Edge of the Night
Pairing: Meredith & Derek
Disclaimer:Nothing is mine. Lyrics are from "Under Pressure" by Queen & David Bowie.
Summary:"And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night" – Meredith and Derek, post 4.15.
Authors Note:I'm honestly not quite sure where this came from, and I really should be revising, but this song came on the radio while I was trying desperately to learn my case names, and I was inspired. I've always loved this particular lyric, but it's never really meant something to me until now. I'm not sure how I feel after the last episode, really. I want to believe that the finale will be everything we've ever dreamt of and more, but I can't quite find it in myself to believe that will be true. I haven't read anything about it, but I have my suspicions... so I'll keep an open mind. Until then, this is what my brain is throwing out. I find it quite hard to write from Derek's point of view, and I refuse to believe that he's not more screwed up than the show is letting on. I refused to believe that he doesn't want to fight for Meredith, I refuse to believe that she doesn't want to fight for him, and I refused to believe that Rose would be so spineless. So this is my little delve into his psyche, and a resolution that seems more appropriate, in my mind at least, after Meredith's revelation in that final scene. Feedback is wonderful, as always.
Cause love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night.
Stepping quietly out of the hospital, the chill of a Seattle night hit Derek with full force, but it barely registered in his mind as he began the seemingly endless trek towards his car. Right at that moment, everything seemed never-ending.
The walk to his car seemed insurmountable. Every working day seemed to stretch out for double, triple its length. The clinical trial seemed to be just another mountain he couldn't climb. And then there were the nights.
The nights were endless. Cold and unforgiving – a cold bed in a cold trailer, night after night filled with restless dreams that left him with only one thing.
A cold heart.
His dreams were the same, every time. Everything was a little brighter, a little warmer, and a little more complete. In his dreams, they were successful in their trial. They saved a patient. Every time, he saw her face light up with unrepressed joy, and as she instinctively jumped into his arms, he swung her round, their laughter blending into one. They opened their victory champagne. She toasted him, and he toasted her right back, because it wasn't all down to him. They were great – medically, they were great. Their names would be referenced in textbooks as those who were successful first. But that wasn't the only way in which they were great.
They were great, together.
They would fall in to bed, exhausted, just before the sun rose. Sometimes they would make love, sometimes they wouldn't – that was the only part that varied. When they did, it would be gentle, slow, like they'd do it every day for the rest of their lives. But it would be special, because it was a way to celebrate together what they had achieved together.
Her head would fall to rest on his chest, and her fingers would tangle with his as they finally slipped into slumber, the smiles never leaving their lips. And they would sleep, peaceful and uninterrupted, until an alarm or a pager awoke them. It would be warm when they woke. She would turn her face up to his, offer him a sleepy smile, and they would kiss.
And then he would wake, cold and alone, sheets tangled round his body in a vain attempt to recreate the warmth she used to provide. He would wake before she said a word, in his dream.
In his dreams, on the edge of the night, everything was warm.
Everything was Meredith.
In his dreams, Rose didn't exist.
His mind wandered again, to the conversation he'd had no more than half an hour ago...
"Rose!" he called, picking up his speed as he descended the bottom few stairs. She slowed her speed to meet him, the candy she'd been chewing hanging limply by her side. "You wanna go have dinner?" he asked, somewhat breathlessly.
"No, I'm sorry I can't," her reply was brusque, as she turned to walk away.
"Come on," he urged softly, almost desperately, catching her arm in an attempt to get her to stay.
"Derek. We spent the night together, and then you vanish," she snapped, with an attempt to shake his hand away. "Now I wish that I was secure enough to handle that without a bruised ego and a lot of processed sugar, but I'm not." She paused, almost giving him a chance to deny it. "Derek I'm not what you want. Dinner with me is not what you want. If you don't owe it to me to be honest, that's as it may be, but please, at least owe it to yourself and tell me along the way."
"My head's all over the place," he said quietly, shaking his head sharply to get rid of the thousand images of Meredith that suddenly flashed through his mind. "I'm not... Rose, I'm sorry. I shouldn't..."
"You want Meredith," she told him quietly. "Derek you're a decent guy. You're a great guy, in fact, but right now you're being an ass. To me and to her. And I know I'm not blameless in this. I knew I was your rebound girl, but I guess I let myself get carried away with the fantasy of Derek Shepherd," she laughed softly, almost painfully, holding a hand up when he tried to talk. "I came into this relationship knowing that I was the cheerful nurse who ate way too much sugar for your liking, who had brown hair, who wore an engagement ring around her neck, and who found it remarkably easy to let you in... when really, all you wanted was the resident with the blonde hair who you can't take your eyes off in the OR, or the hallway, or the patient's room; who's a little bit... what is it, dark and twisty? Who doesn't let you in, who's pretty damn miserable most of the time to be honest with you," she threw out bitterly, "who couldn't communicate to save her life, and who would never let you in, but somehow managed to capture your heart despite all of that. End this now, Derek. Let me keep the nice memories, rather than remember how you strung me along wishing I was her, which is what you'll do if we continue. End this, so you can tell her you came to your senses."
"You're right," he said eventually, with a deep exhale. "Rose..."
"You're a good guy, Derek. You're an ass, but you're a good guy. Make her see that."
"She can't give me what I want. You..."
"I can't give you what you want either, because I'm not Meredith Grey. Can you see yourself with the damn great house and the kids and the white picket fence with anyone else by your side?" she asked bluntly, resting a hand on her hip as she waited for him to reply.
"I see her," he told her quietly, cursing under his breath. "I always see her. Rose, I am sorry. You didn't deserve this," he added, closing his eyes.
"She hurt you, Derek. Pretty bad, from what I can see. But I'm guessing you did the same to her too. You're right, I didn't deserve this, but neither did you."
"Why are you being so nice about this?" he asked, with a self-depreciating laugh.
"I'm a nice person, Derek," she told him with a slightly sad smile.
"You deserve someone who'll treat you right," he told her eventually, giving her hand one final squeeze. "I'm sorry that wasn't me."
"So?" she asked softly, gesturing a little.
"It's over." He finished the sentence in his head himself. It's so over.
It shouldn't have been Rose who ended things. That wasn't the honourable thing to do, regardless of the fact that he knew that the honourable thing to do would really have been to not get involved in the first place.
Right in that moment, he hadn't felt like a decent guy, let alone a great guy.
And as he took slow, heavy steps away from the hospital, he couldn't remember the last time he had felt like a great guy. Her lack of commitment had broken him, no matter how hard he thought he'd tried. Maybe she hadn't tried hard enough. Maybe she hadn't wanted it enough. Maybe she hadn't wanted him enough.
Or maybe he hadn't tried hard enough. Maybe he hadn't been patient enough – maybe he'd forgotten that love wasn't a perfect Cinderella fairytale. Maybe his fantasy had been dysfunctional.
Maybe he'd given up.
And suddenly, his eyes were drawn to the tiny, unmistakable figure huddled on a bench, seemingly as oblivious to the cold as he was. Her arms were wrapped tightly around her legs, back pressed against the sharp metal arm of the bench. Dirty blonde hair flew wildly around her face as she stared out into the dark, her shoulders slowly but imperceptibly shaking.
Something in him was drawn to her, sitting there on the edge of the night. Something inside dared him to care, even after everything.
Something dared him to fight.
"Meredith?" he called quietly, slowing to a halt as he reached the bench.
"Go away, Derek," she told him roughly, her voice hoarse and dangerously close to breaking as he watched her rub a hand roughly across her eyes.
"Meredith, I can't–"
"I said go away," she snapped, her shoulders slumping the second the words left her lips. "I don't need a pep talk about how we'll get it right eventually. I don't need your victory champagne, and I don't need a shoulder to cry on, because not everything is about this hospital, Derek, and not everything is about you."
Her words sliced straight through his heart, and he didn't need to see her face to know that she was crying. There was a slight inflection to her voice when she cried, a coarseness that was different to when she was upset, or angry... and he'd never needed to ask, never needed to see. There were some things that didn't disappear when you gave up.
"I wasn't going to talk about the trial," he said quietly, hands shoved deep into his pockets. "I was just going to check if you were okay, because sometimes... nobody asks."
"No, Derek," she told him quietly, turning bloodshot eyes up to meet his for the first time. "I'm not okay." Her words were simple. Soft, even, and almost carried away by the wind... saved by the simple fact that he could read her lips, still. The venom and bitterness that had seeped into her speech as she had ordered him away mere seconds ago was gone, replaced by a deeper sadness that he wasn't privy to. "Are you?"
Her quiet question caught him off guard after a long silence, and he found a lump rose in his throat so swiftly that he couldn't reply as he sunk onto the opposite end of the bench, defeated.
After everything, she'd asked. And he couldn't find in himself the words to answer.
"I'm sorry," he whispered eventually, running a hand roughly through his hair. Sorry for pushing you. Sorry for not waiting for you. Sorry for Rose, Lexie, Addison. Sorry for everything.
"So am I," she told him eventually, with a deep sigh. Neither of them was blameless.
And so they sat there in silence, minutes ticking by as the wind whistled angrily around them. He wanted more than anything to help her battle whatever was causing the tears to slide unbidden down her cheeks, but he'd lost that right the second he'd given up on them.
The second he'd stopped fighting, and done exactly what he'd accused her of doing all those months ago.
"I don't know where to find the fight in me anymore," she said eventually, her voice breaking on the final word as she dropped her forehead to her knees for a long second. She seemed to be talking to herself as much as him, if she even registered that he was still there; and he could only watch her shoulders shake as she heaved in shuddering breaths of air, having no idea how much her words had mirrored his own thoughts. "I'm used to being alone. Hell, I even like it some of the time," she offered bitterly, as she dragged her fingers roughly through her hair, "but it's never felt like this." She paused. Her sentences were short, broken. Blunt. "I'm not a coward, and I'm not a quitter," she told herself forcefully. "I've picked myself up and carried on no matter what life's thrown at me, no matter how many times I've wavered or thought about giving up. Nothing in me is a quitter," she decided forcefully, and with her gaze directed straight at him for the first time, the emphasis in her voice would have brought him to his knees, had the metal of the bench not been supporting him. She caught his sharp intake of breath, and he saw her entire body tense. "I fought, Derek," she told him bitterly. "I fought more than you'll ever know, more times than you'll ever know."
He knew, instinctively, that they were talking about more than just Elliott Bay. More than just their relationship. But there was something about the edge of the night, and something about the lack of hope that came with it that seemed to bring out honesty in both of them.
"I stopped fighting."
"Yeah," she told him quietly, "you did."
As silence fell over them once again, there was nothing more to say. Nothing to fix... because right in that moment, there was nothing that was fixable. His brain was racing, a whole host of dichotomous images slamming into his conscience. His life, his future with Meredith by his side pushed harshly out of the way by images of solitude.
Waking up in the huge bed in the house he'd dreamt of since he was a child with the woman who was everything he'd dreamt of since he was a child. With Meredith. Waking up in the exact same bed, with her side painfully cold. Without Meredith.
Walking the dog that always played a part in his dreams, with Meredith's hand swinging casually in his as she laughed at his pathetic neurosurgery jokes before filling him in on the latest gossip from the hospital. With Meredith. Walking the dog in solitude, only his iPod for company. Without Meredith.
Raising children, with Meredith. Living alone, without Meredith.
And he realised exactly what he'd been missing, all along. He didn't want someone to share those memories with, because those memories just didn't exist unless Meredith was in them.
There were no alternatives, apart from solitude.
And suddenly, he understood what she was saying. Loneliness, solitude... they'd never felt quite like this.
"Rose and I are over," he blurted quietly into the silence, hating himself as he heard her breath catch in her throat again.
"I'm sorry," she offered quietly, with a slight shrug of her shoulders. Her words were genuine. Far more genuine than he deserved.
"No, Meredith, I'm sorry," he told her quickly, shaking his head. "I've been such an idiot."
"Yeah," she told him quietly, with a slight shrug of her shoulders, "you have."
Nothing could really have prepared him for her honesty, but even as it stung, he appreciated it. Hearing it from her made it real.
"I was getting ready," she told him quietly, after falling silent for a long moment. "I know that you couldn't really see it, but I was trying so hard." He closed his eyes, fighting back the tears that sprung to his eyes. He'd brushed aside the small, insignificant steps she'd taken, when really; they'd been giant leaps in her own mind.
I'm not ready right now. But things can stay the way they are, and I can get ready. I'll get ready.
I just want to lie here for a few more minutes.
I don't want you to date other people. It may not be enough for you, but I'm trying here... so I don't want you to date anybody but me. That's it. Except, I'm scared as hell to want you, but here I am, wanting you anyway. And fear means I have something to lose, right? And I don't want to lose you.
"You were keeping your promise. To get ready," he told her quietly. "I broke mine."
"Why did you end things with Rose?" she asked eventually, pulling her knees tighter to her chest. He debated, just for a moment, lying. It would be so easy to do – Rose had practically given him permission to do just that.
But lying really would be the death of them.
"Actually, she... she ended it with me," he said quietly, unable to look at her as her shoulders slumped. "She made me see a few home truths that have been a long time coming. Meredith, I... you're the only one I dream about. Night after night, you're the one there, opening that bottle of champagne with me when we're successful. And all those things I told you I wanted... I don't want them, I only want them if they're with you. There's never any other option, there's never anyone else, so I... I'd rather be alone, than have them with someone who's not you."
"I've been in therapy," she told him quietly in response. And he was silenced. Thrown, completely. "Not for you," she added quickly, squeezing her eyes shut. "For me. It'd been a long time coming, and maybe in a way you were responsible for that. So I guess I should be thanking you..." she added, with a raw laugh that was nothing like the giggle he cherished in so many memories.
"Don't thank me," he told her quietly. "That's a victory you should be proud of yourself for. Is it... is it working?" he asked hesitantly.
"I don't know that therapy ever really works, so to speak," she offered quietly, pausing for a moment. "We sat in silence for a long time, but I think... maybe, yeah."
"I'm glad," he told her quietly. "Meredith, I need you to believe me," he urged her eventually, "I need you to believe how I feel about you, because I... I'm having trouble believing it myself."
The silence stretched out between them once again, and he found his hands shaking from something more than the cold as he waited for her to say something.
"I do believe you," she replied quietly, her fingers tangled together in an anxious puzzle. "I ask myself why every day, but I do. But belief and trust are two different things, Derek, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to give you the latter again."
On the edge of the night, honesty prevailed more than it ever had done in the year and a half they'd known one another.
And it hurt, more than anything in the past year and a half had done, to know that he might have thrown the only thing that ever really mattered away, because he had been too blind to see what was really happening.
"You thought I tried to kill myself," she whispered eventually, her eyes boring straight into his. "I couldn't tell you why I didn't. I can't trust you enough to tell you why I didn't, but you have to take it on faith that I didn't. I couldn't put anyone else–" she trailed off suddenly, her body lurching forwards slightly as whatever she was battling with caused her to retch painfully.
He slammed his eyes shut harshly, physically unable to watch her in so much pain and know that there was nothing he could do. His mind raced through a million possible scenarios, but he was in no position to ask which was true.
No position to even reach out and touch her, just to let her know she wasn't alone, until she chose to share whatever demon was resurfacing.
"I don't want it to be like this," she whispered eventually, sounding completely exhausted. "I need something to hang on to, but it feels like everything is slipping out of my fingers before I can grip on tight enough."
"If we're successful," he said quietly, leaning forward a little. "If we save lives, Meredith, if we can do that together, can we... can we fix this?"
"I don't know," she whispered quietly, eyes sliding shut. "I want that to be true, but I don't know if wanting it is enough." Instinctively, unable to find the words to reply to that, he found himself reaching across the bench to squeeze her hand for a second. She froze, but just as he was about to pull away she moved, and suddenly she was gripping his hand like her life depended on it. "I'm not a quitter," she repeated eventually, managing the barest hint of a smile.
And suddenly, as tears flooded both their eyes, on the edge of that particular night there was nothing more to say.
It would be a long, long road. But maybe they'd get there, eventually.
She would pull her hand away eventually, but they would sit there for a while longer, the cold seeping slowly into their bones until eventually he would rise, and extend a hand to her once again. She would take it, pressing icy fingers into his for a second as she lifted herself upright.
He would walk her to a car and wish her goodnight. They would go to their respective homes, and they would drink coffee in a last ditch attempt to rid themselves of the cold, their actions mirrored despite the distance between them.
They would go to bed, and whilst the beds would still be cold and empty, as they both fell into a restless and tear-stained sleep, they would both find that edge of the night wouldn't be quite as cold as it had been the previous night.
Because they both knew that somewhere, as close to the edge as they were, someone else was daring to care, despite all their efforts not to.