Just One Second

A/N Yet another fic following on from the season finale. Though the various relationship disasters were a shock, I suppose the good thing is that at least there have been enough loose ends for us to use as inspiration for our writing.

I want to try something different with this, a story that is probably more involved and maybe more complex than I would usually write, though the main crux of it is still the emotional issues I love writing so much. I think most of the characters in Grey's are all such emotional cripples they beg to be written about. As this is going to be somewhat more involved and complicated, I would really appreciate your feedback in reviews. My ego and confidence need it. I'd love to have sufficient confidence just to say read and enjoy, but I don't, so please, read, enjoy and review.

Disclaimer: Shonda says I don't own Grey's Anatomy, but she's happy to let me play with McDreamy for a while….which, in the words of Meredith Grey, 'sounds vaguely dirty, but isn't'.

'It's over….So over'.

Derek could still hear those words in his head. He tried to tell himself that she was talking about the wedding. As the Maid of Honour, she'd had to tell all the guests the wedding was off, and in typical Meredith style, she'd done that. Her monosyllabic, low tone left no room for doubt. The wedding was off, the guests could go home. It was over. So why did her voice keep replaying in his mind and why, every time it replayed, did his guts try to tie themselves in knots, and his chest constrict until he felt like even the effort of breathing would break him?

He knew. He knew exactly what she meant. It wasn't just the wedding that was over.

Derek Shepherd had been sitting in the fading light, on the steps that led up to his trailer for what seemed like hours. He still wore the black suit he'd worn to the wedding, except now the white rose in his lapel had gone brown at the edges and shrivelled until it was a poor reflection of what it had been earlier in the day. Derek glanced down at the rose, hanging limply in his buttonhole and knew how it felt. After today he felt shrivelled and worn out too. It was obviously a day for it.

Soon Derek gave up staring at the rose, seeming to realise that he couldn't bring it back to its former glory just by watching it. Instead, he dragged his jacket and tie off, and undid the top button of his white shirt, which, since the wedding, had seemed intent on trying to strangle him to death. He wouldn't let himself question whether it really was the button or whether it was the lump in his throat that he'd been unable to shift since he'd watched Meredith walk back down the aisle. Either way, he didn't care; the result was still the same. He felt like he was suffocating…drowning.

Derek reached for the bottle of scotch he'd picked up on the way back from the wedding, or rather, the wedding that wasn't. Just for a second he allowed a wry smile to break through. At least he wasn't the only one who was alone after today. Burke and Christina were over too, or so it seemed. The smile vanished as quickly as it appeared. He opened the scotch bottle and, not bothering to go inside for a glass, he took a large swig, allowing the familiar heat of the amber liquid to crawl through his system.

As he sat, Derek tried to think back to the moment when everything changed. Immediately he was taken back a few weeks. In his mind he could still see his girlfriend, Meredith Grey, blue and cold, after he'd dragged her out of the Elliott Bay. Blue, cold and….dead. He knew, even now, in the cool, still air of this night, the sight of Meredith that day, her skin chalky white, with a blue hue running through her, would stay with him for as long as he lived. Weeks later, every time he closed his eyes he could see her in the water, her little body floating like a washed out rag doll, her hair splayed out around her like some perverse sort of halo.

Derek remembered that day vividly. Every second of it was etched interminably on his brain. He could still recall the moment where he found her in the water, floating, face down at first, until, with freezing hands, and arms screaming with pain from the cold, he turned her over. He still felt the overwhelming relief that he'd found her, before the realisation that she wasn't breathing kicked in and he'd slipped into auto-pilot, his skills as a doctor briefly holding the terror of a man trying to save the woman he loved, at bay.

The long hours following, hours where he'd been forced to wait while other people worked on her in the hospital, still sent a chill through his body. Not being allowed to be part of her trauma team, or even stay in the room with her, stirred up the sense of panic he'd successfully held back whilst he was trying to revive her. It consumed him, until all that he felt was the wild beating of his heart. He remembered pacing, and sharp, panting attempts to breathe that seemed to fill him with one thought. Meredith.

Then, hours later, after he'd yelled at Meredith's Alzheimer's suffering mother, who was in the hospital awaiting heart surgery, and ended up desperately trying to revive her when she arrested, only to fail and lose her, Derek took refuge in an on-call room. He couldn't clear his mind of the thought that Ellis Grey, Meredith's mother was dead, and for all he knew Meredith could be too, his Meredith could be gone forever. The thought filled him with a sort of terror that he would never have thought possible. Even his father's sudden death from a brain haemorrhage when Derek was ten couldn't have prepared him for this, this feeling every time he heard a sound outside the room. Every unknown footstep, every passing voice, made his stomach leap almost into the back of his throat and his heart pound to the point where it hurt. He wanted to run, escape from the news that would surely come. It had been hours, and even though she was cold, like a block of ice when they arrived at the hospital, there would almost certainly come a time when the Chief made the decision that enough was enough and he'd have to call time….

Looking back on it now, Derek thought it ironic that every sound he'd heard while he'd been staying out of the way in the on-call room made him jump violently, but then, when the door suddenly clicked open he didn't even hear it. Maybe he just didn't want to hear it so he hadn't, or maybe the thought of spending the rest of his life without Meredith prevented him from taking in anything else. Either way, he suddenly realised Miranda Bailey was in the room, staring down at him from where he lay on a hard, uncomfortable bed. Derek stared at her for what seemed like an eternity, unable to take any sort of signal from the Resident's face.

Derek remembered sitting up, almost automatically. It was as if everything was suddenly going in slow motion. He registered Miranda sitting herself down beside him. Then she opened her mouth. Derek looked at her, watched her lips move, but seemed incapable of understanding what she was saying. The only thing in his head was that Miranda Bailey was here to tell him that the Chief had just called time of death and Meredith was gone. Even as he thought it, it seemed like some far off thing that he was watching happening to someone else. He felt like he was floating somewhere, trying to catch up with Meredith, but every time he thought he was getting close, she'd slip further away, out of his reach. It made him want to scream and throw things.

Suddenly, Derek was aware of Miranda grasping his face in her hands. She'd moved so she was kneeling on the floor directly in front of him, where he sat on the side of the bed. She tilted his head so that he had to look her in the eye. That seemed to stir something inside him. He wanted to turn away, tried to, but Miranda pulled his face back to meet hers. She was speaking again, holding his face so tight that he had no choice but to hear her.

'Did you hear me Derek?' Miranda asked, her no nonsense voice demanding his attention. He blinked and swallowed. His heart raced. 'I said we got her back Derek, Meredith's back, she's alive'. Miranda went on, never loosing her hold on her boss's face.

For hours afterwards Derek was sure that in that split second after Miranda spoke and his brain processed the words, he'd gone completely insane. He remembered gawking at her, staring like she was some weird thing he couldn't work out, a science experiment that had gone wrong, or some other equally bizarre thing. He felt his mouth fall open in a gape more reminiscent of a pubescent boy than a world renowned neurosurgeon. Then his brain caught up with his ears. Meredith was alive, she'd come back. She was alive. The reality dawned on him slowly. It felt like the fuzziness that surrounded him first thing in the morning when he woke, a sleepy sensation that only lifted with his first sight, sound and smell of the woman who slept, snoring peacefully, spooned in his arms. She was alive.

Derek remembered finding his voice. 'Are you….Are you sure?' he asked uncertainly, his voice sounding much higher than normal. He couldn't work out where the doubt had come from. Miranda had said Meredith was back, looked him straight in the eye and said it, so why did he doubt?

Miranda let go of Derek's face and sat back down on the bed beside him. She turned slightly and faced him again. 'Of course I'm sure! What? You think I'm saying it for the good of my health? Stupid, stupid brain surgeon!' She yelled at him, just like she did on any other perfectly normal day at Seattle Grace.

Derek suddenly found himself grinning, all the fear from the last few hours disappearing for a moment. 'Miranda, I am your boss, remember?' he said, his usual comeback for one of Bailey's bursts of fury at whatever act of stupidity she suspected him of committing. Derek smiled inwardly at the thought that so often she'd spoken to him like that when she suspected him of doing something stupid involving Meredith. Meredith, who was alive. It was as if the truth was only now beginning to dawn on him. She was alive.

Miranda Bailey glared, 'You're a stupid brain surgeon!' she cried, 'I tell you your girlfriend is alive and you ask me if I'm sure, where do you think I got my medical degree, Mexico?' she demanded disdainfully.

Derek ignored what Miranda said and allowed the reality to finally sink right in. Meredith was alive. Then the hours they'd spent fighting for her life came back to him. He knew what that could mean. It was his job to know. He had to ask. 'Is she…She was down for hours Miranda. Is she….her brain function…' He couldn't finish. Didn't dare voice the fear that Meredith might be brain damaged from all the time she'd spent without oxygen.

Miranda nodded, knowing what Derek was trying to say. 'Well, we haven't run tests, but when I saw her last she was still in the trauma room and she was talking to Christina Yang. So, if she can speak and understand, I think we can say she's been lucky'.

Lucky. Derek absorbed the word. Meredith had been dead, clinically dead, for over three hours, she'd spent God only knows how long with no oxygen, under water, and she was alive. She was alive and talking to Christina Yang. Lucky didn't even get close.

Miranda spoke again, pulling Derek out of his thoughts. 'She'll be moved to a room of her own soon. She looks exhausted, which is what you'd expect from the trauma, so if I were you I'd let her sleep for a while before you see her. Let her take a break and take a moment for yourself too, you look like crap'.

Miranda threw in another glare, which didn't convince Derek for a second. She was as happy that Meredith had pulled through as him…almost. He considered what she said. He wanted to argue and run off to find Meredith right now. Hadn't he been without her long enough? Then he thought of everything her body had been through, the water, the cold, the hours of sustained resuscitation. She would be exhausted. He toyed with the idea of just sitting with her while she slept, but he knew that if he saw her now he'd have to wake her, just to be sure she was really all right. So, forcing himself to stay where he was, he made the decision to let Meredith get a little sleep before he went to see her. 'You're right, I'll let her sleep, she'll need the rest after…everything'. He hesitated over the words, refusing to go over the memories of this day, at least just now. No, all he wanted to do now was sit here and take in the fact that Meredith was alive.

Miranda nodded and rose from the bed. 'Good. I'll let you know her room number as soon as she's moved' she stepped towards the door as she spoke. Then, as she went to take the door handle into her hand to leave the room she turned back and faced Derek once more. 'Derek?' She said his name as a question, totally unlike any other way he'd ever heard her say it before. He turned his eyes towards her. Miranda stood still, looking her boss in the eye again. 'I used to think you were fooling around, using Grey as a sick way of affirming your masculinity' she raised her hand to silence Derek who opened his mouth to protest. She sighed, 'Now, after today, I can see what she means to you. You really do love my intern, don't you?'

Derek sighed, his shoulders drooping heavily. He felt so tired all of a sudden. But then Miranda's words washed over him and he smiled. 'Yes Miranda, I love your intern very, very much' he replied firmly, wanting her to know he meant it.

Miranda Bailey nodded and left the room. It was only when the door clicked shut behind her that everything seemed to crash over Derek Shepherd. The sight of Meredith in the freezing water, the attempt he made to revive her, the hours of waiting for news, and now this, the realisation that she was alive. Derek turned over onto his side, pulled his knees up so that they practically reached his chest and burst into tears.

A/N There we are, I think this will do for the first chapter, though in a sense, chapter two will continue almost from where this finishes. You'll notice that I'm switching a fair bit between past and present in this. I hope that doesn't confuse you. It is something I'll do for at least the first couple of chapters. You should also be aware that this won't be a one-shot or even a short story. I have no idea as yet how long it will be, but expect it to be long, and don't expect it to be a typical MerDer story. There's many a twist in the road to go yet. I should like to quickly say thanks to the brilliant AriaAdagio, who treats us all with wonderful fics like Standing On Solid Ground, and Lightening Strikes Twice, who, when I put my idea for this fic to her, encouraged me to go for it. Anyway, please review, it makes me happy.