Love Wins Every Time

(Timeline note: We are just at the end of the episode 'Desire.' He catches her just after her rejection by Alex, before she makes it to LA, and we spin into AU from that point onward)

Sun is gonna rise, so don't worry about tomorrow
Everybody hurts sometimes
If you let love in your heart, then the world will surely follow
Baby, love wins every time
---McMaster and James

He comes out of the hospital, and she's sitting there, hugging a dark, long coat around herself, shivering a little. This morning's gentle rain-soaked breeze has thickened to a dry, sharp wind that whips her long, red hair around her eyes. She ignores it and sits there, frigid, small, eyes staring straight ahead of her. He joins her on the bench. He says nothing, but watches her for a moment.

She fidgets over a tiny bit in acknowledgement if his presence. He is worried, the way anyone would be, he supposes, were they to find in such obviously dire straits a person who, if not a friend per se, is at minimum a colleague and someone for whom he harbours genial affection. But he is a patient man, and he senses he shouldn't push her.

"Hey, Preston," she says after a moment.

"Hey, Addison," he answers. He keeps his voice neutral. Friendly. He keeps his body relaxed, but he scoots a tiny bit closer to her.

"So," he says.

He stares back at him with guileless eyes, but he senses the promise of tears.

"Is there any particular reason you're sitting out here right now?"

She shrugs, hugging the coat a little tighter. "Because if I leave right now, I think I would be leaving to do something I'll be sorry for later?"

He nods. "And what might that be?"

She doesn't hold back the bitter chuckle. "Self-medication with sex. Self-medication with alcohol. Maybe both. Take your pick."

He takes this in with impassive neutrality. "Fair enough. I concede that there might be better options."

She laughs again. "And if that doesn't win the prize for understatement of the century. Well?"

"Well what?"

"You have any better ideas?"

He regards her seriously, giving the question some thought. "Go home, Addison. Sleep it off."

"But that's part of the problem, Preston. I haven't got a home."

"No?"

She shrugs, going quiet on him. He still isn't completely sure what's wrong. But obviously, he can't just leave her here.

"Well, come back with me, then," he says. "I'll make you dinner."

"But…"

He opens his briefcase, pulls out a bottle of wine. A nice bottle. A very nice one.

"I picked this up in my travels," he says. "You don't really want me drinking it alone?"

"But…"

"But Cristina?" He anticipates her objection, waves it off with a casual flit of his hand. "Just scrubbed in on Bailey's bowel resection. She'll be hours yet."

"And the…you just happen to…"

"What? This?" He holds aloft the bottle. "It's Thursday. I play chess with the chief every Thursday during my lunch hour. Or, I should say, I win at chess with the chief every Thursday."

"You play chess with the chief for wine?"

"Well, what else would I play for? This is a cabernet. Dry, sweet. It ages well, you know."

"Right. Of course it does."

Finally, he turns on a little sparkle. He pushes. "Well?"

She shrugs. "It beats tequila shots at Joe's and M&M's from the mini-bar."

She lets him give her a hand up, and he tries to ignore the sudden flash of heat in his bones. He has always found chivalry unbelievably arousing.

--

She follows him in her own car, and it does not occur to him to suppose that she is using the solitude to wallow, or to steel herself in preparation for his company. He is a supremely practical man, and he would take his own car too. Of course, he would take his own car.

She gasps a little when she sees his apartment, and he can't help but smirk. "You like it?"

She pirouettes, somehow a little punchy, even though he has yet to open the wine. "Well, it's…what can I say? Elegant?"

"Thank you, I think."

"I mean, it's…clean, you know? I expected that from you. But it's got personality too."

"That surprises you?"

"Of course it doesn't surprise me."

But the question, or her answer, has somehow made her skittish again. She tries again, falling easily into a polite, innocuous script.

"So, can I help?" she says.

"Hmmm?"

"The dinner. Can I help?"

"Oh. Right. I was going to sauté some chicken. Perhaps in a bit of the wine."

She looks alarmed at the prospect of boiling off his fancy wine in a potful of food scraps. He chuckles, enjoying the novelty of having visitors. It is Cristina who has the friends. It is not his kind who come over.

"All right," he says, putting her out of her misery. He gingerly uncorks the wine, pours her a modest glassful. "Drink the wine. I suppose, for the chicken, a dash of olive oil will do quite nicely. Shall I slice some tomatoes?"

"Why don't I do that?" she says, falling into step behind him. "Unless you're one of those people who are freakishly territorial about their kitchen stuff? Derek has a sister who's…"

She trails off again, so easily spooked back to discomfort that it pains him. "You can slice," he tells her firmly. "As long as you don't mangle my beautiful tomatoes. Straight slices, Addison. Thin ones."

"I am a surgeon too, you know. I know how to slice things."

He grins. "I'll just bet you do."

--

They get the chicken simmering. He stews the tomato with parsley and basil, simmering in some wild rice for a neat, rich risotto.

"This isn't from a package," she says, pulling a few grains between her fingers, squinting. "Preston, this looks fresh."

He nods. "I know a farmer's market…"

"With your schedule? When do you shop?"

He wraps her outfit in an appraising glance, taking in the tailored cut, the designer shoes, the understated, but exquisite accessories. "When do you?"

She sips her wine with the first genuine laugh of the evening. "Touché, Preston. One point for you."

One point for him indeed. He compliments himself for finally pushing her into relaxing. God knows, she looks like she needs to.

--