Author: MeredithMcSteamy
Warning: Strong sexual situations!
Spoilers: Season Three, though I changed the outcome of who became Chief.
Genre: Romance/Drama/Angst
Relationship(s): Mer/Mark, one-sided Mer/Der
Summary: Alone and sad, Derek searches out Meredith in hopes of reconcilliation, only to stumble across her and her new lover. He comes to the realization that there are others willing to love her without restraint or pause.
Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to Grey's Anatomy or the characters involved.

A Better Man Than I

-

"We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant.
You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself.
You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it
."
- John Lennon

-

Derek had come to the conclusion that he had made a grave and stupid mistake. He had given up the fight to be with Meredith and was now only half happy in his position as Chief of Surgery. The higher employment position was a huge accomplishment and he felt his pride swell each time another called him "Chief". But the level of authority and the huge step he'd taken in his career felt hollow. He had nobody to share it with. No one to return to at night, no one to spend his spare time with, to hug or kiss or make love to. His stress was at a high every night and returning to an empty trailer left him more upset. He'd made his choice, however, and after he got his prized position, he tried to start up with Meredith again, but she'd been scorned by him too many times and shook her head. He thought, over the last eight or so months, that she might be seeing someone, but she had mastered privacy since their own trysts around the hospital. He couldn't get a word out of her friends and none of the nurses had any news about her. He could tell by the patronizing looks that Cristina passed his way that she knew who it was that Meredith was with, but enjoyed the torture of letting him go on without knowing.

There were a few times he almost broke down and asked Meredith who it was, but she'd recently begun treating him like a co-worker. It bothered him to see how comfortable she'd become calling him just Chief or Dr. Shepherd, instead of hearing her fumble over his first name like a woman who knew him intimately. She referred to him now with such ease, it would be hard to consider her ever using his name with such fondness. He often longed for the days where she would look up at him, that soft, teasing smile on her lips, the twinkle in her eye reserved only for him. But those were of the past and he knew well that she wouldn't take him back, not with how much he'd hurt her. She didn't believe he'd stop; couldn't put her trust in him once more. But now that he knew she might be moving on, he found himself wanting, needing her back in his life even more.

He'd scoured the hospital for her, knowing that surgeries were at a low and most of the interns were looking over her cases. He'd checked with Stevens, O'Malley, and Yang, only to be ignored or given a roundabout answer. George stuttered his way through an excuse and bolted, Izzie was busy with a patient and barely gave any concentration to the question except to tell him that Meredith was probably busy, while Cristina outright laughed and shook her head, waving a sharp finger in his face and telling him not to interfere, or she'd deal with him in a very painful manner. Derek didn't heed her advice and continued looking for Meredith, briefly asking Bailey if she'd seen her, only to get the "Nazi"'s annoyed look and a roll of her eyes before she told him that as Chief he should have better things to do. It seemed his high rank over them wasn't exactly noticed or cared for, and he thought it was probably because he'd burned Meredith to get there. Still, he couldn't blame them for wanting to keep her heart safe, even if he thought it'd be better off with him.

He checked supplies closets, janitorial rooms, the on-call room, the cafeteria, her patients quarters, and basically every where he could think of, even asking the nurses who came out of the bathrooms if she was inside. He was about ready to give up, stopping in the observation room of one of the empty surgical rooms, knowing that she liked peace and quiet when she had some time to herself, and caught a glimpse of movement down below. He stepped up the window, hearing the door click shut behind him, and his heart clenched tightly while his breath seemed to be knocked out entirely. He'd finally found her, except not as he'd hoped. She wasn't alone and Derek finally had an answer to the question that had been plaguing him for so long. The man she'd been seeing, a doctor here at the hospital, a man who he'd never thought would turn Meredith's head was there with her and he wasn't dressed for outside company.

They were laid out on one of the wider beds they had at the hospital, not at all shy with the emptiness of the room and only each other to share in the intimacy. Her lover's navy smock was already thrown on the floor, his feet bare and his legs entwined with hers. She wore only a white camisole and her panties, the rest of her smooth skin bare for his hands to run over. Derek felt his stomach roll and knew he should leave, should burn his eyes out just for the images that barraged his lovesick mind, but he couldn't. It was like a car crash, he simply had to stay and watch, hoping that neither would see him and yet wanting them to. If only to see the regret in her eyes, the sadness that she'd hurt him, the want to make him feel better and leave behind her lover for him. His hands clenched tightly and he had to remind himself to breathe as he watched her lover's hand smooth over her shoulder and down her arm, slipping off the edge of her elbow to land on her curvy sides, dipping at her waist and then lifting over her hips, wrapping around her thigh and traveling along to her knee. He moved slow and gentle, an intimate touch that knew her well and yet wanted to explore her thoroughly, as if for the first time. Strong, long fingers caressing and kneading and loving her every inch. Derek watched as her lover stared into her eyes, the eyes he'd so often spent hours adoring himself. Meredith shivered at his touch, teeth pressing into her plump bottom lip as she eagerly felt every movement of his hand.

Derek knew it was wrong. This was something he shouldn't be watching, shouldn't be examining moment by moment, but he was so stunned by how loving the man she was with could truly be. He'd seen him with other women, not intimately -except for an unfortunate accident in college and another time he couldn't forget or forgive- but he'd known what he was like with all of his other flings. Relationships did not last with him, he was quick; in and out, got what he wanted and it was all over. But the way he was touching Meredith, the way he was looking at Meredith was completely different. Derek wanted to say it was wrong, wanted to feel the familiar hatred and bitterness well up inside but it simply wouldn't come. There was a pain, of course, there was a pang of remorse and loss, but he couldn't gather up the hatred he knew he once had. He'd made love to Meredith, and they'd had these intimate moments themselves. He'd touched her curves and enjoyed her body to all of it's glorious points, but he wasn't sure she'd ever looked at him like she was her lover. It wasn't one sided, he realized. Meredith shared that same soft look in her beautiful eyes. Her smile was one of warmth and love; of a shared feeling that comes from deep down and surrounds them in its entirety.

She reached out for him, her hand grazing down his strong chest, starting from between his clavicles and smoothing down the hard plains of muscle and sinewy strength. Her palm was pressed close, fingers curved and tantalizing. Derek watched as her lover shivered against her hand, his body quaking with the simplest of her touches. Despite being a man who'd bedded an uncountable amount of women, he still shook against her. It was astonishing for Derek to witness, almost unimaginable. Love was not something he ever connected with that man. That man who seemed a brother in the darkest and brightest of days; who ruined a life that Derek had taken for granted; that lay now, enjoying the woman Derek had been longing for. Their caresses were slow and drawn out, as if they had all the time in the world rather than until their beepers warned them of their duty to the outside world. Her soft, nimble fingers dipped and touched and enjoyed ever crevice and muscle and curve that made up her lovers torso. Hands gripping strong biceps, fingernails teasing taut flesh, knuckles brushing lovingly over wrists, chest and abdomen.

Their lips moved and he found himself wanting to hear their words, wanting to know what things she might say to him. Would she remind him that what they were doing was wrong? Would she tell him that it was nothing more than a carnal agreement? Or would she whisper those words that he'd longed to hear her mouth form for him? Love. Did she love him? This man who had never considered a future with just one woman. This man who cared little for feelings and monogamy but instead of infidelity; of his next nameless fling. This man who Derek couldn't deny was tracing her mouth with the tips of his fingers, gentle and slow, almost not touching her at all, as if worried she'd disappear from beneath his grasp entirely. Where was the smirk? The leer and lust filled gaze? Who replaced this man-whore with a tender lover? Derek felt his fingernails dig painfully into his palms, a forceful reminder of how wrong it was that he stood watching. His eyes betrayed his honor, keeping watch over the couple as they lay unknowing of their audience.

He could see from the way her mouth curved up and the shake of her shoulders that she was laughing. There was a spark in her lovers eyes, a twist of his own lips as he reveled in her amusement and the fact that he'd caused it. Her lover cupped her face, his large hand making her face look so much smaller; fragile and innocent. He moved forward, eyes intent on hers, and Derek witnessed a sensual kiss. Eyes fell shut, bodies leaned forward, hands forgot what they were doing, and mouths melded and sought more. From his perch above, Derek was privy to the perfect, and most tortuous, view. Their lips seemed to crave one another's, meeting and molding, brushing and cradling as if made for each other. Tongues clashed, twisting and tasting, seeking refuge with one another. Their chests heaved together as they broke apart in need of air, eyes locked, noses brushing against each other. His fingers were tangled in her strawberry blonde hair, palm slowly sliding back down her cheek, fingers reaching out to move her bangs to the side, slipping them behind her ear delicately. He curved his hand, knuckles brushing down the apple of her cheek, tender and adoring. Derek swallowed tightly, wishing he could hate them for this moment, whether they knew it or not he was seeing them at their most vulnerable and knowing that there was nothing he could do to stop it.

They leaned forward once more, mouths finding each other again, but now their hands joined the mix. Hers wrapped around to run down his bare back, tips digging into his flesh with fervor. His traveled down her side, resting on her hip for only a moment before slipping beneath her fitted camisole and dragging it up her body slowly, fingers kneading her side and back, bringing her closer to his body. His large hand moved to the front, covering the soft mound beneath and massaging it. Derek gulped as Meredith arched into her lovers grasp, her mouth breaking away for a moment as her head fell back. He didn't have to hear her to see that she was crying out, her teeth digging into her bruised lip. Her lover watched her reaction, a pleased smile on his mouth, before his mouth sought hers again, yearning to find its rightful place against her lips. Meredith's hands found his hair, fingers curling and tugging at the dark brown strands, pressing into his head as if to draw his mouth closer. His hand continued to draw a reaction out of her from its position beneath her shirt and Meredith writhed against his hand, her lower body moving forward to press into him. Her lovers leg slipped higher between hers and her body readily rocked against his thigh, the most sensitive spot on her being intimately caressed. One of her hands slipped from his hair, descending his neck and back before slipping over his ribs and trailing down his abdomen and Derek's eyes fixed on the clenching of her lovers stomach in anticipation before her fingers slipped beneath the blue waist of his scrub pants. He thrust forward against her palm, his mouth breaking away from hers to visibly gasp against her cheek as his eyes closed tightly.

Derek found himself desperately wishing he could be where this other man was. His inner mind berated him for his stupidity; for leaving her so readily, thinking his career was in any way better. He'd lost his chance, walked away from the best woman he'd ever known, from the woman who would have loved him endlessly. But she had moved on, she had found someone else to love and care for, to caress and kiss, to hold and cherish. Her lovers mouth found hers again, their kissing became more feverish than tender; a race to feel and taste and have entirely. He leaned her back, his hand dragging her camisole up and over her head, dropping it to the floor and meeting her mouth for a short but no less fierce kiss. He trailed down her chin, over her arched neck and explored the expanse of her shoulders before finding gold on the rosy tips of her breasts. Her fingers couldn't reach to stroke him any longer, now smoothing up his sides. His million dollar hands cradled her sides, sliding down her ribs to her hips, lifting them to help her rub hander against his thigh as he lavished her with his tongue, lips, and teeth. Her hands found his shoulders, squeezing and pressing him on, wanting and needing more, before slipping into his hair, fingers wrapping his hair tight around them, tugging and tightening in her ecstasy. Her body arched forward, meeting his mouth pleasantly as she threw her head back, mouth open in a wide "O". She trembled, arms shaking as her hips ground against him and her chest heaved with each gasping breath.

He broke away from her sensitive mounds, mouth trailing down her ribs to press tender kisses against her abdomen. He circled her belly button, teeth nipping at her lightly sweat-sheened skin. His tongue dipped and twirled in the small hole, and Derek watched as she laughed, her eyes half lidded but gaze focused solely on her lover. Her hips had stopped their attention on his leg, but he could see she was desperate for more from the way her knees fell wide, wanting. He teased her; kissing along the rim of her black panties, fingers sliding beneath the cotton fabric, wrapping around the small edges and slowly dragging them down, over her thighs and down her smooth, toned legs to drop them to the floor. Her lover kissed her knee, slowly making his way across her tensing thigh, drawing it out as long as possible. One of his hands found hers and Derek could see the white of her knuckles from her tight grip. When her lover finally found her glistening center, her hips lifting restlessly, he chuckled, before kissing an arch around it to the other leg. He could see Meredith's frown and the amused grin on her lovers face. She said something Derek couldn't hear and her lover traced a finger down the thigh he'd just thoroughly kissed as he replied with an impassiveness that must have been incredibly hard to feign with the position he was in. Despite his outer calm, Derek could see the tenseness in the man's back and the sweat breaking out on his skin.

She rolled her eyes at him, her hand in his shaking it around and nodding at him. Her mouth was moving quickly and her head was tilting, eyes far off, and he knew then that she was rambling, like she did when she got flustered or off course. He watched her lovers reaction to it, amused and adoring, before he cut off her musings by doing what she wanted in the first place. His mouth descended on her sweetness and Meredith's mouth stopped rambling to form a gasp as her hips surged forward, her back arched, and her head fell back, hair splaying out around her. Her free hand found his hair, tightening around it in a way that almost seemed painful. Her lover didn't appear to mind, continuing on his pleasurable torture thoroughly. His free hand trailed up her sweat glistened torso to find her ignored peaks, massaging them in tandem with his tongue. Her legs tensed and pressed tightly around his upper body, shaking against her lover. Derek watched as she exploded in ecstasy to another man's touch. Her body slowly fell flat against the hospital mattress, breathing heavy and eyes fluttering. Her lover climbed back up her slowly, placing tender kisses against her heaving stomach, trailing between the valley of her breasts and lavishing her throat before finding her mouth in an unhurried, delirious kiss that would leave nobody wondering what they were to each other.

Her free hand reached up, looking droopy as it found purchase on his back, sliding down his slick skin, slipping beneath his scrub pants to rub easily at his backside before tugging on the rim of his pants. He got the hint, his arm moving back to push his pants down. She helped him remove them, her feet pushing them down his legs and kicking them off the end of the bed. Her thighs moved to cradle his hips as he moved around above her, mouth moving to say things Derek couldn't hear. He watched Meredith's expression soften and a tender smile break out across her mouth. Her lover said something against her lips, their noses brushed and their gazes locked. Meredith's arm came around his shoulder, fingers trailing up his neck slowly before wrapping around the ends of his hair tightly. She said something back and Derek got the feeling they were whispering, despite the emptiness of the room around them. Whatever she said made her lover close his eyes and let out a heavy breath, before he kissed the side of her mouth and trailed across her cheek. He thrust forward then, entering her quick and deep.

Derek's heart screamed at him to run; to cry and curl up in a ball; to fall apart or throw a fit; to kill and maim the man who'd taken the woman he so desperately wanted, but he stood still. His body tensed and his eyes barely blinked, only remembering when they began to itch and tear. Her lover took his time, mouth only leaving hers to kiss her face, neck, shoulders and breasts, slow and tender. He found the spot beneath her ear, sucking on it and smiling against her neck as he eagerly turned her head to the side to give him more access. Her hips lifted to meet his like they were long time lovers, as if they knew each other entirely. Expecting and finding all that she knew she would. One of their hands stayed clasped together at all times, fingers woven tight and palms pressed together. They lay above her head, against the pale blue hospital sheets, fingers only breaking apart for him to tickle her palm with the ends of his fingers and brush them against her wrist before taking her hand again. Their lovemaking seemed to last forever, a second feeling like an hour, a thrust drawn out to maximum pleasure and leaving the twined lovers in a mess of limbs and slick skin. Her lovers back flexed and tightened against the onslaught of feelings and the rush of emotion displayed for all to see. He wasn't feigning indifference now, but embracing the tenderness Derek had rarely seen in him with women.

Her legs wrapped tight around his waist, toes curling, as her body continued to meet his and her arm tensed around his shoulders, trying to draw him closer. Her hand slipped up and down his muscled back, fingers digging into the contours and kneading flesh wantonly. The expressions that crossed her face were deep and heartfelt; not only consisting of the pleasure she was feeling, but also of the emotions she had for the man who touched and loved her so explicitly. Their breath mingled as her lovers mouth sat poised above hers, eyes scrunching closed as he looked to be almost in pain, hers doing the same, mouth falling open. He surged forward, mouth covering hers before a telling shout could escape. His thrusts became quicker, deeper and more erratic and her body writhed forward in anticipation. Her lovers back tensed and her body lifted up off the mattress almost violently, back arching and fingers scratching down his back, leaving red welts in their wake. Their bodies seemed to lose strength a moment later, her body falling back and his falling with it, her thighs no longer pressed tight against his sides, instead hanging apart and shaking. Her ankles unclasped and her legs fell to lay against the sheets. They were no longer kissing, his face had fallen to press into the crook of her neck as his back heaved with each deep breath. Her eyes were closed and her mouth was left open as she too was left gasping for air. Derek watched her lovers fingers untangle from her hand above her head, moving to tickle her palm once more, thumb pressing against hers and her own pressing back in a form of communication he didn't know.

After a few moments, her lover moved so he was laying next to her, a little lower on the bed, his face finding purchase on her breast. His free hand traced down the center of her glistening body, drawing circles with the pads of his fingers against her stomach. Her hand reached over to smooth back the hair that sat plastered against his sweaty forehead. His face had a distinct flush, eyes falling half mass as her palm trailed down his cheek, cradling his strong jaw. Meredith lay gazing down at him with a tenderness in her eyes that Derek had seen in the past, though never thought it would be directed at the man laying with her. Her lover's palm fell flat against her abdomen, almost spanning her entire waist, while he stared up at her lovingly. He said something that Derek couldn't hear, but it brought a laughing smile to Meredith's lips. Her lover laughed to, his mouth drawing up into a familiar smirk. He brought himself higher up the bed to lay equal with her, letting go of her hand so he could hold his head up, she reached up with her freed hand, running it through his hair and down the back to rest around the back of his neck, thumb stroking his skin slowly. His hand lifted, fingers brushing against her temple as he spoke to her, eyes locked on hers. His hand curled, knuckles drawing down her cheek, thumb reaching out to trace her lower lip slowly. Leaning forward, he kissed her, slow and tender, eyes falling shut in the moment.

Derek felt acceptance well up painfully in his stomach. There was a time in the past where he wouldn't dare think of a future where Meredith could move on; would love another like or even more that she had him. But the evidence spoke volumes and he couldn't fight it, much as some part of him did. The man who lay staring down at her now, the man who was kissing the length of her upper arm and laughing against her skin as she seemed to have fallen into another of her rambling moments, had found love with the woman Derek had thought would always be his. It was mutual and, if Derek was reading them right, long lasting, They may not be the most expected of couples, but they fit together in some twisted way. Dark and twisty, he supposed. They each had their own problems and saw the world in a similar manner. They were both sexual creatures that drank a little too much when they were upset and were complicated in a way Derek wasn't sure he could ever really figure out. But he knew from seeing them then that they had found a comforting similarity in each other and weren't about to let go of it. It hurt; tore his heart out, really. He'd gone looking for a woman he thought could be is all, only to find he'd waited too long; had left her assuming she'd just wait around for him all her life when there was an opportunity for her to move on, to fall in love and have the future she wanted. He'd never expected that future to be with the man who now lay on his back, holding her bare and pliant body against his while tenderly stroking her back with the tips of his fingers, but he recognized defeat when it arose.

He saw the jerking motion of their body and felt the buzz of his own beeper against his side. He saw their heads turn to look around for their beepers that lay strewn with their clothes on the floor. He watched the slump of her lovers shoulders and the rise of hers as she sighed, but they didn't ignore duty. They rolled apart and quickly found their clothes, pulling them on in a hurry and tending to each other to make sure neither of them looked like they'd been doing exactly what they had been doing. He watched their last kiss, feeling no last strains of apology as he did so. It was over, he didn't feel as if he should agonize over what he'd done, despite how intruding it was. She had to stand up on her tip toes to reach his mouth but he tipped his head down and rested his hands on her hips as she stretched. It was quick, out of necessity, but didn't lack the enthusiasm they always seemed to have. Within seconds they were gone and Derek wondered momentarily if he'd just imagined the whole thing. The tangle of sheets on the floor and the tightness in his stomach told him it was real and knowing he had to get to work, he hurried out of the room, putting his pain to the back of his mind; he had a job to do.

Later, he'd see them standing near a deserted nurses desk. It was late and the doctors were much fewer, a few nurses were walking the halls and fetching themselves coffee to keep them going. Most of the patients were fast asleep and the Emergency Room was fairly empty. He'd seen O'Malley leave with Stevens and Karev a couple hours earlier, leaving the last two of their group to get some much needed sleep. Yang walked past the couple ahead of him, waving as Meredith called something out to her. She turned back to shrug impassively at her "person" before rolling her eyes and motioning to the man next to Meredith as if pointing out something. Meredith just laughed and turned back around, pretending to pay all of her attention to the clipboard in her hands, chewing on the pen in her hand. Her lover looked around, eyes searching to make sure they had privacy, but missing Derek as he stood in the shadows near a sleeping patients room. Satisfied, he returned his attention to Meredith, his hand moving to rest on her hip, fingers slipping beneath her smock to stroke her bare skin. He was speaking to her in low tones and she was nodding, her eyes still on her paperwork dutifully though she was smiling and listening intently to him. Her lover was impatient with her lack of attention on him, something that didn't surprise Derek in the least. He squeezed her hip before pulling her away from the desk a bit and taking her other hip in his hand too. She looked up at him, amused and placating with a smile that screamed flirtatious and contentment. He leaned forward, resting his forehead against hers and whispering something against her lips. Derek strained his ears, forcing his feet into staying where they were so he didn't run closer in desperate need to know just how deep they ran, though he had his suspicions.

The words managed to reach him and for a moment he wished they hadn't. He probably should have just turned and walked away the moment he saw them near each other, but he hadn't run and it was too late to change the fact now. They kissed slowly before he drew a path across her cheek and pressed his lips against her hair and wrapped his arms loosely around her shoulders. She leaned forward to press her face against his chest, eyes falling closed and arms circling his waist comfortably. Derek swallowed his heart as it climbed up his throat and managed to turn away from the intimate scene, somehow finding it even more deep than the their lovemaking earlier. He walked down the halls silently, hoping neither would notice him. Their words repeated over and over in his mind, leaving him with the knowledge that he had finally lost. There was no fight to be fought. It had gone by without him being told and he'd lost all the same. There was a new victor, perhaps the last to gain her heart. Whatever future lie ahead for the two, he had a feeling it would be long and filled with more content than Derek could supply. Problems seemed to hound them when she had been dating him, but without Derek to make problems, she should have a smooth go of it with her new lover. Despite the pain and regret that swept through him, he knew that some part of him that loved her also felt happy for her. She deserved to live the good life. A life where she was with a man who would love her wholeheartedly and cherish her entirely. He'd never imagined the man she was with now to be that kind, but he'd witnessed it with his own eyes.

He was a good man. A man who would never hurt Meredith like Derek and many before him had. Perhaps if it were any other woman than her, but not Meredith. The love that practically glowed from his eyes was something that didn't pass, that didn't fall to pieces or was ever overlooked. He wouldn't make the mistake of infidelity with her, he wouldn't risk losing her for a fling with someone meaningless. He was a new man, a man who would put Meredith before everything else. He wouldn't consider the title of Chief something more important than her and because of that he was a better man than Derek. It felt wrong to admit defeat, especially over Meredith, and more so because of who it was to. But he would, he did, and he knew it was for the best. She was better off with him, he could see it in the way they were together. It hurt to see, to say, to know, but the truth is eyeopening, and not always in the most calming of ways. Derek rubbed at his chest, the wound on his heart still fresh and bleeding. While he knew that she was happy and safe where she was, the words that they'd exchanged burned still. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath against the onslaught of tears that clouded his eyes. He heard their voices as if he was standing right beside them, their lips whispering it to each other and yelling it at him.

He would get through this. Heartache stings and draws a person down, but he was strong. He would move forward, because that's all there was to do. Tonight he would get drunk, because he needed to stop the voices playing over and over in his mind, the visions of their tender intimacy still bombarding his brain, but tomorrow he would start anew. He was Derek Shepherd, top neurosurgeon and Chief of Seattle Grace Hospital; a champion of his work and a strong willed man, despite the pain of heartache in the past and present. For now though, he was allowed a moment of weakness; of tears and pain. She was once his but she'd never be again. Love lost, passed on to a man who would cherish it like he should, instead of tarnishing it like Derek had too many times. And so he stopped and leaned against the wall, a hand dragging through his waves of dark hair and slipping down his shadowed jaw over his shaking mouth. His eyes tightened and his throat burned but he wouldn't sob like his chest begged him to do. Their voices rang loud and clear in his mind and while he hated the words he knew them to be true and heartfelt, something he couldn't simply ignore. He hoped eventually they would fade from his mind, but the meaning, he knew, would always be embedded. There was no future for Derek and Meredith, that much was true. But all was not lost for either of them. She'd moved on and found the right man for her and he would eventually find the right woman, despite the lingering hope it was her.

"I love you," her lover whispered against the softness of her lips. His trimmed mustache likely tickling the tender flesh of her mouth. Very few women had probably heard the words from him, at least not meaningfully like they were said now. Derek knew them to be true; probably the hardest thing for the man to say. To put his heart on the line like that, of which he'd only done once before and had it handed back to him on a platter, gouged and broken. But that didn't happen now, no.

"I love you too, Mark," Meredith replied, her voice soft, sweet, and honest.

Gathering himself, Derek pushed their words out of his mind, tightening his jaw and straightening his shoulders. He walked away, his footsteps echoing down the busy hallway. A nurse passed him, waving and calling out, "Goodnight, Chief," in a voice only as chipper as it could be that late at night. He nodded at her before continuing on, resolve in each of his steps. He'd leave them behind, to have their moment to themselves, to find a future that didn't involve either of them. It would be best to simply let go and let live. He had to have a fresh start. He'd have to see them every day, he may even have to hear about a wedding or a child or a future all their own, but he would be okay. He would press on with head held high. Surgeons were fighters, arrogant and self assured sure, but strong willed and proud all the same. It would hurt, perhaps forever, but he'd keep walking. Down hallways that didn't lead to her or him or them, just to a world where the future was open and wide and waiting for him to explore. There were options. He would examine them all. He could do this. He'd left her in better hands and now his were free to find a woman better suited to him. He'd always love her but perhaps love wasn't enough. She needed more and he wasn't there when she needed him most, so she found someone who would be. Derek recognized the fault and vowed to change it. If there was nothing else he'd learned, it was that there was room for improvement in his attitude towards the women he'd loved. He'd ignored Addison and left Meredith when she was vulnerable and hurt. Two relationships that ended because of him and his lack of attention to their needs. He hoped the third time was the charm. Logic over emotion. He was a neurosurgeon for a reason; cardiology was too painful.


A/N This is a one-shot. Hope you enjoyed it. Was it obvious who it was, despite the lack of name and my telling you in the summary? There were a few hints here or there. Thanks for reading. Leave a review, please. They're very appreciated!