Xander and the Mermaid
by Tesla

"Look," Xander said, his Saturday-morning mellow all harshed, "I may have issues about not being tidy, and eating fast food, but why the hell are you cleaning up?" He set his cup on the newspaper- strewn coffee table, the better to watch William the Bloody, currently picking up the trash in Xander's apartment, instead of watching Iron Chef.

Spike folded up two discarded pizza boxes in halves and shoved them in a plastic sack with the accumulated newspapers, hamburger wrappers, take-out sacks, and discarded paper cups from the past week. "Tired of livin' like a pig, Harris," Spike grunted. "Surprised you don't have some flesh-eatin' virus growin' here." He held out a styrofoam box of chicken bones, with the austere expression of Odo on Deep Space Nine.

Hey, maybe there would be a marathon this afternoon.

Back to matters at hand. Xander put his hands behind his head and stretched out.

"Yeah, but why do you care, dead man? And why are you here anyway? Don't you have a crypt?"

"Yeah, but the fuckin' cemetery's under new management. They're makin' lists, checkin' 'em twice, catalogin' all the plots and crypts. Hell, they're landscapin'!" Spike sounded shocked.

That was the thrill of hanging with vampires, Xander reflected. You never could predict what would upset them, or what they would think was funny. All apart of the rich tapestry of Sunnydale underground.

"Why is landscapin'----landscaping----so horrifying? Hey, I'm still reading that!"

Spike ruthlessly plucked the television supplement out of his reach. "That's last week's, git. This week's in your loo." He sat back. "The cemeteries are bein' bought up by a corporation who wants to attract more upscale burials. Which wouldn't be you, Harris. You're a slob."

Xander rolled his eyes, and reached for his coffee cup. At least the undead made good coffee. "This is news to you, how? As I recall, we spent plenty of time in each other's company. You never used to clean up, much less---dear God, is this a spell? Or, have you just spent way too much time watching Martha Stewart and Trading Spaces?"

Spike didn't answer, just going into the kitchen and rummaging around. Presently, the microwave pinged, and Spike was back, a gently steaming mug of blood in one hand and a bag of garlic sticks in the other. "Give up the remote, boy, the Man U game is bein' repeated, and don't tell me the final score an' spoil it."

Xander handed over the remote. "Couldn't even if I wanted to."

"Got no soul, Harris," Spike muttered. The television clicked over to a green field and a stadium of of screaming spectators.

Xander found this irresistibly funny. "I got no what? "

Spike slid down on his spine, planting socked feet on the coffee table. Hey, those were the red socks Willow had given Xander. "Y'know what I mean."

"Why're you wearing my socks, Spike?"

Spike turned and glared at him. "Maybe it's because I stepped on a buggerin' taco first thing this mornin' in my socks. After I took off my boots so I wouldn't interrupt your snoring. Clearly, that was a mistake."

"Took 'em off so you could sneak in, you mean," Xander said. Not for the first time, he noticed that, at times, Spike sounded like Giles. "Yeah, maybe I needed to clean up."

"It smelled, Harris," Spike muttered, apparently taking that as an apology. He sat up straight, red feet dropping to the floor. "Hey! Foul! Foul!"

Something was out of whack. Wacky. Askew, if you will. The undead wasn't being unduly insulting, he was cleaning, and he was wearing Xander's socks. He hadn't woken Xander up at pre-dawn, or whenever he lurched in, and, coffee!

"Is this all part of some plot?" Xander asked.

Spike looked at him over the rim of his mug. "Yeah. Martha Stewart communicates through the television screen to all her minions. Cleanliness will ruin your brain and you'll become a zombie."

Xander scowled. "It could be a plot."

"Game's back on," Spike said. After a moment, he said, eyes on the television, "Stop starin' at me."

It was that night that they found the mermaid.


Xander wasn't about to argue about patrolling the beach, for once. Because, sand in your shoes or not, the moonlight on the breaking wavelets beat the moonlight on tombstones. Hands down.

"It's easier to see anything coming to kill you, too," Willow chirped. She rubbed her nose, thoughtfully. "Not that there is anything to see. I wonder why Buffy and Giles wanted us to patrol here?"

"To get you lot out of the way?" Spike asked, dispiritedly kicking a bit of flotsam---or was that jetsam? "Ever think that they wanted to talk to each other without you hanging on every word?"

Tara's and Willow's heads turned as if on a swivel, as they stared at Spike, then Xander.

"Can't be that," Willow said, authoritatively.

"No, Giles is more interested in---" Tara stopped, and even in the pale moonlight, Xander could tell that she was blushing.

"Your ex-girlfriend," Spike said, with a certain pleasure. As in the "Ha, ha Harris, I told you" kind.

Xander turned, and wandered back towards the coves, to give himself time away from the rest of them. True, he and Anya had broken up, but it was one thing to have her date Giles, and wasn't that kind of incestuous?

And why did the evil undead know before he did?

He heard a loud splash and thump, and a woman cursing.

"Oh, damn," the woman said. "Excuse me, could you help me? I think I miscalculated."

A woman was lying on the sands, propping herself up on her elbows, and she was naked, and she had...

a tail. A fishtail.

She was, in fact, a mermaid.

"No," Xander said. "How do I know that you're not evil?"

"I'm not evil!" She wailed. "My head is stopped up, and I beached myself! And the tide is going out! And I'll be stuck here, because the stream is going out fast!"

"I don't want to get wet," Xander said. He was watching to see if her hair covered her breasts, and gosh, it didn't. "Besides, what if you just want to get your scaly hands on me and drag me out to sea with you and eat me?"

"I don't eat people," the mermaid said with hauteur. "Just take my wrist, will you, and pull me?"

"Well," Xander began, "I suppose---"

Behind him was the familiar click and hiss of a cigarette being lit with a Zippo. "He's right," Spike said. "Your kind doesn't beach itself. Show your true self."

The mermaid put her face in her hands. "I can't believe it," she said. All this time, the tide langourously slid in and out beneath and around her, a little further out each time. "I'm a mer. Maid."

Spike turned, and whistled sharply.

Tara and Willow ran down the face of the dune.

"A mermaid!" Tara said.

"Uh oh," Willow said.

"What?" Xander asked. "I don't like 'uh oh.' Bad things happen when you 'uh oh'."

"This is a symptom of a greater problem," Willow said. "Magnetic fields and ocean currents going astray."

"Drying out, here," the mermaid said.

"I think it would be okay to help her," Willow said.

"You think?" Spike asked.

Xander stepped into the water and took one wrist, and Spike followed, after first shedding his duster onto the sand.

"Careful," she said, as they pulled her around. "Ouch! Watch the scales!"

Her skin felt like---well, she felt like Spike, but actually colder, those few times that Xander had had any contact with him. And she smelled like seawater and kelp.

Her tail flexed, and Xander said, quickly, "Let go, Spike!"

The mermaid smiled, and raised her arms above her head in the water. Then, with a dart, she slid out into a wave and was gone.

"That was interestin',for a change," Spike said mildly. He tromped loudly back onto the dry sand, his cigarette still lit, Docs leaking seawater.

Xander watched, as out to sea, something flicked in the air, an arc of phosphorence.


By day, the cove didn't seem so magical.

"Nothing to see here," Xander muttered to himself. He climbed up on a jutting rock. It was high tide, now, a quiet, sunny Sunday. He threw a seashell into a deep dark pool under the rocks.

"Watch it," called the Mermaid. She raised her head from the pool, barely disturbing the water. Her wet hair clung to her head, making her look as sleek as a seal.

"I thought you had to catch a stream," Xander said, sitting down on the dry rock.

She ducked her head, and popped back up at his feet. "I'm waiting for my sisters," she said. "They sent word that they're coming back." Her shoulders emerged, and she floated on her back, hands barely skimming the water. "I called you," she said smugly.

"Yeah?" Xander asked. "Figures. I'm a demon-magnet."

"I'm not a demon," the mermaid said. "But, we are magical creatures. There's a Hellmouth up there, and it's always throwing us off. Messes up our senses, you know." She raised one hand and let water trickle from it. "So I thought I'd see if I could still call men." She laughed, and it was like the sudden, raucous bark of a seagull.

"For what?" Xander asked.

"Conversation. It's boring, just waiting. And I like you."

"Sure," Xander said. "I'm irresistible to magical creatures. My own kind, not so much."

"Oh, sharkbait. What's wrong with you? If I had legs, I'd wrap them around you." The mermaid raised her hand, and there was a pebble in it. "Here, take this. This'll help." She tossed it at him, and Xander automatically caught it.

"What's this?" he asked, taking it gingerly. It was like a lump of putty.

"It'll help you find true love," she said, and then, with a splash and a shimmer of spray, disappeared.


"Magical creatures just hand you things and you take them?" Willow scolded.

"Mermaids are famous for their seductiveness," Giles murmured, looking at the thing. Xander wondered why he was the last one to realize that it was petrifed whale poop.

"There were boobies," Tara whispered to Willow. "Nice boobies, we talked about it."

"Yes, this is definitely ambergris," Giles said, looking interested. He smelled it. "It has the characteristic smell."

Xander sniffed his hands. The skin of his palms smelled---like the beach.

"So, you go bring her a fish?" Spike asked, tossing his lighter from hand to hand. He sat sprawled in one of Giles' armchairs, wearing one of Xander's sweaters, the black one that Anya had bought him.

"No," Xander answered. "Is it magical?"

"I don't think so," Giles said cautiously. "But we can perform a few simple tests. Did she say anything regarding it?"

Xander's ears turned red. "No," he mumbled.

Since tomorrow was a workday, he went home early, leaving the undead to drink whisky and watch the magic. Xander fell asleep on the sofa, and awoke late, late, hearing the ding of a microwave and the smell of warm blood.

It was kind of weird that he was used to that.

When Spike saw him stirring, he said, "They don't mate y'know. They lay eggs that look like cocoons. An' they hatch out like tadpoles. It's disgustin', is what it is, you thinkin' you're gonna shag a mermaid. Catch."

And because Xander was fogged with sleep, the pellet dinged him in the center of his undershirt and dropped to the floor, as he stared at Spike.

"Even Superman met his when she was in a wheelchair," Spike shot, before picking up the remote control with finality.


The coffee woke him up, which was good, but Xander didn't remember programming the coffee maker the night before. He avoided waking Spike, who was asleep on the sofa with the television showing the null screen that meant Spike had bought Pay Per View in the wee hours.

He had set a can of "Chicken of the Sea" tuna on the kitchen counter.

After work, as the sun was setting, he drove by the beach, and watched the ocean tossing a million diamonds. He sighed, and drove to see Giles.

"Help you find true love? Good Lord," Giles muttered, and put on and took off his glasses.

"Well, I wasn't going to say anything in front of the others," Xander said. "Mainly because it's the same old thing: Xander hasn't any luck with females." He sighed. "Sometimes I feel like asking Willow to gay me up." He looked up. "Oh, don't look so guilty, G-man. I'm happy for you and Anya. I look forward to hearing all about your sexual peculiarities in the middle of the hardware department of Wal-Mart."

"She's much better about that," Giles muttered. "But, I assure you, this is just a piece of ambergris. It has no magical properties whatsoever. Except that Tara and Willow kept giggling about, er, boobies and went to the market to buy raw coconut." He put on his glasses. "Do I want to know?"

"No idea," Xander said, honestly. "How do mermaids reproduce?"

"It's not in the Watcher archives," Giles said. "Clearly, there's work to be done---preferably in Scuba gear. I rather think, as they're mystical creatures, they're created much like other aquatic demons."

Xander didn't care to admit that he didn't know what that meant. "Well, I'll go home and see what the undead is doing."

Giles started to say something, but obviously thought better of it.


"Lori Lemaris," Xander said, as he walked in the door. "She was in a wheelchair that was really a mobile aquarium tank."

Spike grinned, without taking his eyes off Oz.

Xander opened the refrigerator door. "Don't tell me you made tuna sandwiches."

"Nah, I ordered pizza. There was a coupon on the doorknob." The doorbell rang. "Pay 'em, huh?"

Xander opened the door and got his wallet out.

"Deep Space Nine marathon's starting!" Spike yelled.

Xander kicked the door shut and carried the pies to the coffee table. "Beer?" he asked. "You drink it all?"

"No, it's still there---what you call beer, that is." Spike hit mute. "Or, we could rent Splash, you know."

Xander held the bottle of beer out of his reach. "No mocking while you're eating my food. What did you tell the girls about coconut?"

"That it increased the intensity of orgasms," Spike said. "And that they could wear the shells for bras."

Xander handed him the beers, and sat down while Spike flipped the caps off with his thumbnail. "Hey," he said. "Know what the Japanese call the original Trek series?"

"No," Spike said, handing him his beer.

"Sulu, Master Navigator," Xander said.

Spike rolled his eyes. Then, he nudged Xander in the ribs. "Look, it's the one with the tribbles."

They simultaneously settled back


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