AN: 6 years, 5 seasons, 4 places of residence in two different countries, 3 laptops, 2 awesome characters and 1 really long story. I've been writing and proofing right up to the last minute to have this chapter ready to go today, which marks exactly six years since this fic began. I've combined the final chapter and epilogue into one, so this will be the very last chapter.
I really want to thank everyone whose read from the very beginning and everyone who has joined somewhere along the way. This story started as a small idea on how a few main parts of season 2 and 3 would be different had Meredith and Derek been together all along. With a lot of supportive readers, it turned into so much more. I've enjoyed the ride, and though I know it's right to end this story now, I am sad to leave this Meredith and Derek behind. I really hope everyone likes the epilogue.
"Do you think it's safe to go back yet?"
"I don't think it'll ever be safe to go back. Not with Izzie doing what Izzie does."
Derek laughed. "She's not that bad."
"You weren't at her last party," Meredith said dryly. "What she called a small gathering to meet her boyfriend turned into a huge party that almost destroyed my house. We should never have given her a key."
"I was at her last party," he pointed out. "I have fond memories of that party." He raised an eyebrow at her.
Meredith rolled her eyes. "You have fond memories from your car, which was parked down the street. You never made it inside."
"Not for lack of trying."
She laughed. "You were my boss. I was trying to be good."
It was his turned to laugh. "You had sex with me in my car."
She elbowed him in the side. "I was drunk."
He moved his arm to protect his side against any future attacks. "Okay, I think we've gotten a little off topic."
"No, I don't think it's safe to go back. Is the trailer live-able? We may have to stay there for a while."
"It's not going to be that many people."
"That's what she said last time!" Meredith buried her face in her hands. "Oh, I should never have agreed to this. At least last time it was about her and I was new so people didn't really know who I was."
"It's not going to be that bad."
"I don't like being the centre of attention."
Derek was silent for a moment before shrugging. "Tough."
He smirked when his wife's head shot up out of her hands. "Tough?" She echoed. "That's all you have to say?"
"Well, I tried to console you, but that didn't work, so yeah. Tough. Izzie's throwing our wedding reception, so we'll be the centre of attention. It's too late to do anything to change that."
She huffed. "I was really starting to think she had forgotten about it." As the months had gone by after they had gotten married last summer, Izzie had mentioned Meredith's promise to let her throw the wedding reception and house warm party less and less. And then in late February, the blond had presented them with a date. Now, almost a month later, they had been temporarily kicked out of their home so Izzie could set up. They had been told to stay away until called, so they had wandered down to the harbour and settled onto a bench to watch the ferry boats.
"I still don't understand why she kicked us out?" Meredith said, leaning into him. "It's not like this is a surprise party."
"Maybe she wants us to make an entrance, like at a real wedding reception."
"If this isn't a real wedding reception why are we doing it?"
He laughed. "I meant at a reception that takes place the day of the wedding, not nine months later."
Before she could respond, her phone chirped. She sighed and pulled it out of her pocket. "Text from Iz. She said we can come back now," she said, but made no move to get up.
"Should we go, then?" he shifted his weight to stand.
His wife shot him a playful smirk. "She made us wait..."
He laughed and sat back against the bench. "Okay, but just a couple minutes."
She settled into his side again and he wrapped an arm around her waist. Together, they stared out at the ferry boats on the harbour from the bench they had commandeered almost an hour ago when Izzie had kicked them out. "It's nice down here. We should come here more often."
"We should," he agreed. "Though, it's not as...private as our favourite place to watch the the ferryboats..."
She giggled. "We should stop going there for a while, anyway."
"Because I don't want to one day tell our kid he or she was conceived in a car..."
"Fair point." Derek laughed and tugged his wife tighter to him. So far they had been officially trying for a month and a half. No positive tests yet, but they were far from discouraged. In fact, Derek's not sure which of them would have been more surprised if the first test they had made a production of waiting the entire five minutes prior to unveiling had been positive. "One day they'll be three of us sitting down here watching the ferry boats," he mused before pressing a kiss to the side of her head.
Meredith turned into him and buried her face into his shoulder.
"You okay with all of this?"
"Stop asking me if I'm okay," she mumbled against him. On several occasions when discussing their future offspring she had reacted similarly to this. And each time he voiced what he felt to be a supportive question, it was shot down.
He chuckled. "I'll try."
She lifted her head to meet his eyes, hers suspiciously reflective as she mock glared at him.
He felt his brow furrow in concern. "Mer-"
She narrowed her eyes. "Don't you dare ask me if I'm okay again."
"Okay, but I just wanted to make sure you're-"
"And don't you dare ask me if I'm sure I'm ready."
He huffed. Clearly they had had this conversation too many time. "I love you," he went with.
She laughed and reached her hand up to hook into the collar of his shirt. She pulled him down to her level and kissed him. "I love you, too," she mumbled into the kiss. Eventually she broke the kiss and pulled back to meet his eyes. Her hand in his collar keeping him at her level. "I'm okay with this. In fact, I'm great with this. I'm happy, Derek. And sometimes that's still a little overwhelming. Okay? So, just...let me be a little overwhelmed."
His heart swelled for this amazing woman who he got to love and be loved by every day. She was so open with him now, and even more extraordinary than he remembered her being when they met. "You're sure you're just happy?"
She pressed her lips to his in a soft kiss. "I'm really happy. And a little scared. But good scared. Normal scared, I think. And mostly happy. Really, really good, overwhelmingly happy. We're trying for a baby, Derek. A baby. That's..." She trailed off with a laugh. "See? I don't even have words for what that is."
"Extraordinary," he supplied. "It's extraordinary." He paused before adding, "We're extraordinary."
She laughed. "Corny."
He made a face. "Deal with it; you knew who I was when you married me."
She laughed again, louder. "I don't know, Derek. I think you hid a lot of your inner corniness from me to get me to marry you."
It was his turn to laugh. "Well, how about you? You definitely weren't this open person who gets overwhelmed with happiness when I married you."
She shrugged. "That's different."
"I wasn't this person before we got married; you made me this person."
"Oh, Mer..." His heart swelled in his chest again, and it was his turn to be overwhelmed with his own happiness. And the degree to which he loved his wife.
"So, you have to deal with it because it's your fault," Meredith added, keeping things light for him.
He turned on the bench and hugged her to him. "I'm good with that," he whispered.
She settled into his chest with a sigh. "Me too."
They stayed that way for several long moments before Meredith's ring tone pulled them back to reality. She pulled away from him with a sigh and pulled her phone out of her pocket. "It's Iz," she told him and made a face. "We could ignore it and hide for the rest of the day?"
He chuckled and leaned in to kiss the tip of her nose. "Nope, we're going to our party and we're going to celebrate us. Because we're awesome."
She scoffed, though her eyes were bright and she was smiling at him. She accepted the call and put the phone on speaker between them.
"Hi, Iz. What's up?"
"What's up?" Izzie's voice came through the phone, sounding stressed. "Where are you?"
"Well, we would be at home, but one of our soon-to-be-former-friend kicked us out about an hour ago..." She joked.
"And then she texted you ten minutes ago to come back," Izzie responded, completely ignoring Meredith's comment about her status and thinly veiled warning about the party.
"Oh," Meredith said, sending a smirk to her husband. "Must have missed that. Sorry. We'll come back now."
"Great!" Izzie said, voice full of enthusiasm. "See you soon!"
"She sounds far too excited for this," Meredith complained as she put the phone back in her pocket.
Derek stood and reached his hand to his wife, who wasn't making any move to get off the bench.
"Just a couple more minutes. She made us wait," she said playfully.
He rolled his eyes. "I think we've made her wait long enough."
She stared him down for a long moment, but he stared right back and eventually made a face that had her laughing.
"Fine!" She declared, standing and then reaching for his hand. "Let's get this over with."
"How about, let's enjoy this. It'll be nice. Izzie went through a lot of trouble for us."
"I know," she conceded as they started the short walk back to their apartment. "I just know what happened last time..."
"It's going to be fine. Bailey already knows we're together, so it'll be okay if she catches us having sex in my car," he deadpanned.
She bumped his hip with hers. "I was talking about all the people."
"It'll just be people we're close to," he assured her. "You've been threatening her for weeks."
She laughed. "That's true."
"So, it'll be us, Izzie, Alex, George. Cristina-"
"Who may bring Hunt."
"They're getting close, huh?"
"She definitely likes him."
"Okay, so maybe Hunt. Mark and possibly a date." He paused and rolled his eye. "Probably a date. Lexie. Bailey. Do you think she invited the Chief?"
She shrugged. "Maybe." Then she smiled. "It's still amazing that that thought doesn't upset me anymore."
He squeezed her hand. "I'm glad."
"So, maybe Richard and maybe Adele. Who else?"
"Probably Joe and Walter."
"See? Really not that many people. Less than we had at New Years."
"And it'll be fun."
She glanced at him and offered a smile. "I think you're right."
"Of course I'm right," he joked.
She squeezed his hand. "Because it's the day of our wedding reception I'll let you have that..."
"Funny," he said as they reached the front doors to their building. He opened the door and held it as he ushered her inside. Together they rode the elevator up to their floor.
She stopped them in front of their front door. "Last chance. You're sure I can't convince you to run away with me?"
He forwent answering her question and kissed her. A little harder and a little deeper than was maybe advisable considering their friends were waiting on the other side of the door. And, knowing Izzie, possible watching them through the peephole.
"Derek," she whined when he pulled away, her voice slightly breathless. "You can't just do that to me when you're not planning on following through."
"Oh, I plan on following through," he whispered hotly, hands on her hips as he stepped closer. He pressed an open mouthed kiss to her neck before lifting his lips to her ear. "Just not quite yet."
She groaned before pushing at his chest. "Not nice."
He leaned in to make up for the new distance between them to peck a kiss to her cheek. "Just trying to give you something to look forward to, to get you through the party."
She gazed at him for a moment, clearly hesitating, before she sighed and her cheeks reddened ever so slightly. "I am actually looking forward to this," she admitted, before adding, "A little."
He chuckled. "I know."
Meredith scrunched her nose. "I've become one of those people. All mushy and gooey and...people-loving."
This time he laughed out loud. "Well, let's go in while you're channelling your people-loving self."
She nodded. "Okay. You go first."
"We'll go together. It can't be that bad. If there were too many people, there'd be noise."
She reached for his hand. "Together."
He squeezed her hand and reached for the door with his other hand.
The sight that awaited them was of no surprise. Izzie took no short cuts when it came to decorating. Their condo was decked out in wedding themed decorations. Black and white and silver jumped out from all angles. But tastefully done. And not overdone. Soft music played from the living room. And their friends and family stood around their home, intermingled with champagne glasses in their hands and smiles on their faces.
He felt his lips curve into a smile of his own, happy to see their two families mixing so seamlessly; Megan and Scott chatting with Cristina, who had in fact brought Hunt, Izzie and George standing with his mom and Brian and-
His mom was here. And his stepdad.
And all of his sisters. And their husbands.
And, by the looks of it, all of his nieces and nephews.
He opened his mouth to say...something. But no words came out.
Beside him, his wife laughed. "I told you Izzie would invite way more people than she told us..."
"Surprise!" Izzie called, quickly approaching, an extra champagne glass in hand. Lauren followed close beside her, also carrying an extra glass. "We totally got you, didn't we? Ha! I knew you had no idea!"
Lauren pressed a glass into her still mute brother's hand. "We got you good."
"You're here," he said, dumbly. "You're all here."
"Of course we are," Lauren responded. "You know we love a good party."
"Your sister and I planned it together, in secret." Izzie said.
"But..." He glanced at his wife, who looked just as surprised as he was. "How?"
Izzie shrugged. "Broke into Mer's phone a few months ago. Stole some numbers. Made some calls. That's why we had to wait so long to have the party, so we could all make it."
"I..." He was embarrassed to feel his eyes stinging. "I'm really glad. It's a long way..."
She hugged him, careful of their champagne glasses. "You came across the county for my wedding in the fall. And now I came here for your reception. It's what we do."
She released him and moved to hug Meredith in greeting.
Izzie raised her glass and addressed the room. "We may not have been there on the actual day, and it may be nine months later, but we're here to celebrate not just a wedding, but a marriage and a melding of family and friends."
Derek felt his wife tuck herself into his side in response to Izzie's words. He leaned against her and wrapped his free arm around her.
"We've all been brought together by two amazing people who are now sharing a home and a life and a future."
"Marriage is about love and support and family," Lauren spoke up, adding onto Izzie's speech. "But it's also about struggles and compromise. Good times and bad. Putting someone else first and standing up for yourself. So, be there for each other. Love each other for your strengths and your faults. Laugh together. Cry together. Love together. Don't consider us your family or your spouse's family; consider us all one big family. Work towards combined goals. Celebrate achievements and mourn losses. Fight together, not against each other. Be a team. Always together."
"To Meredith and Derek, Drs. Shepherd and Grey-Shepherd."
"To Meredith and Derek!" The room echoed.
Derek raised his glass with the roomful of people, but struggled to swallow his sip of champagne past the lump in his throat.
"Thank you," he said, glancing over at his wife of nine months, suddenly feeling like a newlywed all over again. "I'm..." He trailed off and Meredith nudged him. He smiled and started again. "We're grateful to have so many amazing people in our life."
"And amazed so many of you came so far," Meredith added. "And that was some pretty great advice, so thank you for that, too."
"Even if it's a little shocking half that advise came from my sister," Derek couldn't help but add. Everyone laughed as he ducked away from Lauren's suddenly swiping hand. He moved behind his wife and muttered, "Protect me."
Meredith laughed, free and happy. "That wasn't in the speech," she said, causing everyone else to laugh.
"But putting someone else first was," he pointed out.
"So was considering them all one big family, which means you were mean to my sister," she retorted, before stiffening as she seemed to hear the words she had verbalized for everyone to hear.
Derek didn't think he'd ever loved his wife quite as much as in this moment; as he watched her realize just how deep she was in this whole family thing they were doing together. He watched with humour as her eyes widened and her cheeks darkened. And then he felt his heart swell when his sister hugged his wife, both women fighting tears. And then the rest of their family descended on the scene in a mob scene of hugs and congratulations and thank-yous and love.
With three dozen people trying to congratulate just two, it was a chaotic series of moments, though Derek wouldn't change a thing. He laughed as the kids pushed their way through the crowd, seemingly more determined than the adults, and especially Alex and Christina, who stood to the side of the mob, both obviously interested in being part of the scene, but neither wanting to admit it to the other.
"This is why I suggested a receiving line," Izzie told him as she hugged him.
"No." He shook his head. "This is perfect."
"Chaotic," he finished for her. "And we wouldn't have it any other way. Really. Thank you for doing this for us."
"You're family now," she answered easily before leaving him victim to the next person.
"Mom," he greeted. "I can't believe you're here."
She hugged him tightly. "I wouldn't have missed this," she told him. "I know this isn't the first reception of yours I've been at, but with the way you look at Meredith, I know without a doubt in my heart that it will be your last."
He nodded. "Absolutely." He glanced at his wife who was being mobbed by several of their nieces.
"I know I've said it before, but I really hope you know just how proud I am of you," she said. "And not for your job or your credentials. But for the man you've become. For the husband you are. For the way you love your wife and your family."
She held up a hand. "I won't embarrass you any further. But remember my words, Derek."
He kissed her cheek. "Thank you, mom."
After greeting every person in his home, Derek found his wife back beside him, gazing at him with remarkably clear eyes.
"You doing okay?"
She smiled softly. "Yeah. I'm actually feeling pretty lucky right now."
"Glad we didn't run and hide tonight?"
He couldn't help but close the distance between them and capture her lips with his. She kissed him back, meeting every ounce of love he felt for her. His eyes closed and the rest of the room fell away. That was until several wolf whistles pulled them apart.
Meredith covered her face with her hands for a moment, but she was laughing as she did it.
Derek laughed, too, free and uninhibited. He pressed a second kiss to his wife, this time against the side of her head as she got over her embarrassment.
"Now that Uncle Derek and Aunt Meredith are here, does that mean we can eat now?" Asked Jake, Nancy's only son of five children, whom Derek could relate well to.
The innocent - and very eager - question caused all of the adults to laugh, pulling Meredith from her embarrassment.
"Almost, Jake-y," Lauren told her nephew. "We have a picture to take first."
Izzie nodded her agreement. "Okay, it's picture time!"
Derek watched as all of their family and friends herded out onto the large outdoor terrace. He and Meredith followed and watched in surprise as everyone organized themselves onto a set of benches at different heights which had been set up outside.
"Considering how long we had to wait to get both families together at the same time, we thought we should make sure and get a picture," Izzie explained.
"Cause we doubt we'll ever be able to organize this again," Lauren added with a laugh. "It took a lot of scheduling and re-scheduling."
Derek swung his free arm around his sister. "We really appreciate everything you did. Both of you. " He shot a look towards Izzie.
"You deserve it."
"Still, I live a long way away."
She shrugged. "You're where you belong, Derek." She left him with her words as she and Izzie found their places on the benches.
The photographer herded Meredith and Derek into a pre-arranged spot in the middle.
"I'm starting to get used to this whole family picture thing," Meredith whispered.
Derek smiled. "Third one in a year."
"Mm-hmm," she agreed. "I like it."
He pressed a kiss to her temple before snaking his arm around her waist and tugging her close. Around them, their family stood with them, some local and some from far away, but all here together to support and celebrate Meredith and Derek. With the love of his life in his arm and their family around them, he felt incredibly blessed. His sister was right. "This is exactly where I belong," he murmured.
"Me, too," Meredith murmured back. Together they turned to smile towards the camera.
"Maybe next family picture they'll be one more of us," he whispered, for her ears only.
She breathed beside him. "I really hope so."
Regardless of the picture being taken, he couldn't help but press a second kiss to his wife's temple in as many minutes. "I love you so much."
"I love you, to, Derek. So very much."
He turned back to the camera, squeezed in beside the woman he loves, the woman who loves him; right where he belonged.
Epilogue...As they follow their marriage advice...
Derek came home to find his wife in the living room, staring at the wall of pictures. There were four now. The east coast family picture from New Years, the west coast family picture from Lauren's wedding the previous fall, the combined family picture from their reception and their wedding picture.
"Hey," he called to get her attention.
She turned her head towards him and smiled. "Good timing, I need your help."
He slipped off his shoes and padded across the room towards her. "Anything."
She passed him a fifth frame. "I'm trying to figure out where we should hang this."
He glanced down at the frame in his hand and his heart skipped a beat. Colourful letters spelled out Mommy + Daddy = Me. The photo part was empty, but he had a feeling...
She met his eyes as hers welled with tears. "I'm pregnant," she whispered.
For a moment, all he could do was stare back at her. And then he was kissing her and wrapping his arms around her. Hell, he even picked her up and twirled them both around. He stumbled slightly after several circles and lowered her feet to the ground before he dropped her. And then they were both laughing.
Meredith closed her eyes and took a breath, allowing herself to savour the moment. This was a day she would remember for the rest of her career. Her lips tugged upwards and she was grateful for the mask for hiding her exuberance from the rest of the surgical team. Only one person would know better. She could feel her husband's eyes on her; proud and excited for her.
Okay. It was time. "Scalpel," she requested, holding out her hand to accept the surgical tool for the first time as the lead surgeon. The cool metal implement was placed in her hand. Amazing! And she made her first cut in her first solo surgery.
Derek, though the general procedure was far from his area of expertise, had volunteered - (demanded) - to observe her first surgery. He barely took his eyes off her for the entire procedure, and not because he worried for the patient. No, he was more than confident of his wife's abilities. This was an event he wanted to celebrate with her.
Meredith sighed as she pulled up to the trailer. She spotted her husband's forlorn form sitting in one of the mismatching chairs left on the deck. She slowly got out of her car and walked towards him.
"I'd ask you if you were okay, but..."
He sniffed. "You got my message."
She nodded. "I did. Though you didn't...explain much. Are you...do you want me here or...you said you needed space..."
He looked up, met her eyes for the first time. God, he looked awful; devastated. Eyes red and face pale. Sickly. Defeated.
"Not from you," he practically breathed.
She nodded. "So, you want me here?"
He held out a hand to her.
Meredith hurried towards him, threaded her fingers through his. "I'm so sorry, Derek."
He tugged her hand until she sat sideways on his lap. "I'm so glad you're here," he whispered into the side of her head.
She wrapped an arm around him as best she could. "This isn't your fault."
"It is," he insisted. "I nicked her aneurism."
"That's not why she died."
"I nicked her aneurism, and because of that she needed blood, and because of that she got sick. I tried to save her. I...I did everything I could think of." He pressed his face against her shoulder and she felt dampness through her shirt.
"You did," she agreed. "You did everything. There was nothing more you could do."
"It shouldn't have come to that."
Meredith sighed. "You didn't give her the aneurism, Derek. Maybe it couldn't be fixed without bursting. And there was no way for you to know the blood would make her sick."
He releases a sob against her. "She was pregnant."
"I know. And the baby is going to be fine. You kept her alive long enough for the baby to be okay."
His hand found her slightly swollen abdomen. "I kept thinking; what if it were you?"
She covered his hand with hers. "It's not," she assured. "I'm fine, Derek. I'm right here. And I'm healthy and the baby is healthy. And we both love you so much."
He didn't lift his head from her shoulder, but his breathing evened out. "I love you both, too," he whispered.
Derek wanted nothing to do with the OR. Nothing to do with surgery or medicine or patients. His hands felt like traitors. They had killed his last patient. They had made a mistake that couldn't be fixed. And now...this patient. His wife's friend; a member of their family. He couldn't do this. He closed his eyes, trying to block out the room around him. If he failed again...
"Shepherd," Richard's voice called, but Derek ignored him. He couldn't do this. He couldn't do this when making a mistake meant Izzie Stevens's could die.
"Shepherd," Richard tried again. "The longer we keep her under anaesthesia -"
"I know," he snapped. "I just..." need a minute. He opened his eyes and looked up, away from Izzie's prone form and his surgical team. And there, standing in the gallery, was his wife. She met his eyes, hers laced with concern. His heart jolted; he didn't want to fail her. But then she offered him a small, supportive smile. And he realized. The concern was all for Izzie, because along with it was a large helping of confidence. In him.
She believed in him.
He took a breath and for the first time since he entered this room it felt like the air actually reached his lungs.
"It's a beautiful days to save lives..."
"Cheers!" Derek called, lifting a glass from across the small restaurant table.
Meredith lifted her glass as well.
"To my lovely wife on our first anniversary."
"It's been a hell of a year," she added.
He raised an eyebrow. "Good or bad?"
"Both. And being with you has made the good even better and the bad a lot less horrible."
"I love you," he told her. "I love you and I'm grateful for you every single day."
"You too, on both counts."
They clinked glasses and both took a sip. The sparkling apple juice was far from champagne, but she didn't regret a thing. Even Derek had refused champagne, saying if she couldn't have any because of their baby, neither would he.
Derek worried when Meredith didn't show up at his office to go home. He had texted, but had not heard back from her. After checking to confirm she had not been called into an emergency surgery, he made his way to the residents' locker room. It was there he found his wife and the sight almost broke his heart.
She was huddled on the bench, facing the former locker of Dr. George O'Malley. Tears tracks marred her face as she sat silently, crying.
"Oh, Mer," he breathed as he moved towards her.
"They cleared out his cubby," she whispered.
He sat beside her and pulled her into his arms as best he could. Her ever-growing abdomen bumped against his. "I'm so sorry."
She tucked her face into the crook of his neck. "I just can't believe he's really gone."
He rubbed her back. "He may be gone, but his memory will live on here."
She nodded against him. "I remember when I told him I was pregnant. He was so happy for us. He and Alex used to joke with me as to who we should name the baby after; Alex or George."
Derek chuckled. "I know." He pressed a kiss to her head. "We can do that, you know?"
She sniffed and then trembled in his arms. For a moment he thought she was sobbing, but then she lifted her head and he saw laughter in her eyes. "I think George would really like that."
He smirked. "Having a namesake or beating Alex?"
She actually smiled. "Beating Alex, of course."
Propped up in bed, Meredith perked up when she heard the door open and very soon after footsteps on the stairs up to the master bedroom. A very exhausted Derek appeared with a bottle of sparking apple juice.
Meredith beamed at her husband, proud beyond belief at the tumour resection he had pulled off today. She had been on the phone on and off with Cristina during the nearly 30 hour procedure as she gazed at the tumour Derek had drawn on their wall with sharpies the previous day.
"I am so freaking proud of you," she told him as he collapsed beside her on the bed. She tugged him in close and kissed him.
"I wish you could have been there," he told her, his voice raspy from being up for so many hours.
"Me, too," she told him honestly. "Stupid bed rest."
Derek ducked his head to kiss her very swollen abdomen. "Not much longer."
Meredith blinked against the tears that welled in her eyes every time he was affection towards her baby bump. Stupid hormones.
"No, not crying, just...Derek, stop it!" She demanded as he placed a series of kisses above where their baby was growing.
He chuckled as he sat back beside her. "If you're not crying, then what is this?" He asked as he tenderly brushed a lone tear from her cheek with his thumb.
He murmured something about her being a sap now as he burrowed his face against her shoulder.
"Okay, so I've heard some of it from Cristina, but it's not the same as coming from you. So, I want you to tell me everything that happened, right from the beginning and don't leave out a single detail."
He didn't say a word.
"Derek?" She brushed her hand down his back. He was asleep.
Smiling, she pulled the blanket over him as best she could and pressed a kiss to the side of his head. "So proud of you," she whispered, before running her free hand down over her abdomen. "You'll be proud of daddy, too."
Almost two weeks before her due date, Meredith felt a series of contractions that were just too regular to be a false alarm. Derek, despite their planning, was slightly panicked as he raced to find his keys and her bag and get them all safely to the hospital. Meredith felt strangely calm, but knew that was likely due to the trust she had that her husband would take care of everything for her.
As the hours passed and her contractions got closer and closer together, she became more and more grateful for the man beside her, holding her hand.
"We're ready for this, right?" She spoke out loud after a particularly painful contraction passed. She fell back against the bed breathing hard, knowing she didn't have long to recovery before the next one.
"We are one hundred percent ready," he assured, having long since calmed from their trip to the hospital. "Everything he'll need is in the bag. The car seat is in the trunk. The nursery is ready to go. All we need is a baby."
She choked out a laugh. "I'm working on it."
He stood and leaned over the bed to press a kiss to her lips. "You are doing amazing, Mer. Absolutely amazing. I'm in awe of you."
"Derek..." She murmured, before another wave of pain and tightness swept over her.
In less than an hour she was pushing, Derek still right beside her, coaching her along.
"You're doing great, Mer. Almost done."
"Oh," she panted between contractions. "I can't..."
"You can," he told her. "You are. You are the strongest person I've ever met. You've overcome so much. I know you can do this."
Another contraction pulled her under and her body pushed back in response, doing what it was designed to do. The doctor between her legs said something about seeing the head, but Meredith couldn't find the energy for words. Another wave came right on top of the first. She opened her mouth, may have cried out, but wasn't sure. All she was aware of was Derek's soothing voice, telling her to push!
One more big push and then relief.
She fell back against the back of the bed, exhausted, watching on through blurry eyes as the doctor lifts a baby to her chest. Her arms close around the small bundle that is her son. He's so small, but her arms are so tired, she just doesn't know if she can hold on.
But then Derek's arms are around both of them, strong and secure.
"Hi," she whispers to the small crying baby on her chest. He releases a pitiful cry, but then his eyes open and he stops. Tiny blue eyes stare up at her. Her husband's blue eyes. She looks from them to Derek's.
"Oh, Mer," he murmurs, "Wow."
They're both in shock, not prepared for the emotions currently coursing through them.
"Hey, you," Meredith says, craning her neck to kiss the baby's small head.
Derek quickly follows suit, first kissing his son and then his wife. "I love you - both - so much. So much. This is...wow. Mer... Wow."
She almost laughs at her husband's inability to string together words. "We're so glad you're finally here," she tells the baby, her son. We both love you so much. And we're so glad you're here. So glad. Daddy would tell you, too, but he's having trouble with his words."
Derek laughs at that. "I am," he admits. "But not the important ones. We are so glad you're here." He blinks and then there are tears in his eyes to match hers. He kisses their son again, and then captures her lips for a real kiss. "Thank you, Mer. Thank you. This is... You've given me everything I've ever wanted."
Derek padded quietly down the stairs in search of his wife after waking alone, the sheets cool beside him and the baby monitor absent from her bedside table. Tiptoeing down the short hallway, he managed to make it to the doorway of the nursery without being seen. He caught sight of his wife sitting in the rocking chair in the corner, their three month old son cuddled against her chest.
Despite her personal growth in the year prior to them becoming parents, she had still had her misgivings about being a mom. But she was a natural. So good with Chris. Confident and calm. More than he felt a lot of the early days.
"You really need to sleep," she was telling the bundle in her arms.
Derek stepped away from the doorway and slid down the wall to sit just out of sight by the door. As much as he loved watching his wife with their son, there was something special about listening to them together.
"Seriously," she said. "You need to stop giving me that face. You know the one I'm talking about; the one you get from your father. Yes, that's the one. I can't say no to that face. And I'm letting you be awake in the middle of the night when we should both be sleeping."
Derek bit back a chuckle. Chris did have an expression that was impossible to say no to. He was guilty of falling for it many times.
"Well, fine, if we're both going to be awake, we may as well chat. So, how about you? How was your day?" There was a pause. "That good, huh? It was nice for all three of us to be home together, wasn't it?" Meredith had returned to the hospital three weeks earlier, but was on reduced hours still. "It's strange because you're only three months old-"
She cut off as Chris released a small cry.
"Fine, you're right three and a half months old. But, as I was saying, we've only had you for a few months, but already I can't remember what life was like before you."
She was silent for a few moments.
"You know, I had a mom, too. I thought she resented me for a long time, but now I think she was scared. She didn't know what it was like to be loved by someone like daddy. And she was scared to love me. And that makes me sad, little man. You know why? Because I'm so happy to be your mom. I hope she got to know what this feels like."
She fell silent again.
"I love you, little man. So much. I want you to always know that. Daddy and I both love you. Forever. And we may not be perfect. And we may not have as much free time as other mommies and daddies, but we will always be there for you. You will always be safe and loved. I promise. And daddy will promise you, too. Just ask him." She paused and then added dryly, "He's sitting in the hall again spying on us."
Derek huffed a laugh as she pulled himself to his feet. "Caught red handed. How long did you know I was here?"
"The whole time. You're not as quiet as you think you are."
He pressed a kiss to her lips and then to Chris's head. "Hey, kiddo. Sorry, I was spying on you and mommy, but you're both so damn cute I can't help it."
Chris stared up at his daddy and waved a fist.
Derek tucked his finger into Chris's small hands. "See? He understands. He's on my side. He's completely in love with you, too. Isn't that right, kiddo? You love mommy just like daddy does?"
Clutching to Derek's hand, Meredith sat at his hospital bed, silent tears running down her cheeks. The adrenaline of the day had long since disappeared, and now she was left broken and exhausted, but unable to lie down and sleep. Not like this. Not with her husband lying in a hospital bed recovering from a bullet to the chest and her son asleep in his stroller beside her. Technically, having the baby in the ICU was against protocol, but no one was stupid enough to question her on it right now.
She glanced at Chris, more grateful now than ever that he was his father's son; easy going and flexible. Could sleep in a stroller in the ICU. Because Meredith doesn't think she can leave. The mother in her wants to take her son home, but the wife in her needs to be there when Derek opens his eyes. The last time she had seen him with his eyes open, he had been so scared, in so much pain. He had told her how good a mother she was to their son, had told her all the things he wished someone would have said to him after he ended up fatherless because of a bullet. He had told her how much he loved her and how hard he was going to fight for her and Chris. But he had also told her to be happy if he died, had assured her she would be okay. He had even had the presence of mind to tell her she wouldn't be like her mother had been. She had kissed him and assured him he would be fine, they would all be fine.
And now everyone was not really all that fine, but they were all alive alive. Fine could come later. Fine would come after he recovered from the bullet and after she told him she had been pregnant again but wasn't anymore. Fine would come after she felt safe in the hospital again.
Derek stirred. His eyes twitches and his forehead wrinkled as if wincing in pain. His chest hitched and his heart monitor showed an increased heart rate.
She wiped her cheeks and stood. "Derek? Derek, can you hear me? Are you awake?"
He said nothing, but she squeezed his hand and he squeezed back.
"You're alive and you're safe." She told him. "You're going to be just fine. The surgery went really well."
He blinked a few times before managing to keep his eyes open. Heavy lidded, he stared at her.
"Hi," she whispered.
She leaned down and kissed him. "You're okay," she told him again.
He squeezed her hand. "I didn't want to leave you."
"You didn't. You're here. And you're going to be okay."
He closed his eyes. "Chris?"
"He's here. Sleeping in his stroller. He's fine. The shooter didn't go near the daycare."
"Tell him his daddy loves him."
"I already have, but I will again."
"And tell him his daddy loves his mommy."
She managed a smile at his words. "His mommy loves his daddy, too."
Meredith shifted uncomfortably on the couch across from the social worker. She hated feeling judged and evaluated, having her parenting skills questioned.
"So, Dr. Grey-"
"Meredith," she interrupted. "Just call me Meredith."
"Okay, Meredith. I'm glad we could sit down and chat today. I think it's wonderful that you and your husband want to bring another child into your family, but my job is to make sure this is being done for the right reason and that Zola will be a good fit for your family. So, why we start with you telling me about yourself?"
"Like, my family? My job?"
"A little bit of all of it."
"I'm a fourth year surgical resident. I've been married for two and a half years. I have a son, Chris, who's almost fifteen months old."
"How would you describe your marriage?"
She fought the instinct to react defensively to that question, had to remind herself this was the social worker's job. No pre-conceived notions. "Good, really good. Derek and I are...really happy."
The social worker nodded, urging her on.
"We're busier than most couples, I guess, because we're both surgeons, but we work really well together. At the hospital and at home. He makes me really happy, and though I still think I'm the lucky one, I make him happy, too."
The social worker smiled at that.
"And how was it bringing Chris home?"
"It was..." She sighed. "I know it was a big change back then, but now I can't really remember what things were like before him. It feels like we were always meant to be a family."
"And you feel that way about Zola?"
Meredith nodded. "I know it sounds crazy, but we just knew. She belongs with us. Derek met her first, because he was her doctor, but as soon as he placed her in my arms and said we should adopt her...I just knew."
"How do you think Chris will handle a new sister?"
"I know it won't be easy, but kids get new siblings all the time. We'll all have to adapt. But Chris is truly his father's son. He's super happy and easy going."
"Not like you?" The question was friendly, not challenging.
"Derek's the optimist. I'm more the...realist. We ground each other. But he's definitely the more easy going. I've just...I've had a lot of bad things happen, so I think I'm always aware of what could happen. But that also makes me more grateful; I don't take things for granted."
"...And this is home," Meredith murmured to the baby attached to her front via baby Bjorn as she struggled to balance her bags, herself and new...daughter. Derek had already long since taken Chris home when she had been paged to meet the social worker. Within an hour, Zola had been discharged from the hospital and signed over to Meredith and Derek. They would be acting as foster parents until permanent custody would be granted.
"Now, we weren't expecting you quite so soon, or suddenly, so we don't have your room set up yet, but you'll be sleeping upstairs with us at least for a few nights anyway." She reached the front door, but before she had to try to reach for the doorknob, the door opened.
Derek, smiling widely, ushered them inside. "Hi, Zola," he cooed, before taking some of the bags from Meredith's hands. "I can't believe she's here."
Derek set the bags down and hugged her; hugged both of them. He kissed Meredith on the lips and then Zola on the top of her head.
Meredith worked carefully to extract the girl from the Bjorn. She smiled as Derek swooped her up into his arms, making the girl smile.
"Mama!" Chris shouted, hurrying as fast as his little feet could carry him towards her. He was dressed in pajamas and carrying a small stuffed dog from his bedroom.
"Hi, little man," she greeted affectionately, scooping him up into her arms. "Are you excited."
He nodded. "Sista!"
"You have a new sister, that's right."
Chris beamed and turned as far as he could to stare at Zola. They had introduced the kids in the hospital several times, wanting them to be familiar with each other. Meredith shifted so she and Derek were standing closer.
"Chris, do you remember Zola?"
He nodded. "Zo. Sista." He held out the hand carrying his stuffed dog. "Zo."
"Is he doing what I think he's doing?" Meredith whispered.
"I think so," Derek whispered back. He reached his hand out to his son. "Are you giving your puppy to Zola?"
Chris shoved his stuffed dog into Derek's hand with another exclamation of, "Sista!"
Derek, who Meredith was pretty sure she had never seen as proud a father as he was in this moment, took the stuffed down and offered it to Zola. The younger girl stared at it for a moment before slowly reaching out and wrapping her fingers around the stuffed animal. Then she pulled it to her chest and smiled.
Meredith didn't even try to stop the tears from falling down her cheeks. "Such a good big brother," she whispered to Chris as she pressed a kiss to the top of his head.
Derek opened his free arm and she stepped into him, the four of them now in a family hug. "I love you," he whispered fiercely.
"I love you, too," she whispered back.
"Luv, luv, luv," Chris chirped, causing both his parents to laugh.
"Just like his father," she said dryly.
"It's you and me, Zo," Meredith said. "We'll be the normal ones."
Derek rolled his eyes good naturedly. "Chris and I will let you think that."
She laughed and kissed him.
Meredith ran her fingers over the framed photo of the family of four, remembering how Derek had set up the camera the night she had first brought Zola home so that they could add a picture of their newly increased family to their wall at the earliest opportunity. She smiled at sixteen month old Chris and seven month old Zola, amazed at how much they had changed in just two years.
With a sigh, she wrapped the photo in protective paper and placed it into the box that held the other pictures she had already taken down from the wall and packed away for the move. After deciding they would be staying in Seattle, they had finally built their dream house on their land. And just in time; they were running out of wall space.
The next picture she took down was more recent. Meredith and Derek, with three year old Chris and two year old Zola.
She turned to find her daughter standing by the hallway to the back bedrooms. "Hi, Zo-zo, did you just wake up."
Decked out in pink pajamas, the stuffed dog her brother had given her in her hands, Zola nodded. "I help?"
Meredith nodded. "Of course. You can help me wrap pictures."
Zola hurried over and under Meredith's direction, settled onto the couch beside the pile of wrap. One at a time, she handed Meredith pieces of wrap.
"Do you remember this picture, Zo-zo?" Meredith asked.
Zola nodded and giggled. They had taken the kids to a summer festival that summer, where they had gotten their faces painted. Zola had chosen a butterfly and her brother had chosen a lion. The picture was adorably cute of the two of them.
Small footsteps hurried out of the hallway. Meredith didn't even have to turn around. "Morning Chris."
"How did you know it was me?" He demanded.
"Well, Zola is here, so I knew it wasn't her. And Daddy is louder than you."
Chris laughed before hurrying over to join his mom and sister. "What are you doing?"
"We're wrapping the pictures to keep them safe when we take them to the new house. Would you like to help?"
Chris nodded and leapt onto the couch beside his sister. Now Meredith would pull a frame off the wall, Zola would pass her protective wrap and then Meredith would pass the picture to Chris who would put it into the box.
Louder footsteps sounded on the stairs. Meredith smirked. "See, Chris? Daddy's a lot louder than you."
Both Chris and Zola giggled at her.
"Morning," Derek called, smiling at the sight of his family working together. "What are we all doing?"
"I'm packing pictures with help from child labour."
Derek chuckled. "I see." He reached the couch and bent to kiss his son and daughter good morning.
"Will we have more space at the new house?" Chris asked. "Cause there are a lot of pictures."
Derek nodded as he stood. "Yes, tons more space."
"Just in time, too," Meredith said as he pressed a kiss to her temple. "We need more wall space and another bedroom, stat."
"Yes, we do," Derek said, ducked down to press a kiss to her swollen abdomen. "Just another month."
"We'll need a new picture when the new baby comes," Chris said. "Because then there will be five of us."
Meredith beamed at her eldest, so proud of his thoughtfulness and his ability to understand numbers and counting already.
"Five," Zola agreed with a serious nod, though Meredith wasn't so sure she understood quite as much as her older brother.
"Tell you what, let's finish packing these pictures while daddy makes us pancakes for breakfast. Then we can go out as a family and pick out a new frame for when the baby comes."
Both kids agreed excitedly.
"Sounds great," Derek said.
"Chocolate chip pancakes," she specified.
"Is the baby asking for choc-lat again?" Zola asked.
Derek choked on his laugh at his daughter's innocent question.
"She gets that from you," his wife hissed at him.
"No, she gets it from you, going around blaming the baby for all your cravings."
Meredith narrowed her eyes at her husband, but couldn't keep a straight face. Instead, she stuck her tongue out at him, to the delight of her kids.
"Mature," Derek mouthed back at her.
She laughed. "You know what? I think we need a family hug before breakfast."
"Hormones?" Chris asked, not really understanding why his mom got emotional a lot lately, but definitely having picked that one up from his dad.
Derek winced. "Okay, yeah, I'll take full responsibility for that one."
Meredith rolled her eyes and tugged him towards the couch with her. They collapsed onto the cushions and the kids cuddled close. Perfection. Her need for family and closeness were definitely being met. Her perfect little family. The husband she hadn't been looking for but had found anyway. Herself; who had planned on a life alone, but overcame so much to have this. The son she had for a long time thought she wouldn't want until she suddenly wanted desperately. The daughter who had been born halfway around the world, but who belonged with them as much as her brother. And the unborn baby who had come as quite a surprise after several years of unsuccessfully trying for another. Five members of a family; all different, but all exactly where they belonged.
And that's a wrap! Again, big thank you to everyone who has supported this story over the last 6 years. I hope I did this last chapter justice, keeping in mind it's not the end of their story, just the end of this story.