"What do you think your mom would like for Christmas?" Derek asks out of the blue as we stand in line at the coffee cart in the hospital's lobby.
I blink. "Excuse me?"
"Christmas?" Derek repeats. "You know, festive holiday marking the birth of Jesus?"
"Joy to the world," I mutter.
Derek gives me a look.
"I don't know," I shrug. "I don't think she wants anything."
"Everybody wants something," Derek proclaims. He smiles at me. "What about you? What do you want for Christmas?"
"Um," I say. "What do I want? I want to pretend that Christmas doesn't exist."
Derek rolls his eyes. "Grinch."
I sigh. "Nothing, Derek. Really. Donate to charity on my behalf, then. Whatever."
Derek makes a face and orders our coffees, then hands mine to me.
"Consider this my gift," I say, taking a long swig. "I have to round. I'll see you later, okay?"
Without waiting for his reply, I head for the elevators and try to leave all thoughts of Christmas behind.
My bid doesn't last long, however. The nursing station on the floor where we're meeting Bailey has fairly exploded with Christmas paraphernalia. Elves compete with snowmen, and jolly Santas, their bellies protruding over the waistband of their pants, obliterate both. The nurses are playing with one of the ornaments on the top of their desks, a plastic Santa who is wearing a lei and dark sunglasses, and who sings Jingle Bell Rock while hula dancing.
"Unbelievable," I mutter in disgust and wait for Cristina to agree with me, in that sardonic fashion that only she has.
But Cristina keeps her commentary to herself and I turn to her.
"Are you okay?"
"It is what it is," she says.
"Okay, seriously?" I ask. "Who are you and what have you done with Cristina Yang?"
"I have bigger problems than Tropical Santa," Cristina says.
I open my mouth to ask her if she wants to go for a drink after work, but close it quickly when Bailey appears from around the corner. She doles out our assignments and sends us on our way, preventing me from talking to Cristina further.
I'm assigned to Sloane and when I find him on the third floor, he looks surprised to see me.
"I thought I asked for the hot blonde."
"Thanks," I say dryly.
"Hey, I gave you first shot," he tells me. "And for some reason, you chose Derek."
"Mmm," I say. "What have you got today?" I try to read the chart over his shoulder, but he snatches it away from me.
"You know what I could use?" he asks.
I roll my eyes. "I've heard all about how you're treating the other interns like your bitches, Mark."
"Aw, Grey, you think I'd do that to you?"
"I wouldn't put anything past you," I reply.
"You've been hanging out with Derek too much." He makes a show of sighing sadly. "But seriously, I need a caffeine fix."
"I'll wait for you," I tell him with a smile.
"Fine," he says, grudgingly handing me the chart.
I'm engrossed in reviewing the case when he speaks again.
"So, do you have big plans for Christmas?" he asks.
I make a face, and look up in surprise when Mark chortles.
"You don't like Christmas?" he asks. "And you're with Derek Shepherd?"
I shift uncomfortably. Discussing Derek with Mark is awkward and I feel like I'm betraying Derek by doing so.
"It's not my favourite season," I say dismissively.
"He's crazy about it," Mark reveals. "You should have seen their house at Christmas time. It looked like Santa's workshop exploded in there."
"Um," I say, hoping to discourage Mark from continuing to talk about Derek's Christmases with Addison.
"Just wait," he continues anyway. "He's just getting started."
"Great," I say under my breath. I hand the chart back to him. "Can we just get started, please?"
By the time I am leaving the hospital, my mood has deteriorated even further and I pull my coat around my tightly as I prepare to dash across the parking lot to my car.
I stop in my tracks and turn to find Derek coming towards me.
"Were you just going to leave?" he asks.
"I thought you were on for a few more hours," I say. "And I'm exhausted. I was just going to go home and crash."
"Oh," he replies, and I hear the disappointment in his voice. "Well, I could crash with you."
"Seriously, Derek, I'm just going to go home and fall into bed."
"Okay," he answers. He shifts his bag on his shoulder and digs his keys out of his pocket before leaning in to kiss me softly. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, then."
I nod and turn away from him, not sure why I'm so intent on making an escape.
When I reach the house, it's aglow and I trudge inside, kick off my shoes and prepare to slump down on the couch and try to forget my day. Instead, the scent of apple cider assails my nostrils and I hear Izzie humming Christmas carols from the living room.
I groan and turn to flee up the stairs, but Izzie calls out to me before I can disappear.
Again, I'm caught like a fly in amber. With a sigh, I go over to the doorway of the living room.
"Hey, Iz. I'm beat, can it wait until morning?"
"I'm decorating," she says, as if the holly and the ivy wasn't a dead giveaway.
"Yeah," I say, plastering a smile on my face. "I see that."
"I made apple cider. Want some?"
I shake my head. "No, not really. Thanks. I'm just going to go to bed."
"Oh, come on!" she whines. "Just come keep me company, then. George is working late, and I have nobody else to do this with."
"He really picked the wrong intern, didn't he?" I ask under my breath.
I shake my head. "Nothing."
"Derek called," Izzie says, when I reluctantly move further in to the room.
I frown. "I told him I was going to bed."
"No, earlier. He wanted to know what you want for Christmas. He said that you wouldn't tell him."
I grimace. "What's the big deal? If there's something I need, I buy it. I've always done that."
"The big deal is, it's Christmas!" Izzie says exuberantly. "He wants to spoil you, and I, for one, think you should let him."
"Of course you do."
"What does that mean?"
I sigh. "I don't know. Nothing. I'm just sick of all this Christmas crap!"
Izzie laughs. "It's only December first, Mer."
"Exactly. It's December first. Twenty-four days until Christmas, so why in the hell does my living room look like all nine of the reindeer threw up in here?"
"You know, Rudolph wasn't an original reindeer," Izzie points out. "So technically, there were only eight. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen."
I heave myself to my feet and walk back towards the stairs.
"Hey!" Izzie calls after me. "Where are you going?"
"To my Christmas free bedroom," I reply and ignore her protests as I go.