A man in my shoes runs a light
and all the papers lie tonight
but falling over you
is the news of the day.
Angels fall like rain
And love - is all of heaven away

Inside you the times moves
and she don't fade
The ghost in you
She don't fade

~The Ghost In You, Psychedelic Furs
_________________________________________


He can still hear that voice in his ear. The cool, professional sound of calm tinged with sympathy, carefully calculated and modulated by one who hasn't the slightest idea of the grief they deliver.

He can still feel the pressure of the phone against his hand, the temperature of plastic that matches his skin. But his lips are warm. He can still taste her there, like sunshine and all the treasures of daylight he can never touch, wreathed in hope and wet with life. It is all that consumes him as the receiver touches the cradle and he whispers the words, "Thank you" to an empty room that is still filled with her delicate scent.

So simple. Two syllables that even trembling with lament and love cannot begin to convey what he feels.

It hadn't been like this when he'd lost Buffy. In a way, he'd always expected to lose her. Buffy was a Slayer. But Cordelia... Cordelia was supposed to live, grow old and die--

surrounded by fat grandchildren

--like a normal person.

Cordelia, who'd never needed to join the battle. Cordelia, who'd been clothed in silk and satin and designer labels, spouting razor wit and condescending advice. She'd been but a girl, who with the slow pulling of time had found herself drawn into a world that would have made others wilt with fear. But she had never wilted like some frail, fragile flower—like the vain and vapid girl she had appeared to be would have wilted. No, the trials and losses of all the years had dug deep into her soul and found strength like a thread of steel. She had grown stronger in the fires of pain and adversity, like a weapon fired in the forges of the Gods.

And yet, he still remembers, more than anything, the delicate, dazzling brilliance of her smile. The way it shined when she tipped her head at him; the way it almost made him remember what it was like to have a heartbeat. The way, with time, that smile had come to mean everything to him, had become the pinnacle on which he hung his fragile hope. And he knew then that if Cordelia could find joy in this, could find something in their mission that filled the empty, boundless spaces in her heart, then it was something worth doing.

Yes. He remembers feeling that. That undeniable hope that even in the darkest times had barely waned. A fire they had shared together and drawn strength from. That light had never wavered, not completely. Not until she'd been taken from him, pulled into a land of darkness and dreams where he could not follow.

Had he loved her? He thought he had, in the best way he could. In the only way that was allowed to him.

Cordelia, so strong and brave even when she was terrified. Even when she was broken.  Cordelia, who had never needed him but whom he'd needed so badly that sometimes her name was like a prayer upon his lips.

Second soldier down. They'd never had their chance. And now, they never will.

The words echo in his mind, painfully stringent as they shatter hallowed corridors he has scarce allowed himself to travel. Their breaking is a thin fracture that grows, crumbling with hopes unrealized. And all the things he'd barely known he'd wanted, all the things he'd never known he'd felt, come free like lightning, twisting and leaping into existence with a single, searing strike.

His temple of dreams is come undone.

In its wake, he can almost touch the face of a ghost with deep brown eyes and darker hair, whose smile was the brilliance that gave him hope. Her loss is an ache in his chest that is more than palpable—it is consuming, like a black hole whose endless depths will never be filled, no matter how much it consumes.

He doesn't know how he's going to go on without her. He hasn't the slightest clue of how to begin.

But he knows one thing for certain.

He will not fail her memory, or dishonor the last, noble gift she has given him.

He's going to take Wolfram & Hart by its demonic, hell-spawned horns and wrestle it to the ground. For her, for Connor, for Darla and Drusilla and Jenny and all the other people he's killed or couldn't save.

And he's going to win.