Title: If Wishes Were Horses

Author: Shannon/Raindrops on Roses

Rating: PG-13
Category: Angst, Romance (AJ/Meredith; AJ/Mac)

Spoilers: "A Girl's Best Friend", "Hard Time"

Disclaimer: These characters belong to DPB, CBS, Paramount, et al. No copyright infringement is intended. "I Wish" is sung by Jo Dee Messina.


"Meredith." The accented voice of her Italian colleague interrupted her fugue state.

She opened her eyes. Alessandro's gaze was not on her, but on a point past her. By the door. She looked up.

AJ stood in the doorway, a stunned expression on his face.

Meredith brought both her hands up to cover her mouth. All three participants in the little tableau froze, as if preparing for a photograph.

Then, without a word, AJ backed out, closing the door softly behind him. Meredith knew she would never forget the look of hurt on AJ's face.

'Be honest with yourself, professor,' her conscience whispered. 'The look of betrayal.'

Alessandro dressed silently as Meredith curled up in her bed and wept.

It's not easy saying this to you
It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do
But boy before you go
I want you to know

Meredith hurried through the bullpen, the weight of dozens of pairs of eyes speeding her steps. She kept her eyes fixed on the entrance to her fiance's--ex-fiance's--outer office, and the young woman sitting at the desk.

The petty officer rose to her feet as Meredith approached. "I know he doesn't want to see me..." Meredith began, twisting her purse strap. They had to clear the air. Even if he didn't love her anymore--and she doubted he would, after what she had done--they both needed closure.

The other woman must have seen the desperation in the professor's eyes. "It's for his own good, ma'am." She smiled encouragingly and opened her commanding officer's door.

I wish you strength
When times are hard
Oh I wish with all my heart you find
Just what you're looking for

Meredith stared at the road in front of her, automatically directing the car toward her workplace. Even if she didn't know how she was going to focus on her work after this.

'I was so in love with you, I thought I was incredibly lucky.'

No wonder they called the punishment of criminals a 'sentence'. That one sentence hurt more than anything he could have said to her. That and the obvious pain in his expressive brown eyes.

She had never realized how much her actions hurt... okay, she knew they hurt others, but... the look in AJ's eyes. She hadn't gone there for absolution... but it still hurt to know she had done the unforgivable.

Well, what had she expected? Vows of eternal love? She had had that--and had killed his love as surely as driving a stake through his heart.

How could she have brought him down like that? One of the many things that had attracted her to AJ was his strength. Not just his physical strength--though that in itself was a turn-on--but his intelligence, his ambition... the way he could be so gruff at times, but then so sweet...

He had delighted in pouncing on her at unexpected moments and kissing her senseless. Just random moments throughout the day--while they were washing dishes companionably, or she was grading papers and he was perusing legal briefs. He was a romantic at heart, no matter how he tried to cover it up with his stern admiral's mask.

Meredith pulled into the parking lot and turned off the ignition. She gazed unseeing at the steering wheel. What had she done?

'You had happiness--true joy, for once--and you ruined it. Again.'

I wish you joy
I wish you peace
And that every star you see's within your reach
And I wish you still loved me

She pushed the shopping cart down the aisle. She stopped and studied the racks of bread. Whole-grain or white?

He had loved to bake his own bread. That was just one of the quirks she loved about him. He had been a wonderful cook, when he could find the time to devote to a home-cooked meal. She had tried to do that for him. Finally, she had realized she wasn't the world's greatest chef. He had been so considerate of her feelings. He had never criticized her cooking, even though there was so much to criticize.

She smiled sadly. He would have laughed at her for taking so long to decide on her bread. He would have had his shopping trip planned out before they had left the house.

She grabbed a loaf of bread from the shelf, not caring what kind it was. She tossed it into her cart and continued on.

She caught a glimpse of a familiar green uniform. She froze, unsure of her friend's (former friend's?) reaction to seeing her.

Steeling her spine, Meredith kept going. She wasn't going to be scared away from buying her groceries. That was just ridiculous.

'Besides,' the traitorous little voice that was her conscience murmured, 'you can always ask her...'

"No!" she said aloud. She flushed and turned toward the refrigerator. She pretended to be deep in thought over the ice cream.

"Meredith?"

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She turned. "Hi, Mac." She tried to smile.

"How have you been? I haven't seen much of you..."

Meredith blinked. "You mean, you haven't heard...?"

Mac smiled gently. "Well, we knew that you and the Admiral--AJ--weren't getting married, but that doesn't mean you can't call me."

Wait... what? Why was Mac being so friendly with her? And since when did she call her commanding officer by his given name? "Mac, did he tell you anything about what happened?"

Mac shook her head. "He is a very private man, you know."

Yes, she knew. It had taken him so long to open up to her. And once he had, she had reached in and crushed his heart.

"Mac..." She couldn't tell her. How could she tell her that she had... done that?

"Meredith? What's wrong?" The other woman's voice was concerned.

This time, Meredith shook her head. "Nothing. How... how's he doing, Mac?" She couldn't even say his name.

"Well, he's retired. And I believe he's currently in Atlanta with his daughter." Mac grinned.

Retired? "Why did he--"

"Nobody knows. But he did." Mac sighed and got a distant look in her eyes. Meredith knew that look. She saw it--on a much greater scale--every day in the mirror.

Mac was in love with AJ.

The realization made the air rush out of her lungs.

She took a gulp of chilled air and gave Mac a frozen smile. "Well, I'm glad he's doing well." Mac nodded absently. "I'll... I'll see you... sometime," Meredith stammered. She sounded like she had when she had taught her first class.

"Yeah. 'Bye, Meredith." Mac graced her with another smile before walking away.

Meredith turned back to the ice cream. Impulsively, she opened the freezer door and grabbed a half-gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough.

I wish things were different, you know that
But I'm still happy for the times we had
You mean the world to me
Baby please believe

Her heart leapt into her throat. She cursed herself, and the situation, and the universe in general. But not him. Never him.

His rich laugh sounded in her ears. She knew that laugh. She had taken particular enjoyment in coaxing just that laugh from him whenever she could. His laugh fired along her nerve endings, heightening her senses. That laugh, low and throaty, meant want, and desire, and love and lust and promise and fulfillment.

She took a sip of her water and watched the flame of the candle dance and flicker in a draft of wind.

She would not turn around. She would not turn to see just whom it was who caused that laugh. That laugh that had been once hers alone. She would not turn to see the image of the flame dancing behind his dark, coffee hot eyes. She would not turn to see him lean in close to the woman who wasn't her and whisper threats of pleasure into her ears.

The pasta dish that had once been her favorite was eaten mechanically. She cursed herself once more for being so pathetic.

Once he and the mysterious tall brunette had left, she paid her bill and left, vowing never to return to that hell.

Losing you is tearing me apart
But a part of me will be with you
No matter where you are

She swirled her wine around in her glass and stared at the latest term paper. She was not in the mood for students tonight--even if it was one of the more intelligent ones.

She sighed and pushed away from the table. She wandered into the living room. Fiddling with the stereo, she put on her favorite CD. She placed her wineglass on the table and sank down onto the couch, relaxing into the cushions.

Drumming her fingers on the back of the couch, she stared at the blank television screen. She was in no mood for mindless entertainment. It allowed her to think too much.

She grabbed the newspaper from the coffee table and opened it abruptly. The pages fluttered to the floor. She groaned and knelt. She began gathering the loose papers.

Her hand halted in mid-reach. The world stopped spinning.

The paper was open to 'Engagement Announcements'.

And the joyful, smiling faces of AJ Chegwidden and Sarah MacKenzie stared up at her.

When time restarted, Meredith realized she had put the pages of the newspaper back into a semblance of order, but still remained on her knees on the floor.

She rose to her feet and plopped onto the couch. Why was she so surprised? She shouldn't have been. There was no reason to be so surprised.

...So jealous.

The icy shock caused her to gasp aloud. She was jealous of Mac. Which was completely unfair to the other woman. After all, she had had AJ's love, and had subsequently spurned it.

She picked up her wineglass and gazed into the ruby liquid as if it could tell her the secret to moving on. Getting over this. Getting over him.

Her lips twisted into a sad, pained smile. She raised her glass to the empty air. "Congratulations. The best woman won after all."

I wish you strength
When times are hard
Oh I wish with all my heart you find
Just what you're looking for
I wish you joy
I wish you peace
And that every star you see's within your reach
And I wish you still loved me

Oh, I wish you still loved me

End.