The Nine Parts of Desire

The title for this story is taken from the book "The Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women" by Geraldine Brooks.

Disclaimer: In the words of the great Phoebe Buffay: "Not-not-mine, not-not-mine, not-not-mine."

Epilogue: Cravings

OK. I spent the last nine months making fun of Meredith's cravings. I poked fun at her peanut butter needs, joked about her weird nail polish fetish, even got so bold as to tease her about the sex.

But now I, Derek Shepherd, am having some pretty wicked cravings of my own. And they all have to do with the tiny, 7-pound, 6-ounce wriggling bundle of soft baby flesh lying in the crib in front of me.

For a week now, I've been the proud father of a beautiful baby girl. A baby girl that I literally can't stop looking at, touching, smelling. A baby girl who, if it's possible, already has me more besotted than her mother.

From the first moment she was born, my daughter had me completely head over heels. Her cry was the most amazing thing I'd ever heard, and the first time she opened her eyes and looked up at me, I felt something inside me solidify in a way that made me feel more permanent than anything ever had. You see, I thought I understood the concept of forever when I married Addison. We were arguably pretty young – in our twenties – and we made each other promises of forever. When our marriage ended, we retracted those promises, implying that eternity was somehow flexible. With Meredith, I made the same promise – and this time, having seen what a promise of forever does when it's broken, I was absolutely certain that it was going to stick. And I can honestly say that with Meredith, anything less than forever just isn't a possibility. I will love her until the day I die, and then some more after that.

But when I looked down at my daughter, I understood in a deep, primal, concrete way just what forever meant. Because, from this day forward, I will be a father. Regardless of what happens in my life, or my daughter's, I will forever be half of the equation that created this little person. I will forever be her dad – something no one else in the world will ever be able to say. And, while the thought generates a certain degree of terror, it also makes me understand the bigger picture a little bit better.

Because all of the drama of my life? The dead father, the overbearing sisters, the failed marriage, the turbulent start to my life with Meredith… it all fades away. Not that it wasn't important, but somehow it all fades into the background, eclipsed by this tiny person swaddled in a pink blanket.

So this, right here, this is my craving.

It's 2:30 in the morning. Meredith, still exhausted from giving birth and equally fatigued from breast-feeding, is out like a light in our bedroom, and I'm sitting here, next to my little girl's crib, watching her gaze up at me. In a few minutes, she'll probably cry to be fed, but for now she's just looking up at me, and already I can see in her eyes that she trusts me. To love her. To take care of her. To give her everything she needs, and a hundred times more. Those eyes that opened for the first time mere days ago already understand that I will lay my life down for her – a concept that she can't possibly grasp, but that she somehow instinctively seems to know.

I stare at her, and I am besieged by flashes of the things that stretch out ahead of us: First smiles. First steps. First words. First days of school. First dates. First kisses. First heartaches. Birthdays. Proms. Graduations. Weddings. Snowmen. Sandcastles. School pictures.

I lean into the crib and gently lift her into my arms, settling her against my chest and sinking into the rocking recliner in the corner of the nursery. I can hear her breath catch in her throat slightly, as she decides whether or not to cry, before she sighs and settles her head right over my heart, glancing up into my face for a moment before her eyes fall closed again. I almost want to shift so that she'll open those blue-gray eyes again and gaze at me, but I don't, instead sitting still and listening to the soft lullaby of her peaceful, easy breathing. I rest my lips against the still-soft crown of her head, inhaling the baby scent that emanates from her skin.

And, for the first time in my life, I understand the meaning of the word forever.

So there it is. I crave my daughter. The smell of her skin. The sound of her cry. The soft butterfly flutter of her heartbeat. The velvet feel of her skin. The deep blue-gray of her eyes that I hope doesn't change. The feeling I get when I look at her, equal parts contentment, joy, and awe.

If Meredith's peanut butter fixes gave her half as much satisfaction as this, I'll never make fun of her again.


A/N: Thank you for reading, and thank you a hundred times over for all of the reviews. Given the amazing amount of positive feedback this piece has received, I am considering continuing it, although I will more than likely be doing so in a separate fic. I also have tentative plans for a third installment, if the second segment is well-received. Just so you know. :-)