Disclaimer: Not mine, please don't sue.

Oh my GOD! Who saw last night's episode? I was on the edge of my seat the entire time! I loved every bit of it (although my friend and I haven't really decided yet how we feel about this Sadie girl yet. The verdict doesn't look good.) The episode was so dramatic I almost forgot about the whole closet scene with Mark and Lexie (I know, how could I?)! "I found the intern in the closet. I did not invite the intern into the closet" This has some serious potential. I don't know if I can wait two weeks for a new episode (I hear Thanksgiving is a repeat).

So this popped into my head immediately after the episode. I was actually thinking something different before I saw the ending and Derek taking her home, so this came out instead but I'm actually pretty happy with it. It's the first time I'm using any other characters besides Mark and Lexie, so that was a little different to write (I think George ended up a little whiny, but....) Also, just a side note, this story will probably be recategorized shortly, as soon as I decide who to list as the characters (Lexie, and either Mark or Meredith, any ideas?) Anyways, hope ya'll enjoy and let me know what you think!

By the time they all wake up, Lexie's crying.

Not sobbing, or that awkward hiccupping kind of mess were your eyes and nose turn red and watery, and your breath is this staccato sort of affair. None of that tragic, weepy, breakdown kind of thing. Meredith thinks maybe she would have preferred that (not that she's really equipped to handle any kind of crying from her half-sister) because at least then she could brandish a box of tissues, or make some tea, or whatever it is people do for you when you're like that. But Lexie's just lying there, shaking a little on the bed Derek had made up for her so carefully (he'd used the good linens which warmed her in a way she's not sure she could explain, but guesses it's a feeling close to this domestic bliss she's heard so much about), and Meredith doesn't even think Lexie realizes she's crying. The last time she walked in to check, Lexie's eyes had been screwed shut so tight it almost looked painful, and she was taking long, drawn out breaths while tears made their own ways down her cheeks. Meredith didn't know what to do.

Alex was long gone by now, back to the hospital (not that she'd send him in there to cheer her up anyways, because it wasn't that long ago he'd apparently forgotten they'd slept together, or so Meredith has heard) and he'd taken Izzie with him (who usually would be the go-to girl for this kind of emotional stuff but something was up with her lately, too, and Meredith can only handle one crisis at a time). That left Derek, who sure, was about as sensitive as a guy could get while still earning the title "McDreamy", but ultimately wasn't anything to Lexie aside from her estranged half-sister's live-in boyfriend.

There was, of course, Meredith herself. But then again, Meredith was supposed to be the dark and kind of twisty sister, who broods and brings her mother's ashes with her to work. The one who solves her problems by drowning them in a bottle of tequila and hoping she won't remember them in the morning. She had a system. It was Lexie who was supposed to be the bright, sunshine-y girl, who grew up with an actual family (although Meredith's quickly learning Lexie's life wasn't such a cake-walk either) and smiley face posters on the walls. Lexie would probably be good at the whole crying-shoulder thing, quiet and concerned and saying the right things at the right times. Meredith's not sure, really, if she can do that.

Which is why, of course, she called George, who is five minutes later than he said he'd be (hadn't she told him to rush? Hadn't she stressed how incapable she was at handling this?) and has left her waiting in the kitchen, staring at the closed door hiding her sister. Derek had shut it thoughtfully behind him when he last went in, armed with an old quilt ("She looks exhausted. She might actually be able to get some sleep if she stops shivering") and now waited with Meredith, brewing a new pot of coffee for lack of anything better to do with his hands.

"Why did you call O'Malley again?" He asked quietly, sounding more curious than anything else.

Meredith shrugs, sighing. "What else am I supposed to do?" She turns to face him, leaning forward on her elbows, propped against the counter. "I don't know how to deal with this, Derek. The last time I went in she just kept apologizing, and I don't know what to say to that." To his credit, Derek kept silent, letting her finish, because he didn't need to be a neurosurgeon to see that this was hurting Meredith too. "I just… I guess I just thought she could use a friendly face, that's all. And George is, well…. George. He's all warm and gooey. That's good, right?" (And isn't George listed as Lexie's emergency contact, anyway? She's leaning towards believing that this qualifies.)

"Yeah" he nods, and Meredith doesn't seem to notice that it's more an absentminded gesture than anything else. His hand reaches into his pocket, closing around his cell phone. "A friendly face would probably be the best thing for her right now."

A heavy silence settles over the kitchen; Meredith's attention is glued to the counter in front of her, although her eyes flicker every now and then towards the door to the guest room, while Derek's focused on his cell phone, flipping the cover open and shut, until he begins to key in some numbers, his mind made up.

"The coffee's almost done. I'll be right back, Mer." He excused himself into the hallway to conduct his call, and Meredith can't hear either end of the conversation, let alone hear who is answering on the other end. He finishes quickly, though, snapping the phone shut smartly as he re-enters. Meredith looks at him expectantly, but he doesn't say a word, instead reaching in their counters for two mugs (matching, which makes Meredith smile softly again), and pouring two more than generous cups of coffee.

He doesn't say anything, but instead sits next to her, one hand resting comfortingly on the small of her back, while she waits for him to tell her who he called. While she waits for George to come and piece her crying sister back together.

While she waits to see if this really was all just some sort of sick dream, and she'll wake up tomorrow and everything will still be normal (and, yes, she recognizes that she's using 'normal' as a subjective term).

She didn't have to wait long.

There's a knock on her door less than ten minutes later, followed by the sounds of someone rustling through pockets to find a key (Meredith's lost count of how many spare keys she's given out by now, and maybe that's not such a great thing to admit but it's the least of her worries at the moment). She rises, coffee forgotten on the counter, and Derek follows her to open the door. Finally. It isn't like George to be so late, but he's here now, like he said he would be because Lexie needs him and George is the guy who shows up when you tell him your half-sister is alone and crying.

Which is why it surprises Meredith, when she swings open the front door (George is still searching through his pockets to find a key he, in all probability, left on a table at his apartment) to see Mark Sloan standing on her porch behind George, looking like he has every reason in the world to be there.

Meredith's grip loosens a little on the door; she's standing, speechless, because somehow (and she's not quite sure how, or who, or why yet, but she knows it's big) this whole thing just got a little more complicated.

"You gonna let us in there, Grey?"

She eyes him over George's shoulder, puzzled. "What exactly are you doing here?"

He shrugs, hands stuffed in the pockets of the jacket he always wears, looking every bit the part of the uncaring bystander. "I was in the neighborhood." And the smirk he gives her is just classic Sloan, but it doesn't last long enough for Meredith to see there's something more serious underneath.

She turns to face Derek, who's standing behind her, not looking quite as surprised as she would have liked. Want to explain? She mouths, but he's already guiding her back inside, ushering their two friends into the house, and Meredith is left to close the door, standing behind the three wondering what the hell is happening here. George looks at her, and his whole face is just dripping with worry. "Is she okay?" he's asking her, but Meredith is too busy trying to listen to Mark and Derek.

Mark is shedding his jacket while Derek looks on. "You made it here a lot faster than I thought." Their voices are so low it's a challenge to Meredith to make out their words, but she's able, at least, to hear the answer.

"I really was in the neighborhood" and the smile he offers is much more genuine than Meredith's accustomed to seeing on Marks' face, and there's a meaning there that she can't quite decipher yet. Derek just nods wordlessly.

They rejoin the group as if they'd never left; Meredith is still standing in the doorway, with more questions now than answers, while George is avoiding everyone's gaze, eyes glued to the floor, shuffling awkwardly from one foot to the other. He seems uncomfortable, almost apprehensive, but Meredith can't think of a reason why.

Mark is the first to speak.

"Which room is she in?" he asks, and Derek is about to answer him, but Meredith cuts him off.

"Wait, wait. How did you get here?" She directs her question at Mark, before rounding on George, who's been oddly silent throughout this whole exchange, "And why weren't you here twenty minutes ago like you said you'd be? Did I really not make it clear how much I can't deal with this?"

He shrugs his shoulder in classic George fashion, and if Meredith had to she would later admit he seemed almost ashamed. "I… had to, uh…"

"Okay Bambi, enough with the stuttering" Mark interrupts, borrowing Christina's nickname, more forcefully perhaps than he had to. "Will you just tell me where she is?" His question, again, directed at Derek, who's looking at Meredith like he has something to say that she's not going to like.

Meredith sighs, shaking her head, and guides them all into the kitchen (actually, she kind of finds her way in herself, and all three men come straggling after her, various expressions on their faces. Derek and George both have a guilty sort of look about them, George is practically squirming where he stands, while Mark seems unfazed by all of this, glancing over at the shut door).

"Alright you three" she says, pointing at the seats by the counter. "Sit." They comply, watching her expectantly, and Derek can't suppress the corner of his mouth that turns upwards ever so slightly when she commands again. "Explain."

"You said Lexie needed a familiar face, Mer" Derek reminds her gently, claiming her previously abandoned coffee mug (his having been long since drained; he's always been a fast drinker).

She crosses her arms across her chest, unsure of where this is going. "I know, that's why George is here. I called George."

He sighs, while their guests both remain uncharacteristically silent. "Well, I called Mark."

He glances up when his name is mentioned, offering her another small smirk, and Meredith feels a spark of recognition. She thinks, now, she might understand why Mark is here. George, however, remains blissfully unaware, and instead looks towards Meredith almost pleadingly. "Mer, you called me and I'm here. Should I… what should I do? Is she in there?"

Mark scoffs, not even bothering to try and hide it. "How about you just get out of here, O'Malley?"

George turns suddenly in his seat to face Mark, annoyed. "Lexie… loves me. " (It isn't so much of a surprise for them to hear it, more like it's a surprise coming from George's mouth, because he'd never noticed and now Meredith thinks she made a mistake in calling him. He might just be too late.) "I just… I should be there for her, right?" He's asking Meredith again, and the sudden burst in confidence he'd just felt now seemed to diminish. "I mean, my interns told me, and she, uh, she stayed up to help me study for my test, so… I should be here."

Both Derek and Meredith remain silent, but Mark has no problem speaking up. "Your interns told you. Really?" His eyes glint dangerously. "If you have to ask, then the answer is probably no, you shouldn't be here. So why don't you scamper off?." He's rolling his eyes, and his tone remains civil, but Meredith has a feeling that might not last long.

Poor George wasn't expecting Mark to confront him. "Yeah, well, uh…. Lexie wants me here." He nods, more to himself than anyone else in the room. "She would want me here."

Mark's eyes narrow, and his tone is unmistakably territorial. "You can say whatever you want, Bambi, but you're not setting so much as a foot inside that room."


Mark laughs, but it's bitter and mean. "You're about the last thing she needs right now, O'Malley, so why don't you skip back off to your apartment and pretend like everything's fine and you can go back to being wrapped up in your big bad doctor business and ignoring her again. How about that?" The speech just kind of bursts out of him, and Meredith can tell that Mark has been holding it in for a good long while now. She wishes she knew the whole story here, because Mark is known for being a character, but he's never been downright mean without at least a reason.

George is stunned. His eyes are wide, and his mouth is hanging open in a soft "oh" and then his whole face changes. It's angry and very un-George-like, in her opinion. "Yeah, well…. Nobody asked you. You don't know that she wants you here, so…" (The stammering, Meredith thinks, The stammering is more George-like.)

But Mark is quick to counter. "Yeah? You know that for a fact, there Bambi? I'm sure I'm a whole hell of a lot more welcome than you are right now."

Derek steps in, his tone reproachful. "Mark…" he warns, and Sloan listens, leaning back in his chair, glowering at George. And it is in the silence that follows that all four of them hear the creak of the hinges as the door opens. Their heads must have swiveled in unison towards the sound (and in any other situation Meredith might have had a small smile because of that). But right now, Lexie is standing in the doorway, swimming in one of Meredith's old Dartmouth sweatshirts (it was large on Meredith, sure, but Lexie is almost lost in it, the shoulders sagging halfway down her arms) and frayed flannel pants that might have at one point belonged to George (but Lexie does the laundry and so George has never spoken up when a few of his rattier pairs of comfortable pants go missing).

She doesn't look good. Meredith doesn't mean it in a cruel way, but guesses she's just never noticed before how little sleep Lexie must be getting; her eyes are puffy and pale. She seems as though she can barely stand up on her own, her knuckles are clutching the doorframe so hard they're turning white, and everything about Lexie (vibrant, funny, bubbly Lexie) seems fragile and broken. Her cheeks gleam with spent tears, and her eyes are wide, watering. She's pulled her hair back off her face into a messy ponytail, but a few strands are escaping, and Lexie hasn't yet bothered to brush them back.

Between the five of them, no one says a word. Meredith is frozen in place, shocked at the visage in front of her. Derek stands behind her, and lays a supporting hand on her shoulder (warm, real), trying to calm her down. George, too, is still, and it looks as if it physically pains him to look at Lexie, standing in the doorway. Mark is, well, Mark is wearing an expression that Meredith has never seen him wear before, and she's not sure she could describe it if she tried.

"Dr. Sloan?"

Lexie's quiet, timid voice propels Mark into motion (and it's weird, hearing his name come out of her like that, Dr. Sloan). He drops his coat carelessly on the floor, forgotten in favor of rushing towards Lexie. He scoops her up into an almost crushing hug, and it's scary to Meredith how small her sister seems in Mark's arms. Lexie all but collapsed into him, letting him support both their weights, and immediately buries her face in the crook of his neck. Audible sobs that were suppressed before now escape her, wracking her body, and Meredith knows it's only because of Mark that Lexie is still standing. He's making quiet noises now, right near her ear, and his arms are circled around her tiny waits, hands brushing up and down her back soothingly. Derek has looked away respectfully, but George's eyes are glued to the two, and Meredith cannot tear her gaze away from his pained face.

George looks like someone just punched him in the gut. Lexie's not in a position right now to notice, though, and Mark's busy guiding her back into the room, not bothering to close the door behind them as he lays them both down on top of the sheets, tucking the quilt around them. Meredith can see Lexie clinging to Mark as if he were her life line, her fingers pressing into his arms, and she knows Mark's shirt will be stained with tears when they're done.

George stands. "I'll just let myself out then." And before she has even a chance to say something to him (not that she's sure what she would say anyway. Is there any sort of comfort from her he'd accept right now?) he's gone towards the door, leaving only Meredith and Derek in the kitchen to listen to the sobs from the next room. Derek gets up to wrap his arms around Meredith's waist, trying to offer some measure of comfort.

She rolls her shoulders, working out the kinks, and wishes, not for the first time today (and it certainly won't be the last, she knows) that this whole mess never happened.