Author's note: My thanks as always to my beta babe, Rocky, for looking this over.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Shonda Rimes; no infringement or profit intended.
The first time Derek asked her to marry him, Addison turned him down. They were having dinner in a family-owned Italian restaurant just down the street from the Brooklyn townhouse they shared, and it was a rare occasion they were both off-shift. Still, she was tired, irritable and her feet ached (and when your feet aren't happy, the rest of you isn't either), and as a result, their conversation was stilted, punctuated by the clatter of silverware, the squabbling children at the next table over and the occasional "Can you pass the olive oil/bread/salt/pepper/parmesan cheese?"
He was casual about it, reaching into his sports coat, and placing the blue velvet jewelry box on the red and white checked plastic table covering. Addison stared, her mouth full with mushroom-tossed linguini. It wasn't her birthday, it wasn't their anniversary and while time seemed to escape from her these days, one day blurring into the next, she was pretty sure it wasn't Christmas or Valentine's Day or another obligatory gift-giving holiday.
"Open it," Derek said.
She compiled, and nearly choked on her pasta when she saw the ring -- a large diamond with two smaller stones on either side, set on a platinum band. She looked at Derek quizzically.
"Well?" he asked expectantly. "Want to make it official?"
"Are you asking me to marry you?"
When she finally caught her breath, she responded, "That's some proposal, Derek."
"You didn't answer my question."
"Where is the romance in your question?" She hadn't meant to sound petty; it was simply a knee-jerk response sprung out of exhaustion and the fact that suddenly and inexplicably, she wanted roses, candles, white-linen table cloths, violins, and preferably a $100-plus bottle of wine. Derek was always so careful about these kinds of things, so romantic, so considerate; it seemed to her completely out of character to just pop the question in the same way he'd ask her whether she wanted eggs or toast for breakfast.
"I didn't think you'd want to make a big fuss," he said.
"I don't, but I certainly don't want to feel like you're checking off asking me to marry you on your list of things to do before you turn thirty." She pushed the ring back towards him.
"You're not a checklist item, Addy. You know that."
She shook her head. "Give me time. You can't spring a thing like this on a girl with no warning. I've got to think about it."
"No warning? What do you mean? We survived medical school and our internship together. What's there to think about?" His lips pressed together in a straight line, disappointment clearly etched on his face.
"I'm thinking it's a huge commitment and I want to be ready," Addison said, regretting the words almost immediately. Derek was right. They'd known each other for five years -- he'd asked her out during their first week of med school -- and three dates later, she'd stopped looking at other guys (not that they stopped looking at her). And when people asked her what the hell she saw in an arrogant but brilliant, self-involved but handsome future brain surgeon, she answered simply that Derek somehow managed to make her feel beautiful. She'd always been smart, but around Derek, she'd finally demolished any specter of the braces-wearing, tall, gawky and awkward big-footed band geek with a lisp she'd been in high school. Fast-forward to the present, and they worked together, set up a house together, and alternated holidays between her parents' home in Princeton and his family's place in Buffalo. Yes, he had a temper, and that occasional streak of jealousy, and sometimes he could be so driven that he lost sight of everyone -- including her -- and everything around him, but when he looked at her, he made her feel as if she were the only woman in the world.
"What are you waiting for?" Derek asked, an edge of impatience slipping into his tone. "You love me, I love you. What more do you need?"
It was a good question. The graceful thing to do, she thought, would be to apologize for her attitude, blaming the ever-reliable exhaustion that came with the life of an intern, and to allow him to slip the ring on her finger. But pride stopped her, and she instead said the first (and least helpful) thing that came to her mind.
"I don't know," she admitted, pushing her plate away, unable to finish eating.
"I guess that's a no then," Derek said matter-of-factly. She hated the way he was looking at her, his expression a mix of sadness, anger, dismay, and surprise.
"For now," Addison said quickly. She reached forward, and covered his hand with hers, but the touch lasted only a few seconds. He pulled away and instead, reached for the jewelry box and put it back in his pocket. They finished their dinner in strained silence and when they got home, Addison went to bed while Derek went into the living room and turned on the television. She lay in silence for a long time, staring up at the shadows on the ceiling. Was she crazy? Had she just turned down a wedding proposal from the one man who not only made her feel beautiful, but cherished her like no one else? She pretended to be asleep when he finally slipped in beside her.
The second time Derek proposed was a few months later, and while he took her by surprise that time as well, Addison was a little better prepared. They were on the top of the Empire State Building, staring out at the magnificent panoramic view, and it was November, so the wind was cold and biting. The entire building was bathed in white light in anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday. Addison smiled as she leaned against the railing. She never got tired of this view and had been coming here on a monthly basis almost since she'd first moved to New York City for med school; Derek came with her more often than not, indulging her desire to scan the horizon for changes, and but more importantly, he was the one in charge of bringing the food – sandwiches, potato salad, chips and a couple of bottles of water.
The sky was turning a dusky shade of purple in anticipation of nightfall. The bridges were twinkling in the distance, and across the city, lights were coming on. Addison put her hand on Derek's forearm.
"Look," she said, pointing towards the flock of birds circling the tower. She knew they were just ordinary pigeons, but in the reflection of the light, they appeared unearthly. "Beautiful, aren't they?"
He grinned at her, the corners of his eyes softening, and she smiled back at him. They'd come a long way in the last few months. Yes, it had been tense for the days following his proposal, but they'd gotten through it by simply pretending it had never happened (or rather, Derek was good at ignoring inconvenient 'morning after' truths and she was too busy figuring out how to make it up to him). She'd thought about apologizing a million times, but somehow the words never came out. At first, she tried to talking to him, but he'd always responded with a curt, "Not now, Addison." Not Addy, Addison. And she'd backed off, knowing in time he'd forgive her –- he always did -- and then they could move forward.
"I love how you love being up here," Derek said now. "Only you would suggest brown-bagging it on a day like today." He wiggled his gloved fingers at her.
"Well, on the positive side, we've mostly got this place to ourselves." Addison glanced around. "Luckily for us, most people in the city aren't stupid enough to come up when it's 10 degrees out."
"Don't forget about the wind chill factor"
"You're from Buffalo, Derek," Addison said. "This is practically the Deep South for you." He scowled at her and she laughed. "Do you have change for this?" She tapped the side of the viewfinder with her leather-gloved fingers.
"Give me a second." Derek reached for his wallet.
"Do you have a penny?" A little boy with bright pink cheeks -- no doubt from the cold -- and with an adorable lock of yellow hair peeking out from beneath his blue ski cap and who seemingly came out of nowhere asked Derek.
"Um, probably, one minute." Derek opened his wallet. "Here you go. Are you sure you don't need a quarter?" He handed Addison a quarter and she promptly deposited it in the slot.
"Do you know that if you a drop a penny from this height, you could kill someone?" the kid asked.
Derek shook his head, an amused smile stretched across his face. "No."
"Want to try?" the little boy asked.
Derek stared in disbelief and Addison had to hide a smile behind her hand. "Want to try what?"
"I wanna see if it's true. I read it in a book." The boy looked perfectly serious. "You can't always believe everything you read in a book. That's what my mom says."
"Your mother does have a point," Derek said, "but some things, we just have to accept for what they are. After all, if you dropped a penny off this building and it killed someone, how would that make you feel?"
The boy considered, his eyes wide with contemplation. "They would be dead."
"And they couldn't go home."
Addison bit back a smile as she listened to Derek explain that because of the way the observation deck was angled, it was actually impossible to drop a penny all the way to the ground, until the child's mother came and hustled him away.
"You were sweet to that very disturbed child," Addison said with a slight giggle. And then without thinking, she added, "You'll make a great father one day."
Derek stared at her in surprise. There were many things they'd talked about over the past five years, but children had never quite entered the picture. And try as she might, Addison had never really seen them as a family of three or four; she had a hard enough time imagining the two of them married. "You really think so?" Derek sounded curiously pleased by her comment.
"I know so," she said with confidence she didn't know she had. "Maybe we should go down. I'm starting to get cold." She took his hand, and in the elevator, she saw him looking at her with a peculiar expression on his face, his hand stuck deep inside his pocket. Impulsively, she leaned forward and kissed him on his cheek, and he wrapped his free arm around her, holding her close. As they emerged onto 34th Street, Derek suggested coffee to warm up. Addison nodded, flexing her now frozen fingers; they moved stiffly.
"Broadway or Madison?" Derek asked.
"Fifth," Addison said with a stern look in Derek's direction; brilliant he might be, but he was also directionally challenged and Addison was sure he'd never learn his NYC geography. Derek grinned and Addison shivered as another blast of arctic wind bit at her skin and ruffled her hair. The black wool pea coat she'd chosen for the day was woefully inadequate for this early blast of Arctic weather. What had she heard about this winter being particularly harsh? "It's closer."
They moved briskly, sidestepping other people who were bent against the wind; the one good thing about heading down Fifth Avenue was that they were now walking between the buildings. However, the wind tunnel was still particularly strong and Addison had to struggle to avoid being blown to the side.
They stopped at a crosswalk and Addison fumbled for an elastic band in her pocket to tie her hair back and suddenly she was very aware of many people looking in her direction. Derek was on his knees in front of her.
"Derek," she said, embarrassed. "What are you doing?"
"I'm asking you to marry me."
"Here?" she hissed. They were on a street corner for God's sake, Fifth and East 32nd, and it was cold, damn cold. "Now?"
"This ring's been burning a hole in my pocket, Addison. I've been carrying it around for months, maybe almost a year, and maybe it would have been more romantic on the Empire State Building, just you and me up there, watching the stars come out from the only place you can see them in this city, and I know this particular street corner isn't even on your top one thousand favorite places in New York City, but I've got your attention, and so I'm asking you," Derek said, pulling the small blue jewelry box out of his pocket.
"This is crazy," Addison said. A foot-stomping, hand-blowing crowd started to accumulate around them.
"You can't say no in front of all these people."
Addison took a quick survey of the crowd and decided they were mostly humorless and cold business people who were probably annoyed that this guy was kneeling in the middle of the sidewalk. In fact, she was surprised no one had heckled Derek yet, or simply pushed him over in their haste to get by.
"This is crazy," she repeated.
"Addison." Derek flipped open the box and held it out to her. "It's cold. And pavement is hard on the knees."
She could barely see him between the wind whipping her hair across her face and the warm stinging sensation in her eyes.
"Addison, Addy-—" she was aware of the tremor in his voice "-—will you marry me?"
She was highly aware of the ridiculousness of the situation, but she decided to throw caution to the wind. She loved this man. After all, this was a man who was brave (stupid?) enough to get down on the streets of New York for her when he could have easily waited until they got to the coffee shop or even home? So maybe it wasn't an elegant, romantic proposal over champagne and candlelight, but did she really require that? And really, he had been right months ago when he first proposed; what was there to think about?
"Yes," she whispered. "Of course. Nothing would make me happier." She reached down and pulled him to her feet.
He grinned at her. "I guess we're going have a story to tell the kids now, right?"
She pulled her gloves off, and watched as Derek slid the ring onto her finger. He kissed her lightly and even though it was only ten degrees (less, if you factored in the wind chill), Addison felt warm within. She wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. All around them, people applauded. She even heard one man comment, "I thought she was going to say no and I was feeling so bad for that guy because you can tell, he really loves her." In that moment, Addison vowed she'd never let Derek go.