Hyperion Hotel, Los Angeles, California, December 7, 2000

Grumbling because she seemed to be the only one physically capable of emptying a trash can, Cordelia noticed something strange on her way to the dumpster in the alley behind the slowly rotting hulk of what had once been one of Los Angeles's premier luxury hotels.

It wasn't a threatening kind of strange, just strange.

And sort of beautiful.

The former Varsity cheerleader and popular girl at any cost paused, staring down at the little scattering of wilting orange blossoms and broken glass, their scent taking her back to the mansion she had grown up in before her father's various shady deals had caught up with them all.

In the center lay a single white orchid.

Cordelia knew it was an orchid because her mother had used orchids as party decorations, having them shipped in from Hawaii by the dozens the night before, so that everything looked like fairyland, deluxe edition, as she got ready for school.

She knelt, office wastebasket set aside, the soles of her favorite Jimmy Choos (which she'd managed to slip out in her handbag, when her father's mansion had been foreclosed, contents and all) grinding unheeded in the grit scattered around it. Cautiously she pulled a used drinking straw out of the trash and poked at the exotic intruder with it, expecting it to maybe leap snarling from the pavement and bite her or something.

But, it was only an orchid.

And because it was pretty, and because it came with it's own set of memories for Cordelia, and because it would be a shame to let such an expensive thing languish unseen in a back alley, she picked it up, and put it on the corner of her desk, floating in a wineglass she'd found behind the dusty bar in the Hyperion's echoing cavern of a ballroom.

Where it sat admired but slowly fading for a week, until it too, wound up in the dumpster out back.