Angel stood in the shadow-covered alley. He watched Conner leave the shelter with two people Angel assumed were his new parents. Anne stood in the doorway waving. "Thanks again for the donations!" She said "They'll be a really big help!"
Conner waved back. "Bye!"
Angel watched Conner get in a car with the older couple and drive off. Angel wanted to run after them. He wanted to hug his son and tell him he loved him. But he couldn't. He never would be able to again. But it was all worth it to buy his son peace. Angel had made so many mistakes, but he swore to himself this wouldn't be one of them. His family was safe now. Even Cordelia was safe, she had moved on to a better place. He hoped she could see that everyone was going to be okay now and that she understood why he had done what he had done. Angel carefully got into one of his many new vampire-customized cars and drove toward the Wolfram & Hart building. Now all he had to do was convince his friends he had made the right choice without telling them the real reason he had made it. This was going to suck, but it was all worth it. Even if they couldn't be convinced, even if they left him, at least they now had some peace.
The limo came to a stop in front of Wolfram & Hart. The driver opened the door for Fred, Wes, Gunn, and Lorne. "This is so weird." Fred said, squeezing Wesley's hand for comfort
"You've got that right." Gunn said as they exited the limo
"I don't understand why Angel would want to meet us here." Wesley said
"All will soon be revealed lover-boy." Lilah said as she got out of the front of the limo
"What?" Wesley asked
"Right this way," She gestured for them to follow her inside
The team wasn't sure what they had expected to see inside, but the hustle and bustle of a busy law firm wasn't it. "I don't understand." Fred said "Illyria killed all of you."
"Are all of these people dead like you?" Gunn asked
"No," Lilah said "A few of them are dead, but none of them are like me. All of these people transferred in from other branches or are new hires. But I assure you they are all more than capable of doing their jobs with the utmost proficiency. Which is good for all of you."
"Why is that good for us?" Fred asked nervously
A familiar voice spoke up from behind them. "Because they work for you."
They all turned to look at Angel. It took Angel a moment to process what was in front of him. The weirdest thing was Wesley. He looked fine. He looked better than fine. He looked happy. Angel hadn't seen him happy since… Angel couldn't even remember. "Angel,"
Angel was jolted from his reverie by Wesley's voice. "What?"
"Are you okay?"
Angel slowly nodded.
"What do you mean they work for us?" Gunn asked "What are you talking about?"
"The senior partners are giving us the L.A. branch of Wolfram & Hart." Angel said
For a minute everyone just stared. "Oh," Lorne said "Well now everything makes sense, except wait, no it doesn't. That makes no sense! Angel have you gone cuckoo for Coco-Puffs?"
Lilah giggled. "I don't know how you people managed to defeat Illyria."
Angel shot her a look. Did they still remember Illyria? Apparently they remembered something about her because this reference didn't seem to confuse them. "Angel," Fred said "I don't understand. Why would the senior partners want us to run their evil law firm?"
"Yeah," Gunn said "Aren't we the good guys?"
"And not lawyers?" Lorne added
"I just said that." Gunn said
"Let me help you out boss." Lilah said
"Boss," Fred said "You already took the deal?"
"No," Angel lied "We only take the deal if everyone agrees." Lilah smirked at Angel and he ignored her. "I know this sounds crazy, but please hear me out. I need you to trust me."
"We trust you Angel." Wesley said
Angel was a little stunned by the earnestness in Wesley's voice as well as the candor in his expression. There was no irony in that statement for Wesley, not now. "Thank you," Angel said softly "Wolfram & Hart is giving us the opportunity to run this firm however we want. That means we can use all of their resources to fight evil, and they have a lot of resources."
"Yeah," Gunn said "Evil resources,"
"Wolfram & Hart isn't about evil." Lilah said "It's about power."
"Power we can use to fight the good fight." Angel said
"Angel," Fred said "This has to be a trap."
"I have to agree with Fred." Wesley said "Wolfram & Hart wouldn't just give us all of this for free. They must want something from us, from you Angel."
"I know." Angel said "I know they're playing us."
"Then why are you considering this?" Wesley asked
To save you. Angel couldn't say that. He had to lie. "It's because of Cordelia isn't it?"
Angel stared at Lorne, who had spoken. "What?"
"Cordelia died fighting Illyria and you can't bear the thought that things are just going to continue on, that the status quo will prevail. You have to change things any way you can."
Angel nodded. "You're right." He told Lorne "That's it."
"Angel we all miss Cordelia." Wesley said "But taking over Wolfram & Hart is not the way to honor her memory. She despised these people and everything they stood for."
"If you don't take the deal," Lilah said "We'll just put another Holland Manners in charge, or another me. You'll expend all of your efforts trying to stop our sinister plans and you'll only succeed a fraction of the time. If you take this deal not only will you not have to worry about us as a threat, but you can use us to protect the innocents you love so much."
"Why?" Fred asked "What do you get out of the deal?"
"That doesn't matter." Lilah said
"Uh, yeah it does." Gunn said
"Look," Lilah said "Before you make any hasty decisions, why not take the tour?"
Three men approached Lilah as though they had been summoned by a silent whistle. One was an older British man, one was a young man in a lab coat, and one was an awkward looking kid who looked barely out of high school. "And who are these goons?" Gunn asked
The British man approached Wesley. "Rutherford Sirk," He held out his hand.
Wesley hesitated before shaking it. "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce,"
The man in the lab coat approached Fred. "I'm Knox, uh, just Knox,"
Fred smiled warmly at him. "Fred,"
The awkward man walked up to Lorne. "I'm Preston."
"Lorne," Lorne said
"These are your guides." Lilah explained "They'll show you all the firm has to offer."
"Guides? Plural?" Fred asked
"Divide and conquer?" Wesley asked
"Nope," Lilah said "We just want to show all of you what Wolfram & Hart can offer each of you personally. You all have different areas of expertise and we strive for efficiency here."
"I don't get a guide?" Gunn asked
"You get me Charlie-boy." Lilah said
"Oh goody," Gunn said sarcastically
"What about Angel?" Fred asked
"The boss has an errand to run. Don't you?" Lilah said
Angel was holding the Sunnydale file. "I have to go, but I'll be right back."
"Where are you going?" Wesley asked
"Sunnydale," He might as well keep the lies to a minimum. "I'll explain everything when I get back." He took in their nervous expressions. "Look, I know this is weird. Believe me I really get it, but just take the tour. You're all safe here and when the tour is over if you don't want to take the deal then we all walk away, together. Just keep an open mind okay?"
One by one they nodded. "Okay," Wesley said
Lilah gestured for Gunn to follow her to the elevator. He shot Angel a nervous look, but followed her. Preston led Lorne away. "We're this way." Knox told Fred
Angel's eyes widened in surprise when Fred grabbed Wesley's hand and kissed him on the lips. Wesley kissed her back and then the two separated to follow their guides. Neither of them noticed his shock. Angel shook his head and headed for his car. He had a lot to think about on his way to Sunnydale. Angel had taken the deal and he couldn't back out now. If at the conclusion of their tour his friends voted and decided not to take the deal he would have to tell them he was taking it without them. They would be hurt, betrayed. He would lose them. But they would have each other and that was more important. They would all be okay without him. But Angel didn't want to lose them. He hoped Lilah knew what she was doing. Angel groaned as he started down the road. He really didn't want to make a habit of relying on Lilah.
Gunn glared suspiciously at Lilah. "So what's the deal?"
"Were you not paying attention when it was laid out for you in the lobby?"
"Come on Lilah, what's your real agenda?"
"Are you talking about our plans for global domination?" Lilah asked
"For starters," Gunn said
"Look, this isn't a trap. What we're offering you is real. Who we're going to see can explain all of that to you." Lilah began to press a pattern of buttons.
"What are you doing?" A button materialized above the elevator controls. "Oh hell no!"
"What's the matter Charles, scared?" Lilah teased
"I am not going to the white room!"
"It looks like you are." Lilah said
"I have no desire to chat with whatever replaced that evil little girl you guys had stowed up there. The last time I was in that room an old one nearly killed me and all of my friends!"
"Not all of them," Lilah muttered
The elevator disappeared and they were in the white room. "Here we are." Lilah said
"You're a real bitch. Do you know that?" Gunn asked
Gunn heard a deep purring sound. He turned and saw a panther approaching him. "This is the new conduit." Lilah said "He can show you the senior partners' plans for you. He doesn't lie, ever, with him what you see is what you get. Take a look; see if you are interested."
Gunn locked eyes with the cat as Lilah disappeared.
Fred entered the lab. "Wow," She said, unable to conjure a better expression
"That's what I said when I first saw this place too." Knox said "Nothing else covers it."
"This place is…"
"Huge? Amazing? Terrifying? All of the above?"
"Yep," Fred's gaze kept getting torn from one section of the lab to another. She would glimpse a screen showing a sequence of demon DNA and then get distracted by a controlled black hole forming in an isolation chamber. Then a laser beam grabbed her attention.
"We have more funding than any other science lab in this dimension."
Fred chuckled. "Now that just can't be…" She looked at him. "I guess it is true."
"So, what do you want to see first?" Knox asked
Fred's eyes widened further. "Well… what would my department be?"
Knox smiled at her. "This is your department. You're head of the science department."
"I'm- what? No I- What?"
"I'm sorry, can you translate that?" He said in a good-humored tone
"I never even finished grad school." Fred said
"Yeah, but they don't have very good schools in hell dimensions."
"No- hey!" She glared at him. "How did you know about that?"
"Well I read up on you. You're my new boss, and I like to do my research."
"I'm your- I can't be somebody's boss. I'm not- there has to have been a mistake."
Knox just kept smiling at her. "I don't think so."
Lorne flipped through the files on the desk this Preston fellow was telling him was his desk. "You represent all of these people?" Lorne asked "Who knew evil was so glamorous?"
"It's not all about the evil here." Preston said "Mostly it's about money."
Lorne's eyes widened as he looked at a particular page. "Lots of money I see."
"That's just the beginning." Preston said as he handed Lorne another file "You should see what the Canadian kid who sold his soul for international fame brings in under the table."
Lorne's jaw dropped. "Oh my,"
Wesley stared at the book in his hands. "That's incredible." He whispered
"A simple enchantment," Sirk said "Nothing really,"
"But the books you have available here-"
"Wolfram & Hart has the largest collection of ancient tomes in almost any dimension and each branch has a copy of these templates, which can call upon any of the books at any time."
Wesley put the book down on the table they were standing in front of. The library they were standing in appeared small, but in actually if what Sirk said was true it was the largest one in the world. "And does the watcher's council know you stole some of their most valuable editions when you left? I'm sure they were gifts for your many years of fine service."
Sirk gave Wesley a condescending smile. "The council is gone. We all do what we have to do to survive. Wolfram & Hart offered me protection from the bringers."
"And all you had to do was betray your sacred oaths," Wesley said "Nice deal,"
"Before you begin your sanctimonious speech might I remind you where you are?"
Wesley stared at the other former watcher. "I'm just taking the tour."
"We all start by just taking the tour." Sirk said "But by the end of the day you'll be my boss, and therefore far more corrupted than I have been."
Wesley scowled. "I don't intend to work for Wolfram & Hart."
"Intentions," Sirk said "Do you think I intended to lose all of my family and friends in the explosion when the bringers attacked the council? Things happen, we adjust."
"I will not compromise my morals." Wesley said "Not like you,"
Sirk just gave Wesley a patronizing smile. "You're just like your father."
Wesley glared at Sirk. "You don't know anything about me."
"I know enough."
Fred entered her office. She frowned. Why was she already thinking as though they had taken the deal? Why did she see this as her office? "Nice," She gasped and dropped the pile of lab reports in her hands. Wesley knelt down and picked them up for her. "Sorry," He said as he handed her the pile of papers "I just felt very lonely all of a sudden and I thought I'd look for a familiar face." She put the papers on the empty desk and then kissed him passionately.
"I feel so strange being here." She said when they broke apart some time later
"Me too," He said "This place is…"
"Seductive?" She suggested
He gave a reluctant nod. "It's a little frightening how easy it is to picture myself here."
"I'm glad it's not just me." Fred said "It's like they designed this lab specifically for me."
"They probably did." Wesley said
She shivered. "It's creepy." He put his hand on her shoulder to comfort her. She leaned her head against his hand and smiled at him. She leaned forward to kiss him again and heard someone clear his throat. She turned around to see Knox in the doorway. "Hey," She smiled.
"I got those reports." He said "These are our advancements in quantum mechanics."
"Thanks," She took the reports. "Knox this is Wesley."
Knox shook Wesley's extended hand. "So you're the book guy right?"
"Something like that," Wesley said "You're a scientist?"
"Yeah," Knox said "Good old W & H recruited me from Caltech."
"Did you know they were evil?" Wesley asked
"Well what's in a name?" Knox asked
There was a moment of awkward quiet. "Knox could you give us a minute?" Fred asked
"Oh, sure thing." Knox left.
"Well he seems rather… odd." Wesley said
"He's actually pretty nice." Fred said "But yeah, kind of odd."
"It just doesn't make sense." Wesley said
"Well some people are just-"
"I meant Angel." He said "Him bringing us here,"
"Oh," Suddenly her face brightened. "Hey you're starting to do that thing I do!"
"What?" He was drawn from his musings.
"You know, changing the subject in the middle of a conversation with no warning."
"Oh yeah," He grinned at her. "It's one of the things I love about you."
She put her hands on his shoulders and brought her face close to his. "What's something you don't love about me?" She asked "What's something you wish you could change?"
"You could give me a hundred years and I wouldn't be able to think of a thing."
She kissed him again. It felt so right to be kissing him. It felt so good. When their kiss ended she rested her head against his chest. "If we take the deal we will change, all of us."
"So we won't take it." Wesley said
Angel entered the lobby. His talk with Buffy had cheered him up considerably. Just seeing her again had a clearing effect on his mind. He was ready for whatever the future held. If he had to lose his friends for their own good like he had lost Buffy for that same reason four years ago then he could accept that. He would always love them just like he would always love Buffy and all that mattered was their safety. He saw Wesley and Fred enter the lobby holding hands and made a mental note to ask Lilah about the details of that memory spell. He hoped it would still matter when all was said and done here. The elevator door opened and Gunn stepped out, looking determined about something. Angel had been sure he would vote no, his expression only cemented that assurance in Angel's mind. But if Lorne, Fred, and Wes voted yes Angel thought Gunn would go along with it. Lorne was the last person to enter the lobby.
"So how was Sunnydale?" Wesley asked
"Good," Angel said "I had a nice chat with Buffy and I got to see her cut a misogynistic ex-preacher who was working for the first evil in half."
"Sounds like she's doing well." Wesley said nonchalantly
"Remind me never to piss off one of Angel's ex-girlfriends." Gunn said
"We don't want to take the deal." Fred told Angel
"Agreed," Wesley seconded "I can't see this ending well."
Angel's heart sank. Well that was that. "I think we should take it." Gunn said
Angel looked at Gunn in surprise. "Really?"
"I talked to the conduit. I don't know exactly what this is, but it isn't a trap. The senior partners are offering what they say they are and this is too big an opportunity to pass up."
"I guess that makes Lorne the swing vote." Angel said
"I'm not good at decision-making fearless leader." Lorne protested
No one replied to that. Fred was giving Gunn an odd look. She was trying to process how Charles Gunn could be so easily swayed by Wolfram & Hart. Wesley and Gunn were both watching Lorne. Both were anxious to hear his decision and both wanted a very different outcome from the Pylean. Because no one was watching Angel no one thought it was odd that he was staring at Wesley or that his expression was one of amazement. Wes didn't remember a thing about what had happened to him. He didn't remember his body boiling from the inside out or being trapped in his head by an old one who was trying to use his memories to unmake him so she could claim his body. He didn't remember what Illyria had used his body for or what state she had left it in when she was done with it. He looked healthy and as he intertwined his fingers in Fred's he looked happy. No matter what Lorne said Angel believed he had made the right call.
"Do you really think this is the right decision?" Lorne asked Angel
Angel tore his gaze away from Wesley. "I think we can do a lot of good here. I think this is the right call." Angel locked eyes with Lorne and hoped the empath could see something in him that would clue Lorne in that this was the right decision. "But make your own choice."
"I vote yes." Lorne said
Angel was glad he didn't breathe so no one would hear him sigh with relief.
"I think this is worth a shot." Lorne elaborated "I trust Angel's judgment."
"Thank you," Angel said
"Well it looks like we're outvoted." Said Fred to Wesley
"It would appear so." Wesley locked eyes with Angel. He looked confused.
"You two don't have to feel obliged to go along with this." Angel said
"We need to stick together." Fred said firmly "That's the most important thing."
Angel looked away. The next thing he needed to say was painful. "I was thinking about funeral arrangements." He said "Cordelia's parents weren't in Sunnydale, but I think I'll be able to find a way to get a hold of them. When should we hold the ceremony?"
Everyone was quiet. "Are you going to invite the scoobies?" Wes asked
"I think they'll want to come." Angel said
Someone cleared her throat behind them. Angel turned to look at Lilah. "So," Her pretty smile would be appealing on someone Angel didn't hate as much. "What's the verdict?"
"We'll take the deal." Angel said "All of us,"
"Good, if you'll follow me upstairs there're just a few things for you to sign." They all exchanged apprehensive looks as they followed Lilah upstairs. Angel had already signed his contract, but Lilah had a sheaf of papers for him to sign that confirmed his hiring of Wesley, Fred, Gunn, and Lorne. No one looked at Angel's papers so they didn't notice he wasn't signing a contract for himself. They were all in a large conference room. Lilah watched all of them as they signed onto Wolfram & Hart. Gunn only gave his papers a cursory glance before signing them. He didn't understand all of the legal jargon anyway. Angel just checked to make sure there wasn't anything about immortal souls in the papers before he signed them. Wes was reading each passage of his contract and then rereading it before he signed. Fred bit her lip as she watched all of her friends sign. Lorne was nervous when he signed, but he did. "Is there a problem?"
Fred shook her head. "No," She told Lilah "It just feels wrong."
Wesley looked up from his contract. "It's all very final isn't it?"
Fred nodded. "Here goes," She signed her name on the dotted line.
Angel entered his new office. Lilah was leaning against his desk looking out of the magical window. "You're going to love it here." Her voice was sad.
"I doubt it." Angel said "This place is just a means to an end for me."
"You'll hate yourself for it." She amended "But you'll love it."
"Is there something you wanted?" He asked, annoyed
She held up a file. "The report on the memory alterations, so you don't make an ass of yourself by mentioning something that never happened."
Angel took the file. "How did you know I wanted this?"
She still wasn't looking at him. "It's my job to anticipate your needs."
She finally looked away from the window. "I'm your liaison to the senior partners."
"Great," Angel said "Because I need more of you in my life."
Lilah shrugged, unoffended. "Well neither of us is alive, so that shouldn't be a problem."
Angel looked at the file. "Why do Wes and Fred think they are in a relationship?"
"The memories have to explain how everyone got to where they were. We changed the environment Conner was in, but we only used that level of magic when we had to. Fred was kissing Wesley when time stopped. Plus it accounts for all the time they were alone together when he was insane and she was looking after him. Since those memories are gone replacing all of them with the same thing, a relationship, was convenient. It was very two birds, one stone."
"And they don't just think they are in a relationship." Lilah said "They are in one."
"But it's not real." Angel said
"Nothing about their lives is real anymore. That's the price, but they don't have to pay it, you do. You're the only one who has to carry the truth, and the truth is heavy."
"It's worth it." Angel looked through the file. "Cordelia killed Illyria?"
"As far as they remember when you came back to the Hyperion Illyria was dead."
"And Conner never existed," Angel whispered
"And Wes was never alienated from the group," Lilah smiled at Angel.
"Okay," Angel said "This is what I wanted."
Lilah returned her attention to the window. "That must be nice, getting what you want."
Fred handed Wesley a box from her room as he stood in the doorway. "Thanks," She said
He leaned over the box and kissed her. "No problem,"
She giggled. "I guess I have to go apartment hunting huh?"
Wesley shifted the box in his hands awkwardly. "Well if you need a place to stay until you find an apartment… That is to say… The real estate market in L.A. is…" He blushed.
She smiled at him. "Are you asking me to move in with you?"
"What?" He chuckled nervously "No- I mean- Only if you want to."
She took the box from his hands and put it on the ground. She moved in close to him and whispered in his ear. "I would love to move in with you, but you have to ask me to first."
He grinned. "Okay, will you move in with me?"
She put her lips against his and tasted his skin. "Sure," She said "I love that idea."
"And I," He kissed her passionately. "Love you,"
"Guys we're in a hotel; should I even need to tell you to get a room?" Gunn asked as he walked past them down the hallway "You're making Disney animators roll their eyes with all that head-over-heels stuff."
Fred pulled Wesley into the room and shut the door. "What were we talking about?"
Wesley kissed her again. "You and I moving in together." Every other word was emphasized with a kiss. He could smell her; to him she was her own perfume.
"Are you sure you don't want to reconsider? I mean I might infect your bachelor pad with my girly ways. I could put scented candles in the bathroom and play the Dixie chicks nonstop."
"I'll deal with it." He said "Life is about compromise."
She pulled away and looked at the floor. "Is that what we're doing? Compromising?"
"Hey," He put his hand under her chin and raised her head. He smiled at her. His cheery grin brightened her spirits. "It's going to be okay. We just have to trust our friends."
She leaned into him. "I hope you're right."
Angel heard a knock on his office door. He sighed. He really didn't want to talk to Lilah again, but he might as well get used to her. "Come in." He was pleasantly surprised to see Lorne.
"Angel," Lorne said nervously
"I thought you were helping the others pack up the hotel."
"I was- am. I just need to ask you about something."
"Go for it." Angel said
"The reason I voted yes is because I got a seriously desperate vibe from you earlier."
Angel looked at his hands. "Yeah,"
"Why is it so important we take this deal? Is it really about Cordelia?"
"In a way. I want to protect what she sacrificed herself for. This is the best way."
"But there's more." Lorne pressed
"Yes," Angel said "There's more."
"And you're not going to tell me." This was a statement, not a question.
"No," Angel looked up and locked eyes with his friend. "Is that okay?"
"I trust you Angel, but I would appreciate a little trust from you in return." Lorne said
"I trust you, all of you. I'm not keeping this secret because I don't. I'm trying to protect all of you." Angel paused. "I would appreciate if this conversation stayed between us."
Lorne nodded. "Okay fearless leader, whatever you say."
"There's just one more thing." Lorne said
"What?" Angel asked wearily
"What's my budget on remodeling my office? I mean it's really more an investment than an expense. How can we expect clients to entrust their funds and lives to us if we can't even pick out a good carpet? And have you seen the wallpaper in my office? Can you say cringe worthy?"
"I can see it's going to take you awhile to adjust to corporate life." Angel said dryly
Lorne chuckled nervously. "I'm adaptable. I'm a great adapter."
Gunn stood in the lobby holding a box of swords. He looked around at the place that had been his home for the last few years. He was leaving. He couldn't admit it to anybody, not even himself, but he was terrified. He wanted this. He wanted a change, but he wasn't sure that he was ready for it. He had spent a long time living day to day, never considering tomorrow because tomorrow might never come. He was a fighter and each fight had been a means to its own end with the bad guys on one side and him on another. But as time had gone by he had begun to realize that he was accomplishing nothing. The bad guys were as powerful as ever and each day that went by was just one more he didn't have. But what the conduit had shown him would change everything. Gunn could make a difference, a lasting, perceptible difference. He hadn't known how much he had wanted something like this until it was offered to him. Now that it was within his reach he didn't want anything else in the world more. He couldn't wait to become the man he had seen in the panther's eyes. Gunn took the box of swords to his truck.
He went back inside and saw Wes and Fred coming downstairs, each with their own box and likely to tumble down the stairs because they were too busy staring at each other to watch where they were going. Gunn picked up the last box of weapons as he laughed. "Is that everything?" He asked them "Or are we going to need to come back?"
"This is it." Wesley said
"Do you think we ever will come back?" Fred asked
"I'm sure we will." Wesley said "For one reason or another."
Gunn was surprised and a little perturbed to realize he didn't care if he ever came back.
They all left the hotel. Fred put her hand on the light switch and gave the hotel one last look before she flipped it down, plunging the lobby into darkness. "Bye," She whispered
Angel was the last one remaining after the service had ended. Fred had walked over and put her hand on his arm, but Wesley pulled her away and shook his head. They left with Gunn and Lorne. The gravestone was simple in design. It held her name and the years she had been on this earth. There weren't enough of them. He felt a hand light on his and he took it. "I knew you would come." He said "It means a lot to me." He looked at the blond standing next to him.
Buffy leaned her head against his shoulder. "The rest of the gang really wanted to come, especially Xander. But what with all the new slayers to handle and the council destroyed…"
"I understand." Angel said
Buffy put a white rose on the grave. "I know she was important to you."
"Yeah," Angel couldn't elaborate. "It's so hard."
"I know." Buffy tightened her grip on his hand. "Willow cried. She said she wished she had taken more time to catch up with Cordy while she was in L.A. because now it's too late."
"Why do we always do that?" Angel asked "Think there will be more time?"
"There never is." Buffy whispered
"No," He agreed "But I'm not going to make the same mistakes again."
"Good," They stood in silent companionship for a minute. The still graveyard made him feel at peace. "So what's this I hear about you being a lawyer now?"
Fred was wearing her black formal dress and Wesley the formal suit that now looked like it belonged to another man. They were both lying on the bed. He was holding her and neither of them needed to speak. The proceeding they had just left had drained them of all of their emotional energy. She just needed to feel his warm body next to hers and he needed the same thing from her. Their needs were perfectly in harmony. She blinked back a tear. "Poor Angel, maybe we should have stayed with him." She said "He looked so broken."
"I think he wanted to be alone." Wesley said
"He loved her." Fred said "And now she's gone."
"I just can't believe it. How do people do that, go like that?"
"I don't know."
"She was more alive than anybody I ever met. She was so connected to life."
"She relished life." Wesley agreed "She savored every word, very moment."
"And she gave it all up to save the world. She's my hero." Fred said
Wesley kissed her. "And you're mine."
"Why?" She asked
"Because of how strong you are." He said "And kind, and smart-"
"Stop it." She said, stilling his mouth with a kiss
He kissed her back. "But I had a whole list."
"Don't tell me." She said "Show me." In that moment death was a far stronger reality for her than it usually was and she wanted nothing more than to feel alive.
Something strange happened. Just like when they had kissed the other day she had a strange feeling that something was happening for the first time that she knew had happened plenty of times before. She didn't put too much thought into this, she just immersed herself in the sensations of warmth and companionship. She didn't know that as they came together for what she didn't know was the first time something dead, something she had killed, was crawling around in her boyfriend's blood, biding its time, lying dormant. It wanted out, but it had to wait for its time. The longer it was forced to wait the angrier it got, and it was already quite angry.
Angel exited the elevator into his luxurious new apartment. He paid no heed to the expensive furniture or beautiful artwork. He headed into the bedroom and searched for the VHS player he hoped came with the TV. He found it and hooked it up. Angel opened his suitcase and pulled out a framed picture. He put the picture of Cordelia on his nightstand and then pulled a tape out of his suitcase. He put the tape in the VHS player and watched Doyle's bumbling attempt to sell their business to a nonexistent audience. Angel looked at Cordelia and then at Doyle. He stared at his hands. "I won't let you down." He didn't know if they could hear him, but he had to trust. "Your sacrifices will mean something. I'll protect the world you died for no matter what the cost. I know Wolfram & Hart brought me here to corrupt me, but I won't stray from the path. I'll always remember you and what you did. That will keep me strong. Trust me."
The room was silent, but Angel felt good. He didn't know why, but his friends' smiling faces seemed to answer him. They believed in him. He crawled into bed and went to sleep.