Title: Race Relations
Author: Kassie
Distribution: If you are sick enough to want this, let me know.
Disclaimer: Joss made it up, too bad he is an incompetent ninny. Mutant Enemy and others own the rights. No suing please.
Rating: PG-13 + m/m interaction
Pairing: W/G
Spoilers: Happy Anniversary
Dedication: To Kat who issued the challenge. To Katie who is a kick- ass beta and deserves much love.
Notes: This is answer to challenge 139 at YGTS? Even though this was betaed, all mistakes are mine, and I claim them willingly.

"Whatcha up to, dawg?" Wes's hunched over the desk, magnifying glass in hand. Looks up at Gunn with the eyes of a drunk or a child with pink-eye, too many hours of "research": the codeword around these parts for obsession.

"Just giving this a going-over before Cordelia gets here and sees it." The back of his hand makes low rasping sounds as he brushes bits of tea biscuit off the vellum, and Gunn is drawn over to see what Wes is so engrossed in.

"Wes, that isn't what I think it is, is it?" Gunn standing on the opposite side of the desk, reaching out the index and middle finger of his right hand, brushes the tips over the silver finial closest to him. Closes his eyes and wishes he had called in sick today.

"Yes, Charles, it is what you think it is." First part riding a sigh and the rest a defensive mumble.

"You jacked Angel's Scroll of Doom? What the hell is the matter with you? AND you failed to mention it until I come up on you and bust you with it?" One hand on the edge of the desk, better leverage to bring his upper-body into Wesley's space, and the two fingers that assessed the reality of the scroll now inches from Wes's face, sudden motion to grab attention.

"I would thank you to get a hold of yourself before you start hurling accusations. This is not `Angel's' scroll. As far as I'm aware, it doesn't belong to anyone who is currently living, or unliving, what have you. Besides, Angel can't read proto-Bantu, what good is it mouldering away in the hotel?" Gunn's straightens and almost grins, almost, he checks himself. Moves over to the chair in front of the desk, props his elbows on the surface and gets down to some serious interrogation.

"Proto-Bantu, B-A-N-T-U?" Cocks his head to the side waiting for Wes to tell him, no `banttoo', or some other demon language he never wanted to know about.

"Yes, add the p-r-o-t-o, and that would be correct." His head's bowed again, not letting the other's man's presence keep him from the further disintegration of his eyesight.

"You mean to tell me that some ancient African tribe wrote this scroll? Some tribesmen back in the Stone-Age-day had visions of Angel?" Large palm and one two three four fingers and a thumb splayed out on worn, creased paper, and Wes's eyes are forced up to meet shocked brown ones.

"Wrote? No. Aberjian, the demon, he, she, it wrote the scroll. But, yes, a seer of one of the Bantu tribes foresaw the events contained in it." Glasses off and flung out on the desk. No amount of rubbing is going to ease the sting of eye-strain.

"So, you read African languages? That doesn't seem like the normal education for up-tight, white, British guys. Even ones that hunt demons." His hand's sill extended, Wes can only make out the general concept of hand on page, and the gash on the back he knows is from the fight last night, red set in brown contrasted against cream.

"My mother is, was, Rhodesian, it was an interest of mine. But, aside from that, different Watchers concentrate on different language groupings. I also happen to have a knack for language, so, perhaps I know more than some." Gunn's up and out of his chair, has a cup of water in the microwave before Wes has his glasses back on.

"You want some tea?" Muffled voice, head turned away, low hum of the machine as the water heats.

"I would love some. Two..." his words stolen and coming from across the room.

"Sugars. This isn't my first tea making experience, Wes." Slight pivot of the head and the edge of a smile from the standing figure, and now Wes isn't so sure what's happening here. Just like normal, the world drifts along, carrying Wesley along for the ride. No markers of sign-posts, just the moment and the movement and the realisation that life is not scripted, and there's never any way to know another person.

"Is this the way it usually goes? People smoke some kind of herb or gobble up a mushroom and have visions of people they know nothing about?" Pops another cup in the microwave and keeps his back to Wes.

"I don't know what "usual" means, but rarely have I heard of a case where the visionary and the subject of the visions were so closely bound as is the case with Cordelia." Petty and obvious truths to him, and sometimes it's hard to remember not everyone in the world has read what he has or lived what he has, and that's always such a shock, since his life is the baseline, the measuring stick, the boring example.

"I'm going to guess you didn't get the Michael Jackson treatment, and that your mama is of the white variety of South African."

Wesley wonders if perhaps he should have kept the whole Africa thing to himself. Americans have odd ideas promulgated by television. Such as, all whites from Africa hate blacks. It's worse than the normal, American racial tension, and that's not what he wants for his life. Another reason for Gunn to hold him at arm's length and see him as something foreign and possibly threatening.

Gunn with two cups, one with sugar, the other without. Sits one in front of Wes, not close to the scroll. He's made that mistake before with some Book of Woe and Worry and didn't hear the end of it for a week. Learns from his mistakes. Brings his chair around from the front to the side of the desk so he can get in get close get in the know. Face to face with Wesley and knees about to bump.

"You never mentioned that your mom was from Zimbabwe. Unload." African name, and semantics can mean everything, Wes knows all about that. Knows the word-games people play and why and wherefore and that's not the life he wants to live anymore.

"My mother's family were farmers in Rhodesia. She came to England for her schooling, met my father. What more is there to tell? It's just a place to be from, like any other." Why should he give in on the name? This is his history, his family. His mental landscape, where the waist-high, golden grass waves in the passing breeze, and the sky is vast and open and so cloudless you could fall right off the earth into it. It's the calming lilt of his mother's accent, the way she never broke, never laid down, and always wanted to go Home. To the home that would never be again. There is no right or wrong in that place, just soft-edges and wistfulness.

"Don't get your back up over it, English. I was just curious is all. White man's guilt twisting you up? It ain't like that between us, and you know it. I never met anyone from South Africa, country proper or region, before. Even if it's one time removed." Sets his tea aside and covers Wes's hand with his own. Two hands resting on Wes's knee, and so much more resting in the space between them.

"Have you ever heard this before? `Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear.'" Gunn's perfect cadence and projection unsettles Wes for a second. One more piece to wonder over and consider in the bright light of the morning when he lays down to sleep. Brings his own voice out of his throat to echo the rest.

"'...Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veldt with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.'" Wes's clipped vowels leaving Gunn's voice with the last word alone.

"I'm gonna take that as a yes." Fingers sliding out from under his own, glasses to attend to, his hand resting on a khaki pant leg, and no, he's not gonna let up. Not gonna look embarrassed or aloof. Gonna work his hand up a little higher, lean into it and watch for which way Wesley wants to play it.

"It's a famous book, Charles." And yeah, that's a hitch. Stuttered breath on the in-take, and Gunn's been walking on this side of the road long enough to know that's interest. Non-interest usually ends in black-eyes or blood-drawn. Not that Wes is the beat-up-what-you- don't-understand type, more of the avoid-all-eye-contact-and- sublimate type.

And this is the first time in days that Cordelia hasn't been here with her complaints and demands to distract him, distract them both. Never a better time than the present, especially when death has a special scythe with your name on it.

Gunn's right hand mid-thigh, and there's no sudden jerk, so left hand to the back of Wes's neck, clattering of his chair as it falls back and hits the floor when he falls to his knees. On his knees between Wes's rapidly widening legs, a hand running the path of his spine up to his neck, can see those white fingers in his mind, broken thumb nail, scar on the middle finger below the second knuckle. Wes's tongue as insistent as his bottom lips is full, and this is what dreams are like, unfettered and rolling, meaningless and all-meaning at once. Breath and skin and fabric and Gunn doesn't know what is happening beyond the sensations and the moaning whisper of his name in his ears.

"Charles. CHARrrrrrles."

Until there's a knee in his solar plexus, and Wesley is somehow fifteen feet or more away from him. Have to ask him how he learned to move so fast, left over reflexes from boarding school, probably.

Rattle, bang of the front door opening. Shadow of a bobbed head falling over his torso.

"What the hell are you doing on the floor, Gunn?" Harpy shrill and mother worry in one voice. Slams his head back on the weary linoleum and thinks about the veldt-land ablaze in a grass fire and drums in the distance. Wonders if Wes sees the same thing at night before he falls asleep.



Back to