A/N and disclaimer: I do not own Grey's Anatomy or its characters. Rated 'M' mainly for language. Reviews would be appreciated.

Chapter 1, Sunday

"Would you miss Mark if he went away?" Meredith asked cautiously.

They were sitting in her kitchen and Derek was half-reading a medical journal and drinking coffee. He didn't look up. "No," he said. Then, looking at her "Why? Is he going somewhere?"

She shook her head. "But," she tried again. "Hypothetically. If he went away for good? If you were never going to see him again . . . as long as you lived . . . ever. Would you miss him?"

He put down his journal and looked directly at her, confused and laughing slightly. "What are you talking about? Why?"

"I just wanted to know . . . in case you would want to say goodbye or something. In case it would change anything I wouldn't want it to . . . you know, regrets." Her words tailed off and she looked at him uncertainly.

"Meredith," he said. "Do you want to tell me what this is about?"

"No. It's fine. Nothing. Read your journal. Drink your coffee. It's okay."

"Okay," he said. "Good," and returned to his reading.

She paused, then took a deep breath. "He has cancer."

"Who?" Derek mumbled, not really paying attention now that an article's title had attracted his attention.

"Mark has cancer, " she said, too loudly. "Duodenal cancer. Stage 3. It's inoperable and he's doing some clinical trial oncology are running, because there's no established protocol for what he has. And it's not all that hopeful. And you're not supposed to know. He only told me because he wanted me to tell you some stuff when . . . if . . . But I think I you should know now, because I think you'd . . ." She trailed off, uncertain how to put what she wanted to say.

"He has cancer?" he said slowly. She nodded. "Mark?" She nodded again. "I didn't even know he was sick. Why doesn't he want me to know?"

She paused. This was so difficult. "Hardly anybody knows. He doesn't seem to want anybody to know, and he only told the Chief so far. Apart from me. And he only told me because he didn't want to tell you . . ." she winced as she heard her clumsy verboseness unfold "because he didn't want you to feel obligated to be friends with him again because he was dy. . . sick." She paused for breath. "He thought you might feel . . . obligated, even though you're not friends any more. Even though he would like to be. So, he told me stuff so that . . . when . . . if . . . you would know he didn't blame you for anything . . . that he only blamed himself."

"I understand," Derek said quietly. "That's a lot to put on you, though."

Her eyes widened. "No. No, really. He apologized for that, like a hundred times. He took me to dinner and he said … all that stuff. That it wasn't fair. And, he wondered if he was being selfish – making me carry this information around. But he wasn't. I completely understand. It's important. And I promised I wouldn't tell you, until … But, I don't think I can let you not have the chance to talk to him … be friends with him … help him. Whatever …"

Derek ran his hand over his face. He sat in silence for a few seconds. "Thank you," he said. "You did the right thing. I should know."

"Oh, that's good, " she exhaled, deeply relieved. "I knew you would want to know. And it's good you'll be friends again. He obviously misses you."

"Yeah . . . that probably won't happen, Meredith."

She stared at him, "Excuse me?"

"I understand why you told me and I think you did the right thing. And I get that he was trying not to pressure me into a . . . reconciliation. I appreciate that, actually. It's one of the two unselfish things I've ever known him to do. And, obviously, I'm not . . . happy; it's terrible for him. But," he hesitated and met her gaze," I don't think there's really anything left of our friendship. I think his instinct was right. It would be artificial to try to be friends again, even in this situation. If he had told me outright, I would probably have felt some compulsion to patch things up with him. But it would have been awkward. It's tragic, really," he shrugged, "but that's how things have worked out."

Meredith's thoughts were chaotic and she stumbled over her words as she tried to get out a coherent sentence. "Seriously? You don't care about him?" she finally managed. "Your best friend for most of your life? You don't care that he's in pain and frightened and lonely and probably dying? And that he has nobody to talk to about any of this? That I'm the best he's got? Someone he hardly even knows? You really don't care about this?"

"Meredith," he considered. "It's not that I don't care, I just think that there's no basis for my being involved. And, really, that – and everything else you describe – is what he chose when he slept with my wife, and when he valued ambition and sex over any kind of lasting ties with anyone."

She stared at him incredulously, lost for words. Finally, she said "I get that he hurt you. I get that you think he wrecked your marriage – although, don't you think that's a little naive? But I thought I knew you, I thought, whatever . . . stuff might come up, you were basically still . . ." 'McDreamy' suggested itself, but she was damned if she was going to say that now, and settled for "you. Clearly, I don't know you; clearly you're not the man I thought I fell in love with. I thought I knew you, but clearly I was wrong, and today I've been . . . disillusioned."

She got up and left the room as Derek stared after her.