Author's Notes: This story was written in response to a prompt issued to me by GreysAddict522. The prompt was "Post An Honest Mistake. Meredith discovers the obnoxiously large white teddy bear in Derek's study." Because of the rules of the 'contest', this fic wasn't betaed or anything. You can find more information on the rules (as well as all the prompt fics) at the Elevator Junkies community on LiveJournal. Anyway, what follows, is the result of my very weird sense of humor and no beta to hold me back. I hope you enjoy it.
The door slammed shut with a resounding peal of thunder. Meredith winced as the frothy, undulating sounds of people laughing, chatting, murmuring, thumping, moving behind her eased to a light rush of muffled sound. She hadn't meant to slam the door. She hadn't meant to flee, but she'd needed space, just for a second, just for a moment--
"You can't buy Anheuser Busch!" a sleep-ridden, baritone voice exclaimed. "They make crap, but, by god, it's American crap!"
Meredith had a brief moment to absorb the sight of a pair of black Nike cross trainers perched against the oaken lip of Derek's executive desk. The shoes turned into baggy, beaten jeans with a stringy hole at the left knee, narrow hips, and the skinny frame of a man who, even lying down, dwarfed her. He had leaned Derek's hefty leather chair back to counter the weight of his feet and legs, resulting in a precarious bridge between desk and man that was about to...
The large figure muttered, letting loose a strange, "Unggh!" sound, and snapped awake. In a wild, gangling tangle of fumbling limbs and body reminiscent of a cartoon, the lithe figure somehow managed to catch his feet on the floor, using his unexpected momentum to stand instead of fall on his ass. The chair rolled back and bounced against the wall.
He looked at her with a devious expression. His shoulder-length, fine black hair gave his narrow face the look of a stereotypical movie villain, an appearance belied only by the bright, humorous twinkle in his eyes. And the bear. Curled up in the leather chair where his body had been was the ass-over-teakettle form of a squashed white bear. A freaking *big* white bear, quite possibly bigger than the tall man's torso.
To explain this situation, the man uttered, "Excellent chair," as he brushed his pants with his long, spindly fingers. "Very comfortable. Sponge-y padding. I give it an A."
Meredith swallowed against a zing of panic as she scraped her mind for a name. He was one of Derek's family, part of the cadre of laughing, chatting, murmuring, thumping, moving people she'd been trying to escape moments ago. Which one was it? Who, who, who. And what was she? A freaking owl? She knew this. Steven. Siegfried. Stanley…
"Stewart!" she blurted, forcing herself to let go of the door handle. She took one step forward.
The man winked as he shook a strand of wispy hair out of his eyes kind of like she imagined an eager puppy might. The only thing missing was globules of slobber flying everywhere. "Escaping the droves, huh?" he said.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she snapped as the burn of a blush crept across her face. Caught. She'd been freaking caught. Escaping in her own house. Derek's office was behind the steps. There was work stuff in there that vacationers would want to avoid. Right? That had been the logic, damn it, and it was very sound logic!
The door vibrated as a crack of sound reverberated through the house. Something crashed to the floor. A chorus of bouncing, giggling I-didn't-do-its flooded the air, followed by a scattering stampede of footfalls on the carpet.
Meredith winced as Stewart raised an eyebrow and gestured toward the door. "The droves," he confirmed. "They're usually quite well-behaved, and honestly, most of them respond to 'hey, you!' You don't need to learn all their names right away. They'll understand. Except Nancy."
"Nancy," Meredith said.
Stewart nodded. "Precisely." He picked up a beer bottle from the desk. His white napkin coaster stuck to the bottom, only to lose its grip halfway and flutter back to the desk, a wet ring of condensation engraved in the paper. "Say," Stewart continued after swallowing, "Is this really how he proposed?"
She stared at him. "What?"
"I mean, it seems a bit overmuch," Stewart said. He took another swig of his beer and swallowed, his expression pondering. The rim of the beer bottle whistled as he pulled it back from his lips and gestured with it to the chair behind him. "This sort of thing actually works?" He scrutinized her for all of two seconds before returning his focus to the chair, looking down at it as though it were a bug to his inner entomologist. "Well." He shrugged. "It must have. Look at you, getting married in three days."
She found herself wanting words and not finding them. The chair. What did the chair have to do with getting married? Wait. Married? Wait, wait, wait. "I…" What? "What are you talking about?"
She took another step forward.
Stewart gifted her with a toothy grin. He set the beer bottle on the crumpled napkin coaster with a plunk and traded it for the huge bear in Derek's seat. Sewn into the neck behind the ear was a folded card that spread into the shape of a heart as he flattened it out. "Marry me," Stewart read with pronounced slowness. "Know anyone else who's getting married?"
"What do you mean, anyone *else*," she demanded.
Stewart nodded. "I thought not." He plopped back into the chair, huge bear in his lap, and winked. Freaking winked. Again. "My ultimate powers of deductive reasoning and sap detection stopped at Derek," he said, tone brimming with confidence. "It's a bear. It seemed a rather foregone conclusion, though I normally associate teddies with more..." The small beans in the bear rustled as he shifted it in his grip, considering it. "More lace," he decided. He found his beer bottle again and took a hearty gulp, frowning when he discovered he'd finished the bottle. "Captain Sap has overcome that male difficulty, I see."
Meredith's jaw dropped. "Are you calling Derek Captain Sap?"
"He does have an astonishing record for sappery."
Stewart considered her. He leaned forward and laced his fingers together like some sort of annoyed high school principal. She would have felt the urge to pull up a chair and sit there with her head down for a scolding, except the damned bear ruined the effect of authoritative menace he would have achieved. "You're not a very chatty sort, are you?" he said. "We'll fix that, I'm sure." His gaze assessed her head to toe. "Say, you're very tiny. Are you decent at capture the flag? You look like you'd be a decent jail guard. The tiny ones are always the ones that fight tooth and claw for the win."
She puffed a breath in frustration and pulled up a chair anyway. "Are you speaking English?"
"Well, I thought I was." His gaze rose to the ceiling as he muttered to himself. "A-B-C-D—"
Another thump and a chorus of shrieks tore through the house, followed by a much louder yell. "Stop running in the house! We're guests, and you're not zebras!" a woman said, followed by a much quieter, "No, I haven't seen her, Der." Meredith closed her eyes and sighed. Kathy. That sounded like… Kathy.
Kathy, Sarah, Nancy, Natalie. She remembered the names of the sisters, at least. She didn't think she'd ever figure out the army of kids, though. Or the brothers-in-law. She needed flash cards. Flash cards for all the people.
Her heart started to pound. Fourteen kids. Fourteen! 2, 3, 4, and 5 per mini-family. That meant she was going to have to have 3.5 kids if she were to fall in the middle and be just average. 3.5! What was she going to do with 3.5 kids? She wasn't even sure she could (or should) have one, let alone 3.5. Her genes were probably only slightly better than a fried Chernobyl victim's, and being a mother would be… She couldn't be a mother. Could she? Oh, god. What was she doing? Why had she let Derek invite the whole family over for their yearly thing? Why, why, why--
"So, seriously," Stewart said. "What's with the bear? I simply must know."
"I have no freaking idea," she snapped. She clenched the arms of the chair and forced herself to think in complete sentences, an endeavor that lasted all of four seconds. She and Derek were fine. They were fine. She didn't need to have kids. Not yet. Maybe not ever. Derek would understand. He would--
Stewart shook his head. "Not even married yet, and you're already forgetting how he proposed? The man might be a romantic sap, but I guess he just can't pop the question right. You'd think he'd do better the second time around."
"What are you talking about?" she said, exasperated. "He hasn't proposed! And I'm not sure I want him to yet, anyway. I'm not…"
Her voice fell away as she stared at Stewart, who held the bear in a loose hug. The bear stared at her, little black eyes boring into her with damning finality. She gritted her teeth and clenched her jaw, trying to force her breaths into an even rhythm, but it only made her face hurt, and it didn't stop the freaking bear from staring. "Where did you find that thing?" she hissed.
Stewart shrugged and pointed to the narrow door in the corner of the room behind a trough made of boxes. "Mark said there was beer in this closet," he said. "Beer. Bear. I suppose they could be mistaken for each other. Though I think it was a rather dirty trick to send me, jet-lagged, into a room with a large stuffed bear and a soft chair. You know me."
His voice dropped into a conspiratorial whisper as he leaned forward, cupped his hand against his mouth, and told her, "I think Sarah would tell you I'm very lazy. Any chair in a storm. All I need is a television, and I'm in the land of catatonia."
"Right... So..." She bit her lip. "Seriously. The bear?"
Stewart shrugged. "I don't know. You're the one with amnesia. I just wasn't there."
"Derek didn't propose," Meredith insisted. "I would know it if he proposed."
She sighed, trying not to soften as Stewart held the bear and motioned with its little furry hands like it was supposed to be talking to her. This was not a pre-wedding reception. She was not getting married. Derek's family was in town to visit. Nothing else. Never mind that it was the winter and school was still in session.
Did armies of children go on vacation when school was in session? That seemed odd except for very special occasions. Like weddings. No. Derek had invited his family to Seattle for the first time since he'd moved. That was a special enough occasion. Right?
She winced as the troop of kids found some new amusement upstairs. This house was not meant to have this many children in it. It just wasn't.
"Meredith," the bear said in high falsetto, though, strangely, Stewart's lips moved at the same time. "Marry me, you tiny minx."
She couldn't stop herself from sniggering. "Okay," she relented. "He's kind of cute."
"He would have to be for you to accept a proposal like that."
"The bear, you jerk," she said. "Not Derek."
Stewart frowned. "Derek's not cute? Not that I'm a good judge, I mean. Never mind. I think that would qualify as girl talk. I don't speak girl. It makes my brain hemorrhage."
"Who are you?"
He held out a hand, long lithe fingers stretching out before it. "Stewart. Stewart Manning." When she didn't offer a hand immediately, he found her left hand for her, and her whole body shook with the exuberant shake he gave it. "Didn't I say that?" he asked as her teeth rattled, and her head spun, but she barely paid attention.
She swallowed and drew her hand back to her lap. His skin had been warm and dry, his grip firm. Real. Alive. He'd touched her from the tip of her ring finger down to the joint where her finger met her hand. He'd touched her, and she'd felt the pressure of something. She stared at her ring finger. She'd felt the pressure of metal, heated by her body. A tiny, glittering diamond ring stared back at her.
No. No way.
"No," she said, but her voice hit her brain from far away as she watched this scene, detached, confused, breathless. "No, you didn't say..." The diamond, several times the size of a small needle head, weighed her hand down as though she were toting a barbell instead of a tiny platinum band around her finger. Her heart thudded in her chest. "I meant, why are you--"
"Here?" he said.
"Yeah." This wasn't a pre-wedding reception. She'd remember if it was. She'd remember. She'd...
"You know, I'm not sure," Stewart replied. "I feel sort of superfluous. Perhaps someone thinks I might serve a purpose."
"Plucky comedic relief?" she quipped. Hell, this situation was ludicrous anyway.
"Or I was invited."
"Meredith!" Izzie called from somewhere beyond the door. "It's retarded for you to be hiding at your own damned party. Why do I know more of the McFamily than you do? Meredith! Where are you?"
Stewart grinned as she stiffened in her seat. "They're calling for you, Meredith."
"I'm scared," she whispered. She gripped the ring and twirled it around her finger. The fit was perfect, just loose enough that her skin could breathe. She blinked.
"Don't let the fear take you," Stewart said. "If you did that, you'd be dead now. Wouldn't you?" He clapped his hands against his thighs and stood. Arms outstretched over the desk, he offered the fuzzy bear to her. "You should take this. It's for you."
She stared at the little heart-shaped card. Marry me.
Do you want to get married? And you haven't told me, and I haven't asked, and now we have a problem?
"What does a freaking teddy bear have to do with my near death whatever?" Meredith asked.
Stewart winked. "Give it a few seconds."
She woke with a sharp ache throbbing through her body and the taste of alcohol loitering in her mouth. What? She contented herself to lie there until the sunlight slicing her eyelids drove her to move. Move. Ugh. Moving required effort. Moving required desire. Moving... happened. But she felt more like a flopping fish than a person.
The bottle by her hand tipped as she smacked into it, and a distant, headache-y memory of drinking far too much turned into the nauseating stench of spilled tequila. Her body spasmed, and she rolled over to retch, only to get a face full of fur – carpet? She didn't care.
She threw up anyway, but her stomach, long bereft of anything but acid, offered nothing to the world, which she was sure she'd be grateful for when she recovered enough to care about cleaning up the mess. The shakes subsided as wakefulness crept into her body like an invading slug. She didn't want to be awake. Not yet. Not...
She was awake.
Ceiling greeted her, a dull shell-white, as she cracked one eyelid open, then the other. Her mother's house ticked around her, settling, but otherwise her little bubble in the universe was quiet. Empty.
She lay there on the floor of Derek's study, surrounded by spilled tequila, boxes, dust, and... One turn of her head confirmed that the stupid bear was still there, staring accusing daggers at her from the closet. If her brain hadn't been so insistent on sloshing between her ears whenever she moved, she might care enough to smack it or shut the closet door or something. Anything.
Instead, she settled on groaning. She brushed the tangled strands of hair from her face, wishing that breathing weren't making her feel so much like vomiting again. It was the tequila in the rug. The stench permeated everything. Why, why, why, had she felt the need to fall back on tequila when--
"Crap!" she shrieked. Her body snapped from rag doll to tripwire tense. The room revolved around her as though she were in the center of a slow-moving carousel as she sat up, but she forced herself to breathe, forced herself to ignore her complaining innards.
Her fingers shook as she pawed at the files sprawled around her. She would not throw up on them. She would not... She picked up one manila folder. The surface had stained and yellowed, and the folder itself had warped as the tequila had evaporated. "Crap," she repeated. Her eyes started to burn.
She had to clean up. She had to pick it all up. She'd ruined his things. She'd ruined...
It had been a good idea last night. A good idea. She'd gone through his things. Torn open his boxes and boxes of files of personal notes. He had a folder for every case he'd done since he'd moved to Seattle, and probably a folder for every case before that, though she hadn't gone that far back.
She'd wanted to prove to him the good he'd done. But then she'd started reading his comments. With every patient he'd lost, as the dates had advanced, he'd gotten more dour, more terse, more... hopeless. By the end of the medical trial they'd done together, she'd started drinking.
I feel like a murderer, he'd written.
And she'd missed it.
She'd utterly missed it.
Way to be freaking supportive.
And, now, she'd spilled tequila all over his files, which she wasn't even sure she was allowed to be looking through anyway. Surely, he kept them hidden in his office for a reason. He didn't touch her mother's diary. Why should she touch his notes? To a doctor, those were kind of like a diary.
Some 'extraordinary' woman she was.
Her cheeks blazed with heat as she struggled to put his folders back in order. He'd mostly arranged them by date. Mostly. She couldn't exactly remember--
"You shut up," she told the bear, who was staring at her again. Her stomach churned. Her head throbbed. "Shut up," she said again. "Just shut up. I know I suck. I was just trying to--" She pressed her lips closed and growled. She was talking to a bear.
She'd found him/her/it last night, sitting in the closet on top of Derek's file boxes, but she'd been too determined with her mission to cheer him up to care why Derek had had a bear in his closet. She'd simply shoved it to the side and let it watch her while she'd forfeited all rights to ever wish for privacy again.
Know anyone else who's getting married?
She blinked, shoving a stack of sorted files to the side. Yeah, right. She shook her head. More likely it was just a Valentine's Day gift, and she'd found it early. Or something. Blush crept across her face. He'd bought her a bear for Valentine's. He really was Captain Sap. But...
Something about it felt right.
She just hoped she hadn't blown it. She grabbed another stack of folders and put them back together in a neat pile, trying to ignore the bitter scent of tequila, but the endeavor only made her feel more hopeless. She was going to have to tell him what she'd done. The files reeked. No amount of sorting was going to hide that.
She started putting the sorted stacks back into the box she'd pulled them from and pushed the box back into the closet, but the bear was in the way, so she picked it up. Her fingers hit something cardboard, something cardboard in the shape of a heart, attached to the bear's neck with a little clear plastic tie.
No freaking way.
"You're just for Valentine's Day," she told the bear as she settled him on top of the box.
She wobbled to her feet, picking up the empty bottle of tequila on her way to standing. She winced, part from pain, part from the sight of the dark, wet stain on the rug by her feet. The room spun for a moment as she slid the closet door shut, and all she could do to not fall over again was stand there, breathing in the scent of wood and old house.
She managed to put towels down and scrub the carpet, take a long, hot shower, and down enough Tylenol to fool a gunshot wound into thinking it was just a paper cut before curiosity dragged her back to the closet like a sack of of potatoes, thumping, slow. "This is stupid," she told the closet door. "This is freaking stupid. You already read his diary. Why not ruin his Valentine's Day gift?"
The door stayed silent. She gripped the brass knob, turned it, felt the latch disengage. All she had to do was pull. "Derek Shepherd, arrogant-but-lovable ass, to-know-him-is-to-love-him, would not propose to me with a white bear the size of a Buick," she stated. Then she pulled the door back on the hinges and yanked the bear from its dark, hidden resting place.
She scrunched the plush thing against her body and wrenched the card open.
She tossed the bear back at the closet. The quick motion made her want to vomit, and she stood there, fists clenched in front of her lips as she counted to ten, trying to calm her quailing innards. Why would he do that? Why? He'd been letting her set the pace. He'd just moved in a few months ago. Why on earth...
Maybe this was like the house plans. Meant to ensnare her or make her run. Except he'd had this stupid bear for who knew how long and hadn't yet dropped the question in her lap like an impatient, pushy oaf. He'd held her when she cried, danced it out like an idiot just to see her smile, let her keep Izzie and Alex in the house. Hell, his stuff for his office was still in boxes, which she'd had to dig out of the closet, because she hadn't finished going through all her stuff to clear out the room for him. The executive desk in her dream wasn't here yet, though she knew he'd been out looking at furniture back when the prospect of an office for him at her house had first come up. No, right now, he just had a small table thing with a bent lamp, stacked high with... her stuff. Not his.
She fumbled for the chair she'd sat in only hours earlier talking to... She blinked as she collapsed into it. No. She'd been... Dreaming. Or something. She had not been talking to anyone, and she had not been in this chair today.
Don't let the fear take you. If you did that, you'd be dead now.
I had intimacy issues. Do you know how stupid that seems, now?
It's not about the sex. It's about that moment after. When the world stops. It just feels so safe.
"I am an unsupportive freak," she whispered.
Sorting his files and making a collage of good works that he already knew about while he was off finding perspective in the woods was not going to fix this. She grabbed the bear and ran for the car.
Interminable panic drove her fingers to tap the leather steering wheel cover all the way to his trailer. Through Seattle, on the ferry, off the ferry, into Bainbridge. The streets narrowed. Boughs and loose vegetation hung over the roads, and leaves brushed her windows. Old refuse from fall flew up behind her car in a burst of rust-brown, yellow, and deep red as she thundered down the pavement. When she had to stop for an errant white horse and coat-bundled rider, she wanted to scream, wanted to pound something into a pulp. She had to get to him, to fix this thing that she'd let break, to tell him now that she knew. Her engine thrummed. She pushed her foot down on the accelerator as soon as the wannabe forest ranger veered off onto a muddy trail, leaving the open road to her.
The drive became a blur of wet green and winter gray.
Her car chewed the gravel on his drive, spat it out behind like stale popcorn. She almost broke her key trying to get it out of the ignition. Her panic burbled into something sickening when she found his trailer, door unlocked as always, but empty. Empty and silent, despite his car parked in the mud beside it.
The air inside the trailer smelled stale and unused against her fluttering nostrils. Burgundy sheets hugged the bed, crisp, unwrinkled, untouched. The same ones she'd made the bed with before she'd left the last time she'd been there. He hadn't been there since he'd 'given' the trailer to her. And he wouldn't spend his day of commune inside his freaking trailer when he had so much land. Stupid to think he would.
Derek suffered wanderlust. One couldn't wander in a trailer.
She slammed the door behind her. Her feet thumped on his wooden deck. His tackle box sat propped against the metal wall by the trailer door, and his fishing pole remained on its rack, but she found herself headed toward the lake anyway. Maybe he was sitting at the dock. He liked to sit and watch the water sometimes.
But he wasn't there. She found his empty lawn chair covered with pollen and sap and wet leaves. He hadn't been there in ages.
She was chasing a ghost. Why did that make her feel bereft?
She bit her lip and trudged back to the trailer, not sure what else to do, where else to go. She didn't know any of the trails around the area. She'd get lost and probably end up getting eaten and regurgitated by bears or whatever. One poorly equipped hiker was found, a rotting corpse in the bush today, a spokesperson for the park rangers said. She leaves behind a grieving, world-renowned neurosurgeon...
She shook her head. She couldn't just... not find him. Unacceptable. Inconceivable. Her breath caught when a sliver of movement caught her eye in the far distance.
"Derek," she yelled as she ran, but he didn't hear her, didn't look over.
Grass and mud wanted to keep her away from him, and she nearly tripped as she dashed. Her feet stuck to the ground, soles making desperate splurching sounds as she ripped free from the sticky grip of the earth. She cursed. Tears of frustration streaked down her face as branches lashed at her cheeks. The path, overgrown from lack of use, threatened to swallow her, but she emerged into the clearing. She had to get to him. She had to.
Birds circled overhead, and the sight of the valley below left her breathless, panting, halted despite the pulsing urge to move, keep moving, keep moving. Wet air filled her lungs as she stared.
Derek stood on the ground where the front doorway of their house would be, staring out over the cliff with unblinking stillness. A lock of raven-brown hair over his forehead, wind-kissed, refused to lie flat, instead fluttering with the ebbs and flows of the breeze. He'd jammed his hands into the pockets of his beat up jeans and hunkered against the chill with old flannel and soft, gray fleece.
His profile, dark and real against the backdrop of gray clouds and mist, made her want to weep with relief. She'd found him. Go. Go, now.
The last few steps into his arms were easy.
She dropped the bear at his feet with a sigh and wrapped herself in his embrace. He looked at her with dark, bleak, questioning eyes, but his palms ran along her back, soothing her as though it were second nature, and he kissed her without a word or explanation on her part.
"Hey," he said when they drew apart. His thumbs found her cheeks, and he brushed away the wet, salty tears with his fingertips. "What's wr--"
"Look," she said, trying not to fall into comfortable torpor. He smelled like woods and rain and sweet things, and he held her like he needed her for something as simple and as hard as breathing. It was easy to let him take the fear away and leave things as they stood. It was easy, but she couldn't let him. She couldn't let him make it easy. "I know you said you wanted some space today to go fishing and get perspective or whatever. And I get that. We all need space sometimes, but..." She gestured to the bear at their feet. "Were you seriously going to propose to me with a teddy bear?"
He stiffened, and the blush painting his cheeks, supplied by the chill, deepened and spread down his neck like a brushfire. He licked his lips, and his eyes, previously intent on her, found the valley below instead. "I..." he said, his voice rough with what she could only decide was embarrassment.
She wanted to kick herself for sounding so disbelieving. She hadn't meant to make him feel bad. She wanted to-- "I would have said yes," she blurted.
His lips parted. The valley lost his sudden scrutiny. His eyes ticked to her and stayed, searching her face. His gaze opened up her soul. "What?" he said.
What? That was a good way to put things. What. She swallowed. Her cheeks reddened. "I mean, if you would have asked me, I would have said yes. And I'm... not very good at this. So, if you could just pretend I haven't shattered your world or something, I would really appreciate it."
He wouldn't tear his eyes away. She felt tiny, insignificant, shrinking in the weight of his gaze.
"I love you enough to say yes," she told him. It seemed right to tell him that. It seemed... weird. Weird to realize, as he relaxed, that for every drop of safety she felt with him, she might provide the same for him.
He put his chin against her. His scratchy, dark stubble bit into her skin, but she felt, somehow, like it was steel wool to her ugly fear, rubbing it away. She sighed. His zipper hushed as he drew it down, rubbed her cold hands with his warm skin, and then wrapped his arms and coat around her shivering body. She held his waist, wanting to melt into him and never return to the frigid air on the cliff. He made everything but the best things go away.
Don't let the fear take you. If you did that, you'd be dead now.
"I just figured I'd throw that out there," she whispered as she rested her cheek against his chest. The lapels of his coat hid the world from her. His body was warm, and he sheltered her. "In case you..." She breathed, deep, full, inhaling him. "In case you were still thinking about asking. You know, sometime."
"Meredith--" he began. His voice, deep and world-weary, rumbled against her ear.
You know, I've been not telling you all day because I thought it was kind, and I thought I was giving you space. But I can't not tell you, because you're here, and you're you, and...
"I know," she said, not letting him finish. This wasn't about him consoling her, no matter how comfortable his body was against her. This was about him. She ran her palm along his spine, pausing between his shoulder blades. "I know. It's okay. You think you're all dark and twisty now, and you need some space. I just wanted to tell you I'd say yes. If you ask, I'd say yes, and I had to tell you. I couldn't not tell you."
The silence stretched between them, but it didn't have an awkward quality to it, merely a deep enjoying-you-enjoying-me sense that made her heartbeat slow and the last of her panicked muscles relax. Her tequila headache remembered its existence and throbbed a little, but she didn't care. She'd done something right. She was sure of it, and in the light of that? It seemed ludicrous to be nauseated. He calmed the world for her and made hurricanes into relaxing waves, hangovers into just a bit of pain that reminded her she was alive.
"It was Mark's idea," he said as the breeze picked up. He clutched her tighter.
"No," he said. "The bear."
He laughed, his body quaking with the self-deprecating force of it. "We made the room look like cupid vomit. Flowers, candles, the works." The memory of the soft rose petal she'd found under her pillow slid across her lips. He sighed. "Then Addison called, and he cleaned it up while I went to meet the ambulance at Seattle Grace."
"I wanted to do it right," he said. "God, I can't even--"
She gripped his shirt and scrunched it between her fingers. "Derek," she snapped, shook him hard until he stopped staring at the valley and started staring at her. "Derek, stop it. Anything will be right because it's you."
He blinked. "You have a lot of faith in me."
I'm still mad at you. And I don't know if I trust you. I want to trust you, but I don't know if I do, so I'm just going to try...
"I guess maybe I do," she replied. She pulled her hands from his jacket and laced her fingers behind his neck, staring at him, unblinking. The cloudy day blackened his eyes, and she let herself get lost in them. He always seemed to be the one catching her lately. Always seemed to be the one. "Yes," she amended. "Yes, I do."
He blinked and swallowed. His eyes reddened and watered. The warbling, pained sigh he loosed made her feel like she'd just taken him down from the cross and kissed his bloody palms. He nodded. "Okay." Sucked in another breath. "Okay. I..."
And then he lost his voice entirely. A rough, tight cough clutched his vocal cords. She tipped up on her toes and kissed him. He seemed confused at first, as though he didn't know what to do with the moment, as if he were removed from it, rewinding over and over again, trying to catch up and failing.
A bird screeched overhead, riding the updrafts across the cliff and into the endless air. The wind curled around them, nipping at her skin with the cold. She tasted him, drinking him down, and then he found her in the fray, joined her.
"I need some time," he said when they pulled apart, panting.
"I know," she said. "But when you're ready? I'll say yes."
He raised an eyebrow as he kicked the offending white monstrosity at their feet. "Even with teddy bears?"
She giggled. "Even then. Or puppets."
"Sorry," she said. "I don't know where that came from. Do you have a brother-in-law named Stewart?"
His eyes twinkled as he stared at her. She felt crazy, but she didn't mind. She could be crazy with him, and it didn't matter. That was part of his appeal.
"Yes," he said. "Why?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Try me," he said.
"Later," she replied, and instead of explaining, she kissed him. A drizzle started, and they ran to the trailer, hands clasped.