This is set a week after the previous chapter

Chapter Seventy-One: The Action of a Wise God

Harmony playfully nuzzled against Xander. "Come on," she said, "It's a beautiful day, up and at 'em." Xander groaned and rolled over to the side, covering his head with a pillow. She looked concerned. "Are you okay?" she asked. Xander chuckled wearily as the sun continued to pour into the room.

"I didn't exactly get what you would call a good night's sleep," he grunted. "You're not going to go away?" he asked, speaking into the cushion, rolling his eye in irritation. She jumped on top of him.

"Of course not," she said. He rolled over, sending her tumbling to the side in the process.

"Well if you're going to stay could you at least do something about that?" he asked, nodding at her weeping neck wound, "Cover it up or something because blood is a bitch to get out." The red was pouring out of the gash, staining the white fabric and seeping into the mattress underneath.

Xander woke up with a quiet gasp. His sheets were still drenched, but with sweat and not blood and his heart was racing. He turned to the side and glanced at his bedside clock.

02:13

Almost a quarter past two in the morning. He'd only managed to steal a measly three hours sleep. Seeing as how rest was clearly an impossibility he forced his unwilling body out of the bed and onto his feet. He looked of at the closed door and could see a suit hanging from a hook.

He had forgotten about that, today was the day.

~o~O~o~

Rupert Giles stood on the roof of the Hyperion hotel and exhaled, watching the jet of smoke fade away into the dawn. He leant against the railing as he listened to the sounds Los Angeles made as it woke up to face the new day. He and the others had been in the city for the past two days, staying at the Hyperion this time, showing their support in whatever way they could.

He felt helpless. No, worse than helpless; he felt completely and utterly useless. He had been here before, he had been the one to find Jenny's lifeless body, so broken and abused. He felt that he should know what to do, what to say but he knew that there was nothing he could do, nothing he could say that would make it better. Willow knew as well, she too had watched her lover die. They both knew that they could only wait; time was the only real force capable of helping.

"Hey." Giles turned to see Xander lean against the railing right next to him. "Mind if I bum a smoke?" Giles thought for a moment before reaching into his jacket pocket and retrieving a packet. Xander grabbed one and looked at it as though he had never seen a cigarette before, idly spinning it with his fingers. Giles handed him a zippo and he lit it.

"I didn't know you smoked," Giles remarked.

"I don't," Xander replied, "I just want to see what all the fuss is about." He took a short drag before immediately choking, coughing out patches of smoke. "How the hell do people get addicted to these things?" he asked incredulously.

"You have to really work at it," Giles answered. "You couldn't sleep." It was a question, not a statement. Xander sighed and took another puff, this time only slightly pulling a face.

"Nah," he said, watching the smoke dissipate into the dark, "Sleep is not a good thing for me right now." Giles considered telling him that he still needed rest but thought better of it. He was sure that someone else had mentioned it and there was nothing to be gained by repeating it. "I don't know what to do," he said finally, "Every time I close my eye I keep going back to that meeting room, you know, trying to think of what I could've done differently; I save her every night. Each time I'm a little bit faster, a little bit stronger, a little bit more aware. I mean, it took me almost a minute to notice that she'd been… I just wish that she'd let me take the hit."

"Then you'd be dead," Giles said seriously.

"Would I?" he asked, "I mean, it was aimed at the middle of my chest, my heart is to the left. I don't know, maybe I could have taken it. I'd be hurt, obviously, but… I could've… Yeah, I could have taken it."

"You honestly think that you would have survived?" Giles asked.

"WHEN DON'T I!?" Xander suddenly exploded before coughing out more smoke. "I mean, think about it, I don't have powers, I'm not a Slayer or a sorcerer or anything like that but I always somehow manage to not die no matter what the universe throws in my direction. Taking the hit for me was a stupid, selfish thing, she… she shouldn't have done it." He looked down at the footpath several stories below. "I honestly don't know if I can do this today. I mean, how do I?" Giles sighed.

"I don't know," he said before tilting his head to the side as an idea occurred to him. "Actually I do. You go downstairs, you have some breakfast even if it's just a piece of toast or something small, you put on a suit you get into a car and walk into that chapel. The reason that you do this, by the way, is not for you, it's not even for her; the person that you're going to do this for is a version of you that is not going to exist for another week or so. Because then you'll be glad that you went and you'll regret it if you don't."

"I suppose that makes sense," Xander replied nonchalantly before throwing the cigarette off over the side. He looked at Giles and shrugged. "I don't think this is for me," he said before heading for the door. He suddenly paused and looked back at him. "Hey," he added, "Thanks… You know, for coming and everything."

"No problem," Giles replied, "Anytime."

~o~O~o~

The funeral service was very simple. A priest said something and read some verses from the Bible that Xander would never remember. Spike then took the stand and recited a small poem that he had written for Harmony on the plane ride. Despite the potentially lethal Christian iconography around the podium, he spoke clearly and sincerely.

That was followed by Fred who recounted their adventures in Nepal. "I didn't know Harmony for as long as I would have liked." Fred spoke in a slow voice in an effort to keep her emotions under control. "But I wouldn't have traded the time we had for anything. We fought monsters together, gossiped about boys and… more than anything… she was my friend. No actually she was more than that; in the end she was as close to me as a little sister… and I loved her."

After that Giles read a section from The Book of Wisdom.

"…In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die, but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality…"

Dawn then spoke about while she did not know Harmony personally, she was and would always be forever grateful to her due to her saving Xander on the Golden Gate Bridge.

When it was Gunn's turn to speak he hesitated. Finally he looked down to the words he had written and began to speak. "I didn't know Harmony that well," he said, "She had always just been a co-worker. But I think that, on that last, terrible day, I may have known her at her best. She was a hard, dedicated worker and she was strong. She didn't back down when her status and later her gender was called into question and her final act on this earth was that of a hero." He then recited Isaiah 25:6a, 7-9.

Xander didn't say anything. He had prepared no words nor made any indication that he wanted to speak. He simply stared straight at the flower covered casket and the motionless figure inside. Harmony's throat had been covered with an arrangement of cornflowers that Fred had placed there herself.

With the way her wound was hidden, she could have simply been sleeping, ready to wake up at any moment.

After the service was concluded, Fred walked up to Xander and pulled him into a hug. He allowed himself to be drawn in and hugged her back. "Thanks for being here," he whispered.

"Of course I was going to be here," she replied gently, "How are you holding up?"

"I'm managing," he answered simply.

"I thought it was a beautiful service," she said, her voice quivering slightly, "I reckon that she… I think she would have liked it."

"Yeah," he agreed softly, fighting back tears that were once again starting to form. Wesley approached them and wordlessly touched Xander on the shoulder. Xander smiled sadly and put his hand on top of Wesley's. "Hey Wes, Fred, could you guys do me a favour?" he asked.

"What do you need?" Fred asked.

"Do you think that you could give me a moment?" he asked, "Just get everyone out and close the doors for a minute or two. I… I just need a moment alone to… I don't know… I just need a moment."

"Sure," said Wesley before he and Fred quietly ushered everyone outside, Angel and Spike opening umbrellas to protect them from the sun's rays before quickly retreating to the safety of the cars. Xander heard the heavy doors of the church close before walking up and leaning on them, the tears now sliding down his face unchecked. Suddenly he stopped his weeping and turned around, seeing the altar and large crucifix at the end of the long aisle. Without warning, a look of pure wrath contorted his face.

"You really are a sanctimonious, selfish, viscous bastard," he snarled to the cross, taking slow, deliberate steps down the aisle as he spoke. "She had only been a human for week, one short week and then You go and hit her with a knife to the throat! What was that?" he demanded, "Was that Your idea of a joke? Was it supposed to be funny? Was it some sort of desperate grab for attention? Wesley, Gunn, Dawn and Giles, they all think that You are wise and benevolent and that You have a plan for us but you know what, I think that You are just mean." He never ceased in his unhurried trek towards the altar. "Angel says that there is an Apocalypse coming," he said, "And that there has not been one this bad since the one last year that You failed to help out with. Every time I ask a priest about Your criminal acts of negligence I keep getting the old "Oh God can't interfere because He loves us so much that He wants us to have free will." Then piss off, what the Hell is the point of You? I can't help but notice that the demons, other gods and the First never hesitated in getting their hands dirty." He held out his arms, still advancing. "She was human, a human being with a human soul and You took her away from me without so much as a by your leave. Yes I have killed, I have lied, I have stolen, yes I have sinned but I have got nothing on You, You arrogant, brutal, bottom feeding thug. Are You unhappy with the work I have done? Saving Fred, did that make You angry? Stopping Willow from burning your Earth to the ground, stopping a bomb from detonating over an open Hell Mouth, were You unhappy... did that make you unhappy when You realised that I was doing Your job for you? Hitting Glory with a wrecking ball, bringing in Sebastian without killing anyone, fighting against the First Evil's army of Turok-Han, attempting to repair bridges with Giles and the others, preparing for a new war for Earth, I gave up a chance for a new eye to still be on the good side…" He ascended the stairs and placed his hands on the altar. "What!?" he pleaded, "How was that not enough to keep her alive? Was her… Was her death the action of a wise God, of a loving God?" He shook his head and slammed his fist sharply onto the stone table, pain vibrating all the way up to his shoulder. He raised his gaze and glared up at the crucifix. "To Hell with Your judgements… and to Hell with You," he said in a betrayed tone of voice. "I am going to stop this. L.A. is going to stay standing against the storm but do not think for an instant that this is Your work. This was her home and I am going to protect it." He curled his lip and turned around, walking back down the aisle.

~o~O~o~

Spike and Angel were not able to attend the burial as the sun would have reduced them to ash in moments. However, everyone was present at Ferris Fields cemetery and they all stood around the open grave as Harmony's casket was gently lowered to its final resting place. Once it had been laid to rest, Wesley and Xander began to fill the grave and finally the coffin was covered with a fresh layer of dirt.

Finally they all started to depart until Xander was the only person who remained. He was standing, starring quietly at the gravestone. Wesley and Fred both watched from a distance but allowed him his privacy. Angel had quietly told them about his encounter with Xander the night after Harmony had died and they simply wanted to ensure his safety, nothing more.

"I didn't say anything at the funeral," he said to the grave, "I was going to, I even had the workings of a speech prepared and everything but… I-I couldn't stand there like the others because if I had to walk past you to get to the stand I would have lost it. But what I can say, here and now, is that… You were my hero, the love of my life and my best friend. No matter what happens in future I am never going to stop loving you. And don't worry, I'll be along as soon as I can. Rest easy, Harmony, you won't be alone for long."

~o~O~o~

I know that this is a fairly short chapter but I really felt that it was important to show the funeral. The next chapters should be longer and more action based.

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