the pearl


She wears a dreamcatcher necklace that she bought in Arizona — hot, sweet, dry Arizona, like a cup of sugar, like a cup of dust, and the rest stops all throughout the state had Indian mothers with children selling silver and turquoise jewelry, bright baubles and gaudy decorations and he made a joke about getting one of those bolo ties or maybe a giant belt buckle but she wasn't listening to him like she never listens to him and she picked her necklace up at one of them, and didn't explain, didn't talk, didn't tell him anything about it, just got back into the car and waited for him to drive.

They drove and drove and drove because of course a Slayer would come from the most remote part of the desert, driving on Route 66 through Topock and Oatman and Seligman and Williams and Laguna and Milan, towns named after businessmen and places and things better and more beautiful than the dust coating abandoned towns. Empty shells where motels used to be, gas stations still advertising long-forgotten brands, abandoned houses filled with the remains of lives that couldn't take the desert. Faith sees it all from her passenger seat, her necklace gleaming in the reflected sunlight of a hot summer afternoon that killed many a man in days before freon and the air conditioning that softly blows from the vents of Xander's rented car.

He keeps his eye on the road because it's the only one he has, refusing to pay attention to anything but the road. No houses or motels or gas stations that are relics of a time when you could travel for days on a stretch of road songs were written about, no, he's just keeping track of the rest stops and truck stops and greasy little diners with pies revolving in a display case and coffee that you could strip paint with. Keeping his eye on the road.

Los Angeles to the Arizona border takes around five hours and they stop in a cheap motel in Needles, watching the night fall on mountains and valleys clean and clear and nowhere near as smog-filled as Los Angeles or even Sunnydale, although with the dust cloud still blowing from the giant hole in the ground, Sunnydale's more of a hazard on the lungs than Los Angeles ever could be.

They drive through Arizona, Faith watching sagebrush and cactus and Xander flipping through the radio stations.

*bzzt* "Jesus said in —"

*bzzt* "Para el concierto esta noche —"

*bzzt* "Give him two arms to cling —"

*bzzt* "And the Lord said —"


He settles on the National Parks Service radio station — advertised on a green interstate sign — and the soothing sound of public information and tourist descriptions fill the car just as well as the air conditioning does, like a tepid bath for the ears as long as she refuses to talk to him, staring out the window at the sun and the dust.

"I need both of you on this," Buffy said, still the ever-present commander, despite being thousands of miles away in a better place with a better world and the static on the phone was faint and crackly, hundreds of other people having their own conversations at the same time with the same connection, buzzing from one land to the other. "I need someone who can talk to her parents and I need someone who can be strong just in case anything happens. You two are the only ones left in the US that I can trust."

That trust sticks in Xander's gullet and festers in Faith's belly and neither of them talks about it because neither of them is talking anyway, not to each other at least. Occasionally Xander makes a joke or makes a comment or says something that's a sad echo of the banter he used to carry on, but Faith refuses to respond and she's too busy looking out the window to notice anything, watching the world pass her by.

Santa Fe's so filled with people the crush the crowd the people and even though they're not talking, there's something between them because Xander promptly pulls into the nearest motel and they promptly get a room and once the door is shut on the outside world both of them are relaxing without even realizing they were tense. A mutual long sigh of relief, and Faith decides to take a shower.

Xander flips through tv stations, flip flip flip, and when Faith comes out, tightly wrapped in a towel like he's never seen her naked before, like they've never fucked, and her necklace reflects the faint light of the tv.

"It'll rust, y'know," Xander says as everything slows down, just long enough for her to look up and react. And he doesn't understand what happens next, he doesn't know why or how or what strange thing causes it to happen, especially since she's still seeing Robin from what he's heard, and he's still mourning Anya (Anya Anya Anya with the smile and the eyes and his heart), but he walks over and she loses the towel and it's not like the first time and, in fact, he gets the feeling that it's not like any time for her because it's never been so sweet and tender and —

She's crying.

He's inside of her, so hot so wet so perfect, legs wrapped around his waist and breasts pressed against his chest and her cheeks are streaked with tears even as he kisses them away, but his cheeks are streaked with tears too, 'cause he must be crying as well, all the tears in his eyes running down his face as he continues to push and pull and push again, sliding against her slow and sweet as she sobs against his shoulder and he sobs into her hair. Oh God, oh God, oh God, they're alive, they survived, and they're in a motel in Santa Fe with miles to go and hours ahead and neither of them can live with the fact that they're alive anymore.

She sobs and comes and sobs and comes and she's tear-streaked and so beautiful that Xander feels his heart break. No one's seen her like this, he tells himself. No one's ever seen her like this. He knows he is lying to himself about that, that there must have been someone in the world who's seen the raw forgiving beauty of a girl who has dissolved her shell, and he knows that it's probably someone he knows and hates, but he doesn't pay attention to that now, because it's all around him and all thrusting and oh God, he can feel it as it spirals up and over and in and oh god oh god oh yes.

Her necklace shines between her breasts, twisting wires and tiny silver feathers glimmering in the half-light of a setting sun. He's curled up next to her, his fingers tracing her skin, tracing the necklace, swimming around the dreamcatching silver pendant that lies on her skin...

And he wakes up.

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