Disclaimer: I do not own Grey's Anatomy. The title for my fanfiction is owned by Barbara Daniels


The Cancer Patient Addresses Her Husband

Brain tumors. Sometimes they could be cured and sometimes they couldn't. Sometimes they were lodged so deep into the brain, or had consumed the cranium so much, that to try anything would be worse than ignoring it.

But that didn't make it any easier.

"There's nothing you can do, can you?" she asked calmly, her face pale to begin with. She turned her young, defeated eyes to the window. Outside the world moved, unaware of the tiny body that remained tethered to her bland bed.

"I—I'm… sorry…" Meredith Grey managed to mutter, blonde head lowering in defeat. She was just an intern and, no matter how well she had done in medical school, nothing could prepare you for the day when you had to tell a person she was going to die. No matter what they did for her.

"I'm glad," the girl replied and Meredith choked on her surprise. The young woman's face was fierce with determination. She could have been beautiful, the doctor-in-training realized, but her hair was missing and her body was too thin, the little white bracelet on her arm all but slipping away from her wrist. "I hate living like this. I hate it. I want to live or die. I don't want this in-between world, half-living and half-dead."

Meredith's eyes slid down to the white paper resting protectively in her metal clipboard. Age 27, the writing said, its neat, computer ink more grim than anything Meredith could think of. The woman was in her prime, at the peek of her life, and a disease was destroying her from the inside out. A deadly parasite that would drain her life from her bones and leave only her decaying body behind.

Her icy blue eyes slipped towards the threshold of the door, to the brooding, lean man standing there. His eyes were on the floor, his wiry frame trembling. Hot green eyes met Meredith's before the man turned and stormed from the room.

"He thinks there's a chance," the girl said sadly, a small smile breaking her face. It was sad, the smile, and tired. So tired. "He always does. That's what he said to me last. There's a chance. There's always a chance."

With a sigh, Meredith closed her clipboard. She wanted out of this hospital room, with its grim walls and empty corners. It smelled like death and it looked like death and Meredith didn't want anything to do with it. It felt like mortality was slapping her in the face, sending her this dying woman just to remind her that no one lived forever.

"But he won't look at me anymore," she said sadly. Tears began to fall from her eyes, her thin body trembling and aching with defeat. "I can't remember the last time he touched me. My own husband, afraid of me. What should I do?"

"I don't know. I don't think I should be giving out advice," Meredith replied with the absolute truth. She had her own relationship problem. Doctor McDreamy, much? How could she even begin to think about giving marriage advice when she could barely convince herself she had a steady boyfriend?

"There's not… much time left. I need him to hold me, but he won't. He can barely even look at me," the girl muttered and frowned softly. "I love him so much. I married him. Until death do us part. But I'm not dead yet."

"I'll come and check up on you later," Meredith replied as the girl turned her attention to the window again. "I'll bring you some really… really good lunch."

"Last meal?" the young woman replied with a rueful smile. "Whatever. I just wanna go to sleep. Strange, isn't it? You think I'd be afraid to go to sleep."

With nothing else to say, Meredith exited the room. Her head lowered, stray blonde locks falling over her eyes. Her body felt old suddenly, wizened. She wanted to sit down and put her head between her knees. Then she wanted to scream.

"Hey, Meredith," Doctor Derek Shepard said cheerfully as he strode up to his 'secret' girlfriend. His charming smile was in place, as it always was, as he snagged her arm. He tilted his dark head as he stared into her eyes. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Meredith lied. She tried to smile at him but her lips only turned upward slightly. "Just tired."

Shepard's eyes said, quite openly, they didn't believe her. Not one bit. But when they were both on the clock they technically weren't dating and Shepard wasn't allowed to give her any special treatment. "Alright…" His voice clearly stated he would be pressing again when they ended up in bed later that night.

Meredith decided not to tell him she had forty-eight hours before she could go home.

Briskly, she walked to the chrome elevators and Shepard kept on her heels. In an empty elevator they stood at opposite ends. Shepard was grinning over at her while Meredith kept her eyes trained on the neon, green light tracking their ascent of floors.

"Hey," Shepard said suddenly and Meredith turned her head just in time to watch him slid closer. "You remember the last time we were alone in an elevator? You were still convinced you could resist my charms."

She slid a glare at him. Yes, she did remember. She remembered the feel of his lips against hers, the way his big hands settled against her hips. The way everything had seemed to fade into blissful oblivion and all that had mattered was being with him and loving him.

"Yeah. So?"

"Well… since now you aren't resisting my charms. Maybe we could go another round." Shepard allowed his voice to drop a few disables, giving it a husky, seductive lit.

I hate him when he does that. I really do, Meredith thought angrily.

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because someone could find us." She gave him a look. A duh look. "I'm an intern. Things like that could ruin my career. My reputation."

"So why are you sleeping with me when we aren't at the hospital?" Shepard countered and Meredith almost banged her head against the wall.

The door opened with a ding and, relieved, Meredith hustled outside. Shepard gave her a friendly wave before the door slid close. His smile was the last thing she saw before being grabbed by Izzie to take a look at a two-year-old with a lymph node.

Life was… okay, actually.

--&--

Meredith was on her way to the cancer patient's room. She had managed to avoid it for almost a day, asking Izzie and Christina to the tasks for her without really giving them a reason why. She just didn't have the energy to deal with the death that seemed to hover in the room.

But there was no avoiding it now, she supposed. She had to go in. Had to run some tests on the patient and offer her the option of brain surgery. It was pointless, she knew, but it needed to be laid out on the table.

She stopped at the door because the husband was back. He stood at the patient's bed, staring down at her with a stiff body. Meredith came to the threshold of the door and waited. The patient was talking.

"I'm not a fragile china doll!" the patient shouted angrily. Her fist was raised and shaking. "I don't need to be protected and cuddled and soothed. I know what's going on. I'm dying, not going senile."

"Don't," her husband said brokenly. His hands fluttered in the air and his body trembled. "Don't say things like that. I—I can't stand it."

Her eyes softened, the hard gray turning into smoky silver. "Do you remember our honeymoon? We went to Hawaii and spent the entire week making love. You called me beautiful then." She raised her hands to her face and sobbed into them, the IV puncturing her veins. "There are holes in beauty, Dan. Tiny breaks in a woman's loveliness, gaps, pockets of ugliness, separating the inside beauty and the outside beauty. Mine are just breaking through the outside beauty. I know I'm not beautiful anymore, but I'm still me."

"You're beautiful!" He said and his hands moved to her face. They hesitated a moment before gripping her cheeks. "You're more beautiful now than you ever were before. You're so strong and I'm so weak. I'm not sure what to do with you anymore. You're dying and there's nothing I can do so I… I just… just protect. I'm so afraid if I touch you, if I give you one more burden to carry, you'll break."

"I know it bothers you. Bothers you to watch the neighbor watch me labor every day. I know you just want to keep me from harm." Tears slashed across her cheeks as she gripped his wrist. "But what about the old ways of touching? I want you to lie down beside me. I want you to kiss my breasts and my bald head. I just want the old way back before I'm gone forever."

He sat down on the bed and gathered her into his arms. She went into them greedily, collecting the memories and holding them steadfast to her heart. "I love you. I'll always love you."

She gripped his wool shirt, her nails biting into the flesh on his back. "Hold me and kiss me because when you do I feel like I'm not dying yet. Not yet."

Meredith watched them embrace and she felt more tired than she had ever before. She turned and left them there. There was time yet to give the options to the young woman. The girl probably wouldn't even take them.

No one lives forever and sometime people don't even live for long. Some are just born and take a breath and die. Some don't even breathe. Some live long and fade happily into death while others just begin to live life before they are taken to the hospital and told that their brains are infected with a disease meant to kill and nothing more.

She found an empty corridor and leaned against the smooth wall. There are holes in beauty. Meredith raised her hand and looked down at her palm, tracing the little lines. Where was the break in her beauty? When would the ugliness that made her human begin to show? Would it appear in the form of cancer or would it appear in the lines on her face or would it just remain under the surface, always reminding but never breaking through?

Her feet were moving, slipping across the tiles, before she realized what she was doing. She walked passed the interns—George and Christina and Izzie; no Alex, that's weird—and towards the elevators.

Doctor Derek Shepard was getting into the left one. She shifted her path slightly and entered just before the door closed. He glanced at her in surprise but since she was silent he was as well.

For a moment, Meredith took a deep breath. The patient's voice floated aimlessly in her head. I'm not dying yet. She reached out and hit the emergency stop button the control panel.

Shepard looked at her in surprise. "What are you—?" But whatever else he would have said was cut off as she leaned into him and captured his mouth.

His hands went around her waist and molded her thin body against his. Her fingers rose to tangle in his hair. A day-old beard scrapped against her cheek and she gasped at the intense passion it delivered. His mouth tasted like heaven and paradise. Her leg was wrapped around his waist and his fingers dug tiny pleasure holes into her spine.

They broke away. She clung to him without realizing how bad she needed to cling. "Am I beautiful?" she asked suddenly.

"What? Of course." Shepard gave her a confused look. "Why would you ask that?"

"What would happen if I'm not? What happened if I wake up one day and find myself ugly and sick? What would happen if my beauty broke?" Meredith closed her eyes. She thought about the cancer patient. Beauty, her inner beauty, had been trying to burn a hole through her skin, trying to shine through, but it had been damped, hindered by the ugliness of her disease that slowly consumed her head.

"You'll always be beautiful." The look in his eyes clearly stated that Doctor Shepard didn't understand what was going, but he sensed the seriousness of the situation. He stroked her cheek. "Because it's inside."

"But there are gaps in beauty," she answered. "An ugliness that makes us human. What happens if it shows up on me?"

"Then we'll worry about it if it happens."

Meredith nodded and kissed him again. She liked the we thing, though she'd never admit it to him. All she needed right now was his strong arms around her.

Two days later the patient died, her brain finally giving out beneath the weight of her tumor. Meredith sat outside the patient's door as they wheeled her body away. Her husband followed her and he touched her face and her bald head with its bright red scars and her cold lips.

"You're so beautiful," he told his wife of two years. "So beautiful." His voice cracked. He stood still as the wheeled her body away. His fingers trembled. "I should have touched you more. I should have… I should have…"

She knew she should try to comfort him, offer him condolence. But she didn't have the willpower for it anymore. She watched as he finally had the nerve to follow his wife's dead body down the hallway.

For an hour, a minute, a second, Meredith sat there, staring into the nothingness stretched out before. Derek Shepard came up to her with a tender look in his handsome face. She accepted the coffee he handed her.

"I think… I think…" Meredith didn't know what she thought. "She just wanted to be touched like a normal person again. She didn't want soft comfort and broth. She wanted… she wanted the old ways of touching."

Without a word Shepard encircled her and Meredith went into them. People died all the time, but somehow this was different. Meredith remembered the defeated look in the young woman's eyes and the sadness as she tried to be a wife for her husband even as she laid on a deathbed.

"She was beautiful, all the time. Even when she was dying. She was never ugly," Meredith mumbled. "I don't think she ever realized that."

"No," Shepard answered. He knew about the cancer patient, too. "She probably didn't." Meredith looked at him and he smiled sadly. "But what matters is that everyone else did. She'll always be beautiful for them, even if she wasn't for herself."

She nodded silently before going back into his arms. If she had a day, an hour, five minutes she would have told the young woman that the beauty hadn't faded. It had just changed into something else. Something powerful that kept her alive for a year while her brain decayed. Something that helped her to look at her husband and ask him to see his wife in her again.

That was the real shame. The young woman hadn't realized that her outside beauty and inner beauty had been so connected that there had been no gap. That the bright red scars on her bald head had only made her beautiful and strong.

Was that why Meredith Grey broke down into tears on Derek Shepard's shoulders?


Word Count: 2576

Time: forty-five minutes

Beta: none

Couples: minor Meredith/Derek

Genre: angst

Status: one-shot (complete)

Author: Lizzy Rebel

Characters/Style: Meredith, Shepard, angst

Notes: While working at the hospital I meet a remarkable man with five children, a loving wife, and cancer in almost every major organ of his body (head included). Life sucks sometimes. And, since the man's only thirty-five, mortality is bitch. I hope you like, even if it is a bit depressing.