**~The Taste of Regret~**
This is actually based on something that actually happened to me – which I'll explain at the end, I don't want to ruin the story.
The sun bleeds out over the brightening horizon, and you think it ironic that the sun decided to cut itself on the morning of your wedding. But then again, some feeling besides the persistent numbness would be nice. You can't remember the last time your smile was genuine and not born out of a situation that required such an expression.
"You ready for this, Shep?" Of course, Mark is your best man again. Your brotherhood is not broken by anything in the end, not even her.
"Why wouldn't I be?" It's not exactly an honest answer; it dances with the truth, never quite touching it.
Mark surveys you, hesitation present in his face. Your friendship used to have one invaluable possession: honesty. But ever since Mark told you the most taboo truth, that he was in love with her, caution tints all your interactions, because Mark doesn't want to break the fragile trust you've created.
"It's just that last time – jeez, Derek, do you even remember last time?" Mark suddenly bursts out, abandoning care in exchange for finally getting to say what he has apparently been aching to say. "You couldn't keep that idiot grin off your face last time. You couldn't stop going on and on about her, and the life you were going to have. You seemed so sure, and so ready and now you're just …"
"I'm just what, Mark?" you hiss, annoyed to have Mark of all people voicing aloud the doubts that have plagued you ever since your mother had presented you with the ring she never gave her and told you that Meredith was right for you.
"You're just different – Derek, are you absolutely sure about this, about Meredith?"
"Of course I'm sure!" you yell, startling both of you. "Damn it, Mark, why the hell do you say things like that? Why can't you just, for once, stay out of it?" Silence settles over the hotel room like new fallen snow, and Mark goes back to adjusting his tux.
"No, I'm not sure," you finally admit. Mark does not give any outward sign that he heard this last comment, and you realize that he is wary of destroying yet another of your relationships. Still, Mark is right … just like she was always right. "I want to love Meredith, and I want for things to be right … but sometimes I just feel like we're not on the same page, you know? Like I'm forcing something that's not meant to be."
"Did you invite her?"
"No, the Pope. Yes, Addie, who do you think?"
"Yeah," you admit. You told Meredith it was because inviting your ex-wife was the polite thing to do, and she didn't argue. She might have fought you, however, if she knew the reason you invited Addison was to see her dressed up one more time, lighting up an entire room in whatever knock-out ensemble she'd decided to wear for this occasion. Although, you reason, there was a chance, tiny but existent, that she would have opted for black. But no, Addison was, if anything, not petty. She was the definition of class, and maybe she had moved on to the point that when she stood in line and wished happiness on you and Meredith, she could truly mean it with every inch of her being.
But you hope not. You hope she still clings to the memories on a thin and fraying but still strong thread, like you do. Last time she'd been in Seattle, a focal point, a shining star, although scared to death for her brother's life, she had still remembered. Your song had gotten one more rephrase, and the hot dog Thanksgiving a last commemoration.
"We better get going," Mark says as he glances at the clock, and you resurface from the sea of memories and nod vaguely, following Mark out of the hotel room.
Rain droplets cling to every surface, just beginning to dry in the new morning light. Morning – a new beginning, the dawn of time, the second act. Time to bid the past goodbye and greet the future with open arms.
It is not far to the park Meredith selected for your wedding, so you and Mark depart from the Archfield on foot. People swirl around you, intent on their various destinations, and you're lost, for a few moments, in the endless stream of life, and the anonymity is a relief. For a second, you're not the guy getting married, not half of Seattle Grace's dream couple, about to set off on your happily ever after. You're just a guy in the street in a tux.
You should not be thinking of her on your wedding day, and you fight against the tantalizing images of her invading your brain. How she looked in the Vera Wang dress that she spent months searching for as she walked down the isle to you, nearly fifteen years ago now. How she looked in the dark hotel that night, creamy skin splayed out all over the satin sheets, just begging you to take her, and you did. All the things you said, and all the things she did, all the things you both felt too strongly, a fire that waged out of control until suddenly, it went out.
Unconsciously, you look for her. Not your soon-to-be wife, with her stick-skinniness, rumpled hair, and endearing reluctance. No, you look for the woman who commands the attention of the entire street just by walking down it, a trait you both admire and hate. Nobody could ever resist Addison; that was just the way it was.
You're so caught up in the elusive, ever-distant past that you don't notice Mark's frown of consternation, nor the hint of conflict further down the street. Mark says something, but his words don't register, and you continue walking, right into a knot of rapidly approaching disaster.
When you see the gunman, it is like you are observing from the other side of a very thick piece of glass. You are moving through tar, your reactions too slow, your body frozen in place. The gun goes off and the screams start and Mark tries to haul you out of the way but you can't move. Because you finally spot her. Because she's standing right there.
She looks unbelievable, indescribable, a thousand times better than what your memories have to offer. A tiny frown graces her face, as if she's trying to talk herself into doing something unpleasant, and clearly she has not registered the scene in front of her yet. She's an angel in a crowd full of faceless suits, her in a pale pink off-the-shoulders dress a more beautiful sight than heaven itself.
The two of you were living happily in New York during 9/11, and you remember the terror of that day, and the desperation during the first five hours that Addison did not pick up her phone. It turned out she was already helping victims, even delivering a baby in the middle of the street, and you joined her, working side by side to do whatever you could to assuage the dominating terror and fear.
Today is a little like that day. You don't know why there is a man with a gun, or what he wants, if he is a terrorist or just a lone threat, a guy robbing a bank or a monster set on some sort of sick vengeance. You don't know, and you might never know. You're a part of history once again, danger sidling up to your side and greeting you with a dark smile.
The gun goes off. The people scream. Bodies fall, chaos reigns, and you shove people aside, eyes sweeping the crowd, because you lost sight of her for a second and now she's gone. You're lost in an ocean of pain and panic, the current tugging you along, and you try to find a speck of sanity in this deranged mess.
Then as an unusually substantial man moves aside, jabbering into his cell phone about insurance, you see her.
She has fallen, like Lucifer from heaven, and you can imagine her body arching in a graceful curve as she is blown back, gravity's gripping fingers taking hold and pulling her towards the earth.
"No – no, no! No!" you scream, sounding like some sort of animal instead of an incredibly desperate man, and Mark's attempts to hold you back are futile. The threat isn't over yet, but you have never felt less regard for your own safety. Frightened faces fly by you as you sprint forward, eyes glued to a hint of red.
When you reach her, you discover the scarlet you were so focused on was not her glimmering hair after all, but rather the blood pooling underneath her. Your hands roam over her dress with not a thought to decency, combing her body for the source of her blood. You finally find it under folds of gossamer pink, a black abyss in a field of soft fabric covering her stomach.
Her eyelids flutter, and you're lost once again in the azure expanses of her irises. Her breathing is rapid and harsh, and you can smell blood on her breath as she pants, trying fruitlessly to get enough air into her lungs.
"Derek?" she asks as your fingers attempt to staunch the crimson flow from the deadly bullet hole. "What are you doing here?"
"What do you think I'm doing here?" you ask, trying your utmost to remain optimistic. There is so much blood. "I promised I'd always be here."
"You're supposed to be getting married," she says.
"I'm supposed to be here with you," you counter.
"'Til death do us part," she whispers. There is so much, too much, the bullet must have hit her coronary artery … and she'll be gone before you know it. "Derek, stop," she says as she leans back, red hair pooling in the blood-mixed rain on the street. "It's okay. I know … I can feel it."
"Don't say that. You'll be fine," you say, the same thing you've told hundreds of patients, whether they had a chance to be fine or not.
You begin to notice the tiny details … she looks thin, more fragile than before, like glass. But then, she never looked the same after you shattered her so easily and carelessly. She's as breathtakingly beautiful as ever, but there are a few more lines on her face, a touch more of sadness on her brow. Life has never exactly been kind to Addison, giving and taking away from her without a care in the world, and it shows. "Der, I'm tired."
She shines as brightly as ever, like a star in human form, but she does look tired. "Don't give up, Addie," you beg.
Perhaps the ambulances have already departed, filling the city with screaming howls, but you know in your heart they'll be too late. Even if the bullet simply nicked her artery, she can't have more than a few minutes left to live. You're a doctor, and for the first time in your life you wish you weren't, because a normal person might still have hope. But you know.
She shudders and coughs, and blood splatters the front of your tux, and for some reason you feel an odd desire to smile, because now you match. Red and red.
You didn't notice, at first, but now you have an audience. Mark's face looks pained, but he knows better to approach, or perhaps Callie's hand is the only thing holding him back. Meredith is, of course, absent, probably off with Cristina, Izzie, and Lexie getting ready. But Richard is there, Adele beside him, both of their expressions grave, you remember that Addison was like a daughter to them, as much as you were a son, but it was more important to her. Because she never truly had parents. And more people gather, and Naomi's choking gasp nearly undoes you.
How you wish you could cry also.
But you must be strong, just for a few more minutes.
She's hurtling along at breakneck speed to a place you can't follow, a place shrouded in darkness and mystery. In that moment, you are irrevocably sure that there is such a thing as heaven. You refuse to accept anything else, because that would mean that in a few minutes, she would be lost forever.
The first act in the play of Derek Shepherd was so wonderful, so brilliant, so life-threateningly heart-stoppingly beautiful that the second act pales in comparison, unable to hold your attention. And the main character makes mistakes, chooses wrong, and now your play will end tragically.
You've always been stubborn, it's a fault but also a strength, and you refuse to back down now. "Hold on," you whisper in her ear as you rip off your jacket and attempt to stem the flow. Somehow your hand finds hers, and you pull her into her lap. For a second, her heart is pressed up against yours, and two beats become one. But while yours is steady, healthy, pushing blood through your body to keep you alive, her irregular heartbeat will be her undoing, because it is pumping the life from her body.
"I need you to do something for me. I need you to let me go now." The words smash the make-believe world in which she recovers, and you rebel.
"Please, Derek? I can't hold on anymore, I'm too tired and it hurts. So please? This is better than dying alone, it's better here with you. It's better remembering what once was than accepting what actually is … so please?"
"No, Addison, I can't."
"I let you go," she says, and her whisper tugs at your heart. "Now it's your turn to let me go."
You flash back to the time you first saw her, over the dead body of some wretched soul that was being cut up to teach all of you eager med students. For a second you thought she was an angel, descended from heaven to get him, but then you realized angels can't smirk that mischievously. And you remember mornings in the brownstone, and waking up to the burning smell of her latest cooking attempt, late nights spent bent over complicated text books, boxes of Chinese food littering the floor, and finally a pen skating across a blank line under unintelligible writing, ending the best eleven years of your life.
You sit together, waiting for death to come, but death creeps too slowly and too quickly at the same time. It's been only minutes (how can Addison only have minutes left to live?) but they've been minutes you need, minutes that chase away the façade that was your life and awaken you.
"I always thought we'd have kids," she tells you. "We would have had beautiful kids, with perfect hair."
"We would have," you confirm, and you try not to picture it, because seeing children with her face and her smile rips your heart to shreds, leaving a gaping hole in your chest.
"I would have wanted to name her Haven, if we had a daughter," she says, and her voice cracks with the effort. Haven. A child dances before your eyes, teasing you, her miniature body slightly translucent as she skips away from you, forever out of your reach. She looks like Addison. You curse your stupidity. Haven could have existed, if only you'd loved Addison like she deserved.
The sun finally spills over the horizon, golden rays offsetting the bloodred of the sunrise, and she sighs in triumph as you watch it together. It will be the last time she ever sees the sun, and the last time you ever hold her.
"Kiss me, Derek. Please. Just kiss me one last time," she breathes as her heartbeat underneath your fingers grows more and more erratic. You slide your hand under her head and lean forward, but you pause as your tears spill over and drip onto her face. Soft fingers wipe your cheeks, and then her lips brush yours.
She tastes like blood, her lips coated with it, but the feeling of your mouths moving together, the oh-so-familiar explosion, is still there, albeit in muted tones. The kiss picks up, the breathless passion being unleashed able to chase away the sting of death and loss for a brief span. Your tongues tangle in one last battle of ardor until she gasps for air and you're forced to pull away.
"I'm sorry," she says, and you're about to reassure her when she continues, "for Mark. Nothing was ever worth losing you."
"I forgive you," you say, "but only if you forgive me for Meredith."
"I do," she coughs, and you remember her saying the same thing on your wedding day, underneath the lacy veil. Some promises are too strong to be broken, which explains why you're sitting here right now.
One last word, one last prayer. You shut your eyes. God, if you exist, make sure she's taken care of until I get there. Make sure she isn't sad and she doesn't feel any pain and that she's treated like a queen. Please.
So many years of knowing all your secrets allows her insight to what you're thinking. "Don't hold on to me," she says. "Don't forget me, but move forward. I'll always love you, and I'll be waiting when the time comes."
"I love you too," you admit, and you're sobbing into her ruined chest as her shaking fingers run through your coal black curls. "I'll love you forever, Addison Montgomery Shepherd. I never truly stopped." Her touch sends shivers through your body like it always has, but a chill replaces them when you realize how cold her hands are, how fast life is fading from her limbs.
Then she says words that you never expected to hear as long as you lived. "I want you to marry her, Derek. Marry Meredith."
You're floored. "What?"
"Please." She's begging, and you're powerless. "Have the life we never had. Have the kids we always wanted. Write the story we didn't finish."
"What about you?"
"I'll be watching." Her hand floats weakly towards the sky, her movements jerky. Not long left now. "You know, from above. I'll watch over you all."
"That's not good enough," you whisper. You've survived all this time on the hope that whatever city she was in, she was happy. How can you continue when she will not?
"And in forty more years, just one more lifetime than you've already lived, I'll come back for you. I'll be the one coming to get you," she promises, the last of her strength leaking out in her voice.
"Forty years. I don't know if I can make it forty more years without you." In contrast, your voice breaks. When she's gone, the world will be a stranger, a dark, cold, unrecognizable void. You don't think this earth can afford to lose her.
"You will. And when the time comes, think of me. I'll be there to take you on." She's crying now too, hot tears spilling down her cheeks, interrupted every few seconds by the sound of her choking on her own blood.
"Addie?" you ask one last time, because you have one more request that only she can carry out.
"Yeah?" her voice is nearly gone now, and you aren't even sure her exhalation was an answer. She's leaking away, a sink with an open drain, as Meredith once put it.
"Say hi to my dad for me." You only knew your father for a few short years when you were a child, but you have a feeling he'll take care of her, for you. Show her where to get food, if they eat in heaven.
"I will," she promises, her last words. Her silky skin is bone white now, her blood poured out all over the street, and you know this is it and you hold her tight. Her chest rises one last time, and then is still. Her expression is peaceful, but all you can think of is how she'll never smile again. Your arms still clutch her empty body, but everything that made up Addison is gone. Just forty more years.
Sunlight illuminates your two figures. You, kneeling on the rain-streaked street, body tense with pain, howling at the heavens. And her, dead at your feet, body limp, eyes closed, all because she came to your wedding. Because you asked her to.
"Derek!" your mother yells.
"Shep, come on, she's gone," Mark says loudly, but you see real grief in his face, and know in that moment that you were wrong in dismissing Mark's love for Addison – he had cared for her, in his way.
But all their voices wash over you, unable to touch you or penetrate your grief. Addison died. You couldn't save her. All because you insisted on inviting her to a wedding that has now been destroyed. You'll be attending a funeral in exchange.
You squeeze your eyes shut, hoping that you can block out the world and the mountain of hurt waiting for you when you open them again. Because you always secretly assumed you and Addison would find your way back to each other, somehow, someday, and that's the true reason why you were so antsy on the morn of your wedding to somebody else. But now it's officially, irreversibly, undeniably too late.
And you're falling.
When you open your eyes again, darkness obscures your vision, and you're tangled in something warm, something soft, and you're mystified, because you remember the ache of the pavement against your knees as you held her. You were just trying to escape the piercing agony.
But there's no explosion of a sunrise before you, no towering buildings, lingering rain, or shouting people. There's just the walls of your tiny trailer and the sounds of the surrounding forest. Happy. Peaceful.
And you're so confused.
Because the color in front of your eyes is brilliant ruby. Then the person beside you snuggles closer, and an amazing smell infiltrates your nostrils instead of the death and despair you smelled before.
"Derek." It is uttered so softly, a moan in the night, that you almost don't hear. Your heart soars with hope when you register the tenor of that voice and you're finally brave enough to look, to see what is right in front of your face … and it's her.
You're shaking in fear as you pull Addison's sleeping body closer, and your tears fall into her lush hair. It was just a dream, or a nightmare, you realize, the last four years have been a dream, but that doesn't stop the sobs. She wiggles, probably unused to the proximity, because you've treated her like trash since she arrived in Seattle. She smiles in her sleep, and you wonder if it's you she's seeing, and hope her dreams are more pleasant than yours. You kiss her eyelids, her throat, her nose, her lips ever so softly.
Her breathing is the sweetest lullaby you've ever heard. And you want to wake her, just to make sure this is real, but you're not selfish. You're happy just watching her sleep. Pulling away slightly, you reach in the general direction of the nightstand, hand groping until you locate the drawer and pull it open. Inside is a mug and inside the mug is your wedding ring. It feels right to have it back on your finger.
"I love you, baby," you whisper, and you're determined to do better. Because if you get it together, you can save her. If you can save your marriage, then she'll never be there, four years from now, when that gun goes off, because she'll have no reason to be. She'll be here, with you, in the house you'll build. And you think that maybe Haven will come after all. You're back to Act I and you're determined to do it right this time.
This is your second chance, and you're grateful never to have to experience the lingering taste of regret.
I do admit that it's slightly unrealistic for Derek to have dreamed up the last few seasons of the show, but it's my fic, and I wanted a happy ending.
Anyway, the story with this fic is … the other day I got in a huge fight with my sister, and then that night I had a dream in which she died. And then I woke up to find her yelling at me asking if she could borrow a pair of my shoes. So I was thinking about it and it somehow got linked to Grey's Anatomy. And then I just had to write it :D
The Taste of Regret is a song by In Fear and Faith, but it doesn't really have anything to do with the story, I just picked it because I like the title.
I did spend hours on this … so I would love to hear what you thought!