Note: The title is from a quote from Milton's Paradise Lost. "To love or not; in this we stand or fall."
Pairing: Mark and Lexie
Ch 5 – Stand Or Fall
Mark drove as fast as he dared in the storm. It wasn't easy to fight his worry about Lexie and stay focused enough to safely maneuver the streets of Seattle in pounding rain. Something was very wrong; he could feel it. He realized it had been wrong most of the evening. He'd tried hard to ignore anxiety that had been creeping up on him as he'd had a drink with Derek and had ended up checking his pager every few minutes.
When he'd gotten Lexie's text message, he'd tried to convince himself that her old clunker had broken down again and she needed a ride. But she'd had car trouble once before, since they'd been together, and she hadn't called him, she'd simply arrived late at his hotel, pink cheeked and cold, from waiting two hours for a tow truck on an icy night. He'd glared at her and told her she should have contacted him, as he'd warmed her cheeks with his hands and then the rest of her body with his mouth.
He shook his head at the memory. 'Yeah, she should have called,' he thought. But this hadn't been a call. She'd texted him and the message had a 911 prefix. It wasn't a code anyone in their profession used casually, especially on his or her SGH pager.
"Damn!" he muttered into the night. He knew she was smart and resourceful. If something had happened that required emergency care that she couldn't handle, she wouldn't have taken time to send for him. In an emergency a plastic surgeon was just another pair of hands. Despite that knowledge, he hoped when he drove down, Overbrook Road, he'd see bright flashing lights from an ambulance and squad cars.
"But not for Lexie, please she can't be hurt." It was his mantra through the dark stormy night.
When he took the corner of Vine and Overbrook, the back wheels of his sleek black Porsche began to slide sideways into a skid. Mark had grown up in New York, driving on ice and snow, hydroplaning wasn't all that different. His reflexes were practically hardwired. Swearing at his carelessness, he took his foot off the gas and downshifted, while turning into the skid. Within seconds the car was back under his control.
When he was able to look around there was nothing but the pouring rain and dark sleeping houses. The tight band of fear that had been forming around his chest hitched a bit snugger. He reduced his speed and automatically flipped on the high beams of his headlights to try and make out an address.
"Come on, Lex, where the hell are you and why didn't you leave the front light on so I could find you?" he muttered to himself.
Then he saw it, a flash of baby blue to his left and the distinctively rounded bumper of an old VW. As soon as his brain made the connection, he hit the breaks and backed up to take a closer look. It was her car, blocked into a driveway by an older model green sedan, parked at an angle. The sedan's front left tire was in the grass and its right front bumper was pinned against the left one of the smaller blue auto. Lexie's car was trapped in place by the larger one.
Sloan pulled onto the drive behind the two cars, left his motor running and lights on as he dashed through the rain toward the darkened house. Rain bounced off his shoulders and dampened his face, but he didn't feel it.
A bright light caught Lexie's attention as she sat leaning against the garage door, hugging her legs. The overhang provided some shelter but she was cold and not thinking clearly when a man's shadow moved quickly past her.
"Mark, please let it be Mark," her voice was husky and shook but he heard it over the noise of the storm. He veered toward the garage when he saw movement. In no time he knelt beside her.
"Lexie, my god, what happened?" He quickly took off his jacket and wrapped it around her wet shoulders. Where his hands touched her neck, her skin was cold and he understood why she was racked with shivers. Relief at finding her was fast being followed by deep burning anger. "Where the hell is your coat and what are you doing out here in the rain?"
"My…things…are…are…in…the house." Using the last of her reserve of energy she threw her arms around his neck and pressed as close to him as she could. She wanted to tell him how wonderful it was to curl against his body and absorb his heat, but the words seemed too difficult.
He pushed wet hair off her face and lifted it from beneath the collar of his jacket so she wouldn't have water running down her back. He needed to know what had happened. She had an odd dazed look in her eyes that was more alarming than frantic tears.
"You should have waited inside. I came as quickly as I could." He saw her flinch and wished he'd kept his mouth shut. This was her father's house, her childhood home, something terrible must have happened or she wouldn't have been sitting out on a cold, rainy, night in February, wearing only a light sweater, jeans, and Uggs.
"Couldn't," she whispered and added cryptically, "No keys." Another shiver ripped through her and she huddled closer in his embrace. "God, I'm cold." For a tiny moment she wondered why all of the sudden she could feel the chill, when before there had been nothing. "Please…Mark…no…m…more quest…questions now, just take me...ho…home."
"Okay Babe, but put on my jacket, I don't want you getting wetter than you already are." He found her SGH pager gripped tightly in her right hand when he tried to guide her arms into the sleeves of his coat. "Give me that, Lexie."
"No," she wrapped both hands around the small black box that was her lifeline. "Without it I…I…was alone." She couldn't give up her one means of communication and fought him when he tried to pry her fingers open.
"Lex honey, I'm here now. Please, give me the pager and get into the damn coat." His voice crackled with temper and some odd emotion he couldn't identify. "You're scaring the crap out of me."
"I…I…" She hated to upset anyone, least of all Mark. "I'll…put…put it in my p…pocket, where I usually keep it." The idea of giving it up sent her to the edge of panic. She shifted to her knees to give her better access to the front of her Jeans.
"Let me help?" He was about at the end of his rope, though he knew yelling at her wouldn't change a thing. She'd still be caught in the rain, her clothes and hair soaked. Her hands, that he'd seen do perfect Pulley stitches, were too stiff from the cold to perform the simple task of placing something in her pocket.
Mark wrapped his palm around Lexie's fingers and held her sodden denim pocket open with his other hand. "There ya go, just drop it in." As she released the pager, he gave it a shove, pushing it down, until it rested safely in place.
"You're always trying to get in my pants." She whispered against his cheek. She could feel his fingers moving against her hip as he pulled his hand out of her pocket.
"Yeah I am, but not this time. This time I'm trying to get you covered up." He finished getting her arms in his jacket.
"Wait, I can't wear this. I'm all wet. I'll ruin it." Her mind wasn't processing facts as quickly as usual. His leather jacket was his favorite. She was well aware of what water could do to it. Though the warm inner lining that still held his body heat felt like heaven.
"I don't give a fuck about the damn thing." He gritted his teeth. "You're freezing."
"But…" Everything was moving in slow motion. She was well aware that she was wet to the skin, but being locked out of her father's house had left her strangely numb. Relief at seeing Mark had momentarily torn through her deadened emotions and she'd realized how cold she was. But to face that reality would mean accepting what Thatcher had done…her mind had stuttered and locked it out once more.
"No buts," he ordered, holding onto his temper by a thread, as he zipped up the jacket, swamping her in it. "Put your arms around my neck and hold on tight, Sweetheart, we need to get you off the ground." Mark pulled her to her feet and felt her sway slightly before she was able to take her own weight.
"Please, take me home," her voice cracked and she bit her lip, refusing to give in to emotions his nearness and familiar scent caused.
"Just one last…." He checked the concrete where she'd been sitting but didn't see any of her belongings. "What about your stuff…your bag?
"Yeah, your purse." A shadowy idea of what had happened to her skittered across his mind, but he refused to accept it. This was Lexie Grey, if it had been Meredith, or even him, then maybe…But things like that just didn't happen to Lex. She was one of those girls who was raised with loving parents and happy smiley faces.
"What part of my things are in the damn house didn't you understand?" She hissed at him and curled her fingers in the front of his shirt to get his attention. "Are you really going to make me say the words?"
"Shut up, just shut up." Her voice cracked as anger finally broke through her lethargy brought on by cold and emotional shock. "He was drunk, my father was so drunk he locked me out. First he shoved me down the back steps and then he slammed and locked…and locked…" She lacked the energy to sustain her temper. For one second her face crumpled and her body was wracked with shudders. She rested her forehead against her fists on his chest and fought to keep from falling apart. "Please, please Mark, don't make me do this now?" she whispered.
"I'm gonna kill the bastard," he growled as he picked her up and carried her to the car. His dark lethal expression and frozen blue eyes adding serious threat to his words.
"He's still my father…" Happy memories of a warm gentle man who'd been so much a part of her life seemed like a story she'd heard once but had nothing to do with her.
"Yeah well, him too, but I was talking about Derek." Mark glared at her, as he set her on her feet and opened the car door. "If that asshole hadn't meddled in my life I'd have been with you tonight. This would not have happened." He guided her into the low-slung seat of his Porsche and slammed the door.
"Damn, damn, damn," he muttered and turned his face up to the rain in an attempt to cool his temper and lessen his guilt. He'd been the one who listened to Shepherd. He'd been the one who'd let Lexie keep on visiting her dad alone; despite the doubts his internal warning system had been sending him. He'd made a choice and Lex had paid the price.
They pulled up in front of the Archfield twenty minutes later. She'd slept for most of the way. It gave him time to work through his blame and accept it, though he still wasn't sure what he was going to do about it. Tomorrow he'd figure the rest of it out, but tonight she needed him whole and together.
"Honey, wake up." Mark unfastened her safety belt and then leaned closer to gently caressed her cheek. "We're home."
"What…" Her eyes sprang open as if he'd awakened her from a nightmare. "Where…" she looked around startled, getting her bearings and remembering the events of the evening. "Damn," she muttered and rolled her head until it rested against his shoulder. "I was hoping it was all a really bad dream."
"Yeah, me too." He tipped her chin upward to look her in the eyes. "Are you up for this?" He knew from experience that both the doorman and the parking attendant would be descending on them at any moment. Driving up to the front entrance wasn't ideal, but his main objective was to keep her warm and get her up to his suite as quickly as possible. The damp, drafty underground parking garage hadn't been an option.
"I'm fine," she insisted.
"Yeah, right." He left his motor running; handed his keys to the valet along with a generous tip; and then turned to the doorman who was reaching for the passenger side door. "I've got it, Harold."
They made it through the almost deserted lobby and up to the small suite, which had been his home since coming to Seattle, in less than five minutes. He had his arms wrapped tightly around her and she'd buried her face against his neck.
"Oh thank God," Lex muttered as Mark closed and locked the door behind them. Her fingers had warmed enough to be able to unzip the jacket he'd loaned her and to lean against a chair to pull off her Uggs, with his help. But her mind stalled when she tried to figure out what to do with them.
"Here," he took the coat quickly and hung it on the back of a chair and left the boots to dry in the hall. Before she did anything else, he picked her up and carried her to the bathroom.
He put her down long enough to turn on the water in the large stall shower that took up part of one wall of the room.
"Help me," she demanded as she pulled at her sweater trying to get it over her head. "I've got to…got to get out of these clothes." When the sweater finally came off, she tossed it into the wastebasket.
"Wait, what are you doing?" Mark retrieved the deep purple cashmere he knew was one of her favorites.
"I'm throwing it away." She sagged against the wall and worked her pager out of her pocked. Once it was safely on the counter, she attacked the large metal button and zipper that held her pants in place. "I'm throwing them all away." She knew she'd never be able to wear a stitch of clothes she'd had on when…when…her father…when her father had turned into the Thatcher Grey, Meredith knew.
"But your mom gave this to you the last Christmas she was alive." He held up the sweater, sure she was making a decision she'd regret later.
"Doesn't matter." Lexie gritted her teeth as she began to shiver again. The lovely memories surrounding that sweater were gone, instead all she could see was herself in her parent's kitchen, with a drunken man who looked like her father, yelling at her as lettuce rained down on her head. He'd looked at her with hatred and confusion, as he'd grabbed her wrist and pulled her across the room to throw her out the back door and down the few steps leading to her mother's rose garden.
"Damn it, help me get them off!" Her hands shook and she began to slide sideways as she fought heavy wet denim that dragged at her almost transparent panties, trying to rid herself of the Jeans.
"Fuck it!" Mark grumbled, tossing her sweater to the floor. He was damned if he'd let her take a spill, while she argued irrationally over a piece of wool. As he wrapped his arms around her, part of him was glad to have stubborn Lexie back, but she still looked shattered and broken. "Hold onto me, cause if you fall, I'm taking you to the Emergency Room." It was an idea he'd toyed with in the car, but knew she'd hate to have anyone else see her as she was.
"You wouldn't?" But she knew he would. It was what she would have done if the situations had been reversed; so she dug her fingers into his shoulders when he leaned down to pull her pants and underwear the rest of the way off.
"Yeah, I would." He straightened and ran his hands up her back. In one deft move, her bra was unfastened and he slid it down her arms to join her panties, jeans and sweater on the floor. "Now in you go." He picked her up and deposited her in the oversized stall shower, after checking that the water was warm enough. "You got your balance enough so I can get out of my wet clothes?" He toed off his shoes and was unbuttoning his wet shirt as he spoke.
"Yeah," she gripped the safety bar all hotels installed in their tubs and showers.
"Good, cause I'm coming in too." He stepped in and wrapped his arms around her from behind. "I've got ya, Sweetheart. Relax and get warm, I've got you."
Mark didn't know how long they stood under the hot water with Lexie's back pressed against his front. Her head was on his shoulder and her eyes closed. The pounding spray turned her chest, neck and abdomen red but she still shivered and her breath hitched occasionally. Despite her exhaustion and emotional distress it was a battle for him to keep his hands chastely below her breasts, when all he wanted was to explore her silky skin and take her pain away.
"He hurt you." Mark's voice rumbled from deep in his chest, as he kissed a bruise that was blossoming on her shoulder.
"No," she tried to deny the truth. "That was from when I hit the ground. He didn't…"
"He did and I'm not talking about the physical, though that's bad enough." His words came out like ground glass that cut straight to the heart of the matter.
"Please don't," she gasped and sagged against him, knowing he was already taking most of her weight. "When you're kind like that, it makes it much more difficult."
"I'm not kind. I'm angry, but not with you, never with you." He kissed her ear and worked his way down her throat, back to the damaged skin on her shoulder. His hips tipped forward so she'd know exactly how he felt about her.
Tears filled her eyes, but she blinked them away refusing to give in to her tightly bottled up emotions. If she was going to tell him what happened, she needed as much control as possible. She had to tell someone or the memories would drive her crazy.
"I…I need you to listen," her voice broke and she took a deep breath before she went on. "I realize the last thing you want is to be needed by anyone, but right now, this second, I need you." Lex wrapped her arms around behind her and dug a hand into each of his hips. She pressed him tightly against her, stilling his insistent rocking. She knew he offered a trip to oblivion, and would take it if that was all he was willing to give.
"I'm listening," he whispered against her ear. He was a son-of-a-bitch who usually took the easy way out, but not this time, with this woman.
Lexie spoke in fits and starts letting the story unfold, as her perfect recall played back the events the way they happened. Mark heard it all, uncensored by pride or wishful thinking. He had an idea it was how she was forced to remember things due to an eidetic memory.
She told him about Thatcher's drinking since her mom had died and that her father had hardly spoken to her in a year of regular visits; of how drunk he'd been hours earlier. So drunk he'd kept confusing her with Susan, Ellis, and Meredith. So drunk that he hadn't listened when she'd tried to leave on her own, only wanting to retrieve her coat and purse from where she'd hung them.
"Jesus, Sweetheart!" Mark understood women's bodies, Lexie's in particular. He was sure he could have her moaning in pleasure, instead of anguish in seconds. If she were any other woman, he would have done it. But he was well aquatinted with how easy it was to use sex to hide pain. He'd turned it into an art form and become a cynical, womanizer, until she'd entered his life. Because of that, she deserved more, so in turn, he gave her supportive silence, despite how much it hurt to listen.
"He didn't recognize me, except to toss a bowl of food at the wall over my head. Mark, I'm his daughter and he didn't know me! He didn't know who he threw out of his house into the rain. I'm not sure he even knew it was raining, though he was soaked."
"All your things are in the hall closet?" He finally had the answer to all of the 'why's' he'd posed since getting her 911 text message. It hurt him more than he imagined possible, to think of what she'd been through. He was definitely going to have words with Derek and even if it was the last thing the two men ever did together, he was sure Shepherd would want to be there when Mark confronted Thatcher Grey. Both men had a score to settle with the older man, though neither of them wanted to stoop to his level and do physical damage. It would be best if they did it together. Each could restrain the other if needed.
"Let go, Sweetheart." He could feel her gasping, fighting not to give into her emotions. "Cry it out. It's what you need." He kept his hands locked together under her breasts. If he didn't, he would be exploring her silky skin and dark, damp, hidden places.
"I can't. It's too much to process. What I need is you." Lexie's head dropped to his shoulder and she kissed his neck in a spot she knew excited him. She was eager for the escape she'd denied herself earlier.
"You've got me." Mark's eyes turned blue-black with desire, as she nuzzled the tender area under his chin "Anytime you want me," his voice was husky as he turned off the shower.
Between hungry kisses in a steam filled room, with wet clothes scattered on the floor, they quickly dried each other. When he ran a thick towel over her breasts she gasped, causing him to do it again and again as he held her trapped in place.
"I can't take much more of that." The torture was exquisite but she needed more from him. "Warm me from the inside out, make love to me."
He froze for a moment at her unconscious wording. They had sex. They didn't make love, or did they? Was that why she was so different from all the others?
"Please, Mark," she could hardly form the words, as he took one more swipe at her throbbing nipples with the terry cloth.
"Not here." He was damned if he'd make love to her among wet clothes she never wanted near her again. Picking her up, he shoved the door open and headed for their bed.
When he had her beneath the covers, he took his time exploring every inch of her. When she rocked her hips and begged him to finish what he started, he simply wrapped his hands around her wrists and slid them under her hips, keeping a tight hold on them while he went back to feasting on her tender skin.
She was crying openly before he finally relented and moved up her body, sliding slowly into her. He'd kept her balanced perfectly on the edge. The moment he filled her, she burst into a million pieces. Silent screams of his name echoed in her head as he pushed her higher before she had a chance to collect herself from the first time. In the end all she could do was cry great ragged sobs as he took her to the limit and then pushed her over, again and again.
Later she lay exhausted in his arms. "You knew exactly what you were doing, didn't you?" her voice was hoarse. All her emotions had roiled together and burst forth. He'd snuck in the only way she'd let him, through desire. In the end her tears had had the same palliative affect. She was calm and relaxed.
"You needed to get it out." He'd been worried she wouldn't understand why he'd been rough with her. The last thing she needed tonight was another man she trusted, treating her badly.
"How did you know?" She snuggled closer, needing to feel his skin against every inch of hers.
"You did it for me once." Up until tonight he'd hated remembering the tears that had filled his eyes their first night together. "There was this woman in New York. We were attracted to each other and bored, so we indulged. But she was married to my best friend."
"Addison Montgomery-Shepherd," Lexie whispered the name that haunted her.
"Yeah, Addison." He caressed Lex's shoulder as he went on. "The explosion that followed cost me Derek's friendship and eventually Addie her marriage. We stayed together for a while after Shepherd moved here. We thought…I thought we loved each other, until I discovered she aborted my baby. She'd…we'd become pregnant and she never said a word about it."
Lex gasped, unsure what to say, all she could do was hold him tighter as his story spilled out.
"I wasn't raised like you were." He'd told her about his parents before. It was one of the many ways he was different with her. He enjoyed talking and laughing with her as much as he did having sex…making love. "I grew up tougher, but what Addison did, I don't know, it was a new kind of pain. I did some crazy things after that. Blatantly cheated on her. Drank more than I should have." He shrugged, hoping she'd realize he was no Thatcher Grey. "I was generally an asshole. Even followed her to Seattle, though I've come to believe it was Derek's friendship I was missing, more than Addie or whatever screwed up thing we had going between us."
"Mark, please, you don't have to tell me if it's too painful."
"Yeah I do, because you changed it all, you changed me. I'd always been pretty intolerant, and selfish, but when I found out about the abortion, it was like a door slammed on anything good I might feel for people." He kissed her forehead and then her nose. "But that first night, after you fell asleep in my arms, there were…ah…ah…tears in my eyes. Mind you I didn't cry. Men don't cry, but…you let loose all the pent up anger and betrayal I'd been feeling. That's how I knew what you needed." He said the last few words fast as if he were ashamed of the feelings behind them. "Now I'm back to being the selfish, intolerant, bastard I was before…well before Addie." He knew Addison had used him to try and rekindle her already failing marriage. He'd known it from the beginning, but somewhere along the way, he'd lost sight of her objective.
"You're not selfish or intolerant." Lexie kissed her way across his chest.
"I notice you didn't say anything about the bastard comment or the asshole." He cocked his right eyebrow and looked down at her.
"I helped you pick out an anniversary gift for your parents, so I didn't think it needed a rebuttal. And there are times you can do a very good imitation of an asshole." She laughed for the first time in hours. When she felt his breath on her face, she turned serious. "Though tonight isn't one of them."
"Come here, you." He wrapped his right arm around her and rolled her beneath him. This time every kiss was gentle and each touch a slow caress. Skin moved against skin as they sighed and gasped. He brought her to climax twice before he slid into her warmth and together they brought joy to each other.
Exhausted, Lexie fell asleep with Mark still inside of her. His heart was still pounding and his breathing had yet to return to normal. He looked down at her face and ran his fingers through her hair. She appeared to be at peace for the first time tonight. "Sleep," he whispered and tenderly kissed her closed lids
He climbed out of bed to dispose of the condoms and gather up their clothes from the bathroom floor. His clothes were no problem. They went into the valet bag for the hotel laundry to pick up. He wasn't sure what to do about hers. In the end, he tossed them in the bag too. Once they were cleaned and she was thinking more rationally, she could decide what to do with them.
"Mark," Lex murmured in her sleep as he slipped back in beside her.
"Right here, Sweetheart." He pulled her close until her head was resting on his chest and he wrapped both arms protectively around her.
"Love you…" she breathed the words as he kissed her brow.
His stomach tightened and he wanted to shake her to be sure he'd heard correctly. Lots of women had said they loved him, but always in the throws of passion, never like this. Never like they really meant it, never on the edges of sleep where lies didn't live.