Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. (Shonda Rimes, Shondaland, ABC, et al.) The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

Warning: Definite S3 spoilers, vague S4 spoilers (from the commercials), and it's written in second person POV if you don't like that sort of thing.

Note: Dedicated to Liz and Bee, who both got locked out two days ago and led to the inspiration of this fic. The title is from Zero 7's "In Time." This is, I should mention, my first Meredith/Derek, and my first Meredith or Derek fic whatsoever.

In Time
by lostlikealice

It's raining. It's raining and you're locked out of your house. You're smarter than this and you know it, Meredith, but whatever, here you are, sitting on the swing outside your house (your dead mom's house) because you don't have your keys. You're locked out of your house and you even tried breaking into a window before you realized that you'd have to pay for it. You could drive there and back but when gas costs this much? Besides, someone has to come home soon.

Right?

You call Alex. Then you call Izzie. No response. So who else? Derek. You have to call Derek. Nothing wrong with calling your boyfriend for help, even if he is the head of neurosurgery. Really. His surgery should be over by now.

"Hello?" he answers.

You waste no time. Directness, that's mature, that's not passive-aggressive or scary or damaged. "Derek, I'm locked out."

There's a pause where he's either amused, slightly exasperated, or that adorable mix of both. "You're locked out," he repeats.

"I'm locked out. I left my keys somewhere." This is so unlike you. You're not messy and disorganized. Not really. No, you're totally together. Seriously.

Who are you kidding?

Anyway. "I don't know where, maybe in my locker, but if you could just bring your set if mine aren't there -- "

"Fine. Okay," Derek says, sounding vaguely amused, or patronizing, and you seriously need to stop worrying like that. He's your knight in shining whatever. He's not tolerating you. You're fine, both of you are fine, and girls in bars might happen but he loves you. He does.

"Okay," you repeat, with emphasized certainty.

"Okay?" he echoes; his skeptical tone immediately brings to mind the image of his eyebrows raised.

"Okay. I'll see you. Thank you," you add, but you sound less grateful than relieved and pathetically indebted. And it strikes you to say it, because it just sounds like it'd be something you say at a time like this, "I love you."

There's a change, if a slight one, at that: warmth, a smile in his voice when he speaks next, an instant later. "I love you too. I'll be there as soon as I can."

And you can't help but smile, just a little, at that. "Bye," you say, a lilt of slyness in your voice.

"Bye," he returns, his voice dipping in its teasing way, and he hangs up.

Just like that, you're alone again. You hang up and lean back on the swing, stretching your legs out but avoiding the growing puddle on the porch. It's getting dark. The neighborhood is all lit up, some windows modestly ablaze with lamps muted by curtains, others aglow with the light of the TV screen, and you get caught up looking at the houses and lightly swinging back and forth.

When you bother to think about it, this isn't your house or your neighborhood at all. You feel more like a tenant than an owner. But now Mom is dead, the (in)famous Ellis Grey is gone -- actually gone, not the fake gone like when Alzheimer's stole her away, and you still think it's bad that part of you is relieved -- and Thatcher, Dad, your estranged father, could not be further away even if he's not that far a drive away. So it's yours. You guess.

Ha. You kick the ground and swing a little harder, and it's starting to really rain, rain sloshing from the gutters. Ellis Grey wouldn't have gotten locked out of her house. She'd always have her keys with her, and even if she (by some miracle) didn't, she'd have a key hidden somewhere or something, and it would never be found or get lost because she was Ellis Grey, and things like that never happen to extraordinary, remarkable women like Ellis Grey.

See, this is why you don't like being alone here. Because then you feel less like Dr. Meredith Grey, neurosurgery resident at Seattle Grace Teaching Hospital and more like you're six years old hearing Mom pretending like she's not crying in the next room. And you're not little Meredith Grey, Ellis Grey's daughter, anymore.

You stop swinging abruptly and look inside the house idly, standing on tiptoe to look in the door, then into the window itself. You didn't change a thing from the way Mom had it. You should've. You will. You really will. Izzie's tried, but you can do it. Seriously. Make it yours.

Rain grazes your cheek and you brush it away, tensed and upset and thinking too much. Thinking too hard. Blaming yourself. (You have enough people blaming you, don't you?) You're fine. It doesn't mean anything that you got locked out in the rain and Derek has to save you again. It's just a bad day.

Actually, you think you might jump Derek when he gets here. After all, he looks good after being caught in the rain. But he looks good before, during and after just about everything. He's McDreamy, for God's sake.

Suddenly there's the splashing of a car making its way down the street, and you turn abruptly to see if it's him, but it's not and you falter awkwardly, wrap your arms around yourself and glance down like you've offended the car that doesn't even know you're standing in front of a dark house. Stupid. Childish and awkward and stupid.

This? This is why you don't like being alone. Because then it becomes free time for Meredith Grey Sucks, Let Me Count the Ways, and that list is way too long to even be started.

Your gaze lands on a spot on the ground ten feet away and you don't move until you hear another car, tilting your head up, and a smile creeps across your face because it's him. And blood rushes to your face and it's still dark and cold and rainy but you feel warm because this is what love is.

He walks up the sidewalk, shielding himself from the rain with a newspaper, and dangles the keys in front of you with a half-smirk. "I found them."

"Well, good for you!" You make a grab for them, and he pulls them away.

Derek shakes his head with mock sadness. "No no. You don't get them if you're not going to be nice to me."

You raise your eyebrows and give him a knowing look. "Oh, blackmail." You take the newspaper from him and toss it onto the swing, taking a step closer to him.

"Can you really be mean to this face?" He's grinning now and all you can do is imagine him naked when he gives you that grin. And you're sure he's doing the same to you, it can't help that you definitely got soaked on the way home.

But you will not let him win. Not immediately, or at least not without the keys. "You don't get to be that cute and know you're that cute. It's unfair. Now give me the keys."

And now he's laughing. "Oh, now you're demanding!"

You're trying to fake a glower but you're just smirking and you give him a moment to try to figure out what you're going to do before you try to sneak another grab at the keys. He holds them out of your reach and you start to laugh, the two of you horsing around until the keys fall into the water pooling on the sidewalk. You exchange a serious, competitive look with Derek, and then both of you dive for it at the same time.

Okay, so you're all wet again. Also, your hair has been through a lot. But you got there first and you run for the door once you have the key, scrambling to open the door just to confirm your victory. As you step inside and turn around to look at him, he's looking at you with that serious, admiring look and you put your hands on your hips.

"What?" you demand again.

"Meredith," he says in this way that just says it all -- exasperation, amazement, contentment -- and you soften, feeling like a sixteen year old or something. He can always do that to you.

You appraise him. "Get inside," you say after a moment, and grin as he closes the door behind himself and gives you a kiss in greeting as always.

This isn't your house. But it could be. This is your McDreamy and this could be your McHouse and your McLife. You can do this. Really. You aren't Ellis Grey, you can be happy like this, as long as he stays with you (and away from girls in bars but you are not thinking about this, you are McDreamy's McGirlfriend, shut up, Meredith).

You can do this. Seriously. Starting tomorrow, maybe.