As I fully descend into shipper hell, this fic doesn't have a really clear timeline, and might not for a little while. That's on purpose because I want to see how midseason unfolds before I commit to anything. It's not really needed for the first few chapters anyway, to be perfectly honest.
Feedback is welcome, shipper wars aren't.
In truth, Meredith was never really able to move on. No matter how much she wanted to and how hard she tried...she ended up back where she had always been. Only Derek was alive then and pining over him as he went back to his wife, or he had the relationship with Rose, was different. When she looked at him it made sense why she would try and make herself whole. It made sense as to why she nearly ached to be with him. Through all the bad and the good, there were reasons for her to want him so desperately. They found happiness in a world where she was so sure that happiness didn't exist at all.
Except he died.
The happiness got ripped away.
Nothing was ever going to be the same again.
There was absolutely no reason as to why she should have been holding onto him as tightly as she did. Even if it was harder because there was no closure. He was there and then he was gone. Nothing she could do would bring him back, and nothing was going to close the gaping hole in her heart. Even when she hated him she loved him and that only made all of her thoughts more complicated. Everything was complicated and she hated it.
She hated everything.
What she hated more was how easily Nathan got under her skin. One minute she hated him and the next her thoughts were anything but hate. It scared her in ways that she couldn't explain and it made her wonder if there was a point in which she could move on. With Thorpe she just wasn't ready, but then Nathan came around. Almost out of nowhere. Moments came in which she softened with him were easily replaced by moments in which Owen proved him to be the worth the dislike out of loyalty. But then her body moved on instinct in that parking lot, as if every part of her just stopped caring and she needed him. No thinking. She just pulled him into her car. Just doing. Like she'd done so many times in the past. She had a nasty little habit of solving her problems with sex. Only mourning a dead husband wasn't really only problem that could be solved.
She had to figure it out.
Easier to avoid him because of that, to pretend that nothing was there, to play the twisted little games that she could tell only made Nathan frustrated, and made her look like a demon sister to Maggie. She was, objectively, but she probably didn't care as much as she should have. Being a sister was never on her list of things she was good at, nor was it really a high priority. It took time with Lexie and with Amelia and Maggie she didn't have time. She had kids, a rocky marriage that turned dead husband, and things that made it so she couldn't just focus on trying to be a better person. She had to focus on surviving, on finding a way to be who she was without Derek, to be Meredith Grey.
When was the last time she was just Meredith?
It felt like Derek followed her everywhere. Even in death. If he was there she wouldn't have minded, but he wasn't there. He was gone and she had to learn how to be her own person.
More difficult than she imagined.
Sometimes it felt as if her world was slowly piecing itself together, but other times it felt as if her world was on the edge of crumbling into a million little pieces. The other shoe always dropped. It just did. When things were good, they went back. So many times she couldn't even think of them all without reaching a too dark place inside of her that she just couldn't come back from, nor was she ever going to be able to.
Mostly, it just felt as if it was that way because it had to be. She couldn't lean on Alex, not when he was going through his own special brand of hell. She wasn't entirely selfish, even when she knew she could be. Instead, she had to be there so he could lean on her. In an odd way, it was good. It helped her to be the person that she was slowly turning into. The person who was more than just a widow.
A new brand of widow, as it were.
The widow that felt as if her entire body ached for a guy she was never supposed to like. A guy that was too laid back and too fun, too interested, too everything. A guy that invaded her thoughts when she was trying to do her job, invaded her in the middle of the night when she couldn't sleep, and all she could think was his hands all over her body, the way he felt inside of her. It left her wondering if it was just going to end like it all did before?
It wasn't a risk she felt she could take so she avoided him too many times, being a little too rude, pretending that everything was just a classic Meredith fluke of the moment, girl who used sex to solve her problems. Only he wouldn't know that, would he? She wasn't the poor slutty intern who got involved with her married attending. She was an attending herself. One who held a cloud of grief over their head and three kids to look after.
That was who she became and through all the Hell getting to that place put her through, those kids were what kept her standing upright. For that she'd never change a damn moment of her life.
"Where the hell is Maggie?" Meredith whispered to herself, tired of the silence that caused her to think too much.
"No Pierce. Stuck with me." Nathan's voice rang out as he climbed on the plane and took a seat next to her. "She got stuck in a surgery. I'm her replacement."
"Great." She didn't even pretend to hide the distaste, that was totally fake, but there, as she settled back. She was supposed to be doing the surgery with Maggie, not with Riggs. Something that was borderline ridiculous in the first place, a lost cause, but was a favor to Richard. How could she say no to her basically dad and Maggie's biological dad? Either way, she didn't want to be stuck with Riggs the entire time. Too late.
"Ouch." The single word came out as he buckled himself in the seat.
Her shoulders shrugged and looked ahead as the pilot said they were leaving. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed the way he took out a file, and it annoyed her. In that stupid way where it didn't even really annoy her, but the fact that he wasn't talking to her even though he almost always was talking to her annoyed her.
She never said it made any sense.
She wanted him to talk, but she didn't want him to talk all at the same time. He instantly consumed her thoughts and she bit down on her lip as she tried not to let those stupid porny thoughts get the better of her. In work it was easier, most of the time. There was a patient at hand to focus on, but when it was just the two of them and a pilot in closed quarters. Well, there was only so much she could do to control her thoughts. Unless she wanted to think about all of the ways the flight could possibly go wrong.
Maybe having a panic attack mid air with a guy who wouldn't understand, but would also care too much wasn't the best idea.
Porny thoughts it was.
Quietly she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He was just sitting there, reading the file he was probably handed last minute, and trying to learn as much as she could. For all of the things Owen told her and the reasons she was supposed to hate him, she did give him credit that he was a good surgeon. They were all pretty questionable people in their personal lives.
Lingering a little too long, his gaze eventually shifted to her own, and she couldn't bring herself to tear away. Not immediately. She wondered what it was about him. The cocky thing didn't even really annoy him, he was laid back, way more laid back than anyone she ever liked before. Derek certainly was not one to let well, anything roll off of him. He was a yeller. Nathan had a breaking point, but it wasn't a short fuse. He had nice eyes and nice hair, she did enjoy running her fingers through it. The rest she just didn't know. It probably had something to do with the fact that he could read her like a damn book. Not even Derek could do that.
No, she couldn't compare them. It wasn't fair and they were just too different. He didn't even have a mc nickname. Those were something of a death sentence, though. He didn't need a death mark on him.
Tearing her gaze away she focused back on the so very uninteresting interior of the plane
She supposed being with Nathan wasn't a totally bad thing. It meant that her kids wouldn't just be in the hands of Alex. Maggie would be there. It was only meant to be one night, but as she knew her kids better than anyone, one night could be a handful. Hell, really. Nothing she wanted to place just on the shoulders of Alex, even if reassured it was fine. It was for work. Together they could handle it. Right? Right. At least she hoped so.
By the time they were landing she realized they hadn't spoken much and wondered a million things. Always managing to think about him and what he was thinking about her. It annoyed her, but she long let go of trying to figure it out. Instead she just got off of the plane and let them be guided to the hospital in question, walking down the hall with her arms crossed over her chest. More so displaying her mood towards Nathan than the surgery at hand.
But her inner personal demons with Nathan weren't what she was there to worry about.
"Dr. Grey, Dr. Riggs." The chief of surgery greeted, leading them to the patient.
They received the general update on the patient, as they both overlooked the man lying in the bed. It only took her a few moments to look up at Nathan and for them to share the look that wordlessly meant it looked like the patient was just too far gone. For her to do her work and him to work on the heart at the same time...it was a long shot.
Not that they would give up, but they knew harsh realities when they saw them.
They both move out of the room and the attendings she assumed worked long and hard only to be shoved off a case at the last minute.
"I knew your mother. I hope you're as good as her."
Meredith smiled, in that way that tried her best to mask how she was annoyed, before the code was called. She hated that she was pleased it got her out of a conversation she didn't want to be in. Instead of worrying about it she found herself leaning against the wall as she watched, crossing her arms across her chest, the flat of her foot braced back against the wall. She'd of helped if there weren't already too many bodies in the room, and if the chief didn't already think she wasn't that good.
"What's it being the daughter of Ellis Grey?"
The question came after she felt him all too close, leaning against the wall at his side, so little personal space between them. She could have moved, but she didn't. Why she didn't move she didn't really have an answer. One that was outside of the obvious at least. She let out a breath, but didn't say anything. It was just them. They didn't need to move, to look out for Maggie, or Owen, or any other wandering eye. It felt almost as if she was some trance, where she could just give in for one moment, to pretend whatever they had could be real. It couldn't be real. They weren't hiding away in a different hospital forever. Just for the moment, for this one case, one patient. They would go back to real life and she couldn't think about kissing him in the middle of the hallway.
It wasn't going to do anything good for either of them.
"You don't want to know about my mother."
Her eyes shifted over to him, raising her eyebrow, not believing him in the slightest. "Not all legends make good mothers."
"You make a good mother from what I see."
"I'm not a legend."
Meredith allowed her gaze to shift back to the patient, whose heart rate manage to come up, just barely. It didn't look good and she really hoped they didn't need to stick around more than one night. Her resolve wasn't very good. Never had been. Especially not when he was standing so close. "Did you need something, Dr. Riggs?"
He still didn't touch her but she swore she could feel him closer, her whole body on edge, shivering, needing him more than she wanted to admit. It only caused her to put on a hardened look, letting out something of a shaky breath, but pretending everything was fine. Normal. Most times when she talked to him, afterwards certain thoughts found her, and she felt like that stupid intern she was. She was a mother of three kids. She didn't have time to be the girl who thought with things other than her brain.
"Not happening." Meredith rested her back against the wall and closed her eyes. If she didn't see him how much of a problem could there be? At least until he leaned into her and she looked over at him. It made it harder to focus. She wanted him and she knew it. It looked like he knew it, too. She wanted something she really couldn't have. Only made him more appealing because she was definitely that girl. She swallowed and did her best to look anywhere but him. She failed. Miserably.
"Then stop looking at me like you're picturing me without my clothes on. I remember that look."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
He leaned in just a little closer. "Four times, Grey. No one's forgetting that."
She smiled, licking her lips, as she looked at him with her eyes widened just enough. Stupid, Nathan Riggs. "I hate you."
"No, you don't."
"I do, I really do."
"Offer is still open. Can send a clear message you hate me. Me, you, no clothes. It'd be great."
"Sorry to interrupt.." a nurse came up to them, "but the chief wants to speak to you."
Meredith pushed herself off of the wall and let it go that the nurse probably heard too much of the conversation. It wasn't like they were at Grey Sloan Memorial. Crossing her arms over her chest she walked down the wall and up the stairs, doing her best to ignore how she felt.
"So, are you two…?" The nurse asked, "Sorry, nothing interesting really happens around here."
"We're not." Meredith answered, trying her best to not roll her eyes.
"Are you dating anyone?" She turns the conversation to just Nathan.
"No, Dr. Grey here keep saying no. I think I'm starting to wear her down though."
As she kept walking and praying she magically got lost, it was impossible to overhear the way the nurse was laughing too loud at nearly everything that came out of his mouth. The one time she looked back the little redhead had wide eyes and that look as if Nathan was some kind of damn superhero. Hmm, it bothered her. She wouldn't admit it bothered her, but it clearly did.
"Gag." She murmured to herself just as the laughter bounced off of the walls.
"So, you were in the army?"
"Oh jesus." Meredith whispered, rolling her eyes.
"Yeah, settled back in Seattle."
"Dr. Grey, Dr. Riggs. Come in."
Meredith was thankful for the Chief to want to talk to them. They took their seats and the nurse disappeared. She'd been there with Derek, the whole wide eyed, stupid girl, but still, there was something about the whole thing that bothered her. Nothing she wanted to actually worry herself over, and she didn't as they disssolved into worrying about the patient.
"I know you guys are in a rush to get back to Seattle, but this patient... I can't authorize a surgery until he is more stable. He won't make it."
"We understand." Nathan replied.
"How long?" Meredith asked.
"I don't give him more than twelve hours." The Chief replied, "I'll page you guys. Go get some rest. It might be a long night."
Without lingering around for anything more Meredith stood and walked right out of the office and down the stairs, taking a turn to almost lose Nathan near instantly. It was childish and that was one of the many things that she could be when she wanted to be. She was in search of a cup of coffee, finding one of those ancient machines that told her just how old the hospital they were in was, and groaning as it took forever. It probably was going to take forever. She really should have just found her bag and left, but she didn't.
Pulling the cup from the machine she took a sip and made a face, turning around to see Nathan standing there. How did he do that? Probably had something to do with the army in him, or at least the nurse would say that. She stood there and didn't move. If she left too fast he'd just stop her, but if she stood there she'd have to talk to him. That was what happened when she didn't actually have medicine or her kids to distract her mind. She worried about stupid things that made her near crazy, and almost like a teenager. She wasn't even like that as an actual teenager. Though teenage Meredith would most definitely not be worried about any of that.
"You left awfully fast." Nathan said as he broke the silence.
"You were busy. Didn't want to interrupt."
"If you were a normal human expressing emotions instead of pretending that absolutely nothing bothered you ever, I would say you were jealous. But lashing out at me seems to be your default mood."
"I'm not lashing out."
"Ice queen, better?"
Meredith smiled as she took a sip of her coffee. It was rude. But she was usually rude to him and found it almost a little endearing. "Don't let me stop you." The words came as she tried to walk past him before he took a step in front of her, blocking her way.
"I don't understand you sometimes."
"I know." She spoke softly, looking up at him, aware of just how close the pair were.
Nathan shook his head, smiling. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Meredith watched him leave and drank down the rest of the coffee that tasted like she was drinking sewer water. No one could survive on that. A freedom found her in knowing that he was gone, but there was also something that bugged her. She didn't really want him gone, that much she knew. She wanted for the whole situation to be a hell of a lot easier than it actually was, but she was anything but that lucky. Not when she added in the entire Maggie complication. She needed to be honest with her sister. She knew that. It just...slipped further and further away from her, and the more guilt she felt weighing on her because of her feelings for a man other than her dead husband. Well, it was just easier to avoid everything, to pretend that nothing was happening.
Even if was very clearly happening.
Slowly, Meredith found her way to the lounge in which she dropped her bag of stuff and found herself walking across the street to the hotel. It was nice for the small town they were in. No coffee machine, which she actually managed to to think was a plus.
It was almost as if her feet found her as she walked to the elevator, finding her way to the floor in question. She was tired and would have rather been in her own house, but she'd been away from her kids before and it worked out alright. Gripping her phone tightly she had half a mind to call Alex. She restrained herself.
Instead she just knocked on the door.
"Please don't tell me you have the nurse in there."
updates on saturday ; fic title from Northern Lights by Jaymes Young