Postcards from the Edge

The title for this story is taken from the song "Postcards from the Edge" by Contingency Plan.

Timeline: Set after "Some Kind of Miracle."
Disclaimer: Don't bother suing me. All I'm good for is about a billion books, a few chipped coffee mugs and seasons 1 and 2 of Grey's on DVD.

Prologue: Cape Cod

The blue ribbon of sky above the water here reminds me of your eyes.
It reminds me where home is.
Once I've found myself, I know where to come home to, Derek.
To you.

That was the message scrawled on the back of the first one he received after she left him. Three weeks and four days after, to be exact. He had come home, flipped through his mail, and seen the glossy postcard image of Cape Cod staring up at him from amid a stack of bills and junk mail.

He had stared at the blue-green stretch of sea against a gray New England sky for a full minute before flipping it over and reading her words. Then, he flipped it back over and tried to picture her strolling along the sandy stretches, gazing out toward the deep blue sea. The gray of the sky on the postcard, by contrast, reminded him of her eyes – stormy, unsettled, hinting at something brewing but not quite there yet. It had been what her eyes had looked like in the days before she left.

He had left the postcard on his fridge for three days before taking it down and burying it in the drawer of his nightstand, fishing it out only when the black emptiness of the night got too lonely and he needed something to make him feel closer to her. Some nights he slept with it beneath his pillow, hoping that it would conjure up dreams of her, dreams where she was still beside him, her hand resting on his chest.

I need to find myself, she had told him, months after he had pulled her from the dark depths of the Puget Sound and watched her slip away from him on the gurney before struggling back to the surface. I feel like I'm drowning here… I just need to figure some things out. He had nodded, said he understood. He had promised he'd be here, waiting, when she came back. I'll be back, she had promised. And he had believed her.

His heart couldn't afford not to.

She felt stifled. By the memories of a mother she didn't understand, a father she didn't know, and a future she wasn't sure of. By the pressure of being a doctor in a world dominated by expectations of Ellis Grey's daughter. By the relationship with a man who wanted all of her.

I can't give myself to you until I know what it is I'm giving, she told him, her eyes swimming with tears she was too stubborn to set free. I need to know who I am before I can let you love me.

The next morning, she was gone.

He tried to track her for two weeks, before realizing that if she didn't want to be found, he wouldn't find her. A week and four days later, the first postcard arrived.

He read it over and over, searching for the hidden meaning, seeking some clue as to when she'd be back, where she was staying, what she was doing. But her words, gentle and poetic as they were, gave him nothing. Nothing except a ray of hope that at once made him optimistic and desperate.

He stared at the picture on the front, the water stretching out and meeting the heavy sky, and he wondered if the water along the east coast was still as cold as it was in the Pacific Northwest. He wondered if the Atlantic current would feel anything like the frigid chill of the Puget Sound had felt, when he dove in after her. The way the icy cold penetrated his paper-thin scrubs and hit him like daggers, numbing him as plunged into the freezing depths. How the sudden cold robbed him of his breath, to the point where if he hadn't already been panicking, he would have started. He wondered if Meredith felt the cold edge of sorrow that he felt, if she had a numbness that had taken up residence where he used to be.

He wondered if it was any easier to be the one who left, rather than the one who was left behind.