Hey everyone, it's great to be back with this story. It's one that I really want to tell, and I haven't given up. All I ask is that you lovely people don't give up on me. I have lots of great stuff in store for Lexie, for Mark, for George, for everyone. I can promise you that. This chapter was supposed to be a lot longer (five or so times as long, actually), but I figured it was best to post once I had anything with some semblance of completion.

To all of my fellow Americans, a very happy Thanksgiving! To everyone else, hope you're having a great November. The new year is almost here!

Lucidity returned in fragments, glinting against a faint light on the edge of consciousness. Awareness of her body began in her core and radiated in every direction, to her fingers and toes and face. She felt very heavy and warm with sleep, sprawled prone on a surface that she slowly identified as a mattress. A sigh. She shifted, but her limbs refused to move very far. When her skin brushed and pulled against the sheets her entire body was awkwardly tangled within, she realized she was completely naked. A delayed question oozed into her mind: where the hell was she?

The sheets seemed foreign, but with an inexplicable degree of complete familiarity – a memory once removed. They were very crisp and starchy, like they hadn't been slept in for a while, unlike the silky-soft sheets on Mark's bed at the Archfield-

When that thought tricked across, her stomach plummeted. She remembered. Kevin. Mark. Callie. She let out a muffled groan, her face still smashed against the pillow. All at once, the morning was real – no longer a fake construct of her sleeping mind. And yesterday? Yesterday felt even realer.

Yesterday, she felt horrible. Now, she felt horrible. Everything sucked.

Then, Lexie Grey made the mistake of sitting up.

As soon as her head rose above the rest of her body, it throbbed so intensely that it made the room spin. Her stomach felt like it was filled with lead, and it lurched sickly. Whimpering, she forced herself to move through the incredible pain. Her eyes watered and burned. It felt like there was a drill exactly in the center of her forehead. Memories of college ghosted through her mind, promises of I'll never drink like that again coming back to bite her in the ass.

When she had finally grappled to a sitting position, she sunk back against the headboard, not daring to move again or even to open her eyes. Instead, she kept her hands clamped over them tightly in an attempt to take the edge off of the white-hot flashes exploding behind her eyelids.

As she sat there, deflated, head in her hands, searing pain rippling behind her eyes and awful nausea plaguing her stomach, she tried to piece together the events of the night before. Walking into the on-call room (she didn't delve any deeper into that one, nor into the fight on the bridge). Rushing over to Joe's and immediately beginning to imbibe herself with tequila. She squeezed her eyes shut more tightly and made herself concentrate harder. Her heart was racing. Apprehension about possibly making a stupid mistake was not doing anything good for her stomach.

Choppy, incomplete memories popped up, and she struggled to put them into some order. George sitting next to her, saying nice things. Smiling. Meredith's hand on her shoulder. The images became fuzzier and fuzzier as they progressed. A short glimpse of George in a Jägerbomb race with a college student. Sliding clumsily into a cab. George tripping down the concrete stairs to the Crapartment, threatening to go ass-over. Standing in the living room, her old living room. Removing her shoes.

The remainder of images evaporated into wisps of smoke. Warmth on her face, maybe, and heat through her body. They were gray fog against a black background. Grainy outlines she simply couldn't make out. A television gone to static. Nothing but white noise.

At least she had a pretty good idea of where she was. Lexie confirmed her suspicion that she was in her old room at the Crapartment by peeking through her fingers. She squinted against the light as its pinpricks assaulted her head. But it wasn't her room, exactly – the walls were bare and all of her things beside the furniture were gone. Most of it was at Meredith's, but some of it was…

Still at the Archfield, she realized with another wave of nausea.

Everything sucked.

Then, with a sudden start (which caused a brutal head rush), it hit Lexie that she was naked. She gasped, grabbing fistfuls of the sheet and pulling it over herself. Waking up, she hadn't given it a second thought; she was so used to waking up naked nowadays that it hadn't even fazed her.

But, now. Her blood ran cold, dread attacking her every nerve. Horror-stricken, she wondered: what did she do?

The moment of panic was broken by a thought of wait, it's George. If the past had anything to do with anything at all, Lexie had no reason to worry. She probably just got hot or uncomfortable and stripped in her sleep. If she was sweating as much then as she was now (the back of her neck was soaked), that had to be the answer. When she slowly peered over the side of the bed she saw her clothes (her clothes only) scattered on the ugly carpet. She finally expelled a sigh of relief.

Then, she began the process of getting up. It was long, slow, and painful. Eventually, through carefully calculated movements, she managed to stand without wanting to faint or vomit. Her mouth still felt like it was cleaved together, though – she was thirsty. She recoiled when she caught sight of her reflection: her face and lips were pale, her hair was an absolute disaster, and her makeup was streaked and smudged across her face. Last night really was hell, she guessed.

But why wouldn't it have been? Everything sucked.

She didn't have to go into work until the afternoon, though. Life did manage to throw her one bone, no matter how small and osteoporotic.

Sluggishly, Lexie began to get dressed. Her limbs felt awkward when she tried to maneuver them through the correct holes in the clothes she had on last night. Every time she bent over to pick up another crumpled item of clothing, she staggered from side to side; it was like the floor was swaying beneath her. She almost fell twice while trying to put her second leg into her jeans, and she eventually resorted to leaning over with her forehead on the bed while she struggled to pull them up.

With a final adjustment of her wrinkled shirt that reeked of cigarette smoke and despair, a swipe beneath each eye, and a quick finger comb-through of her hair (none of which helped her state of appearance), she trudged out of the bedroom, totally oblivious to the very male boxers lying on the other side of the bed.

The walk from her bedroom to the main room was the same as it always was: six steps down the tiny hallway, toes rubbing against the mismatched shag carpeting, make a right. An easy destination to reach, but being so hungover (perhaps even still half-drunk) made it a colossal challenge. She allowed one hand to skim the wall just in case. She didn't feel like eating the maroon carpet.

She made it without doing a faceplant. George was at the table, dressed to go to work, staring blankly into an untouched bowl of cereal. The spoon was clenched in his right hand, completely immobile. He was so apparently intent on his breakfast that he didn't notice her standing there. It took tremendous effort for Lexie to squint against the light and quirk an eyebrow at the same time.

"Hey," she said. At the sound of her voice, George started – his eyes darted upward, and he jerked his knees, jumping to a standing position, dropping his spoon and spilling the cereal and milk all over himself. Pale-faced and swearing, he grabbed a towel and began wiping the mess off the front of his pants. Lexie frowned. She knew she looked haggard, but she didn't think it was that bad.

Despite George's horror-stricken gaze and gaping mouth, Lexie went on. "Um, thanks. For letting me stay here last night. And for being there for me at the bar. I really appreciate it." Her voice was kind of hoarse. George didn't even blink. He just kept staring, jaw hanging open. "And sorry if I threw up anywhere. I'll clean it up." Her stomach grew queasy at the thought, and she grimaced. "Just don't make me do it now, or I'll vomit again. God, do I feel awful."

George's stomach was in knots of its own, only partly attributed to the hangover he was battling. He tried to swallow, but there was nothing to swallow. It was like that only thing inside of him was dread. And regret, and guilt. And some shame, too, for allowing something like this to happen for a third time.

He had only meant well. But, somehow, he ended up on his ass once again.

And she didn't seem to have any clue as to what happened last night; she was just standing there, watching him, confusion mounting in her painfully innocent eyes. But he remembered everything. Every detail. Every touch, every slide of their bodies, every moment of guilt overridden by lust. And there she was, standing there, looking at him; the images had sharpened tenfold. It was torture. Sweat broke out on his lower back.

He had contemplated doing the Walk of Shame after he woke up next to a very naked Lexie, and he was halfway out the door when he remembered that he couldn't. He lived there.

At least she didn't cry, he thought suddenly, and it almost made him laugh out loud.

Lexie bit her lip in uncertainty when the corner of George's mouth twitched, but his eyes remained transfixed on her. He wasn't blinking, and it didn't look like he was breathing, either, as if doing so would break some delicate balance. Twice he opened and closed his mouth, and twice nothing came out. She had been expecting at least a friendly "no problem." Something wasn't right. Her heart quickened. "George?" she said tentatively.

In an automatic response to the sound of his name, George's face finally transformed. He lowered his gaze to the floor and narrowed his eyes, jaw steeled, completely hangdog and completely hurt. Lexie didn't like that at all. The anxiety returned with a vengeance. There was something she was missing; her mind had missed a vital piece of the puzzle. Why did she have to drink so much? Then, once again, with a pang in her heart, she thought of the answer.

Her voice wavered when she asked, quietly and apprehensively, "George, what happened last night?"

The look he gave her was pathetic. Please, don't make me say it.

She repeated herself, more forcefully. "George, what happened-"

The words stopped, cut off by a strangled breath. Her consciousness wrenched – her insides twisted.

A torrent of heat. Dizzy moments swirled and clouded her head. Mouths fused. Hot tears rolling down her face. Touching, grasping. A staggering walk to the bedroom. His lips on her throat. The friction of skin on skin, the gasp at the slide. George inside, outside, and all around her. Silent as she came, teeth almost piercing through her lower lip.

The missing piece. The moment of vulnerability. The prayer to forget. The utter mistake.

The air was icy cold when it rushed into her lungs, bringing her back into her body. It was paralyzing. Her heart seized. Her stomach was heavy and her throat felt swollen. No. She ran her tongue along her lower lip; it was swollen, and she could feel two distinct grooves that matched her front teeth perfectly.

George watched her revelation and the subsequent incredulous reaction and something inside of him tore. She looked at him, eyebrows drawn up and together in terror, eyes aghast.

Lexie tried to say something, but it only came out as a squeak. "George?" she finally stammered, and it was a plea for him to tell her she was crazy and that nothing happened. She just fell asleep. Maybe she still was asleep. She'd wake up next to Mark in the hotel room and the whole past day and a half would turn into a faint memory of a nightmare. She told herself to wake up.

Nothing happened. She was already awake.

For a moment, Lexie stared at the carpet in silent mortification. "What do we do?" she asked, monotone. "How does this…" She swallowed. She couldn't grasp a single thought. "What do we do?"

Searing rage swelled in George's chest at her chestnut eyes which were imploring for an answer. He hated Mark for what he did to Lexie. He hated the guilt written on Lexie's face. He hated her bloodshot eyes, melted makeup, and disheveled hair. He hated how damn pretty she looked right now.

And he hated himself for thinking so, now of all times. He hated himself for letting it go so far.

"I don't know," he replied softly and gruffly, avoiding the look of devastation that crashed over her face. He couldn't stop picturing her writhing beneath him, naked, head tilted back, eyes closed, lips parted. His stomach coiled, and his skin felt like it was going to burn off. He couldn't stand being in that moment. "I don't know," he said again. "I just…I have to get out of here. I can't be here right now. I have to go to work."

That was it. He clenched his fists, turned, and headed for the door, snatching up his keys on the way there.

"Wait, George!" Lexie called out, extending her arm toward him futilely. Her voice croaked at the higher volume. "I'm sorry, George, please!" she cried. Her hand, still outstretched, was shaking as she struggled to hold it in midair.

Despite her protest, he did not turn around. "Nobody can know," he said gravely, fingers clenching the doorknob. "This was a mistake. That's it. Just…a mistake." He only believed himself a little bit.

He twisted the knob, opened the door, and stepped through. It was almost unbearably hard for him not to glance back at Lexie one more time before it closed behind him.

Lexie did not know how long she stood there, frozen. A minute or so, maybe even an hour. Everything was numb, all except for her heart. It hammered like crazy, sending prickly adrenaline through her body. It hurt. This wasn't supposed to happen. She wasn't supposed to do this.

She wasn't supposed to sink to his level.

She wasn't like him. She didn't hurt people like he did.

Except, apparently, she did.

What was she going to do now?

With a hopeless answer of I don't know echoing in her mind, she collapsed onto the couch, leaning on her side against the pillow she had stolen. It felt like that happened a lifetime ago.

Then again, it kind of did.

Her head was still pounding, in danger of exploding. She held it in her hands, breathing deeply, swallowing the awful feeling spreading from her stomach to her throat. Tears threatened, but her eyes were tired to let them fall. The carpet swirled in her blurry vision.

Maybe Mark was like this too right now. Hungover or drunk, alone, regretful, guilty. Hurting.

But, somehow, imagining Mark in this kind of pain didn't make her feel better at all.

If it was possible, which it wasn't, it might have made everything even worse.