Pairing: Meredith & Derek
Disclaimer:Nothing is mine. Apart from Lucy Shepherd. Her, I lay claim to.
Summary:"You've never been here before... it's only your first time." Meredith and Derek – how season 4 could've played out, from 4.07 onward.
Authors Note:I'm so so sorry it's taken such an unbelievable amount of time to update this – unfortunately, RL got the better of me. However I've now graduated from university (woo, go me!) and am settled in a summer job whilst I hunt for something more permanent, so fingers crossed I'll be able to continue with this more speedily (although, working at a kids theme park over the summer does lead to LONG hours.) As a consolation, however, this is the longest chapter yet, coming in somewhere near 9.5k on the word count! It's a chapter I've been working on for a long time, even if there have been gaps in the time I've had to write it, so I hope you enjoy! There's a little work on the Cristina drama, there's a fair bit more on Mark, which I got a few reviews about, there's obviously some Meredith & Derek, and there's a lot of Derek and his family. I've tackled some pretty heavy stuff with the latter point, which I really hope you like, but at the same time I'd definitely welcome comments/criticism on! Thank you so much for all your lovely reviews so far, and I'd love to hear what you think of my somewhat brief move away from the events of season 4!
Dr Lucy Shepherd stood just outside Chief Webber's office, cleverly concealed from the view of the neurosurgeon and plastic surgeon leaning casually against the railings on the walkway in front of her, eating sandwiches like they didn't have a care in the world. She tapped one stiletto heel idly against the floor, wondering how Derek had managed to forget to mention that he'd clearly rekindled his friendship with the man she considered as little less than a brother on such a strong level. She'd known they were talking, but talking didn't equate lunch, in her book.
Her attention was diverted briefly as a boisterous group of residents argued their way past her, and she allowed herself a smirk when she realised that the girls were clearly winning.
Glancing back over to her brother, she raised an eyebrow as the group of residents slowed, and the girl with a ponytail of dirty blonde hair who'd seemed particularly vocal as they passed her stopped in front of Derek and Mark and casually removed her brother's sandwich from his hand, taking a bite before returning it to him. The remaining residents continued to bicker between themselves, seemingly happy to pause as the blonde engaged in easy conversation with Derek and Mark.
Snippets of Nancy's dramatic descriptions of the woman who had single-handedly 'stolen' her brother's heart away from Addison flew back into her mind, and suddenly she realised.
This was the slutty intern.
And that meant that it was definitely time for her to intervene.
In the least arrogant way possible, she was aware that she turned a few heads as she stepped out onto the walkway – mainly, she knew, down to the blonde hair and the heels that were unfamiliar to the hallways of Seattle Grace. But whilst that was true, it didn't seem to be enough to tear her brother's attention away from the other blonde in front of him.
"Does anyone do any work around here, or do you all just stand around eating sandwiches and gossiping all day?" she asked slowly, one hand coming to rest casually on her hip as she waited for their attention. Sure enough, it came, and before she knew it she was clinging onto Derek's shoulders for dear life, unable to stop herself laughing as he swung her around.
"Lucy I swear to God if Mom sent you..."
"Relax, big brother," she chided with a laugh, "I'm here for a consult, thought I'd surprise you. I guess it turns out that some people in this hospital actually value my skills, and my company. Marky," she greeted warmly, turning to her surrogate brother as Derek set her back on solid ground, realising a second too late that her feet would only touch the ground for a matter of seconds as Mark swept her up in an equally dramatic hug.
"Lucy Jayne Shepherd," he commented eventually as he stood her down, that patented smirk crossing his lips as he looked her up and down for a long moment before continuing, "you should not be allowed to look this good."
"You don't change," she muttered with a grin, smacking his hands away affectionately, "and how many times do I have to tell you that hitting on me won't get you anywhere?"
"Luce," Derek interrupted eventually, tipping his head in the direction of the very confused looking woman in front of him, "this is Meredith. Mer, this is my sister Lucy," he added, wrapping an arm around Lucy's shoulders.
"It's nice to finally put a face to the name," Lucy offered with a smile, deeming it best to leave out Meredith's less than shining reputation within the Shepherd family.
"Lucy's one of the best paediatric surgeons in New York," Derek boasted proudly, with a grin in Meredith's direction.
"Are your whole family doctors?" she asked with a slightly reserved smile.
"Pretty much," Lucy replied, rolling her eyes. "We're nothing if not original."
"It's nice to meet you," Meredith told her eventually, before her attention was dragged back to the group of residents behind her.
"Much as I hate to break up the McFamily reunion," the young Asian doctor spoke up dryly, "we have to go, Mer. Now." Meredith rolled her eyes, shooting an apologetic glance in Derek's direction before jogging back into her circle of friends, who moved off as their conversation picked up once again... and Lucy was sure she heard a distinct muttering of 'McSister' from the tall blonde, met by laughter from the rest.
"Nancy got McBitch," Derek commented dryly from beside her, "you only got McSister. That's a good thing, they must like you."
"And why are they calling me McAnything?" Lucy asked dryly, raising an eyebrow and knowing that if she waited long enough she'd be graced with an explanation.
"Meredith's friends named Derek McDreamy," Mark cut in helpfully, directing a satisfied smirk in his friend's direction.
"And then called you McSteamy when you tried to hit on Meredith," he shot back mockingly, trying to ignore the blush that flashed across his cheeks.
"McSteamy beats 'McDreamy' any day."
"In your dreams."
"Actually," Lucy cut in smoothly, before Mark could reply, "I think McDreamy kinda steals it," she told him with a laugh.
"I knew there was a reason you were my favourite sister," Derek told her, ruffling her hair affectionately."
"Then you'll have no problem sparing the time to escort your 'favourite sister' to the paeds ward."
Meredith slid her tray onto the table in the cafeteria, dropping gratefully into the empty seat next to Izzie and uncapping her water.
"Callie hates me," she announced dramatically after a long gulp of water, slamming the bottle back on her tray before picking up her fork.
"You don't have the monopoly on that," Izzie muttered, glaring at Alex as he laughed through a mouthful of pizza.
"Her surgeries are just so mind-numbingly boring," Meredith ranted through her mouthful, swallowing quickly before continuing. "I got so bored I managed to count the wall tiles in the gallery from where I was standing," she added dramatically, dropping back against her chair as Izzie and Alex laughed.
"At least you're getting some OR time," Cristina muttered bitterly, narrowing her eyes at her from across the table. Meredith sighed, dropping her fork against her tray as she pushed herself up.
"Would you please just get over it, already?" she asked tiredly, fixing her gaze on her friend. "My answer's not going to change."
"What's going on?" Izzie asked curiously, glancing nervously between her friends.
"Nothing," Cristina snapped, stabbing a forkful of salad aggressively.
"Seriously," Meredith muttered, her anger starting to show. "You're actually telling her that 'nothing' has you not talking to me? Seriously! 'Nothing', Izzie," she began, glaring at Cristina as she moved to speak, "shut up," she snapped firmly, turning back to the blonde sitting to her left. "'Nothing' is the fact that Cristina expects me to get Derek to talk to Hahn for her, and I'm not doing it."
"Seriously?" Izzie repeated incredulously, swinging her gaze to Cristina. "You can't ask her to do that!"
"Don't get on your high horse, Tinkerbell. You try getting no OR time and then tell me what you'd do in my position," Cristina ranted crankily.
"You and Derek are getting along so well now, you can't ask him to do that," Izzie insisted earnestly, her attention instantly turned back to Meredith.
"I'm not going to," Meredith assured her firmly. "Even if I asked, he wouldn't do it anyway."
"Good!" Izzie exclaimed, nodding. "Cristina you have to work this out with Hahn on your own, getting another Attending to interfere is just going to make it worse."
"See!" Meredith insisted through a mouthful of food, gesturing excitedly towards Izzie with her fork. "She talks some sense!"
"Mer, please don't point your fork at me," Izzie chided absently, her attention immediately focused back on Cristina. "But I am talking sense, and you know it," she continued, narrowing her eyes at her.
"Much as I hate to agree with her, it's true," Alex cut in. "When I was stuck with Addison last year, running to Sloan didn't help," he pointed out. "In fact, it made things worse. Getting Shepherd to fight your corner is only going to make her think you can't stand up for yourself."
"So what do you all suggest I do?" Cristina asked crankily, glaring at them all. Meredith sighed, dropping her fork down on her plate.
"I'm tired of having this argument with you," she announced, pulling her tray roughly off the table. "I'll... catch up with you guys later," she added, tipping her tray smoothly into the trash without breaking a stride as she headed for the doors, resolutely ignoring Izzie's calls.
"Hey," Derek offered slightly breathlessly, materialising magically at her side as she reached the doors, rubbing her arm lightly. "Everything okay? That was a speedy exit..."
"Cristina," she muttered, glancing at him quickly.
"Still?" he asked, gripping her arm lightly to guide her in the direction he was walking. "I'm on my way to surgery, with Lucy. Walk with me?"
"I thought she was here on a peads case?"
"Hmm? She is," he confirmed, giving her a brief run-down of the surgery and his involvement as they walked. "Is Cristina still mad at you?" he asked eventually, concern crossing his face as she visibly tensed.
"Like you wouldn't believe," she confirmed, rolling her eyes slightly. "I don't know what she's expecting me to say, it's not even like you getting involved would make it any better," she ranted, offering him a quick smile when he squeezed her shoulder.
"She'll get over it eventually," he muttered, doing his best to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. She narrowed her eyes a little, but nodded in appreciation of his recognised efforts. "She just needs to prove herself to Hahn. Or better yet, prove herself to the Chief and Hahn," he mused, shrugging his shoulders slightly as she glanced up at him in surprise.
"When did you get so wise?" she asked eventually, a slow smile crossing her lips.
"It's a talent. Some are born with it, others... well, aren't."
"And some are born with an overactive modesty gene, clearly," she shot back, smirking slightly. "Smartass," she added for effect, laughing softy at the wounded look on his face. "My words are cutting, I know. I'll make it up to you later," she told him as they neared the scrub room, rolling her eyes at the sudden sparkle in his eyes. They stood there for a long moment, his fingers absently caressing her shoulder before they snapped out of it, back to their present location. "I'm gunna go... get myself a hot case," she muttered eventually, glancing around to check they were alone before kissing him quickly. "Seeing as Cristina hates me already, her feelings can't get much worse so I might as well make the most of it. Good luck with your surgery," she added, turning quickly on her heel and heading back towards the surgical wards, offering a quick wave over her shoulder.
"Smitten," Lucy commented dryly, materialising out of nowhere behind him, receiving nothing but a roll of his eyes from her brother. "Absolutely smitten."
"Maybe I see why you're this hotshot head of neurosurgery now," Lucy commented lightly, coming to a halt beside her brother as they scrubbed out some hours later.
"Not so bad yourself, squirt," he shot back cheerfully, pausing to grin at her. "I'm surprised we managed to go this long without scrubbing in together, actually."
"Good things come to those who wait," she pointed out, water dripping down to her elbows as she waited for him to pass her some paper towels. "So," she began bluntly, casting a quick glance around to check they were alone, and deciding there was no point in wasting any time. "The lusty... lusty? No... Slutty. Slutty intern. She doesn't seem that slutty to me," she rambled, as they walked out of the scrub room, "but then again I did only meet her for a few minutes. So, I'm relying on you to fill me in even if you are slightly biased, seeing as you're taking me out for dinner tonight."
"No arguments. I haven't seen you in over a year, Derek, you're taking me out for dinner. Mark can come, and Meredith too obviously. So I need to know what to expect."
"There's a good steakhouse about twenty minutes out," he told her, resting a hand lightly on her back to guide her through to his office.
"That's not what I wanted to hear and you know it," Lucy chided, throwing herself casually onto the sofa as Derek closed the door.
"When did you get so bossy?"
"Keeps you in line," she replied sweetly, folding her arms casually behind her head. "What?" she queried, spotting his amused expression.
"I said that to Meredith once," he told her, flashing the most genuine smile she'd seen all day in her direction.
"What's she like?"
"She's... dark and twisty, even though she wants to be bright and shiny," he told her quietly. "She has trust issues, and she's not very good at the whole communication thing yet. She's never done this before, but she wants to. She's... she's everything, Luce."
"You never spoke that way about Addie," Lucy pointed out quietly, a slow smile crossing her lips. "You really love her, don't you?" she asked softly, just smiling fully as he nodded. "So, dark and twisty?" she asked with a grin.
"Like you wouldn't believe. You two would actually get on really well. Both have a habit of rambling far too much," he countered affectionately, tipping his chair back a little and raising an eyebrow as he changed the subject smoothly, his voice betraying the barest hint of sarcasm. "Speaking of relationships, how's the lovely Andy?"
"You forgave Mark?"
"Ouch," Derek shot back, pulling a face at her. "He's our brother, Luce, and he's sorry. That's good enough for me," he told her simply, picking up the blackberry that buzzed incessantly on his desk.
Brief me on the McFamily.
The message was simple, the number instantly recognisable. Meredith wasn't one to waste words, particularly when she had to take the time to type them out. He grinned slightly, quickly tapping out a response before meeting his sister's amused smirk.
"Meredith?" she teased, idly tangling a strand of blonde hair round her finger.
"Yeah," he replied with a smile, choosing his next words carefully. "She's, uhh... not really a family person." Lucy tilted her head inquisitively, not wanting to pry too far. "It's not for me to say, but..."
"Bad childhood? Trust issues?" she asked perceptively, nodding slowly at Derek's nod of agreement. "Sucks, no one deserves that."
"She has her friends," he told her. "They're her family now – the group she was with earlier? They were interns together, had the same resident," he explained, and she laughed in understanding. Both still kept in touch with their own intern friends, united by that joint experience that no one else ever really understood. "Luce," he added slowly, shaking his head a little. "They don't really think of her as the slutty intern, do they?"
"Mom is perfectly aware of Nancy's ability to over-exaggerate and distort the truth, and she's perfectly aware that Nancy is Addison's friend more than she was her sister-in-law. So are the others. They'll make their own decisions when you let them," she finished, one eyebrow raised. "Which I understand a little more now. The reluctance to let them visit, I mean," she added quickly.
"Will you tell them that? When they start questioning you?"
"Do you want me to?" she questioned quietly, receiving a quick nod in response. "Then yeah, I'll tell them that. And once I chat to her over dinner, I'll tell them what I think about her," she added. "Judging on what I've seen and what you've told me, I think that'll be good things."
"Thank you, Luce," he said quietly, standing slowly and moving round to give her a hug.
"I miss you, Derek," she said quietly into his chest after a long silence, her arms snaking around his torso. He kissed her hair lightly, rubbing her back gently.
"What's going on, squirt?" he asked quietly, drawing back a little and trailing his fingers through her hair. "The new hair... which is gorgeous, by the way; the heels... you're like a new Addie in the making," he teased gently, wrapping an arm around her shoulders as they sat on the sofa, "but that's not you," he added. "I know I've been an awful brother recently, and I probably don't deserve to ask, but if something's wrong I'll listen."
"What makes you think something's wrong?" she asked weakly, tucking her hair unnecessarily behind her ear.
"You're not yourself, you're dodging questions about the guy who was the love of your life, and you're sitting there trying to fight back tears about something," he answered perceptively, giving her a gentle tug until she settled back in his arms.
"You always did know me better than I knew myself," she told him slightly shakily, taking a deep breath. "In a way I guess I was hoping you'd notice something was wrong," she admitted, shrugging her shoulders slightly in acknowledgement, "so I wouldn't have to bring it up."
"Talk to me," he urged her gently, when she lapsed back into silence.
"I'm not sure if I'm ready to talk about it yet," she offered quietly. "I've put on this happy facade for so long, it almost feels like its real and I guess..." she trailed off as there was a sharp knock on the door, and Meredith entered with a confidence that Lucy knew came only from having an intimate relationship with the person whose office you were entering.
"Crap," she announced as she entered, hovering in the doorway and looking slightly flustered at the realisation that Derek wasn't alone. "Sorry! I mean... yeah. I can come back," she added, gesturing behind her.
"Meredith, it's fine," Lucy insisted, running a hand roughly through her hair and taking a second to compose herself. "I need to pop and see Richard quickly, you stay."
"You've got a couple of hours left, right?" Derek asked Meredith, waiting for her answering nod before continuing. "Luce, we'll go grab a drink and finish that conversation once you're done with the Chief?"
"Sure," she replied with a weak smile, slipping out of the door quickly.
"Everything okay?" Meredith asked quietly, taking Lucy's vacated seat next to Derek and kicking her shoes off with a contented sigh. He shrugged a little, and she reached over to slip her fingers through his as they rested on his thigh. "Your surgery was a success right?"
"Went without a hitch," he replied softly, squeezing her fingers gently.
"I already knew that," she confessed, smiling sheepishly. "I picked up the chart on my way over." He laughed, affection clear in his eyes as he lapsed into silence next to her.
"I think I've been a bad brother," he told her eventually, leaning his head back against the back of the sofa as her fingers started a gentle massage on his thigh. "Something's up with Lucy, and I haven't been around enough to notice."
"She's the one you talk to the most though, right?" she asked, tipping her head to the side a little. "I've seen the name on your cell when you say your sister is calling," she added quietly, smiling a little.
"Luce and I were two years apart," he told her with a soft smile. "There's four years between Charlotte and Lucy, and Nancy and Kathleen are the oldest. We bonded out of necessity, I guess." He paused for a second, smiling as she mouthed the names a couple of times, committing them to memory. "She likes you, and that's not going to change because you forget the names and age order of our sisters, so relax," he told her, finding it entirely adorable that she seemed so excited about the fact, as she curled up on the sofa next to him. Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, he let out a sigh before continuing. "We talk, Lucy and I, but not about the important stuff. We used to have lunch once a week in New York, and she'd come over to watch movies and drink beer when Addie went out with the girls," he added with a fond smile. "That's probably why you're proving so popular, actually. Luce couldn't stand Addison."
"Polar opposite of Nancy then?" she asked with a grin, glancing up at him. "You're her big brother, she clearly adores you... not that I'm trying to make that head any bigger," she added quickly, with an accompanying smile. "But you sound like you're close, so she'll tell you when she's ready."
"You have," he replied softly, and she nodded, reaching up to kiss his cheek.
"I have," she agreed with a warm smile. "So, I'm speaking from experience. Trust me," she smirked slightly settling back into his arms. "And while you're waiting, give me a crash course on the Shepherd clan."
Derek slid smoothly into a booth at Joe's next to Lucy, sliding a glass of wine across the table to his sister, who smiled gratefully as he rested a hand around his own scotch.
"So this is the place to be seen?" she asked, surveying the crowd around her with interest. "They look like hospital types," she commented thoughtfully, glancing over to see her brother with an almost sickening smile on his face. "You met her here, didn't you," she stated, rolling her eyes. "Go on," she humoured him, settling herself back against the wall.
"She was just a girl in a bar," he replied, the smile on his face telling her that there was a lot more to the story, had you been there. "That's a story for another time, though," he told her eventually. "I know I've been a bad brother recently, Luce," he said slowly, repeating his earlier sentiment almost remorsefully. "But I also know you're not... yourself."
"Am I that easy to read?" she asked softly, running a hand through her hair.
"Only to your big brother," he teased affectionately, resting one hand on her back as she braced her elbows on the table. "I'm right if I guess it's something to do with Andy, right?" he asked gently, the immediate tension in her shoulders telling him everything he needed to know before she even started to speak. "Come on, Luce."
"Earlier," she said softly, glancing over at him eventually, "you said he was the love of my life..."
"Call it intuition," he offered quietly. "But you haven't ended it yet..."
"He changed, Derek. I just... if you asked me, I couldn't tell you when, but he did." She paused, shook her head a little, and continued. "He got... aggressive. At first, it was just when he'd had a few too many drinks, you know? And I didn't really think twice of it, but it started to happen when he wasn't drunk, and suddenly..."
"Lucy..." Derek broke in, fighting to control the anger in his voice as his head finished off her sentence against his will. "Shit," he whispered under his breath as she choked on her sob, turning her face into his shoulder.
"He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two weeks ago," she told him eventually, her voice muffled by his jumper. "The day... the day after he... I made him go to a doctor. That wasn't the man I fell in love with, and I just... I knew. I knew something was wrong, but now it's all messed up and I don't know what to do."
"Luce, what did he do?" he asked quietly, rubbing her back reassuringly. She took a shuddery breath and righted herself slowly, rubbing her eyes with her fists. He caught her hands, wiping her tears gently himself and earning a weak smile in thanks. "I'm the first person you've told," he guessed, "right?" The look in her eyes was all the confirmation he needed. "It might help to talk about it..."
"It was so random at first," she said eventually, her voice quiet and distant. "The anger was never provoked by anything big, he'd just... snap. I guess the doctor in me should have realised that it was something more..."
"It's not so easy to do when it's someone you love," he pointed out gently, just squeezing her fingers gently.
"I thought I just... didn't know him well enough, that he'd been hiding that angry streak to woo me," she told him, her voice rough as a few more tears snuck down her cheeks. He swiped them away gently, his heart breaking. "How stupid was I?"
"Lucy you're anything but stupid. You can't blame yourself for this..."
"I let him hit me, Derek," she choked out, with a fresh onslaught of tears. "I let him hit me and I still love him," she whispered, her voice breaking. "Tell me how that isn't stupid?"
"You've spent five years of your life with him," he told her softly, just wrapping his arms around her. "That's a lot of time to throw away." She sobbed quietly, her face turned into his body again as he lapsed into silence, just rubbing her back gently. "You wouldn't be the person you are today if you walked away at the first sign of trouble," he told her eventually, letting his chin rest atop her hair. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"
"Not really," she whispered, her voice rough with unshed tears. "It..."
"Still a little raw?" he guessed, shifting a little with her answering nod. "You know, if you need to get away for longer, take a break... we can sort something out, you're always welcome here."
"Thank you," she whispered quietly, just wiping her tears away slowly. "Derek, I think I have to leave him," she whispered, heartbreak evident in her voice. "He almost... he's only... but..." she shook her head sharply, unable to get her words out.
"You can't live with the possibility," he finished quietly.
"Does that make me weak?" she asked quietly, turning tearstained eyes up to his for the first time. "He's not... he's not Andy anymore. And I know it can be managed, I know it's an illness, but he..."
"How were things before?" he asked quietly, catching something in her eyes as she talked. "Before things started to change."
"I think... the honeymoon period had worn off," she confessed quietly. "He resented that I worked such long hours, I hated that he... he didn't understand. I thought we were just... adjusting to living together, but in hindsight..." They were silent for a moment, as both thought over her revelation. "I guess maybe it isn't just the illness," she realised quietly.
"The illness is making you forget all of that," Derek answered quietly. "You forget all the bad things, all you can think is that someone you love is ill. It's not... no one would think any worse of you..." he stopped, the similarities to Meredith and Ellis not lost on him throughout. "Lucy you deserve to be happy..."
"Like you are with Meredith?" she asked quietly, glancing at him.
"Meredith and I... we've had our problems," he told her quietly. "No relationship is perfect, but you know... you know," he repeated, his hand brushing against his heart, "when it's worth fighting for. You might not be able to justify it to anyone else, but do you care what anyone else thinks?"
"He hurt me," she sobbed quietly, the tears welling up once again. "He... I trusted him when he said he was the only person who'd never hurt me, and he did..."
"Dad always used to tell you never to settle for anything less than you deserved," Derek commented quietly, catching her hand in his again.
"And he always used to tell you never to be anything less than you'd expect for one of us," she finished quietly, resting her head against his shoulder again. "You get more and more like him, Derek," she told him quietly. "He... he would've known what to do, he would've told me..." she trailed off, swiping away a tear Derek knew was entirely unrelated to her love life, and he hugged her close gently.
"Take your time," he told her gently. "Take a break, think things over. This isn't something you have to rush, but... promise me you'll do what feels right here," he told her quietly, resting her hand over her heart gently.
"Can you still love someone, but know you have to leave them?" she asked quietly, looking up at him, "is that possible?"
"I think it is," he answered quietly, rubbing his hand soothingly down her arm. "There's not necessarily going to be any logic to your decision, but you just... have to go with what feels right."
"Is that what you did, with Addison and Meredith?"
"I guess so," he nodded. "I tried to convince myself that staying with Addie was the right thing to do, but I think I always knew, deep down, that she wasn't where I wanted to be."
"Do you still love her?" Lucy asked, tipping her head a little.
"I wasn't in love with her for a long time, even before Meredith came along, but... we were married for ten years, so I guess she'll always be special to me. Yes, she cheated on me with Mark, but I... I think I'll always feel something for her. Whether it's love in the strictest sense or not, I'm not quite sure." He paused, lost in his own thoughts for a moment until she moved, running a hand roughly through her hair. "Something will happen, and it'll be clear what you have to do," he offered eventually, wishing he could do more.
"I think... I think it might already have done," she managed eventually, and in a move far bolder than he'd ever seen from his sister, she pushed the sleeve of her jumper up over her elbow, and revealed slowly fading but distinctive nonetheless bruises.
Finger shaped bruises.
He cursed angrily under his breath once again, and the harshness of his words caused her to jolt away, pulling her jumper down roughly. He caught her gently around the waist, preventing her from fleeing the booth, and it took only seconds before she choked away her first sob.
"I thought you said he only touched you once," Derek guided quietly, just drawing her slowly against him as sobbed.
"I lied," she choked out roughly, her body falling limply against his.
"I lied," she cut in sharply, anger suddenly seeping through her words, "because it's easier to lie to myself and believe I only let him hurt me once, let alone admit to my big brother that I let him do that more than once." Derek sighed, just rubbing her arm soothingly as he closed his eyes – for once, he was speechless.
And in the silence, she crumbled once again, sobs choking her tiny frame as she turned her face into his shoulder, her body shaking as he tightened his arms around her.
"Tell me what to do, Derek," she choked out eventually, turning big, red-rimmed eyes up to his. His heart broke a little more, and he pulled her tightly against him again as he took a moment to contemplate his next words.
His mother had told him once, when he was younger, that he had to step up and be the male figure in his sisters' eyes, particularly the younger two, but until that moment he hadn't realised exactly what those words had meant.
With Lucy's fingers clutching at his shirt, waiting for his guidance, he realised tenfold what his parents had gone through every time one of their children had run to them for answers, even if the problems of ten-year-olds were nothing compared to what he was faced with.
"Derek?" she whispered, looking up at him almost helplessly.
"You need to get out, for a while," he decided suddenly. "Go and stay with Mom. Think it through, decide what you want to do. But please... Lucy, please don't stay there while he's like this. I can't deal with that all the way over here." She looked down, the tears slowing as his hand rubbed her shoulder soothingly. "I wish I could make your decision for you, Luce. I wish I could fix it, turn the clock back..."
"I wish you could too," she told him quietly. "I won't... will you call Mom for me?" she asked quietly, the promise included in her words making his heartbeat finally slow.
"I'll call her with you," he told her quietly, "in the morning. You're making the right choice, squirt," he added affectionately, wiping the tears gently away from her cheeks.
"Meredith's a lucky woman," she told him eventually, a weak laugh only causing more tears to slip down her cheeks. He hugged her tightly once again, and she willingly rested her head against his shoulder for a long moment, taking all the comfort he was offering.
Slowly, though, their surroundings seemed to re-materialise, and she pulled away, swiping roughly at the lingering moisture on her cheeks.
"I'm just... I need..." she whispered eventually, glancing at him for confirmation. He nodded slightly, and as she pushed her way out of the booth and set off at a fast walk toward the toilets, he realised not for the first time, that she really did bear a striking resemblance to his girlfriend.
Issues and all.
"Meredith!" Mark called, spotting her struggling with her coat as she stepped off the elevator, moving quickly across the lobby. He jogged over as she turned her head sharply, offering him a quick smile. "Meeting Derek?"
"And Lucy," she told him with a wry smile, sounding and looking far less confident than she normally did, as the sleeve of her jacket seemed to defy her.
"Me too," he answered with a grin, straightening her jacket and holding it out for her. She smiled gratefully at him, and he gestured to the doors. "Whole family thing not going so great for you?" he asked carefully, as they stepped outside. She slowed and looked at him for a long moment, her expression bordering on defensive. "People talk, Meredith, and I've been here almost a year. I'm not trying to suggest anything; I just thought you might like an ally, seeing as we're stuck together all night."
"I don't do family," she told him after a long pause. "I especially don't do unexpected family."
"Just be yourself," Mark suggested quietly. "If it worked for Derek, it'll work for the rest of the family."
"Nancy hated me," she pointed out calmly, raising an eyebrow at him. "I'm sure she went home and told the whole family just what she thought of Derek's slutty intern."
"Does Derek ever accept what someone else thinks, if he doesn't believe it himself?" Mark persisted, catching her arm as she went to speed up. "He doesn't, and Derek is nothing if not typical Shepherd. They'll all make their own decisions, when you let them," he told her lightly. "Besides, when you met Nancy if I remember correctly, everything was a bit of a mess. And that's another Shepherd trait. They'll admit when they're wrong. Nancy's friends with Addison, but at that point everyone thought I was the bad guy for sleeping with Derek's wife, and they thought that Derek was the bad guy for shacking up with you. They didn't know that Addie had played her own part by living with me for three months," he finished quietly, shaking his head a little. Meredith glanced at him sceptically as they crossed the road to Joe's, and he gestured to his ears as her next words were lost by the roar of the traffic speeding behind them.
"You really think they'll like me?" she repeated as he opened the door for her, flashing him a quick, hesitant smile as they walked in. He nodded, deciding it was easier to just help her out of her jacket from the start this time than watch her struggle in the same way she did to put it on. "You're quite a gentleman when you want to be," she commented curiously, shaking her head a little in confusion. He laughed at that, flashing her a quick but happy grin.
"Guess that means I like you," he commented, backpedalling instantly, "not in a steal you away from Derek way before you go running to him, just in a friendly way..."
"Relax," Meredith laughed suddenly, some of the earlier tension leaving her body as her eyes sparkled for a second, giving Mark a brief insight into just what it was Derek found so instinctively appealing about the woman by his side. "I'm flattered, actually."
"Good," he replied, glancing around for Derek and Lucy. His eyes found them engaged in what looked like a serious conversation, and as Derek wrapped an arm around his sister's shoulders, she turned her face instantly into his shoulder, and he realised with a sharp shock that Lucy was crying. Touching Meredith's arm briefly, he guided her gaze over to them, and heard her let out a sad sigh in response.
"Derek thought something was wrong," she commented quietly, flashing Mark a sad smile.
"You wanna grab a drink?" he asked, gesturing over to the bar. "Give them a little privacy?" She nodded, and they took their seats at the bar strategically, so that they could keep an eye on the siblings across the bar. Mark caught Joe's attention, smiling in greeting, "I'll take a beer, and a shot of... what is it she drinks? Tequila?" he requested, gesturing to Meredith, and Joe nodded in confirmation, shooting an amused smirk at Meredith who was now staring at Mark in confusion. "To calm your nerves," he told her, raising an eyebrow until she silently nodded her acceptance.
"Thanks," she told him softly, as she gratefully accepted the drink Joe slid over the bar to her.
"So... who's the blonde? I thought you two were done breaking up?" he asked nosily, leaning against the bar.
"She's his sister," Meredith answered, pausing to tip her shot back in one easy move as Mark looked on, impressed. "We're having dinner with them," she added, gesturing between herself and Mark.
"Hence the tequila," Joe guessed, smiling sympathetically. "If she doesn't love you, she's a fool," he offered, before heading across the bar to take another order.
"He's right, you know," Mark pointed out. "And Lucy's the most easy-going of the Shepherd's, even more so than Derek..."
"Doesn't mean she'll get along with me," Meredith commented, the pitch of her voice raising a little. "I told you, I don't do family. Real family, fake family, boyfriend's family... you've been here a while, you've seen what's happened with my attempts at family. I'm just not meant to be a family person, and then Derek's sister turns up out of the blue. So I panic, and I freak out, because I've never had a family, and I don't know what I'm doing, and then I ramble a lot, and you're not Derek so you shouldn't be having to sit here putting up with this–"
"Did you even take a breath?" Mark asked, amused. Meredith shot him a glare, gesturing quickly for Joe to fill up her drink. "Lucy rambles a lot too. I think you'll get on better than you think," he offered with a smile, turning his attention back to his beer while she made quick work of her second shot. "You know," he offered quietly, after a long silence, "I'm sure Derek's already told you this, but Lucy and Addison really didn't get on, and you... well, you're pretty much the anti-Addison. That's already put you way up in her books." He paused for a moment, taking a sharp swig of his beer before continuing, his voice darker. "It's also probably why she's the person who forgave me the quickest after what happened." He heard Meredith twist to face him slowly, but stared straight ahead until he felt her fingers hesitantly resting on his arm.
"I'd never thought about it that way," she commented quietly, shaking her head a little.
"None of us were blameless in their marriage breaking up," he spoke quietly, almost as if he wasn't talking to her. "But because Addie was too scared to tell them she fell in love with me, I took the brunt of their anger." He sighed, turning to face her. "You said you've never had a family before... until I met the Shepherd's, I didn't either, and I almost threw that away. So I know how you're feeling more than you can imagine."
"Mark, are you okay?" Meredith asked softly, tilting her head a little. "Are you happy here? I mean," she swept an arm around them, "in Seattle?"
"I was unhappy in New York," he answered evasively, shrugging his shoulders a little and tipping his beer back once more.
"That doesn't answer my question. I'm the Queen of avoidance, so don't try telling me you're fine, either. Won't work."
"You're feisty, Grey," Mark commented with a smirk, earning himself a smack on the shoulder. "I can see why Derek –"
"Enough," she ordered firmly, "or I'll leave you here drinking on your own."
"Sorry," he muttered contritely. "When you're not fine, you drink tequila. My tequila is hitting on inappropriate women..."
"So you're not fine," she pointed out softly. When he raised an eyebrow sceptically, she continued. "You're living out of a hotel room, which I think might actually be marginally worse than living out of a trailer, and suggests that you're not happy here."
"I am happy here," he told her honestly. "In New York I had no one, at least... no one like Derek. We had friends, but it was always the two of us, and suddenly I come here and he's moved on and become this whole different happy person, and Addie..." he sighed, glancing over at her as he ran a hand through her hair. "I think I loved her. Did you know she challenged me to go sixty days without sleeping with anyone else, if I wanted to be with her? Well she did," he continued as she shook her head, "and I was doing it, because I wanted to be with her."
"What happened?" Meredith asked quietly, biting her lip with a sneaking suspicion she already knew the answer.
"She slept with Karev," he muttered quietly, "so I told her I broke the promise first, because I loved her and I couldn't stand seeing the guilt on her face. And now she's gone, and I..."
"You did love her, Mark, every time you talk about her that's clear, but you have to move on. But you know, it won't make people respect you any less if you let them see this side of you occasionally."
"Erica told me the same thing the other night," he commented thoughtfully.
"Hahn?" she questioned, almost surprised. "You don't still have a thing –"
"No," he replied quickly, shaking his head swiftly. "Although, remind me to hurt Derek for telling you that," he added, with a quick, teasing smirk. "I think... I don't know what that was. She intrigued me, when she wasn't interested. It's not... something I'm used to." They both laughed, and he let out a deep sigh, resting his head against his hand.
"You know, it's okay to admit you're lonely every now and again," she said eventually, breaking the silence. He looked over at her slowly, and she knew instantly that she'd hit the right idea. "Not admitting it has gotten me into a lot of trouble," she continued, "and at the end of the day, when Derek and I broke up the thing that gave me the courage to tell him I wanted more than just sex was the fact that those moments were the only time when I didn't feel lonely." She paused for a long moment, shooting him a sad smile. "If you're staying here, you need to start to build yourself a life. I bet going home to a hotel every might just makes you feel worse."
"When did you get so wise?" he asked, running a hand over his face. She laughed softly, with a slight shrug of her shoulders. "I don't know where to start," he admitted eventually. "I want to stay, but..."
"Move out of the hotel," she urged gently. "I know how much you're worth," she added teasingly, "call a realtor. You need to do this." She was distracted momentarily by the sight of her friends entering the bar, and she waved at them as they settled on the other side of the bar, sighing as Cristina simply shot a slightly bitter glance in her direction before ordering a drink grumpily. Running a hand through her hair, frustrated, she let her breath out a little sharper than she'd been intending to, inadvertently attracting Mark's attention.
"You can go talk to them if you want," he offered graciously, following her gaze across the bar. She shook her head sharply, turning away a little. "Everything okay?"
"Cristina... isn't exactly talking to me," she muttered reluctantly. "It's not a big deal; she'll get over it eventually."
"Do you want to talk about it?" Mark asked, glancing at her almost curiously. She shook her head slowly, smiling sadly.
"I don't think I can go spreading her personal life around," she offered apologetically, shrugging slightly. "I might be mad at her, but that's not fair." She paused for a long moment, and glanced at him. "A few weeks ago you wouldn't have asked. Wouldn't even have let me finish my sentence..."
"I'm growing," he muttered wryly.
"I'm very proud," she told him with a soft laugh, shooting another glance over towards her friends as she and Mark lapsed into their own thoughts. She wanted to sort things out with Cristina, but it wasn't as simple as the arguments they'd had before. Her whole life wasn't as simple as it had been before.
If it was, she probably wouldn't be sitting at a bar with Mark waiting for Derek to finish a conversation with his sister who appeared to like her so that they could all go out to dinner, after all.
"How do you feel about house hunting?" Mark asked eventually, drawing her out of her thoughts after a long moment of silence.
"I'm not averse to it," she answered after a moment's consideration, smiling. "And I've also learnt that there's nothing wrong with asking for help every now and again." She added quietly, trailing a finger round her empty shot glass as she gave him a moment to process that. He was silent for a long moment, before he sat up, drained his beer, and spun his stool round to face her.
"Will you come house hunting with me?"
"Sure," she agreed with a smile, happy when he met it with one of his own. Leaning around him a little, she glanced over at where Derek and Lucy had been sitting, surprised to find him sitting alone. Mark touched her arm and tipped his head to the side, and she turned just in time to see Lucy walking swiftly towards the bathrooms. Meredith smiled, slipping off her stool and glancing back quickly to check Mark was following, before walking over and sliding into the booth next to Derek, who had his head resting in his hands. "Hi," she offered quietly, slipping an arm through his and kissing his cheek softly as Mark sat down opposite them. "Derek?" she asked eventually, when she got no answer. He nodded his head quickly, and she rubbed his arm in response, glancing worriedly at Mark. Eventually he moved, slipped his arm around her shoulders, and pressed a quick kiss to her lips... and if she noticed that his cheeks were a little damp, she kept it to herself.
"So, Meredith and I are going house hunting," Mark announced with a grin, and as the three of them laughed, Meredith allowed herself to relax a little into Derek's arms, which were holding her a little tighter than usual.
"Should I be worried?" he asked, his voice light but just a little strained.
"Oh yeah," she told him with a grin, "Mark's promised me a house with proper plumbing, heating, a kitchen... the whole works."
"You don't even cook," he pointed out, smiling softly. "You're moving out of the Archfield?" he asked Mark eventually, nodding his head in approval. "It's about time."
"Well, someone convinced me of that," Mark replied, tipping his head a little in Meredith's direction before glancing to the side as Lucy walked back over. "Alright gorgeous?" he asked with a grin, and Meredith watched as Lucy's face lit up with just a hint of a smile as she slid into the booth next to him, settling easily into what she was sure was a well-practised routine of banter with Mark, and a welcome distraction in that particular moment.
"Are you okay?" she asked, turning her attention to Derek as she brought her fingers up to rest lightly on his cheek. He nodded slowly, catching her fingers in his and giving them a gentle squeeze, in a gesture she instantly understood to mean they would talk about it later.
"It's not easy, finding out someone you love is that ill," Meredith commented quietly as Derek finished relating Lucy's situation to her, the similarities to her own not evading her either. She ducked under his arm and rested her head against his chest as she pulled the blanket tighter around them, managing a hint of a smile as he tightened his arm around her in response. Having dropped Lucy off at her hotel, they'd decided the proximity of her house, particularly when considering their early shifts the following day, had been the only practical choice, but she knew that if he was honest, he would have wished for the solitude of the trailer.
She'd been witness to, from a slight distance, what had looked to be an understandably emotional goodnight between the siblings as Derek insisted on making sure he walked her right to the door of the hotel – stopped, she was sure, from walking her right to her room only by Lucy herself.
He let out a soft sigh, drawing her out of her thoughts somewhat as his fingers trailed lightly through her hair. She kissed his chest lightly in response, letting her fingers rub soothingly against his side as she waited for him to speak.
"Derek," she prompted gently after a long silence, lifting her head a little to study him. His fingers slid around to her back, snaking their way under her shirt before flattening against her skin. She nodded slowly in response to his silent question, and laid her head against his shoulder once more.
Because she knew better than anyone that sometimes, it was easier to talk to someone when you weren't looking in their eyes.
"I told her I'd call Mom with her tomorrow," he commented eventually. "I haven't spoken to her in weeks, and I have to ring her to tell her this..."
"She'll just be glad that you're there for Lucy," she told him quietly. "Glad that she isn't dealing with it on her own anymore..."
"The look in her eyes," he said eventually. "I can't... I can't imagine what she's going through, yet she's looking to me for answers."
"I can," Meredith offered eventually, with a slight shrug of her shoulders, "and I can imagine what you're going through too. I'm sure you can relate to the feeling of loving someone even though you know you can't... or shouldn't," she added softly. He tensed, and she shook her head a little, catching his fingers with hers. "Don't make this about us," she told him softly, "you know we've dealt with that. Just... keep in mind how you felt when you're talking to Lucy, that's all I'm saying."
"I know," he said softly. "I know that's what you meant, but it doesn't stop me from being sorry." She smiled her appreciation, rubbing her thumb over the back of his hand. "What do I do?" he asked quietly, shaking his head a little.
The irony was lost on neither of them – for once, it was he who was lost in a situation she was sadly far too familiar.
"Be there for her," she told him quietly, as if it were the simplest thing in the world. "That's all I ever wanted, really. While she was ill, and I couldn't tell anyone, all I wanted was someone to be there for me while I had to be strong for her, you know?"
"I know," he said softly, acutely aware that he himself had failed her on that front once she'd finally found the courage to share her secret.
"Lucy knows you can't tell her what to do, even when she asks," she pointed out softly. "Even if you don't know what to say right now, when she needs you to, you'll say the right things."
"They used to go to dad for things like this," he commented softly. "She's looking to me for that now."
"What was your dad like?" she asked softly, twisting a little in his arms. He smiled, a hint of warmth returning to his eyes as she tipped her head back to look at him. "I want to know," she urged gently, before resting her head back against his shoulder, missing the emotion in his eyes at the realisation that, not only was she was willing to ignore her own pain to ease his, but she was also asking out of her own interest.
She wasn't too scared to ask.
"He was... he was a good man. It would be easy for me to tell you he was amazing and perfect, but he was... fair. More than all of that, he was fair. If we needed to be told off, we were, and he could be scary," he added with a chuckle. "But he was alwaysthere. He was kind, and patient... he would've done anything for us, I'm sure."
"What did he do... as a job?" she asked softly, with a secret feeling she already knew the answer.
"He was a surgeon," Derek confirmed carefully, his fingers slipping up to her shoulder, ready to ease the tension that never really appeared.
"That's nice," she said softly. "To know that some people can be surgeons and parents, even if it's not what I had." She leaned up, slowly, and kissed him, before resuming her original position once more. "I don't resent you for having that," she told him softly. "I don't want you to feel like you can't talk about it because you'll hurt me..."
"Growing," she replied with a small smile, turning shining eyes up to his. He laughed softly, nodding his head in acknowledgement as their eyes met for a long moment.
She smiled as he squeezed her hand, and pulled the covers up a little further when she felt a slight shiver run through his body, and she realised that her own words rang true in that moment – right then, all he needed was someone to be there for him while he tried to figure out how to help Lucy.
"How can I take his place?" he asked softly, after a long silence. "How can I even try to fill his shoes and tell her what to do?"
"I think, if I'd met him," she said slowly, taking a moment to consider her words, "I would've realised where you got everything that makes you... you, from. Your description of him rang pretty true..."
"I'm just saying it as I see it," she told him softly, although her eyes showed a gentle acceptance of the words she couldn't quite let him say.
"Thank you," he answered softly, closing his arms around her once more. "Lucy said... she told me I was getting more like him," he told her quietly, his chin coming to rest atop her head in a well-practised position.
"Then you'll know what to do," she mumbled softly, tucking herself comfortably into his side. "And even if you don't, we'll figure it out in the morning," she told him tiredly, her words betraying her exhaustion.
And as he settled down to sleep, he realised that it was that simple acknowledgement of the fact that they were in this together that meant more than anything else she'd said that evening.
They would figure it out.