Black on White

"I don't think that's right."

They were the first words Wesley had spoken since he'd sat down with the scrap of paper. He'd spoken little enough since the dying woman had thrust it into his hand and he'd unfolded it and read the words scrawled across it. He'd told them it was in Farsi, then said it was Old Persian. As they'd walked away from the woman's body -- Cordelia and Gunn dragging him as the police sirens approached -- he corrected himself again, saying it was Forsil, a demonic language which used the Arabic script.

They'd had to lead him to Gunn's truck, then watched as he walked into the office and towards his books, with his head down over the paper. After an hour it became clear they might as well amuse themselves with other things. They could only hope that Wesley could translate the phrases which so many had apparently died already to deliver into the right hands.

Whose hands were right depended entirely upon one's own standing in the events. The three were hoping to simply understand what was going on, before the bodies piled up any higher. Such were cases as these: called in on what appeared to be a straight-forward smuggling operation, where Gera demons were the ones lugging the boxes, everything had gone to hell within the first hour when they found the first dead human body. The next bodies had been Gera, then back to human. They'd been able to identify the two sides, but not which side was theirs.

When Wesley finally spoke, the other two both jumped. Cordelia set her cards down. "Did you get it? What's not right?" When Wesley kept staring at the paper, she asked, "Wesley? Did you translate it?" Gunn played one more card, then walked over to Wesley's desk, ignoring Cordelia's dirty look.

Wesley finally looked up, faintly surprised to see them standing there. "What? Oh, yes, the translation, yes...." He trailed off and looked down again.

They waited patiently for two seconds, then Cordelia snapped. "Wes! What does it say?"

"Hm? Oh, well... I don't think it's right."

He fell silent again, and this time Gunn prompted him. He poked Wesley in the head, and when Wes glared up at him, said, "Hello? Wanna share?"

"I think I should have someone else attempt a translation. Or help me research the Forsil and Old Persian texts for some other mention of it. I *really* don't think--"

Gunn folded his arms across his chest, and frowned down at him. "Wes. Give."

With a sigh, Wesley removed his glasses. "Very well. But don't ask me what it means."

"We promise," Cordelia said easily.

Wesley gave her a disbelieving look, then picked up the original piece of paper. He looked from it to them before beginning to read. "Nighttime comes, and one is alone. The winter comes. You shall flee, escaping my clutches. The blue is on a void, tears flowing into the river. Struggle, or struggling, which is meaningless. Games are played, conflagrations begun, winter comes. They shall die, silently and raving. All meaningless, you shall remain dead. The blue is on the void. The sightless shall understand everything, there is no justice for evil, and it shall be as you say." He looked up at them, and said, "Then it repeats."

For a long moment Cordelia and Gunn stared at him. They continued to stare long enough that Wesley finally shrugged.

"I *told* you it couldn't be right--"

"Are you saying that's why people are dying?" Gunn demanded.

"Apparently so. Though *why*, I haven't any idea. As prophecies go, it is completely unsubstantiated. None of the other texts refer to it, and even if it is a valid prophecy, I haven't a clue what it *means*."

Cordelia tilted her head slightly. "Yeah. And what does it have to do with smuggling?"

None of them spoke, looking at one another, and down at the paper Wesley held. Then Gunn shook his head. "Don't tell me I get to explain this one?" He got two astonished looks, at which he grinned. "I do! Damn, today's just my day. Smuggling, right? Shipping boxes of illegal goods to and from other countries and other dimensions, right? Something small, but valuable, and stuff you can't find anywhere but here." Wesley and Cordelia nodded, again. This much they'd figured out yesterday. Gunn rubbed his hands together, and repeated a few lines of Wesley's translation.

"Yes, we were here for that," Wesley began with a hint of confusion.

"Yeah, well, mind if I re-translate it for you?" Before waiting for an answer, he said, "They're smuggling CDs. That paper must have been proof that the CDs were coming from here. Don't know *how*, but that's what it is. Ever hear something that goes 'Night falls, I'm alone. Skin chill me to the bone. You turned and you ran. Slipped right from my hands."

Cordelia suddenly smiled, and sang the chorus with him. "Blue on black, tears on the river...."

Wesley gave them each an incredulous look. "Are you trying to tell me all this is about rock music?"

Gunn shrugged. "What's so strange about it? Sex, drugs, rock n roll -- what's a few dead bodies, as well?"

Wesley sighed and pointed to the paper again. "So now what? Tell the police that demons are illegally exporting our music?"

"Sure!" Cordelia grinned. "Or the FBI -- I think they have a division that deals with demons."

"Fine. You call them." Wesley handed her the paper, ignoring the fact that she couldn't read it. "I'm going home, unless you think we should go stake out the Goody's down the street."

Cordelia was already on the phone. She waved at him, and Wesley took that as permission to leave without being guilted for it tomorrow. He had his jacket on and was looking for his helmet when he realized Gunn was following him out.

"Yes?"

Gunn just looked back, guilelessly. "Whach ya lookin' for?"

"My helmet. I can't -- oh. Right, yes. Well, then, whenever you're ready...."

Gunn smiled. "I'm ready. Let's go." They headed out to the truck -- Wesley's bike safely left at his apartment, since the day before.

"I'd forgotten you were giving me a ride," Wesley said casually as Gunn climbed into the cab. Wesley kept his face impassive as Gunn slipped. "Don't look at me like that," Gunn warned. Wesley turned his most surprised look of innocence at the other man. Gunn just wagged a finger at him. "Ain't working so, just save it for the bank tellers."

Wesley waited until Gunn had started the engine before saying, "So you're not giving me a ride?"

Gunn slammed his foot on the brake, despite the truck's still being in 'park'. "What did I just tell you?"

Wesley thought it over. "You said something like 'don't tease me about the fact that it has been nearly 30 hours since the last time I got to be naked with you and anybody got to ride anyone'." He looked over, when there was no reply.

He found Gunn still glaring at him.

"Yes?"

"You're gonna make me do you in the truck, aren't you?"

"Charles! Really," Wesley said in a shocked voice. "Right here on the *street*?"

"Yeah, I'd believe that 'oh me, never' if you weren't undoing your jeans."

"Like you ever listen to me, anyhow," Wesley pointed out reasonably, and finishing pulling his jeans open.

"Uh-huh. If we get arrested again, you're paying bail." Then he leaned over, and Wesley had no argument for him.