This is the last chapter of this fic. I'm sad to see it end but I have loved writing it. Shonda Rhimes has created such an amazing group of characters and I love writing them. Thank you to those who have reviewed for me. I really appreciate it and I hope that you enjoy this last chapter. I want to dedicate this chapter to my friend Rosalie.
Preston Burke stood nervously in Richard Webber's office.
"What did you want to see me about, Doctor Burke?" Richard asked. "I'm a busy man." Burke took a nervous breath.
"Without treading on any toes, I was wondering if it would be possible to return to Seattle Grace on a more permanent basis," Burke said tentatively. This seemed to surprise Richard. His eyes widened a little in surprise and he leaned forward, considering Burke's offer.
"Why do you want to come back?" he asked.
"I miss working in a hospital," Burke replied. This wasn't a complete lie. He missed Cristina but these days he was only spending two days in surgery.
"Running your own practice isn't all it's cracked up to be?" Richard asked. Burke shook his head.
"I do too much sitting around and not enough surgery," he admitted.
"And you want to be around Yang again," Richard observed, without judgment.
"Yes, Sir," Burke replied, not wishing to say anything more on the matter. There was a long silence. Richard appeared Pensive.
"You realise that Seattle Grace has been downgraded to a level two teaching hospital," he started. "And if I have the two best cardiothoracic surgeons in the country that will bring us back up to a level one hospital." Richard appeared to be talking himself into the deal. He nodded. "It's a deal." Burke broke into a smile.
"There are some conditions," Richard warned, in a stern voice. Burke regained his composure. He nodded, waiting to hear the rules.
"This is a teaching hospital," Richard started. "You will teach. There will be no favouring Doctor Yang or any other Resident or intern. You will each everyone equally."
"Yes, Sir," Burke nodded.
"And, you chose to leave and you chose to come back. This does not mean that you take precedence over Doctor Hahn. I want us to bring in more surgeries and you will share those surgeries. You do not have to perform them together but I expect you to respect Doctor Hahn and her abilities. If she wants a surgery, you do not take it away from her. Am I clear?"
"Crystal," Burke replied. He had a newfound respect for Erica Hahn after she rescued him in Meredith's surgery.
"Thirdly," Richard said. "Doctor Hahn is doing some research that could bring her into contention for the Harper Avery. If any incoming surgeries will assist her in her research, they belong to her." Burke nodded.
"I can live with that," he said.
"Very well then," the Chief replied. He stood up and extended his hand to Burke. "Welcome back on board, Doctor Burke," he said with a smile. "Go back to your practice. Tie up your loose ends there and I'll see you back soon."
"Ow, ow, ow," Meredith said as Derek and Izzie gently helped her to walk down the hall.
"Okay, we're stopping," Derek said.
"No, it's fine," Meredith protested. "It's good to start walking around."
"Not if you're in this much pain," Izzie said. "You're not wonder woman, Mer. Stop trying to be."
"I'll get a wheelchair," Derek said.
"No," Meredith insisted. "I'll turn back, I promise. I don't take too well to being dependant on others. I need to do this. Just let me walk back."
"Okay," Izzie said with a sigh. "But we're going to go really slow." Meredith nodded. "Geez, usually we can't get patients to start walking around after surgery and you don't want to stop." Meredith laughed.
"Ow!" she said. "I forgot that laughing hurts."
"No more sitcoms for you then," Derek joked with a little smile as he and Izzie gently turned Meredith around and helped her to walk back to her room.
"So when can I go back to work?" she asked Izzie.
"Mer, it hasn't even been a day," Derek said, protectively.
"You won't be standing in six hour surgeries for a while. Doctor's orders," Izzie said. Meredith made a face. "You should be able to watch from the gallery in a few weeks and then start doing rounds again." Meredith sighed, thinking that the recovery was going to be worse than the surgery. After what seemed like an eternity they found their way back to her bed and she allowed Derek and Izzie to help make her more comfortable.
"I'll be back to check on you later," Izzie said with a smile as she left Meredith and Derek alone. Meredith sighed.
"What is it?" Derek asked. He leaned across the bed and stroked Meredith's hair.
*SIX WEEKS LATER*
"I would like to dedicate this toast to Meredith," Derek said, as he raised his glass. He smiled at Meredith, knowing that he would embarrass her by what he would say next but it seemed worth it. "The one and only love of my life."
"Aw," Izzie said with a smile, raising her glass. Cristina made a disgusted face and raised her glass quickly before downing it at great speed. Meredith laughed.
"I don't see what the big deal is," Meredith said. "It's not like I can perform surgeries or anything yet."
"Here's to no more daytime television," Alex said. "Thank God. If I have to hear one more time what Oprah said about whatever I'm gonna lose it." Everyone laughed.
"I'll drink to that," George said. Meredith smiled. She was glad to be going back to work tomorrow. Being away from the hospital hadn't just made her realise how much she missed surgery and that she had made the right career choice, but being away from her friends, who had become her family had proved difficult. Meredith was happy to be drinking with them tonight and to be returning to work the next day, well on her way to recovery.
"Is anyone sitting here?" Cristina heard a familiar voice behind her. She froze and then forced herself to turn around. Right in front of her was Burke.
"Yes," Cristina managed to utter defensively. Burke looked around. The usual crowd were all there.
"Who?" he asked.
"Uh…" Cristina hadn't thought this far ahead. "No one," she admitted, turning back around. Burke took a seat beside her.
"What are you doing back?" Cristina asked him, staring at her drink. Everybody else at the table pretended to be busy talking to each other.
"Owning my own practice wasn't all it was cracked up to be," Burke replied. There was an awkward silence. "And I missed you," he confessed. Cristina didn't know what to say. On the outside she looked composed, almost as though she was barely listening to him but inside her heart was pounding like a jackhammer.
"What about your girlfriend?" Cristina asked.
"Girlfriend?" Burke seemed confused.
"The woman who answered your cell when I called you about Meredith."
"My secretary?" Burke laughed, which Cristina didn't appreciate. "That would me Mary-Anne. She's fifty-two and very happily married."
"Oh," Cristina said, blushing a little and feeling like an idiot.
"I don't want to put any pressure on you," Burke said in a serious tone. "I know that what I did to you is unforgivable. I will never live that down. But if you ever decide that you want to…" his voice trailed off. Cristina knew what he was hinting at. "I'm always here." Cristina nodded and sipped on her drink. Inside she felt something that she had never quite felt before, as though a piece that had been missing from her had fit back into place. Cristina looked up at Meredith who gave her a quick wink and a smile. She was glad that Burke was back.
"I think that I should get home," Meredith said, with a pretend yawn. "Big day tomorrow." Everyone seemed to agree. They all left. Meredith and Derek leaving hand in hand, looking genuinely happy and relaxed.
"I should probably go too," Burke said, not wanting to crowd Cristina.
"You just got here," Cristina said, finally finding her voice. "Why don't you stay and have a drink with me."
"I'd like that," Burke said with a gentle smile.