Angel was hunched over a piece of very smudged paper, muttering to himself, when Cordy entered the office. She blinked, eyeing the small mountain of similarly smudged papers lying in a crumply heap somewhere in the vague vicinity of the trash-can.
"Remind me never to start an office basketball team."
"Wha-?" He looked up at her in confusion as she crinkled her way across the floor.
"Never mind. Angel, what are you doing?"
He waved at the paper and the ten open books around him. "I'm translating this."
"Uh-huh. You know, that is what Wes does, when he's not busy killing you for creasing his pages like he's going to be shortly."
Angel hastily straightened the pages in question, smoothing them desperately and plunking a heavier book on top of them. Cordy crossed her arms, still waiting.
"It's a surprise."
"Yeah, you know, like a present?" He shrugged, looking away almost guiltily. "For Wes. So he doesn't have to."
"And you think he'd rather trust his life to one of your translations than just do it himself?"
"Hey! I'm not that bad!"
She looked at him.
"Well, not mostly. Anyway, I'm not doing spells or anything. It's a book of demon's kids' stories."
"Demon's kids' stories?"
"Everyone's gotta be a kid once, right?"
"Right. I think. What kinds of stories do they tell their kids, anyway?" She shook her head to clear it of a few too many images she didn't really need. "Never mind. Don't want to know."
"Well, actually, I haven't got very far, anyway."
"Um. Half a sentence? Hey," he protested, "it's a really hard language!"
"Uh-huh. So what have you got?"
He peered down at his current attempt, smudged and crossed-out and re-written, and parsed out the words one at a time. " 'I wish...the goblins...would —' "
The hotel's outer door creaked open and slammed closed, and he looked up, wide-eyed.
"Cordelia?" Wes' voice drifted in to them. "If you're here, I could use a hand!"
"Get Wes out of here!" Angel whispered urgently to her.
The lights went out, and from the lobby came the sound of several things falling suddenly to the floor.
Gunn glared at him as they hoisted themselves over yet another wall. "Angel — don't ever translate anything ever again, okay?"
"Hey, it wasn't my translation that —"
Gunn continued glaring. Cordy had stopped speaking to him about eight hours ago.
They finally hit the pathway to the castle after only — Angel glanced at his watch — twelve and a half hours. Lorne had said they had thirteen.
Well, Angel was pretty sure that's what he'd said; he'd been laughing rather hard at the time. They'd tried to point out that Wes might be going through unspeakable tortures as they spoke, but he'd just laughed harder.
Anyway, they should make it in plenty of time, if there weren't any more booby traps, though he refrained from saying so out loud; a chance remark of Cordy's had had them climbing out of a slime-filled bog a few hours back.
Examining every step warily, they finally made it to the castle door, and Gunn grinned widely as he shoved it open. Done! Now all they had to do was grab Wes and head home.
They found him in the throne room, lounging on the large throne, the goblin king curled possessively around him.
"Wes!" Angel looked him over quickly. He looked a little rumpled, but otherwise good. "Are you okay?"
"Am I —?" He looked quickly at the king and away again. "Yes, I'm ... fine." He coughed.
Angel scowled at the smirking monarch. "Come on, we're getting out of here." He strode up the steps and grabbed Wes' arm, pulling.
Wes didn't budge. Frowning, Angel pulled with all his strength, but he still couldn't move Wes an inch. Wes just sat there.
"We made it in time!" Angel stood menacingly over the goblin king, who seemed unaffected. "We did your damn maze, now you have to let him go!"
"Oh, but I have." He chuckled. "If Wesley wants to leave with you, I have no power to stop him. Those are the rules."
"What do you mean, if he wants to leave? Of course he — Wes, tell him!"
Wes cleared his throat, looking embarrassed.
"Wes?" Angel looked at him, dumbfounded. "Why would you want to stay?"
The king was staring at Wes hungrily, and Wes was staring right back, smiling. "I'm sorry, Angel, did you say something?"
"Um..." Wes' hands were already toying with the king's ruffled shirt. "Wes?" He looked back to Gunn and Cordy for advice, but they were trying very hard not to meet his eyes.
He looked back — the king had hooked his fingers into Wes' belt and was running a hand over his chest. "Uh, guys?"
"Hm?" Wes couldn't manage any more than that, because the goblin king was ... well.
Angel blinked, but the image remained. "Never mind."