Better Together

A Grey's Anatomy fic by Gigi

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Chapter 4: Guilt and Growing Up

A/N: So I just looked at the last time I updated this and hung my head in shame. I am so sorry for taking almost a year to get this next chapter up! I have realized how much of a problem my storyline ADD has become, and so I'm slowly but surely chipping away at how many multi-chaps I have going right now. Hopefully, that'll make my updates so much more regular. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter!

Sweat seemed to be coming out of Alex's every pore. Richard Weber-the Chief-had just walked in on him having (and very much enjoying) an incredibly intimate moment with his boss, who just happened to be like a daughter to the doctor currently glaring at him from his seat behind his desk. Addison, whom Alex could see from the corner of his eye, seemed relatively unfazed. But then again, the Chief wasn't glaring at her.

Of course, she's calm, idiot, Alex reprimanded himself. It's not like her job is on the line here.

It was true. Everyone knew Richard was too over the moon that Addison was back working for him-at least for a little while-to do anything that might drive her away.

Hence the death glare being directed at Alex and Alex alone.

"Dr. Karev," the Chief started after what felt like a decade of silence to the resident. "I'm not going to yell at you for getting involved with your boss, what with the obscene amount of lawsuit-worthy bedhopping going on around here." Alex let out a relieved sigh- "But I am going to yell at you for jeopardizing your working relationship with Dr. Montgomery less than two weeks after Stevens left you with divorce papers." -too soon. "This is far from the appropriate time to get romantically involved with anyone. Rebound relationships only end up painfully, and I will not have you chase away Dr. Montgomery."

Alex wanted so badly to let his jaw drop as he continued to listen to the Chief of Surgery lecture him on all the negative consequences that could come from him using the woman sitting beside him as a rebound from his failed marriage. Romantic advice coming from a boss who had scared him on multiple occasions was more than disconcerting.

But, Alex thought as guilt began to pool in his stomach, did he have a point? Was it too early to pursue Addison? He didn't want to chase her away again. Would starting something now eventually send her running back to LA?

As Alex and Addison walked out of Richard's office and stopped in the middle of the bridge, the former was completely overridden with guilt. He'd been insanely stupid in the NICU. He hadn't thought about just how easily starting something and messing it up could push her away. He hadn't thought about how he'd put them in a similar situation three years ago and how he did make her leave then. He hadn't thought.

"I'm sorry." The sound of Addison's voice ripped Alex out of his reverie.

"About what?" he asked, genuinely confused. It should have been him apologizing to her, not the other way around.

"About Richard spending the last twenty minutes scolding you. It was my fault, and I'm sorry about that," she explained as she glanced out the giant glass window they faced.

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes at her sometimes annoying sense of professionalism, Alex turned towards Addison and gently nudged her to follow suit. "You have nothing to apologize for," he insisted, looking directly into that clear blue gaze. "But I do." Alex took a deep breath. He could only hope that the damage to their relationship hadn't already been done. "I never once thought of you as a rebound, but the Chief made you realize that, if I continued any kind of romantic relationship with you right now, you would be. And I really don't want that. I've missed you more than I realized, and I don't want to hurt you and make you leave again just because I couldn't wait to get over my divorce."

Addison's eyebrows climbed more and more into her hairline with every passing word, but she didn't respond when he quieted. The silence between them stretched for a good 30 seconds before Alex couldn't take it anymore. "Please say something," he all but begged.

A small, almost proud smile made its way onto the redhead's face. "You really have grown up, haven't you?"

Blushing, Alex dropped his gaze and mumbled something about how he didn't feel like he had. Honestly, at that moment, he felt like a bumbling teenager. How was that growing up?

Addison merely shook her head. "Three years ago, you would have just come up with some lame excuse and claimed you weren't interested." The fact that he had done that exact thing twice three years ago went unsaid, though both were thinking it. She stuck out her hand as an offering. "Friends?"

Alex nodded and shook the proffered hand. He made sure to drop her hand within the appropriate time frame for friends. None of the lingering touches they'd bandied back and forth all week would fly now. "Thanks for being so cool about all of this."

Addison shrugged. "I get it, you know? I went through the same thing with Mark, only I didn't step away when I should have." She took one look at Alex's somewhat disbelieving face at her utter calmness and laughed. "Maybe some of that zen crap Pete's always talking about actually sunk in."

They began to walk off the bridge in decidedly lighter spirits than they had been in when crossing that same bridge just half an hour beforehand. Just as they reached the hallway, Alex asked, "Who's Pete?"

Possibly for the first time, Addison actually told him about some aspects of her life in LA. On their way to the NICU, Alex heard about her close friendship with the alternative medicine practitioner, about how they took care of each other no matter what drama went on in the office, about how they remained close even after he moved to the other practice in their building. "We have a no judgement friendship, which was kind of a godsend this past year."

"Why do you say that?" Alex pressed. He itched to ask her if she had feelings for this guy, the way she went on about him, but their friendship was too new to allow jealousy into the mix.

Addison waved away the question. "I felt like I was living in a soap opera, it got so out of hand. But it's too long to tell you right now. We have charts to sign."

By "we," she meant he had charts to sign. No sooner had they reached the NICU that she handed him a pen and bid him to have fun. She had an early dinner date with Callie and Bailey to get to.

Three women sat around a table in the middle of the deli next door to Joe's bar, giggling every few minutes as they caught up with each other and heard each other's anecdotes from the past year. Were anybody from their work to have seen them, they would have wondered if they were hallucinating, because, as fair as their co-workers knew, Addison Forbes Montgomery, Callie Torres and Miranda Bailey did not giggle. At the hospital, they were more often seen with stern expressions, considering the fact that they always seemed to stumble upon the lazy interns or gossipy residents.

But outside the hospital, the three surgeons could not have looked more carefree. Even Addison, given all the drama in her life lately, thought it was weird. Not that she was complaining.

"God, I've missed you guys," she sighed as she sipped her water.

"You? I've missed watching people suddenly become productive as soon as they hear your heels from down the hall," Callie laughed. "I forgot how amusing that was."

Addison shrugged. "I don't know why. I only called out one person, and that was only because he was hitting on me instead of filling out his charts."

Bailey shook her head. "I swear, Avery is just like Karev used to be as an intern."

"Down to the cockiness," Callie agreed.

"Who knows? Maybe you'll rub off on Avery, too," Bailey prompted.

Something in the tone of her voice had Addison treading carefully. "What do you mean?" she asked cautiously.

"I already told you how much you influenced Karev, and that I think he'll end up following in your footsteps," Bailey explained. "You really got him to calm down and turned him onto the path to becoming an excellent surgeon."

"And you think it would be the same way with Dr. Avery," Addison extrapolated, eliciting two decisive nods from her friends. Hesitation laced her voice as she shook her head. "I'm not sure I would want to repeat that."

"Why not?" Bailey paused in eating her sandwich in favor of watching her friend pick tentatively at her Caesar salad.

Because I fell for Alex, and he broke my heart and made me move to LA, the redhead itched to answer, but the truth was obviously not going to fly well with Bailey. Deciding to leave out the more pertinent-and incriminating-details, she said, "Because I don't want to go back to being the person I was three years ago. I would like to think I've grown at least a little since then." She studiously avoided Callie's gaze, knowing her best friend knew her words were maybe a quarter of the actual reason for not wanting Avery to be just like Karev.

"I don't think that would make you go back to being the person you were three years ago."

"One Karev at a time is more than enough, Miranda," Addison responded dryly. "I'm already acting like I used to when I was his teacher. I'd rather not regress anymore."

Callie remained silent, mulling over her friend's words as she watched said friend attempt to change the subject without rousing Bailey's interest overmuch. She had no doubt Addison would be able to get through to Avery like she had with Karev, but she understood her reluctance to do so. What had Callie curious was what had happened since her best friend's return to Seattle. Already acting like she used to? kept floating around in Callie's mind, and it's all she could focus on.

Finally, Addison had had enough. "Miranda, while I am flattered by your vote of confidence in my abilities to teach and tame cocky interns, it's not what I came back to do. I came back to find my replacement. I'm here for a month," she declared. Provided Richard manages to stay sober without my help, she added on silently. "I'm not hear for half a year, which is how long it took for me to get through to Karev."

Disappointed, Bailey backed down. "Fine. I guess that's true, although I still think you should stay here for good."

"Agreed," Callie interjected.

Addison rolled her eyes. "I feel like we have this conversation at least once a day."

"Be happy you're loved," Callie suggested, patting Addison on the arm and earning a fond smile. Soon, the three were giggling once again about Hunt's singing at the Christmas party.

Alex had just finished signing all the charts when Christina Yang poked her head into the NICU. The intimidating resident had a suspicious smile on her face, as if she knew she was about to learn some extremely valuable gossip.

"What do you want, Yang?" Alex asked disinterestedly, standing up and checking on the preemies.

"Why were you and Addison in the Chief's office?" the Asian resident pried, coming fully into the NICU.

Had she not been looking for some kind of reaction, Christina would have missed the way Alex froze in his movements for half a second before continuing to check Baby Carver's heartbeat. But she had, and she saw. Her smile widened, looking like an Asian Cheshire Cat. "Well?"

Alex's mind was racing to come up with anything other than the truth. Not only would telling her that the Chief walked in on them kissing thoroughly embarrass the both of them, but that news would also eventually make its way back to Izzie. Even if she was the one who left without any regards for his feelings, hearing that her soon-to-be ex-husband had already moved on less than two weeks after being served with divorce papers would have hurt her-a lot. "Um," he scrambled for something believable, "he just wanted to touch base with us about the preemie I saved to weeks ago. Her mother is being discharged soon and wants to know when she can take her home."

"Hm," Christina pretended to consider the validity of his answer. "I don't believe you."

A sigh escaped Alex's mouth. "Sorry to break it to you, but not everything in the world exists based solely on the fact that you believe it does."

Christina waved off the snarky comment. "What are you up to?"

"What are you talking about?" Alex kept his eyes trained on Baby Caver, not wanting the other resident to see the lie in his eyes.

"Why won't you just tell me why you and Addison were talking to the Chief?" Christina demanded.

God, she was persistent! "I already told you, Christina. It was just an update on Baby Brickman, nothing else."

"Then why won't you look at me?" Christina retorted, victory ringing in her voice. She had him cornered now. He'd have to tell her the truth.

But her victory was celebrated too soon, for Alex was saved from any further questioning by possibly the sweetest sound on the planet at that moment in time: his boss's voice. "Ah, coming to join Dr. Karev on my service, Dr. Yang?" Addison greeted as she squeezed past the resident into the NICU.

"Um, no, Dr. Montgomery," Christina denied, suddenly quite respectful.

"Then I would appreciate it if you wouldn't harass my resident, Dr. Yang," Addison declared sternly. "Especially when you should be assisting Dr. Altman in the bypass surgery she's scrubbing in for right now."

Christina was out of the NICU and down the hall in two seconds flat.

"Thank you so much," Alex breathed. "She wouldn't leave me alone."

Addison shrugged. "No problem. What was she bugging you about, anyway?"

"Gossip," he growled slightly, causing his boss to quirk an eyebrow at him. "Uh, so how was dinner?"

The next ten minutes consisted of both of them practicing their skills at half-truths and avoiding the issue of their pushy and persistent friends. Addison pretended as if she hadn't been urged to turn Jackson Avery into another Alex Karev success story, and Alex pretended as if he hadn't just been interrogated about why they had been seen sitting in the Chief's office. And they both pretended that they were completely fine with just being friends. They pretended so well, in fact, that they even fooled themselves for those ten minutes.

A/N: This felt like a weird chapter for me. I can't decide if I like how it turned out. Anyway, I am so sorry, once again, for taking so long to update this! Please don't take out your anger on me by not reviewing. Reviews are my lifeline. Without them, I drown in a sea of jumbled words. So please, keep me alive and REVIEW!