AN: Okay, so I'm sure it has been done to death, but I wanted my own take on the whole 'what if Derek had picked Meredith the first time?' thing. So, obviously you know how it's gonna end, but at least it will be happy, damnit! lol. I plan to continue through season 2 and maybe 3.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I have no affiliations with Grey's Anatomy.
"Hey," Meredith spoke after long hesitation. Following a pointed look from Meredith, George had quickly vacated the scrub room, effectively leaving her and Derek alone for the first time that night. And it had been a long night, filled with short encounters and hopeful looks. But no answers. She hadn't been able to read him, but now that they were alone, she couldn't stand the not knowing anymore. She needed to know. She needed...
"Hi," he returned the greeting, smiling at her as he fastened the bottom ties of his surgical mask behind his neck.
She stared at him, expectant, but he failed to offer anything else. No more words, just a gentle smile as they gazed at each other for several seconds. Then, seemingly at the same moment, they both broke the trance and looked away, focus landing on the large sink in front of them. She sighed, wanting to ask. But she feared she didn't want the answer. If he wasn't openly telling her, if she didn't just know by looking at him...
"You know, I went to the bar," he finally said, bringing his eyes back up to look at her.
Her head snapped up at his words, her eyes trying to meet his, seeking an answer. Her heart thudded painfully in her chest, having doubled its rate in only a few seconds. Her throat was dry.
"I heard," she responded, prompting him, begging him, to continue.
He smiled at her, breathing in, before he tore his gaze away quickly, reaching to grab a scrub package from the shelf over the sink. She followed suit. He remained silent for several seconds, working methodically on his hands. Unable to tear her eyes away, Meredith couldn't even open her package, simply held it tightly in her hands, as if it were a lifeline. And she stared, silent, waiting. Just stared. She knew he knew what she needed to hear. She just didn't know why he wouldn't tell her.
"Look," his voice was quiet, but it was all she could hear. All other noises and distractions of the room faded away, and he was all she was focusing on. He glanced at her quickly. "This is hardly the time or place, but we really need to talk," he continued. "I mean really talk, sit down and... talk. About a lot of things."
Meredith continued to stare, her mind racing through what he had just said, breaking down his words, looking for any and all meaning she could find. It wasn't decisive. It wasn't absolute. He hadn't given her an answer. Or had he? Was she so hopefully, so blindly, in love that he was telling her to beat it, and she couldn't process it? Was she really that far gone? The we need to talk line never led to good things, but it was Derek. Derek. Her Derek. So it couldn't mean that, could it?
"Okay," was all she could manage to say, her trembling fingers working the scrub package between her hands, turning it over and over and over. "Okay," she repeated, her voice almost a whisper. She wasn't sure he had even heard.
With a breath, he finished scrubbing and rinsed his hands, turning to head into the OR, but paused before the door. Derek turned to face her, forearms held up in front of him, long, winding streams of water running down until they welled at his elbows and took turns dropping off into space. He was obviously tired, and in some level of pain. That was one thing she could read easily. His navy scrubs were rumbled from a long day at work. The mask still hung crookedly from around his neck. His eyes were weary. And yet, she had never loved him more. She had never wanted, hoped for, or loved anything else more in her life.
She gulped, sure she was losing him. He hadn't picked her. He had gone back to her. She had lost him; the arrogant, charming, flawed, slightly rumpled man standing in front of her. She loved him. But she had lost him.
He gazed at her, not quite smiling, but aspects of the McDreamy look were floating in the background of his eyes. His chest heaved as he took a deep breath, and she was sure it was his way of saying goodbye. His way of getting closure. But he surprised her.
His modified expression expanded into a full fledged smile, and he tilted his head just so, meeting her eyes fully. Her breath caught and she was drawn to his eyes, falling into their deep blue depth. Tunnel vision clicked in and all she could see was him. His gorgeous smile. His deep blue eyes. His wavy hair. The slightly crooked nose, and scar on his forehead. Him. Then he spoke.
"This isn't the time," he repeated. "But I can't not tell you. I can't wait. I was going to wait. I was going to explain everything but I... I pick you," his voice was a whisper. "I choose you." He still spoke softly, his eyes never leaving hers. Her throat was dry as shock swept through her system. Shock and anticipation. Anticipation at what she knew was coming next. What she had waited a lifetime to hear. "And, Meredith Grey, I love you."
Her lower jaw opened, just slightly and tremored as she struggled for words, struggled for air, struggled for some form of clarity. Had he really just... Had he... She couldn't even form thoughts. And he was still smiling at her, still holding her gaze. If anything, his smile had grown larger. Her previously dry throat now felt like bone, and it was all she could do to keep breathing in and out. Her heart was in her throat, which was probably why she couldn't speak, why her chest was screaming out to her. The small plastic package in her hands was now still, held in a vice grip between her fingers. Her legs felt like jello, making her question how she was still standing.
Finally, after what felt like hours but in reality was only seconds, she managed a full breath. In. Out. Her heart began to migrate back to its proper place in her chest. She managed to swallow, a thin coat of saliva coating the back of her throat, gifting her with the ability to speak. Now, if only she had the ability to form words. Her brain reeled for something to say. Anything. She opened her mouth, as if about to speak, hoping that would put pressure on her brain to help her out. "I..." was all she managed to vocalize.
There was a tap on the glass separating the scrub room for the OR. The tunnel vision disintegrated, and she remembered where they were. "Doctor Shepherd, she's crashing!" A voice called. And then he was out of sight, rushing into the OR. She stood routed to the spot for several moments, breathing hard, waiting for some semblance of equilibrium to return to her body. Waiting to wake up from the dream.
Then she snapped out of her haze and tore open the scrub package, her practiced hands on autopilot, going through the motions of scrubbing and rinsing. And then she was backing through the door, finding herself awash with doctors and nurses. Derek was already hard at work. She took a towel and dried her hands, stuck them into gloves held out by the scrub nurses, and stepped into the surgical gown. She barely noticed one of them fastening the top of her mask in place behind her head. She was ready.
Bailey called her over to help retract, motioning her head towards Derek. Meredith hurried over to the table, squeezing in beside him, beside the man who loved her; right where she belonged.