Swim Lessons

By Saber ShadowKitten
And Now For Something Completely Different 33

Friday, September 1, 2000

Thursday bled into Friday with little conversation between them, but with a comfortable quiet that came from spending inordinate amounts of time together on the road. They didn't need to fill the silence with meaningless chatter. They were content to sit side-by-side and listen to the world turn.

Friday was blisteringly hot and, after lathering up heavily with sunscreen, Xander ducked into the always-cool Pacific ocean with a sigh. He was glad such a big body of water couldn't conduct the electricity coursing through him in a way that would cause any damage to the marine life, and his own messed up system protected himself from electrocution. He floated for awhile, far enough out that the cresting waves didn't disturb him. He let his thoughts drift like his body on the water, not concentrating on any one thing.

Eventually, he uprighted himself and, careful not to lose his sunglasses, swam towards shore, his powerful strokes easily eating the distance the ocean had carried him. When he touched bottom, he stood and walked toward Spike, who was sitting in a few inches of water and looking out over the ocean, a white figure against the white sand and white surf, as if someone forgot to color in the world.

Xander flopped into the sand beside Spike, sending up a small spray of water. "Did you eat like I told you to?"

"Yes," Spike replied. He gave Xander a sidelong glance. "You shouldn't go out so far."

"In the water?" Xander said. "Why not? I can swim."

"I can't."

Surprised, Xander said, "But you're old."

"And you're ugly," Spike countered flatly.

Xander rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses. "I meant -- comma -- that you've been around for a long while. It's just surprising that you didn't learn how to swim."

"Killing was more my idea of fun, Xander, not splashing around in a giant kiddie pool," Spike said pointedly.

"Okay. Yeah. I can see that." Xander tentatively put his hand on Spike's wrist and, once he was sure he wasn't going to electrocute Spike, stood and tugged Spike to his feet. "C'mon, I'll teach you the basics."

Spike resisted Xander pulling him further into the ocean. "Why? I've got on this long without knowing how t'swim."

"But you never know, we might go on a cruise on board a ship called the Titanic, and we saw how that movie ended," Xander said.

"I somehow doubt that," Spike said, still resisting.

Xander gave him a suddenly understanding look. "Spike, are you afraid of the water?"

"No!" Spike glared at Xander, but shortly wilted under Xander's continued stare. "I'm, uh, just not too fond of the undertow."

Xander grinned knowingly. "All the more reason to learn how to swim. In case you ever fall into the undertow."

Spike's glare returned, but he allowed Xander to pull him into the ocean. Xander's hold on Spike's wrist became Spike's death-grip on Xander's hand somewhere between the ocean's foam caressing their feet and where they'd stopped in the waist-high salt water. Xander was highly amused, though he tried not to let it show. A vampire afraid of the water -- correction, the undertow -- was a novelty in Xander's book.

"Doesn't the water feel good?" Xander asked, dipping slightly into the cool water.

"It's wet," Spike said, his voice tight.

Spike's hand trembled in Xander's and Xander immediately felt badly. He wanted to teach Spike to swim, not terrify him. It took a lot of trust for Spike to even allow Xander to drag him into the water when he was clearly afraid and violating that trust would be not very nice. As much as Xander didn't like Spike, he would never purposely terrorize him, not after the loyalty he'd shown over time.

"I won't let go, Spike," Xander said, his tone quiet and serious.

Spike looked at Xander a moment, nodded, and slowly exhaled the breath he didn't need but held anyway. "What do you want me to do?"

"Get wetter," Xander replied, lightly splashing Spike with his free hand. He received a glare and a face full of water in response.

Laughing, the impromptu swim lesson got underway. Not once did Xander break his word, keeping a hand on Spike at all times while they were in the water. Xander taught Spike emergency floating once he managed to convince Spike to put his face in the water.

Breaking only to reapply sunscreen every so often, they stayed in the water the rest of the hot afternoon.