Disclaimer: I own abso-freaking-lutely nothing. At all. Duh.
Notes: Anyone who visits the Grey's Anatomy fanfiction group over at livejournal or the Grey's fanfiction site (a great bunch of people over there) has probably seen this already. For those of you who haven't, this is my shot at a post-finale fic. It's been a while since I've done anything new here, so be prepared for different (and hopefully better) writing. Since is such a busy place and all, I've decided that updates will be directly proportionate to the amount of reviews I get... which means the more you review, the faster I'll update. Also, this is a sequel, of sorts to my fic Happily Ever After, which is over at my LJ. Feel free to head on over and check it out, and make sure you tell me if I should post it here or not. Now, onto the story...
In Which the Heroine(s) Don't Want to Talk About It
Do you remember putting your hand on the stove, just to see what it really feels like? Your mom always told you not to, but you went ahead and did it anyway. The next thing you know, you're crying with your fingers in your mouth. So next time Mom's making dinner, you don't put your hand on the stove. Why? Because of fear.
"Uh," I groaned.
The first thing I notice is my head – it hurts. Like, a lot. The second thing I notice is the rest of my body – that hurts, too. And the third thing I notice is the floor. Which, you know, is the thing I'm sleeping on.
Why I am sleeping on the floor, I don't really know. Since I've got a hangover the size of Texas, I think it's understandable that I don't feel like opening my eyes right now. Or moving at all, really. If I could, I'd stop breathing, but I tried that once in college, and it didn't turn out well.
"Finally," someone says. "It's about time you woke up."
I groan again, but this time (surprisingly) it isn't because I'm in pain. Well, not physical pain, anyway. Because that someone? Yeah, I know them. And right now, I really don't want to talk to them. Well, her. Because she's, well, a she. And I'm rambling, aren't I?
"Hi, Callie," I say without opening my eyes.
I'm hoping she'll get the message and go away. Don't get me wrong, I sort of like Callie now. She helped with Doc the dog, and with the other…Doc. And George is her McDreamy. So, right now, I don't really hate her or anything. But I really wish she would go somewhere else so I can curl up on my cozy piece of floor.
No such luck. The next thing I know, Callie is lifting me up by my arms, and let me just say, she sure is strong. I bet she got in a few extra rounds with the hammer and plastic bones while she was on call. Or maybe she just works out.
"Meredith," she says, "open your eyes."
She sounds really anxious, so I do.
It's really bright in the hall. Why haven't we bought curtains for the hall windows? I'll have to ask Izzie about that. She likes to decorate things. Mostly cupcakes, but still, she's definitely better than me or George.
It's amazing how one thought can trigger a memory. Or several memories. Because with one thought I suddenly remember everything that happened last night, hangover notwithstanding. God, I need a drink.
I look down at the floor, squinting slightly, and see confirmation. George, Cristina, and Alex are sprawled on the ground. If this happened at any other time, for any other reason, I'd think this was funny. Cristina has an empty bottle of vodka in one hand, and the other one is covering George's face. She's practically smothering him in his sleep. Alex, on the other hand, is propped against the wall by the bedroom door – Izzie's bedroom door – with another bottle of vodka between his legs. I wonder if they've left any alcohol in the house, or if I'm going to have to make and emergency visit to Joe's later.
Callie is tugging on my arm now, and she jerk her head toward the stairs.
"Come on, you have to see this."
I nod and follow her down to the kitchen in silence. As we get closer, I start hearing the sound of pots and pans clanging together, and the unmistakable noise of the coffee maker grinding beans.
"Good morning, guys," Izzie smiles brightly.
I stare. Then I close my eyes, count to ten, and hope that this is all part of some twisted nightmare. Maybe I'll wake up soon, and this entire year will be nothing but a dream. Addison won't exist, Derek won't be married, and Denny will have a heart. A nice, healthy heart, that will keep him alive and happy and perfectly able to marry Izzie so they can have tall, beautiful Barbies together.
Yeah, right. Like life would ever be that easy.
I exhale and open my eyes. Izzie is still there, floral apron, Hello Kitty underwear, and all. She is still giving us that bright, look-how-happy-I-am grin and holding out a mug of coffee like it's the Holy Grail.
"I'm sorry, Meredith," she says. "You're coffee isn't done yet. Why don't I make you something to eat while we wait for it?"
I'm too busy gaping at her to respond. She takes advantage of our momentary bout of incredulity to usher Callie and I to the table. Before we really know what is happening, we are both sitting down with a steaming plate of waffles in front of us. Callie is loosely holding her coffee in one hand, and I'm afraid it's going to spill. I open my mouth to say something, but Callie beats me to it, leaning over and hissing "What do we do?" in my ear.
I look around the kitchen. Every surface has been cleaned and polished until it looks better than it did when it was new (and I would now). If there's a pastry or breakfast food that isn't lined up on the counter, Izzie's probably making it right now. I don't even know the names of half the foods in this kitchen right now. Even the table looks different. There's a tablecloth on it, one of the nice, white linen ones from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. My God, she's even put a vase of flowers in front of the window.
If my mother were here to see this, she'd go after Izzie with a scalpel. Or she'd think Izzie is her intern/cousin/sister-in-law or whatever, but you get the idea.
"She bakes when she's depressed. Or angry. Or happy. It's her coping mechanism. Just go with it."
Callie doesn't look convinced, and I know we should be trying to help Izzie come out of her denial, but, you know what? Izzie is sad. Her fiancé just died after she stole a heart so he would live, effectively ending her medical career. If she wants to bake, she can bake. Who are we to tell her how to grieve? At least she didn't sleep with a McMarried man.
Then I spot the pink-and-white frosted layer cake, complete with sugar swirls, next to the fridge.
She's going to snap and kill us all.
"I'm telling you, it's not natural. There's only so much sugar one person can take," George insists.
We're in the locker room. Everyone has their scrubs on, and now we're waiting for Bailey. Actually, we're talking about Izzie while pretending to wait for Bailey.
"She isn't eating all that stuff she's baking," Alex points out.
"Yeah, maybe she'll decide to donate it to someone," I say.
"Or shove it down our throats with a shovel," Cristina says.
I shoot her a look.
"What?" she asks. "I'd say she'd feed it to us through an IV drip, but she won't come back to the hospital."
I shake my head, but some part of me is relieved. Everything is different now. Burke was shot, Denny's dead, Izzie quit, and I slept with McDreamy. But somehow, Cristina hasn't changed.
That's not true. She won't talk about it, but there's something different about her, I can tell. But it's almost like she refuses to change. Like she doesn't want to be anything besides arrogant, sarcastic, Cristina. I don't know why, but I'm going to find out. Later. I'll find out later, because right now I have to tune back into this conversation before someone mentions something important…Like asking me where I was when Izzie was with Denny.
"So where were you?" Alex repeats, looking at me aggressively.
I blink. How did we get to this?
"What was so important that you bailed on Izzie when she needed you?"
"Back off, Evil Spawn," Cristina snaps. "She was there before you were. How were we supposed to know he was going to die?"
Alex says something to her, and soon they're just trading insults. I tune them out again. It's becoming so easy to do that. I never used to, you know. A while ago, I actually paid attention when my friends were talking. I would have tried to stop the argument. But I won't. They're both hurting, and when Alex and Cristina are in pain, they yell. It's what they do, just like Izzie bakes, George stops talking, and I…sleep with inappropriate men.
I think I might be in denial. I should feel something more. I should be freaking out. There should be tears, and screaming, and remorse. Right now, I don't feel anything at all. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know that scares me. But the fear is dull, just like the pain is.
It's like there's this fog around me. Not just around me, really, but everywhere. It's the kind of fog that lingers over the Sound around dawn, or so. It's thick, and heavy, and it makes you feel like you're in a vacuum. Derek and I once went on the 4 am ferry just so we could be in the thick of that fog. It felt like we were the only people in the world – even more than when we were at the trailer. He had been the only person I could see, hear, feel, touch…
But that's in the past. He has a wife. A wife who is kind, caring, and about to be in a lot of pain. I can't be the mistress. Because Mark was wrong, fate never favors the dirty mistresses.
I hear Alex say something about "Burke's crackwhore". Cristina says something about a "syphilis factory". They sound so far away. And they're blurry. Why are they blurry?
I know I should be worried, but I can't bring myself to feel it. They look just like they would have if they had been on the deck of that ferry boat with me and Derek. Maybe they wouldn't be wearing their scrubs, but it's so easy to imagine them there.
Derek and I would be standing in the prow. He'd have his arms around me, and we would be looking at the water. It'd be hard to see anything, but that wouldn't matter. He'd move his face to my hair, like he did last night, and take a moment to inhale the scent of my shampoo – lavender, as always. Then he'd whisper something in my ear ("I love you, Meredith." "You still smell like lavender." "Addison, who?"), and I'd smile. Alex and Cristina would be sitting on one of the wood benches behind us, arguing, of course, and I'd turn around to laugh at them. George would be sitting a little bit away from them, and he'd catch my eye for a second so we could execute a simultaneous eye roll – exactly the sort of thing best-friends-who- never-ever-slept-together-and-never-will-because-Derek-doesn't-have a-wife would do. Izzie would be in the cabin, because she doesn't want the basket of cupcakes she made to get wet. She'll come out anyway, though, so we can have breakfast together. Of course, she'll have brought some milk and Muesli for Derek to eat.
"Grey! Grey, are you listening to me?"
"Meredith, wake up."
I open my eyes. Everyone is staring at me. Bailey's here. She's looking at me with the strangest expression in her eyes. Pity? Sadness? Anger? Regret? Worry? I don't know which one it is. Maybe it's none of them; maybe it's all of them.
"I wasn't asleep," I tell them.
Alex snorts, Cristina rolls her eyes, and Bailey purses her lips. Some part of me notices that George looks concerned, but I turn away from him and forget all about it. Surprisingly, Bailey doesn't say anything about my…daydream, which you know she normally would have.
"Well, whatever it is that you were doing, I told you to get down to the pit. Major pile-up on the freeway. So go!" she barked.
I leave as she starts telling everyone else where to go. I've barely made it to the ER, when George shows up.
"Bailey sent me down here, too," he says. "Cristina gets to scrub in with Dr. Haan, and Alex is stuck with, uhm, Satan."
I nod. He looks at me out of the corner of his eye. It's like he's searching for something, but can't find it.
"Just say it," I tell him.
"Uh, what?" he says, flustered.
I'm calm. Well, I'm numb, but it all amounts to the same thing, really.
"Whatever it is you're thinking," I reply. "I can tell you want to say something to me, and I don't want you giving me that look all day, so whatever it is you want to say, go ahead."
He hesitates, and at first I think he won't say anything, but then,
"It's just, you've been acting strange. I mean, it's okay, you know, to feel bad about Denny dying, he was a great guy, but – well, I think it's something else. It just- It feels like you're having some kind of problems." He said.
I felt a sudden rush of affection for George. It was dimmer than what it should have been, but was more than enough to make me smile. He smiled back, and we stood like that for a beat. Then they started wheeling in the car crash victims.
"Female, 42, severe burns to the chest and abdomen," the paramedic says.
"Mine," I say immediately.
George shoots me another look before rushing off to another patient. I suppose I sound a little overenthusiastic to grab a patient that is clearly not going to result in a surgery, but that's what I'm going for. I can't risk having a patient that could require a neuro consult. Sure, there are other neurologists in the hospital – a whole department of them, in fact – but it seems like there is only ever one neurologist on call when what I want most is to avoid him.
I grab the chart from the paramedic and look over it.
"Hello, Mrs. Collins," I say, giving her my best smile. "It says here that you have third degree burns on your chest and abdomen. I'm going to examine your wounds now. Do you mind telling me how that happened?"
She starts talking as I tell a nurse to put her on 150 cc of lactated ringer's solution over the next eight hours. The paramedics had already cleaned the wounds, so all that is left for me to do is give her a routine examination, fill out the rest of her chart, and tell a nurse to wrap the wounds in an hour, once the solution had time to take effect.
"The car, it exploded," she says.
"Uh huh," I nod absently, still filling out her chart.
"I mean, that's not supposed to happen in real life. You only hear about that kind of thing on TV, or in those horrible movies guys love to watch. But the car exploded. The car exploded, and people died, and were screaming, and it's all my fault."
Mrs. Collin trails off. I look up and see the tears running down her face.
"No, no, no, Mrs. Collins," I say, trying to soothe her. The accident wasn't your fault."
She ignores me.
"I rammed into the car in front of me," she continues. "I knew I was supposed to stop, but I couldn't. I just couldn't. I couldn't hit the brake. My foot wouldn't move. And I hit the other car. It spun, and it hit another car, and I hit the one in front of it. And then that first car exploded. It- It blew up."
I'm quiet for a moment. What can I say to that? She started a four-car pileup and killed at least two people, possibly more.
"There were kids in that car. It had one of those little plastic things you stick to the window to keep the sun out of the baby's eyes. And I could see them, when I was driving behind them. There were two girls in the back seat. One of them had pigtails. I killed a family. I killed a whole family. An entire family is dead and it's all my fault."
She's sobbing now. I want to reach out a hand and comfort her, but the parts of her that aren't burned still look pretty raw, and besides, I don't think I'd be very helpful. With my luck, I'll probably make her feel worse.
"They're dead. It's all my fault. It's all my fault. It's all my fault."
I look away. It feels like I'm intruding now. A nurse is passing by, and I signal to her.
"Arrange a psych consult for Mrs. Collins," I tell her in an undertone.
She nods and walks off.
Mrs. Collins is still crying, muttering variations of "It's my fault." "Couldn't stop." and "They're dead." It's when she says "couldn't stop. I couldn't stop," again that I realize something.
Her foot wouldn't move. She knew she had to stop, and she tried to move her foot, but it wouldn't. Without thinking, I let out a groan. That means one thing.
Is it wrong that, just in this moment, I'm more worried about calling a neurologist than I am about the patient?