If there was anything Wolfram & Hart was good for, it was for having the resources to create exactly the memorial necessary for a departed friend/comrade/loved one/sister in arms. Forest Lawn only dithered for five minutes before finding space in the celebrity section of their cemetery for one more resident. Not that they argued that strenuously. The lady obviously was loved by someone with power and money, no matter if no one recognized the name Cordelia Chase.

The finest mausoleum space near Hollywood names that people still looked for, flowers in perpetuity, plus an evening service with a request for exceptional privacy. Normally such requests didn't extend to the cemetery staff--there were perks with working at the place--but the large men in suits and sunglasses that arrived before the cortege suggested that the staff should mind their own business for once. As usual, though, the groundskeepers were overlooked, and they paused to watch the line of limousines that rolled through the gates at sunset.

A brief argument appeared to break out as the mourners got out of their vehicles and gathered at the hearse. The man whose subdued grey suit didn't really go with his green complexion glared at the bleached blond man in the long leather duster and muttered something.

"I did too know her," the blond protested quietly. "Known her longer than you have."

"But she called me friend."

The brown-haired woman tugged on the blond's arm. "It's all right, Spike," she said softly. "Stay with Harmony and me."

The one called Spike glanced uncomfortably at the blonde woman who was trying to cry quietly, then sighed and put his arm around her shoulders and around the woman who had spoken to him.

The two men standing close together turned away from the discussion to look at the last member of the group. A large man, whose broad shoulders couldn't seem to support the bowed head as he rested one hand against the rear door of the hearse.

"Angel?" the one with the English accent said softly. "We should ..."

The man nodded slowly. He waved away the attendant who had come with the hearse and opened the door himself.

The four men took up positions as pall bearers, with the large man at the head. He held his end easily, but the others had to strain to lift their portions of the bronze casket. The blond man started to step forward, then subsided with another sigh. Finally the casket was raised to position, and they slowly carried it into the mausoleum, out of sight of observers.

* * *

Inside the mausoleum, a black-draped catafalque stood near one wall. One of the tombs at eye level had been opened, and a bronze-colored curtain hung over the opening. They placed Cordelia's casket on the catafalque and stepped back.

"Should we have gotten someone?" Fred said after several silent moments. "To, you know, say something?"

Wesley managed a slight smile. "I can't think of anyone who would know what to say that isn't already here."

Harmony wiped her eyes. "Did anyone call the others? I meant to, but . . ."

Gunn frowned. "The others? What others?"

"The Sunnydale crowd," Spike said. "The ones who grew up with her and lived to tell the tale." He stared at the casket, not looking at anyone.

Wesley winced. "Oh, dear. Yes. They should be told."

"They didn't care when she got sick. Why should they care now?"

Everyone looked uneasily at Angel, who was also staring at the casket.

"I told them last spring," he went on in a flat voice. "Giles said, 'Oh, dear, please keep us posted.' And that was all that bunch ever said." He glanced up at the others. "She's ours."

Gunn stepped forward and rested a hand on the curved top of the casket. "I thought she was just this annoying girl trying too hard to be hip. But she just kept insisting she was there to protect me. And damn if she wasn't. Always."

Wesley joined him. "Even when she was frightened, she never complained--" He glanced up at the noise of protest wrung out of Angel. "All right," he added with a faint smile, "maybe a few times. But she never gave up. Even when she had the chance."

"She didn't let me hide," Fred said softly. "She made me come out into the world. She was my friend."

Harmony sniffed. "She was my hero. Everything I ever wanted to be. And she even liked me when I tried to kill her."

Lorne smiled at the casket. "Even when covered in muck, she was always in style."

Silence fell. Fred nudged Spike, who looked startled, then glanced at Angel, who simply stared at the casket, lost in his own thoughts. Spike swallowed, then grinned, though he toned it down a little for the occasion. "I don't think she knew how to back down. Didn't seem to get the concept of someone else holding all the cards. And heaven help the poor bugger who thought he did."

The next silence was longer, until everyone was giving Angel uncertain looks. He never raised his eyes. "She gave me hope," he finally said.

After several moments, Fred looked around. "What now?"

Wesley looked around as well. "I imagine the staff is just waiting for us to leave, so they can finish . . ." He nodded at the curtained alcove waiting for its occupant.

"We can't just--leave her here--just sitting there."

Lorne came over to put his arm around her shoulders. "It's OK, Freddles. It's never easy to walk away."

Angel shook his head. "No, Fred's right. We can't just leave her here."

Wesley frowned in concern. "Angel, what are you suggesting?"

Angel managed a small smile. "Cordelia Chase does not wait for anyone to get around to her." He looked at Spike, who cocked his head, then grinned.

"'Scuse me," he said to Lorne as he maneuvered past to the foot of the casket.

Angel gave him a look of warning, but Spike only raised a dismissing eyebrow in return. Angel relaxed, then nodded. They lifted the casket easily.

Gunn quickly pulled the curtain over the opening to one side, wincing at the cold breath of air that drifted out of the deep, concrete tomb. Wesley tugged him out of the way.

Spike lifted the end and guided it onto the rollers inside the opening, then he stepped aside and let Angel push the casket slowly in. The casket suddenly stopped, and he looked at Angel in concern. He kept his questions to himself, though, when he saw Angel was resting his head against the cold metal of the casket. The expression on his face was not something other people should see. Spike looked away.

Finally Angel took a deep breath and pushed the casket the rest of the way in. He rested his hand on the surface. "Good night, sweet princess."

"And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest," Spike finished, just as softly. Angel looked at him suspiciously, then nodded briefly. He touched Angel's arm for a moment, then went to the others. He didn't protest when Harmony attached herself to his shoulder.

Angel finally looked up. "Do you guys mind if I just . . . stay here a while?"

"Of course not," Wesley said. "Shall we leave one of the cars?"

"No, I'll get back OK."

"Especially if you use that cell phone in your pocket to call for a car when you're ready to come back."

"Huh?" Angel reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a cell phone. "Oh, yeah. Makes sense. I mean, I finally learn how to use one of these--" He broke off and closed his eyes.

Wesley swallowed hard. "Yes," he said in a tight voice. "She'd be proud of you." He turned away and looked at everyone else. "Let's go."

The sounds of subdued conversation, car doors, and retreating engines drifted past Angel's attention and faded into silence. He stared at the phone in his hand, at the little screen and buttons so tiny he could never hit just the one he wanted with his big fingers. Harmony was sworn to secrecy that she programmed the speed dials for him and that he rarely even attempted to dial anything by himself. How many times had Cordelia tried to unravel the mystery for him? He'd been looking forward to taking her to the Starbucks in the Wolfram & Hart lobby, where he'd demonstrate that he finally knew the difference between a latte and a cappuccino, and somewhere in all that he'd casually flip out his fancy little phone and call up somebody. But that was before he found out that her return was a mystical "wise up!" and not the first truly good news he'd had in many long months.

She'd given him hope. That should have been his first clue of the horrors to come. He'd watched her cuddling baby Connor, cooing and singing to the infant in her arms, and he'd dared to hope that maybe this was what they'd meant by Shanshu: himself made human in the form of a baby boy. A son, plus a woman to share the joy of raising him. A family.

If Connor had been the main reason for accepting the W&H job, then Cordelia had been a very close second. The best of care, medical and mystical. He had always expected her to wake up, that she'd open those gorgeous eyes, smile that million-dollar smile, and tell him his expensive suit was just all wrong for him. He had dreamed of that day. He was really sick of the Powers tormenting him with the taste of joy that would never be his.

He slowly realized there was a heartbeat not too far away. Of course, the mortuary staff had seen the cars leave and wanted to finish their work.

"I'm sorry," he said, not looking up. "I just wanted to pay my respects in private. I'll get out of your way now."

"You're not in my way, deadboy. I got used to maneuvering around you a long time ago."

Angel frowned as the figure in the shadows walked closer. The voice was familiar, too familiar, but the man might have been a stranger. He moved too easily, with a lazy stride that was used to crossing wide open spaces. And the eyes --or, rather, eye . . . Angel's gaze was met with a level stare that still held all the unthinking courage but none of the lurking self-doubt that had defined Xander Harris.

"How did you know?" Angel finally asked.

Xander looked at the casket in its niche. "She came and said good-bye. I thought it was just another vision quest or waking dream thingie, until she kissed me." He saw Angel looking at the shadows. "No, just me. Don't know why I was the only one to get a Cordy-gram, but if she didn't want to tell the others, I don't see why I should second guess her."

Angel watched cautiously as Xander walked to the niche. He was bigger than Angel remembered, taller, broader. He was dressing differently, too. Khaki pants and shirt with many pockets, frayed on the edges and weatherbeaten. The heavy boots were scuffed and gouged, with what looked like tooth marks on the top of the left one. Around his neck was a length of rough twine, with several multi-colored fetish beads, the fang of something, and two lion claws.

"What did she say?" Angel asked when the silence got too long.

Xander glanced over his right shoulder. He smiled sardonically. "Not to take it out on you. That it didn't hurt." He turned away. "And a bunch of stuff that's none of your business."

Angel debated feeling jealous, but he didn't have the energy. He slowly went to stand beside Xander, making sure to stay on his right side. "You're being very civil to me. The 'deadboy' notwithstanding. I appreciate it. Especially with the whole 'You're in charge of Wolfram & Hart, we don't trust you, blah blah' I got from Andrew when he was here."

"Andrew was here?" Xander frowned, then nodded. "Oh, yeah, that girl in the mental hospital who woke up a Slayer. Poor kid. As for being civil, I'm working off the premise that all of this is a jetlag hallucination. Twenty-four hours ago I was in the Olduvai Gorge. Twelve hours ago I was in Johannesburg. Twenty-four hours from now I should be back at Olduvai, wondering if I imagined all this. It'd be nice if I could tell myself that, that this was just some dream."

"I know," Angel agreed.

Xander stared at the casket. "All the women I love die on me," he whispered. "I think there's a hint I'm supposed to be taking."

"I know that one, too."

Angel was still trying to feel some sort of jealousy, maybe just so he'd have something recognizable to feel. All he had, though, was wistfulness. He couldn't even come up with the usual annoyance at having Xander around. Maybe he'd grown up. And why did Angel hear Cordy's voice in his head saying, "Yeah, one of you grew up. I wonder which one?"

"Did you want to see the others?" he asked.

"What?" Xander glanced towards the doorway, as if expecting to see people returning. "Wesley and them? No, no need. I've got nothing to say to them. Say Hi if you think they'll care."

"Harmony will be disappointed. She gets a kick out of seeing people she used to know."

Xander smiled. "Harmony. What is my world coming to when I think of unsouled vampires and I don't automatically look for a stake?"

"Well, it is Harmony."

"Yeah." He studied the floor for several moments. "No. I don't want to see them. I won't be coming back here, no reason to talk to them."

"Not coming back? At all?"

Xander raised his head and stared at the casket. "Nothing here I care about anymore. My hometown is a smoking hole. Cordy . . . It's all gone now."

"So what will you do now?"

Xander glanced at Angel curiously. "Back to Africa, like I said. We've kind of split up the world between us, and I'm driving around the Dark Continent looking for Slayers and trouble. Which is a whole lot less in the way of wacky roadtrip hijinks than I was expecting." He shook his head. "But that's the job. At least I'm getting paid."

Angel tried to ignore the suggestion that was poking him in the soul like a well-manicured finger. He got the feeling that if he kept ignoring it, though, the urging might take on the force of a Prada-shod kick.

He cleared his throat. "You, um, don't have to go just yet, if you don't want to. I can get you back where you need to be quicker than an airline could. If you, you know, wanted to spend some time in civilization."

Xander turned completely to face him. "Angel, why the hell do you want me to hang around? Me? Xander Harris, never a member of the Angel fan club, you know."

"I know. I just thought--we could talk."

Xander blinked several times. "About what?"

Angel glanced at the casket in its tomb. The suspicion faded from Xander's face to be replaced by a rueful smile.

"I don't think so," he said with something close to friendliness. "What good would it do?"

"It's something people do when they say good-bye to a friend." Angel grimaced. "You're the only one around here who remembers her as well as I do. When you leave, when I walk out of here, she'll really be gone."

Xander's face went blank. "No use holding on. She is gone. First her, then all our memories of her when everyone who remembers is gone."

Angel nodded slightly. "Then she'll last a long, long time."

The smile he got from Xander held a bit of the old mockery. "So vampires are like elephants?"

"Yes. We never forget."

The smile went away, leaving pain. "That's too bad. Letting the memories go is the only way to make the hurt stop."

Angel knew that look. It told of a man who had endured too much, who had decided that the only way to cope was not to care anymore. A man like that had lived in the Hyperion in the early 50s, and it was nearly fifty years before he learned otherwise. Xander Harris probably didn't have fifty years to get better.

"Something she told me, before--before she finally left. She asked me why I ran Wolfram and Hart, why I kept doing what I do. I said it was to help people." He very carefully didn't look anywhere other than at a plain slab of marble, not wanting to see either the man with the distrustful gaze or the metal box containing his hopes. "She had to remind me that I was people, too, and that sometimes I need help as much as the next person."

"So?" The voice was a lot closer to the sullen, resentful tones of that young man he'd first met, who was having a hard enough time dealing with his life without having vampires messing with it.

Angel hesitated, then shrugged. "If you're too stupid to get the point, then never mind. Go back to Africa, lose yourself in the wilderness, forget everything that ever hurt and everything that ever made you you. At least you probably won't be driven to eating rats to survive." He gave Xander a straight look. "But even with everything else, I never thought you were stupid."

Xander started to speak, then shook his head and walked towards the door. After a few steps, though, he stopped. "She told me not to take it out on you. I suppose that means I should at least listen to you when you start making speeches. At least yours are shorter than Buffy's."

The name sparked uncomfortable silence, but that evened out after a couple of moments.

"How is she?" Angel asked.

Xander shrugged. "Fine the last time I talked to her, which was a couple of months ago."

"You should call her."

"Yes, mom. But there aren't a lot of cellular towers in the bush."

"Thousands of them in L.A."

"I've got a plane to catch."

"The offer of a ride back still holds."

Xander shook his head. "You, with a private plane."

"I've got three. I've even got a helicopter." He managed not to smirk at Xander's look of disgruntled amusement. "I also have business cards, with my email address and my phone numbers."

"Numbers, plural."

Angel shrugged. "Harmony answers them. I can work my own email, though, finally." More memories hit, of Cordelia throwing up her hands and declaring him incapable of working any technology past the Steam Age. He shook himself, pulled a business card out of his pocket and held it out. "Go on, take it. There's a garbage can right outside you can drop it in if you like."

After a moment, Xander stepped forward and took the card. He studied the printing. "So, you want me to pass these numbers on to anyone in particular?"

Angel grimaced. "They know how to reach me if they want."

"Yeah. Funny how those calls seem to get lost, huh?"


Xander tapped the card on a thumbnail, then tucked it into the back pocket of his slacks. "Thanks for the offer of a ride, but I've already got my ticket. They're showing the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy on the flight, and I don't want to miss that." He nodded and headed for the door again. Just as he reached the doorway, he paused. "Thanks," he said, not quite looking over his shoulder. Then he was gone.

Angel listened to the footsteps going down the drive to the street, then getting lost in the sounds of the city. He nodded to himself, then pulled out his cell phone to call for a car to pick him up. Before he hit the buttons, he looked one more time at Cordelia's resting place and smiled.

"You're welcome."