AN: Whew, so here it is: the final chapter of Remembrance. This story has been such a blast to write, even during the most painful Slexie moments. =) Thank you to everyone who has read it, loved it, hated it, reviewed it. You guys are the reason I write this couple, not Rhimes and not even the actors who portray this lovely couple. =)
And double thanks those who have already jumped into my next story: If I Should Fall Behind. It's a snarky, dry tale thus far and it's premise has done wonders for my desire to write.
Standard disclaimers apply and, despite due diligence, the inevitable mistakes are my fault.
Chapter Nineteen: Sound and Fury
The third time, she swallowed her pride and upgraded her sleuth skills, shadowing him beyond the hospital to the convenience store near his apartment. The last time she'd been there it had been one in the morning and she'd been carrying ice cream that had gone uneaten.
She pulled up next to his car and, just as he opened his door, she bounded out and around her car to face him. Experience told her she didn't have much time, that he'd evade her in five sentences or less. Cut to the chase, she decided, sucking in a deep breath as he saw who was next to him. Shock flitted across his face first, followed by impatience .
"You're it for me," she practically shouted at him. "For better or for worse. You're it for me."
"What are you doing here, Lexie?" he asked wearily, locking his car with a resonating beep before walking away. It must have been a rhetorical question, considering the way he gave her his back without a care as to her answer.
"You're seriously walking away?" she called after him. "After everything we've been through?"
He stopped and turned, his eyes spitting fury at her. She actually took a step back when she registered the fury on his face. "I'm walking away?" he jeered at her, jabbing his chest with his index finger. "Unbelievable." He shook his head. "You've got a lot of nerve, Grey," he muttered before turning away once more.
"I know I was wrong, okay?" She bit her lip. He was getting further away each second and not just across the parking lot. "I—I haven't had much experience at this sort of thing, but I'm here now and—and I'm sorry.
"But it can't all be for nothing. I know it can't. Everything that happened and everything we've shared—it has to signify something." She waited a moment. This was it, this was when her words finally penetrated his thick skull and he walked back to her. Only nothing happened. "Mark?" she called. "Mark!" No answer.
At her wit's end, she reached into her bag and grabbed the socks she always kept inside. Her mother had habitually said clean socks were an underappreciated asset, but until Lexie's intern year, she hadn't understood. Though, even working thirty-six hour shifts, the socks hadn't ever been as useful as they were at this moment. After lobbing them at him, she watched as the bundled pair bounced off the back of his head and fell to the gravel.
He stopped for a moment in sheer surprise before resuming his walk, not bothering to look back at her.
"Hey, Sloan," she called, her voice taunting. "Yeah, you," she clarified when people began to look in her direction. She made her next words very clear, weight given to each word. "Yankees suck."
He turned around then, pivoting on his heels in a slow, deliberate arc. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me," she said, belligerence keeping her warm as his expression grew cold.
He shook his head as if to clear it. "You have no idea what you're talking about," he said.
"I'm talking about the Yankees losing 10-3 in October 2004 because the Sox made them their bitches."
Mark's chin jerked up as if she'd hit him. His mouth moved as if to say something. After two false starts, he pressed his lips together and remained quiet.
Lexie pretended to think. "And then again in 2005. 8-1, I believe." She clicked her tongue. "Pity."
He glared. "At least we didn't sell Babe Ruth for a failed play. And your stadium is lousy."
Lexie's smile fell. "George Steinbrenner is the devil."
He took a step closer to her, his posture menacing. "Take that back," he gritted out. "
Her smirk was smug. "No," she said. Then, for emphasis, she repeated slowly, "Yankees suck."
He scowled, his blue eyes narrowing into pinpoints of bright light. "Sox swallow."
Her face grew indignant. When she remained silent, he took that as a victory. Giving her his back once again, he retraced his steps back to the store, moving away from her.
"I love you," she called out. "Crappy taste and all, I love you."
He froze again and she saw his back stiffen. For a terrible moment she thought he was going to keep walking. Then he turned to look at her with an expression of wary caution. He didn't believe her, or if he did, he assumed some contingencies, she realized. For that, she had no one to blame but herself. A fist closed around her insides and she tried to breathe through it while schooling her face into one of calm; at least one of them had to believe they'd make it.
Desperate to say words, magic words, that would convince him, she added, "And I don't want picket fences if you hate them."
Then he just looked confused. "Lexie," he asked, "What are you doing?"
"I love you," she repeated, taking a tentative step forward. "And I know you love me."
His brow arched. "I didn't exactly make a secret of it," he said bitterly.
A sigh left her. "I know." Then: "I'm sorry it took me so long to get here. To realize." Her hands opened palms out, the gesture beseeching. "I was hurt and upset and I thought I knew what was best." She shook her head and her loose hair fell around her shoulders. "I was stupid and…and I'm sorry.
"But here's the thing." She took another step closer to him. "You're smarter than me. So I know you won't let my stupidity get in the way of something that was meant to be really, really great."
His chin tilted up as he surveyed her. "Are you trying to flatter me?"
She smiled. "Is it working?"
"Jury's still out."
"Would it help if I told you I'd been miserable since the moment I left your apartment?"
"Our apartment," he corrected automatically. "And yes."
Her face twisted into one of distaste. "Mean."
He sighed heavily. "Lexie," he began, pulling a hand down his face. His features were temporarily distorted while he got his thoughts together. Finally, he said, "You exhaust me."
She couldn't help but give him a small smile. "I know. I'm sorry."
"I can't live my life wondering if you're going to change your mind again." He shook his head. "I'm thirty-seven years old. Enough is enough."
Directly in front of him now, she lifted a hand to press against his cheek. "Poor old man," she teased.
He grimaced and angled his head away from her touch. Her arm dropped to her side.
"What is it you want, Lexie?" he asked, his eyes boring into her. She swallowed hard. "Think long and hard before you answer because I know what I want. And I'm old enough not to settle for anything less."
"I want you," she said without hesitation. "I want you so badly I'm prepared to take any part of you you're willing to give." With her teeth worrying the skin of her lower lip, she stood in his silence, waiting for an answer to determine her future. It would be damned waste if he refused her and denied both of them. But it wouldn't mean she'd stop loving him. It wasn't that simple, she knew that with depressing intuition. She'd be doomed to spend the better part of her twenties comparing her peers to an older man who had everything the boys around her distinctively lacked.
After what felt like an eternity, he peered at her and said, "You're too young to get married."
Her heart mingled with her stomach. "Okay…" she said.
"But I'm too selfish to wait," he warned. "So now would be your chance to run because I'm not letting go. Not again."
She stepped into him, her cheek rubbing against the zipper of his jacket. Though his arms didn't go around her immediately, she was content to wait. "I'm done running."
When she finally felt his arms cross over her back, she exhaled her relief and sent a prayer of gratitude above. She laced her fingers through his. "You're not selfish," she said.
She felt him shift above her. "Yes, I am."
Lexie pulled away enough to look at his tired face. "You were prepared to shoulder a lifetime of grief all by yourself just to protect me." She shook her head. "That's the opposite of selfish." Then she hugged him, her fingers gripping the leather of his jacket. "You're a good man, Mark, I was just too insecure to see it all that time ago."
He frowned, rubbing his cheek against her hair. "Meaning?"
She sighed, part of her had wanted to avoid this, to just jump into new beginnings. And then she truly understood the Mark who must have watched her lying in a hospital bed, and the full onus that had been thrust upon him.
"When you asked me to move in with you, it was because George was moving away. When you asked me to marry you, it was because of the baby." She shrugged. "It was stupid, but I felt it was always convenience pushing us along, not—not…" she trailed off, her hands gesturing to nothing in particular.
"Not the fact that I loved you," he finished.
It sounded awful to hear the words between them. She flushed, but nodded anyway, her eyes lowering to the gravel.
"When you didn't come back right away…that night, the night of…the attack," he started, staring up at the sky. He blew out his breath and finished, "Some part of me thought you'd left."
She wanted to say she would never, but then she thought about how she'd held him in his apartment three days ago and then walked out. So she kept quiet, her fingers tightening around his to let him know, in some small way, she was still there.
"I'm sorry," she said finally. "I meant what I said: you're it for me."
He looked at her, his eyes clear. "I know the feeling." Wrapping an arm around her neck, he pulled her close and began walking toward the store. "Come on," he said. "We need a few things."
She smiled into his shoulder. "Or we could just find a bed."
He laughed. "Insatiable witch." When she pinched his side, he twisted away from her fingers. "I never realized how much of the shopping you did. We're out of toilet paper, paper towels, soap and detergeant."
"We could get a shower curtain," she suggested as the automated doors made way for them.
His brow furrowed. "Our shower has a door."
She cleared her throat and grabbed a shopping cart. "Yeah, about that," she said. "I hate your apartment."
He took the handle from her and maneuvered it down the first aisle. "You hate it?"
"Hate it," she confirmed. "I hate the furniture, the kitchen, the locks on the doors, the way—"
"All right," he interrupted, holding a hand up. "You hate it, I get it."
She bit her lip. "So we have to move. And decorate it together. And—"
She stopped. "Okay?" she echoed.
He looked up from the selection of liquid hand soap. "Yeah, okay."
She cocked her head to the side and observed him. "Are you going to be this easy about everything?"
He grinned and dropped one of the bottles into the cart before moving down the aisle. "My motto in life is to be easy," he drawled, his brows suggestive.
Behind him, Lexie picked out the soap she knew they both preferred and dropped it in the cart discreetly. She'd hide his selection later and let him think he'd gotten it right from the get-go.
Ten minutes later, they stood in the check-out line, her fingers drumming against the handle bar. Mark's fingers crooked into the front of her jeans and pulled her flush against his stomach. Once his mouth had found hers, he said, "I think it was very sweet of you to do some baseball research."
She smiled against his lips. "The photographic memory comes in handy."
He kissed her again, his tongue sweeping through her mouth quickly. "I'm sure. But if you ever say the Yankees suck again, I'll paddle you."
Before she could come back with the smart aleck response she had prepared, he looked into their cart and asked, "Are we missing something?" Then he snapped his fingers. "Ice cream." He kissed her soundly. "Go get the mint chocolate chip."
She took umbrage, planting her hands on her hips. "And why aren't you going?"
Mark studied her, his blue eyes narrowing. "I'll go if you can tell me the six most common causes of post—"
She rolled her eyes and backed away. "I'm going, I'm going."
He watched her back as she jogged to the frozen section of the store. Part of him missed her already. He had experienced enough of it to recognize that particular emotion. Warmth seeped past the cold misery of the past four days, and he knew there was something different. This brand of missing was the best kind. Because, he smiled, moving them forward in line, he knew she was coming right back.
Please Review! =)