A/N – This is the final part of the story. I just wanted to thank everyone who took the time to leave a review and share your thoughts. I appreciate it so much. And to all the other GA fic writers out there, keep the stories coming because there's not nearly enough of them. :)
She can't see it, but the sun is setting somewhere above them, painting the sky purple and pink. The land surrounding the trailer is so lush and green that it almost feels like another world. Derek's promised her Mexican take-out and a massage after a hellishly long week. He even took the blender out in the kitchen to make margaritas – "I remember your fondness for tequila," he told her, smirking – and bought a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream, her favorite, for dessert. It seems to her that he's pulling out all the stops, and she wonders what it is he's aiming for.
It's so different to be here with him at his place than when they're together at her house. There, it's always interrupted moments, Izzie and George arguing over the TV remote, Christina popping in for free meals and beer, mail piling up in her mother's name. It's a crowded, chaotic world. On Derek's land, in his small trailer, they could be the only two people left on earth. She's used to feeling utterly alone, like she has nowhere to turn, but when she's with him like this, there's no longer anything terrifying about it. He calms her down in a way that she can't even begin to explain.
If only she could tell him that. If only she knew for sure that he felt the same way.
She wishes that she knew something about the women in his past, something that could help her figure out if she's something special to him or just one more in a long line of nameless, faceless women he's passed time with over the years. Sometimes she believes that there is something particular to her that makes him act the way he does. Sometimes he really makes her believe that.
Meredith watches him now as he prepares their drinks. He's so casual and easy-going, but still determined, in a way that makes it seem like he's entirely in invested in what happens here tonight.
"I should probably be concerned that alcohol always seems to serve as matchmaker for us," she tells him as he salts the rims of their glasses.
"Well, you're naturally wound up pretty tight, so getting a few drinks in you sort of evens things out."
She rolls her eyes.
"Is that right?"
He nods emphatically.
"And you know, as sexy as you are when you're drunk, you're even more so when you're stone-cold sober, so there's no need to worry."
She feels her cheeks warm. He can make her feel like a schoolgirl so much of the time, and the realization that he wants her as much as he does is more than a little thrilling. There's a reason that Christina calls him McDreamy after all, and still it's Meredith he's chasing after. Talk about an ego boost.
He brings over their margaritas, and sits down beside her. The sky is an even deeper pink now, and it's quiet everywhere around them. They couldn't have planned a more perfect ending to the hellish week behind them. She looks at green land in front of them, empty but so beautiful. It's like potential personified.
"Are you going to build something here?" she asks.
Derek smiles, almost as if he can already see a structure taking shape before his eyes.
"I'm thinking about it."
Meredith nods, thinking about it herself. She puts her drink down, and stands, surveying the land once more. The possibilities seem limitless, like the land is blank page and Derek could write anything that he wants on it. For a second, she imagines herself as part of that anything, and she realizes how much she likes that feeling.
She turns back to him, and settles herself on Derek's lap. He smiles up at her, bemused.
"It could be amazing," she says. "All this land… it's so beautiful."
He laughs quietly.
"You know, it was actually kind of an impulsive buy." He runs his hand along her knee. "Deep down, I didn't think I'd ever want to stay here, and I wanted to prove myself wrong. As it turns out, I'm liking Seattle more than I thought I would."
He grins, reaching out to touch her cheek.
"But you know that."
Yes, I guess I know that, Meredith thinks. He's told her as much in a thousand different ways. She's just been too afraid to listen.
She kisses him now, willing to listen to everything that he wants to tell her. He tastes salty and tart, the most delicious combination, and she goes back for seconds. When they finally pull apart, he fixes her with one of his intense looks.
"You make me feel…" he starts to say. But he shakes his head, almost as if he can't believe what he wants to say.
The wind whips Meredith's hair around then, and he pushes it back into place.
"What?" she wants to know. "What do I make you feel?"
Derek kisses along her neck, his hands in her hair. His mood, beyond those gestures, is impossible to read.
"I don't think I've figured the word out yet," he says finally, his breath warming her skin.
She shakes her head, only a little frustrated. She thinks that she understands the gist of what he's telling her. They kiss again, oblivious to the rest of the world.
Above them, the sky has gone dark purple, heavy with clouds. Meredith doesn't even miss the sun.
On Sunday, they both have the day off, so she decides to make him pancakes.
George is off at brunch with the red-headed nurse that he's seeing, and Izzie is at the hospital. They are alone in her big house, and she feels some ridiculous domestic impulse. Derek seems amused by the whole thing, and gives her a wide berth, leaning back against the counter to watch her work the spatula. He laughs every now and then, but for some reason, she doesn't feel particularly self-conscious.
At the table, it's her turn to watch him as he douses the pancakes with syrup and butter. It makes her smile because he usually insists on such a sensible, healthy breakfast. The whole scene seems rather remarkable to her – he's sitting in her kitchen, shirtless, eating pancakes that she cooked, flipping through the paper with syrup-sticky fingers, and he looks perfectly at home, like he belongs there.
And really, he does, because it's exactly where she wants him.
She's slowly beginning to accept that Izzie is right – Meredith is falling for him, and maybe, just maybe, he's falling for her too. She's not ready to take it all on faith just yet; she's still trying to come up with a safe way to ask him exactly what they're doing together.
She stares at him, determined.
"What?" asks Derek, when he catches her looking at him. He wipes his mouth. "Do I have syrup all over?"
"No." She smiles. "You're perfect."
He nods absently, turning back to the paper.
She takes a bite of her pancakes, but it tastes like sawdust. Sometimes it's difficult not to think of her mother – not what she's become necessarily, but what she's lost. Not just her ability to wield a scalpel or memories of the most basic details of her life, like her daughter's name, how many years she was married, what her favorite pizza topping was or how she took her coffee. Her mother has lost time itself -- time to fix her mistakes and then make new ones, time to learn and grow and become something more than what she'd always been. Time to waste.
And it was all taken so quickly too. Blink and you would have missed it. If her job didn't impress this fact upon Meredith, then her mother's illness most certainly would have: nothing in this life is guaranteed.
Derek laughs at something in the paper. He seems entirely carefree.
"I've been thinking," Meredith says quietly.
He looks up, sleepy-eyed but interested.
"Yeah? About what?"
She looks straight at him, resolute.
"Where would we be right now if we hadn't met that night in the bar?"
He lays the newspaper on the table, and smiles.
"Are you suggesting that if we hadn't had sex that first night, I wouldn't be here at your kitchen table in my boxers enjoying a perfectly innocent pancake breakfast?"
She lets out a quiet huff of amusement, but remains steadfast.
"I'm serious. Haven't you ever considered how things might be different between us?"
Derek cocks his head, thinking.
"I understand your point," he says finally. "It's probably true that if we hadn't gotten together that night so I could find out how amazing sex with you is, I wouldn't have been willing to say, Screw it with professionalism and hospital rules and all that, just because you have the prettiest blue eyes I've seen in a long time. I mean, that's probably true."
Meredith nods, trying not to smile. They stare at each other for a long moment. His lips are pursed impishly, like he's getting ready to charm the pants off of her once more.
"My point, however," he tells her. "Is that these hypothetical type questions really don't matter because it did happen. We did meet that night and we did have some pretty memorable sex on your living room floor. There's no way to take it back. And personally, I'm grateful for that."
"So you wouldn't want to? If you could, I mean."
He sighs dramatically.
"Meredith, do you really have to ask?" Derek takes her hand, stroking his thumb against her palm. "I thought I'd made myself pretty clear. I didn't give up, even when you acted like you wanted me to. What does that tell you?"
She shakes her head.
"So our entire…" she hesitates over the next word, but pushes ahead. "Our entire relationship is based upon an anonymous, drunken one-night stand…"
"What a way to get things started, huh?" he teases.
"But you know what?" asks Derek. "I think that even if we hadn't met in that bar, we would have eventually wound up here, like this. You know why?"
She shakes her head again.
"Fate. Or something like it anyway." He places a kiss in the center of her palm. "I like to think of us as a force of nature. Impossible to prevent and pretty damn messy. Hot, wet…"
She takes her hand back.
"All right, all right. I get the message," she says, not unkindly. "You're saying that regardless of the circumstances, sexual attraction would have eventually won out and—"
"You sell yourself way too short, Meredith. Personally and professionally. You know why I like you so much? You're beautiful, sure, but that's not your best quality. It doesn't end there. And I like knowing that everyday, I'm going to find something new to like about you. You're like an onion, always a new layer to peel back."
She is touched, despite the fact that his words may leave a little something to be desired.
"I didn't know you were such a romantic," she jokes.
Derek nods, smirking.
"Fate? Really?" she asks.
He nods again.
"And you know what our fate is on this fine day?" he asks, leaning across the table to whisper conspiratorially to her. "To make love right here on your kitchen table. How's that for romantic?"
"You're crazy. And totally ruining a kind of sweet moment."
He stands, pushing his plate away. She doesn't resist when he lifts her from her chair and on to the table. It's when he starts to lift her tank top that she finally protests, though half-heartedly at best.
"Derek! We can't," she giggles against his neck. "George and Izzie could be home at any minute. We can't just…"
He grins, cocky and without shame.
"Give me ten minutes. Let me show you what I can do."
She laughs again, thinking of all the reasons that she shouldn't be doing this. All the reasons to doubt him and what he feels her. Somehow, now, they just don't stand up against all the reasons why she should do it, why she should trust him and just go with the flow. Because this thing between them isn't nothing. She'll probably pretend for a little while longer that she's still unsure, but the truth is the truth, no matter how you slice it.
"Ten minutes," Meredith agrees.
Beneath her bare back, the table is sticky with syrup and spilled orange juice. She feels like the luckiest woman in the world.
Later, after she's confided to him about her mother and had the news of his wife's existence thrown up in her face like a grenade, Meredith thinks, This is why nothing was the way to go, this is why you pretended that something wasn't even a possibility.
She wants to throttle herself because she had honestly started to think that they might have something, when it was really nothing the entire time, just dressed up with a lot of charm and tenderness and hot sex.
Instead Meredith locks herself in her bedroom, ignoring Izzie's offers of cinnamon coffee cake and George's sweet but ridiculous promise to kick Shepherd's ass. She refuses to take his calls. One of his sweaters is on her chair, two of his shirts are in her closet, and his toothbrush is next to hers in the bathroom. His copy of Sports Illustrated is on the bedside table, and his scent is all over her sheets. There is a small yellow post-it note on her dresser with a note from him on it: Dinner at my place tonight. 10pm. Bring some of Izzie's cookies.
There was a time, when she was younger and much more vengeful, when she would have burned all his belongings, burned the sheets that smelled like him, sliced his shirts to ribbons. At the very least, she would have thrown them from her window out on to the front lawn, so everyone who passed by would know that he was a liar and a cheater and an asshole of the highest order.
Now she's just too tired to bother.
Besides, it's only fair that she should have to live with all of his things surrounding her. That way, she won't be able to forget how stupid and impulsive she was. She won't forget that she once believed in something that never existed, that she clung to nothing like it might actually mean something.
She can learn from her mistakes. It's the only way to move on.
When Izzie knocks again, this time offering beer and the promise not to even mention Derek's name, Meredith opens her door.
"You okay?" asks Izzie, all soft-spoken and sympathetic.
"I'm fine," Meredith tells her. "I'm absolutely fine."
"You can't be fine, Meredith. You just—"
"It's nothing," she tells Izzie. "It's nothing at all."
For once, Meredith has no doubt that she's telling the truth.