A/N: Hi everyone! I've wanted to write a story with this premise for a while, but never got around to it until now. I have a couple of chapters pre-written, and a rough outline, but I'm not sure how long this story is going to be yet; I guess I'll gauge by reader interest. I hope you like the first chapter, and I'd love to hear what you think! Thanks so much for reading!
When Addison was in tenth grade, her English teacher, Mrs. Dublin, scolded her when she noticed Addison reading the last page of The Great Gatsby first. It was a typical control freak move, and a habit that Addison was never able to break. By reading the last page first, Addison always knew how things were going to play out. She knew if someone was going to die. She knew whether or not the main characters would get together. And she knew if there was going to be a happy ending.
And, whether she realized it or not, this habit—this need to read the last page first—extended beyond school and books, and very much influenced the way that she lived her life. She liked to be in control, and she hated being blindsided. And maybe that's why she ended up sleeping with Mark back in New York. In her heart of hearts, she knew that her and Derek's marriage was failing and was, by all intents and purposes, over. So she slept with Mark. (It wasn't that simple, of course. She cared for Mark…loved him, even). But by sleeping with Mark, she ended her marriage before Derek had the chance to. Maybe she even subconsciously hurt him before he had the chance to hurt her first. Though there would be plenty of that later on.
But that's the thing about life—unlike books, it isn't neatly bound between a front and a back cover. It's messy and complicated, and the other 'characters' act in surprising and unpredictable ways.
Which led her to today. Never in her life would she have believed that she and Derek would be getting a divorce. Never in her life would she have believed that they both would cheat on each other. But both things were true. And as they exited their divorce attorney's office—as Addison and Derek, not Addison-and-Derek—Addison knew it was going to take some time getting used to being just Addison again.
But that's where life and books intersect—there's some level of unpredictability to both…the twists and turns along the way. They make books good. They make life…complicated.
So, Addison and Derek's story doesn't end outside their divorce attorney's office. It only starts there. (Their story, in fact, ends happily…bitter-sweetly. But that's getting ahead of things).
Addison sighed heavily as she and Derek exited their divorce attorney's office. They were barely two steps outside of their lawyer's office and, already, he was checking his phone…probably checking up on work or Meredith or one of the other million and one things he saw as being more important than the last third of his life.
He had made it abundantly clear that he was ready to begin a new life that didn't involve her. For Derek, the road ahead was bright and shiny. For Addison, it was daunting. Derek had been a major part of her life for the last eleven-plus years—through med. school, residency, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases and too many bottles of single malt scotch to even count. It was hard to close the door on all the time they'd spent together, and all the memories they'd shared.
Taking a cue from her ex-husband, she pulled out her own phone. Her forehead wrinkled in confusion when she saw that she had several missed calls from a number with a Manhattan area code—probably a former patient who hadn't realized she'd moved across the country. Just to be safe, she listened to her voicemail, and that's when her world stopped.
Suddenly the tears that she had struggled to keep in check all morning, as she officially ended her marriage, were freely flowing down her cheeks. But she wasn't aware of it. The only thing that was registering clearly was bits and pieces of the phone message she'd just listened to.
There was an accident. Savvy and Weiss…they didn't make it. I'm so sorry.
"Derek," Addison choked out weakly—partially out of habit, partially because the news affected him too, partially because she had no one else to turn to.
He turned to face her, his phone pressed against his ear, an anguished look on his face.
He knew too. Eleven-plus years had made her very good at reading him.
"I, uh," he stammered, as he fought for composure…as he tried to wrap his head around the fact that two of his very best friends were dead.
When tragedy strikes, it's okay for rules to be broken. It didn't matter that they're divorced. Or that they'd cheated on each other. The only thing that mattered was him taking her in his arms, and holding her close against his chest. They both needed the physical contact…the silent comfort.
In that moment, no one else mattered. Not Mark. Not Meredith. Certainly not their divorce attorney, who was looking at them in confusion (wondering if they'd actually meant to go through with their divorce) as he walked past them.
Her tears were soaking through his dress-shirt, streaks of her mascara ruining the expensive material. But he couldn't care less. He just held her tight as he tried to envision living in a world that no longer included Savvy and Weiss.
How they managed to drive back to Addison's hotel, neither of them knew. There was an unspoken understanding that he'd follow her…that they'd go back to her hotel together.
"I, uh, I guess we need to start looking into flights out to New York," Addison said quietly, as she shakily poured two glasses of scotch from the mini bar.
Derek nodded sadly, as he accepted a glass of scotch from his ex-wife. He brought the glass to his lips and immediately felt nauseous. And a glance over at Addison told him that she didn't have it in her to drink right now either.
"How could this happen?" Addison whispered brokenly. "Why them?"
Derek shook his head sadly. He didn't have answers. All he had was a raw, sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
A sharp tap on the door snapped him and Addison from their zombie-like trances, and Addison mechanically streaked towards the door, not bothering to fix her appearance. She opened the door to find Mark standing there.
"Hey," he said sympathetically, as he took in her broken appearance. "It's gonna be okay. You knew today was going to be hard," he soothed, attributing Addison's tear-stained face and disheveled appearance to the divorce. "But it's going to get easier. Maybe not today or tomorrow, or…Derek?" he asked, cutting himself off in confusion when he noticed his former best friend sitting on Addison's bed, his face anguished, his shirt stained with what Mark had to imagine was Addison's makeup. "What's going on?"
Addison and Derek exchanged a glance, and Derek swallowed thickly. He was always better than she was at delivering bad news.
"Do you remember our friends, Savvy and Weiss?" he began shakily.
Mark nodded as he fondly recalled the good-humored man with the very bangable wife.
"They were in an accident," Derek continued in a choked voice. "And…and they didn't make it."
Mark felt his heart sink as he watched Derek's face crumple in pain…as a wave of fresh tears spilled from Addison's eyes. "I'm so sorry, guys."
When tragedy strikes, it's okay for rules to be broken. It didn't matter that Derek vowed never to speak to Mark again. And it didn't matter that he had planned to cut Addison and Mark from his life completely. Those thoughts seemed insignificant in the wake of everything that had just happened.
So, he let Mark book plane tickets for him and Addison. And he even gave Mark the key to his trailer, so that Mark could pack a suitcase for him. Because there was an unspoken understanding among all three of them that Derek would be spending the night in Addison's hotel room. And even if there wasn't, Mark would have suggested it anyway. Derek and Addison were his family and knew that the last thing either of them needed was to spend the night alone.
So, he booked their flights, packed a suitcase for Derek, and called Richard to tell him that Addison and Derek weren't going to be at work for a few days. He brought them food from room service when it was dinnertime—though neither touched their meals. And as he left them alone for the night, he knew neither would get any sleep. Though he felt oddly comforted knowing that they'd, at least, have each other's company.
Somehow, they managed to make it through the funeral, and now Addison and Derek, along with many other funeral attendees, were at Weiss' brother and sister-in-law's house, paying their respects to Savvy and Weiss' surviving family.
"Excuse me," a man in a dark suit said, catching Addison and Derek's attention. "Are you Addison and Derek Shepherd?" The man looked completely unfamiliar to Addison, as did the woman standing next to him.
"Uh, yeah, I'm Derek Shepherd," Derek nodded. "And this is Addison Montgomery."
The man and the woman exchanged a confused look, as if trying to silently negotiate something.
"We recently got divorced," Addison offered, hoping to clear up whatever confusion was taking place.
"Oh," the man frowned, glancing at the woman once again.
"How can we help you?" Derek asked.
"I'm Matthew Connery…Savannah and Weiss' attorney," the man explained, extending his hand to Derek. "I'm sorry for your loss."
"Thank you," Derek said quietly.
"This is Caroline Parker," Matthew continued, gesturing to the woman standing next to him. "She's from child protective services. We're here to talk to you about Savannah and Weiss' son."
"Noah," Addison whispered sadly, as she thought about the six-month-old that Savvy and Weiss had recently adopted. The precious little boy who would grow up never knowing his parents.
"Yes, Noah," Matthew confirmed. "According to their wills, in the unlikely case of both their deaths, Savannah and Weiss Goldberg named you, Addison and Derek Shepherd, as the legal guardians of their son, Noah Atticus Goldberg."
"What?" Addison breathed in surprise. She knew about Noah, of course. Before she had performed Savvy's hysterectomy, Savvy and Weiss had confided to her and Derek that they had been trying to get pregnant. Addison knew how much Savvy and Weiss had wanted a baby. And Savvy was thrilled when, a few months after her surgery, she and Weiss were approved for adoption. It had happened much quicker than Savvy had ever anticipated; but as Savvy explained to Addison over the phone, Weiss was a formidable lawyer, and was able to pull a few strings.
"So, I take it that you two weren't aware of this," Matthew assessed, taking in Addison and Derek's surprised faces.
"No," Addison said, shaking her head. "I, uh, to be honest, I'm surprised they chose us, especially given everything that's been going on lately. Did they leave a note explaining why?"
"Addison," Derek reprimanded, "that only happens in the movies. No one leaves a note in real life."
"I'm sorry," Matthew said apologetically. "They didn't leave a note."
"Oh. Um, okay," Addison nodded. "I…I mean, if this was what Savvy and Weiss wanted, then, of course, I'll take Noah."
"You, um, mentioned something about a recent divorce," Caroline piped up, looking from Addison to Derek.
Addison nodded. "It was finalized a couple of days ago. Which is why I'm confused. Weiss was an incredible attorney, and meticulous about everything…especially legal documents. He would have made sure that Derek and I were planning to stay married before making us both legal guardians. There's no way he would have done something like this without triple checking first."
Derek shifted uncomfortably as he thought about a phone conversation he'd had with Weiss a few months ago. "I, uh, I might know something about that," he confessed guiltily.
"Derek Shepherd," Derek said into his phone.
"Derek, it's Weiss. How've you been?"
"Okay, I guess. How are you doing?"
"I'm doing great," Weiss smiled. "Incredible, really."
"Yeah. Savvy and I were approved for adoption, and we're now parents of an amazing baby boy named Noah."
"That's really great news, Weiss. I'm really happy for you and Savvy."
"Thank you. And Derek, I've gotta tell you, all those things you hear about fatherhood, they're true. It's honestly the best thing that ever happened to me. And wait until you meet Noah. He's amazing. He almost never cries, and he's already a pretty good sleeper. He's honestly the most incredible baby I've ever seen. I can't wait for you and Addison to meet him."
"He sounds incredible," Derek said, smiling at his friend's impossible- to-miss happiness. "I'll have to make a trip to New York to meet him soon."
"Just you?" Weiss asked in concern. "Things with you and Addison are okay, right?"
"Uh, yeah. Yeah," Derek reassured his friend. "Things with Addison are fine. We're, uh, we're really making an effort to make things work."
"That's good. That's really good." And Derek swore he could hear his friend smiling widely on the other end of the phone. "Sav and I knew you guys would make it. You two are a couple of peas in a pod."
"Right," Derek nodded, despite the fact that his end of the conversation was all a big lie. He and Addison weren't working on their marriage. Addison was making an effort. He was just going through the motions. But his friend sounded so undeniably happy, and Derek didn't have it in him to tell Weiss the truth—that he had no desire to set things right with Addison.
"Anyway," Weiss continued. "I've got to go. Savvy and I are taking Noah for professional baby pictures. But, Derek, I'm really glad to hear about you and Addison."
"Yeah, thanks," Derek said, mustering up as much enthusiasm as he could. "And I'm really happy for you and Savvy," he said genuinely. "Tell her congratulations for me."
"I will, and give my best to Addison."
"Derek," Addison scolded.
"I know, I know. I just…he sounded so happy. I didn't want to ruin it."
"Well, this makes things more complicated," Matthew muttered.
"It doesn't have to. I could take Noah," Addison offered quickly. "I could take sole custody."
"Addison, that makes no sense," Derek insisted. "You live in a hotel. You can't raise a child in a hotel."
"And you live in a trailer," Addison retorted. "In the middle of the woods." She turned to Matthew and Caroline. "I'll move. I'll buy a house in Seattle. I have a brownstone in Manhattan. I can raise Noah here."
"Addison, you can't do that," Derek objected.
"Why not? It's familiar. And I have family here."
"Yeah, okay," Derek shot back sarcastically. "Because Bizzy, Archer and the Captain are going to stop by all the time to baby-sit. You have a better chance of seeing a flying pig."
"Addison, Noah needs a fresh start. And we both have jobs in Seattle. We should raise him there."
"We?" Addison asked raising an eyebrow.
"We?" Matthew and Caroline echoed skeptically, looking between Addison and Derek.
"Yes, we," Derek insisted. "I want to be a part of this, Addie."
Addison shook her head in confusion. "Derek, why is this so important to you?"
"I, uh," Derek stammered, as he thought back to a cold November evening in Manhattan, several years ago. "I don't know."
"So…" Weiss trailed off, looking at Derek expectantly. Savvy and Addison had excused themselves to go to the ladies' room, leaving Derek and Weiss alone at the table of the fancy French restaurant that they were eating at.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Derek asked his friend in confusion.
Weiss gave Derek a smug smile. "I couldn't help noticing that Addison's not drinking tonight. Does this mean that she has an early surgery tomorrow? Or does it mean what I think it means?"
Derek couldn't help the smile that was spreading across his face. "We're not sure yet," he confided. "She's almost a week late…and…we're hopeful."
"I didn't know you guys were trying," Weiss said, a wide grin forming on his face.
"We weren't," Derek admitted. "But sometimes things happen…and we wouldn't be opposed to something happening."
"You guys will be such good parents," Weiss complimented, still smiling widely.
"Addison will be amazing," Derek said, growing serious. "I'm a little more concerned about me."
"Stop. You'll be great," Weiss insisted. "If I had a kid, I'd trust you with him."
"Of course. Especially with a son. Between Savvy and Addison, I'd need you to help balance things out…you know, make sure that Atticus doesn't drown in a sea of estrogen."
"Atticus?" Derek asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah," Weiss nodded. "After Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird. He's the reason I wanted to become a lawyer."
"Weiss, Atticus Finch fought for social justice. You're one of the most aggressive corporate lawyers in Manhattan."
"So, it's not exactly the same thing," Weiss shrugged. "Either way, Atticus is a great name. It's got character."
Derek shook his head in amusement. "Savvy will never go for it."
"You're probably right about that," Weiss conceded. "But, right now, it's not about me and Savvy. It's about you and Addison. I'm really excited for you guys."
Addison, of course, wasn't pregnant (in fact, it was during that trip to the bathroom with Savvy that she saw she'd gotten her period). But Weiss' words, and his compliment, stayed with Derek. They were, perhaps, the nicest thing his friend had ever said to him.
"Derek," Addison said, cutting into Derek's thoughts. "Why is this so important to you?"
"I, uh…it just is. It's Savvy and Weiss. And they wanted us to raise their son…both of us. So, I want to do it. I want to be there for Noah."
Addison swallowed thickly. "I do too."
"You sentiments are touching, really," Matthew cut in. "But I have to be honest…this whole situation makes me a little uneasy."
"I agree," Caroline echoed. "Throwing a child into the middle of a divorce is a bad idea. Not to mention, neither of your current living spaces is suitable for a child."
"It's not the middle of a divorce," Derek insisted. "We're officially divorced. Our marriage is over."
"Exactly," Matthew agreed. "And sharing custody of a child will tie you two together for life. Is that what you want?"
Derek looked at Addison and sighed heavily. "I want to do right by my friends. And if that means sharing custody of Noah with my ex-wife, then Addison and I will work it out."
"That's right," Addison agreed. "Derek and I are big enough people to put our own differences aside. I've watched Savvy and Weiss make some pretty big decisions, over the years…and they don't make decisions lightly. If they thought that we're what's best for Noah, then they're probably right…we're what's best for Noah."
"Not right now you're not," Caroline cut in. "Your current living spaces-"
"We said we'd move," Derek interrupted in frustration. "Not into the same house," he added more calmly. "But we'll both find homes that are suitable for raising a child."
"And plenty of divorced couples raise children," Addison added. "At the end of the day, Noah will be raised by two people who love him."
"Well, I…I guess we can try this on a temporary basis," Matthew reasoned. "Savannah and Weiss did name you both as Noah's legal guardians. And you're more suited to raise Noah than anyone from Savannah and Weiss' immediate family is. You both seem very committed to Noah. And you're both financially able to raise a child. And with your work schedules, it actually might be better to have two of you caring for him. So, I'm okay with the arrangement." He turned to Caroline. "What do you think?"
"I have my reservations," Caroline admitted. "But, all things considered, you two seem like the best suited people to raise Noah. I'm still concerned about your recent divorce and how that might affect Noah, so I'll agree to the arrangement under the condition that a social worker from our Seattle branch makes biweekly visits to ensure that the two of you are creating a stable home life for Noah."
"That's a good idea," Matthew approved. "It's exactly what I was thinking." He turned to Addison and Derek. "Caroline and I are okay with the arrangement," he told them. "But I realize that it's a life-changing decision, so if you need more time-"
"I don't need more time," Addison cut in. "I want to do it."
"You're sure?" Matthew asked. "You want to do it?"
"Yes," Addison nodded. "I do."
"Derek…?" Matthew trailed off. "Do you want to do this?"
"Yeah," Derek said softly. "I do."