the pearl


It began with the phoenix.

He spotted it in a Tijuana tattoo parlor between the semi-nude girls and pseudo-tribal art. He asked the tattooist to place it in the crook of his left elbow — to hide the scars left by Sunnydale. The black outline ran up and down his arm, and the needle traced the flames that would soon be orange and yellow.

It hurt — hell, yes, it hurt — but it hurt less than the slow pinch of a vampire's fangs or the ache he felt every time he thought of California.

When the scabs healed and the phoenix flared against his arm, the dull sense of emptyness that he carried his in stomach faded — slightly, slowly, but enough to make him return. Another parlor, another design, this one along the shoulder, a dragon — beginning where the phoenix ended and ending along the curve of his shoulderblade.

That one hurt a little more, but in a way that made him forget about everything for a little while longer. He could look himself in the mirror now, see the smiling dragon on his shoulder and the fiery phoenix on his elbow and know that the fire inside of him still burned.

He tried explaining it to Graham once, one drunken night in Caracas where the senoritas smiled and the senoras kept their glasses filled. "The sting — that sting is good, man. It's like...cleansing fire or something. All the way down. Your hair starts pricking up and your body's dreading the next sting, but also wanting it. It's like you're cleansed or've been reborn." He pointed at his phoenix. "Risen from the ashes and everything.

Graham didn't understand, and refused to come with him to a small parlor he discovered, where he had his other arm done — a series of red and gold intertwined pieces, like fire rendered by cavemen. The fire traced down his arm, around his elbows and his bicep, strong and firm and scarred from five years of working with the Initiative and two years of working with the Slayer.

He tried to forget about all that — tried to forget about Forrest, and Buffy, and Maggie, and Xander, and all the other people he met and loved and hated and killed in that godforsaken town on the edge of Hell.

He just tried to remember the fire.

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