The Faceless Clock: Part Three: Willow
"There's no place like home. There's no place like home."
Just click your heels together three times. Willow was desperate enough to try it. It didn't work - she supposed she hadn't really expected it to – still, she'd hoped…oh how she'd hoped. But here she was, wherever 'here' was. All she knew about it was that she was far from home… so very far from home.
"Where are we?"
"At the home of an old friend."
"That's not what I meant."
Angel never answered her questions, not really. He lied or evaded or replied to something she never said as if she hadn't asked a question at all. It was maddening and she felt trapped in some sort of surrealist nightmare where conversations split and tore and pieces of them were stitched onto scraps of other conversations and communication turned into a patchwork quilt with no rhyme or reason. She would hear Drusilla talking to herself in the halls and wonder if that didn't make more sense than trying to talk to Angel, or to anyone else. Willow's words disappeared the moment they emerged from her mouth and sometimes she got it into her head to wonder if this was some sort of Hellmouth-created punishment for babbling…or for kissing Xander…or for both…or for something else she'd done but didn't understand the wrong of doing.
Nothing seemed real anymore. Except that everything seemed impossibly real and completely inescapable.
Buffy wasn't coming. The strange thing was that Willow never thought she would.
She is dreaming and the dream is the same as she's had every night. She's home. Sure, things aren't perfect, but she and Oz are mending their relationship and life, for all its demons and uncertainty, isn't such a bad thing at all. She and Oz are holding hands as they walk out to his van.
Then she wakes up.
Just as she has every day and at exactly the same moment.
She wonders why she always dreams of her last day in Sunnydale and never any other day. But for all the monotony, she wishes she could stay in it and never wake up. She would be happy to live forever in that one single day.
Angel is always there when she awakens. The only thing different is that Willow no longer screams. Today, for the first time, she no longer startles. She is used to him now. She would cry were she alone, but she won't cry in front of him – not anymore. His arms encircle her anyway. Her chest tightens and her lungs abandon the practice of drawing in air. Angel notices, but he doesn't let go. He waits for instinct and, as always, instinct defeats her. She breathes.
She hated the clothes more than anything. She never looked at them when she dressed and she hated to look in the mirror. Nothing in her closet was fluffy or colourful – none of it was hers. She wore tasteful, expensive clothes now - clothes far costlier then even the priciest garments in the closet of Cordelia Chase, she knew - and she hated them. She hated the way the skirts swirled at mid-calf, the way the silk of the blouses shifted softly against her skin, the way the shoes molded to her feet and made them look small and dainty and nothing at all like the feet that once trod through the graveyards of Sunnydale as she gamely played sidekick while Buffy battled demons.
She'd begged once, nearly dropping to her knees, for a fluffy sweater – just one baggy, comfortable garment – but he'd reacted as he always did, acting as if she hadn't asked because she wanted it. He'd told her she no longer had to 'hide her beauty.'
Maybe not, but instead she had to hide herself. She didn't care if the clothes made her look 'better' to objective eyes. To her own, she looked old and dull and nothing like Willow. She asked Angel if he'd take the mirrors out of her room.
They were still there.
And so was she.
"What's wrong?" Angel's hand is on her knee and she flinches at the contact, though she expected it. She knows her revulsion pains him. Small victories. In a war you cannot win, they are the flowers with which you decorate your dead.
"I want to go home."
As always, he ignores anything he doesn't want to hear. "I have a wonderful surprise." Willow stiffens, knowing full well that Angel's surprise will bring her no pleasure. "We're going shopping tomorrow."
More silk, more cashmere, more satin and organza and other exquisitely stifling fabrics whose names she doesn't bother with remembering in colours whose names have nothing to do with the rainbow. They are the earth on her coffin. Someday, she hopes, she will claw her way out of this grave. Then she will wear cheap cotton and polyester in shades of bright pink and neon orange and baby blue all at once and none of it will fit properly. That will be a wonderful day. She will be Willow again.
She didn't talk to Drusilla anymore, not for a long time. It had been different in the beginning, but that had been when she still believed she might go home and before the locks had been installed on her bedroom door – before the failure with the pencil and the visitor who added locks on doors she had only just found.
How was her one-time kidnapper faring? All Willow knew of her now were the screams she heard each night as Drusilla and Angel did what she fervently hoped Angel would never ask of her.
If things made sense, Willow would have hated Drusilla, reviled her, and gloried in the misery she knew was the woman's lot as surely as it was her own.
"Where have the stars gone?"
Willow isn't sure how to answer. She knows that telling her to walk outside at nightfall won't help the sad woman find what she's looking for. Drusilla doesn't mean *those* stars.
"I'm sure they'll come back," Willow says, hoping it will help. "Maybe they're sleeping, you know? Recharging, like batteries." Batteries? Could she have said anything stupider?
"Willow," Drusilla answers – apropos of nothing - sounding as if she's trying out a new word, like a little girl wanting her mommy's admiration for being clever. The look in those fragile brown eyes tells Willow that she's not the only one lost and longing for what she used to have.
She hadn't talked to Drusilla since. Angel's excuse was fear for Willow's safety; but even at first, Willow knew better. Now she knew the whole truth, and it burned. Angel wanted to be the center of her world, and he would take and take and take until there was little enough in it to make that happen.
"I don't love you. I'll never love you," she says one night when fatigue and despair have made her reckless and hopeful and delusional enough to think he'll respond to words she actually says – that he'll hear something he doesn't tell himself.
"It doesn't matter." Willow is as stunned by the fact of his answer as she is by its substance.
"How can it not matter?"
"Because I love you."
He kisses her then for the very first time. Willow feels the ropes and chains grow tighter around her. Sunnydale is very, very far away. Tonight, she won't dream at all.