So, I'm really sorry this took so long. It's really difficult for me to write fluff, and fluffy wedding stuff turned out to be particularly hard. But, it's finally done! The epilogue's here. It takes place a little over two years after the last chapter. Anyway, thank you so much to everyone for their kind reviews and for sticking with this story to the end. I hope you enjoy the final chapter!


"So, this is actually happening," said Cristina.

Meredith arched an eyebrow, locking eyes with her through the mirror. "Yes, this is actually happening. And it'd help if you'd stop pointing it out in that tone."

"What tone?"

"That one! The 'we're on our way to a funeral slash massacre slash public hanging' tone. It's a wedding." She turned around, plastering an overly exuberant grin on her face. "Be happy!"

"I am happy," protested Cristina indignantly. "I'm wearing a dress," she brushed her hands over her dress, the material shimmering somewhere deep between lilac and indigo. "I'm doing the maid of honor thing, and reading at your wedding. I'm just balancing out all the Izzie over there." Meredith let out a laugh, glancing at her other bridesmaid. Izzie was kneeling in front of Amelia, trying to smooth her dark, wild curls into place, and pin a circlet of flowers on top of her head. Amelia kept squirming, refusing to hold still.

"Aren't they pretty," asked Izzie, her voice tinted with the barest hint of frustration. She held the circlet out for Amelia to inspect, and received a nod from the little girl, her eyes wide as she stared at the tiny white flowers. "Then let's put them in your hair, Mia. Okay?"

But Amelia immediately squirmed away again, shaking her head furiously. "No!"

"You don't want to wear the pretty flowers?" asked Izzie. "I've got flowers in my hair." She twisted her head slightly, revealing the white blossoms woven into her braided hair.

"No," repeated Amelia. She lifted both arms, and clamped them down over her curls. "Mama do it!" Meredith quirked an eyebrow, rolling her eyes at Cristina before glancing back at Amelia.

"Mia? Will you let Aunt Izzie do your hair, please?"

Amelia didn't answer, but spun around on unsteady legs at the sound of her voice. "Mama," she stated, pulling away from Izzie. She toddled over to where Meredith sat at her low dressing table, and stretched her arms out to be held. "Up?" she asked. Meredith shook her head, flattening the black ringlets framing Amelia's face into something a little less wild.

"Come on, sweetheart," she said gently. "Today's a special day, so I need you to be a good girl. Do you remember what's happening today?"

"Up," repeated Amelia. "Up, peas!" Meredith laughed and gave in, scooping her up onto her lap.

"Do you remember what daddy and I told you about today?" she pressed. "What are mommy and daddy doing that's special?"

Amelia pursed her lips together, everything about her tiny self growing thoughtful. "Mahweed," she pronounced at last, exaggerating both syllables. She nodded her head as the word left her lips, and, pleased with herself, she repeated it.

"Yeah," agreed Meredith. "That's right. Mommy and daddy are getting married today. And that means you're gonna be a good girl, and," she glanced up, smiling as she met Izzie's eyes in the mirror, "let Aunt Izzie fix your hair, right?" Amelia looked over her shoulder, and promptly shook her head as she caught sight of the delicate wreath of flowers.

"No. Mama do it," she said, tucking her head against Meredith's shoulder.

"Sorry, Mer," said Izzie apologetically. "I tried."

Meredith shrugged. "It's fine. I think all of this…" She glanced around her messy bedroom, clothes and flowers and makeup strewn everywhere as if a whirlwind had ripped through moments before. "The excitement's making her cranky." As if to prove her point, Amelia settled deeper in her arms, making a small, stubborn, pouting sound. "See?" mouthed Meredith, tilting her head at Amelia as she rubbed a soothing hand up and down her back.

Izzie grinned, shaking her head. "I still say you're braver than I'd ever be. A two-year-old in your bridal party? She makes an adorable flower girl, but a very unreliable one."

"Is that right?" asked Meredith, tickling Amelia so she giggled and looked up. "Are you gonna be an unreliable flower girl, or just an adorable one?"

Amelia frowned, her tongue slipping out past her lips as she tried to understand. "Yes," she said, her voice hushed and uncertain.

Meredith smiled, taking the circlet from Izzie. "Yes, you're going to be a good flower girl," she said, feeling around on her dresser for bobby pins. "When we go outside, I want you to find daddy, and walk up to him just like we practiced."

"Wall daddy," Amelia agreed.

"Walk to daddy," corrected Meredith, but she grinned proudly. "Now," she held the circlet out again. "Would you like this in your hair, or are you like Aunt Cristina, and against all things flowery?"

Cristina looked up, smirking. "I always knew she was a smart kid."

But Amelia stretched a hand out. "Pwetty, mama," she stated, a dimpled smile stretching across her face. "Mine?"

"Yes, they're yours, Mia," Meredith said. "And they're very pretty flowers."

"Great… Izzie's infected you all," groaned Cristina.

"Just because you can't appreciate flowers," huffed Izzie.

Meredith made a face at Cristina before turning from the suddenly brewing argument about flowers, and back to the child in her lap. "Hold this for me, please," she said, passing the circlet to Amelia. "Gently, baby. Be careful with it." Amelia nodded gravely, sitting very still as Meredith leaned forward again, finally latching onto a bobby pin. "Would you like to put the flowers on your head all by yourself?"

Amelia's eyes lit up, and she beamed at Meredith. "I do it?"

"Yep," Meredith said, placing a hand on Amelia's back as she slowly raised her arms, setting the circlet awkwardly down on top of her hair. "Thank you, Mia," she continued, nudging the tiny hands away from the flowers as she readjusted them herself.

"On head!" Amelia declared, looking up at Meredith with wide eyes.

"Yes," she said patiently. "You have pretty flowers on your head."

"Flowahs on head," crowed Amelia, bouncing up and down. "On head!" Meredith nodded, pinning the circlet in place with one hand, and holding her daughter as still as she could with the other. Finally satisfied, she leaned back to inspect her work. The white flowers lay nestled atop Amelia's dark ringlets, the curls fanning out from beneath the wreath to frame her face.

"There, you look beautiful, Mia," said Meredith. She helped Amelia down just as Izzie turned around, grinning at the sight of her.

"Oh, Mer," she gushed. "She looks like an angel."

Meredith smirked. "Looks being the operative word there," she muttered as Amelia began to babble happily to Izzie about the flowers on her head. She slumped forward, resting her chin in the palm of her hand, staring at her reflection. Her hair was done. Her makeup was done. Her dress… Her dress had just been sat on by a two-year-old. She leapt to her feet, suddenly nervous. "Does it…" she stammered, smoothing her hands over the fabric.

"Does it what?" asked Cristina. "Don't tell me you're gonna start freaking out after all?"

"Do I look like I've been sat on by a toddler?" snapped Meredith. Cristina frowned, and turned a critical eye to the dress. The fabric was as sleek as ever, a delicate, shimmering white silk that clung tightly through the waist before cascading to the floor, loose and flowing like water.

"You're not wrinkled," she said with a shrug. Meredith nodded, chewing on her lip as she traced a fingertip down the thin straps and over the beading on the deep V of the neckline. "Turn around," stated Cristina, and she shifted obediently, casting uncertain glances at her profile through the mirror while Cristina inspected the back. "Yeah, you're good," she said at last, and Meredith sighed with relief.

"Good," she echoed quietly. "I'm… That's good."

Cristina quirked an eyebrow and stepped closer. "Are you sure you're not freaking out?"

Meredith balked, uncertain. "Should I be freaking out?"

"No," said Cristina flatly. She folded her arms over her chest, narrowing her eyes at her friend. "You're practically married already. You've got the kid and the house. That's married, you just took awhile to get to all the ceremony crap."

"I know." Meredith let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, nodding vigorously. "I know, you're right." She turned away to pace back and forth, wringing her hands together. She was good. She was ready for this. Utterly, completely ready. Still, she suddenly felt as if she'd swallowed a small army of butterflies, and they were all beating wildly in her gut. "But this, Cristina. It's big. It's name-changing, 'til death do us part big. The real thing." She frowned at herself in the mirror. Half her hair had been twisted up into some complicated thing by Izzie, some sort of elegant knot she'd never be able to manage on her own, the rest falling around her in long loose curls. Her scrubs were gone, and instead she was draped all in white. Meredith bit her lip, trying to imagine what Derek's thoughts would be when he saw her. She looked different, like freaking Cinderella. She swallowed hard. "Married." The word struck the air like a mallet.

"Oh great," groaned Cristina. "You are freaking out."

"No, I'm not," spluttered Meredith indignantly. "It's just… It's forever. For. Ever." She dragged each syllable out long and torturous before letting her teeth sink back into her lip, biting down hard enough to leave a tiny ring of indents.

Cristina reached out impatiently, and grabbed her by the shoulders, holding her still. "Do you want forever?"

"Yes," said Meredith quietly, instantly. "Of course."

"Great." Cristina let go and brushed her hands together, quirking an eyebrow. "So what's the hold up?"

"Nothing! There's no hold up. I don't know." Meredith sighed, drifting towards the large windows along the far wall. "All those people," she breathed as she reached a hand out to part the curtains. Izzie seemed to materialize at her side out of thin air, slapping her hand away. Meredith jumped back, glaring at her. "What was that for?"

"You can't open the curtains," Izzie rationalized. "Someone might see you in your wedding dress."

Meredith folded her arms over her chest. "It's only Derek who can't see me," she snapped. "Not everyone."

"Yeah, well." Izzie pushed her way in front of the window, parting the curtains just wide enough for one eye to peer through. She surveyed the wide expanse of open land, straining to make out the figures gathering down by the grassy bank. White chairs were arranged in rows facing the water, and people mulled about the lawn, making their way over.

"Is he there?" asked Meredith.

"I don't know," said Izzie absently, trying to pick Derek out in the small blurry group.

"You don't know?" hissed Meredith.

"It's a big crowd," protested Izzie. "And far away."

"No it's not," Meredith snapped. "Thirty people, Izzie. Thirty. His mother, his sisters, their husbands, their kids," she said, ticking them off on her fingers. "And a few people from the hospital. That's not a big crowd! It's a small, tiny, intimate wedding. How do you not see him?"

"Umm, people are still arriving," she said meekly.

"Still arriving?" echoed Meredith. "He's the freakin' groom, Izzie! He's been here all day."

"Right, well…" She turned back to staring at the indistinct shapes, trying to zero in on some sort of dark blur she could label as Derek. "I think--"

"Okay, this is why I'm the maid of honor," Cristina said, shaking her head at Izzie. "There's a good twenty minutes until this thing gets going. Use your brain, Mer. He's probably still getting dressed downstairs with that stupid grin on his face, counting the seconds until the ceremony starts."

"Right," said Meredith softly.

"Do you think he's not going to be there?" Cristina asked, her tone demanding, almost scolding. Meredith bit her lip, giving a slight shrug.

"No. I… Well, he could just--" She cleared her throat, throwing her hands up in the air. "I don't know! I'm nervous, so what if he is too, and gets cold feet?" She stared at Cristina, looking every bit as wide eyed as her daughter. "He could get cold feet," she said quietly.

"Please. He's been so consistently in love with you since day one that it's disgusting. Besides," she joked, "if he tries to make a run for it, Burke's under strict orders to beat him up and tie him to the altar." Meredith just frowned, prompting Cristina to heave an exasperated sigh. She stepped closer, lowering her voice. "Okay. Listen to me, Mer because I'm so not about to say this twice. Actually," she paused, cocking her head to the side, "if you bring this conversation up ever again, I'll just deny its existence, okay?"

"Okay," she stammered, taken aback.

Cristina gave a perfunctory nod, and seated herself on the edge of the windowsill. "You're marrying a good guy," she said quietly. "If I thought there was any chance he'd be an asshole and pull out another surprise wife or leave you alone and pregnant again, I'd have pointed it out already. But he won't. He's less of a McDouche now. And he's not gonna get cold feet. He wants this, and so do you," she added, pointing her finger almost threateningly at Meredith. "So, just get over whatever the hell's making you nervous. You've earned today. Nothing's going to go wrong." She lay a hand on Meredith's arm. "I'm really happy you're marrying him," she said awkwardly.

"You are?"

"Yeah. My only objection's the hair, and I gave up on that one along time ago."

Meredith smirked, giggling despite herself. "Thanks," she whispered. "I just, well… You know."

"I know," agreed Cristina before quickly drawing her hand back. "So, are you good now, or are you planning on freaking out some more?"

"I'm good," Meredith said. Her nerves seemed to dissolve away, leaving her feeling lighter than air, ecstatic, giddy, giggling. "I'm getting married," she said, falling into another round of blissful laughter. "Married. Today."

Cristina groaned, and hopped down from the windowsill. "I can't believe I just defended McDreamy for this," she muttered, staring disbelievingly at Meredith as she laughed and dabbed her eyes.

"Mama, look!" Amelia called, cutting her mother's laughter short. Meredith wiped the back of her hand across her cheek, sighing as she turned around.

"What, sweetheart?" Amelia was standing beside Izzie, who'd been keeping her busy, oohing and ahhing with all the required delight as she demonstrated how to open and close the drawers on her mother's dresser. All of the drawers Amelia could reach were now pulled wide open, and she beamed happily at Meredith. "Wow, did you open those all by yourself?"

Amelia nodded, sending her dark curls bouncing. "I do it, mama." She turned quickly to the nearest drawer, and pushed with both hands, declaring "shutta daw" loudly as it slammed shut.

"Shutta daw?" said Cristina, incredulous. "What?"

"Shut the drawer," Meredith translated.

"Right. I still have no clue how you understand half the things the little beast says."

"That was an easy one," she said smugly as she crossed over to Amelia, smiling at her.

"Up?" tried Amelia.

Meredith shook her head. "Finish closing all the drawers, please." Amelia nodded gravely, returning her focus to the dresser. Just as the final drawer was shut, someone knocked tentatively, and Meredith turned to find Derek's mother standing in the doorway. Jacqueline looked unusually hesitant, clutching a small wrapped box in her hands, fidgeting with delicate spiral of ribbon tied around it. Meredith froze and promptly began chewing on her lower lip. Things with Jacqueline were …better, but she never was quite sure how to act around her. "Uh, hello," she said at last, forcing herself to kill the silence. "Were you looking for the washroom?" she asked, latching onto the first thought that came to mind.

"No, I just--" Jacqueline shook her head, and backed up a step, almost disappearing into the hallway. "Sorry for interrupting. I just wanted to get a glimpse of you lovely ladies before the ceremony started. You all look beautiful." Her gaze drifted to where her granddaughter stood. Amelia had retreated so that she was half hidden from view, cowering behind Meredith's gown. "And you too, Mia," she added warmly.

Meredith glanced down at her abruptly shy child, giving her a nudge. "Amelia, say hello to grandma."

"Yes," whispered Amelia as she stared up at her mother.

"Say hi, sweetheart," prompted Meredith again, and, with a second nudge, Amelia shuffled forward a few steps.

"Hi," she lisped, her voice just as quiet as before.

Jacqueline moved forward, crouching down to her level. "Hello," she said softly. She smiled disbelievingly at Amelia. Other than a quick hurried greeting the day before--just a brief hello before Meredith had whisked the little girl away with her--the only other time she'd seen granddaughter was when Amelia had been five months old. Just a little thing in her mother's arms. Jacqueline shook her head wonderingly. She'd grown into a perfect blend of both her parents; small boned and petite like her mother, with identical sea-green eyes, but with the black curls of her father framing her pale delicate face. "I heard you have a special job today," she said.

"Yes," said Amelia, staring down at her shoes.

"That you're helping with the wedding," continued Jacqueline. Amelia just nodded that time, glancing up at Jacqueline from beneath her eyelashes. "Well, you look like a princess, Amelia. You've got such a pretty dress and flowers in your hair."

Amelia lifted a hand to her hair at that, a smile finally tweaking the corners of her mouth. "On head," she stated proudly.

"Why yes, they're on your head," agreed Jacqueline, grinning at her before slowly straightening back up. "She's absolutely gorgeous, Meredith."

Meredith smiled back uncertainly. "Thanks, I… I think so." The two women stared at each other, seeming almost equally hesitant, both unable to move. Finally, Izzie cleared her throat, elbowing Cristina in the ribs.

"Uh, we'll wait downstairs," she said quietly. "I'll give Mia a snack." Meredith seemed to jerk back to life, turning from Jacqueline to look at her.

"Okay," she stammered. "Just nothing messy. She's wearing white. And would you fix her bow?" She waved a hand towards the violet sash tied around Amelia's waist, the fabric matching Izzie and Cristina's dresses. Izzie just nodded, taking Amelia's hand and exiting the room. Meredith swallowed hard, looking up at Jacqueline. "Is there something you need?"

Jacqueline coughed, forcing her voice to steady itself out. "I wanted to give you this," she said as she held out the small wrapped box she'd brought with her.

Meredith bit her lip, eyeing the present. "You didn't need to do that," she said, feeling a sudden, unexpected pang of guilt as she took the box from Jacqueline. She tugged on the ribbon, and it fell away easily.

"I wanted to," said Jacqueline awkwardly, watching as Meredith ripped the paper and opened the box, revealing a slender silver bracelet nestled within. It seemed as ancient as it was beautiful, the silver woven into a quietly ornate braid, three diamonds nestled into the metallic weave.

"Thank you," Meredith murmured. She touched the bracelet with a fingertip, and the cool metal sent a jolt through her body. "But you really didn't have to get me anything," she added, shaking her head at the bracelet. "It's too much." It was almost painfully beautiful, continually drawing her gaze, and Meredith found herself wanting to feel its weight around her wrist. But Jacqueline… They'd never managed to be anything more than polite to each other, the chasm that had been created in the beginning still existing over two years later. She'd avoided the woman, not wanted her to visit. Only now, Jacqueline was standing there, looking so… She couldn't even place it. Hopeful, friendly, sad. Maybe something else entirely. And she was giving her a gift. Not "the Shepherds." Just her. It was too much. She sighed, "I can't--"

"It was my grandmother's," said Jacqueline, cutting her off. "Then my mother's, then mine. That's the hard thing about having four daughters." She laughed quietly, shaking her head. "I always felt guilty trying to choose just one to give it to. But you… Meredith, I want you to have this."

"No, I couldn't. If it's from your family, I…one of your daughters should…"

"I want you to have this," repeated Jacqueline firmly. "It's my fault you didn't get the sort of welcoming into our family you deserved when we first met, and I hope you know how sorry I am for that." She reached out, closing Meredith's fingers tightly around the box. "I want you to know I'm truly glad to have you in our family, marrying my son." Meredith just gaped at her, unable to manage a single sound, much less an actual word. "When I first met you, I wanted to hate you for turning Derek into a different man. I was right that you'd changed him, but I was also so, so wrong. You've made him a better man, and happier than I've ever seen him. Whenever he calls, he wants only to talk about you and Amelia."

"Oh, well," said Meredith, her face flushing. Her voice stammered out, twisted and garbled with embarrassment, and she stared at the floor. "That's just because, I don't even know. I mean, Amelia, yes. Of course he talks about Amelia, she's his daughter. But me? No, I don't know why he'd… He's probably trying to--"

"Meredith," said Jacqueline. Her tone was almost bewildered, and she smiled at her, looking thoughtfully perplexed. "Of course he talks about you. He loves you. He's proud of you." She shook her head, suddenly teary eyed as she tightened her grip on Meredith's hand. "And I'm proud of you too," she said quietly. "Catching up with the rest of your year at the hospital while still having time for your family? That can't have been easy, but you did it. Derek's lucky to have found himself such an amazing woman."

Meredith nodded slowly, trying to process the barrage of pretty, perfect words. Her throat felt suddenly dry, and she forced herself to swallow. She had to reply. To say something. Anything. But she could only stare like some gaping slack jawed idiot who certainly wasn't amazing in any way. The bracelet hung between them like an offering, and she jerked her gaze from it to focus on Jacqueline. There was a gentleness to her that Meredith swore she didn't remember. The formidable woman who'd shown up unannounced on her doorstep was gone, that same strength transformed into something gentler, maybe loving. Certainly welcoming. It was the difference between an insurmountable wall designed to keep her out, and a gate that hung open, promising protection and perhaps a way in. Meredith swallowed again, still battling speechlessness.

"You don't need to feel obligated to wear it if it makes you uncomfortable or its not your taste, but please, Meredith, let me give you this."

Jacqueline's voice shattered the silence, strangely beseeching, and Meredith blinked, her mind made up in an instant. "Would you help me put it on?" she asked quietly.

"I," Jacqueline stammered, shocked. "Yes, of course I would." Neither said a word as she lifted the bracelet out of the box and wrapped it around Meredith's slender wrist, clasping it shut. The silver and the diamonds caught the light, shimmering against her skin.

"It's beautiful," she whispered, tilting her arm so the bracelet slid, sending a thrill coursing through her as it settled heavily just past her wrist where her hand started to widen. It was unbelievably beautiful, and it was Jacqueline's. No. It was hers now. She bit her lip, still staring at the bracelet, at the history that seemed to radiate from it. Jacqueline had just given her a piece of her own past, and she swore something felt different now. She was no longer just the woman Derek wanted, but someone who was wanted in his family, by his family, by his own mother. And nothing was being asked of her in return. She simply was wanted. Wanted. Meredith sniffled, blinking back tears. "Thank you," she said quietly, her voice sounding strange, foreign. "I… It means a lot to me. What you said, it--" She shook her head again, smiling tentatively up at Jacqueline. "Thank you."

Before she had a chance to shy away, before she even really processed what was happening, Jacqueline reached out and pulled her into a hug. She stiffened at first, like a cardboard cutout of a bride. But then her arms lifted on their own volition, the top of her head just reaching Jacqueline's shoulder as she hugged back. Standing there, Meredith found she could only smile. Smile, and perhaps, finally, truly begin to forgive her.


It was the sort of day made for remembering. The sky was unfurled overhead, an endless banner of deep blue gone dusky with the promise of twilight, the setting sun just beginning to paint the water as a tapestry of reds and rusts and golden light. The waves lapped against the shore in a soft rolling rhythm that blended with the sweeter strains of a violin. Candles lined the path that cut through the assembled chairs, and their pale glow made the approaching darkness seem almost magical. Petals strewn over the lush carpet of grass marked the aisle, leading to a tall simple arch that bore an abundance of lilacs and sprigs of lavender. The air was heavy with their scent, reminding Derek of Meredith. She was intrinsically linked with flowers in his mind, and, as he stared at the perfect blossoms, his body hummed with anticipation. He was marrying her. Meredith was going to be his wife, and that thought alone made the ground disappear. The word sounded more than perfect. It left him floating.

He stared out at the assembled group, surveying them to give himself something to do. The gathering was an intimate one; just his family and the few people from the hospital Meredith loved enough to count as her own. But she had wanted a small wedding. Nothing extravagant, no big church. Just a minister willing to come out and marry them as they wished, something simple, nondenominational. Just them. Derek smiled, remembering the day Meredith had finally figured out where she wanted to be married. He'd taken her to see the foundation that had been lain for their house, and she'd spun around, taking it all in. Her laughter had been infectious, and before he'd realized what she was doing, Meredith had tackled him to the ground. She'd loomed over him, smiling with her hair in his face, and told him she wanted to marry him "right here." And here he was, almost two years later. After the house had been built and they'd moved in. After Meredith had gotten over the feeling of being continually behind at work. After they were both somewhat convinced that Amelia was old enough to be left in Izzie's care for a few days while they went on their honeymoon. Everything was ready. Everything was perfect. Every last detail reminded him of Meredith, and Derek swore he'd remember it all.

He cast a sideways glance to where Burke stood beside him, serving as his best man. He felt a strange pang, something almost like regret, that it wasn't Mark standing up with him. The first time he'd married, he'd loved the man beside him like a brother. But that bridge hadn't been mended, and now it was merely friendship and respect, not fierce undying loyalty that led him to choose his best man. Now Meredith was the only person he trusted so completely, and the thought of her was more than enough to erase the momentary regret. He was marrying Meredith. Marrying her. Today. He felt like a little boy on Christmas morning, wanting desperately to get to the presents, but secretly relishing the anticipation almost as much. "It should be starting soon," he said, straining to keep the ridiculous rush of excitement out of his voice.

Burke nodded in agreement. "Should be."

The air felt charged, crackling like a live thing, pulsing with anticipation. Even as they spoke, as if their words had been a summons, the music swelled. The sweet whine and cry, the almost human melody of the violin filled the night, and a whisper rushed like wildfire through the assembled group. Derek turned back towards the aisle to find Amelia walking towards him. He smiled disbelievingly, filling with pride at the sight of her. He nodded in greeting, grinning at her, and a smile immediately stretched its way across her face.

"Daddy!" Amelia cried, her voice rising even above the music. A hushed chorus of "awws" quickly followed as she nearly doubled her pace, clearing the rest of the aisle at an eager unsteady run. Derek shook his head, chuckling as Amelia bounded up to him. She had a small bundle of flowers clutched in her hands, and thrust it towards him as she stumbled to an abrupt halt. "Pwetty," she whispered loudly.

"Yeah," Derek agreed, keeping his voice soft. "Those are very pretty, Mia."

Amelia frowned at that, rising up on tiptoes to hoist the flowers even higher into the air. "Daddy, you," she said sternly. She pushed them insistently towards his hand.

"Oh," said Derek. "For me? Thank you, munchkin." He took the offered flowers, depositing them safely in his pocket before turning back to her. "Let's be quiet and watch mommy now, okay?"

"Yes," she said, sitting unceremoniously down in the grass at his feet. She looked back up at him, her expression stern once more. "Be quiet, daddy," she ordered as if the idea had been entirely her own.

"Okay," Derek said, having to bite back a laugh at the sudden seriousness of his two-year-old. His gaze drifted swiftly back towards the aisle, and his heart skipped a beat. Maybe it skipped two. Hell, it could've stopped beating entirely for all he knew. If someone told him he'd died and gone to heaven, he certainly wouldn't be able to argue. This could be it. Easily. Izzie and Cristina had made their way down the aisle, and everyone was rising to their feet as the music swelled to even greater heights, the melody changing and pouring out into the night. And then it was just Meredith standing there. Just Meredith, and the rest of the world fading away into the approaching dark, leaving him in what surely had to be heaven. He swallowed hard, drinking in the sight of her. She was smiling softly, shyly, slipping into her nervous habit of chewing on her lower lip. She seemed afraid to start walking, and stood at the end of the aisle, fidgeting with her bouquet of flowers. But, as soon as their eyes locked, her hesitant smile blossomed into the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. She started walking towards him slowly, like something out of a dream. Her dress hugged her body close, outlining her gentle curves in white, and swishing long and loose like a wave around her feet. She glowed golden in the candlelight and the setting sun, her hair capturing the light, keeping it her prisoner. And Derek couldn't breathe, couldn't blink, couldn't even think anything other than the syllables of her name. Over and over, they rang like something sacred inside his head until she was all that there was. Just Meredith walking towards him, her gaze never straying as his world turned over in the depths of her eyes.

And then she was in front of him, so close, so real, so perfect. So completely his. She stood surrounded by the flowers beneath the arch, golden and smiling, staring raptly up at him. Her eyes were already glistening with the promise of tears, and Derek felt his heart thudding against his chest with every beat. "Hey," he whispered, the word so faint that it existed more in the movement of his lips than the sound of his voice.

Meredith's smile widened even further, and she mouthed the word back. "Hey."

The music faded away, folding into silence, leaving the world hushed and still. The minister stepped forward, clearing his throat. He was a tall older man, his movements elegant and precise, but Derek barely even registered his presence. Everything was wound up in Meredith's eyes, and he couldn't look away. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here this evening to celebrate the love before us, and, in the presence of these witnesses… The words floated through his mind like something heard on the edge of sleep, the low melodic pitch of the minister's voice mimicking the sea. To join Derek Shepherd and Meredith Grey in marriage… She reached out impulsively at that, grabbing his hand, pulling his attention to the soft touch of her skin on his. Which is commended to be honorable among all men, and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly and solemnly. The words drifted around him as Meredith wove her slender fingers tightly with his own, but the gesture was jittery and nervous. Derek squeezed back, stilling her fidgeting with the gentle press of his palm. He tilted his head to the side, one eyebrow raised and his eyes questioning. Meredith gave a slight nod and shifted closer, her gaze never drifting from his face. She seemed to relax a little, and, as she did, the minister's voice became something he could hear again. Into this holy estate these two persons present now come to be joined. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.

The words were met with silence and a hum of anticipation. Derek chanced a glance down at Amelia to find her staring up at them intently, seeming to somehow grasp the seriousness of what they were doing. He breathed deeply, marveling at how right this felt. He barely noticed the assembled audience, and heard nothing of the minister's continued remarks on marriage. It all faded away almost purposely, so that he saw Meredith with exquisite clarity. All he saw, all he knew was contained in her alone; every last little detail from the pale blue that seeped around the endless green of her eyes, to just how the light bounced off her hair, to the way her lip was curling soft and inviting into a smile that was just for him, Derek took it all in. He felt only her hand in his, the press of his daughter's head leaning against his leg, and his own heart swelling as the music had. It was perfect in a way he didn't remember from his first marriage, filling him with a feeling of rightness that seemed to seep even into the very marrow of his bones.

It wasn't until Meredith's eyes tore unexpectedly from his own that he realized the minister had stepped back to allow Cristina to make her way to the small podium. She cleared her throat, staring almost challengingly out at the audience before turning to focus on Amelia. "Hey Mia," she said, her voice unusually gentle. Derek watched as his daughter looked up delightedly at her name. Cristina grinned at her, prompting Amelia to smile back. "Listen up because you might remember this part. Apparently, your mom was one of those kids who liked to walk around with her nose in a book when she was little, and this is from one of her favorites." Derek looked back at Meredith, remembering the night he'd come home to find her sitting with Amelia curled half asleep in her lap, her voice soft and lyrical as she read aloud from an old raggedy copy of The Velveteen Rabbit. She had turned bright red when she'd realized he was standing there listening, and had started stammering that she knew Amelia was probably too young to understand the story, but that she was practically asleep anyway, and didn't he have a surgery to be doing or something? It had taken over an hour to coax a coherent explanation out of her; that it had been her favorite book as a child, that her father used to read it to her every night, and that she'd struggled her way through it on her own after he left. Now, she looked just as vulnerable as she had that night, her nails biting into his palm while her teeth worried at her lower lip. Derek ran his thumb over the back of her hand in a slow soothing gesture as Cristina's voice filled the air, devoid of its usual sarcasm.

"'What is real?' asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. 'Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?'

'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.'"

By the time she'd finished reading, Meredith's eyes had filled to the brim with tears. She blinked them away, but one escaped to cut a shimmering path down her cheek. Derek had to fight the urge to scoop her up into his arms right then and kiss even the remnants of her tears away, forcing himself to simply squeeze her hand yet again. She smiled back brilliantly, lighting up even as she sniffled a little.

"Derek and Meredith," said the minister, his voice jerking Derek back out of his reverie. "I ask you now to join both hands as an example of how, from this day forth, your lives will be forever entwined." Meredith glanced down at the flowers she still clutched in her left hand before looking back up at him, wide eyed and flustered. Before Derek could even draw a breath, Izzie had stepped up discreetly, taking the bouquet from her, and slipping back into place. And then both of Meredith's hands were clasped in his own, the slight weight of her palms resting in his, filling him with a rushing spreading warmth. "Derek," continued the minister solemnly. "Do you take Meredith to be your wife, the mother of your children, and your partner in life, to love and cherish her, to protect her, and to encourage her in all that she does? For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, do you give yourself to her alone for so long as you both shall live?"

Derek swallowed hard, suddenly struggling to find his voice. "I do," he said hoarsely, nodding his head.

Meredith smiled up at him, her eyes watering as the same questions were asked of her. "I do," she said in answer, clutching his hands with a desperate strength. Derek's heartbeat seemed to double at the sound of her voice.

"Derek and Meredith will now share their own vows with each other," continued the minister. He retreated back a few steps, and silence followed fiercely. Derek frowned, suddenly painfully aware of the audience that stood just a few feet away. He chanced a glance at them only to feel his face flush, and turned back to the safety of Meredith's eyes. He sucked in a deep breath, steeling himself to go first. The words…the words he knew, but he wasn't quite sure where his voice had gone. Meredith was looking at him expectantly, and he swore his heart had leapt up into his head to pound brutally against his skull. Every second was a century, and he felt a sudden sharp twist of fear. Impulsively, Derek reached out, cupping Meredith's face in the palm of his hand. His fingertips brushed against her hair, its familiar texture grounding him.

"Mer," he said softly, and her name on his lips was like a breath of life, finding him his voice again. "Not everyone believes in second chances, but they only need to look at you to know that they exist. I know without a doubt that you're mine, and you've given me far more chances to make this right than I've deserved. You've given me a reason to be happy when I couldn't find one on my own. You've given me your love and our daughter. And every day, it's the promise of seeing your smile and hearing your voice that gives me a life worth living. You're beautiful and selfless, and I will be forever in your debt." He paused, drawing in another deep breath and relishing the sight of Meredith staring up at him. Tears spilled from her eyes, rolling silently down her cheeks, and her fingers trembled in his grasp. Derek smiled, his voice growing hushed and reverent. "Meredith, I'll gladly spend the rest of my life repaying that debt; by doing my best to make you happy, and crying with you when I cannot make you smile, by never letting an argument grow so big that it pulls us apart, but always remembering that where I belong is beside you. I promise I will never leave you, but will treasure you with every breath as the one who gave me my second chance at finding joy. Mer, I've picked you, I've chosen you, and I promise I will love you until the day I die."

Meredith let out a sob, a shaky little thing that rose to fill the night as Derek fell silent. She glanced up at the star studded sky stretched overhead, blinking rapidly. Tears rolled freely down her cheeks, and her smile was a beautiful trembling thing that made his heart twist. She glanced at her feet, their joined hands and the lilacs that filled the arch before daring to meet his eyes again. When she finally lifted her gaze to his, her tears nearly doubled, and her shoulders started to shake. "Hey," Derek murmured, lifting a hand to her face, and swiping at her tears with the pad of his thumb. She leaned into his touch, her eyes falling shut. When she opened them again--bright green and glistening--her shoulders had stopped trembling.

"Derek," she said softly. She shook her head and sniffled, still blinking away tears. "Derek, I love you. Even that, it's strange for me. I never thought I'd be here, that I would love like this and want to marry. I was raised as a child of science. I was taught to trust the feel of a scalpel in my hand over the warmth of someone's arms around me, to believe that love is nothing more than a sign of weakness, and to trust in facts and logic above all else. But, it is a fact that your smile is enough to keep my world turning, and there is nothing logical about that." Meredith shook her head again, catching her breath, and Derek found himself blinking back his own tears. She stepped closer and dropped her voice slightly, her words seeming to seep even into his blood, to course through his heart. "You broke the mold I set for my life. You taught me that sometimes it's okay to leap blindly. That the risks that come with loving someone completely are ones well worth taking. Because of this, because of your love, I'm not afraid, but am simply damning logic, and swearing to you that I will always be here. That I will walk with you every day. That I will hold you up when life makes you too tired to stand on your own, and will let you carry me when it's my feet that falter. Our love doesn't weaken us. Instead, together, we're made stronger. Derek, I would follow you blindly if you asked me to because you hold my heart in your hands, and I trust you to keep it safe."

Meredith's voice faded away into the soft silence of the night, and her expression grew suddenly shy, her smile tentative as she looked at him. "Mer," whispered Derek, lifting her hand to his cheek, and kissing its palm. Their faces were both tear streaked and all he could do was stare at her in awe, wonder how he got so damn lucky. Before he had a chance to work out any sort of decent explanation, the minister was standing beside them and saying something about rings. Rings…the rings. Derek snuffled raggedly, trying to pull himself together. A cold metal circle was pressed into his palm and he frowned, dragging the words they'd chosen up out of the depth of his memory. "Meredith," he said softly as he turned her hand over in his. She nodded, smiling disbelievingly at him, her eyes still gleaming with tears. "I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and commitment. Keep it, and be my wife." He slid the band around her slender finger as he spoke, feeling once again as if he moved through a dream.

"Derek," said Meredith, her voice light and breathy. He watched as her small hand ran over his larger one, pulling it closer to her. "I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and commitment. Keep it, and be my husband." Meredith pushed the ring down the length of his finger, nudging it carefully into place. Satisfied, she looked up, and he saw his own happiness echoed in her eyes.

"And so," continued the minister as Derek felt his smile broaden into some sort of giddy, ridiculous, face-stretching grin. "By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride." The words were like a gunshot, and Derek leaned forward instantly, pulling Meredith to him. Her body crashed against his, his mouth finding its match. The kiss was warm and searching, their faces both wet with tears. He wrapped an arm around her waist and dipped her down, down, down, letting his tongue delve deep into her mouth. Meredith's hand reached up to tangle in his hair, kissing him back just as fiercely. She was all that there was; a new axis for the world rooted in the feel of her lips upon his. Meredith was his. She was his for eternity. His wife. The thought brought with it a heady rush of exhilaration, and Derek drew her back up, lifting her high into the air. Meredith squealed as her feet left the ground, clasping his face as she showered him with kisses. And Derek spun her around until she laughed, the sound of her happiness filling the air even as it rushed past his lips, pouring down his throat to fill him.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Drs. Meredith and Derek Shepherd!"

And then it wasn't just her laughter filling the night, but the sounds of their families cheering as well. Slowly, Derek set her back down on her feet, holding her close. "Hey," he murmured, catching her mouth in a softer shorter kiss.

"Hey," Meredith said. "We're married."

"We are," agreed Derek. He nodded slowly, letting his gaze drift to the heavens. The sun had set completely, light coming solely from the candles and the pale wash of the moon. "I think we're supposed to walk down the aisle now," he said with a wink as violin music once again permeated the night.

"Oh, right." She shook her head, still laughing. The sound was blissful and perfect, like bells, and Derek thought he could stand there forever, just listening. "What about Mia?"

He glanced down for Amelia only to find that the space where she'd been sitting was empty. The worry that immediately pulsed through him was short lived as he glanced up, and immediately caught sight of her. She'd wandered over to where his sisters' children sat, and had plopped down beside his youngest niece. The two little girls seemed to already be friends, and were giggling and clapping their hands together wildly, caught up in the excitement surrounding them.

Derek grinned, pressing his lips to Meredith's temple. "She's good for now," he said before pulling his wife close to him, and whisking her away down the aisle.


The reception was a loud and vibrant thing that spilled from the dining room of their home out into their wide back yard. White lights had been strung up along the deck, woven into the boughs of several trees, and wrapped around Amelia's swing set. Everything glowed like a fairytale--shimmering magically against the dark of night--and Meredith felt like she'd been tossed head first into just such a story. The princess who'd landed her prince, about to ride off into the distance with him on a white horse. It was ridiculous, completely ridiculous, but she couldn't stop smiling. She was married. Really married, with a ring on her finger and a husband at her side. That alone was enough to make her feel dizzy, but there was also food and champagne and cake in excess, and people congratulating them so often that she could barely process it all. Music was filling the night, the melody soft and gentle, mixing strangely with the squeals of the younger children. They were running about, using the open expanse of grass to their full advantage, and Meredith kept an eye on Amelia as she leaned against Derek, swaying slowly with him to the music. Amelia was doing her best to keep up with her cousins, having apparently caught a second wind from all the energy around her.

"She's got to be tired," Meredith said, lifting her head from Derek's shoulder to look him in the eye as Amelia toddled past with two of his nieces. Her nieces now. Their nieces.

"Probably," he agreed, running a hand through her hair. "But if we try to put her to bed right now, we'll get nothing but hysterics."

"So your plan is to wait until she runs herself exhausted?"

"Something like that," Derek said with a grin. He pulled Meredith closer to him, and she leaned into his touch. His arms were wrapped tightly around her waist, and the weight of them resting there was warm and reassuring. "Make it easier on Izzie."

Meredith chuckled, twisting her head a little so that her lips grazed his jaw line in a fleeting kiss. "That's right. She offered to wrangle the kid for us." She watched as Amelia and her two little companions spun and twisted about on the makeshift dance floor, getting in the way of the other couples as they tried to dance like the adults. Meredith bit her lip, shifting fitfully. "I hope she'll be okay without us," she murmured.

"She'll be fine," promised Derek.

"She's just a baby though. What if she gets scared?"

Derek ran a hand up and down Meredith's bare arm, the motion slow and soothing. "Mia's slept at your old house before when we've both been on call. You know that, Mer. And she loves Izzie and George. She'll be just fine."

"You're not just saying that because you want to guarantee yourself uninterrupted wife ravishing time?"

"Wife ravishing?" echoed Derek, his eyebrows shooting straight up. "That's a new one." He smirked and leaned forward so that his breath tickled her neck, and Meredith had to struggle to keep from squirming. "I believe the term you're looking for," he said slowly, his voice teasing. "Is consummating our marriage."

"Right…" Meredith giggled, and twined her arms around his neck, her fingers toying with his hair. He looked good so dressed up, his shoulders broad beneath his black suit. She bit her lip, and let her hands drift from his hair to trace the edge of his tie. Actually, the tie, the suit, it was all better than good. It was ridiculously sexy. Her ridiculously sexy husband. Meredith laughed again, the novelty of the word far from wearing off. She snatched his hand from her waist, holding it caught between them, staring at the ring. "Well," she coughed, trying to concentrate on something more coherent than the bubbling chain of thoughts that was her husband in a suit. "Whatever you're calling it these days--"

Derek spun her around, sky and grass blurring into streaky insignificance as he stole her words from her with a searing kiss, his tongue forcing its way past her lips. She clung to him as they kept spinning, no longer willing to trust that the ground was beneath her feet. It felt like she might be upside down for all she knew. There was only Derek's mouth and Derek's hands, his breath filling her lungs in this delicious spiral that erased the world. His teeth scraped her bottom lip, tugging it down and shooting her even further into incoherency. He stopped abruptly just as she was starting to get drunk on the constant spinning and kissing alone, and pulled away. He looked smug, smirking at her as she gasped and staggered against him. "You were saying?" he asked with a tilt of his head, effortlessly flashing her a grin that seeped with charm.

"Ass," muttered Meredith, shaking her head. "I was saying?" She paused, chewing on her lip. Her mind was a blank, still off spinning somewhere useless. She was completely useless, and it was all his fault. Her husband's fault. She tried to frown, but ended up grinning again. Husband. "I was saying that, well. Um…" Derek just kept smirking, looking almost criminally smug. "Whatever happened to you never dancing in public?" she blurted out.

There. That wiped the smirk away for an instant, replacing it with a simple look of surprise. "Well," murmured Derek thoughtfully as he leaned forward, placing a softer chaste kiss to her lips. She sighed, and stared up into his eyes, still able to pick out the smoky vibrant blue even though they were swaying in the shadows. "This isn't public. It's our wedding," he said, and that was enough to do her in, to send her bubbling over into pathetic, melting, giddy incoherency all over again. And somehow, it was the best feeling in the world.

"Yeah," she agreed softly, shaking her head in disbelief. "It's our wedding." Someone tugged unexpectedly on her dress, turning her attention from Derek and towards the ground. Amelia stood there, her flowers askew, her hair a disheveled mess of curls. Her eyelids drooped a little as if she could stumble into sleep without any effort at all.

"Seep, seep Mia?" asked Amelia hopefully.

Meredith smiled, and straightened up in Derek's arms. "Are you tired, baby girl?" she asked.

"Yes. Seep now?" Amelia said, yawning widely. Derek let go of Meredith, bending down to scoop Amelia up into his arms. "Up," she mumbled happily, already curling to lay her head on his shoulder.

"Yeah. You're up, munchkin," he agreed. He shifted Amelia so that he held her with one arm, and pulled Meredith back to him with the other. "How about you dance with mommy and daddy for one dance, and then it'll be sleepy time for Mia?" Amelia just nodded, the top of her head bumping gently against his chin. Meredith ran a hand up and down Amelia's back, smiling as her eyelids fluttered open and close, lingering on the verge of sleep.

"Mama and daddy mahweed?" mumbled Amelia, cuddling closer to them, clinging to Derek with tiny hands.

"Yeah," said Meredith, drawing back to grin at Derek. "We're married, Mia."

"We are," he agreed.

"Ohtay," Amelia sighed, the sound soft and happy, and her eyes finally fell all the way shut, a peaceful smile on her face. Derek smiled and kissed the top of her head before turning back to Meredith, capturing her mouth with his own.

"Meredith," he murmured as they pulled apart, drawing her name out as if he was hearing it for the first time, as if it was something special, something worth savoring. She nodded, quirking an eyebrow at his sudden change in mood. "I, well," he toyed with the strands of her hair, winding them around his fingers. "Thank you."

"Thank you?"

Derek glanced down at the ground, seeming almost embarrassed. "For marrying me," he said. "I just--" He shook his head, heaving a sigh before letting his gaze drift back to her face. His eyes were fiercer than usual, intense in a way that made her shiver and lean closer. "God, I love you, Mer." His voice was a husky whisper, drawing her in.

"I love you too," Meredith said, feeling as if her heart had been hung somewhere too high to fathom. As if she stretched from where her toes pressed into the grass all the way up past the trees and the white lights to the canopy of stars sprinkled overhead, and every last endless inch felt happier than she could ever remember feeling before. "I really, really love you," she murmured, speaking close to his ear so that the words reached him and him alone.

They fell into silence as Amelia fell into sleep--beautiful, dizzying, perfect silence that didn't hunger for words. It was just them. Their family. Meredith sighed and lay her head on Derek's shoulder, her lips pressing softly against his neck. He held her close with his free arm even as he cradled Amelia with the other, as if he wanted nothing more than to protect the both of them. And Meredith wound her arms tightly around the broad plane of his back, feeling the muscles shift beneath her palm, keeping him close to her. She listened as the low steady hush of Amelia's breathing blended with the music and the low murmur of Derek's voice, humming the melody like a lullaby to their daughter. Everything but the three of them blinked away into insignificance, and Meredith just stood there, falling into something she thought might be bliss.

The End

And, that's it! First, I'd like to point out that the thing Cristina reads is, as stated, from The Velveteen Rabbit, which is a children's book by Margery Williams. It's definitely not my own, but I did love the book as a little girl. Anyway, a few people have been asking if I'm going to write a sequel to this. I'm toying with the idea because, on the one hand, I'm going to be sad to let go of this little Mer/Der world. I've had a lot of fun playing in it. But, on the other hand, I think their story feels fairly complete. I'm not sure where I would go next with them, and I've got a post season three idea that I'm definitely going to be writing this summer. (I need to take a short break to recharge, but then I'm going to start working on that one right away.) If I do decide to do a sequel to World, I'll definitely post an additional author's note to this story with the new title, but right now…I don't feel like I can safely that I'll write one. (Sorry…)

And lastly, just thank you so much to everyone who's read this story, and put up with yet another version of the pregnant Meredith story. I know it's taken me a long time to actually get to the finishing point, and I'm sorry about that. I know things dragging on forever can be frustrating. I've never tackled something this large before, and it was definitely a challenging experience for me. But, it was also a really fun experience, and knowing other people were enjoying it really motivated me to keep going. So, thank you so, so much. It's been fun!