AUTHOR'S NOTE I didn't watch the last season of Buffy, so I don't know what happened to all of the characters after Sunnydale was destroyed. But, for the purposes of this story, let's assume that Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Dawn are all in one place (even though last week on Angel, Andrew said that they weren't). And this story contains spoilers for "You're Welcome," tonight's episode of Angel.

DISCLAIMER I don't own any of them. Joss Whedon does.

I just heard the news.

God, it doesn't seem real. I didn't believe it when I picked up the phone and Angel was on the other end. What do you say to someone who you haven't spoken to since your world came to an end? Hey Angel, man, haven't talked to you since Sunnydale got blown to Hell, how've you been?

I didn't want to believe him when he said it. "Cordelia's…she died."

He sounded like he'd been crying. That part threw me. Angel doesn't cry. I was with him when he saw Buffy dead that first time. All that was on his mind was bringing her back. Saving her. Of course, he couldn't do it. Vampires don't breathe. They can't give CPR.

My hands are shaking as I pick up the phone again. I can barely dial the numbers. It rings on the other end – once, twice.

"Hello?" I didn't say anything for a minute, just sat there. "Hello?" she asks again.

"Will…"

"Xander?" She sounds confused. "Xander, what's wrong?"

"Will…" I can't do it. I feel myself start to break down.

"Xander, talk to me!" She hears me crying. She's gotta be worried. I don't really remember the last time I cried.

That's not true. I cried for Anya. She was the love of my life and when she died, part of me died with her. But it was for the greater good and there was dignity and courage in her death. And I remember I cried when Buffy died for real. But it was the same thing. She sacrificed herself to save the rest of us. She and Anya were true heroes. But this…

"Cordelia's dead."

There. I said it. The words sound so final when you say them out loud. It was as if I thought I could bring her back by just refusing to admit that it happened.

There was silence on Willow's end of the line. Then, quietly, I heard her cry. We hung up without another word and within minutes, she rushed into my apartment and flung herself into my arms. We sat on the couch and cried. The pain of a thousand wounds was reopened.

I knew she must be thinking about Tara. About how beautiful their lives could have been if that shot had never been fired. About how much she missed her. She loved Tara more than life itself. She would have done anything for her. Will had been through Hell to regain Tara's trust and love. If only we could go back and change the past.

There were so many we had lost. Jenny Calendar. I remember Giles face when Buffy brought him back from Angel's factory. He looked as though he just couldn't go on. He loved her so much. But I didn't understand. And when Kendra, the second Slayer, died too, I still didn't understand.

And we went on. We faced horrible foes and won battles. And it never took a real toll on us. We fought Angelus, and the Mayor, and Adam, and the entire Initiative, but never did we understand.

Dawn showed up and that changed perspective a little. Suddenly we had to care for this little girl who didn't understand the world around her even more than we didn't understand what losing the battle would be like. She trusted us.

Buffy needed us and we gave her as much support as we could. But that year, Joyce died.

It would have been easier, I think, if Joyce had been bitten, or had been kidnapped by a demon or something like that. That way, Buffy could go out and kill the thing that had taken her mother from her. But Joyce died from a disease – a completely non-mystical aneurysm. There was nothing for Buffy to take her anger out on.

Willow's still sobbing on my shoulder on the couch and I reach for the phone again. There's one more call I have to make.

"Hello?"

I force my voice to be normal. "Hey Dawn. Is your sister around?"

Dawn doesn't have a clue. "Hold on. BUFFY!"

"Hello?" Buffy's voice rings hollowly in my ears.

Losing Buffy was the hardest of all. We knew that she had to do it and that there was nothing anyone could have done. But when we gathered around her body on the ground – when we buried her and engraved her name on a tombstone – the world lost its shine for me. I had Anya and I loved her with all my heart, but there was a place for Buffy in there too. I'd loved her since the first minute I saw her, lifetimes and lifetimes ago. And then she was gone. What was I supposed to do?

"Xander?" Buffy asks. She must have checked her caller ID. "Xander, say something."

"She's dead, Buff. Cordelia's dead."

She hangs up too. I know she'll be over in a matter of minutes. Willow's stopped crying and is just curled up in the corner of the couch. Slowly, she pulls something out of her pocket.

"I looked for this before I came over here," she says with tears falling. She hands me a folded piece of paper. I unfold it and I can't stop crying either.

It's nothing but a piece of white paper with words very neatly written in crayon. OFFICIAL MEMBERSHIP CERTIFICATE – Willow was a great speller even at six years old – of the WE HATE CORDELIA CLUB. And below it said simply XANDER HARRIS – TREASURER.

"Is she really gone?" Willow asks in a wavering voice. I just nod, unable to speak. "How?" Willow asks.

Vaguely, I remember Anya when Joyce died, asking why. She had been a demon for over 1,000 years. She didn't understand death either.

I miss her so much. Her picture's next to my bed. I know she died fighting the good fight and all that, but why? I now know death and I know what it's like to lose someone who you love more than life itself. But I guess in some ways I'm just like that too. I don't understand why either. I don't understand why we have to lose the people we love.

And now Cordelia. Cordelia was the girl in high school who I never stopped loving. When I lost her after cheating with Willow, I felt like I couldn't go on. If only I'd have known what was to come.

I know I have a picture around here somewhere. I have to. But Buffy's here now and I'm crying again. "Where's Dawn?" I ask. Buffy just shakes her head. Dawn's fine. I shouldn't worry about her.

And I'm not. I can't think of anything except Cordelia. I can't understand why she's dead.

Why did Angel call me? Me of all people? Why not Buffy? Or Willow? Or even Dawn? Why me?

I think he knew. Part of him had to have known how much we cared for each other, even though he was evil and then in Hell for most of the time Cordy and I were together.

And now she's gone. Buff, Will, and I are on the couch, holding each other and crying. But crying won't bring her back.

Jenny. Kendra. Tara. Joyce. Anya. Cordelia. Nothing can bring them back. I finally understand.

But I'll never stop crying for them.