Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, why would I be writing fanfic?
Author's Notes: This is my attempt at stream-of-consciousness writing(Yes, I did just read "Mrs. Dalloway). I hope it makes sense. I really like the Burke/Cristina dynamic, but I think they both have a lot of growth to do—Burke needs to stop being so rigid and controlling, and Cristina needs to stop running and acting cornered. So, this is pretty much what I hope the relationship could become. No spoilers are involved.
Sometimes, as she was turning a corner or passing by several mirrors, Cristina would get a Feeling. She would feel Old Cristina watching her, the expression on her face unreadable. Cristina would look over her shoulder, double-check herself. Old Cristina was not following her, Old Cristina was not in the bagel line behind her, Old Cristina was not handing her the instruments during surgery.
And sometimes, in those feelings, Old Cristina is not watching her but is within her, like when she looks at herself in one of Burke's old sweatshirts, as she brushes her teeth. She feels Old Cristina inhabiting her, living and trying to push out of her chest cavity and arms. Her arms don't feel like her own; they are Old Cristina's.
She doesn't feel haunted or judged by Old Cristina; rather, she simply feels the time in between what she was five years ago and her current self. It gives her pause. It just feels weird. She doesn't like to think about it because then she would start to overanalyze things, and if there's one thing she's learned it's that she should not overanalyze things. Analyzing is good, but overanalyzation just turns into pointless circumlocution. It makes her worry even when things are good. Burke overanalyzes things, and then thinks too much, but he's learned to sort of curb it, because then he starts wanting to go someplace, one that he would direct, and her secret is that she doesn't actually know—she just knows she's happy and it's working and it feels right. If it wasn't, then they'd talk. But he always wants a direction, one that he controls; Cristina wants things to be intuitive and for them to feel it out. He needed signs and reassurance and meanings that she couldn't give, and she just needed him to back off and let her breathe a little. When he finally understood it, and relinquished his stronghold on control, she relaxed, just a little.
Some days, when Burke—she still can't call him Preston most of the time, she just doesn't like it as much—agrees to go home first, she goes out with Meredith and Izzy, and she remembers those early days, but most days it just seems so far away. Some memories shine through—like the early days of their relationship. (She's still recalcitrant when it comes to talking about their relationship. It just is and it works somehow and she refuses to say anything else.) She remembers the day he came home to the apartment and she had done some rearranging.
"It's a nice arrangement." He said, slowly walking around the coffee table. His eyes drifted to her pile of laundry in the corner—she'd been meaning to get it done for weeks, his building had a laundry room—and the dishes she'd decided not to do, and smiled.
"I don't know… I just really felt like it today." She offered lamely as an explanation. She follows his eyes and they examine the room with a surgeon's care. "I rearranged the books."
"You rearranged the books?"
"Yeah. You had them Dewey decimal systemed. I'm sorry, it was too weird." And he sort of smiled, happy and proud. She'd rearranged his books. She'd made a mark, made the place officially theirs, showed him in her own oddball way that she was there permanently. And she knew what he was thinking and was okay with it. She smiled and sat down on the couch. It was comfortable. And the view was much better. He sat down next to her.
"You have any books?"
"Just all my old textbooks." She pointed to them on the shelf. "I decided to arrange them by size."
"It looks nice." He placed his hand over Cristina's.
"I know." She said pointedly. "I wouldn't've done it if it didn't. I would have moved them." And with those words, he realized that she might rearrange and adapt, but she wouldn't change—she'd always be Cristina, with her insecurities and demands for distance and time. And he realized he wanted it that way.
Sometimes when she's out with Izzy and Meredith, and they've all kicked back a few drinks, one of them will begin bitching about their relationships. Cristina's mind will wander back home. She'll do her share of complaining about Burke, too, but more along the lines of "I know this guy too well" complaints—he'd cleaned the den again, even though it was fine and they'd agreed to spend the evening watching a movie—quirky complaints, ones that made Mer and Iz roll their eyes and laugh. "You're so domestic." Meredith says, almost wistfully. "And I don't even get you two."
Cristina rolls her eyes, hunches forward, twitches her eye a little bit. "What's there to get? We're us, we're together."
"Yes, but it's you and your barriers and Burke and his private side." Meredith continues. Cristina always hated half-drunk Meredith. She really did make horrible decisions. "And half the time you don't even act together. And he always seems to be waiting for something you need to give him, and then you're always balking at it."
Izzy shakes her head and swallows. "No, no, no. It used to be that way. It's not that way anymore. I can't describe it but it's not. It's…comfortable now. There's no more tension." Her eyes rolled sideways towards Cristina. "Not as much spark or smolder but there's love." She smiles like she's being helpful. "It's cute."
"It's cute." Meredith knocks back another shot. "But I don't get how it works." She elaborates. "You always seem to have nothing in common, you don't act together, yet you're together and you've been together and it's obviously working." Her voice has a tinge of jealousy. "What makes you two work?"
Cristina ponders this question. What makes them work? They care about each other, they love each other, there's a primal understanding of what makes each other tick. He knows when she's downplaying things because that's her nature and when she's downplaying things because she's scared. She knows when she can tell him to stop pushing, that nothing's wrong, and when maybe he's worried, deep down. They're not very verbal, it's all instinct and intuition and looks and eyebrow positions. They know what each other needs; they know how to fulfill those needs. They know each other's lives and emotions and families and pasts, which makes a future possible. It's not a flamboyant relationship filled with champagne and discussions about destiny—it's messy and hard work most of the time. She sips her beer. "He knows why I'm going to spend all of Thanksgiving Day in surgery, and just want to come home to eat. I know why cooking the damn meal and me showing up is so important." She finally says.
"God." Meredith says. "You're lucky, you know that?" she's a magnanimous, expressive drunk. "You're lucky. You're settled and you've found each other and you click. I mean, I have a good thing going. But you two click and nobody gets that and you're the only two that get it."
"You want a relationship that nobody understands?" Izzy is incredulous.
"Yes." Meredith is firm. "My relationships are understandable. They're open and they're fodder for gossip. But Cristina! They're secret even when they're not. It makes it more interesting. It makes it extra-special."
"That makes you extra-crazy." Izzy says, looking towards the dartboard. "I'm going to go play a round. When's George getting here?"
"Soon's he and Bailey get outta surgery." Meredith replies slurrily, and Izzy stretches and heads over to the dartboard. "You really are lucky, you know." Meredith turns back to Cristina.
"Why are we discussing me all of the sudden?" It's one of Cristina's least-favorite conversations, just like her-and-Burke is a touchy subject. Burke once accused her, when they were in a fight, of trying to hide from things. He was partially correct. Talking about personal things has always embarrassed her.
"Cuz we hardly ever talk anymore." It isn't true, but Cristina's not going to argue with Drunk Meredith. "Or, really, we talk, and you're horrible with details." That's a little closer, but Meredith is the one Cristina goes to with relationship issues, so she's the last person who should complain about that.
"Your life's more interesting. I'm boring now." Cristina points out. She's not bitter, which Old Cristina would have been. She likes the boringness. The steadiness. Ironically, being with Burke, in an actual open relationship has been liberating instead of suffocating. At least, she thinks, now it is. It was suffocating and scary at first, as they found each other, as they found their footing. She hated needing him and she hated being needed. He was ready for a partner, which meant a challenge, but he wasn't ready to give up control. Her thoughts flit back to earlier fights, to spats and uncertainties where boundaries were established.
"That's true." Meredith says happily. "Boring married domestic Cristina. You're different now." She looks appraisingly at Cristina. "It's a good different. You're not soft or anything, but you're steely. You used to be harsh. And Burke used to be anal to the point of losing it and he's not anymore. He's relaxed too."
"Let's just gossip about you for a while. I need to get home." She really does. It's getting late.
"Go, go. I need to get home too," Meredith smiles, thinking of her home.
Cristina drives home smiling. She opens the door softly and heads straight to the nursery. Burke is holding Avery. Bailey was right; he was a good father. "Hey, girlie." He says softly to their baby. "Mom's home." She's instructed him to never refer to her as 'Mommy.' It's just too cutesy for her. He kisses Avery's head and nudges her alert.
"Hey, baby." She smirked, picking up her daughter.
"Momma! I miss you!" Avery had a very good vocabulary for an eighteen-month-old.
"I missed you, too. How was daycare today?" she asks, and Avery starts to babble. Burke closes the book and kisses Cristina's forehead. He knows their bedtime ritual. He shuts the door quietly as he leaves. Swinging Avery onto her hip, she walks to the stereo perched on top of the dresser. Twisting the knob, she smiles as the classical music strains into the room. Cristina starts twirling; Avery grips her shoulder and tries to twirl, too. The complicated footwork drilled into her head by Marie all those years ago comes back quickly—she points and flexes her feet, arches her neck, dips and spins. She can't do much with Avery in her arms—one day, she will teach Avery how to dance, how to love dance and to have passion, but right now she's just twirling with her daughter. Slowly, like every night, Avery is lulled to sleep by the smooth rhythm of Cristina's steps. She places her gently in her crib, kisses her goodnight. She watches for a few minutes and goes into their bedroom.
Burke has changed into flannel pants and a t-shirt; he is reading his book. He tries to read a book every two weeks—she's seen him stay up extra-late on Friday night just to finish. Just as she has only adapted, and not changed, he has adapted. He is still suave and almost freakishly collected, he still thinks and moves and acts with a fluidity and decisiveness she admires but will never emulate. But he has relaxed—softened. He lets things go, he is more open. Where he once applied a surgeon's precision to everything in his life, he no longer minds Cristina's messy bottles on the bathroom counter and is more open with the staff at work.
"How'd O'Malley's and Bailey's surgery go?" he asks, adjusting his glasses.
"I don't know. I left before George got to the bar." She admits, pulling her henley off and shrugging on a sweatshirt. Padding into the bathroom she continues, "Meredith was getting drunk—I mean, it's a freaking school night, you know—and Izzy had wandered off to play darts. She had a tough case today with the MacPherson twin separation, but she didn't really talk about it." She sticks her head out of the bathroom. "How was Avery?"
"She had a good night. I didn't get her till seven, you know…Lydia said she was great today. She said the word 'purple.'" He smiled.
"My last surgery's scheduled for noon tomorrow; hopefully I'll be out by four." She spits into the sink and looks at her face. She should wash it but she's too tired, so she leaves it. She crawls into bed. "I feel so old. I mean, it was nine o'clock and I was ready to check out. And right now it's barely ten and I'm about to collapse." She closes her eyes. "Dead. How much longer are you going to read?"
"Till the end of the chapter." He says. She wraps her arms around his waist, rests her head on his shoulder. "I've been thinking we should try to do a family vacation, for a week in the summer."
"D'you think Avery's old enough?" says Cristina. "Travel, airports, unfamiliar places."
"She'll practically be two." Burke points out.
"Where are you thinking?"
"California?" he suggests.
"No. I see my mother once a year, for the week she flies up. I talk to her once a week when she calls. If she found out we were in California she'd insist on more visits. No."
"Where would you like to go?" he asks, turning a page.
"Yeah, right." He absentmindedly starts playing with her hair. "The Grand Canyon."
"Too quiet. Too outside. Mexico."
"Avery wouldn't appreciate it yet. Someplace where we can just relax."
"Some island—Hawaii, the Caribbean? Let's think about this in the morning." There's been nothing particularly exhausting about the day, but Cristina wants to sleep. Her shift starts at 6:30 tomorrow morning, so she can get out and home early.
Burke closes his book and slides it onto the nightstand. Taking off his glasses, he twists and wraps himself around Cristina. "Night. Love you."
"Love you too." She mumbles.
It's at these moments where Cristina feels Old Cristina most acutely. Only, it's now Cristina judging Old Cristina with the added benefit of time and perspective. She sees her old self, imagines her floating and watching over her, and shakes her head so that her hair tickles Burke and his breathing speeds up a little. She feels sorry for Old Cristina, that portion of the Venn Diagram of her soul that doesn't have Avery or Burke or her job or the depth of her friendships. She knows she will never escape Old Cristina—knows that she will never want to, that she could never be ashamed of herself. But she's just glad she's moved on.