Disclaimer: I don't own Grey's Anatomy, et al.
Author's Note: So, you've made it to the final update for this epfic, very quickly, I would like to thank the following people who have commented anonymously, thank you for taking the time to make a comment (it makes me feel better about finally having the courage to allow anonymous feedback), so thanks to "greysgal84" and "stilllovesgreys" for your thoughtfulness, it meant a lot.
Enjoy this ending and please, let me know what you think and find the sequel next week if you haven't subscribed to an author alert for me.
Thanks for reading!
Epilogue – Into the Mystic – Part 6 of 6
"Your eyes are wider than before."
Everything was so quiet and calm and full of peace for the new threesome, Jyothi and Carolyn having slipped from the room a few minutes ago, it was all Meredith could focus on, this transparent vacuum of stillness and oneness and overwhelming clarity – and it was the quiet that drew her attention, it was the only thing she was able to absorb since the baby was born – it was the only thing she needed or wanted as she lay back on some pillows. She sighed and watched Derek lean over the baby, her new quiet eyes staring at her father.
Meredith's eyes dipped shut then, for they were heavier than she remembered in a long time, she felt her nerve-endings snap – the serenity of the enclave swallowed her whole – tears of joy stung her eyes … she had done it.
She had done it. The quiet enveloped her still – there was no place to go, nowhere to turn, but she wouldn't have moved if the house was on fire – for she loved this new found quiet solitude. And what wasn't to love? Her heart no longer rang out in her ears, her lungs no longer filled with the gasps of her deep breaths of hope and tenacity, her mind no longer wild with the measurement of time, her interest in the subtle changes of the shadows along the bedroom walls, also gone – their silent games of subterfuge and those shadowy depths of her mother's plight, their whimsical dances had simply ebbed into the background – and also gone was the persistent tightening of her abdomen and vaginal walls.
She was quiet, her whole being relaxed …
She was calm, her spirit at peace …
She was exhausted, her body frayed around the edges …
She was a new mother, pure and simple and by definition … she was all of the above – quiet, calm, exhausted – and for once in her life it seemed her timing was impeccable, and for that, she was rewarded with an outcome more beautiful than she could have imagined. And aside from the luxurious quiet she found herself within, this was the blessing she was set upon absorbing now as she relaxed further into the pillows, willing her body to detach from her mind. She had done it.
She had done it; she had surrendered, she confirmed this now as Derek's soft voice billowed through the room, she had made it to the other side; she bear witness to a miracle – she was more than rewarded amidst all of the grunting and pushing and incalculable rides upon her swelling hormones – more tears stung her eyes as she grasped upon her swirling emotions now, searching desperately for a life vest, but knowing she didn't need one as she heard the calls of her angels – the murmur of her gorgeous lover and their baby's quiet response as he spoke to her – and in that moment they became her most cherished symphony – the first sounds of her family – that audible evidence of their creation and longevity.
She closed her eyes and listened – she wasn't alone for once in her life – for even though Derek had long-since made it perfectly clear that he was in this thing with her forever, she knew now that she would never be alone, that she would always be connected to someone via blood and bone and DNA. And that alone was enough; it was a beautiful thing.
Her heart raced.
She had done it.
Her eyes fell upon them.
Father and daughter.
And then Meredith smiled somewhere deep inside the serene quiet, for the idea of 'father and daughter' never sounded so perfect or possible or real.
She sighed and shifted her hips, a small aftershock of pain gripped her core, but she could only let it go, let it seep away into the abyss of quiet – sleep claiming her now as her eyes dipped shut again on their own accord, yes, sleep was imminent despite the adrenaline fighting for her to stay awake – yes, her body would win that fight for darkness … and soon.
And so in a last ditch effort to sear this moment into her memory bank, Meredith opened her eyes even wider one last time to watch Derek with their daughter – perched upon the edge of the bed as he worked, the dim light falling along his broad shoulders akin to a halo – his soft voice oh so soothing, so calm and collected and sure, the baby's small whimpers strangely familiar already. She took a lasting breath and listened to Derek's words, watching the careful way in which he handled the baby – as careful as he would an exposed set of nerves in a sterile OR – maybe even more careful … more unsure, for he was out of his element, but the baby would never have known.
She had done it – sure, they had created – but she had delivered this moment to him. And it was on this blessing that Meredith smiled and listened to the intense whisper of her lover's voice, now the voice of a father.
"You did good baby … so good. Oh, I know, I know you're cold. Hmm, come here, let's try to get this kimono on, see, we'll lay it down and then put your arms in, see … like this … let's see if daddy can do this. You're a good baby … nine out of ten on your APGAR … nine … out … of … ten, you know, I remember when you were the size of a fig … that's right … and now look at you … hair like daddy's ... mommy's perfect nose … and your eyes, so dark, like midnight … but almost evergreen … also like mommy's, see almost done, let's do the other arm and then snap you up … one, two, three. Ha, we did it … come here baby, let's go see mommy."
Meredith opened her eyes within the euphoria of her symphony. She smiled and engaged her eyes with Derek's as he turned around with the alert infant – the baby's dark liquid eyes pinned on her father's doting gateways – he smiled down at the baby and then glanced back to Meredith.
"Here she is," he murmured softly, cradling the baby close to his chest before he set her down into the crook of his lover's waiting arms.
"She's really here," Meredith sighed – her glassy eyes on Derek's – her arms instantly warmed via the baby's blissful energy and her dark liquid eyes, quiet, quiet, quiet.
"She's gorgeous," he sighed softly, leaning down to press a kiss to Meredith's temple.
He smiled tightly and sat down on the bed next to Meredith where the world stopped for a brief moment as they stared in simple awe at the tiny life force they created while she stared at them in tandem – smiling as he watched the baby divert her attention and begin to root at the full crescent of Meredith's exposed breasts – survival and bonding instincts in full swing, her open mouth meeting her tiny fists as she did. Meredith met Derek's eyes for a split-second before she pushed the garment aside and teased the baby's lips with her puckered nipple, tears welling in her eyes as the baby latched on and instinctually nursed from her breast – peace and harmony flowing from her like an ancient river – the succinct energy of mother to daughter, daughter to mother moving between them for the first time.
Derek pressed another kiss to Meredith's temple, he felt her relax against him, closing the miniscule distance between them. "Wow," he sighed with wonder, his heart raced, he took a deep breath of the sweet air.
"She's perfect," Meredith murmured breathlessly after a minute, her glassy eyes stuck on the baby's as they watched each other without blinking, she caressed the baby soft skin of her newborn cheek, back and forth, quiet, quiet, quiet. "She's really a gem, isn't she Derek? Just like we imagined she would be … rare and multi-faceted … a Ruby … Ruby, you are so beautiful …," she heaved softly meeting her lover's gaze, unable to finish reciting the full name they had chosen – her heart lunged forward, she was a Shepherd, a Shepherd – tears welled and splashed along her cheeks, she turned her chin up; Derek kissed her lips, once, twice.
"She is … just like we imagined," he sighed, finding her eyes. "Go on … name her, Meredith," he encouraged, knowing how much the Balinese naming ritual meant to her. He closed his eyes; Meredith's hot breath fanning his neck as he did … Bali was calling.
"Name her …," she smiled, a sense of calm washed over her … she must name her. "You are blessed, dear sweet baby," she cooed, her fingertips dancing through the baby's tufts of dark hair. "Ruby Anne … Nyoman … Shepherd," she breathed, her heart trembling akin to a ripe tomato on the vine, tears of joy pricked her eyes … the baby had a name … she did it.
'She did it', Derek smiled softly, pressing a chaste kiss to Meredith's cheek before he ducked down and kissed Ruby's crown. "Still a mouthful of a name," he whispered conspiratorially to the nursing baby. Meredith's giggle filled the air. He looked up to find her. "What? It's a mouthful," he teased, basking in the innate radiance of his lover's aura.
"So you've said … but a meaningful mouthful all the same," Meredith retorted playfully – they were blessed – truly blessed, first Wayan then Nyoman.
Sighing unison the couple lost themselves for a beat – each no doubt thinking about Bali and Ketut and Wayan – each contemplating the significance of passing on a Balinese name to their child – their first born child – but their second child, for Wayan would always be the first, he would always be a Shepherd … according to them.
Meredith heaved a sigh, her eyes dipped shut, the baby's action at her breast waned, but she latched on still, her survival instincts already on par … she was here, they were blessed.
Derek took a deep breath before he dared himself to whisper to his lover, his eyes locked on Meredith's serene face … the tension of her furrowed brow long gone now that Ruby had come through to the other side ... she was here, they were blessed.
"Meredith, what do you need?" Derek asked hesitantly after another minute, for all the life experiences he'd had, this was uncharted territory; he needed and would gladly take the cues from her.
She smiled. "You in this bed with us," she smirked leaning forward to kiss her lover, quite certain his insecurities made him even more adorable. He chuckled and kissed her back.
"You don't mess around do you?" he teased eliciting a throaty giggle from his woman, moving his lips down to the crook of her neck, she smelled like the salt of the earth, her sweet essence there too.
"Actually, I do … mess around … I mean, look where we are," she teased with a raised brow, her eyes darting down to Ruby's for a beat before she met Derek's intense gaze – he was so happy – and inside his happiness she was once again captivated by the playful flecks within the deep ocean of his eyes; he took her breath away still, even now.
"I love where we are," he muttered, his eyes falling on the nursing infant, his heart melted. "Fooling around is good," he sighed, pressing a kiss to Meredith's flushed cheek.
"It is …," she doted, looking down again to Ruby – she was here, she was nursing, she was perfect – tears of relief crowded her eyes again. She sighed and shook her head, a yawn escaping her lips as she did. Derek held her close and she relaxed, her eyes dipped shut again. "Come to bed," she whispered, fatigue capturing her now.
Derek sighed and pressed a kiss to Meredith's temple. Ruby locked her dark eyes with his – he reached down and stroked her check with the side of his finger – back and forth he went before he pried himself away from the moment to slip his pants and long sleeve shirt off with the thought of showering later. He switched the bathroom light off and crossed the room to close the window, his eyes meeting his reflection in the window as he did – he was a father, he looked the same, but he knew his life had been changed forever – he had grown, he was proud and he knew his father would be too, if only he could have been here for this … triumph.
He heaved a sigh on that though and with a smile he turned around – quite certain he melted like hot maple syrup when he spied Meredith – right where he left her with her eyes closed, consumed with peace and harmony, Ruby enveloped in the same blanket of energy, asleep on her breast. Derek crossed the room to her side of the bed.
"Meredith," he whispered, his fingers moving to trace her cheekbone.
He sighed inside the quiet moment, a moment so quiet that as his soft voice reverberated through the space, he thought for sure he would break this magical spell … but he didn't, the magic, his peaceful lover and their love baby remained, still connected, still at peace under the expansive canopy of bliss.
"Hmm, so tired," Meredith murmured softly, the haze of her euphoria lifted for the briefest of moments.
She opened her eyes to find the clear gateways belonging to her beloved – all of his storms out to sea, gone, gone, gone – even the room a shade darker now was unable to dull the sparkle she saw in her man … he was at peace … all activity for the day had ceased and night was upon them. She took a deep breath – it would be nice to rest – sure she would feel it all in the morning, but right now – with the quiet way the world had stopped spinning and in the beautiful way her belly had stopped humming – the only thing on her mind (besides Ruby and Derek) was the delirium of sleep.
"Well, tired must be an understatement," Derek soothed, watching her eyes slip shut again. "I'm going to take Ruby," he murmured softly, feeling the need to inform her; he felt her cradle hold on the baby slacken slightly and only then did he lift slowly the baby from her mother's embrace, carefully watching her oral hold on Meredith's nipple as he did. "Let's swaddle you up little one," he cooed to the sleeping infant, cradling her skull and tiny body with his hands, before he raised the linens in an effort to cover Meredith's breasts. "Let's do this and get into bed with mommy," he whispered, swaddling her lithe frame by rote, he laid her back – her soul-filled eyes now closed and surely dreaming – he smiled at the thought, his paternal gateways never leaving her angel face as he worked.
Once finished, he turned the dimmer on the bedside lamp to the lowest setting (not trusting himself to turn it all the way off yet). He lay Ruby down on top of the linens on the middle of the bed and slipped into the covers, rolling to his side once he lay down, the baby situated in the crescent of his body, her tiny chest moving up and down – the dim filtered light highlighting her gorgeous side profile, her perfect nose – tears pricked his eyes as he watched her … his baby daughter.
"Breathing of your free will … all on your own," he whispered, completely mystified still. "I'm so proud of you baby," he barely choked out, unspent emotion barreling through him now like a freight train without a conductor, his heart quaked – 'thank God, thank God they were both okay' – was all he could think, he was blessed, her baby chest moved up and down. He smiled. "So blessed … we are by you, your mommy and I …," he sniffled through his words.
His head swam, his eyes burned and acute fatigue began to claim him now, although he couldn't find the urge to sleep … not yet, for he couldn't move his eyes from the baby's sleeping form, up, down went her chest – everything was aligned, everyone was at peace – Meredith's ring sparkled in the muted light, their miracle had arrived. The floorboards creaked outside the doorway – his mother was on her way down to her room – and then he smiled and his heart simmered down and he felt his body become heavy as steel and therein he finally relaxed under this canopy of safety his mother brought with her, it was her steadfastness, her will … her way … and they were blessed to have her with them. He glanced at the clock – it was just after 8:00 PM, his eyes were dry and tired – and then he smiled, the night was still young somewhere in the world … but right here, right now, his world had stopped spinning and was fast asleep.
And as they slept, he continued to watch Ruby's chest rise and fall – hypnotized by her perfect balance of energy – the way she soothed his weary and aged soul. She was his angel on earth, pure and simple and his love for her was both pure and innate … it was as natural as her birth was. He sighed deep inside and tried to quell his racing heart – 'slow, deep breaths' – he coached himself to no avail, but alas he was unsuccessful as a barrage of stifled emotions came to the surface and boiled over. He took another long, deep breath – his eyes on his sleeping beauties – their need to rest and recuperate his utmost concern, though his heart raced on and on.
He coached himself again – letting his neck relax against the pillow now, he kept his eyes on the baby's chest – he stilled his heart and matched his exhale with hers, silently connecting as he did. He closed his eyes for a beat in time and listened … and baby made three; he opened his eyes and smiled.
Without thinking then, he moved his free hand and lay it over Ruby's chest, her tiny heartbeat strummed against this palm – and much like a hummingbird, she hummed, beat-beat, beat-beat – she was here, she wasn't just a dream … she had become their reality. And on that thought, Derek closed his eyes; the baby's heart beat lulling him closer and closer to sleep.
As Meredith listened to Derek – her mind vacillated, asleep, awake, breathe in, breathe out, the hard part was over, she reminded herself – for she had survived and the proof: her heavy heart now filled to capacity with love for their miracle baby.
She breathed and owned the moment – Ruby, their gem, their everything, living, breathing all on her own – and then she smiled somewhere deep inside, feeling that ever-present pinch of new love once again – her heart stretching to accommodate its insurmountable needs – for this new love was indeed bigger than her, bigger than them.
Resting her new heavy heart now – her hand absentmindedly moved to her belly, months of caressing, rubbing, connecting, still a force of habit – the life force within now gone, barren, swollen still, she felt a twinge of something … what was it: Longing? Emptiness? Vacancy?
She pushed through her mind but tears formed under lids anyway, forcing her eyes open wherein she was immediately struck with a sight that she would surely deposit into her memory bank, a sight she would most certainly collect interest on for the rest of her life. She quietly lost it inside now – if she wasn't already faint of heart, she most definitely was now – melting into nothingness, her skin merely a casing, a barrier to keep her from losing herself within the power of this new multi-faceted clarity of love.
Meredith shivered, watching now as her daughter's chest rose and fell – up and down it went – her father's loving, protective hand lay on top … both of her people – her angels on earth –sleeping, breathing, living and dreaming … in tandem.
Tears pooled again and she held them there, willing them to recede before she moved her hand and gently set it atop Derek's, her need to connect impossible to avoid – baby, baby, baby – her heart pinched with that new deep love again; Derek's azure blue eyes popped open to find her there.
"Derek," she sighed, smiling as she called to her lover from her same spot, quite satisfied to stay right there in the moment and never, ever let time move again. She was sated; she had everything she ever dared herself to dream for … everything.
"Hmm … breathing of her own volition … I have no words," he sighed breathlessly, his eyes locked on her emerald gateways, he was lost, but oh so found. "I really would have nothing if weren't for you … and your capacity forgive me … meeting you that night …," he rambled as thick tears clouded his vision, his mind having a difficult time catching up with his heart.
"I would too, you know ... have nothing, nothing compared to this," she soothed, watching Derek's glassy eyes light up and then soften, those same soft eyes darting down to their daughter for a beat before he looked up to find her again.
Meredith held his gaze then and silently connected whilst riding the waves of physical and mental exhaustion that continued to combat her body's adrenaline – push, push, push – she felt her body ache as she took a lingering deep breath, but the adrenaline pulsed on and on still, only a sign of the anomaly of her acute state of emotional turmoil – turmoil that might have swallowed her whole had it not been for the evidence of their living, breathing miracle – her mind went wild, she tried to still her heart. She rubbed her palm over the top of Derek's hand and smiled weakly, staring at his eyes, willing them to whisk her away to that safe place she loved best of all … his heart and soul.
Ruby. Seedling. Derek. Father. Mother. Wayan. Ketut. Birth. Story. Pain. Rain. Tsunami. Love. Fright. Whole. Healed. Birth. Rebirth. Barren. Vacancy. Relief. Peace. Harmony. Light. Fate. Destiny. Bali. Love. Storms. Pain. Story. Rebirth. Birth. Ketut. Wayan. Wayan. Derek. Father. Mother. Ruby. Ruby. Ruby.
Her heart as wild as her mind now, she smiled, her eyes darting down to the sleeping infant – she was blessed, they all were – and therein the clock ticked forward, tick, tick, tick, the earth moved on its axis and life resumed once again. She looked up to find Derek waiting for her, she sighed and let her eyes smile and watched him melt from the inside out.
"I want to take Ruby home in the afternoon tomorrow," she whispered, Derek smiled weakly. "I know I'll be sore and I know … it's soon but I don't want to share her … not yet," she confessed, her eyes full of unshed emotion, her heart pinned somewhere to her sleeve. "I want to take her home where she belongs," she sighed.
"I know … me too, lets wait to see what Jyothi says tomorrow and then we'll go … we'll take her home," he soothed, because he really didn't want to share her yet and because something remarkable was going on here and he wanted to live it to its potential, he wanted to soak it all in and own it for now and for all time.
Derek sighed and watched Meredith's eyes close, finally relaxing, finally on her way to sleep. He smiled and surveyed his girls again, awestruck by all that had happened, completely smitten by the baby and if possible, more completely aligned with Meredith than ever before. He closed his eyes and let this vision of his family – his woman and their baby sleeping side by side – he searing this memory into his bank now, his heart melting from the love and heat.
"She's okay?" came Meredith's soft billowy voice.
Derek opened his eyes. "She's perfect," he answered with soft surety, because she really was … perfect.
"Don't underestimate this precious time."
The first night for the new family had been a restful one – Ruby slept, Derek and Meredith awoke to check on her and each other, they gelled, solidifying their roles – and when the predawn light began to seep through the curtain Derek finally rose from bed and slipped into the shower.
Meredith breathed upon his departure, listening as the shower came to life, keeping her eyes closed for now – she held the sticky nighttime air in her lungs in an effort to preserve the sweetness she found within – trying to figure out exactly what it reminded her of … new life, life-giving perspiration, so sweet, yet so earthy and familiar, it was like an offering to the Gods on mystic morning on Bali, both sweet and nutty – she smiled now – for it was either that or birthday cake! Her nerve-endings snapped, effectively waking her up, she stretched a little, shifting her weight as she did.
And with that shift a dull ache claimed her body, but she knew once she had a shower and moved around a little bit, the aftershock of all the pushing would begin to wane and she could move on and forward … with life. Her eyes popped open then and met the dimly lit room – she cast her sleepy gateways down to find her angel baby – still swaddled in her blanket, her cheeks still rosy, her nose still perfect, her eyes still closed and dreaming.
She was perfect … a vision … a dream come true and in that moment Meredith's heart revved up, racing on and on with no place to go and that suited her just fine, for they were alone – mother and daughter for the first time – alone, safely locked inside a small window of cherished time … alone.
She hunkered down then and carefully rolled to her side, the baby in the crescent of her form now – the shower died down, she lay her palm on Ruby's chest, up, down, up down, Meredith's heirloom ring sparkled brilliantly in the filtered light – she heard Derek emerge from the bathroom, a small triangle of new light cast a long shadow into the room, she peeked behind her and smiled at her lover – his plentiful locks slick with water, his chest naked and pink, steam billowing into the room with him, a towel tied around his waist – he smiled and crossed the room, dropping the towel, he slipped a pair of boxers on followed by some clean jeans and long sleeve indigo Henley. He looked refreshed.
"Good morning," he whispered as he sat on the bed behind his lover, his lips found her neck, where he pulsed them over her flesh, breathing her in as he did.
"Morning … she's still sleeping … she's so peaceful," Meredith murmured, leaning back and into the clean, damp heat radiating from her lover's body.
"She is … I hope … I hope she can feel this peace as she grows," Derek sighed. "I know it'll be hard, but I always want to remember these first hours with her, like this … with you," he whispered with an endearing smile.
Reaching over, he pressed a kiss to Meredith's shoulder and gently lay his palm to the crown of Ruby's head – seemingly unmoved in her swaddle since he lay her there a few hours ago, her chest rose and fell – he felt her heat radiate against his palm and then he prayed, silently hoping this blessing of remembrance and peace would live on and prosper for all of them.
Meredith sighed; the floorboards creaked out in the hallway, the couple turned their attention to the doorway – time froze and for some reason she held her breath, real life was right outside that door and she knew she wasn't ready for it yet – the footsteps shuffled by, Meredith met Derek's gaze somewhere in the middle before she burrowed into his heat again.
"They're up for pre-rounds," she mused shifting her hips, a band of tension moved across her abdomen.
"Hmm," Derek smiled, cocking his head. "And how are you?" he asked, for he had a keen eye on Meredith's health too.
"Sore … but in the best way ever," she answered pointedly and then she smirked. "Outside of really needing to pee and change … and definitely shower, I'm perfect," she mused, meeting her lover's gaze.
"Want some help up?" he asked, holding his hand out.
"Yeah, sure," she chuckled, passing a doting eye on the baby as the bed shimmied.
Ruby slept on as Meredith took Derek's hand and leveraged herself from the bed, Derek once again her anchor, her rock as she came to stand in front of him – he smiled brilliantly, his eyes sparkling, his heat ample – she melted into his touch, his lips found hers – he tasted of toothpaste and smelled of soap – she softly pulsed her lips against his once, twice before he pulled back, no doubt surveying her recovery already.
"You want some help in there?" he asked, pressing his forehead to hers, he scanned her eyes, back and forth.
"I'll be okay, just sore and need to change, brush my teeth," she mused with a soft grin.
"Any cramping?" he asked, persisting now, though he knew she wouldn't hedge if something felt abnormal.
"Nope, just bleeding … seems okay," Meredith sighed, pressing a kiss to the handsome plane of his cheek. "Be right back," she soothed, saying more with her eyes than with her words. She smiled and slowly turned out of his arms.
Derek watched her go, she left the door ajar and went about freshening up – he turned and his eyes fell on Ruby, still sleeping, still dreaming – noticing now some blood on the disposable lap pad they had used on the bed, he decided to busy himself by changing the pad and fluffing Meredith's pillows up, careful not to disturb the baby as he worked. He heard the toilet flush, then the water, then the whirl of his lover's electric toothbrush. He smiled – business as usual, life was moving again – he tossed the soiled pad into the trashcan they set by the door. The water cut off and Meredith stood inside the open doorway between the two rooms.
"Thanks," she murmured, gesturing her hand to the refreshed bed linens, she watched Derek watch her carefully. "Everything was fine, you know," she teased, moving to stand in front of him.
"I know, I just like to make sure …," he smiled and chuckled, their eyes moving to Ruby once again, swathed in her blankets, unmoved, happily dreaming in the center of the bed. "You did so great," he mused, draping his arm around Meredith.
"I did it," she sighed, tilting her head up.
"You did," he agreed, the air between them hot and sticky.
A flash of Meredith's secret smile passed over her eyes, locked on his, she licked her minty lips. Derek ducked down and pressed his mouth to hers, always a perfect fit, pulse, pulse, kiss, kiss, she tasted of mouthwash and smelled of facial soap, her cheeks pink, her hands on his hips, they swayed.
"I love you," he sighed breathlessly against her mouth.
"I love you too," Meredith whispered breathlessly against his.
She pulled back for a beat, meeting his gaze – before their eyes and lips locked together in a series of quick instinctual pulses – minty, fresh, simple, passionate, kisses that spoke unspoken words like: longevity, adoration and wonder. Their mouths moving succinctly, harmonizing now amidst the quiet solace – pulse, pulse, pulse they were transcended, lost within their collective energy – pulling back briefly to catch a glimpse of one another, the euphoric fog now dense. Meredith smiled, reaching up, she cradled her lover's skull in her hands, blinking back those relentless hormonal tears once again, her heart on fire with undeniable love.
Derek pressed his forehead against hers, their eyes locked in a dual, heat raging between them as the world fell away for a beat. He ducked down and started to kiss her minty lips once again, his momentum only interrupted by Meredith's stomach – a ferocious growl of hunger – one that broke through the quiet rage of their tantalizing spell; her hand flew to her stomach; her giggle filled the cracks and crevices of their enclave … life, movement, momentum were suddenly in the air.
Derek chuckled and set his hand upon hers and smiled too, amused by the bewildered look set in her eyes. "I need to feed you," he mused happily.
"You think?" Meredith kidded, patting her empty belly – barren, empty – she became quiet, her eyes darted down.
Derek watched Meredith's eyes, her demeanor changed and a look he couldn't read was suddenly plastered to her face. He pressed his lips together and set his hand on top of hers, her hand trembled under his touch. "Feels strange, I bet," he whispered, meeting her gaze as she looked up.
"Yeah … she's here, I'm happy she's here … but …," she smiled, choking on her words. She shook her head, her heart bleated in protest.
"But …," Derek prompted, he had an idea of where her head is now, but he certainly didn't want to put words in her mouth, for her birth experience was vastly different and more complicated than his.
"Oh, it sounds silly … I miss her, she's right there, all on her own … but I knew I would Derek … miss her," she chuckled. She turned into his arms and looked up to find his adoring gaze. He smiled. "I loved being pregnant with her … and so I miss her – my heart strings are literally pulling and it hurts – but in a good way," she mused, tiny tears crashed along the shores of her cheeks.
Derek held her close, pulling her into a gentle hug, his eyes fell on Ruby – sleep, sleep, dream, dream – he smiled and pulled back. "What can I do?" he asked simply.
Meredith's chortle filled the gap between them and her eyes lit up as she watched a dawn of recognition cross over her man's handsome face. She giggled and he shook his head.
"One day … I want more, I knew I would … I miss her on the inside," she smiled reflecting on the future.
"Me too, I want more babies with you," he muttered, his voice thick, his heart sure, he smiled and moved his hands through her wild tresses. "Just tell me what you need, how I can help," he sighed breathlessly, finding his lover through his watery gateways.
"Just put up with me," she replied softly, captivated by the wild storm of emotion set in her lover's eyes. He smiled and leaned down, pressing his lips to hers, soft and quick.
"I don't have to put up with you Meredith," he soothed, drawing her near. "I love you," he whispered in her ear.
"I love you too … so much," she whispered into the quiet, her voice so soft it was meant for his ears only.
Meredith held on tight then; a current of energy found the back of her neck and buzzed down to her heart, her core, her feet and beyond. She took a stacked deep breath, for it wasn't that Derek hadn't professed his love to her before, of course he had countless times since they were first reunited – it wasn't that – it was the storm of real emotion inside, the way his voice cracked, the way he also held her tight … the words somehow meant something more, right here, right now – she caught a glimpse of her heirloom ring sparkling in the dim light – and then she smiled and swayed in her lover's arms, drawing strength and heat from his energy.
Her stomach rumbled again – it was like a storm getting closer – the couple laughed and pulled away from one another. "I'll go," Derek chuckled. "Be back in a few," he smiled and set a lingering kiss upon his lover's hungry lips.
"Okay," Meredith answered, pulling back.
Derek chuckled and exited the room, leaving the door ajar as he went – a swoosh of cooler air, the energy of life outside their enclave silently entered the room – Meredith kept her eyes trained on the doorway for a beat, smiling now, for she felt more grounded, more like herself (for the moment anyway). She turned away and crossed the room, making her way back to bed when she heard it, a rush of life and energy and happiness as it billowed up the stairs.
"Yo daddy!" came Alex's baritone.
"There he is!" came George's brotherly tone.
"We love you Meredith!" came Izzie's singsong voice from the bottom of the steps.
Meredith smiled and turned back to the door. Tears stung her eyes as she stood motionless and basked in their gleeful energy, she closed her eyes, her baby tears fell and she sniffled into the quiet.
Turning away from door again, she gingerly slipped into bed, careful not to disturb Ruby too much as she carefully picked the baby up, cradling her close, feeling her warmth, watching for a moment as the shadows danced along her serene face, it was still true, 'life' hadn't gotten to her yet.
"All that whoopla is for you baby," Meredith cooed softly. "Can you hear it?" she smiled. "It's life … you're really here," she soothed, basking in the radiant heat of her miracle's energy.
And it was under that canopy of energy that Meredith sighed – taking in the small features of her baby daughter – realizing once again that they didn't have to wonder anymore, no more guessing who she might look like, no more estimating her birth weight – no need to wonder if she would have her lover's plentiful dark locks – because she did, and she was here … living, breathing, dreaming … here.
Unshed tears pricked her eyes now as she took a deep breath and ran her fingertips through the baby's soft tufts of dark hair. Ruby heaved a sleepy sigh and opened her dark liquid eyes; her orbs still black – although flecks of evergreen shone deep within – and in that moment Meredith wondered if this really would be the imprint of her legacy for Ruby … green eyes.
She smiled and stared at the baby, blurred around the edges with her tears of happiness – her heart stopping now, 'breathe in, breathe out' – she coached herself … she was a mother. She was breathless … she had done it … she was alone with her miracle. She took a deep breath and held it inside for a moment, gathering the courage to speak without losing it. She shook her head and stared at the baby, Ruby stared right back at her.
"You mystify me," she began, her voice shaking ever so slightly, she sighed, her heart raced. She ran her fingertips along Ruby's baby soft cheek. "All this time, I wondered who you would look like … and now I know … I know none of it really mattered … nothing mattered before you …," she rambled with a smile, Ruby blinked. "I'm really going to do my best, baby … I … really am …," she promised. "I don't come from much with this family stuff, but I'm learning okay?" she sniffled, tears welled, she blinked them away. "Your daddy and your nana, they're really helping me and they love you so much already … we all do," she cooed; her heart raced. "I just … mommy wants you to know, I won't let you down and I'll always be here for you … and you won't ever be … lonely …," she heaved a sigh, fat tears welled in her eyes and slipped onto her cheeks. "Loneliness won't be part of your world, baby … and you … you won't ever have to wonder …," she lost her voice, her heart constricted. "You … you won't ever have to wonder if you're loved," she cried, forcing herself to stare into the depths of Ruby's being … and therein she promised and she would once again, deliver. "I love you sweet baby and nothing will ever change that," she smiled, her heart simmering down, Ruby turned her head inward, her mouth beginning to root at the swell of her breast.
Meredith smiled and moved the fabric aside and pointed her nipple toward the baby's open mouth – she met her gaze and opened her mouth wide too – Ruby mimicked her; Meredith teased her mouth again with her large, dark nipple; the baby latched on and promptly began to nurse. They were once again connected … mother to daughter.
"Such as a smart baby," Meredith cooed proudly as she ducked down and kissed Ruby's soft head, breathing in all of her sweetness as she did.
Pulling back, mother and daughter kept their eyes trained on one another then for a long while – and within the spirit found inside her offspring's dark emerald pools of reflection – Meredith let her mind wander and therein she was home again, for she could see the Indian Ocean at night … she could feel the cooler nighttime are breeze along her hot sun-stroked skin … she could smell the unmistakable fragrance of the island … salty, sweet, musty, smoky and organic … indeed, Bali was still calling … and calling.
The baby blinked and with that the bottleneck of Meredith's emotions vanquished, gone and away with her visions of the island … leaving her here, right where she was meant to be – sharing the first morning alone with her miracle baby – a true moment in time where everything was new and fresh and already rebuilt and reborn … it was a blank slate … a second chance at this mother-daughter thing and therein she could ask for little else.
Stroking the baby's cheek, she whispered. "You're my angel on earth … just wait … wait until you see Bali," she sighed breathlessly and then she smiled widely, her mind on Wayan and Ketut. "Just wait until Bali meets you," she said softly with tears embedded in her eyes, she heaved a sigh in an effort to quell her racing heart.
Her tears welled, coating her eyes like Windex to glass – the floorboards creaked, the shadows danced – she sniffled and blinked her tears away, watching through her watery eyes as the door moved open to reveal her lover balancing a tray with one hand as he closed the door behind him with his backside.
Derek smiled brilliantly, at a complete loss for words – for he was visualizing a dream come true – Meredith's happy wet eyes, their love baby at her breast, it was enough to know they had truly beat the odds.
"Did you hear all that raucous?" he beamed proudly as he crossed the room.
Meredith smiled and looked down to Ruby, her eyes closed again, dreamland abound. She smiled and looked up as Derek set the tray down on the bedside table. "We did," she answered, her eyes glued to his now, sparkling, dancing with happiness in the pale morning light – he was tired, yet invigorated – he was a vision she decided just then … a new daddy. She glanced at the tray. "So, what's all this?" she asked, the air suddenly filled with the life of new aromas, coffee, tea, mango … and cake. She smiled.
"Oh," Derek chuckled, turning, he lifted a simple six inch round cake and held it up, his eyes locked on Meredith's as she tilted her head with a smile – the small cake was stunning to look at, bright white fondant frosting, decorative green lattice ribbons adorned the sides – the work was meticulous, the very essence of the tiny masterpiece had Izzie Steven's signature style written all over it. Derek smiled broadly, amused by the curious look crossing his lover's face. "Birthday cake," he announced, catching Meredith's wide eyes with his now.
"I thought I smelled cake in the middle of the night!" Meredith giggled, her eyes suddenly wet again.
"Me too," he chuckled, setting the cake down on the tray again. "Do you want some?" he asked, meeting her eyes, she nodded an emphatic 'yes'. Derek chuckled. "She used extra coconut, made me promise to tell you," he muttered with a wry grin. He glanced down at the baby, his heart softened. "She's asleep," he mused softly, his eyes resting on Ruby's peacefulness.
"Hmm, yeah … all my promises wore her out," Meredith sighed breathlessly, slipping the baby's mouth from her breast; she covered up and stroked her baby soft cheek.
Derek smiled and made a slice into the decadent cake. "You made your promises," he mused softly, setting a large piece of cake upon one of the plates.
"I did," Meredith doted, bringing the baby upright for a beat, rubbing the tiny frame of her back as she did. She watched Derek cut a second piece of cake.
"You're amazing," he said, looking up, watching Meredith lay the baby down, cradling her delicate skull in her hands.
"You keep saying that," she giggled, situating the baby in the middle of the bed again.
"It's true," he quipped, handing her a hot cup of jasmine tea with just the right amount of honey.
She took the hot cup and held in close, her abdomen ached but she let the tenderness go, she took a deep breath, inhaling a waft of star jasmine flowers. "You know …," she giggled. "I kinda feel a little bit amazing," she confessed with a wry grin. She took a sip of her tea and let herself relax against her pillows … first tea and cake and then a shower, after which she would start to feel more like herself.
Derek smiled widely before he took a sip of his piping hot coffee – the morning elixir doing its job – the fresh-brewed dark roast, nothing short of a miracle some of the time. He held his cup up in an effort to mock-toast – Meredith's giggle filled the room, dancing and swaying in the morning light – Derek took another satisfied sip from his cup, his woman was feeling better already, he could tell … Meredith was still there – under all the layers of uncertainty and exhaustion – his lover was there and she was alive and well. He held out a plate of cake and Meredith smiled appreciatively before taking a bite – licking her lips and moaning and she closed her eyes in what must have been bliss – Derek could only smile and look on.
"Izzie and her damn cake," she muttered before taking another massive bite … it was just like Ruby: sweet and delicate.
"It's good cake," Derek smiled, somewhat mesmerized by watching Meredith devour the sweet treat. "Happy birthday," he sighed, taking another ceremonious bite.
Meredith's chortle moved through the quiet as she beamed – her mouth full of cake, her cheeks flushed, her hair wild, her ring sparkled; her baby slept – and all of a sudden, there was life and conversation and birthday cake infiltrating the room and it was okay, just as it should have been.
"I surrender myself to your presence and peace of mind."
The late afternoon light shone through the glass panels of the front door – the last of the bags packed, the new family about to step outside for the first time – Jyothi sat down next to Meredith, Ruby sat in her infant car seat perched on the coffee table in front of them, seemingly swallowed whole by her blankets and the contraption of safety. The women doted, the baby slept on – the front door opened, Derek dashed in for the last of the bags – his excited eyes catching Meredith's for a quick beat. He smiled and disappeared; the door clicked shut.
"I know I keep saying this … Jyothi, but … thank you for everything," Meredith smiled, keeping her eyes trained on the sleeping baby. She shifted on the sofa, her body protested still. "I know I sound like a broken record … but when I look at her … I don't know," she smiled and turned to meet the midwife's steadfast gaze, this ever-present stance of calm and peace.
"It was a pleasure, it always is," Jyothi said with a soft smile. She set a reassuring hand along Meredith's forearm and pressed down evenly. "This is a great joy, this calling in my life … don't you see, it is I who should be thanking you," she mused softly; Meredith's eyes welled with tears.
Her waiting tears fell, sprinkling along her cheeks. Meredith sniffled, regaining composure now. "Ketut says, 'it was for the joy', she says that a lot," she sighed with a reflective smile.
"I like that," Jyothi mused with a broad smile.
The front door opened and closed again, Derek appeared in the frame of the entryway. He smiled. "So … just a couple of bags from the kitchen and we're all set," he announced softly from his same spot, his mind set upon watching Meredith carefully, for as much as she was anxious to get home, he also knew she was reluctant to leave the cocoon they had created here.
"Okay, sounds good," Meredith whispered, her eyes soft, still wet.
She watched him slip through the swinging door, disappearing again, this time to join his mother where she was packing some ready-to-heat meals up, for it was no secret, she'd been cooking up a storm since her arrival and had even picked up her pace in the day and a half since the baby was born – Carolyn Shepherd was a mother through and through, she knew all the right things to do – Meredith's eyes lingered on the doorway for a long moment, her mind wild now before she sighed and turned back to Jyothi.
"I'll come out next week on Wednesday as planned," Jyothi counseled softly. "But … should you feel anything suspect … cramping, excessive bleeding …anything …," she cautioned.
"We will call …," Meredith promised. "So far … I feel … everything," she breathed, her heart banging around in her chest as she searched for the right words. "Everything feels so big – not unmanageable – just big and new … more vivid, like I have reached a new tier for my emotions, like I have new eyes …," she sighed with frustration, she felt good … she was happy, she just couldn't articulate all of these new feelings.
Jyothi draped her arm along Meredith's shoulders and squeezed, Meredith giggled and so did she. "You're a mother – that's the way of the mother – you'll grow used to it … and you Meredith, already had such strong tendencies for motherhood … it's just Ruby is here now, you feel it now … your heart is stretching and it's wonderful," she coached, allowing her soothing voice to lull the new mother.
The pair sat in silence for a beat, both lost in the aura of the sleeping baby and the 'stretching' of their hearts. Meredith relaxed, they would be home soon, she sighed somewhere deep inside, she was about to leave her mother's home, a mother herself – and with this hasty departure, she knew life wouldn't catch up with them yet – Cristina and Owen were expected to come out the day after tomorrow and Derek's mother would come daily, but other than that … they were set out to do what Meredith and Derek dreamed they would … bond with the baby and let her bond with them under a blanket of peaceful energy.
Derek pushed through the door, his mother following closely behind, each holding a pair of brown paper grocery bags. The pair smiled their same smile and set the bags down. Meredith stood up – her abdominal muscles tightening as she went – Derek smiled and watched as she crossed the room and came to stand in front of them. Jyothi's eyes remained on the baby as she slept through the life and emotion billowing through the room.
"Meredith dear," Carolyn sighed, taking the new mother's tiny hands in hers. "Can we have a moment before you leave – I'll know we'll see each other every day until I go – but I …," she smiled. "I have something for you," she said softly as she fished two envelopes from the deep pocket of her poncho sweater.
"Ah the letters," Derek mused knowingly, his eyes instantly wet, his heart raced, for he could hardly believe it was 'his' turn. He briefly met his mother's watery gaze.
"The letters," Meredith repeated evenly, tearing her eyes away from Carolyn's, she looked to her lover nearly overwrought with emotion now … letters … words … coming from Carolyn.
She looked down; there was one for her and one for Ruby. She moved her fingertips over Ruby's name, the gesture, the letter, her name on the envelope – somehow solidified her place as a Shepherd grandbaby, Derek's mother's beautiful scroll, her name written with love – back and forth, she moved her fingertips again for a beat before she looked up.
"It's a Shepherd tradition …," Carolyn smiled proudly. "And now it's your turn," she soothed, her eyes twinkling like she had some kind of secret. "Read at your leisure … save Ruby's for her, you'll know when the time is right … on both accounts," she counseled, draping one arm along Meredith's shoulders.
"Thank you," Meredith sighed, once again comforted by Carolyn's maternal presence, she leaned into her innate heat, this love of a mother. She looked up and smiled, still somewhat mystified by the personal nature of this traditional gift.
Carolyn pulled the new mother into a hug, swaying with her for a beat of time. The women sighed and their collective giggles filled the foyer before they pulled away, meeting one another's glassy gateways, both glistening and multi-faceted and fully illuminated despite the dim light. The women turned away from one another to find Jyothi and Derek standing together, his arm looped through Ruby's car seat handle …they were a picture, another vision. The baby slept on and through. Meredith smiled … she was ready to go, more than ready to bring Ruby home.
"Gonna drive you away from the trampling of bustling feet."
"You okay back there?" Derek called from the front seat. Meredith's breathless giggle filled the car.
"Yep, still okay," she reported with a smile, meeting his bright blue gateways in the rear view mirror. She cackled with a smirk. "We could trade you know," she teased, sucking in a deep breath.
"We could, but I think you're right where you should be," he soothed gently, watching now as her eyes softened around the edges, both bright and playful now against the natural light of the outdoors. "Almost home," he mused, inching the car into the line of traffic for the ferryboat access, the damp sea air infiltrated the car and he took a staggering deep breath of that raw, organic air now, filling his lungs … almost home. "Feels like a lifetime somehow," he sighed wistfully, his eyes roaming over the choppy Elliot Bay, an instinctual smile playing along his face now.
"It does," Meredith reflected. "It really does," she sighed, quite unable to articulate just how much things had changed, but paradoxically stayed the same in the last forty-eight hours.
Derek crossed over the ferryboat threshold, Meredith's eyes and mind wandered, the vast landscape of gray skies and murky green water swallowing her whole as she lost herself for a beat of time. Derek's cell phone rang out – chirp, chirp – effectively bringing her back.
"It's Larissa and Peter," he announced, flipping his phone open to engage the speaker setting. He smiled in the rear view, meeting Meredith's eyes when Larissa's melodic voice filled the airways.
"Derek darling, congratulations!" she cooed into the line.
"Hi-ho daddy-oh!" chimed Peter happily, no doubt a ruddy smile playing along his face.
Meredith giggled, for it was always good to hear their voices, listen to their antics and absorb their carefree attitudes. Derek chuckled, his eyes locked on Meredith's still.
"We're all here," he reported happily. "On our way back home from the city," he added, a wistful tone to his voice as he parked the car and turned the ignition off.
"Larissa, Peter …," Meredith sighed breathlessly, tiny unexpected tears stung her eyes, her voice in a chokehold of it's own making as Derek unclipped his seat belt and turned halfway around in his seat.
"Oh go on old girl … we heard from Derek here that you did just splendidly," Peter cooed with encouragement.
"I did … you know, Derek reminded me what you told me the first time I met you," she smiled with reflection, meeting her lover's unwavering gaze. She pressed her lips together.
"And what was that love?" Peter asked, the line cracked.
Meredith looked down and watched Ruby sleep for a split-second, her peaceful serenity emitting from her tiny form. "That I was made for this … to have babies," she smiled softly.
"Yes … hmm, hard to believe we met under those circumstances at all now," Peter mused quietly.
"And look at us now … all of us, building families at the same time, years after you boys first met," Larissa reflected, her voice soft and billowy. "Now let us wonder what's in store for our other boys, Owen … and Mark," she cackled softly.
The foursome chuckled together for a beat then, each offering a sentiment on the state of Owen and Mark's relationships – their laughter thoughtful and full of hope – sighs of reflection full of thoughts of fishing trips and diapers and first days of school, feelings of longevity and health and prosperity … each party thinking about the future and beyond.
"It was fate," Meredith declared after a minute, her eyes moving over Ruby's angel baby face.
"Truer words were never spoken," Peter agreed softly.
"I'll second that," Derek murmured, a reflective smile set along his handsome face.
"And little Ruby, your own gem … another destiny fulfilled," Larissa offered, no doubt her mind on her own little miracle too.
"She is," Derek answered softly. "She's a dream come true," he murmured with a smile that reached his eyes.
"You're next Larissa," Meredith mused, her mind still set on the future, her hand reflexively falling to her belly before she moved it down to her lap.
"Three months to go … but who's counting …," Larissa sighed with a resigned chuckle, no doubt a wry, but playful grin plastered to her face.
The foursome chuckled again, for they had all done their share of counting over the last several months, especially the last few weeks.
"Meredith … you'll send some photos of the little gem soon?" Peter asked after a moment.
"We will, look for that in the next couple of days," she replied softly, her willingness to 'share' the baby becoming easier day-by-day.
"Okay then lovers, we will … we want to see this little angel for ourselves," Larissa ordered gently. "But absolutely call us if you need anything," she counseled.
"Same goes for you … we'll talk in a few days," Derek answered, holding the phone up to turn back around, the ferryboat slowing down as it approached the dock.
"Right-oh …good-bye for now," chimed Peter before he ended the call.
Derek disconnected the line; his eyes trained on Meredith – she met his gaze and smiled – they were almost home, he turned the key and started the ignition, his mind moving minutes and hours and days ahead now … home, they were almost home, walking through the door with their miracle, it was truly more than he ever imagined. He sighed and shook his head, watching now as Meredith abruptly leaned forward and disappeared from his line of sight.
"Everything all right back there?" he asked without thinking.
Meredith's giggle once again filled the small space; she tilted her head up and dabbed a fresh tissue under her eyes. She raised her brow. "Seriously?" she teased with a smirk.
"Seriously," he grinned like an idiot.
"From you I draw no doubts deep inside."
Derek rounded the corner and crossed over the property line – instantly connecting with their homestead, this place that had evolved to mean so much more than an escape – still a place of refuge, but not from the ugly in life … just from the hustle, just from the meaningless. For his life had evolved too and in the time since he'd first moved to Seattle and purchased this land, he had found more meaning in life than he ever dreamed possible.
He was a happy man – no longer plagued by so many of life's evils – and as he drove down the makeshift driveway presently, all he could see was the land of both a rich future and a vivid history that would be made here.
Curving down and toward the water and the cabin, Derek glanced at the trailer, wondering how long he and Meredith would hold on to that relic, for it was such an iconic, bittersweet reminder of from whence he came – a reminder of ground zero, of a failed marriage, of true love found, of a mended heart – he swallowed hard, for he needed those reminders because for him, the trailer also represented his triumph. He looked away and toward the future, slowly moving the car down and away from those reminders … almost home now. He smiled.
He slowed the car, the earth popped under the tires – he peeked back, this time his eyes on Meredith, the trailer behind her in the rear view mirror now – he focused on his lover, watching her gateways become lighter and even lighter still, she scanned the homestead back and forth – her eyes as busy as her mind – a small beautiful smile appeared along her face and only then did Derek know they were home.
"Welcome home," he whispered, setting the car to park. His eyes found Meredith's; she smiled brightly.
"Welcome home," she breathed with satisfaction and therein that unmistakable life force of peace and tranquility she found here was brought to the forefront of their lives once again.
Derek opened the car door and stepped out and into the wilderness – he inhaled a cleansing breath of the fresh air – salty, organic, raw … everything it ever was and everything it would always be … he was home … they were home. He opened the back door and ducked down to help Meredith out.
"Hi," he smiled as she took his hand and emerged from the car; her small diaper bag slung over her shoulder – her eyes were bright and green; her hair moved in the wind; the apples of her cheeks, flushed – she was a radiant picture of health … a new mother.
"Hi," she sighed breathlessly. "Kiss me," she ordered, stepping forward, she titled her head up, her eyes falling on the bright blue orbs of her lover's eyes and the way they bounced with happiness against the backdrop of the looming Douglas firs.
He smiled and drew her near – her hot breath colliding with his, he held her there for the briefest of moments, awestruck by her innate beauty and the emotion the homestead conjured up for her – for she had her own share of private emotions that lived here. Smiling, he pushed his hands through her untamed waves, resting his fingers at the base of her skull, his heart quivered – damn, she was beautiful – he inched even closer still, towering over her for a beat before he pulsed his cool lips over hers, once, twice, deepening that kiss on the blessing of the start of their life here – on this land – as a family.
"I love you … so much," Meredith whispered, her heart on fire, her words carried up and into the wind like a smoke signal, up, up, up … they were home.
"I love you too," Derek whispered, his heart on fire, engulfed in those same flames now.
Meredith smiled broadly and fished her keys from the front pocket of her bag – she held them up, her golden front door key sparkled brilliantly against the bright overcast skies – she sighed, remembering once again that day in Negara when Derek had first given the cherished symbol to her – the promise of a future that was little more than a dream then – a dream that miraculously had become their full blown reality.
Derek ducked back inside the car and released the car seat from the lock and latch – he lifted the seat, sleeping baby and all – closing the door behind him, he looped the car seat through his arm, found Meredith's hand and began to walk with her, making their way up the stonework steps, the front door in view … they were home.
Meredith held the key up and slipped it into the lock, she pushed the door open, the weather stripping squeaked, releasing it's suction. She stepped over the threshold and set the key ring down on the hearth mantle and turned to find Derek. He smiled and closed the door; stepping forward, he walked into the main living area and set the car seat down in the middle of the dining table. Meredith set her bag down too.
The lover's heaved a collective sigh of relief. Derek draped his arm around Meredith's shoulders as they doted on the sleeping baby for a beat. Meredith turned into the warmth of Derek's embrace, eyes on the baby, the couple swayed in each other's arms, silently blessing their home. For they had done it … they were home and safe and sound … together, just like a dream they'd had both together and apart from one another. Home … home was where the heart was … and their hearts … were right in front of them: Ruby.
"We made it," Meredith sighed happily, she took a deep breath of the woodsy sweet air – remnants of burning fires at the hearth, sweet mangos ripening on the sill and pine, long beams of constructed wood – sweet and homey and familiar.
"Yeah … we sure did," Derek murmured, his eyes falling on Ruby, the sweet baby dreamt on in her peaceful slumber. He ducked down and kissed Meredith's perfect-fit lips, pulsing for a beat, pulling away only to catch his breath. "I should at least get the food from the car," he breathed with a smile, brushing his lover's hair away from her face. "Why don't you two get more settled –"
"No," Meredith interrupted, pressing a chaste kiss to her lover's lips; he kissed her right back. "We'll wait right here for you ... I'm not moving without you," she kissed his lips again. "We'll take a rest all together in our bed," she ordered softly, facets of her depth on display now as her eyes sparkled.
"Be right back," Derek smirked, pulling away, he pressed one more kiss to her temple, breathing her in as he did.
Meredith smiled and watched him go – a swoosh of fresh air funneled into the cabin, the door open, their world colliding with the elements outside – time inched forward, she sighed and turned toward Ruby. Carefully, she unfastened the harness straps and lifted the sleeping baby into her arms, melting from her heat. She held their miracle and rocked her, walking slowly around the living room as she did – her eyes falling on the multitude of photographs, snippets in time of their life before Ruby – Wayan, Ketut, Bali, their friends, her pack – she moved through history all the while pressing her lips to the top of the baby's head, breathing in her baby-sweet essence, letting it fill her lungs along with the essence of their home – sweet, earthy, woodsy, baby, baby, baby – she felt warm inside, despite the cooler air.
Turning, she walked back from whence she came – spying now the letters from Carolyn as they peeked out from the side pocket of her bag – she smiled tightly and crossed the room, the baby sighed in her arms. She heard Derek's footsteps and felt his presence behind her as he closed the door and then turned to find him – his eyes met hers and he smiled broadly, darting his eyes down to Ruby for a beat – before he started to put the food away, moving swiftly at the task, back and forth he went. Meredith pulled the letters free from her bag and smiled down at the sleeping baby.
"Let's put nana's letters away for now," she cooed softly as she began to move across the room. "Let's them right up here where they'll be safe," she sighed, reaching up with some effort, her muscles protesting now, she pulled the survival guide from the high shelf and turned around, Derek was at the sink washing his hands.
Meredith walked forward and Derek turned around, meeting her somewhere in the middle, he cocked his head to the side and smiled. Meredith smiled too and set the baby in Derek's waiting arms. "Welcome home, baby," he cooed softly, pressing a kiss to her soft temple. He rocked her as he walked, she felt lighter than air, but her presence was heavy … lifelong … forever.
"My head's not clear enough for this," she explained after a minute, catching his eyes with hers.
She set the book down on the dining table, it naturally fell open to reveal her letter, the one she wrote to Derek before she left for Bali. She ran her fingertips along the groove of Derek's name – remembering now how she drafted the letter and sealed it up tight and also how he hadn't read it, but showed up in Darwin anyway – she smiled through her tears and looked up to find her family waiting for her.
"You showed up …," she sighed, still reminiscing; she tilted her head up.
Derek smiled and stepped closer with the baby, draping one arm along Meredith's shoulders as they looked down at the book and her letter from her heart – that small piece of herself she amassed to him oh so long ago – his heart shook, probably as much as it did that day all those months ago, when he did indeed show up, finally in all ways: in mind, body and spirit.
"I'd still go to the end of the earth for you, you know," he professed with quiet reverence.
"And for Ruby too," she mused softly, setting the two ne letters on top of her older one.
"And for Ruby too," he vowed, holding the baby close, because he would, there was nothing he wouldn't do for this little force of nature.
Meredith closed the book and smiled. "I'll know when the time is right … maybe in a few weeks," she rambled on, full well knowing she would need more clarity to bask in the love inside Carolyn Shepherd's envelope.
She turned and walked slowly back to the bookshelf, Derek close behind her as she reached up and set the book back in its place on the high shelf – fatigue gripped her abdomen as she stretched up, up, up – and then with her feet flat on the floor again, she turned to Derek and the baby. He took her hand in his and they quietly walked down, down, down the hallway to their enclave … their safe and secret place where time would surely stop and the bonding would begin.
"Hush, now sway and fall asleep."
Satisfied the fire he just started had indeed took hold, Derek lost himself in the heat and beauty of the dark plumes of smoke and the fast licks of the flames now – watching over the wood as it crackled and hissed and burned, a slow chokehold, both calming and peaceful, yet daring and tenacious – he glanced at his watch, realizing now that he left Meredith to feed a suddenly hungry Ruby over a half an hour ago and they had yet to resurface.
The rest of the unpacking could be done later he decided now as he picked the last of the bags up and carried them down to their bedroom, promptly setting them on the floor near the door. The quiet engulfed him – the fire crackled from afar, the fresh burning wood wafted down the hallway and infiltrated their sacred space; life and time were moving on – the fire burned in the distance. He turned and walked to the pass through to the nursery, his eyes landing on Meredith's bedside table as he went – her stacks of pregnancy books already replaced with journals on newborns and the first two years of life – he smiled at her hunger for knowledge and quietly walked into the baby's room, his heart skipping a beat once his eyes found his girls.
Meredith and Ruby sleeping together, despite their arduous tasks – Ruby's eyes closed in bliss as she nursed, Meredith's bright gateways also closed – her head titled up, relaxed against the back of the oversized rocking chair; this comfortable monster of a chair she had insisted on buying (which at the time Derek had deemed too big for the room), except that now as he spied the two of them together – the sea foam green monster only seemed to scream of comfort and peace – a welcome place to bond and sleep and nurse.
He chuckled deep inside and let his eyes roam around the peaceful setting – the photos Meredith had framed fit more perfectly now that Ruby was part of the mix – for she would grow up to look at these carefully chosen moments … indelible moments they had before she was born – cherished moments in time with Wayan, the brother she would learn to love – with Ketut, the woman she would also bond with, and her parents, both smitten and saved by this island paradise he hoped she would grow up to appreciate. Unforeseen emotion pinged at his heart then, he longed for the sun and the simplicity the island had afforded them … Meredith was right; Bali always seemed to be calling.
His mind narrowly focused on the island now, Derek took a deep cleansing breath and eased himself into tranquility – focusing on the soft tones and filtered light – on her handmade 'gringsing', another reminder of their powerful, life-altering spiritual journey to the island that had saved them both together and apart from one another … this magical place wherein they were free to find and fall in love with one another all over again. It remained true; they were blessed in too many ways to count.
Drawn to the serenity he found within the 'gringsing', Derek approached the baby's crib and set his hands upon the smooth teak wood there, smiling at Meredith's attention to detail, he titled his head to the side and looked at the tapestry from an angle more akin to laying down – and therein it was the ribbons of the rice terraces that caught his attention – they wrapped around and around, reminding him of those terraces right outside the retaining wall of their suite in Ubud, bright Kelley green laced with rich, ancient soil … it was whimsical and he was captivated by the simple complexity of the design – seeing now that Meredith had paid attention to this viewpoint as well – for she knew the baby would first come to see the world from this vantage point.
Righting his head, he took a lasting deep breath and tore himself away from the island keepsake, turning once again to focus on the task at hand – maybe return some of the phone calls they had received in the last day and a half – surely he could make himself useful whilst the girls rested. Without a sound, he turned away from the crib; his eyes fell on Meredith's … she had been watching him.
"Hi," she whispered, her eyes sleepy, her heart and soul at peace, her eyes darted down to Ruby, fast asleep at her breast.
Derek crossed the small space and sat down on the ottoman across from his lover. He smiled, doting on the baby for a beat. "She's getting pretty good at that," he mused softly.
"Hmm," Meredith yawned and then giggled. "Makes me sleepy too … hard work I guess," she smiled, meeting Derek's gaze somewhere in the middle, the aura of 'them', swooping into the room, swirling all around them now as she gently released Ruby's oral hold on her nipple.
"I guess so … here, I'll take her," Derek offered, holding his hands out – Meredith carefully handed the baby to him – one hand on her heavy head, the other on her tiny tush. "Seems her diaper is still okay," he reported, holding the baby close to his chest now, he kissed the top of her soft head, breathing her in while he waited for Meredith as she fastened her maternity bra and buttoned her peasant blouse up.
She looked up and smiled when she was finished. "Naptime," she murmured with a sleepy smile as she stood – taking Derek's free hand in hers – she swayed on her feet, her eyes suddenly fatigued, her body exhausted, for it was true, breast feeding somehow wore her out.
"Naptime," Derek agreed.
Retreating now with his girls to the master bedroom, Derek first moved to Meredith's side of the bed where he held the covers back for his lover, accepting a kiss from her first – her hand meeting his at the base of the baby's skull – she pulsed her lips over his before moving down to press a tiny impression upon Ruby's sweet temple, smiling now as she slipped in between the cool linens and closed her iron-heavy eyes –basking in the quiet darkness almost – she heard Derek chuckle and listened as he shuffled to his side of the bed.
A swell of energy encapsulated her then, one that helped her open her eyes one last time – watching with keen interest as he expertly swaddled the baby and situated her on the middle of the bed – to which Meredith responded by rolling to her side, for the protective stance of a mother was already hers. Derek followed suit, his eyes meeting hers for the briefest of moments until she finally acquiesced and let him go … for now.
Once closed, Meredith's eyes strained to see – her world was black and dreamless, blackest than the blackest black, velvety and smooth and endless – no storms on the horizon, no sun high in the sky either … just black and warm and peaceful … eyes closed tight against the world moving all around her – eyes closed and vulnerable and full of trust – until what remained was the need for sleep … only that very deep sleep a new mother truly needed.
And so there she stayed – this new mother, her eyes closed against all of the ugly in the world, her protective stance still upheld, even now, even still as her miracle baby slept inside the crescent of her body – yes, all was how it should be … eyes closed tight with only her sights set on beautiful dreams – the dreams she would now make for her infant daughter – the endless hopes and dreams of a natural born mother.
And then just like so many times before – Bali was there on the horizon – no tolerance for the blackest of blacks … true to form the island appeared in the shape of a dream and therein shutters of the beautiful safe haven marred with tragedy once again swirled around in Meredith Grey's mind, an ode to this paradisaical spot on earth that had saved her so many times already that she simply had lost count.
Visions of Wayan's impervious peace filled her heart now and his energy overwhelmed her capacity to covet his love and inside this dreamscape, her mind floated to that one remarkable night – this night that solidified her longevity with Derek – the night that 'Meri House' became a reality, yet another dream come true … she was so in love it hurt.
She was full of love. Maxed out. At capacity. And yet she had more room. Her heart was bigger. Bigger than she ever imagined. Suddenly big enough to house her undying love for her newborn baby.
And there inside this moment inside this dream, Meredith found those mystical bright green eyes she had dreamed of countless times already – always a close up, always bright and carefree and multi-faceted, full of peace and oneness and newness – for those eyes of her then unborn child had repeatedly resurfaced whenever her heart teetered on breaking with love for those around her … Derek and her boy … Derek, Derek, Derek.
Tears stung her eyes now, the beautiful dream flirting with her reality – her mind vacillating for a beat – the bright green eyes, the sticky heat in Ketut's kitchen, the wild love plastered all over Derek's face, the way her heart beat, the way his beat under her palm – she was full that night, her heart at capacity, even then … but somehow the love that consumed her heart for Derek Shepherd (the greatest love she'd ever felt) paled in comparison to the love she harbored for their love-baby.
Her heart shook; a fever-chill pricked her skin and effectively woke her up – jarring her awake, her eyes popped open – where she was immediately met with Derek's endless, cloudless ocean-blue gateways. She smiled and so did he.
"Welcome back," he whispered without making a move.
"Thanks," she replied with her same soft smile.
She watched her lover then as he finally closed his tired eyes – a smile etched along his handsome face as he did – he took a deep breath, perhaps in an effort to still his heart or adjust it for size.
"Derek?" she prompted after another minute.
"Hmm," he sighed and opened his eyes, sparkling, twinkling, sleepy still.
"Do you remember that night in Ketut's kitchen – the night of 'Meri House' – the night you told me how you loved me so much … it hurt, how full of love you are for me …," she sighed breathlessly, her heart on fire with big love, her eyes wide open and awake now.
"Yeah, I do …," he answered softly, his voice cracking around the edges, his heart giving out all over again.
"Well that love has nothing on this … on her …," she sighed heavily. "I … can you … can you believe she's here? Our baby … my heart hurts, our baby Derek," she breathed through her untamed emotion. "Yours and mine," she sighed and shook her head in disbelief, despite her stretching heart, she raised herself up on one elbow, her free hand moving through Ruby's soft baby locks.
"Yours and mine … it's all I can see in her … it's us," he whispered, also balancing up on one elbow, he leaned over the sleeping baby to get to his woman. "I love you," he said simply, completely full of love and truth and honestly.
"I love you too … everything is so clear now … you're all I see … you and Ruby … you're all I see," she mused, locking wide-open eyes on her lover, on this man who had captivated her heart from the moment she first met him.
And there the lovers stayed for a long moment – basking in the innate power of 'them' – of their tenacity to test their fate and fulfill their collective destinies, their energy of big love only interrupted now by the breathless sigh of their miracle baby – wherein the doting mother looked down – only to see the pair of wide open green eyes she had dreamed of staring back at her … with quiet awe.
"Your eyes are wider than before … so little has changed but your eyes now see much more."
So, there you have it … the end of the beginning.
I hope you found joy within this story, you have to know by now that this was an introspective piece for me – this 'epfic', well, it's a paradox in its own making – and somehow when I read through it now, it transports me back to a time when there was very little light in my life … the loss of a mother, I don't know, it somehow graduated me into … another sphere, another plane where there is this ongoing gaping hole that's missing from the future. Of course, no one can tell the future, but it's hard to accept that this one influence, this one piece of my life will always be missing … in the future.
Hard to explain … but writing this story and its sequel … it helped … it distracted me … it kept me from falling apart (well, writing and of course my husband's always-open arms and the light that constantly shines from within our daughters' eyes).
Anyway, ramble aside; I hope you also found something you were looking for whilst you read this story and that maybe your eyes are wide open now too.
Thanks for reading. If you never felt compelled to leave a comment, now would be a good time to try. I'll start posting the sequel, "I Can See Clearly Now", next week – it's different and new and fresh and fun – and I can't wait.
[I m g ] h t t p : 0 / / i 6 4 2 . p h o t o b u c k e t . c o m / a l b u m s / u u 1 4 9 / l o l a c o a s t e r / i c a n s e e c l e a r l y . j p g [ / i m g ]
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