There’s a fading red slash that runs along his ribs and flank. If he were human, the area would still be a gaping wound. If he were human, the wound would have been fatal. As it is, it will be gone by tomorrow and Angel will once again be unmarred.
As Willow kisses along the path of the fading wound, she pushes down the thought that he might not come back from one of his patrols. This city has become more dangerous than it had been before he took over at the evil law firm –and shortly thereafter destroyed said evil law firm. Being sent to hell will do that to a city. Her mouth is open and she is speaking without having intended to.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch. Beware the Jubjub bird and shun the frumious Bandersnatch.”
Angel shifts at the sound of her monotone voice and gently urges her up towards him with a hand on either side of her head. She is still speaking even as she crawls up his body.
“And has thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy.”
Before she can continue, she’s on her back and Angel is hovering over her. His face is almost haunted as he searches her eyes. Whatever he finds there seems to put him at ease, because he leans down and kisses her. When they first started this –and they have yet to actually define what this is— his kiss would have signaled the end of whatever moment had taken hold of him. Recently, he’s been more talkative when things bother him.
“The thing that came after us tonight, it made me,” he pauses closes his eyes before taking a breath and continuing. “It made us see things to try and distract us. That’s how it got close enough to cut me.”
Angel rolls off her and Willow wonders for a second if that will be the end of his story. He’s on his back with this arm thrown over his eyes like he can block out the memory.
“I saw Drusilla, crying out and begging for me to stop. She was human again, and begging me to stop tormenting her. And then she wasn’t begging anymore. She was laughing and talking nonsense.”
At this, Angel uncovers his eyes and looks over at her letting her see how much the memory alone hurt him.
“For a minute, when you were speaking just now, I was afraid that you’d be her when I looked. But then…”
Angel turns onto his side, bringing a hand up to her hair and playing with a lock of it. His eyes are trained on that lock as he twists and twirls it with her fingers.
“Then you didn’t sound like Drusilla anymore. You sounded like Darla. A part of me panicked because I was convinced that this wasn’t real and that you weren’t here.”
And suddenly Willow understands.
The first time Angel had ever talked to her about something that was really bothering him, it had been after a nightmare. He told her he was back in his metal coffin on the ocean floor and that everything that had happened was just him hallucinating. He went on to tell her that he had the nightmare before, but sometimes it was different. Sometimes he was in hell and everything that had happened since was just an elaborate way of torturing him.
The worst part, he had told her, was that he was never really sure which place was the dream and which place was the reality. Looking at him now, she can see he hasn’t fully shaken the panic that had gripped him. Leaning into him, she presses a lingering kiss on his lips and runs her hand along the side of his face.
“I’m here, right now, with you. This is real, and I’m not going anywhere.”
She knows it’s not a magic cure-all –and knows well enough that any magic she tried to use to help him get past this would run the risk of damaging his mind—but she also knows it’s what they have. They’re living in hell right now, and either of them could die at any moment. It’s not perfect and it’s rarely ever good, but it’s theirs. They have these moments where it’s just them and they can lock hell outside the door and try and snatch a bit of heaven for themselves. It’s selfish, but it keeps them going.
Hours later, with Angel asleep in her arms, Willow lies awake playing absently with his hair. She wonders if she should tell him about her dreams; about the fact that Darla and Drusilla have both been visiting her in them. She doesn’t know what the dreams mean, but she can tell easily enough that they’re more than just dreams.
Kissing Angel’s troubled brow, Willow decides against telling him. It will do him no good, and would probably only worry him. As she wraps her arms around him more tightly, Willow doesn’t notice she is whispering gently in his ear.
“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; all mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe.”