AN – Matt, as always, belongs to Bec, and he is a Lost OC so we'll crossover with some Lost events in this chapter.

Chapter 19: Since Then

"Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Acadia! Happy birthday to you!"

"Yay!" Katie jiggled Acadia in her lap as she stared at the flame bobbing up and down on the number 1 candle atop a simple vanilla frosted butter cake.

"Blow out the candles," Kathleen said, reaching over her father to tickle Acadia under the chin.

"No," Elliot held his hand between Acadia and the candle. "If she's anything like you she'll try and put her mouth over the flame."

"I was that stupid?" Kathleen said sceptically.

"You wouldn't believe the things you did." Elliot said with a smirk.

"Har-har." Kathleen got up from the table. "I'll get some plates."

"I'll help you." Matt said, forcing a smile onto his face as he followed Kathleen into the kitchen, his younger sister, Jordan, trotting after him.

"How is he?" Elliot asked in a low voice, blowing out Acadia's candle for her so she could happily smash her fists into the cake.

"Okay, I think..." Katie said with a sigh.

It had been almost a year since Matt's return flight from Sydney had crashed over the Atlantic. Months later they had found six survivors; Matt wasn't one of them, but he had been found days' later floating on what the newspapers said was airplane wreckage. He was hospitalized for awhile for exhaustion and dehydration, admitted to the same hospital where Bonnie died and Acadia was born; so visiting was always anxious for Katie; but she drove Jordan to see him whenever she wanted.

Now, Matt was better, he was in a strong relationship with a doctor, Jack, one of the six Oceanic survivors, whom had also cared for him while he was in hospital; but Jordan confided in Katie that sometimes he woke up screaming. He was also back at work; and baby-sat Acadia. Sometimes he had moments where he looked like someone else, the trauma of everything clouding in his eyes, but then he would smile and that cloud would drift away.

Katie, already mourning Bonnie had to somehow cry for the loss of her friend when the plane went down as well as raise Acadia without her thinking that tears were the way to get through the day. She'd been running on empty since Bonnie's death, so to add Matt's assumed demise on top of that almost drained her. Acadia got her through it; and then came that day where they found the "Extra Survivor from 815", and Katie had seen Matt's face, his police badge photo, flash onto her kitchen television screen. She'd dropped Elliot's morning coffee right on the floor.

A lot happened in that year, losing Bonnie and Matt, getting Acadia, her relationship with Elliot, Matt coming home; a lot of major events, more than she felt one person deserved clustered together in twelve months. She and Elliot were openly together with their relationship now and happy; but things hadn't been easy. Elliot had four children with his ex-wife Kathy, and Kathleen, his second eldest daughter, was the only one who really seemed to like Katie. His eldest, Maureen, was firmly on his mother's side and refused to see Katie, and the twins, Dickie and Lizzie, had fun with her and adored Acadia when they came to visit, but they definitely made a point of not approving of their father's new relationship. Katie had expected hate from all four children, so to actually have one on her side and two tolerating her felt like a bonus.

The twins were on a school trip for the week, and couldn't make Acadia's birthday party, and Maureen had flat out refused, but Kathleen had come over to help Katie set up, and when Matt and Jordan arrived, Maureen and Jordan got along immediately. Jordan was so happy to have her brother back; the light in her eyes had returned, Katie hadn't known she could look so happy.

"Did you make a wish?" Katie asked Acadia, kissing her mess of dark brown curls. It was Bonnie's hair colour, but the curls she got from Katie who had been curly-haired up until her teens. "Did you wish for a big hug?" She cuddled her niece to her chest making her giggle.

The phone interrupted the party. "I'll get it," Elliot pushed back his chair to answer it.

"No; you take this," She planted Acadia in Elliot's arms, and she promptly clapped her hands together, making frosting and cake splatter over his fitted grey t-shirt. "Enjoy."

Her mother was on the phone; wanting to talk to Acadia, so Katie handed the phone to Elliot and went to the kitchen to see Maureen and Jordan playing with a bunch of balloons with You're 1! and Birthday Girl! stamped on them in silvery ribbon. Matt was unwrapping a pack of paper plates.

"You two; make yourselves useful," He handed the plates to Jordan and a handful of spoons to Kathleen. "Go eat cake; we'll make coffee."

"Make sure Katie makes it," Jordan said, playfully nudging Kathleen along. "She is the coffee bitch."

"Language!" Katie and Matt said in unison, to which Jordan just cheekily smirked and followed Kathleen back to Elliot and the birthday girl.

"Uh, I've had to cut back on my swearing since Acadia's getting older," Katie said, flicking on the tea kettle. "I'm worried she'll start repeating everything..." She smiled; but stopped herself after a moment. Acadia learning to talk had brought up a brand new problem that Katie had been hoping to avoid for... well, forever.

"What's that face?" Matt asked, scrutinizing her as he set some mugs on the counter. "What's up?"

"Acadia... called me Mama."

Matt grinned. "That's great!" Then his face fell as the reality set in, just as it had for Katie. "Oh..."

"Bonnie's her mother; not me. I'm Aunt Katie. But she's one year old, she can't understand the difference. What do I tell her when she calls me Mama? "No."? And I can't tell her Bonnie's dead..." Katie had opened the wound; and now her heart was pouring out of her mouth. "I don't know if I could ever tell her that... what child wants to hear that their father killed their mother? So is it better that she thinks I'm her mother and I just never tell her? She'd be pissed that I'd been lying to her for her whole life! It's not like I'm the only one who knows about Bonnie, hell it's on criminal record, as are the papers that identify me as her legal guardian. Not her mother, her guardian. And she-"

"Stop." Matt put his hands on Katie's shoulders. "Just stop."

"I can't." Katie said, sniffling and blinking back hot tears.

"What does Elliot think?"

"I haven't told him yet; she only said it yesterday."

Matt looked pleased. "I get to know before the boyfriend? Point for me."

Katie wasn't smiling. "What do I do?"

"Katie..." Matt sucked in a breath. "There's no rule book on this... I had to raise Jordan. And it's hard, and it's not fair. My parents should be alive to raise her; she deserves to have a mother and father; just like Acadia." He bit his lip. "But life sucks. And this is coming from a guy who survived a plane crash so you know it's true."

"But Jordan knew-"

"It doesn't matter. You have to think about what's real. And what's real is that because of some cruel, sadistic asshole, you don't have a sister and her daughter doesn't have a mother. What's real is that she has you... and you are her mother. Title or no, you're her everything."

Katie shook her head. "I don't want her to not know who Bonnie is." She admitted quietly.

"Then make her a part of her life. Tell her all about her, everyday. Tell her that her mummy went to heaven, but that she was left with you because you two are supposed to be together."

A final tear fell down Katie's cheek and caught in the crease of her smile. "How can you come out of a plane crash and still be this good to me?"

Matt pretended to look put out. "You're my girl." He said with a shrug, wrapping his arms around her in a warm, enveloping hug.

Katie pressed her cheek against his chest; she was a good one and half head shorter than Matt, so his hugs always warmed her from the inside out.

Her year had been horrific when she wrote out the bullet points... well, the negative bullet points. But there were good ones, too. All of Acadia's firsts (rolling over, sitting up, solid foods, laugh, outing to the zoo), her relationship with Elliot, getting Matt back and Jordan to her normal self...if Katie singled them out and ignored the horrific moments; then year hadn't been too bad at all.

xxx