The alarm pealed loudly, annoyingly, the shrill continuous beep beep beep beep startling the bed's occupant out of her sleep. Grumbling mild profanities, she reached for the source of her irritation and grudgingly sat up, giving herself a moment or two to shake the cobwebs out of her still-asleep mind.

When about ten percent of her 'perkiness' brain cells had received their charge, she lifted the covers and got out of bed. Covering a yawn with her hand, clad in her pink sleep pants and camisole top, she sluggishly made her way down the quiet hallway and mechanically reached to turn the knob of the bathroom door. She unconsciously frowned at the locked door, her clouded mind not capable of processing the obstacle to bladder relief. She twisted the knob again, getting more agitated and annoyed by the second, causing it to rattle.

"Mer," Izzie called out impatiently, the need to pee making her sound a bit grumpy. "Meredith, why the hell is the door locked? Since when do we lock the door? Meredith!"

Just as she started pounding on the door, she heard a yelp from inside then muffled hissing and excited panicky voices, and then her jaw dropped.

"Meredith Grey!!!! Is Alex in there with you?!?! Meredith!" she called out indignantly.

She faintly heard dull thumping sounds, then a series of muffled swear words, and then came the signature giggle of Meredith. When she heard the humor-laden 'I told you she was gonna catch us' scolding from her female roommate, Izzie stifled the urge to laugh; she was pleased about the way things were going for her two friends, but she needed to put my foot down, lay down the law! Yeah! This conviction gave her the impetus to speak rather authoritatively.

"Me-re-dith …" her indignant statement interrupted as she paused suddenly, her mouth frozen in a big O, her eyebrows furrowing in concentration. "Crap! It would help if I knew your middle name!!!"she said frustratedly. "Well, Meredith whatever-your-middle-name-is Grey! I trusted you!"

More muffled giggling. At Alex' muted 'let me handle this; she's a pushover', she scoffed and put her hands on her waist, her eyebrows raised haughtily in readiness for battle.

"Alex Karev! Who are you calling a pushover?!?!" She banged on the door to help stress her point. "You're in violation of rule number six … no sex in the shower in the mornings."

"But at least we observed rule number three," Alex said with a cheeky smirk, the abrupt opening of the door causing Izzie to jump back a foot when he got into her face. A towel riding low on his hip, water was still dripping from his torso when he gave her a playful smack on her arm, winking at her as he said mockingly, "we locked the door coz we were doing the nasty-nasty."

Izzie glared at him as he pushed past her, her eyes narrowing when he called back, "And we deserve points for being very quiet this time. That's two rules observed versus one rule broken!"

He sauntered off unhurriedly, his muscled back rippling as he walked towards his room. And all Izzie could do was stare at him agape.

"Nu-uh," Izzie quickly countered before Alex reached his door. "Rule number one … no walking around naked," she called out, waving her finger in the air in agitated excitement.

Alex' mocking laugh wafted back to her before she saw him smirk at her as he closed his bedroom door.

Scoffing in annoyance and frustration, she turned back to look at Meredith, who was standing sheepishly just inside the bathroom door, a hand clutching her robe securely in place. Flashing Izzie a guilty-yet-slightly-naughty smile, Meredith sidled past her to get to her room.

Izzie rolled her eyes and muttered under her breath. Accepting defeat, she stalked towards the bathroom.

"When I get out of the bathroom," she said loudly, "I better have breakfast waiting for me!"

x --------------- An hour later; SGH --------------- x

Meredith leaned forward, absently brushing aside the bangs that fell over her eyes with her right hand before it resumed its position on the steering wheel. Quickly calculating the distance between the cars that flanked her vehicle, she bit down on her lower lip in deep concentration as she maneuvered the jeep into the tight space, successfully managing to park her car without incident. She put the stick shift to neutral, engaged the handbrake and turned the ignition, and then inconspicuously glanced at the silent man to her right; he was staring unseeingly at something outside his window, his mouth set in a grim line.

She felt that pain in her chest once more … the tightening sensation she has begun to associate with Alex … the overwhelming rush of affection and surge of emotions. She recognized it for what it was immediately; after all, she'd been feeling it a lot lately, in the past 24 hours in fact. The only difference this time was that the panic -- -the urge to run --- that usually accompanied such rush of emotions was barely present. In its place was this yearning to reach out to him … to protect and comfort him.

And unlike the sadness and desolation that seemed to emanate from him last night, the grimness of his disposition at this moment appeared not to stem from within. She could see that this brooding, this melancholy, was unlike the 'battling of his demons' the night before. He wasn't fighting with himself or his past; it wasn't an inner struggle this time. This was more of his determination and persistence refusing to acknowledge that what he was fighting against was something he could not control. And the pain in her chest intensified in sympathy and concern.

She didn't like seeing him like this. A little over an hour ago, his eyes were gleaming with mischief and desire as he surprised her in the shower. Twenty minutes after that, he was happily whipping up some perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs and crispy bacon strips like a pro --- how the hell would I have known that the guy could cook?!?! And I served him freakin' cereals for breakfast, and I freakin' boasted about it!!! --- then cockily presented them to an equally astonished Izzie. And another twenty minutes after that, he was recklessly and deliberately distracting her with a litany of naughty things he intended to do to her in one of the 3rd floor supply closets, his wandering hand on her thigh causing her to swerve on the highway. And when Izzie vehemently objected to his blatant disregard of her presence, he challengingly argued that the 'house rules' never made mention that they applied 'outside the house' as well. He had winked at Meredith after they heard Izzie's grunt of frustration, chuckling wickedly at her admission of defeat. His high-spirits started to wane though the closer they got to the hospital, and she had started to worry when she noticed him slumping lower into his seat with every kilometer that passed.

Her attention switched to the rear view mirror, ascertaining the blonde's movements at the backseat. Izzie was removing the earphones she had put on halfway through the ride to the hospital --- opting to listen to her iPod instead of Alex' incessant playful (read 'annoying') teasing --- and she was just packing them away in her bag when she met Meredith's stare.

Izzie caught Meredith's meaningful silent message --- she rapidly shifted her eyes, motioning to Alex --- and she followed Meredith's gaze, her own eyes registering concern for the lifeless man in the passenger seat. She leaned forward and was about to open her mouth and address Alex when she heard the other woman discreetly clear her throat. Nodding in understanding when Mer very slightly shook her head, Izzie quietly gathered her things together and opened the door to get out just as quietly.

Alex, who had snapped out of his catatonic staring when he felt the jeep gently rock at the door closing, turned to look at Meredith.

Despite the tight smile he flashed her, she saw the way his eyes softened when he looked at her … it was as if his eyes lit up just because he was looking at her, and that made her … warm … all over. And it also prompted her to lift her hand to his face, her palm tingling as it cupped his cheek.

"You okay," Meredith asked softly, concernedly.

"Yeah, I'm good … why wouldn't I be," he answered dodgingly, unconvincingly. He abruptly moved to gather his knapsack from the floor, threw her another tight smile, and opened the door to slide out of the jeep. He stood in the opened door, looking at her expectantly, raising his eyebrows to mimic her expression.

"Alex," she exhaled with exasperation.

"I'm telling you I'm fine," he insisted, a little too brightly, jerking his head to the side to indicate that she get out of the jeep. "Now get your butt --- delicious in those jeans, by the way --- out of that seat and into that hospital … the third floor supply closet awaits," he teased as he shut the door.

Rolling her eyes at him as she saw him walking towards the back of the jeep, she took the key from the ignition and gathered her things before exiting the vehicle. After making sure she didn't forget anything inside the jeep, she made her way towards Alex.

He was waiting for her just behind the jeep, his left hand holding on to the strap of his knapsack, his eyes staring at the façade of the hospital. She could feel his tension as she stopped to stand beside him, the physical contact jolting him out of his contemplation. He gave her yet another tight smile, but she could tell that he was really trying to appear that nothing was bothering him.

"Alex," she began softly, shyly putting her hand in his free hand. She smiled at him when she felt him grasp her hand more firmly. "Alex, Dr. Bailey isn't going to pull you off Ava's case. You've worked so hard on this case … you've been the intern assigned to her since she came in, so …"

He smiled a little more warmly this time, and then he took a deep breath, adjusting his knapsack as he shifted his weight to his other leg.

"Bailey knows how important this is to you … she's not gonna take it away from you, Alex."

"Hope you're right," Alex responded, a little more at ease.

"Of course I'm right," she said with a confident nod. "I'm always right," she added teasingly, giving him a cheeky grin.

"Uh-huh," he responded skeptically, but his lips curled upward at her banter.

"I am, and the sooner you accept that fact, the smoother this relationship will be," she replied, wagging her eyebrows at him.

"So you're saying that, for this relationship to work, I ought to accept the fact that you'll always be right," he asked, the teasing humor in his tone an indication that he was no longer worried about getting kicked off Ava's case.

"Oh, I'll let you be right once in a while … maybe," she quipped with a giggle, her free hand clasping his bicep in affection. She nudged his arm with her left shoulder, propelling them both forward across the parking lot, and his hand tightened around hers as they walked.

They had only made it about three meters across the lot when she broke the comfortable silence.

"So …" Mer began hesitantly.

"Hmmm," Alex grunted his invitation for her to continue.

"Um … uh … so I guess you'll be working with Addison today," she stammered.

"If I'm still on Ava's case, yes, I'll be with Montgomery," he shrugged. "Why?"

"No reason … was just making conversation," she replied quickly, nonchalantly … or at least that's how she wanted it to sound.

He stopped walking and burst out laughing, his hold on her hand causing her to stop too.

"You're worried about Montgomery," he accused tauntingly, his wolfish smirk reflective of his satisfaction over what he had discovered. "You're threatened by me working with her again, aren't you?"

"Of course not! It doesn't bother me one bit," she countered, rolling her eyes at him. "I mean, why the hell would I care if you're working with Addison?"

"Because," Alex said gloatingly, his eyes twinkling as he brought his face close to hers, "you … are … jealous!"

"Am SO not jealous!"

"Yeah, okay, whatever you say, babe," he said mockingly, the grin on his face only getting wider as he started walking again, tugging on her hand to get her to move.

"Don't call me 'babe'," she grouched, letting him drag her along. I'm not jealous, or threatened, or worried … I'm not! Okay, maybe just a little bit, but he doesn't have to know that!

"Have to say though … didn't think you had it in you to be jealous, Mer," he teased.

"Shut up!" I didn't think I had it in me either.

He leaned toward her to whisper in her ear.

"I like it actually … you being jealous and all … turns me on … if we hurry, we'll still have time to make a detour to the third floor," he said sexily.

As annoyed as she was about discovering that she was indeed capable of jealousy, she couldn't stop herself from giggling over Alex' indecent and oh so naughty suggestion. Because, well, she was already distracted by the steamy images he planted in her mind.

Her delicious fantasy was rudely interrupted by a really loud cough from behind them, unfortunately and effectively snatching the enticing image of Alex' wandering hands, which were making so much progress inside her scrub top, away from her.

"Holding hands now, I see," Cristina jeered, rolling her eyes at them in disgust as she sidled up to the couple on Mer's side, her sudden appearance --- and the fact that she called attention to the affectionate gesture --- causing them to jump apart awkwardly. "Let me tell you, Mer, I didn't think you had it in you. You guys aren't gonna start smooching and making out in the cafeteria now, are you," she asked sarcastically, "coz if you are, I'm gonna have to hang out with other people during lunch."

George, out of breath from his effort to catch up with his co-workers, fell into place beside Cristina.

"Why are you gonna hang with other people," George asked, brushing against Cristina as he leaned his body forward to wave at Meredith, who waved back, glad that he had acknowledged her presence.

"Eeew, Bambi! Do you mind?" Cristina shrieked with disgust, nudging him away.

"What?" George asked.

"You're sweaty and icky and … sweaty," Cristina complained.

"Cristina," Mer scolded, glad that the attention was no longer focused on her and Alex.

George made a face at Cristina, and said recipient mirrored the expression, which made George roll his eyes at her.

"Anyway, why are you gonna hang with other people," George repeated his question.

"Coz Meredith here is trading all kinds of bodily fluids with Evil Spawn, and I do not want to witness them doing it while I'm having lunch."

"Cristina!" Meredith said appalled, scoffing at her best friend. It was her turn to make a face at Cristina after she saw George's scrunched up face. "Ignore her, George. We're all having lunch together as usual."

"If you're gonna be all over each other, I'm not eating with you," Cristina insisted.

"Are you gonna be kissing and flirting and all that," George questioned Mer.

"No, we are not!"

"Yes, we are," Alex said at the same time.

"Alex," Mer nudged him in reproach.

"See, told you," Cristina said.

"He was kidding," Meredith replied.

"No, I wasn't," Alex denied.

They were still bickering when they approached Izzie, who was standing by the SGH sign, talking on her cell phone.

George hooked his arm into Izzie's as they passed her, dragging her along, while the rest continued bickering.

Ending her call and dumping her cell into her bag, she joined in on the conversation.

"What's going on," Izzie asked, her voice rising in order to be heard.

"I caught these two all over each other," Cristina answered.

"We were not all over each other … so we were holding hands, so what? That is not being all over each other," Meredith defended.

"Last night you were … he was even groping you while I was in bed with you," Izzie reminded her.

"Izzie!" Meredith was getting more agitated and flustered by the second.

"We were having make-up sex. Not my fault you wouldn't blow," Alex countered, pressing the button for the elevator.

"Alex!" Mer groaned.

"You were in bed with them?!?!" Cristina turned to Izzie aghast.

"Eeew, Izzie," George turned to face Izzie as well, shuddering at the mental image.

"I just feel sorry for you," Cristina told Izzie. "It's bad enough that I have to see them holding hands … you, you actually live with them … it sucks to be you."

"Yeah, well, I made up some house rules. Now if they would just stop breaking them … not even 12 hours yet and they already broke half of the rules," Izzie ranted.

"Rules, huh," Cristina said. "Yeah, okay, we should have those too," she stated.

"I'm telling you … they won't follow them," Izzie griped.

"Coz you're a pushover," Cristina scoffed, moving slightly to the side when the elevator door dinged opened.

"Hey!" Izzie protested, getting into the elevator.

"Well, you are," Cristina replied dispassionately, pressing the button for their floor, as the doors closed.

Izzie grunted her objection. "Let's see you try taming these two animals … you only saw them holding hands … I had to listen to them during make-up sex, and I caught them in the shower this morning!"

"Eeew," Cristina made a face. "Too much info, Izzie," she scoffed.

"Well, if I have to suffer through it, so do you," Izzie declared.

"Uh … guys," George interrupted meekly, looking around the elevator. "Have you seen Alex and Meredith?"

I have a valid reason this time for not updating sooner … was out of the country for two weeks, and my husband (hi Hon! –waves-) dragged me everywhere, so I wasn't able to get much writing done LOL and I have to censor everything I write now in case he reads this LOL

A million thanks to Bee (Murgy31) for reading this chap for me :)

personifiedx, Charmedgrays, Jany1988, Brandy, vintage demigoddess, Bee, LaFilmeM, Shortidyme, Bonnie & twinklingstar --- thank you very much for the reviews you wrote for the previous chap … really, really, really appreciate the effort and encouraging words … means a lot (A LOT!!!) to me, so thanks heaps :D

Christa (Jany1988) --- hey! It's been a while … have you moved to Munich already? How's uni life? Having a blast, I hope :)

Bee (Murgy31) --- that there is why I keep you around :P seriously, though … thanks so much for all the encouragement & validation and for standing by me always… you are the best:)

Thanks for reading!