Disclaimer: the author does not claim ownership to the characters or plot development mentioned from "Angel", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Fray". These properties expressly belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Greenwolf Corporation, 20th Century Fox Television, WB Network, Dark Horse Comics, etc. Any other characters contained in the original story are the author's.

Historical note: Season 5. Set after the sadness of "You're Welcome".

Author's Notes: Came home tonight, commiserated with Ebonbird, wrote a fic. e.c. 2/10/04



The Wrong Goodbye

By Evan Como

Dawn be damned.

Angel could feel the hairs on the back of his neck recoil. He could smell the rising warmth. Nearby blades of grass began to twist and bend, reaching for the new day. Birdsong flitted from branch to brush.

What was there to sing about?

He let go of the handful of gravelly soil, tamped it down into the broken sod with his fist. He fought the inclination he'd been nursing all night: to claw up the freshly-packed grave, crack open the coffin and, and... That's actually as far his thought processes had gotten. To flesh out the scenario would be to admit that Cordelia was actually down there.

That Cordelia was actually dead.

The scent of singed flesh woke him out of the morbid reflection. Survival instinct set him into motion towards the GTO parked at the nearby curb. He climbed inside and squinted hard, turning his cheek towards the full, blazing sun as it made its grand appearance.

"You dolt," she chided. "Sun, OK? So not your friend."

Angel peered into the rear view mirror. He blinked, but the apparition didn't disappear. That saddened him. Cordelia looked old.

"Is this really you or is this you inside my head?" he stated more than asked.

Cordelia shrugged rounded shoulders. "What do you think?"

Angel reached forward and hugged the steering wheel. In exasperation he squeezed it between his biceps. "I'm fucking tired of being inside my own head is what I think," he huffed. "I want reality."

His cheek raked across the steering wheel's die-cut dotted leather wrapping. "I want reality," he confessed softly.

Cordelia clambered over the center console into the front seat. "Hello, Cordy! Lifeless, now. You could have done that a little more with the lady-like and less with the, um... C'mon, Angel. Help me out."

"Just stop. You sound like Xander." Angel tipped his head and fixed her with his brown gaze. "God, I'm so exhausted, I can't make you jabber in character."

Her parched lips scrunched to one side. The barely-arched brows above her tarnished golden eyes furrowed. "Then why am I here, Angel?" She began to reach, letting her palm drop into her lap instead.

"Because I don't want to let you go?" he replied.

Eyes downcast, she considered that for a moment. With her bottom lip secured beneath her top teeth, she glanced back up and into his face. "Don't resurrect me, Angel."

He swiveled his head against the wheel. "No more resurrections. I've had it with resurrections. It's like they're not even special anymore."

"Good," she exhaled, just like the living Cordy would have exhaled.

"Will you go to heaven now?" he ventured.

"Is that where your imagination is going to send me?" she retorted with a sly half-smile.

His vision blurred. Angel looked past the worn young woman. "Please know I never meant for any of this to happen to you."

"Not your fault, Angel," she replied. "It's Buffy's. Remember?"

She smiled and every moist tooth glistened. Silky dark brown hair doubled over into enormous curls, spilling past her shoulders. Her eyes brightened and danced with mischief. A giggle escaped her throat.

God, how she loved pinning shit on Buffy!

"Find peace," he choked. "Please?"

There was a slight creak as she shifted in her seat. Cordelia's familiar strong hand smoothed the hair at his temple; her lips felt cool on his cheek. "From your mouth..." she spoke against his ear.

Angel gasped and reared back. He'd known the caress of Death upon his flesh and it had never been like this.

He reached, to hold onto her forever.

A cemetery maintenance truck rolled by, almost reverently. A squirrel romped across the path, bucked across the lawn and sprinted up the cottonwood tree that partially shaded Cordelia's grave.

She was truly gone.

Angel placed his fingertips on his side window. As he drew them down, little speckles of soil powdered the weather stripping. "I'll miss you, Cordelia," he whispered. "Forever."

He turned over the ignition without looking and gradually faced forward. The high performance V8 engine roared viciously. He blinked hard to clear his vision; he blinked again to clear his thoughts. After shifting the car out of park, with his right elbow pushing off the side of his bucket seat, he turned to watch his reverse path.

The maintenance man who'd been picking up spent flowers and throwing them away heard a car screech. When he looked up, the black car he'd passed earlier was still bucking on its chassis. "Not for me to care," he reminded himself, returning to his chores. Nor was it for him to care that the back seat of that black car was mired in dirt.