The Wreck of the Day
Author's note: Set right after the season 2 finale.
Disclaimer: Characters and places belong to Shonda Rimes. No profit or infringement intended.
The music had long since faded, and the hospital cleaning staff was sweeping up the confetti-strewn floors. Balloons were being bundled together to be taken down to the pediatric ward, and the leftover food was covered up and placed in the break rooms. In another hour or so, it would be as if the prom had never happened at all, and for that, Addison was sorry; the whole experience had been so surreal, so high school, that she'd been looking forward to sharing the stories with her friends back in New York, knowing they'd be as flabbergasted as she'd been by the very idea. At the very least, she'd hoped to laugh about the event afterwards with Derek when they were safely away from Seattle Grace and the Chief, but she now knew that wouldn't happen. She and Derek had been in the same room, but one look at his face, and she knew they might as well have been on opposite coasts again, the distance between them was so great.
Richard's departure from the prom after Izzie's startling confession had provided Addison with a perfect excuse to escape from her husband so she could collect her thoughts, but more importantly, she knew Richard needed her in a way Derek didn't. Halfway to the Chief's office, Addison pressed her palm flat against the wall, leaned down, and unbuckled her Prada sandals. Angry red welts, where the straps had crossed her ankle and foot, marred her skin. Richard stopped and watched her.
"Honestly," he said, "I don't know how you walk in those."
She glanced at him. "An extremely thick skin and a high threshold for pain and discomfort," Addison said, her voice scratchy. She held the $500 pair of shoes up by the straps. The linoleum floor was cool but somewhat gritty beneath her feet. The hem of her red evening gown swirled around her ankles as she matched her step to Richard's.
"You do know heels that high are hard on your calves, don't you?"
Addison grimaced. "It's an indulgence, Richard." She rested her hand lightly on his forearm. "We're all allowed an indulgence once in a while, right?"
"Depends." He flicked on the light in his office and settled in his chair, his expression turning pensive. Addison sat opposite him. She could feel exhaustion seeping into every muscle of her body; it'd been a long day, starting well before seven that morning and now it was just a few minutes before midnight.
"On what?" Addison tipped her head to the side, watching her old mentor and friend with some concern.
"On why you're indulging, whether it's a celebration or an attempt to fill a void in your life." Richard was watching her closely, but Addison refused to wilt beneath his questioning gaze.
"I live in a trailer, Richard."
"You do. On a very beautiful piece of real estate."
Addison bit her lip. She did like the fresh air, the quiet surroundings, the gentle breeze whipping through the leaves. She liked how the sky was truly dark at night, each star a pinprick of light against the sky. "I do like the trees," she said finally, and in that moment, she knew she would find it difficult to live in concrete and brick surroundings again.
"And I've started to make my peace with the ferries."
"None of those things are mine." Addison glanced down at the sandals lying on the floor. Richard was silent for a moment and Addison wondered what he was thinking. This would be, she thought, a good time to once again apologize for her loss of composure and dignity earlier, to beg his forgiveness for fighting with Derek in front of everyone. She hated feeling she'd let him down, but at the same time, she wasn't sure whether it was worth broaching the subject, especially when there was an issue much larger and more important than the state of her failing marriage. Might as well address the other elephant in the room, she thought with more than a touch of sadness. "What are you going to do about Izzie?"
"That is a very good question."
"The liability to the hospital--"
"You think I haven't considered that?"
"You can't just let her walk away like that, not without consequences."
Richard knit his fingers together before looking at Addison. His gaze was steady. "I thought you liked Izzie. You told me she had enormous talent, that she was the best you'd seen in years."
"That's all true and I meant every word," Addison said earnestly. "But what she did was clearly out of line, overstepping her bounds, both professionally and personally. If word ever gets out about this, Seattle Grace's reputation will be forever tarnished. Izzie needs to answer for her actions." Addison leaned forward. "You can't cover this up, Richard. Eventually, the news is going to get out. Too many people now know Izzie cut Denny's LVAD to get him the donor heart. Ultimately, you'll have to answer for her actions and if you don't, you'll be accused of a cover-up and that'll be even worse than coming out and admitting what happened here today."
Richard touched the tips of his fingers together. "I've seen interns get caught up in their patients before. You were one of them, of course." The corners of Richard's mouth turned up into a sad but pensive smile. "But no one I know has ever gone to such lengths either."
Addison took a deep breath. "She's in love. People in love do crazy things."
"I'm not sure I'm willing to accept 'love' as an excuse. No matter what your emotional state of mind, as doctors, we're supposed to do the right thing, the professional thing, emotions be damned. The well-being of the patient comes first and foremost. Always."
"'Always' is a high standard, Richard," Addison said. She pressed her hand to her forehead, and then shook her head. "But what happened here, I take some responsibility for--"
Addison held up her hand. "Let me finish," she said. "You told me I was here to teach, not to make friends, but I've managed to do neither thing well."
"Izzie didn't learn the lesson I tried to teach her with the quints." She got up and paced restlessly around the office. "So I suppose this is my fault, because I saw the signs a long time ago, but after the quints, I didn't do anything about it and I left Izzie alone because I knew how angry she was at me, and I let my guilt for putting her in that position get in the way." She put her hands on the back of the chair, gripping tightly. "Maybe if I wasn't so scared of those interns--"
"You? Scared?" Richard shook his head. "I don't believe it."
"Okay. Maybe 'scared' isn't the right word, but certainly intimidated."
"The Addison Montgomery I know was never intimidated by anyone."
"Yes, but these are the friends of the woman my husband loves." Addison bit her lip. "It's a different sort of intimidation, a constant reminder of how I'm constantly on the outside, never to be given the chance to come in, no matter what I do. The emotional undercurrents, they pull me under at times, and after I've dealt with patients, and with Derek, I'm not sure I have anything left for them and even if I did, they wouldn't want anything from me. I'm not used to feeling this way."
"You can't let them -- or Derek -- get to you, Addie. I asked you to stay because you wanted to stay, not because of him."
"I haven't forgotten that," Addison said. "And I'm here because I genuinely want to be here, and I'm thankful for all that you've done for me, but--"
Richard held up his hand. "But you're having second thoughts?"
Addison put her hand to her lips, casting her gaze downwards. It took her a moment to compose herself and then she looked back at Richard. "During the prom, Derek was gone, and so was Meredith," she said. "They left the dance floor, not together, but within seconds of each other. I don't know, but I think, I suspect--" she looked helplessly at him. "I don't want to give up, Richard. It's not in my nature."
"No," Richard said gently. "It's what I like, admire, about you, Addison. You never do anything half-heartedly and you never stop trying until all hope and chance has been exhausted."
"But in this case?"
"I don't want to lose you, Addison."
She bit her lip. "I don't want to lose me either." She inhaled sharply. "I know how it's going to be, Richard. I'll go home with Derek, we'll act as if nothing's the matter, that nothing of consequence has happened. We'll talk, but not really, mostly about things that happened at work, or surgeries; it'll just be words to fill the silence, to avoid saying the things we really need to say. We might make plans to meet up for lunch, or maybe for a drink at the end of the day, but he'll be distant and monosyllabic, and I'll wonder what or who he's thinking about, but still try to be grateful that he's sitting across the table from me." Addison shook her head. "I'm not sure I want to live like this any more." She looked at Richard. In the silence, the hum of the air conditioner was loud, obtrusive. Addison shivered.
Finally, Richard spoke. "Whatever you do, you know I'll support you."
"And you have my support when it comes to dealing with Izzie Stevens."
Richard offered a small smile. "I'm not the one who'll need the support. Her medical career is essentially over, and she'll have to start over. I doubt Izzie knows what she's going to do, or how she's going to handle the inevitable consequences." He sighed. "I want to understand, Addie, but it's difficult. How do you throw away years of work, investments of time and finances, on a 'what if'?"
"It wasn't a 'what if' to her, Richard. It was real, and she saw a life with Denny, a life that was outside this hospital and the people in it. Maybe that's the lesson we all need to take away from this otherwise dismal episode."
"Whatever I do, I want to make sure Izzie is all right."
"You're kinder than most people would be in your position, but then, you always have been, and that's what makes me proud to be your friend, your student." Addison got up from her chair. "If it'll help you, I can try talking to Izzie, try and make up for not being there when I should have been."
"That's considerate of you, but don't blame yourself too harshly, Addison. Miranda was there, Derek, Preston, me, and any number of nurses and PAs. Mistakes were made all the way through. Now I just need to figure out a course of action that won't lose this hospital its accreditation."
"I don't envy you. Anything I can do to help--"
"I appreciate it." Richard looked at his watch. "It's late, Addison, and I have a surgery at 7 am." He got up and came around his desk so he was standing just a foot or two away from her. "You and I, we have decisions to make," he said, "but maybe, we don't need to make them tonight."
Addison didn't bother to correct Richard. Instead, she wished him good-night and headed back to the lobby, where she knew her decision whether to stay or go would be made for her. She inhaled sharply, and turned the corner on her marriage, her bare feet making little sound on the linoleum floor.