the pearl

Test Subject

She first told Giles that she was going to summer school. A few art courses, nothing major. Something to "keep her occupied."

She never enrolled, of course. Every night, she sits at the dining table (the only large expensive piece of furniture still in the house), and draws, the sheets of paper scattering across the table. Still lifes of still lifes of a very still life, keeping up more than one lie.

And each morning, after Giles drops her off in front of the school, she takes her pencil box and her drawing board and walks the twenty blocks (sixty-five sidewalk steps per block, one hundred and fifty cracks to step on, because you can't break your mother's back when she's dead and buried and gone gone gone) to the small house where he waits for her.

She knocks politely, even though they kept the schedule painfully exact — 10 am and she's at the door — and he invites her in with a gentle smile.

First a tonic to purify the blood (he knew, the way he always knew, that she spent her nights "borrowing" cigarettes from the vampire), then a second tonic to calm her, soothe her mind and body, turn the gaping wound into the faintest of aches. The first tastes of bitter tea, like when Buffy tried to have a tea party and used the entire box to make a cup, and the second tastes so much of her mother's spice rack that tears prick her eyes with the first swallow. Vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon — the one her mother tried to put into almost every dish for an added "kick."

Once the sedatives kick in, it's a delicate ritual. Each time he murmurs tiredly, as if it were a introductory college lecture, that Glory had it all wrong — opening all the portals would, of course, lead to destruction...not just this world, but all the worlds. Small doorways. Drops of blood. And he would find his way back home.

She would find her mother and her sister alive and happy on another world, a parallel world.

She grew up with Star Trek. She knows what you can find there.

Her left arm's a bruised wreck, the veins corrosively green against the dull dead pallor of a girl on the edge. The only Californian girl to still wear long-sleeve shirts in the middle of summer and she doesn't care. If Giles and Willow and everyone else doesn't mention it, her collapsed veins and dull aches don't exist.

Besides, they probably think she's cutting herself. They've read the books, they've seen the movies, all the little girls with their little traumas slicing open their arms.

But that only works if you're real. An X-acto knife and tissue paper only comfort if you were born.

A girl built of falsehoods doesn't get that option.

Another small test tube of blood from her arm, and each time he takes it to his kitchen table. Amidst the scramble of beakers, burners, and old sandwiches that looked like chicken, he works. A few whispered chants, a few dashes of powders and herbs, and, as always, a single drop of blood.

It's like a porthole in a ship — a little window opens up on a world, and, together, they peer in, hoping that they've found the right one.

They haven't — yet — and Dawn's running out of time. She's getting reckless, and one day, she knows Giles will see her on the road, Willow will see her in a tank top, something will happen and they will find out, and she doesn't know what will happen then.

But she can't bring herself to care.

She has to keep trying.

She has to.

Until there's nothing left.

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