The Mermaids Singing

Trixie Firecracker

Summary: Buffy/Wesley. Shades of others.
Rating: PG
Story Notes: Spoilers through A:tS 4x22 Home, BtVS 7x22 Chosen.
Disclaimer: Joss owns the Buffy and Angelverses. I do not.

Salt wet air drips between my teeth to fill my mouth as I stare at the glow on the horizon. Orange light spills over the waves, their tips frothing with dove-white near the breakers. Bald Head Island glitters with the rising of the sun and I shade my eyes briefly from the sharp glare as it finally collides with the clouds. I think I can hear the mermaids singing. It's going to storm today.

Stripping down to my underwear and bra, I leave my pyjamas on the weather-beaten steps, their pant chipped edges cutting into my feet as I walk down to the beach. Only a few short sprints with the reeds stinging my legs and then I am in the water up to my elbows. The quick rush of cold momentarily stuns me and I take a breath, ducking down until the water drowns my head with acrid blue. Kicking furiously, I make my way up and down the length of the beach only a couple of times until my eyes begin to tear up and I can't see anything. Sometimes I think I can feel his ashes on my skin and it makes me want to rush up to the house and shower until my flesh is raw. Shameful thoughts. How can I be scared of what was my husband?

Swimming back to the beach, I crawl up onto the sand on my hands and knees. I only allow one uncontrollable sob (as if I had any choice) to escape my lips and touch my fingers to the shadows beneath my eyes. Purple badges of honour, to some people. (Of course you can't sleep, Buffy. No one sleeps when they've been through a loss like yours). The pads of my thumbs come away black. Mascara. I forgot to wash my face again last night.

Sand clings to my skin as I stand and make my way back up to the house. The fabric of my underwear feels squishy and uncomfortable and I think longingly of hot water and later, coffee and Krispy Kremes. Maybe I'll even read the newspaper. Or Cosmo. Trying to decide between the two, I at first don't notice the figure sitting on the swing tied between the pillars my porch. Until it speaks.


I glance up, startled to hear my name. It takes me a moment, but finally recognition floods through and I take a halting step forward. "Wesley." I let the name sink in and then shake my head. "I don't think surprise fully covers it."

The formerly clipped British accent is less pronounced. Softer, more mellow. "I'm terribly sorry to simply show up this way. Without first phoning, that is. But you—


"I'm unlisted," I explain briefly, taking him in with one glance. I suppose its been close to eleven years since I last saw him. Gone are the suits and the slicked back hair and the baby smooth skin. I can barely reconcile that image with the one in front of me. Worn leather jacket and jeans coupled with a un-shaven face and mussed hair. "Sorry, but—did you join a band or something?"

He looks faintly amused. "Pardon?"

I finally join him on the porch. "You look- dishevelled. Like maybe you spent the night stage diving." I shrug. "Either way, you're definitely not the Wesley of my memories."

"You can't have many of those," he points out mildly.

"I have a few. In most of them you were being a jack ass."

"Regrettably, that hasn't changed."

I laugh quietly and then gesture to my appearance. "I guess I should be the one apologizing."

"I wouldn't say that."

"How did you find out where I live?" I ask him bluntly, irritated that he hasn't volunteered the information.

"Dawn," he explains succinctly. "She wasn't difficult to track down."

I nod. "No, she wouldn't be. Want some coffee? Or maybe tea?"

He smiles at the jab. "Coffee would be fine, thank you."

Opening the screen door, I grab the robe on the back of it and pull it on. It is old and ratty and very comfortable. My feet make squelching noises on the tiled floor as I lead him into the kitchen, and I ignore the mess I'm making.

"So is this a touristy visit?" I inquire, switching on the coffee maker. "Or are you here on business?"

Wesley gives me a blank look as he sits on one of the white stools lining the island in the center of the room. "Neither."

"Vague," I sigh. "I'm used to that. Go on."

"It's not something—" he bites his lip. "I'd prefer to ease into it, Buffy. If that's all right."

I shrug. "Are you enjoying North Carolina?


"I haven't seen that much of it actually," he replies. "But the ride to the ferry from the airport was lovely. It most certainly isn't Los Angeles."

"And that's a good thing?" I take out two cups and place them on the counter, stroking the sides of them thoughtfully. I dropped one of them when Michael and I first moved in. He glued it back together despite my protests. Someday I hope it shatters - because I know I was right. You don't force what's already broken.

"In some ways, yes," he answers. "How long have you lived here?"

"Five years." Deftly pouring the steaming coffee into the mugs, I place one in front of him and take the one with the cracks, fitting it between my palms. "I moved here when I got married."

"Is your husband at work?"

"No, he's currently at the cemetery," I answer without inflection. "He died a few months ago."

Wesley stares at me, setting his coffee down. "I'm—"


"No. All right."

"How is everyone?" I ask, hearing the distant thrum of the waves spinning onto the shore. "The last I heard— you were all being bad-asses for some law firm in the city."

"That didn't last for very long," Wesley responds, rubbing his temples absently. "Cordelia is fine. I don't see very much of her—but I do know she's all right. As for the rest— well—Gunn died a long time ago. Fred is—Fred's fine.


The coffee feels warm in my belly and I rub my knees together, trying to restore some feeling to my shivering flesh. "And Angel?"

"That's why I'm here, as a matter of fact."

"What do you mean?" I ask, suddenly jolted into the moment


Wesley looks straight into my eyes. "I'm very sorry. I thought I should tell you in person—which is why—Buffy, Angel's dead. He died a week or so ago.


"Of course he's dead. He's a vampire." I realize as I say the words how stupid they are, but I can't help it. The floor suddenly looks very far away and I place the coffee down on the countertop. Maybe too hard, because the crack splits open and burning liquid spills over my hands. For a moment I feel like laughing and saying 'I was right' but Wesley wouldn't get the joke. "How did he die?"

"He was executed." Wesley pauses. "By the new Council. They felt he was too dangerous—you were aware that over the past few years he was finding it difficult to control Angelus? His two personas sometimes blurred—and, well you can imagine."


I didn't know that," I say blankly. "He should have called me."

"Your number is unlisted."

"Oh. Right. Logic."


"No, I'm fine. Its just—I don't understand. Did he agree to this?"

"I'm not sure," Wesley looks vaguely ill. "I wasn't there. If I had been, it wouldn't have happened. Because I certainly wouldn't have agreed to it."

Tears sting the back of my throat. Stupid, useless and I feel like I'm going to throw up. "Neither would I." Staggering suddenly, I reach out and grip the island. "Was he angry that I got married?"

Wesley's face is impassive. "I'm afraid he didn't talk about you, Buffy."

"Of course not." I start to giggle. "But he was probably really mad that someone else got to enjoy the cookies."

"Pardon me?"

I gaze at him through a blur. "He just took too long—and I couldn't wait. I'm not that kind of girl."

"Buffy, are you all right?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"Because you can barely stand— come here."

I'm in Wesley's arms. He smells like the sea. Like salt and musky wool. I press my face against the heat of his chest and bite down on my lips as hard as I can. My mouth begins to split and I taste blood but I can't stop. I feel Wesley's hands in the tangled wet mess of my hair and his fingers pull at the knots. So awkward and I can't breathe. My lungs constrict and my scalp burns and there are red spots in front of my eyes.

My head rolls back and I whisper; "Did he kill anyone? While he was Angelus?"

"Yes," he answers. "Gunn. And Connor—his son."


Shadows roll in and Angel's ghost beckons me with one finger. I pass out in Wesley's arms.

I haven't dreamt of Spike in a long while. Not since the night he died, at least. My blistered hand bled ruby rivers for days. I spent the evenings on the bus cradling my broken fingers against my palm, staring up at the opalescent moon and smelling crayola wax and forgotten school children. I wept useless tears for my Mother's grave, for Anya, for William. They all shifted in and out of my dreams.

Now, as I awaken, salty and sore in my bed, I press a hand to my eyes, thinking that I dreamt of Spike while I slept. But I can't remember anything about it- such small mercies. Standing on the hard wood floor, I strip off my sodden underwear and place it in the wicker basket by the bathroom door. The house is quiet. I hear no sounds as I dress quickly in canvas pants and a white t-shirt, leaving my hair to hang down my shoulders.

Wesley is outside. I see the edge of his elbow through the mesh of the screen door. His hand holds a beer. It is shaking. Padding down the length of the kitchen, I join him outside, sitting next to him on the swing without uttering a word. But the silence does not last long.

"I feel as if I shouldn't have told you," he says quietly.

"Too late now," I answer dryly.

He continues as if I hadn't spoken; "I thought you had—well, that you would have a family for support."

"Just me."

"That appears to be a recurring theme with you."

I laugh briefly. "No arguments."

"What happened to your husband? Or is it too painful to discuss?"

I stare out at the mist hovering above the ocean. It looks green and ferocious. "He liked fishing. That was why we moved here— he would commute to the mainland. But he liked the water."


"It is. At least they found his body." I pause, remembering Acathla's mouth like a vacuum. "Sometimes it's the little things."

"Do you really believe that?"

I glance at him, surprised. "No. No. I hate it. I hate that he was stupid enough to go out that morning. The mermaids—"

"Pardon?" Wesley's eyes are soft but sharp, missing nothing.

I'm embarrassed. "Michael used to—he'd get up every morning and that was how he'd know what the weather was going to be like. By the mermaids. If they were singing, he knew it was going to storm."

"And that morning?"

"He heard them. He was stupid." I touch my throbbing temples. "Maybe he deserved it, I don't know."

"Like Angel did?"

The name hurts. I breathe out with difficulty and open my mouth to taste the salt in the air. "Do you believe that?"

Wesley shakes his head. "I would never have wished for Angel's death."

"I didn't ask that. I asked if you thought he deserved it."

His teeth appear as he grins. "You would think your bluntness would have been softened by the years. To answer your question... I'm not sure. Angelus deserved a thousand deaths. But it wasn't him who was executed."

"How did they do it?"

"He returned to us in an urn," Wesley says expressionlessly. "I assume they used a very effective stake."

The aching in my head intensifies. "They used my weapon? They had no right -"

"They are the Council," he reminds me. "I presume they thought he was too great a risk."

"He was always a risk," I say tightly. "Always."

"Especially when he was with you," Wesley points out mildly.

I watch as tiny white bubbles froth to the surface of his beer. "Another time when they tried to murder him."

"Faith attempted to murder him. They simply were not willing to help with the cure."

"Don't give me that shit, Wesley," I growl. "You were a part of leaving Angel to the wolves. Admit it."

"Do you imagine that you're the only one who feels this loss?" he asks me suddenly, his eyes glowing bright. "Angel was like a brother to me. And I don't have much family left, Buffy."

My anger subsides quickly, receding into my belly until I simply feel sick. "There's no one keeping the home fires burning?"

Offering the bottle of beer to me, he watches as I take it and sip slowly, the golden foam sticking to my upper lip until I lick it off.

"Fred," he answers finally. "I suppose Fred is waiting for me."

"Healthy tip?" I lean over and hand him the bottle. His fingers are cool and wet. He smells vaguely of burnt cigarettes and coffee. "Supposition is never a good thing in a relationship."

"That's all I can hope for with Fred. That she might be there when I return."

"Not the happiest of unions?"

Wesley looks at me. "Are there any happy unions?"

"Not that I know of."

"You and your husband?"

"I loved Michael." Pausing, I reach for the beer again. "But he didn't know my past. How I could I explain anything to him? He wouldn't have understood. Sometimes I don't even understand everything that happened."

Wesley's fingers cover mine as he takes the bottle. "Is that why you cut off contact with Angel?"

A bitter smile touches my mouth. "Is that what you think?"

"Well, he didn't know where you were."

"Yes he did."

Startled, Wesley turns to me. "What are you talking about?"

"We wrote each other letters for years. It was all very Days of Our Undead Lives."

"I'm not sure I follow."

"You wouldn't."


"I made a promise to him—before Spike died. Before Sunnydale was swallowed and everything changed--" my breath hitches and I stare at the sand caking my bare feet. "We made a promise to each other. But we couldn't keep it—not in the way we wanted. I needed—I wanted babies and sunny days. So we wrote to each other."

"Selfish of you," Wesley comments quietly, without rancour.

I gaze at the ocean for a moment mutely. "Very selfish." Closing my eyes, I remember sitting in this very spot last summer, reading his words and feeling the sticky heat in the back of my throat.

(I walk the streets every night, searching for the hopeless. I sometimes think Los Angeles attracts more than its fair share of trouble makers and lonely hearts. So I walk—every night—up, down, around the streets and I search but it never gets easier. Sometimes I think it would be better to go to the Carolinas and find you.

Do you feel alone on that island? I shouldn't be asking you questions, I know. I shouldn't be writing to you at all. Maybe it's just another mistake I'm making. But I can't help feeling that I'm interfering with your life again. That this will bring no good for you or your husband. I don't know if it fills some space for you. I don't know if I like that he makes you happy. Because you do seem happy. I suppose I should be grateful—its what I wanted for you. Something other than me or Spike - something outside of Sunnydale.

Sometimes when Cordy has the television on, I ask her to switch to the Weather Network. She has never guessed why. Just knowing if its sunny or storming in North Carolina makes it easier to picture you there.

I hear the phone. I love you.

Rain begins to drip quietly down over the island. Staring up the air-blue clouds, I shake my head. "It was more selfish than I realized at the time."

"Did your husband know?" Wesley asks, tapping his fingers in time with the rain.


"Of course."

"I'm not sure how he would have reacted. He had a horrible temper in the best of times." A wry smile touches my mouth. "The thought of Angel was enough to send most of my past lovers off the rails. I didn't want Michael heading in that direction."

"Angel did have a curious effect on people," he responds huskily. "Almost as if they wanted to live up to the image he had of them."

"Maybe we all just wanted to be saved."

"He couldn't even save himself."

"True." Sudden tears sting the back of my throat and I stand, stretching. "I need a swim."


"Twice a day," I shrug and raise my eyebrows. "You game?"

He looks with askance towards the frothing water. "It's going to—there's liable to be lightening and thunder and--"


"Not particularly."

I laugh. "C'mon, Wesley. Take off your clothes and we'll see what you can do."

"That sounds faintly ominous."

"No double entendre intended. Swimming only." Pulling my shirt over my head, I let it drop to the porch and slip out of my pants with a tug on the drawstring holding them to my hips. "Trust me, you'll love it."

"I somehow doubt that," he answers with a grimace, but stands, beginning to strip.

I begin to walk down to the beach, the reeds lashing against my legs and the rain stinging my eyes. I realize with some surprise that I'm weeping. The tears drip into the corners of my mouth and taste salty, like the waves that begin to curl around my feet as I step over seaweed and pieces of broken driftwood. The water is cold and smells like ashes. Stepping in, I dive down deep until the tips of my fingers brush sand and rock. It scrapes my palm and the trickle of blood rivers out from my veins, turning the water around me the pink of a new morning.

Gasping as I come up, I gulp for air and see Wesley out of the corner of my eye. He's naked and looks like fresh cream. I touch his hand and cry out above the roar of the impending storm, "Do you hear them?"

"Hear what?" he shouts back, gripping my fingers so hard that I feel the bones creak.

"The mermaids. Do you hear them singing?" I whisper this against his ear, tasting the sea and his skin.

"I think I do," he says softly and gathers me close.

"I hear them too," I answer, and kiss him just once. Light enough that I'm sure he thinks he's imagined it. "But I won't answer. Not yet."

"I won't either."

But we listen for a little while longer. Treading water in each other's arms, the salt stinging our cheeks and the siren's song lurking just below the ocean's surface.

I open my eyes as Wesley grips my palm and we turn back, swimming with all of our strength towards the shore.

I see the light shining through from the kitchen. And I smile.

The END.