now, hold still, Wesley. Hmm. It's not that bad, really. I don't think you need stitches. The cuts
aren't deep; there's just a whole lot of them. What gives?"
"Spines on their palms," Angel said. "Like cactus needles."
"Yowch," Cordelia said. "I'm afraid I've got the first-aid kit at my house."
"Why did you take it home with you?" Angel asked.
"Well, I was trying some do-it-yourself fringing on the drapes, and I needed some little scissors,
and I thought, hey, the ones for bandages would be perfect --" Cordelia looked sheepish for a
moment. "Not exactly the best-case setup for an emergency."
"Oh, no, it's ideal, so long as we do all our demon-fighting at your house," Wesley said.
"I don't think that would be safe, Wesley. My coffee table could probably take you."
"Are you two going to carry on like this all night?" Angel asked.
"I'll have to check, but I'm pretty sure I penciled it in," Cordelia said.
"Then I'm going back out," Angel said. "You two have fun."
"No doubt," Cordelia muttered.
This is what my social life's come to, Cordelia thought. I don't get that many party invites now
that I know Margot pimps for vampires and Sarina's gone into rehab. Dating is clearly evil
and must be avoided at all costs. I can't seem to keep any friends other than Angel and Wesley,
and what do we do? No dancing, no nightclubbing -- not that I would want to be seen with these
no-lifes. No, for fun and frolic, I spend my evenings shopping for weirdo books from the Dark
Ages and playing Florence Nightingale.
She sighed and wondered how and when high school started to look good.
"Are we almost there? I'm feeling a bit faint," Wesley said.
"Oh, please. It's not that bad. Besides, we're in front of my place. Do they say 'duh' in England?"
"Not nearly so often," Wesley said. "Help me out, will you?"
Cordelia begrudgingly went around to the other side of the car and pulled Wesley's good arm over her shoulders. Strange to remember that there was a time when she would have melted at the very thought of being so close to him --
Now, that was the crush from Planet Weebo, she thought.
She glanced up at him and realized that he really was sort of pale. "Come on, let's get you in the
house so you can lie down."
"Good idea," Wesley said weakly.
As she fumbled for the keys with her free hand, she called out, "Phantom Dennis! Can you get the lights?" No sooner did she swing the door open than the lights flashed on. "Thanks tons. Oooh, are you taping ER?" Sure enough, the VCR was humming.
"And you watered the plants, didn't you? You're the best roommate ever! Well, I never had
another roommate, but I'm sure they would've been way less cool than you," Cordelia grinned and smacked the wall. "High five."
"Cordelia, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, could we perhaps find some bandages before I
"Oh, right." Cordelia jogged into the bedroom to grab the first-aid kit. "Just lie down on the sofa.
But don't bleed on it!"
"I shall try."
Cordelia grabbed up the box and looked around for the scissors -- where had she put them again?
-- when she heard a loud crash from the living room. "Wesley? Oh my God, are you okay?"
No answer. She ran into the front room to find him slumped beside the sofa, the shattered pieces
of her lamp beside him. "Come here," she said, pulling him up onto the couch without thinking
twice about the blood.
"I'm all right," he said quietly. "I -- I'm sorry about the lamp --"
"Oh, screw the lamp. It just screamed Pottery Barn anyway. Now, hold still." She fetched the
first-aid kit as quickly as she could and set about bandaging the arm.
"Are you sure you don't want to go to a doctor?"
"Honestly, I'm fine," Wesley insisted. "I've just been feeling a little strange."
"Those demons you fought with -- they didn't have poison in their spines, did they?"
"I don't think so," Wesley said. But he seemed a little worried.
The wall thumped once, then again. Cordelia glanced over. "Dennis? Problem?" But he didn't
answer. "I guess he gets restless," she said.
"Imagine being inside, day after day, no change of scenery," Wesley said.
"Yeah, but hey -- I'm the scenery."
"You're right. I'm sure he counts his good fortune," Wesley said, and his smile was so genuinely
warm that Cordelia blushed.
"You're crashing here tonight," she said.
"I've really bled enough on the sofa," Wesley said.
"You take the bed," she replied. "God, this job is turning me into a martyr."
"I'm sure Joan of Arc would have done the exact same thing." Wesley brushed her hair back from
her face. "Thanks, Cordelia."
"Well. You're welcome," she said, a bit flustered despite herself.
After they'd gotten settled down, and Cordelia was trying her best to get situated on her couch,
she thought back on her earlier discomfort.
Flustered. Blushing. About Wesley.
"Temporary insanity," she muttered as she rolled over.
Dennis thumped the wall again, perhaps in agreement.
She rolled over, smiling in the first drowsy moments of morning. Sunday? It must be Sunday
Inez only made those wonderful brunches on Sunday, with the bacon and the waffles --
Inez? Inez had quit after her dad wrote the third rubber paycheck in a row --
Cordelia sat up and sniffed the air as she stretched. Definitely bacon, maybe pancakes.
"Phantom Dennis? Have you learned to cook?"
Wesley glanced around the corner. "Look who's awake."
"Wesley? You're making breakfast? Are you sure you're up for that?"
"Up earlier than some people. Honestly, Cordelia, it's 8:30 on a weekday." His voice was gentler
than his words, as was his teasing smile.
"Sorry," she said without the slightest trace of apology. "It's not like my boss isn't going to be
sound asleep for another four hours or so. Anyway, I was talking about your arm."
"Oh, that," Wesley said, "It's not so bad today. Now, how do you stand on eggs?"
"Uh, very carefully?"
Wesley shook his head. "Scrambled? Fried? Poached?"
"Scrambled. Unless you think you could maybe whip up a quiche. This is great,Wesley. Thanks."
"No problem at all," Wesley said. Then, after a pause, "Anything for you."
Cordelia knew she was blushing again. And that Wesley was watching her blush. And that neither of them was looking away.
Phantom Dennis, perhaps jealous, chose that moment to toss a spatula across the room.
I am in some trouble now, she thought.
END PART ONE