AN: A quick oneshot revolving around Meredith and Derek in season 5. I'm giving them the boost they need to move forward from whatever it is they're doing right now.
Disclaimer: I don't own Grey's Anatomy or any of its characters. I am simply borrowing the characters for my own amusement and promise to return them safely.
Meredith snapped her cell phone shut with a satisfying click and stood. The tiled floor of the bathroom was cold; why hadn't she realized that until now? Her legs and back were stiff, and she stretched before flicking off the light and making her way back into the bedroom after spending the better part of an hour talking on the phone with her best friend. It had been late – early, really – when Cristina had called. Derek had moaned something incoherent and rolled away from her as usual, leaving her feeling cold and bereft.
It almost reminded her of the coldness she had felt for the months he had spent with another woman. Both times.
But almost was the key word here. It almost reminded her. Because Meredith Grey was whole and healed and moving on with her life. She was letting go of the past she couldn't change and focusing her energy on the future.
And Derek Shepherd was a big part of that future.
He barely commented on her late night/early morning conversations with Cristina anymore, and even now his comments were flat and defeatist, as if he knew he had no say.
And it almost made her feel good. Almost.
Tonight, though, she had taken pity on the man who she now shared her bed with every night, and had headed into the bathroom for a lively conversation about this, that and the other thing.
It was still early morning now, leaving Meredith a few hours left to sleep before she needed to get up for work. She looked forward to returning to the warmth that had engulfed her bed for the past few weeks.
However, when she made her way back into the bedroom, the bed was stone cold and bare. Derek and Derek's pillow were missing.
"Wha..." Meredith mumbled to herself, sitting briefly on his side of the bed, wondering not only where he had gone, but when? Her fingers ran across the smooth fabric of the sheets that smelled like him, but were void of him. The sheets were cold, no longer holding an ounce of his warmth. Derek had been gone for some time.
She probably wouldn't have admitted it to herself, but her throat went dry at the realization that he wasn't there, that she didn't even know how long he had been gone. Her hands shook ever so slightly, and she quickly pulled her fingers into fists and swallowed hard. He wasn't gone gone, just...not here.
She stood suddenly, determined to find him. The old Meredith would have crawled into bed and slept. Well, okay, maybe not slept, but she would have pretended to sleep. But the new Meredith was going to find the man who should have been waiting in her bed, keeping it warm and cozy for her return.
The door to her room was open just a crack, hinting more to the point that he had left, but Meredith ignored the clenching feeling in her gut and pulled on the cool brass knob of the door, and she stepped out into the hallway. There was no sound coming from behind either of the two doors down the hall. It wasn't a secret that her roommates had been sharing a bed for some weeks now, but she sincerely doubted Derek would have risked entering either room in search of a bed. That one incident the previous year had been a one time thing, she was sure. He had known for certain that George was staying at the hospital over night.
And he had promised to stay in bed with her from then on.
He had promised.
Meredith released a shaky breath and quietly padded down the stairs. Upon reaching the bottom, it didn't take her more than the moment her eyes took to adjust to the low light for her to recognize Derek's sleeping form on the couch in the living room.
She approached him silently, her lower lip captured under her upper incisors. He was huddled on the couch, his legs bent up towards his body in order to fit on the couch that was narrower than he was tall. His arms were wrapped tightly around his body, trying to starve off the nightly cold that the thin blanket that only covered the lower half of his body wasn't doing.
The anxiety left her quickly as she realized he really hadn't left; he had just gone in search of a place to sleep. And technically he hadn't broken his promise from so long ago. He hadn't not stayed in bed with her because she hadn't been in the bed when he had left.
Her throat felt better, her hands relaxed and the muscles that were clenching around her gut fell away, only to move upwards and clench around her heart. She had down this; she had driven him from her bed, and yet...not from her house.
He was still here.
She sat, careful not to disturb him, and ran her fingers through his hair. He didn't stir, and she sighed, running her finger from his hair to his cheek. Neck. Shoulder. Arm. Side. Still, he didn't stir.
She closed her eyes and sniffed at the realization. He was normally a light sleeper, waking to sounds and usually touch. But now he didn't wake. He didn't wake.
Because he was exhausted.
If she were honest with herself, she would admit that she had noticed the signs. There had almost always been a coffee cup in his hand when he wasn't in surgery. She had caught him napping on the couch in his office. He had gone to bed before her more than once in the past few weeks. His eyes had been red, and she had seen him using eye drops.
Derek was exhausted.
He was exhausted and struggling, and yet...still here. He was still in her house.
Still in her life.
She hadn't driven him away yet.
With a sigh of frustration Meredith reached for his arm, lifting it away from his body, and quickly lay down beside him. If her bed wasn't warm, then she would sleep on the couch with him.
His arm closed around her easily, holding her in the warmth she had craved for all those months she had spent alone. He shifted slightly, making concessions for her presence and reaching to close any space between them.
He slept how she wished she could live her life. Forward. Uninhibited. Tender and loving.
A single tear escaped from her eye and she quickly shut both eyes tightly together, willing herself not to cry. He was still here.
He was still here; still in her life, still in her house. Albeit, he was a bit closer to the door then he had been the night before, but he hadn't left.
He was still here.
Meredith took a deep breath, willing herself to calm, but was disheartened when her exhale was shaky and spastic. He stirred behind her and she froze, praying he wouldn't wake. His arm tightened almost imperceptibly around her, as if he were unconsciously realizing she was there. His breathing lightened for a breath. And his legs pressed ever so slightly against hers. But he didn't speak.
She inhaled again, grateful she hadn't woken him.
And then he groaned, and the muscles around her heart clenched painfully.
"Mer?" He mumbled sleepily into the back of her head.
For a moment she was tempted to pretend she was asleep; then maybe he'd go back to sleep. But she knew she could tell when he was really sleeping and when he wasn't, so she wasn't above believing he could do the same for her.
"Go back to sleep," she whispered, hoping he couldn't hear the waver in her voice.
"Why are you on the couch?"
Meredith sighed. "Because you're on the couch."
"Mmm," he murmured, pressing his face into her hair and inhaling. "Why are we here when there's a perfectly comfortable bed upstairs?"
She didn't answer for a long moment, before finally deciding on something tried and true; avoidance.
"Good question," she said flatly. "You disappeared first. I came after you."
"I couldn't sleep," he explained.
"Huh, you can't sleep in my bed," she hissed. "Good to know." Other than the fact that she was cold and tired, Meredith didn't know why she was suddenly lashing out at Derek. Maybe she had reached the end of her rope. Maybe she couldn't deal with the waiting anymore.
He sighed heavily behind her. "Don't be like that, Meredith, please..."
Why did he have to have such a hold over her? Her heart ached when he used that tone.
"I'm doing my best," he continued. "It's not my fault I'm a light sleeper. I got used to the snoring, but I can't get used to the talking."
She took a breath, willing herself to calm. She wasn't ready yet, not for what could come of this. "I went into the bathroom."
His lips pressed against the back of her head. He was still holding her close to him. "Hmm, it was thoughtful, but not any better. I could still hear everything."
Meredith closed her eyes tightly. "Sorry."
The sudden flash of anger and anxiety and frustration came from nowhere, overwhelming her and controlling her actions. "It's not okay!" She exclaimed, jumping out of his arms to her feet. She couldn't lie there in his arms, accepting his warmth and his love and his patience when she had driven him from her bed.
He grunted at her sudden absence, and slowly sat upright, a hand running over his face as he fought to wake up further. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.
She shook her head, her hands on her hips. "For what?"
His eyes lifted to hers. "I'm sorry?"
"What are you sorry for, Derek?"
His lips parted, but no words came out.
"Exactly," she accused. "You don't even know what to say to me."
His brow furrowed as his eyes knit together. He looked worried. "What do you want me to say, Meredith? I'll say anything; I'll do anything."
"Why are you here?" She demanded.
"I'm sorry," he said again, regardless of its lack of success the first time. "I couldn't sleep."
"No." She shook her head. Her emotions and her actions were spinning out of control, and she couldn't have stopped the next words that left her mouth if she wanted to. "Why are you here?"
Derek blinked. Then he blinked again. And then he sat up straighter as he understood her question. "Because I love you," he said simply.
Meredith shook her head as the tears pooled in her eyes. "No. That's not enough. That's not..."
He was on his feet in the blink of an eye, his arms enveloping her, pulling her back into his warmth. "I love you," he repeated. "Do you understand? I love you."
She was still shaking her head, even as her fists closed around the fabric of his tee shirt and the tears that had been threatening to fall streamed from her eyes.
"Oh, Meredith..." He murmured, holding her close, but not pushing for anything from her. "I'm sorry."
"Stop saying that."
He shook his head. "No. It's the middle of the night and you're crying. I obviously did something."
She sniffed. "I'm not crying."
A chuckle escaped his lips, disappearing into her hair. "Nice try." He sighed. "I'm sorry I came down here," he whispered. "I didn't know how long you were going to be on the phone. And I have a surgery scheduled in the morning..."
This only served to make Meredith cry harder.
Derek sighed. "Why are you crying?"
"I don't know."
He clicked his tongue and pulled away far enough to meet her eyes. His hands cupped her face as he used his thumbs to brush away her tears. "I think you do," he prompted.
"I..." She trailed off as the words 'don't know' died at her throat. Maybe she did know. "...Can't," she finally stammered.
He pursed his lips, debating for a long moment before he pressed a little harder. "Yeah, you can."
She wanted to argue. She wanted to yell and push him away and avoid. But his eyes were so deep and blue and filled with nothing but love and concern. And he was so freaking warm.
A hiss of air escaped her lips as she lost her will to fight. She looked away from him, unable to meet his eyes when she said what she was going to say. "I think I've been doing it on purpose."
"Doing what?" His hands had returned to the small of her back, keeping her close, but he was pushing for her to look at him.
Meredith closed her eyes. "The thing with Cristina. I think I've been encouraging her to call...and show up...early...late...whenever."
"Why?" He asked quietly, a tremor of fear in his voice. "Do you not want me here?"
"I do," she said quickly, opening her eyes to meet his, which were now filled with worry. "I just... I want you here."
She swallowed hard. "I...know."
He cocked his head. "Do you?"
She inhaled sharply. He had hit the issue right on the head. "I want to..." she whispered.
His lips pursed again. "Do you trust me?"
Meredith closed her eyes. This was too much for her. "I want to," she repeated, ashamed. This was it. The other shoe had been released and was hurtling for the floor. She was just waiting for the impact now. Soon it would all be over. She held her breath.
Derek sighed heavily. "Mer...please open your eyes..."
She shook her head.
Suddenly his hands were on her face again, carefully directing her face upwards. She could feel his warm breath against her cheek. "Mer," he breathed.
"No...Derek...please don't make me..."
His lips came down against her forehead, followed quickly by his own forehead. His hands returned to her back once again and together they stood for a long moment, silent, waiting.
Meredith took a breath. He was so close to her, so close and yet so far. Why was this being drawn out? Why was he still so close? With his forehead pressed up against his, she could feel him breathing, could feel every breath, every movement, every beat of his heart.
"Have I ever told you how sorry I am?" He finally whispered, breaking the silence.
Her eyes sprang open under their own volition. "What?"
He lifted his forehead from hers and tilted his head to the side. "Have I ever told you how sorry I am for everything I did to you?"
"I...what...what are..." She stammered.
He pecked her lips. "I'm sorry, Meredith. I'm sorrier than I can begin to describe. I've made so many mistakes; so many. And I've hurt you so many times."
"Yes," he cut her off. "I have. I never...realized it before. But I had a lot of time to think about it when..." He didn't have to finish the sentence for them to both know when he was thinking about. "I was so unhappy, but I realized I had made my own bed."
"I'm sorry, Meredith," he said again, and the integrity in his tone left her speechless. "You deserve the world, and yet I've screwed up one time after another. I'm sorry I lied. I'm sorry I...left you." His voice cracked but he pushed on. "I'm sorry for every single time I've ever hurt you."
Her mind was racing, screaming at her to pull away, to look away, to run. But her eyes were locked on his, and her heart was pulling her towards him. She swallowed hard. "Okay."
He sighed. "But it's not, is it?"
"I think I've been pushing you away," she said instead, a sudden burst of confidence fuelling her onwards. If he could be open, so could she. "With Cristina and everything," she clarified. "I think I've been..."
"Testing me?" He supplied.
Her eyes flickered, but stayed on his. "Maybe," she admitted.
"It's okay," he reassured. "I deserve it."
"But it's not okay. We're supposed to be starting over."
"It's okay," he said again. "We can't start over until we trust each other. And I have a hell of a lot more to apologize for than you."
"That's not true," she argued.
He nodded sadly. "It is true. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I know that I haven't exactly done a good job showing you that."
He shook his head. "From now on I'm going to show you," he promised. "You can throw whatever tests you want at me, but I'm not going anywhere, okay? I'm in this for good, Meredith. I want the lifetime."
Her heart clenched painfully, but this time it wasn't from fear, but from want. She wanted the lifetime too. "I...me too," she whispered. "But..."
"But?" He prompted, his tone a mixture of love and pain, of hope and fear.
"It's scary," she admitted. "I want it, but it's scary."
"I know," he breathed, pulling her against him.
New tears welled in his eyes at the realization that he really did know. He really did understand.
"I'm going to do my best to keep it from being scary," he assured. "No more pressure, okay? I mean it. We can't take any steps forward until we're both ready."
She nodded against his chest. "I'm sorry I'm not ready."
"Don't be. Where do you think we've be if I'd never screwed up in the first place? My guess is a lot further than this. And I think...last year...I think I was pushing because I wanted to make up for the time I had wasted."
Meredith started at the question. His first screw up, she knew, would have been going back to Addison. That meant she and Derek would never have broken up in the first place. He would never have broken her trust. She breathed; the possibilities were endless. And the realization made her feel...less at fault.
"I'm sorry too," she whispered.
It was her turn to pull back far enough to meet his eyes. "You got to apologize for everything. I'm sorry too, Derek. You're not the only one at fault. I screwed up a lot too. So, I'm sorry."
He smiled softly. "Okay."
She sniffed. "Okay."
His smile grew and he pressed his lips against hers.
"I want to trust you, Derek," she whispered when he pulled away.
He nodded. "You will," he promised, his strong hands cupping her face. "I'm going to do everything in my power to make you trust me again. I'm going to prove that I'm worth trusting, that I deserve your trust."
A laughing sob escaped her mouth as she nodded, hope and a glimmer of trust filling her heart. She hadn't driven him from her bed. He had moved to the couch in an effort for sleep, so that he could stay in her life.
He loved her; she trusted that.
Derek wasn't inching closer to the door every day, he was solidly on her side of it, and he planned to stay. And she believed him.
Meredith smiled. "One day," she promised.
He nodded. "One day. I'll do anything."
She took a deep breath. "You can start by coming back to bed with me."
He smiled warmly, turned to reach for his pillow, and hooked his free hand around her waist. "My pleasure. Your bed is much more comfortable than the couch."
"Our bed," she corrected him. She needed him to start seeing it that way so that she could.
"Mmm," he murmured as he paused halfway up the stairs. "I like the sound of that."
She leaned into his warmth and sighed. "Me too."
He pressed his lips against her temple before leading her the rest of the way up the stairs to their room. They walked through the doorway and Derek headed immediately for the bed. Meredith, however, paused by the door and made a show of shutting it and turning the lock. "In case Cristina shows up in a couple hours," she explained.
He smiled at her from the bed and she hurried to join him.
"And I'll talk to her tomorrow about the phone calls."
He closed his arms around her and sighed. "Mmm, thank-you."
She giggled at his tone. "I am sorry about that..."
"As long as it stops soon."
She pressed her lips against his, filled with newfound confidence and freedom. "Consider it stopped."
He groaned his approval. "Have I told you how much I love you today?"
Meredith giggled. "About ten minutes ago."
"Hmm, well I do. I really, really do."
She nodded, her throat suddenly dry. "Have I told you?"
His eyes shot open, but he said nothing. They both knew the answer.
Meredith took a breath. "I love you too, Derek. I really, really do."
The look on his face alone was worth the pain of their conversation, was worth the burst of hope it had taken her to finally speak those words again. "Thank you," he murmured, pulling her close to kiss her. "Thank you for loving me."
"Thanks for loving me," she echoed.
"You make it easy," he retorted.
She scoffed. "We both know that's not true, Derek."
"It is," he insisted. "No matter what has happened between us, I've never stopped. I swear."
"Me either," she assured, turning in his arms to press her back against his chest.
He responded easily, his arm snaking over her waist to hold her against him and his legs shifting forward to meet hers. It made her feel warm and loved.
"How do you feel right now?" He whispered into the dark after several moments of silence, proving her theory right in that he was able to know she was still awake.
Meredith sighed. "I feel...safe."
A laughing sigh escaped her lips as she realized she had the thing she had clung to for so many months before. "I feel safe. You make me feel safe."
"Good. That's a step in the right direction."
She smirked. "A sexy step."
He laughed and pulled her even closer to him. "They're all sexy steps with you."
"I told you," she said lightly. There was no unease in her tone now, no avoidance or accusing or pain. She was moving forward now, not almost moving forward, but actually moving forward. They were in love and they were taking steps towards their future, and one day she would realize he had met his promise, and she would trust him implicitly.
But for now he was in her bed – their bed – and he was warm and there and saying all the right things. And for now, that was enough.
AN: Hope you enjoyed! I will now get back to work on WYB and HWA.