A Dark and Twisty Happily Ever After

Chapter Two

Bubbles always burst. They were never meant to last forever. They're enjoyable for the first while and then they burst right in front of you. Sometimes the soap gets in your eyes and that bubble is always remembered badly. Despite the fact that it was at one time beautiful and provided an odd sense of happiness, it would be labeled from then on. Other bubbles seem almost unburstable, but they do, and we just have to trudge through the time between the next bubble comes along to shield us from the soapy, stinging eyes.

Izzie rolled her eyes, leaning back on the velvet cushioned stool she'd been sitting on for an hour. "Haven't you already tried that one on three different times? And every time you say..."

"Is my butt really that big?" Meredith asked, twisting her lower body to examine it in the mirror, her mouth twisted and her brows furrowed.

"No. It's twice that size. Get the dress. Let's go," Cristina called out, exasperated.

"No. I don't even like this dress," she replied, frowning. Smoothing the material over her butt one more time, she finally sighed and hopped down, undoing the back as best she could before sliding it down her shoulders and letting it pool by her feet. Stepping around it, she walked back over to the racks of dresses that the woman had brought out. Meredith couldn't remember her name, but she was the same woman who met them every time and the same who scowled and lifted her nose as if she thought they weren't really there to get a dress, just to try them on and reject them over and over. But she'd promised Mark, for the nth time, and this time she was going to get a dress. He was right. The wedding was in a week and she still didn't have a dress.

"Will you just pick one already? Why is it taking you so long?" Cristina asked, chewing on an apple and skimming through a gossip magazine with a lifted brow and disbelieving quirk of her lips.

"What do you mean? I just haven't found one I liked." She frowned, searching through the hanging dresses for one with less... poof.

Izzie snorted. "You know, it could be a sign." She too had a magazine, but she was reading it intently, since it had to do with home decorating.

"A sign?" Meredith asked, lifting her head and staring at her blonde friend questioningly.

"Yeah, you know, like your not being able to choose a dress means that you're not ready to get married. Or... just not to Mark," Izzie told her, shrugging lightly, her eyes still glued to the magazine in front of her. "Hey, do you guy's think pink curtains would be a bit over the top in the living room? Not like fuchsia, but not too pale either."

Meredith's mouth fell open and she stared at Izzie in shock. "That's ridiculous!" she exclaimed, feeling a little burst of anger in her stomach at her friend. She knew that George and Izzie weren't exactly gung-ho for her to marry Mark. Ever since George and Callie divorced, he was the all-knowing formerly married one who constantly has an opinion on who he thinks should and should never get married. Izzie just didn't get along with Mark most of the time, she found him arrogant and was certain from the moment he and Meredith started dating that it would end in him cheating on her and she having a broken heart, again. But he hadn't cheated in the two and half years they dated and Meredith full-heartedly believed he never would. Cristina was rather 'meh' about the whole thing. She didn't dislike Mark but she wasn't exactly buddy-buddy with him. If anything though, she seemed to like him more than Derek.

"Well it wouldn't be that bright," Izzie replied, looking offended.

"She doesn't mean the curtains, Barbie," Cristina explained, her expression clearly stating that she though Izzie was an idiot. Scoffing, she shook her head. "Seriously, the only other man that could ever get her to even consider walking down the aisle was Shepherd, and I for one, am glad he's not the one waiting at the end." Her eyebrows rose and she nodded decisively before tossing her OK! rag onto the endtable beside her.

Izzie rolled her eyes, but didn't reply.

"Okay, what is the big deal?" Meredith wondered, hands on her hips as she walked forward a few steps to stare at Izzie reproachfully. "Seriously! What is wrong with Mark? He's never treated me badly, never cheated, never called me a whore!" Her eyes widened with emphasis. "He's never left me or or hurt me or had a wife!" Her voice was raising and she knew her chest was heaving slightly. "So why? Why would you be so against me and him?"

Licking her lips, her eyes fell to the floor and she took a deep breath, relaxing her posture. "This is my wedding, Izzie. This is my wedding to the only man who's ever made me feel like I wasn't screwed up somehow. He loves me, whether I'm bright and shiny or dark and twisty. The only reason that I haven't picked out a dress is because this... this is my wedding dress. I have to walk down an aisle and pledge myself forever to this person. I have to look fricken' perfect so that when all those people are sitting there watching, they're thinking, 'They fit! They look good together. She's just who I saw him settling down with.'" Rubbing the space between her eyes, she sighed through clenched teeth. "I'm marrying McSteamy!" she reminded, lifting her shoulders. "So damnit, I'm going to look beautiful!"

"Okay, Mer," Izzie said, her eyes widening slightly and a look of regret passing her features. "You will."

All of the anger evaporated from her and her shoulders slumped. "No, I won't! I can't find a dress. I don't want to get lost in taffeta and I don't want to have a butt bigger than my head!" she told them, frowning.

Standing up in a hurry, Izzie made her way over to the rack of dresses and started looking through them.

While Meredith was out searching for a wedding dress, Mark was sitting with his pseudo mother, Celia Shepherd, and soon to be sort-of-father-in-law Richard Webber. There had been a mix up with the invitations. And by mix-up he meant Celia had ordered all of her children to come to his wedding, including the one that Mark most definitely did not want there. He didn't mind if Derek's many sisters came. He'd grown up with them, enjoyed feeling like an older brother to them, and often considered them his real family. But he did not want Derek there. There had been a time where he thought they could work everything out. A lot of groveling and apologizing would eventually lead to Derek forgiving him and them slowly getting back to being like brothers, or at least friends. But situations arose and Derek's life wasn't going as planned, so he did what he always did when things weren't going right. He ran.

Mark wasn't exactly upset with him for leaving, again, because it gave him a chance at something he'd never really thought he'd have when Addison left him, again. Derek's absence allowed him to get closer to Meredith and now he was sitting down discussing wedding invitations. But the idea that Derek might return had always sat funny in his stomach. For the first six months he hoped Derek would come back. He thought maybe he just needed some time to himself but he'd eventually come back and things would get back on track. But then he started seeing Meredith more regularly and he began wanting something more than just friendship with her. When that finally happened, he found that insecurity wasn't far behind. He loved her and he knew she loved him but Derek Shepherd had a thing about him. Meredith had said it once before, "He's not the kind of guy you leave if you can help it." So he always had the lingering fear that Derek would come back and she would realize that she may still have a chance with him.

After three years, Mark was fairly certain that Derek wouldn't be coming back to claim her, but if he received an invitation to a wedding between her and the man who'd ruined his marriage, Mark wasn't so sure that he wouldn't want to settle the score. Or maybe he did still care, still loved her despite the long time between, and he'd come back and tell her so, just to rip away Mark's last chance at happily-ever-after. He didn't know. But at the moment, he was worried and angry.

"Why? Why would you send him, of all people, an invitation to my wedding?" Mark asked, interrupting the squabble between Celia and Chief Webber.

"It wasn't my fault. I told her to ask you first. I didn't even have him on the list for who to invite," Richard told him, his face the picture of apologetic innocence.

"Now Markie, you have to understand," Celia began. Her shoulders were back and her chin was lifted. She was standing firm by her decision. "Derek was like a brother to you. All of my children were your siblings and I won't have them thinking they can't be a part of this day. This is one of the most important events of your life and I'm not letting any of them get out of it. He'll be here. He'll congratulate you. You'll thank me later!" She stared at him, her eyes wide and her brows high, as if telling him that if he even thought to contradict her he'd be in for one big rebuke.

"Uninvite him," Mark replied, frowning.

Celia stared back at him, eyes glaring into his own with resolve. "No."

"I don't want him there," he told her through grit teeth. "I don't even want him in Seattle, let alone sitting at my wedding."

"You don't mean that, Mark," she told him, her eyes softening as well as her tone. "You're just upset with him for leaving."

"No," Mark said, shaking his head. "I'm thankful he left. If he hadn't, it's pretty unlikely that this wedding would have been happening at all."

Celia tisked, a wry smile on her mouth. "Sweetie, if this is how it's supposed to be, then it's how it will be. You have to believe that no matter the situation, you two would have made it together. Otherwise, your love isn't strong enough or meant to last." She reached out, taking his hand in hers and squeezing it. "Perhaps it was all in the plan to have Derek leave and you take his place in Meredith's heart. And perhaps this is just another way for you to test yourself and your relationship. Marriage is a big step, Markie. You have to be certain and you have to go into it with no fears or reservation or insecurities about each other and how you feel. It's not right to do it any other way." She sighed, patting his hand as it sat rigidly beneath hers. "Now I understand that you're upset that Derek has been invited and I take full responsibility for that. But understand that he may not come and if he should, then you just hold fast to what you believe. If you and Meredith are as strong as you think, as ready as you believe, then this marriage will happen and you won't regret it in the least," she told him fervently.

Mark paused, staring down with a sour expression marring his face. "I thought you were happy we were getting married," he finally said, his voice heavy with anger and hurt.

"I am. My personal opinion is that you and Meredith were meant to be together. That she loves you far more than you even realize. And that Derek, though I love my son dearly, was just a stepping stone to bringing you two together." She smiled at him gently, shaking her head. "But my opinion doesn't matter. Yours does."

"I want to marry her. I know I do," he exclaimed, his jaw tensing. "I love her. More than I've ever loved anybody and I don't... I don't want to lose her."

"Then don't," she said, nodding decisively. "We are all flawed people, Mark. You put too much stock into Derek. Meredith knows what he's done and how he's made her feel. Just as she knows what you've done and how you make her feel." She reached out, cupping his cheek in a motherly fashion. "She never left to find him and she never once faltered in her love for you, did she?" He shook his head. "Then have faith in that, Mark. Have faith in yourself."

Swallowing tightly, he nodded jerkily. He turned toward Richard, feeling slightly ashamed for his display of emotion, only to find that his boss had left the room at some point. He could hear the whistle of the tea pot in the kitchen and realized he had given him some time to discuss things openly, without intrusion. He silently appreciated the man's insight and returned his attention to Celia.

"What happens if... if she chooses him anyway?" he asked, voicing his fears aloud. Immediately after saying it, he wanted to take it back. If he hadn't said it, then he didn't have to consider it.

"Then you move on. You remember what it felt like to be loved and you find it in someone else. You don't give up, Markie. You just... find the right person for you." She smiled at him rather sadly, staring at him with a fondness she'd always had for him. He couldn't remember a time that she wasn't the mother he'd always wanted his own to be.

"She is that person," he told her, shaking his head. "I don't think there's anyone else I could... She's just it. There's not going to be anyone else. Last chance sort of thing." He rubbed his face with the palm of his hand, feeling exhausted by the whole conversation.

"Oh sweetie," she said, her voice tinged with sadness. "I've only known you to truly love this way twice in your life, and even with Addison I believe it was more the dream she represented than her." She ran her hand over his hair, ruffling it slightly. "These insecurities of yours have been brewing since you were a little boy and that mother of yours didn't tell you how much you mattered. You've always felt like you had to have that shield up to protect you. This is one of the few times you've let it down. You let Meredith in entirely and you're scared that she's going to trample all over you in the end." She tisked, frowning. "You know her, Mark. You love her. Do you really believe she'd do that to you?"

"No," he replied, swift and strong. "But I'm no Derek Shepherd, either."

"No, you're not. You're Mark Sloan. And you have many great qualities, Markie. He is not perfect. None of us are. Meredith may have loved Derek, but that doesn't mean she loves you any less. The past is the past and that's where it should stay. You've grown up and you've evolved over the last few years. You're not the same person you were when she was with Derek. You're still seeing yourself in that category and that's a problem." She shook her head, looking up at him sadly. "Have you talked to her about this?"

He shrugged. "Not as in depth as this, but she knows I still worry that she has feelings for him."

"And what does she say?"

"That I'm being ridiculous and she never loved him like she does me."

"You see? Was she lying?"

He shook his head, his eyes falling. "I know. I know that she wants to marry me and she wants to have this future with me. But sometimes I just wonder... I mean if he were here, would she feel the same?"

"Well... you're about to find out then, aren't you?" she said, with a heavy sigh.

"Yeah... Yeah, I guess I am." He scowled, running a hand through his hair. He hoped it turned out in his favor. He needed it to.

"Okay, no, that one looks stupid," Cristina told them, shaking her head with an incredulous look on her face.

"What? I like it. It's so... princess-y," Izzie said, poofing up the bottom.

"That's why it looks stupid," Yang told her, shaking her head.

Meredith sighed, frowning in the mirror at herself. "Seriously, how many dresses is that?"

"Too many," Cristina told her sighing with exasperation.

"We've got three left," Izzie said, walking over to the rack and pulling out another, the train of which was so long Izzie nearly tripped over it three times.

"No," Meredith said before she even reached her. "Is it really so hard to find one dress out of all these? Just one. One frickin' dress to make me look beautiful for a few hours!" she ranted, throwing her hands up.

As Izzie was returning the dress, she tripped over the train once more and toppled into a rack off to the side of the one she was going through. Her hands reached out, grabbing onto the closest thing possible as she fell. Laying on the ground, white fabric covering her face in a pile, she mumbled, "Ow."

Laughing, Cristina simply watched as Izzie pulled herself up from the floor, pushing the dress from off her face. Standing up, she scowled at the amused Cristina and moved to put the dress she'd grabbed to save herself back where it belonged, but paused. It was really quite beautiful. "Hey... Mer... Try this one," she called out, walking over to her.

Meredith reached out for it absently, shuffling off the podium she was on, the puffy dress she was wearing making a scratchy noise as she moved. Making her way into the dressing room, she struggled to get the dress off and out of the way as it seemed to take up the small room entirely. "What time is it?" she called out, muttering under her breath as her hair got caught in the zipper of the dress she was trying to take off.

"Almost six, why?" Izzie replied, still looking through dresses. "Ooh, Cristina, look at this one," she said excitedly.

"Do I look interested at all?" Cristina replied, looking up at her with irritation.

"Fine. Ignore me. But secretly, you love all this girly dress stuff," she said, smiling.

Muttering under her breath, Cristina shook her head at her and slumped down in her seat a little more. "Mer, hurry up. I'm getting tired of this."

"Just... Gimme... Okay!" The door opened and Meredith slipped out, her eyes lifting to look at her friends, who were staring back with stunned expressions. "What?" she wondered, her expression falling. "Is it really that bad?"

They shook their heads slowly, mouths gaping.

"Okay, I'll take it off, just stop looking at me like--"

"No!" Izzie shouted, holding a hand up, her eyebrows high and her eyes wide. "Mer, look at yourself."

"Seriously?" Meredith asked, feeling uncomfortable.

"Seriously," Cristina told her, her forehead wrinkled.

Still rather uncertain, Meredith slowly made her way over to the three part mirror angled to give her a view of all sides. She walked up the steps to stand center in the podium and slowly turned to see what the ruckus was all about, only to feel her breath catch in her throat. "Wow..." she murmured. "I look awesome!"

"Word!" Izzie exclaimed, hurrying over to grin at her excitedly.

"Nobody says 'word' any more, Barbie," Cristina told her, rolling her eyes before moving to stand on Meredith's other side. "Tell me this is the dress and we're done."

"This is the dress!" Meredith told her, grinning.

"And..." Cristina prompted hopefully.

"And now all I need is a veil," she replied, still examining herself in the mirror.

Cristina moaned in irritation. "You don't need a mosquito net, let's go."

"Oh! Oh I saw the perfect one for this dress, wait here," Izzie said, almost bouncing as she hurried off to another part of the store.

"So..." Cristina said, looking up at her as she smiled at herself in the mirror. "You're going to get married... in this dress... in just a week."

"Yes," Meredith said with a content sigh. "Yes, I am."

A few hours later, Meredith returned home, a black dress bag over her arm and a weary smile on her face. Kicking the door shut behind her, she toed off her shoes and followed the delicious scent of dinner into the kitchen, where she found Mark hard at work at the stove. Laying the dress bag over the island counter, she leaned her hip against it to watch him for a moment. Without Izzie's cooking to tide her over, Meredith was happy to find that Mark was actually an incredibly good cook. He was dressed casually in a pair of grey sweatpants and a white muscle shirt and she bit down on her bottom lip as she enjoyed the way his arms flexed when he reached out for various seasonings and stirred the food in the pans around the stove. She wasn't sure how long she watched him, her shoulders had slumped in a relaxed state of being while her stomach had tightened with an awareness of how comfortable she was in his presence. He put everything on dishes and then moved to put the dirty dishes in the sink, running the water over them and still having no idea that she was there at all.

She crossed the white and black tile floor silently, wrapping her arms around his waist and pressing her cheek to his back. She felt him tense for just a second before relaxing again. "Hey," he said, one of his hands covering hers on his abdomen. She felt his fingers slide between hers and nuzzled his back with her nose. "How was shopping?"

"Good," she said exuberantly. "I have a dress!" she exclaimed proudly. "And the proof is that bag," she added, motioning behind her.

Chuckling, Mark looked over his shoulder to the long black bag on the island. "Well done, Grey. I was beginning to worry."

"When we're married, are you going to start calling me Meredith or Sloan?" she teased, squeezing his sides with her arms.

She felt his laughter rumble out of him and loosened her arms as he turned around to face her. He leaned back against the counter lazily, his hands cupping her face, brushing away her bangs and stroking her cheek. He had a rather sarcastic smile on his face but his eyes glittered with a happiness that he'd sorely had in his life. "I think 'Meredith' is for special circumstances," he told her, his hands sliding down her neck slowly, smile growing as she shivered. His palms slid down her sides and settled low on her hips, squeezing them before he pulled her closer, her body fitting against his.

"Well you do shout it quite nicely," she replied, tipping her head back, her eyes gleaming with mirth and slowly glazing with the passion of the moment.

He stared into her eyes a moment, his mouth turning up in a slow smile. He leaned forward just enough for their noses to brush against one another, their mouths so close she could feel the heat of his breath burning against her lips. She felt her amusement waning as her body responded to the situation. Sliding her palms up his chest, Meredith wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers tangling in his hair. She was so close she could see the flecks of grey in his steel blue eyes as they seemed to be taking in every inch of her face. Impatient, Meredith crossed the last few inches, pressing her mouth against his and feeling heat course through her. It seemed every nerve in her body lit up, her heart picking up a furious pace and all the air leaving her. He reacted as soon as her lips touched his, his tongue running against the seam of her mouth before entering to tangle with hers. She felt the whiskers of his beard tickle her skin and shivered delightedly.

His hands wandered all over her back and down across her butt, hands hooking around her thighs and dragging her up closer so her body was pressed against his, knees drawing up to cradle his hips as she met his mouth passionately. He pushed away from the counter, moving to put her on the edge of the island, her legs wrapped around him tighter, ankles locking. One of his hands rose up her back and into her hair, dragging the elastic out of it and letting her dirty blonde hair fall around her shoulders. His fingers tangled in the waves, dragging her mouth against his and holding her as close as he could. Meredith tugged his shirt up before sliding her hands under and pressing her palms into his hard, heated skin. She moved them around to his back, enjoying the feel of the muscles flexing and tensing beneath her fingers. He ground against her, his hardness pressing against the juncture of her thighs.

They broke apart for air, but Mark moved his mouth down her neck, tongue and teeth combining to make her arch into him, biting her lip against the tasty sensations. He pushed the shoulder of her shirt out of the way, his mouth trailing across her skin heatedly. She murmured his name, her eyes fluttering, as he pulled her shirt down low enough to expose her chest to him, his mouth quickly finding all the sensitive areas and exploiting them for all they were worth. She didn't care that they were in the middle of their kitchen, right in front of the window to their front yard. It didn't occur to her that their meal was cooling on the counter, a waste of good food.

She loved his mouth. He had the perfect lips and he knew just how to use them. His tongue was an experience unmatched by any other. There was an urgency in his movements that was rare for him. He usually enjoyed taking it slow, teasing her until she was begging him for more. He was a master at the art of love making and she never underappreciated that in him. But now he was just moving clothes out of the way instead of taking the time to slowly get rid of them. They'd had their quickies, of course. Various places in Seattle Grace were christened by them, but usually at home he took his time. She wondered what brought on the mood, but didn't have much in the way of serious thought since he was doing the most delicious things with his hands.

Before long his sweatpants were pushed down and her jeans were laying in a pile on the floor. His arms were tight around her, almost so much so that she wasn't able to move far. Her thighs shook against his sides as he slid into her. He buried his face against the crook of her neck, mouth kissing her skin as he thrust a deep and hard beat against her. She cried out, tremors coursing through her body. Her arms tightened around his shoulders, fingers tugging on his hair. She loved the wild and hard Mark just as much as his tender and loving side. She knew as soon as it was over he'd soothe away the harshness of their embrace and give her some insight as to why it happened in the first place.

She was teetering over the edge within minutes, her bottom lip sore from her teeth scraping against it to hold back the shouts that begged exit. His back flexed as her hand fell against it, the raw strength sending another tremor of excitement through her. Were she a vain person, she could understand why any woman would be solely attracted to Mark for his outward appearance. He was more than handsome, he was on another plain all together. Maybe she was biased, but she'd never been with anybody more attractive. His body, his face, his arrogance even.

She felt him bite her shoulder and let go of the last lingering hold she had on sanity. Her mouth fell open, a gutteral noise of satisfaction escaping her at an overwhelmingly loud volume. For a moment, sound escaped her, as did sight. Her body shook all over, and she fell against Mark as he too slumped into her. His weight was heavy against her, but she had a feeling he'd fall if he moved away. His hands stroked her back slowly, fingers soothing her sweaty, tingling skin.

He kissed her neck softly, trailing up the curve with sweet, tender kisses. She stroked his hair, her eyes closed and her breathing evening out. His shirt was sticking to him and his body was standing at a funny angle, but he didn't let go just yet. He used his elbows on the counter to hold himself up a little more, his mouth making a path up her face to the corner of her eye before going back down to slide across her lips. He kissed her slowly, drawing her into a lazy, passionate clash of lips. One of his hands raised to run down her hair before settling on her back as he stood up on shaky legs, hugging her against him.

"You know I love you, right?" he asked, a sliver of insecurity in his voice.

Meredith wanted to move back to see his face but he buried it against her shoulder again, tightening his arms so she couldn't see him. She wrapped her arms around him, fingers stroking the back of his neck. "Of course I do. I love you, too, Mark."

She felt him sigh against her neck and frowned. Something was wrong.

"There might be an unexpected guest at the wedding," he muttered, sounding almost angry.

"Who?" she asked, furrowing her brow. They'd already talked to everybody who was coming and it was a little late for people to be calling in to say they were coming.

He didn't reply right away and felt him tense up in her arms.

"Mark? Who might be coming?" she asked again, becoming rather worried about who could be crashing their wedding. He mumbled something against her shoulder and she rolled her eyes. "Now say it so I can understand you," she told him.

"Derek," he said clearly, his arms tightening around her.

"Derek," she repeated. "Shepherd?" She shook her head, it was a stupid question, she knew. "What? Why?"

"Celia sent him an invitation. Something about how all her children would be there and she wouldn't let them out of it. Family crap."

"Well... He wouldn't... I mean, why would he..." She shook her head, biting her lip and feeling a burst of annoyance well up in her. She didn't want him there. She didn't want him ruining this day for her. It was supposed to be bright and shiny and he was going to make it dark and twisty. She didn't need that. Not on her wedding day. "Can't we uninvite him?" she asked hopefully.

Mark chuckled lightly, shaking his head against her shoulder. "Unfortunately, no."

Sighing, Meredith slumped against him. "So we'll put him somewhere in the back," she said quietly. "Pretend he's not there."

He nodded silently, kissing her shoulder.

Meredith felt worry settle in her stomach. She knew Mark probably took this as a bad sign. He'd been waiting for something to go wrong all along. She dearly hoped Derek would just stay wherever he was and if he didn't, then she hoped he stayed out of her relationship with Mark. With a frown, she knew things were going to get bad and regretted that her happiness was going to be spoiled once more by the likes of Derek Shepherd.

A/N Sorry this took so long. I was half done and I finished a lot of it last night but then this morning I put the last few touches on it. I hope you've enjoyed it. I'll try and update again soon. I'm currently working on a new chapter to "Starting From Scratch," so I'll have that up soon too! REVIEW!