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Family Experiments

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"Of all the bad ideas I've ever had," Xander Harris thought to himself, years of practice letting him snark internally while his body struggled desperately toward the far end of the pool, "this was definitely one of them."

To be fair, calling it an idea at all was rather generous.  It had been more of an instinct, feet automatically beating a path through the changing room lockers toward the pool.  Even if Xander hadn't just himself called the creature a lazy B-movie knockoff, his short tenure on the swim team hardly seemed enough explanation for the sense of calm and safety he felt when skin hit water.   As Xander fought his way desperately over to the other side, adrenaline urging his limbs faster, water whipping into a frothy mess all around him, he knew somehow that it hadn't been a mistake.  No one could catch him right now.  The water seemed to surge around him, rallying him farther away from the sad creature chasing after with sluggish, rubbery limbs and crude webbed feet.  For a moment, just a moment, He knew.  That monster, that kid that used to be his classmate, might be a failure, but if it had succeeded, if the coach had succeeded, it would be just like...

His hand smacked the pool edge, and with a perfectly fluid motion, trademark clumsiness notably absent, xander was out, standing, and facing back toward the pool.  The creature was thirty feet away and closing, but xander was inexplicably still, watching it.

"Him.  That's Roy Cameron swimming in that pool, gills and all."

Xander had seen a lot of dead bodies this past year, but this was somehow something much more disturbing.  This wasn't just another lifeless corpse.  This guy was alive in there, altered beyond recognition but still alive.  He...

"He..Is right in front of me." The monster's head popped out of the water, hissing at him in rage and annoyance.  Snapped out of his inappropriately timed Angel impersonation, Xander backed toward the pool entrance.

"Sorry Roy, nobody likes a sore loser."

When Xander met back up with the scoobies in the library, he told them what happened at the pool, leaving out the part where he wins the inter-species swim championship. The events at the pool had already taken on a fuzzy, unreal quality, and Xander didn't feel up to convincing anyone he wasn't crazy.  Caught up in the importance of dealing with the coach and rounding up the rest of the team, the issue of Xander's personal best swim time was left to sit on the back shelf of his mind.  By the time he was able to think about it, at home that night in his bed and trying to ignore his Dad's angry shouting downstairs, he decided Roy the gill-man must have been slowed down before he reached the pool.

"I couldn't have out-swam that 'roid raging fish beast.  I couldn't even out-swim Cameron back when he was a real boy.  What is my life that my first jump from 'fast swimmer' is to compare myself to freak science experiments.  You have a bit of natural talent, and the world is shocked, but it's no big deal."

Meanwhile, the one-sided argument downstairs had come to an end.  Mrs. Harris sat at the kitchen table, bourbon spilling down her chin as she drank it in hiccuping gulps.  Mr. Harris stood by, red faced and breathing heavily, but calming down.  The argument had come to it's natural conclusion, one sided from the beginning because both had known it was coming and both had known the only way it could end.  They had gotten a call - the call, the one they always knew they would get one day.  They hadn't had much choice from the start, and they had even less at this end.    The Harrises do what they always knew they were going to, regardless of any 'inadvisable attachments'.  They would do what they had to do - for themselves.  By now, it was all they knew.

"Give me that!" Tony Harris demanded, then immediately contradicted by snatching the bottle himself.  He took a large gulp, the liquid heat finally soothing the frayed edge his nerves had taken since first hearing that voice on the other end of the phone line.  "Start packing tomorrow, we leave Friday."