OPERATIVES

Disclaimer: the author does not claim ownership to the characters or plot development mentioned from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Angel". These properties expressly belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Greenwolf Corporation, 20th Century Fox Television, WB Network, etc. Any other characters contained in the original story are the author's.

Historical Note: The action in this story takes place after "To Shanshu in L.A."

Author's Note: A more light-hearted installment and seventh of my series "This Week at Angel Investigations." e.c. 26 aug 2000

COVERT OPERATIVES

by Evan Como

Dennis slammed the door.

"Seriously, Wesley. Did you even look at yourself in the mirror when you got dressed?"

Wesley bowed his head to study his attire from chest-level to shoetips. He was mystified and the shrug of his shoulders related as much.

Cordelia snorted her disbelief, dramatically pushing the air from her path, returning to her open magazine at the dining room table.

Angel blinked then cocked his head in consideration.

"What's wrong with what I've got on?" Wesley asked quietly, leaning towards Angel.

"It's--" Angel absently scratched the side of his nose. He scrunched his face. He studied Wesley more closely. "I don't know, Wes--"

"Oh, Angel! C'mon!" Cordelia, turned completely around in her chair, shook her head. "He looks like a friggin' dork! Ohmigod! He didn't even try," she added, offended.

"Maybe 'dork' is too strong a--" But Cordelia's hazel indignation cut Angel's defensive reply. "Or maybe it's the shirt, Wes."

"Damn skippy it's the shirt, Angel. And the pants. And those shoes. Those freakin' old man walking shoes he's got on. And the glasses, and that hair style. When was the last time you had your hair styled, Wesley?"

"I'll have you know, Cordelia, that I just recently had my hair cut--"

"Sty-ulled?"

"Angel. Can't you, please, make her stop?"

"Only if I get you halfway presentable, it looks like." Palming the back of his neck, Angel studied Wesley a moment longer then silently guided his friend in the direction of an acceptable wardrobe.

-0-

"What's this?" Wesley asked, taking the sleek glass from Angel's hand. He wiped the condensation from its surface with the smallest cocktail napkin he'd ever come into contact with.

"A prop."

Managing to concentrate past the blaring music coming from the worst speakers he'd ever come into contact with, Angel surveyed the crowded bar. It was perversely narrow, as if someone had simply roofed an alley. Using his height to full advantage, Angel was able to peruse most of the nearest patrons.

Wesley, slightly taller, swept a three-sixty. "I don't see anyone matching their description, do you?" When Angel didn't answer immediately, Wesley sipped from his prop. He felt immensely uncomfortable in Angel's shirt--one of the synthetics Angel was so fond of wearing; a synthetic that did an amazing job of holding every ounce of Wesley's perspiration against his uneasy flesh.

A young woman next to him, much too liberal with her cackling laughter, kept jostling Wesley with her exuberant hand gestures. "Excuse me, Miss," he interrupted with his most polite British inflection, "but would you mind?"

She stopped mid-sentence and turned her still-open mouth in Wesley's direction. "Mind what, cutie?"

He hated when he spontaneously blushed like he immediately knew he had. "You keep bumping me when you speak." Her hand, suddenly motionless, latched onto Wesley's forearm. All the heat in his body seemed to migrate to that spot.

"Is that better?" she purred above the crowd.

The ice in Wesley's glass rattled. "Ac- Actually? No. No it isn't."

He didn't hear what she said when Angel pulled him further into the room, but he knew it started with the letter 'f'. The drink bobbled and nearly spilled twice before Wesley settled into another location nearer the wall. He managed a two-forty, his eyes meeting Angel's upon completion. "Do you see them yet?"

Angel looked worried; or he looked menacing. While Wesley sometimes found it difficult to tell the difference between the two expressions in severe social situations, it wasn't difficult to notice the attention the vampire attracted, though, or Angel's discomfort.

"They're actually looking at you, Wes," Angel intimated after returning to his survey of the crowded room. "Sweaty is working in your favor."

Wesley nearly laughed when Angel quickly glanced back. But he held his reaction to a simple smile after noticing how unaffected Angel's own appearance was despite the room's unpleasantly warm temperature.

-0-

Angel remained in place until the tail-lights of Wesley's bike disappeared down Cordelia's street.

"You leaving again?"

Her voice didn't startle him. Cordelia's presence never startled him. Angel turned to the plain-faced young woman addressing him from the walkway of her building. Her hair, asymmetrically pulled to the top of her head, was listing to one side. She was all manicured limbs wearing an enormous tee-shirt with three elementary-aged female superheroes flying across its front.

"OK. You staying down here?"

Angel wasn't sure how good it was for Cordelia to walk around the block in her bare feet, but she didn't seem concerned.

"So did Wesley, like, totally unblend?"

Looking down, Angel merely smiled.

"Whoa. Check him out! Was he getting action or just *re*action?"

"Reaction. That's all."

"Yeah!" Cordy windmilled her arms a couple times before stretching herself a hug. "But that's cool, Angel. As long as he didn't figure out there wasn't actually an informant."

When she stopped, Angel pivoted and walked a couple steps backwards. "He has no idea. Thought we got stood up."

"*Very* cool!" Excited, Cordelia skipped to catch up. "How many times do you think we can get away with this?"

"Well," Angel began, pausing until Cordelia finished wrapping her arm through his, "*we* might be able to do this maybe one or two more times. Unless, of course, he gets the hang of dressing himself and then *we* might be able to pull this off indefinitely."

Cordy nodded agreeably. "So one or two more times it is," she giggled.

"Once or twice," Angel echoed, thirsty to share Cordelia's exuberance.

-0-

evancomo@netscape.net

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