the pearl

Could Be

His name is Daniel Osbourne. He is 27 years old. And every day, he tells a lie.

He lives in Brooklyn, in a small house shared with three other people. He works in Manhattan, an accounts manager for a publishing company. His hair is undyed, his piercings have closed, and he wears a shirt and a tie every weekday. He goes to bars, and parties, and does all the normal things.

He looks in the mirror each morning, and he sees the wolf hiding under this mask of humanity. And, each day, he lies about it just a little more.


They've built an army of teenage girls. Xander had a difficult enough time understanding the few girls he knew in Sunnydale.

He runs meetings, gives lectures, organises and strategies and plans everything. He travels around the world and back again, building community, building hope.

Each night he returns to whatever bed they provide and lies there, his eyes open, staring up at the ceiling.

Each night, he recalls his life before, and, each night, he thinks he's a fraud.

No skills, no talents, nothing but an eye patch and a damned foolish need to do something.

Hiding behind a mask.


Daniel lets the wolf out once a year—Halloween, of course. He wears a mask that isn't a mask, and ambles through the streets of New York, delighting small children and terrifying adults.

The scents and sounds of the city are terrifying to the wolf, too much, too loud, too strong, and exposing the wolf to them is his test.

A test of will, a test of strength, controlling the starving and hysterical creature in a land of plenty, Daniel reigns the creature in tightly, a thin line between a walk and a massacre.

The line grows thinner each year.


Xander finds himself in New York. There are no more Slayers to be found here, but other countries still might hold some, and he has discovered the best place to start is the UN, just in case he needs a visa.

He spends his days at the UN arguing with diplomats, and his nights wandering the city. He refuses to hunt vampires as he wanders. Hunting is for Slayers, and despite the girls calling him "Watcher", he knows he's just a man.

He avoids alleys and bars and all the usual haunts. But he still runs into Daniel one night.


The thin line between animal and man draws taut, the mask slipping as he sees the man before him. Daniel Osbourne begins to crack, to disappear, no more job or house or plain silk tie.

He closes his eyes and breathes, slowly, calmly, ignoring the rest of the world and focusing purely on breath.

The scent in the air flickers from rotting garbage and Persian takeout to something familiar, something soothing, something that he did not realise he had missed all these years.

He opens his eyes, and looks up towards the man.

"Hi, Xander," he says, his voice soft.


Xander knows he's not a Watcher. He knows he's not organised or productive or anything like that. He's just this guy, who does things because someone has to.

He just pretends to be organised so that it all doesn't fall apart.

But he looks at Oz, who is all organised and productive, right down to the shirt and tie, and, suddenly, that mask falls away, turning back into the teenager who broke things and cracked jokes.

"Oz," he says, his voice also quiet. "It's been..."


"You doing much?"

"Work. Sleep. That sort of thing."

Xander pauses. And nods. Understanding.


Daniel knows a bar, and Xander has an expense account, and one beer leads to five leads to more, and they're rolling back to Xander's hotel. Xander offers Oz the bed and he collapses in the armchair, staring at the man in front of him.

"You're still..." he finally says, leaving words unsaid.

Oz nods, looking away. "Yeah." He looks back at Xander. "And you're..."

Xander nods. "Yeah."

"And they..."


"Oh." A pause. "Willow..."

"Good. Civil partnership."

"Good. You..."

"No, no. Single. You?"


It's strange, Xander thinks, that, after all these years, they would both be so terse.


They sit, talking in single words, and, slowly, more words emerge.

Daniel talks about his roommates and his job and his life after Tibet.

Xander talks about the Slayers and being a Watcher and life after Sunnydale.

Daniel talks about the wolf, and Halloween, and that thin line of control.

Xander talks about Anya, and what he lost, and how everything he does is a lie.

They grow closer, the masks fall away, and they end up closer, farther than either has gone before, both spread out on the bed, both so close together that a kiss is all that's left.


They kiss, and there are no masks anymore, only two lost and lonely men, striving for what could be.

This Angel/Buffy the Vampire Slayer story was written by Kate Bolin. If you liked it, there's plenty more at And you can feedback her at