Dingo couldn't have said when exactly it was he fell in love with Angela Balzac, but he figured it was pretty early on.
At first he tried to treat her like a father figure or a big brother figure would, because of her physical age. But it never quite felt right. Maybe because in the back of his mind there was always the knowledge that inside that teenaged body was a full grown woman. Sometimes she could act as childish as she looked, but then she would say something witty or sharply insightful or wise or compassionate and he would be reminded all over again that she was not a child. He'd probably already been fighting feelings for her then. Still, for propriety's sake he had tried. If nothing else they were two single people of the opposite sex working and living together, and he didn't want to make things awkward.
He knew he hadn't known he was in love with her until much later. Maybe a year? They'd been in the middle of a job –a reckless job, because there wasn't any other kind in their line of work– when it hit him. It wasn't a near-miss or anything so dramatic as that. Just a normal wrap-up: dirty, clothes disheveled, Angela scolding him for being an idiot, as always. He'd been listening to her rant, watching her, a little amused as usual, and it had hit him. He loved this. He loved her. He couldn't imagine being without this simple interaction every day for the rest of his life. He didn't want to.
Once he realized that, he knew this feeling had been lingering, hidden inside him, for a long time.
Not their first meeting, he knew. For one thing, he wasn't so sappy as to believe in love at first sight. Lust? Sure. But you couldn't love someone you didn't know. And on their first meeting he'd been mostly amused and maybe a touch annoyed. Annoyance he'd quickly dismissed because, really, what was the point? It wasn't going to change her, or the situation, and he only had to put up with her for a few days, maybe a week. Besides, amused was more fun and less work, plus it had the added benefit of throwing her off her game. He'd pushed her a little in retaliation for her obvious prejudices, but that was just a bit of fun.
And he'd been truly repentant when she'd collapsed. Unlike the agents he'd dealt with previously, this girl had never been to the surface before. She didn't know anything about the physical body she'd been forced into. He hadn't realized it, though he probably should have with the way she'd been going on about not needing sleep or food. He'd thought she was being prideful, but apparently it was pure ignorance. He should have realized it sooner. Should have seen the signs. Shouldn't have been having so much fun teasing her that he'd let her get in this condition.
That wasn't love though, it was pure human decency. Dingo didn't like to see people suffering. Why else would he do what he did?
Maybe it was then –that second night– that it'd happened. Seeing her stubbornly fight through her illness, determined not to abort her mission. Seeing how she truly tried. Actually, he could probably pinpoint it further than that: it was probably the moment where she was showed up on the roof behind him while he was playing with his guitar - when she should have been sleeping her fever away and instead had come out to ask him how anyone could feel music in their bones. And after she'd been so cocky and arrogant and derisive all day, at that moment he realized that it had to be a front, because, when she was at her weakest and most vulnerable, here she was trying to relate to him.
How could he not love that?
Yeah, that was probably when it had happened. His teasing after that had taken a definite turn toward flirting. And, though he'd been too busy fighting for their lives at the time to dwell on it, he remembered the aching rush of something that had lingered at the edges of his perception when she'd loaded back into her physical body. It had been completely different than the sensation when he'd hauled the empty shell of her body out to her Arhan. The tepid flesh of that firm thigh against his palm had done nothing for him. Warm and alive, the mere brush of her fingers set every nerve ending pleasantly humming.
Yeah. That was definitely when it had happened. That first week. Had to be.
It made him feel better, somehow, to pin it down like that. Not that he was going to do anything with the knowledge.
It wouldn't be fair to tell her. Whether or not she might feel something for him, he was all she had planet-side and he didn't want to take that from her or, worse, make her feel pressured to return his feelings. It'd been a very long time since he'd been in a romantic relationship, or even a physical one, so it wasn't going to kill him to keep his feelings to himself. Being beside her was enough.
So he let the knowledge linger, but pushed it to the back of his mind, keeping their interactions friendly –caring even– but strictly platonic. It helped that Angela didn't seem to have even a remote interest in men. She didn't even have friends other than him, though not for lack of encouragement on his part. She said she didn't need them. That they were too much trouble, especially with the way the two of them moved around. He tried not to read too much into the obvious implication – that all she needed was him.
When she finally jumped him he thought he was dreaming, silly as that sounded. He wasn't old by any means –he was barely thirty now, he'd been twenty-eight when they met; he'd asked her age once and she'd said according to the DEVA database she'd been twenty-three when they first met; five years wasn't such a big difference; twelve years? well, really, how big a difference was that when they were both adults?– but still, he wasn't anything special. He swung between opportunistic and lazy; he cared as much about music as people, most times; he lacked ambition even though he was willing to work hard. He wasn't the sort of guy who tried to get ahead, and Angela had spent most of her life doing nothing but that, so it was strange that she would be attracted to him. Although, he supposed, no stranger than the fact that he was attracted to her. And, maybe, it made poetic sense, really.
In the end, he supposed, it didn't matter when they'd fallen in love or why, it only mattered that they did love one another. And they did. He felt it burning inside him, saw it every time she looked at him with those beautiful, devastating eyes. And for a go-with-the-flow guy like him that was more than enough.
Still, someday maybe he'd tell her. If she wanted to know. And maybe she'd tell him when it was she'd fallen in love with him. He had enough ego to be curious.
The familiar sharpness in her voice roused him from his reflections and he pushed up on his elbows to peer over the side of the roof at his lover, tilting his hat back to sit properly on his head in the process. She had one hand perched on a canted hip, the other raised to shield her eyes from the light of the sun as she scowled up at his figure.
He couldn't help the grin that stretched his lips wide.
"Need something, Ange?" he called down.
The scowl deepened. "Yes, I need something. You've been gone an hour. You want to tell me how running out to adjust the flow intakes became taking a cat nap in the full desert sun? If you have a sunburn you're sleeping on the couch. That salve reeks."
Dingo swung himself around to slide off the edge of the extremely modified trailer roof, landing at Angela's feet with barely a ripple of dust.
"Relax, Ange, I had my hat."
"That is so not the point," she grumbled.
He leaned in and pressed a swift kiss to her pouting lips. "Sorry I worried you."
Angela blinked at him for the moment it took to process that statement and then her face turned red and she whacked his shoulder. "Who said I was worried, idiot?"
The label was, by far, the most frequent she used to address him and he'd long ago learned it was more endearment that insult. Still, he knew her well enough to know there was a bit of that in it too. There were times she probably questioned his intellect and his sanity, even now.
The knowledge turned his thoughts back to the end of his earlier musings.
Yeah. He'd like to know when the meticulous, conscientious, by-the-book Angela Balzac had fallen in love with an idiot like him.
A/N: Finally, a Dingo POV chapter. Got one more fully written that's half Dingo POV, half Angela. I have several more in the works. We'll see what happens. Thanks for reading!