Never Pay the Reaper With Love Only

Sometimes the clichés are the truest form of expression. That's how they got to be clichés, after all, he consoled himself afterwards. After he stopped and noticed having had one of those moments, a flash of clarity, a moment of realization that this is life and it was as good as anything could get. Life. Living. Running at top speed hoping to god he didn't die this time.

Wesley wasn't sure if god were listening. Maybe someone else was, because there was no other explanation for the feel of solid rooftop under his feet after too long seconds of dizzying nothingness, when he'd been grateful that he'd remembered another cliché - don't look down. Landed and rolled and on his feet again, running. Full out now, shoes slipping a little on the asphalt but he knew it wouldn't matter. He had his speed, now, his footing would take care of itself. Balance when he needed it - paid for by having none when he didn't. The grace of a fighter trapped with a mind who only wanted to stay home and not know evil was real.

He ran, the sounds of the city faded to meaninglessness because that wasn't what he needed to hear. The pounding of too many footfalls was. Pounding, racing, landing with too loud thumps as their greater weight crashed onto the rooftop. Thumps and growls and shouts in a language even he didn't recognize, growing louder until he was suddenly growing afraid.

They might catch him.

He didn't risk a look back - that's what hearing was for. Track them by ear, find his escape by sight. Pray for rescue, with his voice. Silently, as he could no longer spare the breath. Running too long, minutes now after stumbling into what had not been supposed to be so many demons crouched over quite so much- but he didn't think about death. The dead bodies below and behind them didn't matter, now. Couldn't, not until he ran fast enough to escape and send the troops back to avenge. Theirs, maybe his if he couldn't find another way off this roof. The edge was growing near, and if the fire escape wasn't below, he would have to-

The sheer drop was unmarred by metal stairs. The pounding was growing closer and he knew he had only seconds before a large fur-covered hand reached the scruff of his neck and flung him over. He leapt, then, as he felt the soft touch of air ruffle his hair, fingers missing grabbing on by someone's grace.

He wished he knew who watched over him. He owed them sacrifices. Prayers of thanks, maybe a dead chicken or two. He'd build an altar and offer up whatever was asked, if only they'd give him a name. A face. Sometimes it was hard on a guy, owing your life to an anonymous god. Or a goddess.

As he fell towards the rooftop below, he told himself now was not the time to be realizing such things. Thinking had no place when he needed instinct to get him out of here. He hit, rolled, and for a single moment he could not spare, lay there facing the sky. No stars - smog and neon lights created a different sort of night sky.

He whispered a short entreaty to whomever was watching over him - apologizing for thinking it a god all this time, when it might be female. Pointed out if she or he had only said something then he would have known. Meant no insult then he was pushing himself to his feet again, for the demons were following, throwing themselves over the edge after him.

For a second he wasn't sure the roof would withstand their landing. As he scrambled for the next edge, hoping for something more than a flight-high drop, he realized that if it didn't withstand their landing, he might be saved. Or dead with them. At some point he would have to stop running. Fight, maybe, or hide long enough to finish the phone call he'd barely managed to place, gotten no farther than 'demons' when they'd spotted him and attacked, full force.

Tried to attack. It was hard to hit something running. He hoped. If any of them got the bright idea to throw something at him....

His heart squeezed tightly, or maybe it was his imagination. It should have been pounding too hard to do anything else. Running along a wall, he went around a corner and found the long distance to the next edge. No way to guess what was beyond it. Another shorter building? Empty space? Another cliché, open truck passing beneath? A flame thrower so he could turn and wipe them all out? The last of the thumps, and they were all after him once more. No time to do more than hope. Maybe it was time to start hoping his killing would be quick. They were faster than he and he could tell there was one growing near again, only a few steps and the edge was too far away to reach before the demon caught him.

Wished he knew what prayer his benefactor liked best. Now would be the perfect time to promise up the best. His life, perhaps. Eternal devotion and servitude. A dead goat? Chocolate?

"Wesley!!"

He didn't veer towards the voice, but he looked. Still running towards the edge, he caught a glimpse of the furry arm sweeping towards him and he ducked, tripping and sprawling in an ungainly mess on the rooftop, gravel digging into his knees and elbows and shoulder as he saw the demon falling towards him.

It bellowed, once, before vanishing in a deep blue light. Wesley blinked, and looked over. Cordelia was holding something in her hands, something glowing, and she was glaring at another demon. Beyond her was Gunn, swinging an ax that looked much larger and stronger than a hand-made sharpened hubcap. Something went flying and there was another bellow.

He tried to get to his feet so he could fight - no weapons that would help, he remembered, part of what had sent him fleeing in the first place. Then he caught sight of Angel, throwing a demon over his shoulder and into the path of something, a thin black line. Then there were sparks everywhere and another dead monster.

Wesley found he couldn't get up, so he stopped trying. Watched the fight, instead, as Cordelia blue-flamed another two demons and Gunn beheaded one and Angel broke one's neck and threw another into a wall. Held them still while Cordelia walked over and sent them into whatever oblivion the blue thing - Rorck stone, he recognized, and placed the identity of his pursuers. Boschac demons, hideous creatures with a love of ripping things apart and filling vats with the leftover parts for meals, later. Come here for a harvest, no doubt, taking dinner home to the wife and kids.

His head fell back as the last of the demons vanished, and he closed his eyes. Trying to breathe was suddenly too much, all his concentration focused on pressing his lungs wider, fighting the muscles which wanted nothing more than to stop for a moment, and rest. Heart still beating frantically, everything in his chest hurt and he suddenly became aware of a burning sensation in his legs. How far had he run, then?

Wesley rolled himself back onto his side, trying to stretch his torso so he could breathe easier, breathe at all. Silently offered his thanks to the one who had saved him, and apologized for demanding to know who it was.

"Wesley!" A frightened voice, then hands on his shoulder and back, rolling him gently over. He looked up into Angel's face.

He wanted to say 'just in the nick of time', but his lungs were still sucking down air. Grabbing it and holding it in, he wasn't sure he could speak without saying just a lot of 'uh's and 'ah's.

"Are you hurt?"

He shook his head, let Angel pull him into a sitting position. His legs sprawled, now he could feel the muscles turning to Jell-O. Glanced back along his path, seeking the building he'd started from. Found it, and wondered why he couldn't remember getting from that one, to the next. He recalled going up the flight of stairs - how many? He collapsed against Angel.

"Come on, let's get you home." Angel had his arm underneath his legs, the other on his back, and Wesley knew he should protest such treatment. Instead he let his head fall on Angel's shoulder and kept breathing.

"Than-" he managed, a moment later. Angel was carrying him, Cordelia and Gunn following with concerned and relieved expressions. "How?" Then he was breathing again, and counting rooftops between here and there. He'd run that far? All he remembered was gravel and asphalt and air. Twice, perhaps, he'd jumped. Later he'd shake.

"We traced the phone call. Once we arrived, it wasn't hard to spot you - once we looked up. We drove ahead and took the elevators up," Angel explained calmly. Wesley nodded.

"How...did...."

"Shh. You can ask later."

Cordelia held the rooftop access door open - though it hadn't been closed, exactly. It looked torn off its hinges. Wesley smiled.