Author's note: Matt uses augmentative communication, because he can't speak. After the first time, you will notice that he says something, as opposed to the DynaMyte speaking. This is because the DM is Matt's voice, and he is speaking. He is just using a different communication technique. I wanted that to be clear. : )
"And that's a wrap," the director called. Cordelia Chase walked off the set with an audible sigh of relief. "Cordelia, love, you were wonderful," he enthused.
"Thanks, Jer. Are we done now?" she asked, exhausted. They had been filming for the last 10 hours, and all she wanted to do was climb into her nice, big, soft bed and sleep for a few days.
"Yeah, that's it for today," Jerry Williams told her. "Actually, I think I have all the stuff I need from you. I'll call if I need some retakes or voice overs, okay?"
"Sounds great. Thanks," she smiled, leaning forward to give his cheek a quick kiss.
"When do you start shooting the next movie?" he asked, walking her to her trailer.
"Not for a few months. This'll be my first real vacation in two years, and I can't wait," Cordelia admitted. They stopped outside her trailer, and she turned to him. "Bye, Jerry." She went inside and collected her belongings before heading back to her apartment.
The normally twenty minute drive took almost an hour due to rush hour traffic, and Cordelia was in a bad mood when she finally arrived. She headed immediately to the kitchen to make herself a soothing cup of tea, which she carried back into her living room. She settled down in front of her computer and signed online. She only had one e-mail, from Willow.
Did you get the invite to the reunion yet? Please tell me you're coming. I know you don't have to work. You sent me a three page e-mail last week about how thrilled you were to have these next few months off.
I'll call you, okay?
Cordelia groaned. She had gotten the invitation to the tenth reunion for the remainder of the graduating class of 1999, but the last thing she wanted was to go back to Sunnydale. She hadn't been back since the day after graduation, and she wanted to keep it that way. She had said her good-byes, and she had moved on. She ignored the tightening of her throat as she remembered her last day and resolutely finished her tea. Despite the fact that it was only seven at night, she got ready for bed and slid under the covers. She had just begun to drift off when the phone rang, jarring her. She sighed and grabbed the receiver.
"What?" she snapped.
She heard a laugh. "Now there's the Cordy I remember," Willow Rosenberg Giles teased.
Cordelia managed a small smile and sat up against the pillows. She and Willow had reconnected in a deep friendship a few years after Cordelia had left Sunnydale, and talked on the phone regularly. "Hi, Will."
"Hi," the redhead responded cheerfully. "Did you get my e-mail?"
"Yeah, just got it. And before you ask, I'm not planning on going, okay?"
"No, that's not okay!" Willow exclaimed. "Why aren't you? It's been ten years since you've been back here, Cordy."
She sighed. She had never told Willow about her main reason for not returning all these years. The memories of her last day in town, and the child she had miscarried so many years ago during her senior year made her reluctant to return and have those memories be so close to the surface. At first, she hadn't shared because she was unable to share her loss with anyone, and then later it was because she didn't want Willow to feel any more guilt over her brief affair with Xander that year. "I'm just, you know, really busy, Will. There are scripts to look over, bosses to suck up to. You know how it goes." She idly played with a frayed corner of the burgundy satin coverlet.
"Not good enough," Willow said simply.
Cordelia blinked. "What do you mean?" she asked, bewildered.
"I mean, that excuse has used up its lifetime," Willow told her, annoyed. "That's what you said the last three times I asked you to come back. You were too busy for mine and Rupert's wedding. Fine. You were too busy for our son's birth. Okay. You were too busy to come to Buffy's funeral. Pushing it. Not this time. The reunion is in two days. My baby is due three days after that. You're driving up tomorrow and staying until this kid pops out. End of story. If you're not here by mid-afternoon, I'm sending Rupert after you, and he won't be happy this close to my due date. So, see you soon!" she said, suddenly chipper, and hung up the phone.
Cordelia listened to the dial tone buzzing in her ear, mouth open. With a groan, she dropped the receiver back into place and fell back against the pillows. She knew there was no way she was getting out of this. Experience from Willow's first pregnancy had taught her that Willow's resolve face multiplied its strength as her stomach expanded. When she said something, she meant it, and she would not rest until it had happened. There was no doubt in Cordelia's mind that Giles would be on her doorstep the next afternoon if she was not in Sunnydale on her own volition.
She leaned over and pulled open the drawer to her nightstand. After a few seconds of rooting around, she found what she was looking for. She pulled out an old, well worn shoe box and dumped the contents onto her bed. She picked up a photo and traced the face. Xander. The reason she had stayed away from Sunnydale for so long. Looking at the happy boy in front of her, she felt the same sadness and longing that always accompanied looking at these old photographs. And now, she felt a twinge of a new feeling, one she hadn't felt in a long time. Excitement. She was going to see Xander again. Then reality came slamming back.
"No!" She exclaimed out loud. "No. He's probably married. Or involved. Don't let him do this to you again, Cordelia Chase. You have better things to do." She gathered her assortment of pictures and shoved them back in the drawer, closing it with a bang. She snapped the light off and settled back against the pillows, tucking her body under the cocoon of covers. "You are better than that," she said softly.
Early the next afternoon, Cordelia pulled her flashy red sports car in front of Willow and Rupert Giles' home. Trying to avoid meeting her friend in person for the first time in a decade, she slowly turned off the engine and sat there. She examined her face in the rear view mirror, wondering what Willow would think when she saw her. Not much had changed in the past ten years, she realized. Her face was still impeccably done with make-up, and her hair was carefully groomed, although much shorter than it was senior year. Now the dark brown waves skimmed the top of her shoulders. Her deliberately accentuated brown eyes were also older than they had been. Cordelia shook her head to clear the memories, patting her hair to make sure it was completely in place. With a deep breath, she got out of her car and walked up the sidewalk to the house. She briefly hesitated when she got to the door, but knocked determinedly. The door was thrown open almost immediately, and Willow's smiling face came into view.
"Cordy!" she exclaimed. "I'm so glad you came after all. It's so good to see you!" She threw her arms around her friend and hugged her as close as she could around her protruding stomach.
Cordelia pulled back from the embrace. "I wasn't aware I had a choice in the matter," she grinned.
Willow laughed. "No, but still, I'm glad to see you. Come on in," she welcomed, stepping back so Cordelia could pass.
Cordelia stepped in and smiled. "You look great, Will," she said, sincerely. Willow's face was glowing with happiness as she wrapped her arms around her bulky stomach.
"No, I look like a beached whale, but only for a few more days," she grinned. "Then I can go back to looking human again." She jumped slightly. "And there goes the kidlet, reminding me that she can hear everything I'm saying."
Cordelia smiled, feeling a little awkward. "So, um, where's Giles? And Christopher? It's too quiet here, even for yours and Giles' kid."
"Rupert took Chris out for ice cream. No, it's never this quiet when Chris is home, believe me," Willow said with a laugh. "I'm thirsty. Do you want anything?"
"Um, diet coke would be nice," she replied, following her hostess into the kitchen. Willow grabbed a bottled water for herself and passed a soda to Cordelia. "So, ice cream, huh? Sounds fun."
"Yeah, it's their weekly treat," Willow explained. "Every Saturday, they go."
"Nice," Cordelia nodded, at a loss for words. "How old is he now?"
"He's five, and a 'kindergartner and a half,'" Willow grinned.
"And a half?" Cordelia asked, confused, as she sipped the coke.
"Yeah, his teacher says that they're kindergartners when they start the year, a kindergartner and a quarter after the first nine weeks, all the way up to a first grader at the end of the year," she explained. "Now that it's winter break, all we hear from him is that he's a kindergartner and a half," Willow smiled.
"I get it." There was a brief silence.
"Well, this isn't so easy in person, is it," Willow finally said.
Cordelia looked up, blushing. "I'm sorry, Will."
"Don't be sorry," Willow interrupted her. "This is the first time we've seen each other in ten years. It's bound to be a little different that just talking or e-mailing. We'll get used to each other again," she grinned. "So, let's take this back into the living room and you get to tell me all about being a swinging single, because I don't think I even remember how."
Cordelia laughed as she followed Willow into a well lit, obviously lived in family room. Toys and books were strewn on the floor, and Willow groaned. "Okay, really, the house is not always this messy," she apologized. "It's just too hard for me to bend over these days."
"Hey, no problem," Cordelia reassured her, sinking into the soft blue and white striped couch as Willow lowered herself next to her.
"So, any new flames?" Willow asked eagerly.
"Nope," Cordelia shook her head, amused by Willow's enthusiasm. "No time for guys."
"Cordy, there hasn't been time for guys for you in months. And even those guys never lasted long!"
"Well, not all of us can be old married ladies by the time we're twenty eight, Will," she teased lightly. Willow rolled her eyes and looked as if to respond, but Cordelia cut her off. "Tell me about how things are going here. How's Giles? Is Chris looking forward to a new little brother or sister?"
As a mother, Willow knew an avoidance tactic when she saw one, but decided to let it slide. "Fine. Rupert's doing well. He's a little more relaxed with this pregnancy, but not by much. He calls about every five minutes when he can't be here, as opposed to every three minutes," she shook her head in mock exasperation. "I think Chris is more excited than he's letting on. I saw him coloring a picture and writing "To baby" on it the other day. Me, I'm just counting the days until this bundle of joy is out. I haven't been able to sleep very well the last few months, and this week has been the worst. It's to the point that I've become overly familiar with the Nick at Nite line up. I know that if it's time for Bewitched, I'm in big trouble because it's 4 am," she laughed. "Let's see. Oz is still touring with the Dingoes. He sends a postcard every so often, and never forgets to send Chris a birthday present every year. Buffy. . .well, you know about Buffy," Willow said sadly. "It's been four years now, but Rupert still has nightmares about that night." She shuddered. "It's hard, and we miss her, but we've more or less come to the terms with the fact that she's not going to be coming home anymore. And Xander." Willow caught Cordelia's nearly imperceptible wince but pressed on. "Xander's doing great. He works at Sunnydale Elementary."
Information about Xander. It had been so long since she had heard anything about him since she had told Willow early on that she didn't want to hear about Xander, and the others, outside of Giles, rarely came up in conversation. She cleared her throat. "He's a teacher?" she asked, trying to regain the composure that had fled at the mention of his name.
"No, he never could get through all the classes. He's an aide to a little boy who's in fourth grade, and has worked with him since kindergarten. They're really close, and his family has basically adopted Xander," Willow grinned. "They just love him to pieces. Basically when he's not here, he's there."
"Does he have, um, is he married?" she asked quickly, not meeting Willow's eyes, furious with herself for the feeling of desperation she had for any news of her former boyfriend, but unable to help it.
Willow grinned and gave a mental cheer. Yes, Cordelia Chase was indeed still in love with Xander. She couldn't wait to tell Rupert that she had been right. "Nope, still very single. As single as you, actually. You guys have the same kind of dating record."
Cordelia's heart gave an involuntary leap as she struggled to make sense of what she had just heard. She knew the real reason she had never returned to Sunnydale was because she wouldn't be able to leave after she saw him again. She was mentally deciding the best way to get out of her promise to Willow when the doorbell rang.
Willow frowned. "I wonder who that is. Rupert generally doesn't ring the doorbell to his own home." She grabbed the arm of the couch and pulled herself up as Cordelia stayed seated, not knowing if she should help.
Willow opened the door, and looked surprised. "Xander! I wasn't expecting you today," she exclaimed, as Cordelia gasped. Xander was here?! She was suddenly torn between craning her neck for a glimpse around the doorframe and hiding.
"I know, but I was over at Matt's house, and he just didn't believe me that the baby hadn't come yet," Xander Harris explained, stepping aside to reveal a small boy with longish brown hair and wire glasses. The boy made his fingers into a W shape and tapped his heart, immediately cradling his arms and rocking them back and forth, signing "Willow baby."
Willow smiled affectionately at the boy, tousling his hair. "Sorry, Matt, baby's not here yet," she explained. "Do you guys want to come in for something to drink, though?"
Matt grabbed at the small computer hanging from a camera strap around Xander's neck and pressed the screen. "Cheese," a digitized child's voice said.
Willow laughed. "Okay, or cheese. I've got that, too. Come on in."
Xander followed Matt inside and immediately froze. "Willow, there's a Cordy sitting in your front room," he whispered.
"I know," she whispered back. "Go talk to her." Raising her voice, she took the DynaMyte from Xander's neck and reached for Matt's hand. "Let's go get you some cheese, and we'll come back to Xander, okay?" Matt waved to his friend as Willow walked with him to the kitchen.
Xander took a few steps towards the couch before stopping behind a blue stuffed arm chair. "Hi."
They sat there in silence for a few moments. "Are you, um, back for the reunion?" Xander finally asked.
"Yeah, Willow kind of forced me," Cordelia nodded.
Xander grinned. "She has a way of doing that these days." He sat down on the edge of the chair, tapping his fingers nervously.
There was another slightly strained silence before Willow and Matt came back into the room. "Matt, give Xander the soda," she directed him. He took the can from her but just stood there. "Go on," she encouraged him. Finally he walked over to Xander and dropped the can into his hands, grinning.
"Thanks, Matty," Xander said cheerfully.
Matt pointed at Cordelia and looked at Xander. "Oh, you want to know who that is? This is mine and Willow's friend Cordelia." He stood up and retrieved the DynaMyte from Willow and placed it on the end table next to him. Matt immediately turned to it, and started touching the screen again while Xander watched over his shoulder. "No, there's a r in there. After the o. Right. No, it's an i." Matt gave an exclamation of frustration and pushed him away. "Okay, okay, sorry," Xander backed off. "You can do it, I get it."
Finally, he had it right. "Hi, Cordelia," he said and gave her a big smile.
"Hi, Matt," she responded, unable to not return his smile. "What's that you got there?" She walked over and knelt next to him, away from Xander.
He stood there, watching her. "Matt, she asked you a question. Can you tell her how you talk?" Xander prompted him. He stood there for a few more seconds, as if to say, 'You're not the boss of ME, Xander Harris,' before turning to his DynaMyte.
She studied the device as Matt accessed the pages. It was like a touch screen computer, from what she could see. Matt had been typing on a page that was set up like a keyboard. He spelled out the words, which appeared in a message window at the top of the screen. When he pressed the message window, it spoke his entire message. Right now, there was a smaller page titled About Me that was popped up on the screen above the letters. Matt hit the required buttons with ease, knowing exactly what he wanted to tell her.
"My name is Matthew Reynolds. I'm ten years old. This is my DynaMyte. It helps me talk," he said, immediately moving to a new page that had buttons with different phrases on them instead of a keyboard.
"That's right. Matt has," Xander began, but Matt cut him off.
"I go to Sunnydale Elementary and my teacher's name is Missus Appleton. My favorite movie is Toy Story. I like Arthur. I can sing, too. Wanna hear a song?"
Cordelia grinned as Xander and Willow exchanged amused looks. Matt was showing off now. "I'd love to," she told him.
Matt pressed another button that took him to a new page. He studied the ten buttons with song names on them and finally pressed one.
"Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul with a corn cob mouth and a button nose and two eyes made out of coal," he sang.
"That was very nice, Matt. Thank you for singing it for me," Cordelia smiled at him.
"Wanna hear a song?" Matt said again.
"Not this time, buddy," Xander cut in, glancing at his watch. "We have to go now. Your mom is expecting us back soon."
"No," Matt said, looking angry.
"Don't worry, Matt, you'll come back soon. And maybe the baby will be here then," Willow soothed.
He brightened and signed Willow baby again.
"Yep, Willow baby," Xander agreed. "Time to say goodbye, okay?"
Matt rushed over and gave Willow a hug. "Buh buh," he said carefully.
Willow squeezed him tight. "Good job using your words!" she exclaimed. "That was so great!"
He pulled away and went back to Cordelia, giving her a hug and then a kiss on the cheek. "Buh buh buh!" he smiled.
Cordelia melted. "Bye, sweetie," she said, giving him another hug. "It was great meeting you."
"All right, you little flirt," Xander told him, grabbing the DynaMyte. "Time go now." He grabbed Matt's hand and looked at Willow. "I'll call you, Will. Take care." He looked down at Cordelia. "It was nice seeing you again, Cordelia."
She managed a smile despite the butterflies fluttering in her stomach. "Bye, Xander."
"Bye!" Willow called as they let themselves out. She turned to Cordelia. "I'm sorry. I really didn't know that he was stopping by."
"Yeah, I know. It's okay, Will. So that's Matt, huh?" Cordelia asked, standing in order to sit on the chair Xander had just vacated.
"Yeah, he comes over with Xander a lot," Willow told her.
"Why does he use the DynaMyte?" Cordelia wanted to know.
"Matt has Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome. It's a rare genetic syndrome, and part of it includes his hearing loss, visual impairment, moderate mental retardation, and apraxia. He uses some sign, but mostly the DynaMyte," Willow explained. "He's an inclusion student, which means he's in a regular classroom, and as you saw, he's a total flirt who obviously is completely in love with you," she laughed. "I think you might be my competition for the woman in his life."
Cordelia laughed too. "Great, another man between us," she grinned. "How do you know so much about him, though? Xander works with him, not you."
"Matt is a big part of Xander's life, and has been for five years," Willow explained. "Sometimes I think he considers Matt to be like his own child. For the first year, Xander talked constantly about this sweet little boy he worked with. So finally, I asked if I could meet him. Jo, Matt's mother, said okay, and Matt came for his first visit. We all loved him, and Xander kept bringing him back. Matt and Chris play together a lot, and Rupert loves to read with him." Willow shrugged. "If he's important to Xander, he's important to me."
Suddenly, the door slammed open and a young boy with dark red hair ran through towards the living room.
"Mommy! Daddy let me get two scoops of ice cream today!" Christopher Giles told his mother excitedly, jumping on the couch next to sit next to her.
Willow hugged him with a smile as Rupert Giles entered and closed the front door behind him. "He did, did he?" She gave a pointed look to her husband over their son's shoulder.
Giles smiled at his wife as Chris turned and pointed at Cordelia. "Mommy, who's that?"
Willow took his pointing finger and curled her hand around it. "Christopher, this is Cordelia. Remember, we talked about her coming?"
"Oh yeah, you're the movie star. Hi, Cordelia!" Chris said, and reached his little arms over to give her a hug.
Cordelia started to pull back from the hug, but the little grin on his face got the better of her, and she held him close for a second before he started to get antsy and climbed down off the couch to grab some toys.
Giles sat in the chair across from Willow after giving her a quick kiss, and gave a warm smile to their guest. "Cordelia, it is wonderful to see you again. Will you be staying in Sunnydale very long?"
Cordelia grinned ruefully and glanced at Willow. "Well, your wife informed me I was staying until the baby was born. After that, we'll see, I guess."
"You'll be staying with us while you're here, correct? We do have a spare room," Giles told her.
"No, I have a hotel room," Cordelia said, avoiding Willow's gaze.
"Cordelia, that's silly," Willow said instantly. "Stay with us. I've got the room all ready for you, you just need to bring your stuff in."
Cordelia glanced at her watch. It was nearly three. "No, I've already arranged for the room. Actually, I should leave now so I can check in." Seeing Willow reacting, she spoke quickly. "I'll be back here tomorrow morning, to help you get ready for the reunion. Okay?"
Willow sighed, resigned. "Okay. Ten AM tomorrow, and we both get ready."
"Great," she nodded. The three adults stood and walked to the door. "I'll see you tomorrow, Will. And it was nice to see you again, too, Giles," she smiled.
"You, as well, Cordelia," he nodded, slipping his arm around his wife.
"Bye, Chris," she called. "It was nice to meet you."
"Bye, Cordelia," he came running over and gave her another hug. "Are you coming back soon?"
"Yep, I'll be back tomorrow," she told him, returning his hug. She stood up and faced Willow once again. "Bye, Will." She turned and walked down the path to her car.
Instead of driving to the hotel like she had planned, Cordelia found herself parking in front of the iron gates of Sunnydale's smallest cemetery. Despite the ten year gap since her last visit, she had no problem remembering the correct paths and found herself beneath a large elm tree in minutes, staring at the grave. The small stone was surrounded on either side by a teddy bear and small poinsettia plant, and she smiled at the sight.
She sat down cross-legged and traced the words that still haunted her. "Jordan Chase-Harris." It was slightly weathered now, but still clear enough to read. "Hi, baby," she said softly. "Here I am again, your mommy. Well, after ten years, I probably a mom now, right? It's been a long time, princess. It's not that I wanted to forget about you, or that I even could. I always thought about you, and about the birthday and Christmas presents I would buy you, and the shopping trips we could take together. See, I even wrote you some letters." She pulled a bundle tied together with a green ribbon and set them under the flowerpot. "Some light reading material for later. Well. I see your father has been here. Very cute teddy bear you got there," she said, wiggling its ear.
"Thank you," Xander said from behind her, causing her to whirl around in alarm. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. Do you mind if I sit?" She shook her head, still dazed, and he joined her on the grass. "I figured I'd see you here."
"I didn't even know I was going to be here," she admitted, turning away from him.
"I hoped you would be. It's been a long, long time since we talked," he said, looking at her profile.
"What have we had to talk about?" Cordelia asked, not bitchily, just curious.
"We've had quite a past, Cordelia," he said wistfully.
"Yes, we have," she agreed. "But it is in the past."
"Not everything is," he contradicted her. "The fact that we're here, right here, together, shows that we do have something still in common." He waited to see if she was going to say something, but she stayed silent, not looking at him. "You know, for a long time, I was so angry at you," he told her softly. She visibly tensed but still said nothing. "I couldn't believe you had kept something so big from me. I know I made a big mistake with Willow, and I know how much I hurt you, but underneath our fighting, I really thought we had had something special. I still think that. But you were able to keep this secret from everyone, even me, for a long time." He sighed. "But then you told me, and you were gone, and I was the only one in Sunnydale who knew what this grave meant. The day after you left, I came here and just sat, for hours. I didn't talk, I just remembered. I relived our entire time together, and then I left. At first I was sad that you didn't tell me, but then the anger came. I went to Willow's, and tried to tell her what you told me, but it never seemed like the right time, or the right words weren't there. I tried for months, and it was never the right time. That's when I realized that I couldn't be angry about you not telling me, because I couldn't even tell my best friend." There was another long pause. "Are you going to say anything?"
"What do you want me to say?" she retorted, focusing on the grass in front of her.
"Can you start by looking at me?" he asked. "Please?"
She slowly turned her face toward him and he was surprised to see her tears as their eyes met. "Cordy? Are you okay?" he asked, concerned.
"Do you come here a lot?" she asked, ignoring his question.
"Yes, I do," he told her, still watching her with worry.
"I'm glad," she said, not breaking their eye contact. "I miss you, you know."
He caught his breath, stunned. "I miss you, too, Cordy. A lot. You spoiled me for any other woman," he teased her gently. She smiled at that, and he returned her smile, delighted. He decided to press his luck and forged ahead. "So, Miss Chase. Do you have a date for the reunion?"
She hesitated. "No."
"Would you like to go with me? It can be just like high school, only hopefully less violent," he grinned.
She hesitated again, looking down. She wanted to say yes so badly, but doing so would invite the possibility of getting her heart crushed once again. She glanced back up at Xander, and the look of hopefulness and anxiety mingled on his face finally got to her. She took a deep breath. "Okay, Xander. It's a date."To be Continued....
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