AN: My first Greys fic. May be a stand alone, but I'll prolly add chapters.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Greys Anatomy. I own nothing. I am simply borrowing the characters and will return them unharmed...

AN January 16th, 2008: I have replaced chapters 1 through 34. No plot changes, just fixing typos and wordings and a random AN that ended up in the middle of a chapter...

Derek hesitated before stepping out into the rainy Seattle evening, the memory of recent events weighing heavily on his mind. After Meredith had pulled from his grasp in the lobby and disappeared down the hallway he had been momentarily captivated by the lone man sobbing in the hard plastic hospital chair. His heart went out to the man, who was obviously in agony, but the vivid memory of watching Thatcher slap his daughter across the face without any visible regret showing through his expression prevented Derek from approaching him. He shook his head as he pulled his focus away from the man and turned to head down the hall after Meredith.

Derek had been unable to find his girlfriend as he had quickly searched the halls and on call rooms. He had even ventured down to the basement to check by the extra gurneys; a place he knew the interns often frequented. She had been no where to be found. And she wasn't answering her cell. Convinced she had fled the hospital and headed for home, Derek made to follow after her.

He cursed the rainy weather as he strode quickly across the parking lot to his car, only sacrificing some speed to weave around the larger puddles. In the year he had lived in Seattle, he had long since given up trying to keep his shoes dry. He was approaching his car.

Derek paused suddenly when he realized Meredith's car was still parked only a few spaces up from his own. He hesitated behind it, unsure of what to do now. If the jeep was still here, it must mean its owner was still here as well. And if Meredith was un-findable and not responding to his pages or calls, she obviously wanted to be alone. But, with the events of the day in his mind and the sight of her being slapped burned in his memory for the rest of his life, there was no way he could leave her alone until he knew she was alright. And even then it would be a fight to get him away from her side.

He quickly circled her car, glancing in the windows to make sure she was not inside. It occurred to him that one of her friends may have driven her home. After a moment of indecision, he stepped away from her car, and headed past the three bumpers separating him from his car. Meredith's house was not far away. He would drive there now, and if she wasn't there, he would come back. He sighed at the thought of having to explain the happenings of the past few hours to her roommates if they were home and she was not. Pulling his keys from his pocket, he rounded the back corner of his car, and paused at the sight awaiting him.

The figure huddled on the ground against the drivers side door was masked by the darkness and by the jacket wrapped tightly around her, but he immediately knew it was Meredith. Quickly stuffing his keys back in his pocket, he stepped forward and crouched down beside the soggy form leaning against his car.

"Meredith?" He asked gently as he reached out a hand to her face. He carefully lifted the weight of her head up from its awkward resting place on her shoulder and wiped the wet hair from her face. Her eyes were closed, and her face was pale, save for the bluish bruise forming on her left cheek. "Mer." He tried again, louder this time. Leaning in closer, he used his other hand to gently shake her shoulder. He was getting worried as he was forced to move his hand from her shoulder to her neck to check her pulse. "Meredith!"

Suddenly, she jolted awake, clutching tightly onto his arm as she gazed around with wide, bloodshot eyes, trying to focus on something familiar.

"Hey," Derek said soothingly. "Its okay, Mer. It's just me."

She focused on him and her breathing rate came back down as her body visibly relaxed in front of him. Her red eyes quickly took in her surroundings as she caught her breath.

"How long have you been out here?" Derek asked in concern as he helped her to her feet, keeping his hands at her waist for support even when she was standing solidly on her own two feet.

Meredith shook her head slightly and she coughed before answering. "I don't know. I must have fallen asleep," she said, her voice hoarse and scratchy.

Derek scowled slightly as he worked his hands around the collar of her jacket, trying to keep her as dry as possible. "You're soaking wet," he stated. "And you're freezing." He pressed his hands against both sides of her face. She immediately flinched away from his touch, her sore cheek seeming to bring back the memories of the horrible day she had had. Tears filled her already puffy eyes and the dullness in them made him forget all lectures about getting sick.

"Oh, Mer, I'm so sorry," he whispered as he wrapped his arms around her quivering, water-logged form. He was thankful when she allowed the tight embrace, even welcoming it as she wrapped one arm around him just as tightly, the other hand clenched around a fistful of his jacket as if she was holding on for dear life.

They stood in the embrace for several minutes, Derek whispering soothing statements as he simply let her cry, both momentarily oblivious to the rain. Eventually the grasp on his jacket relaxed and she slid her hand back from around his shoulder. She stepped back slightly, her sad eyes avoiding his. "Thanks," she whispered quietly, as if embarrassed by her emotions.

Derek tilted his head as he gently lifted her chin so that her eyes met his. He smiled down at her. "It's what I'm here for."

This rewarded him with the smallest wisp of a smile as she nodded, but remained silent.

"Okay," Derek said, deciding to simply take charge to get her home. "We need to get you out of the rain before you end up with pneumonia." He steered her around to the other side of his car. "Do you have everything you need?" He asked as he opened the passenger door and helped her inside.

"I think so," Meredith said. "I kinda left in a hurry. I wanted to find you, but I ... I just couldn't be in there anymore. I needed to get outside."

"Okay," Derek said as he shut the door and hurried around to the driver's side.

"I'm sorry," she whispered as he settled himself in the seat beside her.

Her comment surprised him and he paused, his hand grasping the key in the ignition, but not turning on the engine. "For what?"

When she met his eyes, her expression was lower than he had ever seen. "For running away from you." Her puffy, bloodshot eyes were dark. "And then running away from my life. Again." The contrast of her white face and darkening bruise in the pale streetlight made her small injury look all the worse. "You must have looked for me." She shook her head and her soaking hair was so water logged it barely moved with the motion. "And after my promise yesterday..." She trailed off. "I'm just so sorry that I keep screwing up, Derek. I don't mean to, I really don't, I just..." Her low voice cracked as she became trailed off and a silent tear ran down her cheek.

Derek took a breath before responding, tears pricking his own eyes at the sheer emotion in her voice. He offered her a small, supportive smile. "Its okay, Meredith. I found you, and you don't keep screwing up." His hand found hers resting on her thigh and he covered it, squeezing her fingers reassuringly.

She shook her head, her green eyes darkening. "No, it's not okay. Barely a day and a half ago I told you I wanted to be better, to let you in, and already I'm running away from you, when it's you who should be running away from me."

It was Derek's turn to shake his head. "I'll never run away from you, Mer. I'll always show up, remember? I don't need you to always come running to me. I don't expect it, especially when something like this happens." He smiled at her as he reached his hand up to cup the right side of her face. "Sometimes it's okay to run and trust the other person to find you, Mer, as long as you're not running from me. And you let me find you, and you didn't run when I did find you. And that's okay."

Meredith leaned into his hand, but remained silent, unsure of his words.

"I love you so much, Meredith. And all I want is for you to let me in." The back of his throat stung as the tears filled his eyes again. "That's all I want," he repeated.

Meredith closed her eyes and nodded against his hand. When she opened them again they were still bloodshot and puffy and dark, but a small light had been reignited. "Thank you," she said quietly.

Derek removed his hand from her face and turned on the car, immediately boosting the heat up to full blast. "It's what I'm here for," he said, repeating the same words from earlier.

"I'm glad."

"Hmm?" He asked.

She offered him a brave smile. "I'm glad that you're here."

Derek's heart soared as he put the car in reverse and guided it out of the parking spot. There wasn't anything better she could possibly say to him.

"And I..." She trailed off for a moment, looking away from his eyes. She took a breath and looked back, meeting his eyes square on. "I love you, too."

Derek smiled. Okay, that had been the second best thing she could have told him. This was definitely the best. They didn't say it often, perhaps due to the circumstances surrounding each of their initial admissions, but Derek made a mental note that they needed to say it more. He needed to say it more. Hell, he'd say it a million times a day if he could; it was the number of times he felt it.

They remained in comfortable silence as he navigated the car out of the parking lot and onto the familiar route to her house. Once he was on the highway and free of the twists and turns, he reached out and laced his fingers through those on her left hand. She smiled at him and gently squeezed his hand.

"You feeling any warmer?" He asked.

She nodded. "Yeah, I think so. I shouldn't have let myself fall asleep in the rain." She scoffed at herself. "I got changed and out of there so fast that I didn't even really process much until I was outside at my car, suddenly realizing it was raining. And I didn't want to go home without you, and I probably shouldn't be driving, and I couldn't go back inside, so I decided to wait by your car. I knew you'd come out eventually."

"You didn't want to leave without me?"

She shook her head. "It's stupid, I know, but I-"

Derek cut her off. "It's not stupid. You didn't want to leave without me. You waited for me. That's a good thing, Mer. It means you are reaching out, learning to trust me. That's a good thing." He smiled, the love he felt for the woman beside him swelling in his heart. "I'm happy, Mer, you make me happy."

She smiled, the small light in her eyes flickering higher. "That's what I'm here for."