AUTHOR'S NOTE And…that's it! Thanks everyone for reading and I hope you enjoyed! (Lauren, Merry Christmas that lasted till August!)
Oh, and I may have borrowed something from The Mummy for this chapter. I couldn't resist!
DISCLAIMER Nope, still don't own anyone.
They gathered just after dusk around a grave in one of Los Angeles's more modest cemeteries. There was no one else around, only the handful of people who came to pay their last respects to 24-year-old Cordelia Chase.
Angel, Wesley, Gunn, and Fred stood with Chase closest to the grave. Off in the shadows, where only Angel knew where to look, was Lorne, whose demon appearance made it impossible for him to join the rest of the group. Buffy had found Xander and brought him to the funeral, but Willow was not able to return to California in time. Neither was Giles.
House, Foreman, and Cameron had been given a weekend's leave to join Chase at his cousin's funeral. Although none of them had been to Los Angeles before, they chose to spend the few days they had there getting to know the people who Cordelia had once spent her life with.
Angel gave them each rooms at the Hyperion for the few nights they were visiting. They spent the day of the funeral in the hotel lobby where Angel was safe from the sun yet would not raise suspicion. Buffy and Xander told the others stories from their years at Sunnydale High, sanitized for the sake of Chase and the other doctors. Angel told them what he could about when she had worked for Angel Investigations. Chase told often-unheard stories of his childhood in Australia – a time when Cordelia, although six years younger, had been his most loved playmate.
It all led to this evening as they gathered around the dark brown casket held up on a platform over a gaping hole in the ground. No one could bear to look at the granite headstone that read "Cordelia Chase 1981 – 2005."
No priest or minister presided over the ceremony. Buffy and Angel had hoped that Giles could have returned and overseen the service, but he was still deep in the Egyptian desert meeting with the Medjai. So Wesley, being the other Watcher and having worked with Cordy both in Sunnydale and in Los Angeles, stepped up.
He stood awkwardly next to the gravestone. "I, uh, don't know what to say," he admitted. "How do you say goodbye to the best woman you have ever known?"
"She was a fighter," Angel said.
"And a great ally," Buffy added.
"A perfect woman," Xander said, tears in his eyes.
Chase could barely speak. "And a best friend."
"She always wanted to live in LA," Buffy said. "I remember her telling me that my very first day at Sunnydale High." Her eyes were sad. "If only we knew."
Angel nodded. "If only," he echoed.
They stood in silence. Finally, Wesley nodded to the undertaker waiting nearby. As the man neared the grave, everyone gazed for one last moment at the casket before murmuring their last goodbyes. At last only Chase was left standing by the coffin. He did not bother to dry the tears. Instead, he knelt down and ran his hand over the top of the dark burnished wood. "Goodbye Cordy," he said. "I love you."
Hidden in the shadows, Angel went to where Lorne watched. "I'm sorry you couldn't be with us," he said.
The demon did not respond. Rather he seemed to be listening intently. Finally he said, "She's singing." He looked to Angel. "Tell her cousin that she loves him. And that she'll watch over him."
Angel nodded. "I will." He walked over to Chase, still beside the grave. The two men were silent at first. Then Angel said, "She loves you too. She'll always be with you. I promise."
Chase nodded, strangely comforted by his words. "I always watched out for her when we were kids," he said. "I guess she wanted a turn."
"I guess she did." They stood there for one moment longer, then Angel turned away. "Come on, Chase. It's time to go."
Reluctantly, Chase turned and followed Angel to where House, Buffy, and the others waited. Finally, as the first stars struggled to get through the murky light reflecting up from the city, they left the cemetery.