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CHAPTER ONE

"Are we there yet?" Meredith asked Derek from the passenger seat of his car.

"How old are you? Nine?" Derek teased playfully as they drove over the rough terrain. Meredith yawned. They had only been driving for ninety minutes but that was a long time for Meredith, or any surgeon for that matter, to sit still in the same place. Meredith closed her eyes to try to nap but found herself thinking back to the conversation that she and Derek had had a week earlier. Derek had come clean to Meredith about kissing Rose and was overjoyed that she didn't want him to see anyone else. He had proposed a weekend getaway to reignite their relationship away from the distractions of the hospital and the gossip grapevine of those who worked there.

"Where should we go?" Meredith had asked, with romantic curiosity as they scrubbed in for a surgery together. "Wine country?"

"I was thinking camping," Derek had replied.

"Camping?" Meredith made a face.

"You don't like camping?" Derek asked.

"I've never been camping," Meredith confessed.

"You've never been camping?" Derek asked surprised. "How is that possible?"

"Well my mother wasn't exactly the kind to take a day off work and daddy seemed to have other priorities," Meredith said with wry sarcasm.

"Well it's settled," Derek had said. "I'm taking you camping."

"Sleeping on the ground doesn't exactly sound like my idea of romance, Derek." Meredith said.

"Oh Mer, you'll love it! We can go on long walks, sleep under the stars, go swimming, and look at cute animals. You'll have the time of your life."

"I'll take your word for it," Meredith had said as Derek kissed her.

Now it was just the two of them leaving Seattle together for a weekend of uninterrupted bliss. Meredith had anticipated that she would be feeling more nervous by this stage but she was doing fine. Actually, she was doing better than fine. She felt good. Christina would be proud.

"Here we are," Derek said as he stopped the car. "This is the spot."

"It looks exactly like the last three miles," Meredith said as she got out of the car and stretched her legs. Derek shot her a look. "I'm not complaining," she said. "I promise. So, what do we do now?" she asked.

"Now we set up our tent," Derek said.

"Howdy camper," a round little man said, approaching Meredith and Derek. "My name's Hank. This here is Rita, my wife," he said gesturing towards an equally round woman who was cooking over a fire. She waved in their direction. Meredith waved back politely back. "We're camped right over there. If you need anything just give us a holler."

"Why thank you, Hank," Derek said with a smile as Hank returned to Rita. "What nice people!" he said to Meredith. "See, this is what I love about camping. It brings out the best in people. Old fashioned hospitality." Meredith tried to keep herself from laughing.

"You're adorable," she said with a smile. "Just like an excited puppy dog." She looked at where Hank and Rita had pitched their tent. "I guess we're gonna have to keep our hollering to a dull roar," she said starting to laugh. "Might wake the neighbors." Derek laughed also.

"Alright, lets do this," Derek said, rubbing his hands together as though he was psyching himself up for a major surgery. He lifted his new tent out of the back of the four wheel drive. It was still in its box. He opened the box and threw the instructions onto the ground with disregard. Meredith picked the instructions up.

"Don't you need these?" she asked, holding them out to him.

"They all assemble the same," Derek said dismissively. "Why don't you go for a walk and soak up the wilderness and I'll get to work?"

"Sounds good to me," Meredith said with a smile.

Forty minutes later, after being surprisingly captivated by the beauty of the spot that Derek had chosen for their weekend away and deciding that it might be romantic after all, Meredith returned to the camping ground to see a stressed out and exhausted Derek sitting amongst a pile of material, pegs and metal poles. She couldn't help but laugh to herself.

"What happened?" she asked him.
"I don't understand," Derek said, bewildered. "I operate on people's brains every day. I've rebuilt people's nervous systems. People who could have spent the rest of their lives in wheelchairs can walk because of me. You'd think I could put this together."

"But I thought they all assembled the same?" she asked Derek, tongue in cheek. Meredith picked the instructions up off the ground and again held them out to Derek. "Wanna have a look at these?" she asked. Derek nodded in defeat. Meredith gave the instructions to Derek and sat down behind him, wrapping her arms around him lovingly and kissing him on the cheek. It was a big step for Meredith to agree to come on this trip so anything more they both considered a bonus. Meredith read the instructions over Derek's shoulder and studied the pieces of the tent on the ground in front of him.

"These go together," she said, moving closer to the pieces and starting to put the tent together.

"I thought you said you'd never been camping," Derek said, watching Meredith.

"I haven't," Meredith answered. "I'm at the bottom of the surgical food chain. I'm just used to following instructions. In my experience attendings don't like being told what to do. Even by a lowly instruction manual." Derek had to agree with Meredith. He was impressed at the speed at which she had started putting the tent together and wondered if his skills had become rusty now that he was neat the very top of the surgical food chain and didn't have superiors to impress. He didn't take orders from anyone and he didn't have to learn nearly as much as the interns did. He told himself to stop overanalyzing the situation and watched astonished as Meredith had almost half of the tent erected.