[I fully embrace the cliché of the fix-it fic. In fact, I'm not even going to try and pretend that I wrote this for any purpose other than to "fix it." This story kept me up for two nights in a row. It accepts canon through the very last scenes of 11.21, because—I'll be real with you—I refuse to accept those as canon. I would like, instead, to present this as an alternative ending. I hope it comforts you. (Sidenote: I have no idea to what Christian denomination April Kepner belongs, but she's Catholic for the purposes of this piece. )]
Meredith Grey does not believe in miracles.
She keeps the machines on anyway, science and paperwork be damned. She tells the doctor that she needs to speak with Derek's family before making any rash decisions, but the truth is that she's not ready to let go. Not yet.
"I'll be back before you know it."
It's stupid, in light of the surgical mistakes and the gaping wounds and the giant freaking car crash, but she still believes him. She's seen planes crash and sisters die. She's seen Cristina off on a plane to Switzerland, laid George to rest in an O.R., and washed her own mother's ashes down a scrub room sink. She doesn't believe in miracles, and she's not so sure about this God fellow, but if He does exist, she's pretty sure He owes her one.
So she doesn't unplug Derek. She sits at the foot of his bed and squeezes his toes. She lets Bailey crawl along the ravine between his legs. She moves the IV tubes so that Zola can nuzzle up to his side. And, by the muted glow of her cell phone, Meredith does research.
"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" (Genesis 1:2).
Meredith glances up at Derek's IV pole and watches the arrhythmic drip of the solution with which this horrible, terrible hospital is hydrating her husband. "Formless and empty" feels like an apt description of a world without Derek. Even now, with his sedated form beside her, she feels suffocated by the darkness over the surface of the deep.
"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (Genesis 1:3).
She reaches into her purse for a penlight and shines it hopefully into Derek's eyes. His right pupil is still blown. Let there be light, she thinks. Her eyes close, and she sees Derek's deep indigo orbs glittering mischievously in the glow of their bedside lamp. Please, please let there be light.
The respirator hisses, and the heart monitor beeps, but when she releases his eyelids, they close again.
When the kids are asleep, nestled against their father and secure within his guardrails, she pulls out her phone and stares at Amelia Shepherd's name in her contacts for a long, long time.
Finally, she scrolls down and dials April Kepner's number.
It is four o'clock in the morning, and Kempner is very, very confused. "Meredith?"
"I need…" Meredith clears her throat of tears and clenches her free fist in determination. "Teach me how to pray."
II. Our Father
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name
Meredith sets down the piece of paper onto which she's scribbled April's collection of spiritual pleas and groans. "I don't even…I don't even know what this means." Her gaze drifts to Derek's bruised, bandaged face. "Do you? Did you even go to church?"
Her only response is the muted drone and the steady beep-beep of the machines that are keeping her husband alive. She feels a sudden rush of gratitude for the social worker who came earlier to take her children to the hospital's daycare. She needs a moment alone with Derek, a moment to digest this ancient diction and test its merit.
"I guess we never really talked about religion," she admits, "about church and God, but…but now that Zola's getting older, maybe we should. Now that you're coming back to a place where people get shot in hospitals and planes crash and fucking everyone dies, maybe we should start thinking about going to church."
She heaves a sigh and retrieves the sheet of notebook paper, her eyes fixed on the next line.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
She leans forward and adopts a conspiratorial whisper. "I don't mean this," she confesses fearfully. "I don't mean 'God's will be done.' If God's will is that you die here because some moron at a pathetically unqualified medical institution couldn't get a fucking head CT, then I think God's will is stupid. What about my will? What about our will, Derek?" The reds, blues, and purples of his face blur together until she blinks again, sending a solitary tear with a plop to the paper in her lap. She rubs her eyes angrily and allows herself, for a moment, to fume. This is stupid. April's plan is stupid. No archaic words are going to change what science has set in motion.
Still, she looks at Derek, and she hears April's gentle voice in her ear. "Jesus saved Lazarus, Mere. Miracles happen."
She doesn't need Derek. The last few months have taught her that she can, in fact, make it on her own. But she does want him. Really, truly. She wants the life they were starting to build in between mind-blowing orgasms and rediscovering each other.
Against all rational thought, she turns back to the words Jesus taught his people to pray.
Give us this day, our daily bread
"It's not enough," she entreats. "We had one perfect day, Derek. One. You came back from D.C. to tell me that you'd kissed another woman, and then we had one day together. I want…I need more than a day. I need more than this supremely shitty day in this supremely shitty hospital. I know you saved those people, but…I don't care. I care about saving you. I care about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and…"
For a moment, she really, truly hates him.
"You promised, Derek. You promised that the hard part would be over."
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us
"I barely forgave you for that woman in D.C. I don't know if I have it in me to forgive you for dying."
There's a gentle knock on the door, and a nurse enters sheepishly with a cart.
"I, um…need to do some bloodwork."
Meredith glares at the nurse—whose nametag reads "Nordessa"—until the woman appears to be shaking in her balloon-print scrubs.
"Give me the syringes," she snaps. "I can draw blood from him."
"Ms. Shepherd," Nordessa begins softly, "we're not supposed to…"
"You know what you're not supposed to do?" Meredith interrupts. "Kill people. World-class neurosurgeons like my husband? You're especially not supposed to kill them. Now, give me the damn syringes."
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
"I hope to hell you've got a plan to get him to a trauma center," Meredith growls as she draws blood. Beside her, the nurse stammers.
"Maybe work on that, then." Meredith drops the labeled vials of Derek's blood on the provided tray. "I don't want to see anyone else in here until you have a better treatment plan."
Nordessa pales. "Ms. Shepherd, your husband is…"
Meredith chortles. "If you say 'brain dead,' so help me God…"
Nordessa shuffles out, and Meredith bows her head until she is pressed to Derek's bandages, suddenly exhausted by the effort of being angry.
For the kingdom, and the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever
"Just, you know…maybe share them. The kingdom, the power, and the glory, I mean. If you're listening, maybe you could share them with me. Because one whiff of Derek? It's not enough."
III. The Decade Prayer
Forty-two hours later, and she's starting to worry about Derek. He doesn't recoil from pain. He isn't breathing on his own. And though his muscles contract, causing intermittent movement, the doctors insist that he displays no signs of actual consciousness.
Another neuro consult comes in and tells her to prepare herself. She throws a chair at him.
Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins
"Mere, I hate to say it, but…he might be gone."
Meredith turns away from the words she'd scribbled earlier and clenches a tiny, ineffectual fist in frustration. "No. No, okay? Just…no. I refuse to believe that. It's like Hermon's tumor. There has to be something we haven't thought of. There has to be something we can do."
Amelia's sigh breathes static through the tiny speakers of the cell phone. "You know just as well as I do that it doesn't always work that way."
"This time, it will," Meredith insists. "It has to. I just got him back, Amelia. We just got him back. We can't let him go without a fight."
Save us from the fires of hell
Meredith inhaled sharply and ignored the flames of anger licking at her feet. "If the roles were reversed…"
Amelia's voice is low and resigned. "He'd fight."
Lead all souls to heaven
"Like hell," Meredith agreed, her voice naught but a whisper. "Look, I drowned once. I drowned, and Derek pulled me out of the bay, and…I was dead for three hours, but he fought. He forced the others to fight, and...and they saved me. I'm here because of him. I'm alive because of him."
"It's like I was drowning, and you saved me."
"I'm flying in someone from Boston," Meredith continued, "but I'm sending you the scans. Take a look. See what you can find."
Especially those most in need of thy mercy
She hangs up and drops the phone to the floor with a clatter. Frustration leaks through her eyes, pricking the tip of her nose and warming her cheeks.
Have mercy, she begs silently. Have mercy, please. Because I want you to lead all souls to heaven. I do. Derek belongs in heaven. But right now…heaven, to me, is with him.
IV. Prayer of St. Francis
Bailey crouches on the floor, playing with colored blocks provided by a social worker. They look something like large Legos, but Meredith (the veteran of a crappy childhood and a noticeable lack of playthings) has no idea what they're called. Zola sits at the windowsill, dragging blue and green crayons across a black-and-white rendering of Elsa from Disney's Frozen.
Yesterday, a MusiCares musician came and regaled Zola with a very long cover of "Let It Go." Meredith still can't get the chorus or its irony out of her head.
Beside her, Amelia Shepherd sleeps, tucked into an oversized purple cardigan and looking every bit the younger sister. She flew in hours after Meredith's call, armed with Derek's chart and an experimental treatment plan. Meredith helped her shave Derek's head and re-dress his surgical wounds. Together, they used a neurological drill to create opposing burr holes to reduce the swelling in his brain.
It's unorthodox, the holes in his head, but the sisters have made a pact; nothing is hopeless.
Meredith fingers her worn sheet of prayers and turns again to the wrinkled words that have become a talisman of sorts.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
She'd found the young female doctor who operated on Derek sobbing in the parking lot earlier. While not entirely saccharine, Meredith's words had been meant for good. She'd tried to take a page out of Miranda Bailey's book and see the situation as a learning opportunity.
She's pretty sure that, from this point forward, the poor girl is going to take every admitted patient for a head CT. Immediately.
She glances at Derek, lying awkwardly and open-mouthed on the small hospital bed, and decides that there are worse things. With a heavy sigh, she reaches into her pocket and wraps her fingers around a familiar penlight.
Where there is doubt, faith
Against her better judgment, she scoots closer to the bed and pries tanned eyelids open.
Where there is despair, hope
With the flick of a switch, Meredith peers into her husband's indigo orbs.
Where there is darkness, light
The pupils constrict, and she drops the light in surprise.
"Amelia," she hisses, her gaze all but surgically attached to Derek's face. "Amelia, wake up!"
While the brunette neurosurgeon stirs in her plastic chair, Meredith reaches down and pinches the skin of Derek's inner thigh. The movement is slight, barely there, but she sees him flinch.
She pinches him again, just to be sure, and his leg twitches.
Where there is sadness, joy
"Derek," Meredith calls firmly. "Derek, open your eyes."
Nothing. Beside her, Amelia groans.
"Meredith, we've been over this. You have to give it time to…"
"He's shying away from pain," Meredith interrupts. "The pupils are reacting to light."
O Divine Master, grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console
"Meredith," Amelia murmurs gently through gritted teeth, "it's late. You haven't slept."
"We made a pact!" Meredith snaps without looking away. She still holds a fold of Derek's thigh between her thumb and forefinger.
To be understood, as to understand
She feels Amelia by her side in the soft swish of a cotton sweater and the resigned breath of one who has loved and lost far too many times.
"Watch," she whispers, pinching him again.
To be loved as to love
His leg twitches again, the movement small but visible, and Amelia gasps.
From the floor, Bailey giggles to himself. "Holy shit," he parrots, grinning proudly.
Amelia slaps a hand against her mouth in horror, but Meredith grabs her elbow to keep her attention.
"The penlight," she persists hopefully. "Grab the light."
Amelia reaches into her pocket and snags her very own penlight, the one she used to examine Dr. Hermon after eradicating an impossible tumor. She ignites it mechanically and leans forward, trying to summon an ounce of the professionalism that has made her one of the top surgeons in her field.
Derek's pupil constricts, and Amelia is ten years old again, wanting nothing more than her older brother's proud smile warming her like the sun.
For it is in giving that we receive
"He's reacting," Amelia breathes.
In pardoning that we are pardoned
Amelia pages the nurse on call, but Meredith is lost, focused only on Derek and the possibility that forever isn't gone yet, that this is his Elliot Bay and the car crash is just one more terrible thing that they will survive together.
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life
She gently squeezes his bruised, battered hand and hears his voice, strong and sure and teasing in the silence of her thoughts. "I'll be back before you know it."
He doesn't squeeze back, but she believes him anyway.
V. Act of Contrition
Nordessa the nurse is baffled by this unexpected turn of events. The neurosurgeon who couldn't be bothered to postpone his dinner for the sake of another surgeon's brain function is equally perplexed. Meredith watches his eyebrows climb higher and higher on his wrinkled forehead as Amelia spits words like "pressure" and "swelling" and "experimental burr holes."
"Don't go anywhere."
She slips her hand beneath Derek's gown and pinches his thigh again, just to watch his leg move. Her fingerprints have stained his groin purple, two marbled ovals that brand him as hers, but she can't seem to stop. She needs to know that he's still in there somewhere, beneath the whisper of the respirator and the heart monitor's metronome.
"Stay right here."
She stays. She checks his vital signs every hour on the hour and cleans the incision sites that cover the holes in his skull. She runs her small, cold fingers over his bald head and changes the bandages, examining the lacerations for any sign of infection. When the nurses arrive, she steals the chart and tracks his progress, checking the attending's notes the way she would an intern's. The hospital may not be equipped for trauma, but his treatment team is not going to make another mistake on her watch.
"Wait for me."
She waits. She reads stories to Zola and Bailey. She builds some kind of tower-like thing with the not-Legos and uses surgical thread to make a zipline for Batman. She wears a tiara and has tea parties. She even drapes a feathered boa around Derek's bandages. "Daddy's sleeping," she tells Zola calmly, "but he might want some tea when he wakes up."
At Amelia's urging, she finally washes her hair in the bathroom sink and gives herself a sponge bath with the door open, just so she can keep an eye on her husband.
Through it all, she prays.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God
She wants to take it all back. His trip to D.C., the weekend in a hotel room, the nights she'd called Cristina because she was too scared to try and fix anything with Derek—she wants it back. She would trade any of her eighty-nine successful surgeries for another night like their last, cuddled under the sheets and giggling like horny teenagers at the newness of their love.
Even glancing at the dark circles under his eyes and the crust around his dry, cracked lips, she still feels the ghost of butterflies, fluttering against her ribcage like the kicks of an unborn child.
"You're the love of my life."
Amelia starts to complain of the stench, so she goes down to the gift shop to purchase a change of clothes. When she returns (at a run, mortified by the idea of betraying his plea to stay right here for even ten minutes), his room is a blur of teal scrubs, and Amelia is curled into a screaming, sobbing ball on the floor outside.
Her breath catches horrifically, choking her, and she skids to a terrified stop. She works her jaw, but the words don't come out. Finally, she manages a strangled rasp.
Have mercy on me, a sinner
Amelia's hysterics echo along the hallway as Meredith peers through the window, clawing at the glass in time to see Derek lurch upward in bed.
Oh, God, she thinks, he's seizing.
Gloved hands plunge a syringe into his IV port, and his body grows limp. A woman in scrubs reaches for the ventilation tube, and Meredith lets out a primal, blood-curdling scream. She wants to pray. She needs to pray, but April's wrinkled words lie in a crumpled heap on Derek's bedside table, and suddenly, she knows nothing.
God, she begins silently, a stark contrast to the shrieks tearing at her lungs. God, please. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease…
The door opens, and Meredith collapses against the wall with tears streaming down her cheeks.
"I'm sorry," a doctor gasps, breathing heavily. "He was fighting the vent, so we decided to extubate."
Meredith's wide eyes dart from the doctor's soft, apologetic features to Derek's heart monitor, which continues to pulse cheerily through the window.
"He's breathing on his own," the doctor continues, "which, as you know, is a good sign. It's a good…"
Meredith grabs her in a bone-crushing hug.
"And how is Dr. Shepherd doing today?"
For days, her answer is the same: "Still stable, thanks."
Amelia is always there, saying things like, "the healing process takes time" and "until he wakes up, we have no way of knowing if and to what extent there may be brain damage," but Meredith doesn't care because, when she squeezes his hand, he squeezes back. She knows the medicine, knows that the likelihood of a full recovery is statistically miniscule, but she also knows that he wasn't supposed to survive at all. She knows that his pupils weren't supposed to react to her light, that his leg isn't supposed to twitch when she pinches him. His instinct for self-preservation—his most basic human instinct—is still intact. For Meredith, that's enough to hope.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
Then, one morning, she blinks back sleep and a surprising dose of Seattle sunshine to see two indigo eyes boring into her. And it doesn't matter that the stare is blank or that the whites of his eyes are bloodshot, because she can see the slightest hint of her Derek in the way the corners crease when she calls his name.
"Derek," she persists, standing to move closer to his bed. "Derek, can you hear me?"
She leans over until the ends of her hair brush his forehead, and his eyes follow her.
"Derek," she calls, stepping back and into an imaginary lab coat, "Can you follow my finger?"
She holds an index finger directly in front of his nose and moves it gently from right to left. For a moment, he follows, and then his eyelids pinch closed in a pained grimace.
His eyes snap back open, and something ugly and twisted inside of her starts to slowly unravel.
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked with favor on his lowly servant
She reaches down and grabs his hand, sliding two fingers into his palm. "Can you squeeze my fingers?"
He squeezes dutifully, and she squeezes back.
"Very good," she breathes, trying to keep her voice from shaking. She releases his hand and lifts the blanket at the foot of his bed. "Can you wiggle your toes for me?"
His brow furrows, and he bites his lip hard enough to draw blood as the indigo orbs disappear in a sea of pain. A cracked, tortured groan escapes his hoarse throat, and Meredith's stomach flips uncomfortably. "Oh, Derek…"
She presses the nurse's call button, and a young blonde thing comes running in with Amelia hot on her heels. The nurse rushes to his side with a blood pressure cuff, eyes wide. "He's awake?"
"He squeezed my hand," Meredith tells a breathless Amelia. "He squeezed my hand, and he looked right at me, and his eyes followed my finger."
From this day all generations will call me blessed
Amelia inhales sharply and studies her brother's wasting form. "That's good. That's all good, but we're still not out of the woods."
"Of course we are," Meredith argues quietly, watching the new nurse as she takes Derek's temperature.
"He could still…"
"He's alive," Meredith interrupts. "He's alive, Amelia. We haven't lost him yet. That's…"
"A big deal," Amelia finishes. "I know."
"No," Meredith intones, reaching down to stroke the soft down of her husband's new hair. "It's not just a big deal. It's everything."
The Almighty has done great things for me
And holy is His name
Meredith glances up just in time to see Zola and Bailey come tearing in, followed closely by one of the hospital's childcare specialists. Zola climbs onto the bed, and Derek's eyes open again.
"Mommy," Zola calls. "Mommy, he's not sleeping anymore!"
Zola shifts, and Derek's eyes widen. A coughing fit begins as a rattle in his chest and grows to a full-blown attack, coloring his face a deep crimson and curving his spine.
"Ice chips," Amelia mutters. "I'll just go get ice chips."
"Mommy, I think he wants some tea."
Zola crawls down and goes in search of a teacup for her father. Meredith steps up to the foot of the bed and squeezes his toes through the blanket. "Derek."
His red, bloodshot, watering eyes find hers, and his expectant stare is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen.
"I love you," she tells him brokenly. "I love you, and you're going to be fine."
"Do you know who you are?"
"Derek Christopher Shepherd."
His voice is a raspy shadow of its former self, but it rumbles in his chest the same way, vibrating against her cheek when she presses her head into the crook of his shoulder. Like him, it gets stronger every day.
"Do you know where you are?"
"Some really terrible hospital where a bunch of crappy doctors tried to kill me."
His math skills are horribly lacking, but his sense of humor is still intact. Once, when he was coherent for an entire hour, she told him exactly what had happened in the O.R. upon his arrival. He had been appropriately appalled, and he hadn't let any of the nurses forget it.
Of course, when they ask him for the sum of three and seven, his answer is still consistently above ninety. The neurologist tells her this will get better with time. Amelia has her doubts.
"You could be nicer to the nurses here, you know."
"You could be in Seattle," Derek retorts. "Don't you have a neuro department to run, or something?"
"You're my brother," Amelia counters. "Besides, you almost died. I had to come down and make sure the lesser neurosurgeons of the world didn't accidentally turn you into a vegetable."
He coughs, and Meredith passes him a cup of ice chips.
"I still can't believe you drilled holes in my head," he chokes.
"You'll get over it," Amelia returns cheekily. "They'll heal nicely; don't worry. Your wife must have cleaned those incision sites every hour for a week."
He noisily sucks a piece of ice and turns his gaze to Meredith.
"I love you," he tells her, his voice as soft and reverent as ever. Every time he says it, the tears in his eyes steal her breath.
Bless us, oh Lord
"I love you more."
He wheezes through a chuckle. "Not possible," he insists.
"Oh, it's possible," Meredith argues, reaching for the hand that isn't broken. "I fought death for you, Derek. Twice."
His eyes are twinkling through tears as he looks at her. "Just twice, huh?"
She inhales sharply, and something between them shifts.
"Meredith," Derek entreats as softly as he can manage. "What? What is it?"
She bites her lower lip in a vain attempt to keep her tears at bay. On the floor, Zola and Bailey send Batman tearing through the air on his makeshift zipline. On the bed, Derek is still wearing his tea party tiara.
And these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive
From Thy bounty through Christ, our Lord
The lump in her throat makes speaking difficult.
"God," she breathes finally, taking his good hand and squeezing it tightly, "I'm so glad you didn't die."
He leans forward with dry lips to press a kiss to her hand. "I'm so glad you waited for me."
"I meant it," Meredith tells him softly, "when I said that I don't want to live without you."
He tugs on her hand, and she crawls onto the bed, pressing her body into his side and absorbing his jagged edges into the soft curves of her waist. She is careful not to bump any injuries, and she examines the incision sites on his temples as she settles in, but her presence still relaxes him.
This, he thinks, pressing his cheek to the crown of her head and breathing in the scent of lavender. This is why I told that white light to fuck off.
"Don't worry," he whispers, watching his children play, "I intend to be around for a long, long time."
Her eyes fly open, and she inhales sharply. "Derek?"
"When you get out of here, we need to start going to church."
VIII. Glory Be
The stern reply is in stark contrast to the long, drawn-out nasality of the whine. "But nothing, Bailey Shepherd. You know the drill. Sunday mornings are for Mass."
The twelve-year-old heaves a dramatic sigh and turns on his heel. "Fine. I'll go get dressed."
When Meredith abandons the stairwell in search of her purse, she almost runs right into the teenaged Zola.
"You know," Zola begins thoughtfully, twisting one last lock of hair into a braid, "I actually like church."
Meredith shoots her daughter a proud smile. "I'm very glad to hear that."
"Not just because of the cute boys in youth group, either."
Derek descends the staircase with wide eyes and a tie in hand. "What's this about cute boys?"
"Zola was just articulating the merits of youth group," Meredith replies with a grin. "Need help with that, do you?"
Derek pops his collar and hands her the tie with a hopeful smile. "I mean, I don't need help, but I do like it when you tie my tie."
Meredith leans in and murmurs in a conspiratorial whisper, "I like it when we do other things with your tie…"
Derek grins wickedly. "Oh, me too. Believe me. In fact, if you're not busy tonight, maybe we could…"
Meredith returns his grin, and her eyes glitter in the soft light of the morning. "Oh, believe me. We will."
Derek captures her lips with his, and Zola groans.
"Mom. Dad. Seriously? Gross."
She disappears into the kitchen, and Meredith rolls her eyes skyward.
"You know," Derek confides, nuzzling her cheek, "when we agreed to adopt a child, I think we failed to consider the fact that said child would eventually become a teenager."
"Definitely an oversight on our part." She pauses for a moment and closes her eyes, relishing the feel of his skin through the soft fabric of his dress shirt.
Thank you, she thinks. Thank you, God.
When Derek speaks again, his voice is a beautiful, healthy vibration against her chest. "You know, we could always just skip Mass and go back to bed…"
Meredith's eyes fly open. "No."
Derek's eyebrows climb the wrinkles on his forehead in surprise. "No?"
"Derek…" Meredith pulls away, but only far enough to make eye contact. When she speaks again, her voice is thin with the threat of tears. "Look, you…you died."
Derek's brow furrows ever so slightly, and his lips part in confusion. "What?"
"You died," Meredith repeats. "A truck hit you, and then some idiot doctor didn't get an immediate head CT, and a hematoma went unnoticed until the swelling was critical and your pupil was blown. When I got to the hospital, they'd already declared you brain-dead. They gave me all the paperwork and explained my options, but I just couldn't pull the plug. So I waited. I waited, and I thought, and I worried, and…"
"Meredith," he soothes, running his fingers through her sleek, honey blonde hair. "I know all of this."
"I called April Kepner."
The confession settles like dust in the silence.
"I called April at four o'clock in the morning and...and she taught me how to pray. She gave me all these prayers, and I wrote them down, and…"
In his mind's eye, Derek sees the shattered shadow box above their bed where the Post-It rests. He sees the folded addition, a sheet of notebook paper with so many creases that it feels like cotton, so many faded words that it looks like jibberish. He remembers tugging it out of her hand on the ride home from that horrible hospital outside of Seattle.
"What is this?"
She shakes her head. "Look, I just needed a reason to believe you'd be okay. At first, I was faking it, but somewhere down the line, it became real. God heard me, and He saved you, and now…sometimes, I feel like I'm choking on gratitude."
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
She pauses for a moment and ducks her head, studying the grain of their hardwood floors. "I know it sounds silly, but…"
She looks up in surprise. "What?"
"That feeling? Like you're choking on gratitude?" His lips curl sadly, and her heart breaks in the best way. "Meredith, I feel that way every time I look at you."
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be
He reaches up and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, gifting her with a breathtaking smile. "I look at you, and my chest feels so full that, sometimes, I'm sure it's going to crack open. What we have and what we've managed to build together…it's just…"
A world without end
"Humbling," Meredith finished softly.
His palms warm her shoulder as he pulls her closer. "Exactly. This love, this life…it makes me feel small in the best way."
She smiles, and tears prick the backs of her eyes. I almost lost this. So many times.
"I love you."
She knows that joy is fleeting, that all life is ultimately impermanent, but she looks at Derek, at their children, at the patients they save and the people they're becoming, and she sees their life stretch across the horizon, all blue-orange-yellow-red and breathtakingly unpredictable. She sees the bomb and the train and the bay and the shooting and the plane crash and the car crash and that God-awful woman in Washington and the haze of possibilities in their future, and she thinks that maybe she does believe in miracles after all.