the pearl

The Four Dreams Of Charles Gunn

In the first dream, Alonna and Charles never leave home. Daddy doesn't disappear that one night, Mama doesn't find comfort in Anton's arms, and Alonna doesn't come into Charles's bedroom one night bleeding and crying.

Mama keeps on working and Daddy gets promoted to foreman and Charles gets a good job in the same factory. Alonna gets good grades and a scholarship and ends up at USC working on her business degree. When they go to the Gunn Family Reunion, all of their aunties are so damn proud of Charles and Alonna that they keep on asking their own kids why they can't be more like Danita's kids.

And then the sun's blacked out and they all die.

Charles comes home from the mid-morning shift (he thinks it's mid-morning, it's hard to tell), and finds the door wide open, blood splashed on the frame like that Bible story about the Angel of Death.

He runs in, not even thinking, and his family is sitting at the dinner table, calmly, perfectly, not a mark on them.

"Jesus," he says, breathing hard. "What the hell happened to the door?"

Alonna grins at her parents. "Daddy, weren't you gonna fix that?" she singsongs.

Their father chuckles, and there's a tiny little part of Charles's brain that realizes that his father's never chuckled before, and that little part of Charles's brain starts pumping adrenaline into his system, making his body tense before he even knows what's happening.

He doesn't have a chance to fully comprehend either, because before he can, his mother is standing, holding out her arms. "It's all right, baby," she croons, her face changing into something...wrong. "Come to Mama..."


In the second dream, they run away, but instead of hiding out in Downtown, they go to Hollywood and become whores. They don't like it, but they do what they have to, because it's a choice between living and dying, and, above all else, they are survivors.

Alonna gets the red-faced middle-aged production executives that think getting a blowjob from a teenage hooker is the last guilty pleasure from their freewheeling coked-out 80s. She obsessively shoplifts breathmints while she waits for their cars, and when she comes back to the warehouse they're calling home, Charles often wakes up to the sound of her making herself throw up.

On those nights, she smells even more of chemical mints, undercut with bile and rotten come. He wraps his arms around her, kissing her forehead gently as she cries herself to sleep.

Charles doesn't tell her what he does to earn the few dollars he has in his wallet. It's too much to even think about, much less talk about.

Some nights, he stands along Santa Monica Boulevard in a pair of tight jeans. Those nights, he can tell her about. The same middle-aged executives she must get. The shy and frightened teenagers. The preachers, the priests, the overly muscled guys who try to beat the shit out of him when they're done.

The other nights, he's in a tiny club downtown, offering his arm to men with fucked-up faces.

He has a trail of scars he keeps hidden under layers of flannel and cotton. He makes up stories about West Hollywood fags to tell her when he gets back. And just like how Alonna shoplifts breathmints and makes herself throw up, he spends an hour in the Macdonald's on Hollywood, scrubbing at his arm until it's even more raw and bleeding.

But he keeps going back. He has to. Because he knows that, one day, if he spends enough time in that bar, the right one will appear.

One day, someone will come into that bar, his face perfect and unflawed, and he'll see Charles and he'll hear of Alonna and he'll change his face and bite down and take both of them far away from all this.

One day.


In the third dream, she survives. She's not bit, she doesn't die, and they both join Angel's mission. He's spent so much time trying to protect her that he didn't realize how good she could fight. They fight together like they were born to, each battle a brilliant choreography of movement.

When Angel fires them all, she's matching Cordelia shot per shot. When they face demons without Angel's help, she's the first to run into the thick of it all. Wesley gets shot and she's standing outside the hospital room, blocking the door from Angel's vague attempts of reconciliation. And in Pylea, she's the one who disguises herself as a servant to get in close to Cordelia.

She moves into the Hyperion that summer, and works on befriending Fred. Although Fred is almost the exact opposite of her — skinny, quiet, and almost always afraid, Alonna knows where to get the best Mexican in town, and, slowly, Fred comes downstairs, Alonna leading her on gently.

The next few months fly by in a series of battles and images. Alonna smacking Gio down when he starts to talk shit about her and Charles. Alonna holding an axe to Darla's neck. Alonna holding Connor and grinning wildly. Alonna wearing a dress she never could've afforded in a million years and watching Angel, Wesley and Charles making damn fools of themselves over women. Alonna packing up Wesley's things, refusing to speak about it as she shoves the last book in.

And when Angel and Cordelia both disappear that one night, she's right next to Fred and Charles, searching. They find Connor and bring him back to his father's house. She talks to Wesley and doesn't discuss it with her brother.

It's a long empty summer, accentuated only by Charles and Fred's romance of sweet kisses and gentle sex. Until the day Charles comes back to the hotel, the night's dinner in his hands, and finds his sister three fingers deep inside of his girlfriend.

Fred hides her face in shame, turning bright red and stammering, and Alonna just calmly removes her fingers, wiping them on her T-shirt.

"Sorry, bro," she says, sounding not at all apologetic. "Should've known I got there first."


The fourth dream is the worst of all because it's the one he knows is true. Daddy disappears, Mama finds Anton, and Alonna crawls into his bedroom when she's thirteen and he's sixteen, her body raw and bleeding and her eyes filled with tears.

They leave the next day, Charles stealing $100 from Anton's wallet and both of them carrying backpacks filled with clothes. They spend the next few months moving from auntie to auntie, staying with relatives and neighbors and friends until they have no more places to crash.

Each time they move, someone mentions calling their Mama to make sure it's okay, and each time, they come up with an excuse not to.

When they finally run out of friends, they take to the streets, finding an abandoned warehouse down by the Farmers Market. They live off of the half-spoiled food that's thrown out every night, and spend their days wandering around Pershing Square, trying to earn a few bucks begging. Alonna befriends an old grizzled woman who sleeps under the stars and washes in the fountains, and, together, while Charles is out looking for money, they share bottles of cheap wine.

Now when Charles comes home, she's usually drunk, laughing and swearing and crying all at the same time. He yells at her every time, but it doesn't stop her from doing it.

Then there's the night when Old Lizzy is attacked right in front of Alonna. The guys have strange faces and they bite and Alonna screams and runs back to the warehouse, screaming for hours until Charles gets home.

He holds her and strokes her hair and she slowly calms down, tears still running down her face. And, suddenly, something changes, and he's the one crying and she's the one calming him down and she wipes her face and kisses him.

Charles isn't a virgin, especially not to kissing, but it's never felt like this before. He knows it isn't right. He feels it all the way down in his gut; twisting and coiling in his stomach like an unnatural creature. But the heat coming from her is stronger than the wrongness, the heat from his cock is stronger than her, and she kisses so perfectly that, before he can even think about what he's doing, she's pulling off her clothes and he's on top of her, pushing into her as he cups her breasts in his hands.

He falls asleep on her, and, in the morning, when he wakes up, he can't look at her again.

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