My City of Ruins
The title for this story is taken from the song "My City of Ruins" by Bruce Springsteen.
The title for this chapter is taken from a line in the song "Two Rooms at the End of the World" by Elton John
Disclaimer: I still don't own anything "Grey's"-related. I'm working on it.
Reviews would be bliss.
Chapter 14: Two Rooms at the End of the World
"Addison." Her eyes cracked open as she eyed Derek's silhouette hovering in the door to the study. She attempted to sit up, but a shot of pain lanced through her neck and back, punishing her for falling asleep on the hard, unforgiving window seat, her spine curved like a question mark. "Addison," he said again, squinting in the gray darkness of the pre-dawn.
"Hey," she replied, arching her back as her muscles screamed in protest. She could just make out his frown in the darkness and she smoothed a hand over her hair. "I didn't want to wake you."
His frown deepened. "You OK?"
She nodded. "Yeah," she added, in case the nonverbal gesture was lost to the shadows. "Fine. Just restless." His expression was dubious. How much longer, she wondered, would they dance this dance?
He leaned against the doorjamb, his muscular arms folded across his bare chest, his bare toes curling against the cold wood floor. He visibly shivered, his cotton boxers offering little warmth against the chill of the night. His dark hair stood out from his head in a million different directions, teased by her hands and matted by his pillow. He regarded her for a moment before glancing around the room. She could see him turning words over in his head, and she waited for him to try once again to penetrate the wall of detachment she had built with every assertion that she was "fine." He was silent for a moment longer before allowing his gaze to trail from the walls to her face. "So I was thinking," he began, shifting his weight and uncrossing his arms to run a hand through his unruly hair. "This would be a good nursery."
She frowned slightly, surprised at the unexpected subject. "What?"
The hand that had been running through his hair extended and gestured around the dim room. "This room. I was thinking it would make a good nursery. It's a good size, and it's right across the hall from us." He paused, gauging her reaction. She was gazing around the room, her brow creased slightly as she did so, the concept of a nursery clearly one that she hadn't even considered.
"We would have to paint it," she said after a moment, but it wasn't an argument against the idea; simply a comment.
"That's doable," he replied, aiming for encouragement without pressure.
She nodded slightly, glancing around the room for a moment before meeting his eye, grateful that he had avoided pointing out the oddity of finding her curled up in a ball against the large bay window before the sun had risen. She turned slowly, letting her legs hang off the seat and curling her toes as they met the cool floor. After a moment, she let her heels thump gently against the wood paneling that was the front of the bench seat. "Toy box?" she suggested as the hollow thud echoed through the room.
He nodded in response, his excitement at her input almost tangible. She felt her stomach clench – had he always been this easy to please, or had life with her during the past two weeks truly been that difficult? "Definitely," he said.
She could feel him studying her in the gradually increasing light as night gave way to morning. She nodded again, feeling suddenly, tragically inept at verbal communication. He regarded her for a moment before filling the void of silence, and she wondered if her discomfort were that tangible, or if he knew her that well, or if they had simply gotten used to filling each other's silences when silence was too heavy to bear. "I was actually thinking… maybe… baby shopping."
She frowned. "Today?"
He nodded. "I don't have anything planned, apart from jogging with Mark at 7. I thought if you wanted, we could make a day of it."
She arched an eyebrow as she considered this – once upon a time, it would have been something they needed to schedule. It would have been something they had each written on their calendars, crossed out, erased, and rewritten a few times over as surgeries, consults, appointments and procedures wreaked havoc on their personal schedules. Now, though, their sudden freedom from work had given them the time that they had once craved. She could almost laugh at the irony. She couldn't work and Derek didn't seem interested in it. Outside of two consults he had done in the past week as favors to fellow physicians, he hadn't gone near the office in two weeks by choice. She craved the normalcy of her workday, but couldn't practice medicine until she had been cleared to do so. He was staring at her intently, awaiting her response. She shrugged. "OK."
He nodded, a blend of pleasure and relief washing across his features. "OK." He glanced at the clock on the wall to his left. 6:10. "Want some coffee?"
She shook her head slightly as she rose from the bench seat, stretching as she stepped toward him and placed a chaste kiss to his lips. "I think I'm just going to hop in the shower."
He encircled her loosely in his arms, resting his folded hands at the small of her back as a playful smile pulled at his lips. "Want company?"
She matched his smirk. "You forget – I've seen you run with Mark. I think you should probably save your energy."
He mock-grimaced. "Ouch."
Her smile widened as she repeated his earlier kiss and pulled back to look into his face. "How far you going?"
"Probably just twice around the Reservoir. Shouldn't take longer than half an hour, with the time there and back. I can grab some bagels on the way back, if you want, so you can have breakfast while I shower and change."
She nodded as she disentangled herself from his grasp. "Make sure you get some of the veggie cream cheese, too."
"How could I forget?" he teased, releasing her and following her from the room.
"Hey man," Mark greeted as he released his ankle and grabbed the other one, stretching his quad muscle as he nodded at his approaching friend. The red of his Nike t-shirt was bright in the early morning sun; his black Adidas track pants were unzipped at the ankles. "On time for once."
"Look who's talking," Derek retorted, dropping to one knee to retie one of his running shoes. He looked like an inverted image of his friend; his black Under Armour shirt hugged his muscled chest while the faded red of his sweatpants paled in comparison to the crimson of Mark's shirt. "Twice around?" he asked as he straightened.
"Sounds good," Mark replied, hooking one of his sport headphones around his ear and tucking the other one inside his shirt, dropping a small, rectangular device into the pocket of his pants.
"What the hell is that thing?" Derek asked, grabbing his own ankle as he stretched his quad.
Mark retrieved the gadget and held it up for Derek's inspection. "It's called an iPod. Apple's new mp3 player… Joanie gave it to me to try it out," he added, referring to one of the women he had been dating in the past month, who held a considerably high-up position with Apple. "They're being launched next month, she said. Pretty cool," he added, fiddling with the click wheel as Derek shrugged.
"If you say so."
Mark smirked. "I know. You have enough trouble using your cell phone without having to worry about recreational technology."
"Whatever." Derek released his leg and rolled his neck, hopping up and down twice as he raised his eyebrows. "Ready?"
"Ready," Mark confirmed, returning the iPod to his pocket and falling into step beside his friend as they set a steady pace. They jogged in silence for a few minutes, each feeling their muscles loosen and warm as they passed an older man walking a small dog and a pair of forty-something women power walking in unison. "You coming into the office at all today?" Mark asked, his voice still steady and even, breathlessness not having yet worked its way in.
"Nope," Derek replied as they passed a youngish woman pushing a stroller with giant wheels, her jog a much slower gait than theirs. "Going baby shopping."
"Oh yeah?" Mark sounded pleased by this announcement. "Good for you guys. That'll be good for her."
"Yeah." They fell into silence for a moment before Derek filled it once again. "I'd invite you, but I figured it wouldn't exactly be your idea of a good time."
Mark chuckled beside him. "Yeah. Thanks, man. I'm headed into the office, anyway. Someone's gotta keep the ball rolling."
Derek tried to quell the wave of guilt that rose within him, knowing that Mark's jest had been good-natured. "I know. I owe you for this."
"Nah," Mark replied, adjusting and re-securing the headphone around his ear. "I've got it covered. You just… worry about Addison." Derek was silent for a moment, considering the consequences of admitting what had happened the night before, but ultimately knowing that he would, as he always did, confide in Mark. His friend, however, picked up on the inner debate and extended the invitation before he had the chance. "She doing OK?"
"OK," Derek repeated after a moment. It was the closest he could come to accurately describing his wife's state of mind. "She was kind of freaked out last night." In his periphery, he could see Mark nod.
"Yeah, I wondered if all that ceremonial stuff might upset her."
"It didn't," Derek replied. "It upset me." Mark's silence told Derek he was waiting for an explanation. "It was just… too much. I mean, it's like, we know what happened. We can hardly think about anything but what happened. But people are determined to force us to think about it over and over again." He shook his head. "Anyway, I said I thought it was excessive, and she didn't really appreciate that."
"You guys have a fight?"
"Not really," Derek replied, wiping a bead of sweat away from his temple with the neck of his t-shirt. "Just… an obstacle. We talked. It's fine. Just… I forget, sometimes, how different it feels for me and for her. Like, I get it. On a purely intellectual level. But emotionally… I guess I just don't have a clue. Not really."
For once, Mark didn't have a response, and the two men fell into a comfortable silence as they passed one of the three ornamental stone gatehouses that adorned the shore of the reservoir. "Have you thought about maybe a week in the Hamptons? I know it's not your idea of paradise, but Addie loves it up there."
"I did," Derek replied, breathlessness beginning to tinge the edges of his voice. "But she's craving 'normal.' She wants things to feel normal again – I can't imagine she'd really feel up to making the trip up there just to sit around. I think the sitting around is part of what's driving her nuts."
"Makes sense," Mark agreed, his own voice slightly winded.
"OK, enough," Derek said a moment later. "What about you? What's new?"
"Not much," Mark admitted, retrieving the iPod from his pocket and clicking something on the wheel.
"I was surprised you didn't fill the fourth seat last night," Derek said, only slightly joking. "Is the ocean of Sloane charm finally drying up on you?"
"Hardly," his friend replied, dropping the iPod back into his pocket. "I just… didn't feel like bringing anyone." Derek allowed his silence to convey his skepticism as he raised his arm to wipe his brow on the shoulder of his shirt. Mark was quiet for a moment before his voice returned to the serious tone it had had when they were talking about Addison. "I just… it's getting old, y'know? Chasing tail, and whatever else. I just…" He faltered, wiping his own brow with his hand and then rubbing the hand against the thigh of his pants. "I would have traded places with her, y'know? With Addison. To give her back to you. I would have gladly traded places with her, I remember thinking. Because you need her. And she needs you." He paused, hoping his admission wasn't burdening his friend with too many painful memories. Jogging had always served as a kind of neutralizer for the two – it was unnecessary to make eye contact, to have any physical contact, to make sure the conversation flowed when the guise of exercise existed as a cushion. Any awkward silence could be attributed to catching one's breath, and admissions and confidences seemed somehow easier to reveal when their bodies were active. The jogging ritual had lent itself to many a sensitive conversation in the past. "And besides," he continued, "I remember thinking… who would really miss me?" He didn't allow Derek to interrupt with an argument, as he knew he would. "Besides you and Addie, I mean. But when it comes down to it, you guys are a family. And you're about to be an even bigger family. You need each other. I'm just kind of… on the periphery." He tried to keep his voice neutral. "Nobody really needs me. Not like that. And that's my own fault… I haven't really ever wanted that. But now… I think maybe now that's changing. Things are going to be different. You guys are becoming a family. It's not going to be all fancy dinners, clubs, Yankee games for the three of us anymore. Things are going to change. And that's great – you know I'm pumped for you guys. It's just… I'm realizing that I can't just hang on as the third wheel anymore." He paused. "I want to know there's someone who would miss me. That might be some screwed up logic, but it's the truth."
Derek glanced at his friend before returning his gaze to the path that stretched out ahead of them. "It's not screwed up," he assured him. "Not screwed up at all."
They eased back into silence as they continued their trek around the reservoir, neither one realizing that their breathing was as in sync as their steps.
"OK," Derek said as he entered the kitchen, his wet hair curling at his neck and hanging over his forehead. "So, I was thinking… we cab it over to Barneys, then walk up Madison to Jacadi on 67th, then walk across to Pottery Barn Kids on 69th and Second. That Giggle place is on Lexington and 74th, too, if you wanted to check it out. I remember Sav saying something about her sister's baby registry being almost entirely from there." Addison stared at him from her place at the table, a small smear of veggie cream cheese gracing her top lip and a half-eaten bagel in her hand, hovering halfway to her open mouth. He frowned, suddenly apprehensive. "What?" His hair was long enough that the collar of his crisp blue dress shirt was damp; it was untucked over his faded jeans and the cuffs were rolled up to just below his elbows. Her favorite look. She lowered her bagel.
"Jacadi?" She could have sworn she saw him blush at the mention of the fancy French children's boutique.
He tried to appear nonchalant. "Today Show. They were doing something on baby stuff last week. I made a note of some of the places they mentioned." He shrugged. "Reese Witherspoon bought baby stuff there," he finished lamely.
She tried to keep her smile small to avoid adding to his embarrassment. "OK. Well, it sounds like you've got it all figured out. You can lead the way." She took another bite of her bagel as Derek watched her from where he was leaning against the counter. Addison licked the residual cream cheese from her lip as she extended the last bite toward him. He stepped forward and leaned in, capturing it in his mouth and grinning. "'S better toasted," he said from around the mouthful.
She shook her head as she brushed the crumbs from her fingertips. "Not a chance." The small smile died on her lips as she had a sudden flashback to two weeks ago, when she had shared her bagel with Mark on the subway. Derek swallowed the end of her breakfast as he frowned down at her, picking up on her sudden change in mood.
"Hm?" She looked up at him. "Oh. Nothing. Just… déjà vu. You ready?"
"Yep." He patted the worn denim of the rear pocket of his jeans. "Got the plastic. You ready to do some damage?"
"At Barney's? You bet." She forced a smile around the sudden lump that had formed in her throat as she rose from the table, crumpling the napkin in her right hand and grabbing her empty juice glass in her left.
He grinned. "I figured. Cab's on its way."
"OK. I'll get my purse." She dropped the napkin in the trashcan and deposited her glass in the sink before climbing the stairs to retrieve her purse from the bedroom. As she entered, she spotted her black Prada handbag on the dresser. She walked toward it, pulling it open to check for her wallet and sunglasses. She retrieved her cell phone from its charger beside it and dropped it into the pocket inside the lining as her gaze lifted and she was faced with her own reflection. The line from where Derek had removed her stitches was healing well; she probably wouldn't have much of a scar at all. The bruises had faded to nearly nothing; she looked almost normal.
She cast a sardonic smile at her own reflection. Normal. There was that word again.
She heard Derek call her from the foot of the stairs, alerting her that the cab had arrived. She glanced once more into the mirror before grabbing her purse from the sleek mahogany surface of the dresser and slinging it over her shoulder.
"Thanks," Derek said as he passed the cab fare through the partition between the front and back seats before sliding across the backseat and stepping out onto the curb of Madison Avenue. Despite the fact that it was 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, the sidewalks were milling with people. Addison glanced up at the familiar façade of the department store. So familiar, despite the current state of the city. So different, despite its complete lack of alteration. "Ready?" She turned to face her husband, who had grasped her hand gently in his, and she could see her reflection in his sunglasses, in the same way she had learned over the years that she could glimpse herself in his eyes.
"Ready," she affirmed as they approached the front doors of the store. She pushed her Marc Jacobs sunglasses to the top of her head as the red overhang shielded them from the bright autumn sun and stepped into the cool air-conditioned store that had once been her hallowed ground. She realized, suddenly, that for all the hours she had spent within its walls, she really had no clue where the children's department was. She glanced at Derek, whose face was a blank slate, waiting for her to lead the way. She offered him a nervous smile as she flagged down an employee and asked for direction.
Twenty minutes later, they were exiting the store with a soft yellow cashmere receiving blanket and a designer diaper bag that Derek had mistaken for an oversized purse. The fact that the two items had cost more than he had paid in rent per month during his med school years was an observation he opted to keep to himself. They had realized, belatedly, that there wasn't much they could do by way of nursery decorating until they had the furniture figured out, and therefore had opted to bypass the French children's boutique in favor of Pottery Barn Kids, in hopes that a crib and other nursery furniture would make their way into the picture. They walked the nine blocks north in relative silence and made their way east toward Second Avenue. As they approached the shop, Addison found herself picturing the study that they had rarely used for reasons outside of work-related reading.
"We'll need to paint it," she reiterated suddenly, as they joined a crowd at the corner, waiting for the light to give them permission to cross the street.
"Right," Derek agreed.
In her mind's eye she could see the cream-colored walls and the rich mahogany furniture, which matched the rest of the furniture they had chosen for their home. "I'm thinking white," she said after a moment. "With a border of some sort." If he was nodding, she didn't notice. "We can't do pink or blue paint without knowing, and I think green or yellow would just be annoying. Not to mention hard to decorate around."
"White's good," Derek said as the light turned and he stepped off the curb, Addison's hand in his left hand and the Barneys bag in his right. She let him lead her, her mind still back in their brownstone, already redecorating the small room across the hall from theirs.
"This one's nice," Derek said, his hand resting on a mahogany crib that looked like it had been designed in the same style as their own king-sized sleigh bed. She nodded noncommittally, glancing at the piece of furniture briefly before her eyes returned to roaming around the furniture area. Her gaze fell on a similarly shaped crib in white on the far side of the floor.
"That one," she said, pointing and then weaving her way through the various cribs to the one that had caught her eye. She drew to a halt beside it, placing her hand on the cool white wood and running it along the rail. "This one," she said again, this time to herself.
"Nice," Derek said as he drew up beside her, gazing into the empty crib. "More white, though? Are we going for the institutional look?"
She glanced at him quickly, noting the small smile on his lips before returning her focus to the piece of furniture before them. "I just want… bright. Light. We can do color with the linens, the décor, the border… but I want… light."
He nodded, clapping his hand onto the rail of the crib. "Light it is," he said, glancing around the floor in search of a sales associate to help them. "I sure hope they ship. I love you, and I love our child, but there's no way in hell I'm schlepping this thing across town."
Addison laughed, and she felt his eyes trail over her briefly before returning to surveying the floor. "OK. Well, let's do some more shopping and come back to the crib bit when we find someone to help us." She nodded and wandered to another section, letting her hand trail over a white changing table and a matching dresser. The nursery was beginning to take shape in her mind – a haven of light and sunshine, airy and happy. She had always favored dark, rich textures and colors – deep browns in furniture and rugs, dark picture frames, warm reds, oranges and browns in fabrics. But now, picturing the room her child would fall asleep and wake up in, she wanted something different.
Addison could feel herself latching on to the newness of the room in her mind's eye; this space would be a sanctuary, a welcome change from the way things had always been. It would be different, but not for the reason everything else was different. It would be a change for a good reason, a change she had made consciously.
She lowered herself into an overstuffed glider the color of a clear blue sky and propped her heeled feet up on the matching ottoman. She ran her hand gently over the arm of the chair, the blue fabric incredibly similar to the hue of her husband's eyes. She closed her eyes, letting her head fall back against the soft cushion as she rocked gently back and forth, a mental image of bright sunlight bouncing off walls warming her from the inside. She pictured a beach theme, with boats and seashells dotting the room, dolphins and starfish smiling down at her child from a mobile above the crib. As she rocked, she found she could already picture herself in this new room, this new life – one that she had chosen, instead of one she had been thrust into.
Spring will return to the meadow
When the long winter's chill fades away
Tomorrow, the blossoms will open their eyes
To the skies of a brand new day
No matter how dark be the nightfall,
Each day the sun is reborn
To shine on the beauties and wonders
That stir with new life every glorious morn