It starts at the ballet. And he's forced to wonder if all of his relationships will start with a gut injury.
And he's concerned, momentarily, because, ow, even with it only needing a few stitches, it still hurts like a bitch, but then she rushes to him and those big brown eyes make everything all right.
So he walks her — very slowly, but, damnit, he's walking her up there — to her room, and they have another kiss, oh so sweet and oh so wonderful, before she closes her door and he gingerly makes his way back down the stairs and heads towards his truck.
He sits in his truck for a few minutes, smiling. When he finally turns on the ignition, he gets the faintest hint of her perfume — barely roses, like his grandmother's backyard on a summer's night — and his smile just gets wider.
She still has twigs in her hair from being trapped by that tree. He brushes them out, and panics for just a second, thinking about how close she came to death because of him.
But not again, because she's not Alonnah and she can take care of herself, right?
He keeps on repeating that as he wraps his arms around her, feeling her shoulderbones against his arms. The fragility makes him repeat it even louder.
It's mid-February and it's 90 degrees outside. Angel has the only room in the hotel with air conditioning and after a full day of everyone complaining, Gunn takes some of the petty cash, goes out and buys a kiddie pool — just big enough for Connor and maybe a few pairs of feet. They slap SPF 100 on the baby and spend the rest of the day on the patio, sharing cold juice served in tropical cocktail glasses and enjoying the feel of sunlight and warm weather.
Cordelia calls from Mexico once — just to detail a vision she had. After she gives out the details, she gets Fred to take the phone into another room, and Gunn can hear Fred occasionally giggling from behind the closed door.
When she returns to poolside, Gunn gives her a look. "So?"
"What did Cordy have to say?"
She smiles. "Just a few things," she says teasingly, with a half smile.
He glares at her, just a little, then grabs a handful of water from the pool and throws it at her.
She shrieks, and promptly reaches for the ice in the cooler.
The first night they spend together is completely sexless. They fall onto her bed, curling up next to each other in exhaustion from the neverending struggle of good versus evil.
She mumbles in her sleep and Gunn wakes up just enough to roll over and wrap his arm around her, comfortingly.
She stiffens, then starts twisting out of his grasp, whimpering the entire time with — as Gunn slowly wakes up, he realizes that, in the muffled vocals of dreaming, she's screaming in fear.
He shakes her, slowly, gently, whispering softly to her as he strokes her back.
Jerkingly, she wakes up, breathing heavily and shaking her head as she sits up. "Charles? What? I..."
"Shh...you were dreaming," he whispers. "Just dreaming..." He tries to pull her back down to the bed, back down to his arms.
She stiffens again, and keeps shaking her head. "No, no, I..." she trails off as she reaches for the bedpost, pulling herself out of the bed, away from his arms. "I'm sorry — I can't..."
It hurts, just for a bit, but he nods. "It's okay," he says. "I understand."
They look through each room of the hotel, shouting Angel's name as they walk. Each mound of dust is looked at suspiciously as Fred attempts to figure out exactly how much dust one vampire should leave behind, reciting equations and weights as she walks.
Cordelia's apartment is called twenty or thirty times until Dennis finally picks up, pressing a couple of buttons in an awkward attempt to communicate. Fred hangs up the phone and looks at him sadly.
"No," she finally says. "She's not there."
He wraps his arm around her. "It's okay," he says softly. "It's okay."
They shut off the lights in the entire hotel and walk up, silently, to Fred's room. He holds her tightly as she sobs, gentle shudderings like an injured bird in his hands.
Three soft kisses and she's wrapping her legs around him, sliding against him slowly. He breaks away and looks at her, just looks down at her, trying to see what there was.
She looks up at him with clear eyes and a small smile, the half smile that always makes him feel like he's thirteen or thirty — a blend between hormones and passion — and there's no nightmares, no past, just the two of them.
He slides down against her, and gives her a kiss.