the pearl

Ibarra y Magia

When Tara decides to leave, she does it quickly and suddenly, packing up everything she owns within a day and leaving before anyone can talk her out of it. She did it when she went to college, carrying two suitcases to the bus station with only a note to tell her father where she'd gone.

And she's doing it now, carrying a few boxes and those two now-battered suitcases, looking away from Willow's pleading expression and Dawn's bitter glare.

She spends a few nights in a friend's dorm room, sleeping on the floor amid textbooks and roommate listings. Her friends know a guy who knows who knows an old hippie lady who runs a small boarding house less than a mile from school, and Tara makes an appointment to see the room she's offering.

The woman has blonde-grey dreadlocks that hang down past her waist and smell of patchouli and sage. She smiles when she sees Tara, and it nearly breaks Tara's heart all over again, because it's been so long since she's seen something so honest.

She blinks back tears and asks about the rent.


When she's paid her first week's rent and moved her battered suitcases into the small room, her landlady wraps an arm around her shoulders and invites her to the communal dinner for all her lodgers. Tara smiles weakly and lets herself be led, dreading any conversations she'll have to have. Where she comes from. Where she's been. Why she's moved in. She tries to smile at her landlady and thinks of the vaguest answers possible, stammering and blushing as she speaks.

I'm from up North.

I've been living with a few friends.

I felt like a change.

But when she gets to the table, not even the carefully constructed excuses can fill the silence.

Especially when she sees who shares the house with her.


For someone she met only once, he is permanently engraved into her brain. The sleepy-smart eyes. The thin shoulders. The bracelets and charms and the faint scent of herbs and magic about him.

The sharp pain of a wrist grasped too tightly and the rank rawness of a werewolf.

She starts when she sees him sitting at the dinner table. He stands, apparently just as surprised as she is, and she stutters out an excuse.


Need to be purchased.

For her room.


She apologizes to her landlady, and flees out of the room.


She comes back to the house after midnight, clutching a small bag of random things just in case she needs an excuse. Shopping turned into dinner she couldn't really afford and dinner turned into a movie she didn't even remember watching.

She goes into the kitchen to put away some mango juice she bought, something that she hopes her landlady enjoys because she does feel bad about missing dinner, and nearly drops it as she walks in.

He's standing in front of the stove, stirring a small saucepan. He looks up at her. "Hey."

She mumbles a response and takes the long way to the fridge, trying to avoid his eyes.

But he doesn't look at her, staring down at the saucepan as he stirs. "I'm making hot chocolate," he says. "If you get the mugs out of the cupboard above the breadbox, there's enough for two."

She gets the mugs without even thinking, setting them on the counter next to the stove before she even realizes she hasn't fled from the room.

Once she's realized that, she then realizes he's already poured the hot chocolate into the mugs and walked over to the kitchen table, sitting down with one mug, and placing the other on the opposite end of the table.

He sits there, drinking, and the steam rises from the cup on the other end of the table.

"Does Willow know you're back?"

He doesn't blink at the question, so it takes awhile before she realizes she actually said it.

And it takes a little longer before she realizes she said Her name.

He sips at his hot chocolate again, then softly replies. "I never left." He pauses. "Your hot chocolate is getting cold."

She forces herself to sit down, facing him, and the mug is warm in her hands. The hot chocolate isn't like the type her mother used to make, thick and syrupy and covered in marshmellows, and it isn't like the type Willow used to make in the dorm, using lukewarm water from the tap and little packets she'd take from the cafeteria. It's cinnamon and nutmeg and sugar blended with chocolate and reminds her of the carniceria/botanica on the other side of town, where Mr. Giles said demons went for offal and she went for candles.

They sit, and drink, and don't speak, until Oz puts down his mug and looks at her. She stares down at her mug, not knowing what to do, then, suddenly, she lifts her head and stares back at him, her eyes defiant, the defiance she could never show before she met Her.

He smiles faintly as she looks at him. And she takes the chance to fully study him. Despite everything, she never really looked at him, her memories simply filled with sense and emotion rather than visuals.

He's smaller than she is, compact, a perfect match to Her in a way she never could be. She faintly remembers red hair, but his hair is brown now, a muddy redbrown that she recognizes, faintly, as henna, if only from the bad dye jobs she regularly sees on campus. His eyes are green, with hints of grey, and his pale neck is overlaid with necklaces, thin silvery chains, thick leather cords, braided silk threads, all hanging down underneath his t-shirt to leave a trail of relief against the thin washed-out blue cotton.

His nails are painted with chipped emerald green nail polish and his wrists are bedecked with just as many bracelets as he has necklaces. Prayer beads and friendship bracelets and even a charm bracelet like her grandmother might have worn back in the day, but this one has a variety of mystic symbols dangling from it instead of poodles and hearts.

She catches his eyes again, and she realizes he has also been taking her in, studying her as intently as she was. She blushes, and looks back down at her mug for a few minutes.

"The chocolate is very nice. T-Thank you," she stammers, to be polite.

He nods. "You're welcome." He looks at her again, tilting his head slightly. "Was it the magic?"

She quickly looks up, her face draining of color, and he frowns, just a little, tilting his head in the other direction as he watches her.

She looks back down and blushes heavily, trying to look as calm as possible. "If you never left, w-why didn't anyone say anything ab-bout seeing you?"

"For a small town, it's surprisingly easy to stay away from people," he answers smoothly. He's looking down at his hands, running his thumb across a ragged nail. "Not going to school, don't go to malls, and the Bronze hasn't been my scene since I left the Dingoes, so..." He paused briefly, still tracing his fingernail. "It was the magic, wasn't it?"

She refuses to look up at him, but she was never good at hiding emotions. The magic. As if one word could cover what had happened in the brief time between shoving a soda machine against a door and erasing your lover's memory.

She looks up, from underneath her hair, like she used to do before she met Her, and he nods faintly, looking at her with something that, with any other person, would be considered pity.

Instead, in his eyes, it's...commiseration? Sympathy? Had she done the same to him, dusting powders and whispering chants over him while he slept?

"I..." Her voice trails off. She stands, suddenly, knocking over the now-empty mug onto the table. "I'm sorry..." she whispers, her voice scratched and raw as she runs out of the room, tears clouding her eyes.


She cries herself to sleep, and, in the morning, prepares herself for school, trying to find the words to say if she sees either of them.

She showers, brushes her teeth, and dresses slowly, rituals to distract her and prepare her for school and the faint possibility of seeing Her again. She pulls on her shoes and goes to the kitchen for breakfast.

There is coffee brewing in the coffee machine and bread in the toaster. The newspaper is scattered across the table and there is a large backpack in one chair. She sets her bag down in the opposite chair and makes herself a cup of coffee, glancing over at the backpack occasionally.

As she sits at the table, she hears footsteps, and looks towards the doorway.

"Sorry," Oz says as he comes in, dropping another backpack on the floor. He moves the other backpack from the chair and walks over to pour himself a cup of coffee. After he pours and stirs and prepares, he comes back to the table, sitting in the now-empty chair.

Tara swallows, trying to find the words, then, finally, just looks across at him. "N-no," she says, her voice soft. "I'm sorry." She pauses. "I-I'm sorry...about...about last night."

He shrugs, reaching for his mug, the bracelets clicking slightly as he moves. "I should be apologizing. It shouldn't've happened that way." He looked down at his bags, then looked back up at her. "I'm leaving," he says, bluntly. "For real this time too."

She looks at him, her mouth open slightly. "B-Because of me?" she finally asks.

He smiles and shakes his head. "No, no, it wasn't because of you." He smiles softly. "Although to be honest, you were something of a catalyst. But there're plenty of other reasons."

Her mouth was still open as she tries to think of the right thing to say. The toaster pops, sending toast up, and she jumps, startled into action. "I..." She stops, needing to rephrase. "Did she..." She stops again. "She hurt you too, didn't she?"

He shrugs again, his thin shoulders moving under the thinner t-shirt. "I really don't know anymore," he finally says. He reaches down for his bags, easily lifting each over a shoulder. "Rachel, she, uh, she likes you, so I think she'll give you a deal on the rent, for as long as you need to be here."

She stands, and looks at him, still trying to find words. He looks at her, also not speaking, and there's this moment — this single fluid moment, where it seems that everything is happening at once, and before she can think about what she's doing, she has her arms around him and her lips against his and he tastes of sugar and coffee and he's so gentle that she could spend forever in his arms despite the sheer alienness of it all. He's...He, and yet it's like coming back to Her.

He pulls away, smiling tenderly, and strokes her cheek. He picks up his backpacks again, and begins to walk towards the door.

At the door, he pauses, turning back to look at her. "Tara?" he says — the first time he's said her name, and he says it like the holy word she once read it was.

She looks up at him, her cheeks pink with the memory of the kiss.

"She..." He licks his lips, trying to think of what to say. "You'll get back together," he finally says, smiling.

She finds herself smiling back, and she raises a hand up to wave as he walks out the door.

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