This is the last chapter. Meredith finds out how people really see her. Thank you for all the reviews. I always look forward to all of them. sam

Chapter 5: Stay

The week swept by. At home, Meredith caught up on sleep, food and chores. She faxed applications to a dozen surgical programs. She talked to the director at Roseridge about moving her mom when the time came. She called a realtor about selling her house in Seattle. She answered no phone calls from the other interns, telling them at rounds that she slept all day so she missed their calls.

She only had three terrible bouts of depression and sadness, but she was able to pull herself through them by researching surgeons and cities on the internet, trying to decide where to move. She also got through by playing her brand new piano, bought from her mother's account. She'd decided that her mother should buy her the piano for three graduations. The new luxury car was for twelve Christmases and birthdays.

She still dreamed and fantasized about Derek but she was trying to move him into the past and face reality. She told herself Derek was an illusion over and over, trying to believe it. It helped not having to see him with adders-on every day. Every time she thought of him she made herself think of her real future husband who was waiting for her, ready to love her just as she was. She watched "Bridget Jones's Diary" and cried at the end when Bridget's guy did just that for Bridget.

That's for me, she thought, it could happen.

At work, Dr. Grey managed to avoid most gossip by keeping her head down and working the night shift doing scut. Her firefighter was almost ready to leave post op intensive care. Night after night his stats had spoiled and it had been touch and go for Igawa. Meredith learned she had to watch him like a hawk. She'd taken to sitting next to his bed when she wrote up reports, always accompanied by at least one firefighter from Engine Company Nine. For some reason Igawa responded atypically to most meds and procedures. Meredith held her breath every time she had to change his medication. Somehow, they'd managed to pull him through. Mr. Jones was well enough to be discharged and Dr. Monahan was only now being moved to a regular room.

She didn't see the Shepherd or She-Shepherd at all. Apparently, they had the week off like most department heads. It was easier not to see him, she firmly told herself.

Meredith saw Bailey's interns briefly on rounds, that was all. She avoided them, because she felt there was nothing to say. She also didn't want to add any more grist to the intern gossip mill. She'd talk to them after she made all the formal arrangements.

The night shift crews were another story. Meredith couldn't avoid them and didn't want to. They approached her one at a time or in groups asking her about the rumors they'd heard. She answered them as honestly and as briefly as she could. As little as she said, they knew what they'd witnessed first hand over the last few months. They were angry and sad to lose her. They didn't like how unfair it all was. They started running interference for her and standing up for her like a small defensive army.

ooo

New Year's Eve was crazy. Dr. Grey didn't sit still once. Her patients and their families in surgical, the Pit and the OR forced her to shower and change her scrubs eight times. She was covered in so many unspeakable substances, it got to be a running joke with the staff. She finally had to ask Michelle in peds to borrow a set of scrubs in her tiny size, since she'd used up everything surgical had. Her inner dark and twisty girl couldn't believe she was wearing pink scrubs. She earned two sneering faces next to one hysterically laughing face with lmao over its head on her inner score board.

Everyone kept up a tremendous pace through the night with multiple car accidents in the Pit, and post-ops on surgical going sour one after the other. Meredith raced from one situation to the next, sometimes handling two patients coding at the same time. The whole time she had to remember to keep a sharp eye on Igawa. He couldn't afford another setback. She breathed a sigh of relief as dawn and the day shift approached.

ooo

"What is going on?" Burke asked Shepherd.

"I have no idea," Shepherd shrugged, irritated. He'd planned on fishing at dawn, not having a meeting in the Chief's office instead.

"This is just too early to be up. I hated this when I was an intern." Montgomery-Shepherd commented dryly, "In fact, I'm fairly sure I hate it now."

Baker burst into the room, irascible as always when not concentrating directly on a surgery. The others sighed and thought it was a good thing he'd be retiring in a few months.

Two other department heads slouched in chairs directly across from the Chief's desk. One propped his head on his hand and closed his eyes, almost asleep. Wide awake next to them sat Miranda Bailey, checking her watch every few minutes. She muttered under her breath about rounds and her interns.

The Chief entered his office with his personal assistant, Patricia. She carried a stack of faxes, reports and letters. His eyebrows were drawn together and his eyes had a flinty glare. Patricia's face was empty of her normal good humor. That more than anything made the attendings sit up.

"What the hell is going on in my Surgical?" He questioned them abruptly, "I come in to check on things after Adele has made me take vacation for a few days, and what do I find?" he didn't wait for them to figure out what to say, but grabbed the faxes and threw them in front of his best surgeons. They could read names like Cedars-Sinai, Cornell, Johns-Hopkins and Harvard.

Derek picked up a fax and read, "'We would be pleased to accept Dr. Meredith Rochelle Harrington Grey's transfer into our surgical internship as soon as you release her from your contract. We would also like a letter stating that she is currently in good standing and the number of hours she has accrued in your program.' What the hell is this!?" His voice rose. He couldn't believe how panicked he felt. Meredith couldn't leave. He was barely hanging on now. What if he never saw her again?

Burke pushed his squared glasses up his nose and picked up two more. They said essentially the same thing. His eyebrows climbed his forehead. So this was the problem with Cristina. Even for her, she'd been taciturn and short this week.

Dr. Bailey nodded to herself and sat back. She'd wondered how long it would take Grey to act. Interesting that this was the form she chose.

"That's not all," said Patricia, "This was also submitted." She plopped a type written letter in front of them. Derek's heart lurched at the sight of Meredith's signature, "It's a request for release of contract by first year intern Dr. Meredith Grey."

"I want to know why Ellis Grey's little girl is asking to LEAVE MY PROGRAM!" the Chief's voice tripled in volume.

"Richard, maybe it's for the best," Addison said. Derek turned and glared daggers at her, "I'm just saying these are all great programs. I wonder how she managed it."

"No, Addie, it's not! I won't let you and Shepherd drive away Ellis Grey's daughter! No matter how important you think you are, Ellis Grey trumps you. I've known her little girl since she was born! I used to change her diapers. I was her 'Uncle Richard' until she was five years old! You realize if Dr. Grey travels across the country she'll be moving Ellis across the country! NOT GOOD! Whatever you two are doing to my...," He reined in his temper deliberately, "Whatever you two are doing to force Dr. Grey out, it has got to stop! Now! Don't push me on this."

"Richard, we haven't...," Addison started but was interrupted by Baker.

Dr. Baker demanded, "This is why we're here before dawn on New Year's Day? Because an incompetent first year quits? Who cares!?"

Before Derek or the Chief could object, Dr. Bailey stood up and faced Dr. Baker, "You should care, Dr. Baker. That girl managed to save a doctor's life, one of your plastic surgeons, while you did everything you could to stop her. How dare you continue to criticize her when your own competency on this matter should be called into question!"

"Miranda!" Addison gasped.

"I have to agree with Dr. Bailey about Monahan, Baker. I think you owe Dr. Grey a public apology," the Chief growled. He turned to Dr. Bailey and said, "How is Dr. Grey's work performance?"

Dr. Bailey looked at the Chief as Dr. Baker gasped and spluttered objections, "Grey's work has been exemplary. She handles the patients and their families with compassion without getting too familiar. They ask for her by name."

"She instinctively seems to know when to stand her ground on an issue, like Monahan, when no one else agrees. Most of the time she's right."

"She's a leader. She has unconsciously assembled support staff as a team working with her from every possible group in the hospital," Bailey went on, "For example, Grey can always get her lab results and films hours earlier than any other intern. She manages to multi task and coordinate among the OR, the Pit and the Floor smoothly. She's become so adept, it looks effortless. She never slacks and she never complains to me about anything – even about the unfounded damaging accusations Hart made in front of you the other day, sir."

The Chief looked with unfriendly eyes at Baker, and then glared at everyone, "You asked why this is important. Besides the fact that Dr. Grey is an 'exemplary' doctor, and the fact that her mother is a close friend of mine, Dr. Grey is a Harrington Grey, daughter and granddaughter of some of the biggest pioneers in our field. I don't want our program to get a black eye from losing such an important potential surgeon. She is fourth generation!"

"Chief, don't forget these," Patricia laid the last batch of papers on the table.

They all picked one up. Baker's voice was a thin, high screech, "What? What is the meaning of this?"

Each paper was a letter condemning the slanderous, abusive attacks on Dr. Grey. Some were from patients, some from patient's families, and some were from her colleagues, notably high ranking nursing staff. There was even one there signed by an entire Fire Department Engine Company led by Captain Brewer.

The Chief became incensed anew looking at the letters. "Legal says Dr. Grey has a potential law suit, people! This is an ugly situation. You are responsible for your surgeons and your staff. Slanderous persecution can not continue in my Surgery!"

One of the slouchy attendings started to say something and then subsided at the Chief's slitty eyed look.

"Meredith has been very despondent for obvious reasons," Bailey nodded towards Derek and Addison, "She's also put in way too many hours recently, because of the flu outbreak among the staff. I discovered it when I signed the hours log last night. So all of that is on top of the gossip problem and holiday season."

"I don't care what you all have to do," the Chief stated grimly at that, displeased with the Shepherds, "I want this fixed. I want it fixed now! I want Meredith Grey to stay at Seattle Grace! Take care of it."

ooo

Bailey's interns waited for her at the main surgical nurses' station. Once again it buzzed with activity. RNs and LVNs, lab techs and surgical techs, interns and residents, personnel coming on duty and personnel going off duty all intermingled in and out of the station. Meredith frantically worked over charts posting notes and updating as much as she could. She'd had almost no time to keep up the paperwork in the night.

Her friends were teasing her unmercifully over the pink scrubs when three fire fighters approached, coming from Igawa's room. Captain Brewer cleared his throat. His men stood behind him, one on each side, "Dr. Grey, we just wanted to..."

Dr. Michelle Wang frantically called to Meredith from the elevator, "Meredith, help me find Mattie, he's escaped again!" She started looking all over surgical for a precocious five year old involved in a car crash last night. He kept trying to find his mom on the surgical floor. He shouldn't be up, and his mom was still unconscious, post operative. But Mattie wouldn't wait. Meredith and Michelle had already had to track him down once before. Bailey's interns spread out calling for Mattie. They didn't have far to go as it turned out. Meredith caught sight of a pajama clad foot peeping out from under the charts table. She caught the others attention and pointed down.

They surrounded the table and Meredith said coaxingly, "Mattie, it's Dr. Grey. Peekaboo. It's time to come out," the tiny foot disappeared deeper under the cart.

Michelle sighed and looked at Meredith over her pregnant tummy, "Would you mind doing the honors?" she asked.

"No problem," Everyone grinned as Meredith stretched out full length on her stomach and slid half way under the table to grab the little boy. She had to shimmy herself backwards once she had him. Even Captain Brewer smiled at the rescue operation. She'd drawn the child out and was standing when a comment in the crowd rang out.

"Look at her, at it again, laying like a rug, in pink scrubs," the voice was unmistakably Hart's, "I heard she couldn't make it in surgical, so now she's ped's problem? Figures she'd join the peds pros."

Unfortunately for Hart, quiet had just fallen on the busy scene as everyone looked curiously at the extremely unusual site of Dr. Webber and five department heads, along with Bailey and Patricia descending the stairs at 5:00 in the morning, every face grim. Everyone heard the ugly remark. Derek's face hardened to an angry mask. Addison looked at him and then at Meredith. She sighed, she didn't want Derek to feel he had to defend the girl. That put them way too close to each other.

Michelle gasped and turned, a hand on her pregnant belly, "What did you just say? About peds and Dr. Grey? Meredith is this how people are allowed to speak to you here? No wonder you are thinking of leaving."

Meredith spoke up, "No, no one should speak like this. It's unprofessional. Dr. Hart, if the old saying 'what you don't know, can't hurt you' is true, you must be practically invulnerable."

"Yes, Dr. Grey, I agree – completely unprofessional. My apologies for this or any other similar unprofessional act on the part of my resident. And no Dr. Wang, it's not allowed," said Burke, his face promising retribution for Hart, "Dr. Hart, a sharp tongue is no indication of a keen mind." Several interns and residents gasped at Dr. Burke apologizing. That just didn't happen. Hart and her friends froze, red-faced, busted.

George suggested, "Dr. Wang maybe you should take Mattie back to peds now." Michelle hurriedly gathered herself and swept her little patient away. Noise and movement recommenced gradually at the station. Webber's group joined the interns and residents in front of it.

"You have all been warned more than once. Now we have written complaints. I expect all of you in my office this afternoon at 1:00 to discuss entries on your permanent records, punitive steps and legal ramifications of defamation. Dr. Bailey, it seems my residents require remedial training. What do you have for them?"

Bailey's interns stared at each other shocked. Bailey shrugged, "The usual, Dr. Burke, rectals, stitches, charts, projectile vomiting, oozing bed sores, explosive diarrhea."

Dr. Burke looked at Hart and her crew, "You are Dr. Bailey's interns on scut for the next two weeks. It was her intern you undermined. It is her choice." He raised his hand when they started to protest, "It is either that or you are suspended without pay, not just for this latest attack, but for two months of an aggravated campaign of gossip and slander."

Captain Brewer shook Dr. Burke's hand. "Thank you, sir. It has been very troubling to me and my men to see a fine, hardworking person like Dr. Grey hurt. Is one of you Dr. Webber?" he asked the crowd of attendings. Meredith's eyes filled with tears as she realized they hadn't bought Hart's cruel remarks.

"I'm Webber," said the Chief. Burke's pager called him away and the two slouchy department heads left for their beds as they'd been in surgery all night on the car crashes.

"We want you and Dr. Grey to know how highly Engine Company Nine regards her. She has been instrumental four times in saving the lives and health of my men. Without her care this last week, I don't think Igawa would have survived. I have submitted her name to our Chief for a special commendation from the Seattle Fire Department," he smiled at Meredith, "And the men have voted unanimously to invite you to the Thursday night poker game. You are the first civilian we've ever invited." Meredith's point on her inner board appeared wearing a firefighters helmet and grinning cheerfully.

"Oh, I'm honored, I'd love to come! Tell the men, thank you. May I bring an escort?" Meredith smiled a real smile at the three men. Derek felt the sun had finally come out from behind a dark cloud. At the firefighters' bemused nods followed by their looks at all the handsome doctors standing around, Meredith turned to the janitor. She asked Mr. Sandage, who'd been emptying a trash can at the nurses' station for ten minutes, "Would you like to be my date, Mr. Sandage, to a poker game?"

The old man had been invisible to that point. Suddenly, all eyes focused on him. "I'd be honored Dr. Grey." He smiled proudly and the once handsome face of his youth shone through his age.

The firemen left without another look at Hart. Being a Nordic beauty she wasn't accustomed to being ignored by handsome men. It inflamed her that Grey was getting the attention again. Everyone saved lives at Seattle Grace. She wasn't special.

"It's not slander if it's true!" Hart said belatedly to Webber, desperate now, panicked at being brought to task so firmly, "Everyone knows Grey slept with a married attending. Trying to get all the best surgeries, right?" she sneered.

Before Webber could speak Shepherd stepped forward, physically between Meredith and Hart. "Dr. Hart, neither my private life nor Dr. Grey's is any of your business. However, just in the interest of setting things straight, the truth is that my wife and I were separated with no intention of reconciling when Dr. Grey and I met, outside this hospital, before she started working here. We had no idea I would be her boss. The vicious assumptions you made are completely false."

Derek heaved a sigh, "Meredith wasn't with me because she wanted anything from me professionally." He looked at Meredith with melting eyes for a moment. Then he looked at Bailey's interns, his colleagues and finally his reconciled wife. He said very sadly, "We were in love."

Meredith's black and grey world exploded with color. Derek was actually stating in public that he'd loved her. He hadn't misled her deliberately. Hardened hurt started dissolving. No matter what else happened the sun of his love would always shine on her. He loved her.

Maybe, a voice whispered in the back of Meredith's mind, it won't work out for them. Maybe there is still a chance.

For Meredith, who was used to living on tiny crumbs, this was a large scrap of hope. He loved her. Her starved heart filled with joy. Her very cells brightened with light energy. Her inner scoreboard lit up like a pinball machine scoring mega triple points. Heart shaped smiley faces danced with each other.

"We fell in love with each other. Our relationship was important. It wasn't a fling or something tawdry. Meredith has supported me in my decision to accept my wife back, to try again. It makes me incredibly disappointed that all this has been used against Meredith, who has been blameless from the start. I'm sorry, Meredith, for everything." He took her hand and brushed his lips over her knuckles. Once again people gasped as an attending apologized to a first year. Meredith's whole body clenched at the touch of his lips. OMG said the swooning points on her board.

"Doctors you're dismissed," Derek said to Hart and her cronies.

Addison stepped forward in her Claudia Ciuti pumps. She started to say something at the same moment Mr. Sandage lifted a large wet mop into his service cart. The mop somehow slipped from his hands and slapped her soddenly across the face. Then it squishily fell, covering her entire left foot, destroying her pump.

That was better than a bear eating it! Oh my God! Meredith thought, watching Mr. Sandage closely, she just loved that old man. Was that an accident or on purpose? Mmm.

The incident completely broke the strange tableau that had formed at the station. Mr. Sandage abjectly apologized to Dr. Montgomery-Shepherd, while everyone from the Chief to nurse's aides tried not to laugh in her face. Derek hid a smile. She left as quickly as she could. For Meredith, it was a complete revelation to see the She-Shepherd not so perfect after all.

Everyone started dispersing in different directions. Dr. Bailey requested a fellow resident take her interns on rounds.

Dr. Webber instructed, "Not you Dr. Grey, please come to the conference room with Dr. Bailey, Dr. Baker, Dr. Shepherd and myself."

"Dr. Bailey, Dr. Webber, if this is about Mer leaving, we should be there too," said Dr. Yang, speaking for the first time in ages.

"I agree," said Izzie. "We have input we haven't been allowed to voice."

"Cristina's right, sir. This affects us all." George supplied.

Alex nodded silently and stood with Mer. Webber shrugged and left it up to Bailey. She looked consideringly at all of them. Abruptly she nodded.

Before they could get there, Nurse Tyler approached Dr. Grey. "Nurse Debbie thought you could use these. She had me get them from the laundry for you. She said you might be tired of pink." He handed her eight sets of fresh blue scrubs complete with undershirts. Dr. Grey smiled and waved thanks to Debbie. Debbie smiled back. Everyone stopped and stared until her face dropped into its habitual scowl.

Two paces later the lab tech, Tommy, delivered a huge stack of labs along with a specialty coffee to Grey, "Mickey wondered why you didn't stop by. He thought you might need these. He told me to tell you to give him a call if you need anything else. He also said it's a new year and you should reconsider leaving us."

Once again Meredith was overwhelmed by everyone's kindness. She wasn't numb to the good now and the bad wasn't so bad. The other doctors couldn't believe that the lab had actually come to Meredith instead of her having to go to the lab. George and Izzie looked at Meredith with new found respect.

Everyone sat around a large conference table. The Chief cleared his throat and said, "Dr. Baker, I believe you have something to say to Grey."

Dr. Baker's face turned puce and wore an expression as sour as a lemon. He quickly and resentfully apologized to Meredith. The Chief dismissed him.

"Dr. Grey, I have no intention of releasing you from your contract with Seattle Grace Surgical," the Chief stated unequivocally, "You are turning into a top notch doctor and I won't let you go without a fight." He tore her resignation in two.

"Chief?" Meredith was stunned. She hadn't anticipated that they'd want to keep her.

"Meredith, what were you thinking?" Derek asked softly. He was still so in love with her. He heaved a breath and promised himself that if this feeling didn't subside with time he'd throw propriety to the wind and leave Addison. He hoped he wouldn't be too late with Mer.

"I thought it would be better for everyone, including me, if I left," she tried to explain.

"Humph," Bailey snorted, "You mean you weren't thinking. Who can think on two hundred fifty hours in sixteen days? You know the eighty hour limit, Grey. There's a reason for it. As of the end of this meeting you are off duty until the hours even out."

"Meredith, why didn't you ask us for help?" Cristina burst out, "Or take my phone calls?"

"Or even talk to us?" George asked stiffly, "For real."

"Or say no to extra hours?" Alex joined in.

"Or tell anyone how bad the gossip was?" Izzie shook her head, "Hart was unbelievable. How many others have there been?"

"I couldn't talk anymore. I...," Meredith was at a loss. She didn't really understand why they were all annoyed.

"Don't you get it, Mer? We're family." Izzie said.

"And if we're stupid and don't see what you need then you have to stand on top of us." Cristina was semi-apologizing.

"You don't get to just leave!" George declared, "You don't abandon us, we don't abandon you."

"Genie eyes, this place wouldn't be the same without you." Alex said, "So we're jerks sometimes. It doesn't mean we're not a team."

Dr. Bailey stood up, "Dr. Grey, if you need to leave this program, I'll tell you. Rest assured. Now, we have work to do. Doctors."

The Chief and Bailey swept out followed by the interns. Meredith and Derek sat together, alone in an empty conference room. We love each other sat between them. For a stolen moment they looked at the truth in each other's eyes. Both had a glimpse of the not too distant future.

Dr. Meredith Grey wasn't just surviving anymore. She was living and loving. She did have a team – a family. She had three great loves. And she had a place at Seattle Grace as – the Intern.

Epilogue: A tiny smiley face point of deep seated soul love from Meredith's inner score board leapt onto Derek's inner train, determined to switch his tracks into the right depot. The other deep soul love points smiled smugly in satisfaction.

Please be sure and review. I consider your review my payday and I love every one. sam