Chapter 19 – Epilogue: There Is So Much More
15 years later
Derek looked up from his position kneeling on the floor. "How's that, sweetheart?"
The angelic-looking child currently sitting on a chair in front of him shook her head. "The left one's a little bigger than the right."
Derek tugged on the right string a bit. "How about that?"
"Now the right one's bigger, Daddy!" The girl got off her chair and knelt down on the floor, tugging on her shoelaces until the bows were precisely even. "Like that," she said, beaming at him.
"Like that, huh?" Derek asked, effortlessly scooping up the child and tossing her in the air as she shrieked with laughter. "How about we go outside and find everyone else?" The girl nodded as she wrapped her arms securely around his neck, her fingers twisting in the back of his hair. Derek winced as he turned into the upstairs hallway of his house, until his daughter removed her hands when they came to her favorite picture.
"Look, Daddy, look!" she said, pointing at a wedding portrait of him and Meredith. It was her favorite picture in the entire house, her parent's wedding with the Puget Sound in the background. Derek nodded as he paused for a minute to let her look, then continued on and opened the back door of the house. His ears were immediately assaulted with the sound of shrieking children. Nine children of various ages ran around his backyard, while a tenth sat quietly on a bench and read her book. Derek gently placed his daughter on the ground, then scanned the backyard until he spotted his other two children. Noticing his wife flipping hamburgers on the grill, he joined her.
"Need some help, Dr. Shepherd?"
She looked up, pretending surprise. "I would have thought you'd be inside for another half hour. Ella was happy with her outfit?"
Derek shook his head. "I have magic powers with children. I can get them ready in under 10 minutes." As Meredith looked at him skeptically, he admitted sheepishly, "All right, Ella picked out her own outfit. And fixed her shoes after I tied them."
"Well, that explains a lot," Meredith replied as she gazed at her youngest child.
"Hey! What's that supposed to mean?" Derek asked, feigning indignation.
"Well, I didn't think you were quite so up-to-date of what toddlers consider fashionable these days," Meredith replied, taking in her daughter's bright pink boots, olive green skirt, and matching pink pullover. "That's her favorite outfit."
"She wanted to look nice for our guests."
"Our guests? What guests?"
Derek had to concede that point. The Burke's, Karev's, Sloan's, and O'Malley's were at their house so often, they might as well have been family.
"Did you see the boys when you came out?" Meredith asked him.
"Yeah," he replied, pointing in their general direction. "They're in the back, playing with those toy soldiers Mark and Addison got Justin for his birthday."
Meredith nodded in relief as she spotted her sons' dark heads huddled together, mixed with a dark blonde one. Out of their three children, the oldest, Ryan, at 11, was a miniature replicate of Derek, with dark hair and blue eyes. Their other son, Justin, 3 years younger than his brother, took after both his parents, with his father's dark hair and his mother's blue-green eyes and beaming smile. Their only daughter, Ella, looked entirely like her mother, with sandy blond hair and blue-green eyes, and the same fragile, petite build.
At that moment, Ella was in the sandbox with her best friend Morgan, Burke and Cristina's only daughter. Morgan's older brothers were busy tossing a baseball back and forth, as their father looked on. Cristina and Burke had finally gotten married a year after their twin sons were born, although, if you listened to Cristina, it was only for the sake of their children. Meredith laughed whenever she heard this, knowing better.
As Meredith watched, Ryan's best friend, James Karev, joined in the ball game. A few months older than Ryan, he took after Alex in almost every way, while his sister, Samantha, looked almost exactly like Izzie. Samantha was currently in the Ella's log playhouse with George and Callie's only child, Jordan. At 6, Jordan was 4 years younger than Mark and Addison's daughter, Kate, but older than the rest of the girls, who were all 4. Consequently, she usually stuck like glue to the side of Kate's brother, Nicholas, while Samantha flitted from group to group. While he was the same age as the Burke twins and Justin Shepherd, his calmer, sweeter, and more independent meant that he didn't mind staying with Jordan, most of the time. Today, though, he had found both of the Shepherd boys and was with them.
Meredith scanned the group of children again, her frown easing as she finally spotted Kate Sloan sitting aside from the rest of the children, a book in her lap. Kate took after her father in looks, with his dark blonde hair and blue eyes, while her younger brother had the same coloring but resembled Addison more than Mark. Her long, gangly limbs promised that one day she would be as tall as both her parents, but for now, those coltish limbs just made her awkward. While she shared her father's looks, it didn't seem like she had inherited either of her parents' outgoing, confident personalities. At any gathering of the families, she preferred to find a corner and read her book. As Meredith observed, Kate's father joined her on her bench, clearly trying to persuade her to put down her reading and join the rest of the kids. Kate shook her head stubbornly, her lips pursing in a frown as she pointed to her book and shook her head again. Mark persisted, pointing out all the other kids and how they were together, and with a dramatic sigh and a roll of her eyes, Kate acquiesced. She handed her book to her father, who ruffled her hair as she stood and looked around, then spotted Meredith watching and made a beeline for her.
Meredith shared a knowing smile with Mark just as Kate reached her. "Hi, Meredith," the child said, skidding to a stop right in front of her.
"Hey Kate," Meredith said, giving the girl her full attention as Derek took over at the grill. "Saw your dad pull you away from your book."
Kate sighed and put her hands on her hips as she shook her head. "I had just gotten to the best part, too."
Meredith smiled sympathetically as she thought to herself, this one's going to be a handful when she gets older. Beyond a willful personality, there was a definite promise of beauty, given a few years' time. Mark was going to be beating the boys off with a stick. "What were you reading?"
Kate straightened a little. "1984, by George Orwell. It's a really good book. I was watching the news the other day, and-"
"Is that for school?" Meredith interrupted, knowing that if she didn't, she was going to end up discussing literature with a precocious 10-year-old who had probably read more books in the last month than Meredith had in the past year.
"No, it's just for fun. The librarian recommended it to me."
"How's school going? You're in the same class as Ryan and James, right?" Kate was a year younger than the two boys, but had skipped a grade early on.
"Yeah. It's okay. Kind of boring." Her eyes lit up. "They put a frog in this girl's cubby the other day. That wasn't boring." Derek, upon hearing this, doubled over in laughter beside Meredith as she frowned.
"Ryan and James did that?" Meredith asked in disbelief. "Why would they do that? This is the first I'm hearing of it – I assume that means they didn't get caught?"
"Well, the teacher probably thought it was them, but he couldn't prove it, and no one else was going to tell him, so…" Kate shrugged her slim shoulders, smiling a little at the memory. "It was so funny."
"Why would they do that?" Meredith nudged Derek, who was still laughing beside her. "Derek! We don't want to encourage this kind of behavior. Kate?"
Kate smiled knowingly. "The girl tried to kiss Ryan at recess. That's why they put that frog in her cubby." Meredith's eyebrows shot up as she digested this piece of information, while Derek only laughed harder. Kate wrinkled her nose as she continued. "I don't know why she wanted to kiss him. James is much better looking anyway, if she had to pick one of them to kiss. No offense, Dr. Shepherd. I mean, everyone always says Ryan takes after you." Now it was Meredith's turn to double over in laughter, while Derek tried to look angry and failed.
"That's alright, Kate. Why don't you go find the boys? They're around here somewhere."
Kate shook her head. "No, I think I'll go play baseball. See you guys later." She tossed her hair and was off.
Derek wrapped his arm around his wife, who was still laughing. "Oh, God," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "Mark and Addison are going to have their hands full with that one."
"No kidding," Derek agreed wryly. "Little mischief-maker."
"Speaking of those, where's our mischief-maker?"
"The smallest one."
"She's in the sandbox with Morgan. Rose is keeping an eye on them." Rose was the Shepherd's nanny, and had been ever since Ryan was born. "Since everyone's busy, how about I finish up on the barbeque and then we'll sneak away for a little?"
"I like that idea," Meredith replied, turning in Derek's arms to kiss him. She pressed her lips to his, enjoying the moment, then heard-
"Don't you two ever give it a rest? I thought marriage and children were supposed to kill sex."
Meredith barely shifted, removing her lips from Derek's only to get out the words. "Go away, Cristina."
"Hey, I thought you two were the hosts of this little gathering. And the kids are getting hungry."
Meredith and Derek reluctantly separated. "Okay, okay. Derek, why don't finish up here and I'll go get whatever's in the refrigerator inside."
Derek nodded his agreement and turned back to the grill. Meredith and Cristina turned to go into the house, when suddenly, an earsplitting scream shattered the peaceful spring afternoon. Meredith and Derek instantly recognized the scream, and took off running for the sandbox, where Ella was sprawled on the ground clutching her leg, blood everywhere.
Derek instantly scooped up his daughter and, with Meredith next to him, carried her over to a picnic table and placed her on top, where both her parents stooped to look at her leg.
"What happened?" Derek asked a crying Ella.
"He pushed me!" she sobbed, pointing at James.
"She fell and hit her leg on the corner of the sandbox, the wooden part," Ryan explained, having just come over to the picnic table, but keeping his distance. The sight of blood made Ryan sick.
"James pushed me!" Ella insisted, still crying.
Meredith recognized the guilt on her son's face the instant it appeared. "Ryan."
Hearing the warning note in his mother's tone, Ryan threw a panicked look towards James, then, "We were just joking around with them. He didn't mean to hurt her."
"Mark, can you come over here?" Derek asked.
Mark appeared instantly. "Want me to run inside and get something for her leg?"
"Do you think it needs stitches?"
Mark bent over Ella's leg and winced. "Yeah, she should have stitches. I can do it inside, if you guys have everything."
Derek picked Ella again, whose sobs had subsided to sniffling, as Meredith went to find their first-aid kit. He placed Ella on a couch inside, as Meredith came back, handing the kit to Mark, who opened it and whistled. "You guys have a whole hospital in here."
Meredith shrugged. "Two boys, plus a girl who is prone to her own share of mishaps…we're prepared for everything. You know how it is."
Mark nodded as he started to clean up Ella's leg. "Why don't you guys go get Ella something to drink?" he suggested in low tones. "I think she'll be a little braver about the stitches if you're not here wringing your hands over her."
Meredith frowned, but Derek, recognizing the wisdom of that suggestion, gently caught her arm and pulled her into the kitchen. "Mark knows what he's doing. She'll be calmer without us around getting upset because she's upset."
Meredith nodded, having seen that a lot at the hospital. Still, she leaned tiredly against Derek, cringing when she heard Ella whimper.
Mark worked quickly, and was almost halfway through Ella's stitches when she abruptly sat up and watched him sew up her leg, fascinated. Until then, she had been bravely keeping quiet, even as her lower lip quivered and her eyes filled with tears.
Mark noticed her interest. "See, Ella, no big deal. You might not even have a scar," he said, grinning cockily at her. "I'm that good."
Ella reached forward as though to touch the line of stitches, then pulled her hand back, just watching as Mark finished.
"So you're a plastic surgeon?" Mark nodded, and Ella continued, "I'm going to be a surgeon one day. When I grow up."
Mark was taken aback by the resolve in her tone. After all, she was only four. "A surgeon, huh? Like your parents."
Ella shook her head. "I'll be even better," she said, gesturing expansively with her arms. "When I was at the hospital the other day, I heard some doctors talking, and they said my parents are two of the best neurosurgeons on the West Coast! But I'm going to be the best in the whole world! You'll see."
Mark nodded again, laughing silently. He pressed a bandage over her stitches, then leaned back. "All done."
Meredith and Derek lay in their bed later that day. Pulled back against her husband's chest, Meredith was idly tracing a pattern on their blanket as Derek ran his fingers through her hair.
"Today was certainly an exciting day," Derek commented idly.
Meredith nodded her agreement. "It was. But Ella's fine now. She went to bed hours ago. We'll just take out the stitches in a week or so. Or Mark can do it."
Derek nodded, seeming reassured, but Meredith knew he still worried. Although he would never admit it, she knew that as their only daughter, Ella held a special place in his heart. She turned in his comforting hold, her arms twining around his neck.
"She's a tough kid, Derek," she murmured against his lips. "Don't worry about it. We can check on her in a few hours. For now…"
Derek gently pulled back from her, watching her expression on her face change from passion to confusion. "I love you," he told her.
Meredith smiled. "I love you too, Derek. Is something wrong?"
Derek pressed his lips down to hers, kissing her, then drawing back for a second. "No, I just wanted to tell you that. Everything's just right. The way it should be." And with that, he leaned down to kiss her again.
Dare to love completely.
And that ends my story! This chapter was done a week ago, because I had basically had it all thought out in my head months ago, way before I posted the last few chapters of this story. But, like I said at the end of the last chapter, I knew exactly when I wanted to post this. So, I'm ending "Belonging" with its nineteenth chapter on my 19th birthday. Yay :)
Thank you for all the reviews on my past chapters, and please review this one! Let me know what you thought of my first ever fanfic! While I'm currently working on my Bones story, "As the Stars Fall Away", I'm already thinking about my next one for Grey's – probably using the children I created in this chapter. What do you think of them? Let me know your thoughts, and thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story!