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Walking Away

"Hi, again. I'm sorry that I didn't come sooner, but it's been a way busy week. I graduated yesterday. Hard to believe, but I'm still here. The demon came on schedule, but we beat it, the whole class together. I had prepped myself to join you, but Buffy did a good job. I even staked a few vampires myself. You would have been proud of me.

I'm leaving tomorrow. I don't want to leave you, but I have to get out of here. I promise that I'll come back to visit you when I can, but I don't know when that'll be. You know I'm always going to be thinking about you. How could I not? You're a part of me, and we'll always have that connection, no matter where I am.

So, how are things in your neck of the woods? I know, silly question. I don't want to leave yet, so mindless chatter is the only thing I can think of. I'm really going to miss coming here. Sometimes I think I'm here more often than I am at my own house, which sounds really morbid. I probably should have separated myself a long time ago. It's been eight months now, even though it seems like just yesterday. I know that you're not coming back. I even know that you're not really right here, and I can move this wherever I want to because I'm the only person who knows what this is, who you are. But I also know you should be in Sunnydale. For me, you're always going to be right here. And maybe one day, I'll be able to tell your daddy where you are, and he can come visit you, too." Cordelia Chase gently ran her fingers over the words etched in the small stone in front of her, oblivious to the shadowy figure that had come up behind her. "Jordan Chase-Harris, 1998," she read aloud as her fingers traced the familiar words.

The person behind her started and choked out, "Cordy? What are you doing?"

Cordelia froze. Slowly, she turned to face the man behind her, moving her purse to cover the small stone. "Xander." Her mind raced, wondering how much he had heard while automatically throwing out the first insult that popped into her mind. "Are you really such a loser you're following me around now? Did all of your friends finally realize how pathetic you are, like I did?"

He barely flinched. "Drop the act, Cordy. Please? Why are you here?"

She sighed, knowing her comment had cut too far. "Why are you here?" she returned.

"Sunset's coming soon, and I'm meeting Buffy for an early sweep," he told her. "Can I, uh, sit down?" At her brief nod, he settled down across from her. "Your turn."

She hesitated. She knew that she had to do this. She should have told him months ago, because he did deserve to know, but her pain had been too great. Finally, she rested her hand on her purse. "Did you hear what I said before?" she asked him carefully.

"I-I'm not sure," he answered. "I, um, I don't know if I heard right."

She took a deep breath, trying to steady herself. "I'm sorry, Xander," she whispered. His eyes followed her hands as she pulled the purse off of the grave. "I'm so sorry."

He moved towards her to see what she had uncovered, and nearly stopped breathing. "Cordy?" he asked, desperately.

"Remember when Oz and I found you at the factory? With. . .with Willow?" She asked the question without looking up from the grass.

He closed his eyes. "Yes."

"Well, the day before, I had gone to my doctor. He told me that I was pregnant. I was going to have your baby," she said, her voice cracking. She took a deep breath and continued. "I was going to tell you that weekend. We had those plans for Saturday night, and I was going to tell you then. But I never got the chance. Because I lost our baby that night at the factory, when I fell and was stabbed by the pitchfork. I was only seven weeks, so the baby never had a chance from the fall." She sniffed and wiped at her eyes. "When I woke up in the hospital, the doctor told me I had had a miscarriage. When I got out, I had this made, even though I didn't have. . I didn't have her. I didn't know what sex the baby was, so I tried to pick something that could go either way. Didn't want to hear any complaints when I met the baby up in Heaven," she said, trying to force a smile.

"We had a baby?" Xander asked softly, tears falling unchecked from his eyes. He traced the words on the stone, as Cordelia had earlier. "Were you ever going to tell me?" he asked, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

"I wanted to, Xand. And yes, I would have. I just," she clenched her fists together to keep from sobbing, "I was so hurt. Maybe if I hadn't lost the baby, too, or if I had only lost the baby and not caught you. But with both, together, I just couldn't handle it. I'm sorry."

"Does anyone know?" he asked.

"Just you, me, and the doctor," she told him, her voice thick with the tears. "If I couldn't tell you, I couldn't tell anyone else."

"How often are you here?" he asked, with almost no inflection. His hand was still on the grave like it was glued there. "Why did you pick here?"

"Almost every day," she told him. "I don't like leaving her alone for a long time. And why here? I don't know. It's pretty. I like that she has a really nice view. I put it under this elm tree because it's so big and shady and cool. And not many people can see it behind here. No one will bother her."

"She?" Xander asked, a faint smile on his face. "What happened to gender neutrality?"

Cordelia managed a small, shaky laugh through the tears still sliding down her face. "It slips out sometimes. Sorry, Jor," she said, glancing up towards the sky. The quick smile vanished as she looked back down at her hands picking tufts of grass. "Actually, I'm glad you came here today, Xander." She looked at him for the first time, and he tore his eyes away from his baby's grave.

"I am, too, Cordy."

She shook her head. "No, listen. I came here to say goodbye to Jordan." He looked puzzled. "I'm leaving tomorrow, Xand. I'm moving to LA. Jordan's the only reason I have to stay here, and I have to try and move on. Now that you know about her, she won't-," she took a shaky breath and tried to control her tears enough to continue. "She's not going to be alone now. I can stop worrying about that. You'll be here for her." The tears finally gave way to heart wrenching sobs, and Xander moved to hold her close.

He rocked her back and forth, his tears wetting her long, dark hair. "I won't leave her alone, Cordy. I promise. I promise." At long last, their grief slowed, but Cordelia didn't leave the protection of his arms. She held on for one last, lingering moment before pulling away, wiping her eyes. She noticed with a pang that it the sun had nearly set, and she had only a few minutes to get home.

"I have to go, Xander. You have to meet Buffy." She reluctantly stood. "I'm glad you know, Xander." She bent and pressed a kiss to her fingers and touched the grave one last time. "Bye-bye, baby. Mommy loves you, but Daddy's here now," she whispered. "He'll take care of you." She straightened, still more tears glistening in her eyes. "Goodbye, Xander." She turned quickly, knowing that one word from him would make her stay. Without looking back, she walked away.

 

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