As the alarm goes off, Chloe Hunt shoots her hand out and quickly turns it off. She sits up and swings her long legs over the edge of the bed. Standing up, she stretches in the bedroom of her small apartment.
She stops and regards her reflection in the mirror.
"Excellent," Chloe murmurs, pleased with her latest hair experiment. Fresh streaks of aqua are tangled amongst the black curls tumbling down her face asymmetrically.
Yawning, she goes into the living room. Her suitcase is packed and filled with Christmas presents, ready for her trip. She nods in satisfaction, ready for a long day of travel.
Rob Shepherd rolls over in bed, reaching for his wife. His hand finds only air. Slowly, he opens his eyes and looks around his childhood bedroom at his parents' house.
"Mal?" He mumbles, sleepily. He can hear voices coming from downstairs, and smells fresh coffee. Sighing, he rolls out of bed and heads into the kitchen.
"Good morning!" Derek greets his son in between bites of an omelet. Mallory Hunt-Shepherd blows him an air kiss before she flips another omelet at the stove.
"Morning." Rob pours himself a cup of coffee. He smiles, watching his wife gracefully move around the kitchen. Now in the third month of pregnancy, Mallory is glowing in the morning light streaming through the windows.
"I know I keep saying this," Derek says. "But you two are more than welcome to move in with us. We have plenty of room for you and the babies. Surely you don't like Los Angeles that much."
"Somebody likes my cooking," Mallory smirks. "You know, I'm going to have my hands full when the twins are born. No matter where we live, nobody is going to get a good breakfast. Except for breast milk for the babies."
"Which is why you should move back to Seattle," Meredith yawns, entering the kitchen. "Don't you want the grandparents to help? Twins, Mallory, twins."
"You know that I want to stay where we are." Rob protests. "Dr Hewlett is firmly entrenched at UCLA and she's been a great mentor to me. I wouldn't do my internship with anyone else."
"But your parents are here." Meredith puts a hand on Mallory's shoulder. "Don't you want to be closer to family?"
Mallory smiles but says nothing.
"Mark and Lexie are in LA," Rob points out.
"Give it a rest," Derek advises Meredith. "The kids like LA."
Ever efficient, Chloe Hunt is annoyed to arrive late at Logan International Airport. Cursing the traffic and moving quickly among the holiday travelers, she checks her baggage and then goes through Security. To her relief, her flight hasn't begun to board. She looks around the crowded lounge, hoping to find a place to sit and check her messages.
"Miss?" She turns and looks at a tanned, handsome man with closely cropped dark hair. He grins as he pulls a backpack off of the seat next to his.
"Oh thanks." She smiles politely and sits down, pulling her tablet out of her bag.
"This is a great spot," he informs her. "All of the screaming children are on the other side of the waiting area."
"Good to know."
"I scouted this seat very carefully," he continues. "I looked fore and aft for anyone crying or having a tantrum."
She chuckles. "Well done."
"I'm Jake." He sticks out his right hand.
"And I'm Chloe." They shake hands. She's impressed with his firm and strong grip. "Let me guess ... you're in the Navy."
His brown eyes widen in surprise. "Yes I am. What gave me away?"
"You said 'fore and aft'," Chloe says. "Sailing terms. And you have a tan. A real one, not from a tanning salon."
"Ah. Do you like to sail?"
"I do," she nods. "I haven't sailed for a while, though, I've been busy with school."
"Where do you study?"
He shakes his head. "And I was beginning to like you."
"Excuse me?" Her eyes widen.
Jake laughs. "I'm a Yale graduate. Pre-law."
"'Yale'. As in, the school that has lost the regatta five years in a row?"
"As in the school that has won The Game more often than Harvard. Go Bulldogs." He grins.
"Ha ha." She smirks. "I suppose I shouldn't mention that my father is a former Army Major."
"Not if you don't want me to point out which team has won the Army-Navy football game more than the other, lesser team."
Chloe purses her lips. "I'm guessing you're not a Seahawks fan either?"
He chuckles. "I support the Patriots."
"I see." She smiles widely.
Jake smiles back. "So what do you study at Harvard? Medicine?"
It's Chloe's turn to look surprised. "How did you guess?"
He grins. "You're detail-oriented. And cocky. There's something about you that says you'd make an excellent doctor."
Chloe wrinkles her forehead in confusion and looks at him again. He has brown eyes and a cleft in his chin. "Have we met before?"
He shakes his head, eyes twinkling. "No, I'd remember meeting a pretty girl with blue hair."
She smiles and tucks a lock of hair behind one ear. They both look up as boarding is announced.
"That's my flight," she says, grabbing her bag.
He opens his mouth to say something, as his phone rings. He looks at the screen and frowns.
"Sorry, gotta take this one," Jake smiles apologetically. "Have a safe trip."
She nods, and picks up her untouched book, grabs her bag and jacket, and gets in line to board the plane.
Rob briskly makes the bed as Mallory changes into jeans and a sweater. He silently picks her clothes off of the floor and folds them.
"Your mom is really sneaky," Mallory says, settling onto the bed. "Bringing Mom and Dad into the eternal argument on when we're moving back."
"But we're not." Rob lies down beside her. "And if we were, I know you'd insist that we move in with your parents. Even though we'd have more room here."
She turns to look at him. "Are you thinking about returning?"
"Nope." Rob shakes his head. "I know you would move back in a heartbeat but ..."
"... but I promised that I would move to wherever your career is." Mallory kisses him, before rubbing her belly. "I can work anywhere. I just didn't expect we'd start a family so soon."
"I know." He places a hand on her stomach. "Why didn't your dad ever mention that twins run in his family?"
"Of all the things he left out," Mallory giggles, before looking at her watch. "Speaking of Mom and Dad, I should go over to their house soon and get ready for the party. Maybe you could drop me off before you pick up JoJo at the train station?"
"You know ..." Rob shifts a little closer. "It's a little inconvenient, don't you think, how we switch off which set of parents to stay with each holiday ..."
"Nuh-uh." Mallory shakes her head. "I will be a supportive and loving wife by staying in LA without a complaint, but I insist that we take turns staying with our parents." She rolls off of the bed.
"Speaking of the party," Rob says. "Jason called and I kind of invited him to come along."
"Oh?" Mallory begins brushing her long red hair.
"Yeah, he asked if Chloe is still single and when I said she was, he asked if I could somehow arrange them getting together."
Mallory rolls her eyes. "Chloe thinks he's sleazy. Which he is, a little."
"I can't tell him 'no', now."
She shrugs. "Bring him along, if you want. But I think she can do better."
Rob snorts. "I love Chloe like a sister, but she really has terrible taste in men. Mickey, Kyle ... she didn't want to marry me at all ..."
Mallory laughs and chucks a pillow at him.
Chloe smiles brightly when she gets to the baggage claim area - a familiar tall figure is waiting for her, hands jammed in his battered leather jacket.
"Nice hair," Owen grins, as Chloe rushes up to him for a hug.
She leans against him and smiles, happy to have her father's arms around her. "I missed you," she says.
"Same here, kiddo." He kisses her forehead. "How was the trip?"
"Good," she says. "Cute guy at the airport, not a lot of turbulence, watched a fun movie."
"Cute guy? Where is he?" Owen immediately begins scanning the crowd.
"I don't know, he wasn't on my flight," Chloe shrugs as they walk over to the luggage carousel. "I don't even know where he was flying to."
By the time her suitcase appears, Chloe has furtively scanned the crowds twice, but Jake didn't appear amongst the masses of holiday travellers. She shrugs before leaving.
"So how is everyone?" Chloe asks, as they pull away from the airport.
"Good," Owen replies. "Diego thinks he aced his exams, which I hope is true, because he barely studied. Mallory isn't letting her pregnancy stop her from planning every detail of Christmas."
"Of course. "
"Your mother's grant was approved yesterday," Owen continues. "Meaning, she's gone into overdrive restructuring her research lab and micro-managing her residents."
"And how are you?"
"I'm good. The Pit is the same old, same old."
He turns a corner. "Now tell me about the cute guy from the airport."
"Don't 'what?' me," he grins.
"He - was fun to talk with. That's all," Chloe shrugs.
"Did you get a number?"
"Dad!" Chloe frowns. "I thought you were the one who couldn't handle the thought of your daughters dating before the age of 30."
"That's how I felt when you were first born," he smiles, eyes on the road. "But neither of you listened to me, did you?"
"And if I recall correctly, you let me know that you're a grown woman and not someone I need to protect."
Owen grins. "So Chloe, did you get a number?"
"No, I did not."
She looks at him curiously. "Where is this coming from?"
"All we hear from you is how medical school is going," he says. "Are you still upset over your break-up with Kyle?"
"No, that's ancient history."
"Good," he smiles. "Anyways, Mallory has planned a cocktail party tonight for some of our friends and neighbors, so I expect to see you circulating around, instead of staring at a screen."
"Oh? Who is invited?"
"The Shepherds, of course, and some people from the hospital, and many of our neighbors. The Clarkes, the Lins, and um ... Mr Farber." Owen tries to keep his tone light.
Owen chuckles. "Just to warn you, your mother has invited a resident to the party so that you can meet him."
"Ugh, you know I hate match-making. I think I'll be too busy having the bubonic plague."
"I will pump you full of antibiotics if you try to hide in your room."
"You what?" Mallory stares at her mother. "You're trying to fix Chloe up?"
"Yes," Cristina affirms. "But only so I can find out what she thinks her specialty will be."
"Well this is a fine mess," Mallory says. "Rob is bringing someone for Chloe too."
"Jason, the emcee from our wedding." Mallory sighs. "He asked if Chloe was still single and then asked if Rob would hook them up?"
Cristina smiles. "That will do. Jason is so sleazy that he's going to make my guy look good."
Chloe sniffs the air hungrily when they arrive at the house. "Smells like Mallory is busy."
"She is," Owen chuckles, putting her suitcase down in the foyer. "It's the holidays, everyone must be fed."
"Chloe!" Cristina runs up from the basement to greet her with a hug. "I love your hair!"
Owen smiles at the two of them, before carrying Chloe's bag upstairs.
"Hey sis." Mallory comes out of the kitchen and hugs her. Chloe smiles brightly, trying not to look surprised. Her sister, always delicate, has gained some weight and is positively glowing with robust health.
"You look fantastic," Chloe tells her. "Pregnancy agrees with you."
"I know." Mallory smiles and rubs her rounded belly. "For the first time in my life, nobody is telling me to eat a few sandwiches."
"Can I touch?"
"Sure!" Mallory grabs Chloe's hand and guides it onto her stomach. "Say hi to Auntie Chloe, peanuts!"
They stand and wait. Nothing happens.
"I haven't felt them moving yet, sorry." Mallory hands Chloe a bowl with something orange mashed in it. "Try this."
Chloe tastes it and smiles. "Mmmm ... sweet potatoes. And yummy. A new dish?"
"Yes, I'm experimenting with making my own baby food."
Horrified, Chloe shoves the dish back at her. "You gave me baby food?"
"Oh my god, it's not poison." Mallory rolls her eyes.
"Enough, sit," Cristina urges her daughters. They obediently make themselves comfortable on the couch.
"Tell me about school," Cristina says briskly, facing Chloe. "How was your last rotation? Are you going to tell us what you think your specialty will be?"
"My Psych rotation was good," Chloe says carefully. "And - not yet."
"If you're thinking about Cardio, let me know. I can call in favors."
"I know," Chloe says. "You've told me before. Many times. Since I was ten."
Cristina sighs for dramatic effect. "It's okay if you don't want Cardio," she says. "I can handle it."
"Really?" Owen asks, coming downstairs. They all laugh.
"Hey Chloe," Diego says, walking down the stairs behind Owen.
"Hey!" Chloe smiles, standing up to give him a hug. "You're as tall as me!" She looks at him, dressed in scruffy jeans and t-shirt, with a jean jacket. She ruffles his wavy black hair, just to annoy him.
He rolls his black eyes. "I'm almost 17 now, you know."
"We know," his parents say in unison.
"Ha ha. Hey Dad, can I take the truck tonight? I'm going over to Nicole's house."
"I'll drive you," Owen replies. "The roads are going to be icy later."
"Who is Nicole?" Chloe inquires.
Her brother flushes. "A girl from my track team."
"His latest girlfriend," Cristina smirks. "They've been on a few dates."
Diego makes a face. "I would like to drive myself. Which I could do if I had my own car," he complains, causing his parents to throw their hands up in the air.
"We've been over this before," Owen starts. "You-"
"-'have to earn the privilege of owning your own car," Chloe and Mallory complete the sentence for him, laughing.
"Laugh all you want, Mallory," Owen says. "At least Diego has never crashed a vehicle."
"Which is why I should have my own car," Diego protests, resuming a frequent argument. "I'm a much better driver than she is!"
Cristina snorts as the siblings start arguing amongst themselves. She looks over at Owen, catching his eye. They smile at each other, then turn to watch their children bicker.
"Speaking of driving," Owen says loudly, "Diego, do you still want a ride to Nicole's house?"
"You're sure I can't drive myself?"
"I'm sure. Get your coat." Owen smirks and waves as he heads outside again.
A timer goes off in the kitchen. Mallory sighs and leaves the room.
"I know you're itching to unpack, so go do that," Cristina tells Chloe. "And when you're done, come downstairs so I can hear everything about your rotation."
It doesn't take Chloe long to unpack, her suitcase being well-organized and her room is exactly as she left it. She dutifully rejoins her mother, who starts to grill her relentlessly.
"Mom!" Mallory comes out of the kitchen. "Chloe is home on vacation. Stop it!"
"What?" Cristina looks puzzled. "I'm just guiding her along."
"Right." Mallory rubs her lower back. "Anyways, I need help in the kitchen."
"What kind of help?" Chloe frowns. "I'm not much of a cook."
"But you're taller, and Dad puts everything up high." Mallory grins.
"Ah." Chloe laughs and joins her sister. "So what do you need?"
"Flour. I think it's up there." Mallory points to a cupboard.
"What do you have planned for tonight?" Chloe reaches and grabs the flour.
"Oh, lots of finger food. I had to plan for eight different dietary restrictions. Gluten-free, kosher, low cholesterol, that sort of thing. It only took me a week to plan everything."
"Control freak," Chloe smirks.
"There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a quality party," her sister grins.
"How are things in LA?"
Mallory shrugs. "My job is okay. My boss knows I'm going to quit once I give birth, so I'm getting the crap shifts."
"What about your dream of having your own café?"
"The real world sucks," her sister says. "We can't afford for me to do anything like that right now, or in the next few years. But I'll make it happen somehow. Or I'll find another dream to fulfill."
"I know you will."
"Nice house," Diego says, as he and Nicole settle on a couch in the living room. She casually takes his hand and squeezes it.
"Thanks." They smile as her mother peeks in on them.
Diego turns towards Nicole. "Hey, are you busy on the 24th?"
She considers the question. "I don't think so."
"Good." He coughs lightly. "It's my birthday and there's going to have a special dinner for me and I was wondering if you would like to come over."
"Aw!" Her brown eyes sparkle. "I get to meet your family?"
"I wouldn't be that excited ..." He scrunches up his face. "It's going to be complicated..."
Diego nods. "Well, my parents aren't that complicated, as long as you don't mind hearing gross medical stories. And my sisters are all right. Chloe is going to be a doctor, she's finishing her last year of med school. Mallory is a total control freak in the kitchen and she's going to have twins next summer so she may tell you all about pregnancy."
The teen boy sighs. "I'm adopted. My biological grandparents are going to be there and my grandmother Rita is a nightmare. She wanted to raise me but that wasn't possible so she's mad about that. She doesn't like my family and she complains all the time. Now is your chance to back out."
Nicole smiles at him. "I'm not going to back out."
In her bedroom, Chloe hurriedly looks in the mirror and checks her appearance. "I'd remember meeting a pretty girl with blue hair." She smiles softly, thinking of Jake's brown eyes and long eyelashes. "I should've gotten his number," she tells her reflection.
Sighing, she goes downstairs to meet the Shepherds, the first guests. She can't help but feel a weird twinge, watching Mallory light up and kiss Rob. Somehow the intimacy of the moment makes her think about Jake again. And that cleft in his chin.
"Hey!" Smiling widely, JoJo Shepherd approaches and hugs Chloe. "It's good to see you again."
"You too." Chloe looks over the blonde woman. "Nice tan."
"Hawaii was awesome!" JoJo tucks a stray curl behind her ear. "Mitch took care of everything, I was spoiled."
Chloe nods, reminding herself not to compare herself to anyone, especially JoJo. "Lucky you."
"I know!" JoJo steps aside as Derek approaches to hug Chloe. "We'll catch up later."
As the other guests start to arrive, Chloe feels tempted to hide in her room. Because it is immediately apparent that one of her godmothers is interested in match-making.
"Meet Sam," Callie smiles, gesturing to a sweaty man tugging at his pants. "He's one of our interns and he's thinking of going into orthopedic surgery."
"Hi," Chloe smiles politely, extending her hand. He shakes it, tentatively.
"So you're the future surgical genius I keep hearing about," he says. "You go to Harvard?"
"Yes, I'm graduating this summer." She swallows. "Orthopedics, huh?"
"Dr Torres is very helpful," he tells her, adjusting his glasses. "I'm excited about getting to build bones. I wanted to explore Cardio, but Dr Yang won't even let me watch her from the gallery. She hates me, ever since I told the wrong patient that he needed a quadruple bypass."
"I see ..."
"Your dad lets me observe his surgeries, I like him better," Sam says idly. "I hope that he'll let me scrub in with him soon."
Chloe nods, at a loss for words.
"Hello, hello!" Rob steps forward, followed by a dark-skinned man. "Do you remember Jason? The emcee from our wedding?"
"Hi," Jason smiles at her, confidently shaking her hand. "We meet again. You're the daughter of the great Cristina Yang."
"And the great Owen Hunt." Chloe forces herself to smile, as Sam and Rob leave them alone.
"Yeah, he's got a good reputation too, but he doesn't win the big awards."
Chloe's eyes narrow. "Seattle Grace is the number one trauma center in the Northwest because of him, and he wins numerous awards for community service. My father cares more about people than the 'big awards'."
"Chloe!" They both turn to see Cristina gesturing from the couch. "Come over here!"
"Excuse me," Chloe says to Jason. "'The great Cristina Yang' beckons."
"Can you introduce me?" Jason drops the cool exterior and looks anxious.
"Maybe later." She sighs as she walks over to her mother, who is seated next to a mousy and nervous man.
"This is Adam," Cristina says enthusiastically, pointing to the man. "He's one of my students."
"Hello Adam." Chloe shakes his hand.
"Adam held the retractor for me during the surgery that got me my second Harper Avery award," her mother announces. "He has very steady hands."
"I'm glad I could help," he chuckles nervously. "You're amazing, Dr Yang."
"Chloe is finishing her final rotations, and will graduate from Harvard this spring," Cristina proudly informs him. "She won't tell me where she is applying for her internship. I will let you scrub into my next three surgeries, if you can find out where she's been applying to, or what she thinks her specialty will be."
"Mom!" Chloe rolls her eyes.
"Chloe?" She turns to see her father smiling at her. "Mr Farber is here - let me introduce you to his family."
Smirking, Chloe makes a face at her mother, as Owen guides her by the hand. They make their way around people to the bar.
She pauses when the crowd parts. Because standing in front of her, holding a glass, is a tall tanned man with closely cropped dark hair, brown eyes, and a cleft in his chin.
"Hey Harvard," Jake grins at her.
Author's note – Happy Holidays! Definitely to be continued!