I don't know how this happens. (Actually, I do. People guilt me into continuing, and because I'm weak, I say okay.) This story idea started out as a oneshot… and it has now transformed into a two-shot. Because Derek's side of the story needs to be told, too. This is Mer's POV.
I hope this lives up to your expectations.
Part 2 of 2 will likely follow sometime this weekend.
And I appreciate your comments; drop me a line if you get a chance.
Disclaimer: I do not own Grey's Anatomy et al.
Lyrics to the song that inspired it all:
Need You Now Picture perfect memories scattered all around the floor It's a quarter after one, I'm all alone and I need you now Another shot of whiskey can't stop looking at the door It's a quarter after one I'm a little drunk and I need you now Guess I'd rather hurt than feel nothing at all It's a quarter after one I'm all alone and I need you now
Reaching for the phone 'cause I can't fight it anymore
And I wonder if I ever cross your mind?
For me it happens all the time
Said I wouldn't call but I lost all control and I need you now
And I don't know how I can do without, I just need you now
Wishing you'd come sweeping in the way you did before
And I wonder if I ever cross your mind?
For me it happens all the time
Said I wouldn't call but I lost all control and I need you now
And I don't know how I can do without I just need you now
And I said I wouldn't call but I'm a little drunk and I need you now
And I don't know how I can do without I just need you now
I just need you now
Oh, baby I need you now
Picture perfect memories scattered all around the floor
It's a quarter after one, I'm all alone and I need you now
Another shot of whiskey can't stop looking at the door
It's a quarter after one I'm a little drunk and I need you now
Guess I'd rather hurt than feel nothing at all
It's a quarter after one I'm all alone and I need you now
The mid-winter rain was relentless; it fell from the sky in thick, unforgiving sheets. Raindrops mixed with snowflakes, which mixed with the bitter, angry air, creating the perfect winter storm. The rain pelted the windowpanes in the old Colonial home, the windows rattled as the wind blew, which made for the perfect soundtrack for not sleeping. As if she'd be able to sleep anyways -- it had been a long, trying, impossible day. She was sick to her stomach, her head felt as if it would explode at any moment now, she was angry, she was scared, she was distraught… of all the things she was and wasn't, the part that stung the most was the new, empty feeling of loneliness. The fact that she was now alone in this world, except for her friends from work and her beautiful little girl, terrified her.
She had never been one to rely on others; growing up as Ellis Grey's daughter, if anything, had taught her that. As a child, she spent most of her time alone, never making time for friends or any sort of fun. She worked her ass off in school so she wouldn't need her mother's financial dependence and earned a full ride scholarship to Columbia, which was clear across the country - as far away as she could get from her mother and step-father. There, she decided to pursue a degree in biology, which provided a stepping-stone for her career as a doctor. She went to Dartmouth for Medical school, choosing to remain on the East coast. During her M1 year, she met her first boyfriend, Derek Shepherd, who was the first person she ever loved ... and the first person she ever allowed herself to depend on.
They dated for nearly four years, all through Medical school; she gave him everything she had. Then somehow, something shifted, and as quickly as he entered her life, he left it; she was left alone again. Their break-up wasn't mutual, they didn't leave the relationship as friends... she was completely blindsided and devastated by Derek's actions. He hadn't ever tried to explain; instead, he issued her the standard "it's not you, it's me" line. He told her to call him is she ever needed or wanted anything, but she was too stubborn (and proud) to give him that satisfaction. She did the best to push every memory - both good and bad - away and out of sight, packing every memento - pictures, little gifts, cards and letters - into a cardboard box.
Within months, she met Andy Campbell, an up-and-coming novelist, who became the second - and current - love of her life.
Their romance is what could only be described as a whirlwind. They dated for just six months before he asked her to marry him - a proposal she graciously and eagerly accepted. Her mother was elated; she published the engagement announcement in both The New York Times and The Seattle Times. Meredith had received hundreds of gifts and congratulatory messages (only one remained unopened - instead, it was placed into the cardboard box in the basement); she spent the little free time she had away from Seattle Grace, where she had chosen to complete her internship, planning for the wedding.
The ceremony was beautiful and traditional; hundreds of guests (mostly her parents' colleagues and Andy's publishing team, of course) attended the black-tie affair. Every moment of that day was photographed, and each photo made its way into a large, white photo album that was always on display in their home. They bought the house shortly after they returned from the honeymoon; it was everything they could have ever wanted or needed. They pored over every last detail of the home, remodeling it so it would be perfect for their eventual family. Within eight months of their marriage, Meredith learned she was pregnant, and the timing - considering that her intern year was just about over and she'd at least be secure in her residency by the time the baby was born - was almost perfect.
Their daughter, Lilah Noelle Campbell, was born exactly on her due date. She quickly became their sole focus; both Meredith and Andy took leaves of absence from their jobs to tend to the infant. She looked like a carbon copy of Meredith, but had Andy's calm, easy-going disposition.
Meredith took a deep breath as tears cascaded down her cheeks. That was already two and a half years ago - back when things were perfect, back when her life was in order. She trained her eyes on the large picture window that looked out into the backyard, watching as the rain-snow mix left trails of precipitation on the glass. She pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders, involuntarily shivering as a sob escaped her lips. Her body trembled as she took a deep breath and tried to keep her thoughts somewhat happy.
"Mama?" a little voice whispered. Meredith sat up quickly, tearing her attention away from the window. She haphazardly wiped at her cheeks and eyes, letting the blanket fall back onto the leather couch.
"What's wrong, baby?" her voice cracked. She shivered; she knew what was wrong. "Come here, Lilah."
The little girl stepped into the room, her bare feet padding across the hardwood flooring in what had been Andy's study. She put her thumb in her mouth and dragged her baby blanket behind her; Meredith melted. Meredith pulled her baby girl into her lap and snuggled her close, breathing in the scent of her hair - baby shampoo mixed with Ivory soap mixed with childhood innocence. Lilah rested her head on Meredith's chest, still sucking her thumb - a habit both Meredith and Andy desperately tried to get her to break, and it had been working, too, until this week from hell began. She twirled her hair with her chubby fingers as Meredith placed a kiss atop her head of golden curls.
"I can't go sleepy," Lilah said softly as she looked up into her mother's eyes. "I want Daddy."
The little girl's confession hit Meredith like a ton of bricks. She took a deep breath, feeling as if she had been sucker-punched, as if all of the air had been sucked out of her lungs. Fresh tears lined her eyes; she took a deep, gasping breath as she tried to prevent them from falling. "Baby, you know...," she began, words failing her as Lilah watched her intently. She didn't know. She couldn't know; she wasn't even three. Two-year-olds don't understand death.
"Daddy's in Heaven," the little girl whispered. "That's what aunt Izzie said."
Meredith nodded. "Daddy's in heaven, Lil. He's still watching us, and protecting us," she said, if only to fill the silence. She didn't necessarily believe it; she didn't believe in many things anymore, but... something made her say that. The little girl accepted this answer; she nodded and pressed her head back down onto Meredith's chest. Meredith kissed her head again as silent tears trickled down her cheeks. Silence - and the sounds of the winter storm - consumed the mother-daughter duo as they snuggled, safe and warm in one another's arms. About ten minutes passed before Lilah yawned and her eyes fluttered lazily as she tried to fight off sleep. "Let's get you tucked into bed, baby," Meredith whispered. Her little girl nodded in response, her thumb still in her mouth, her baby blanket hanging down and nearly touching the floor.
Meredith sighed as she stood, surprisingly steady on her feet; she thought she'd wobble or stumble, but her balance remained intact. She shifted her daughter's weight in her arms, scooping the rest of the cashmere baby blanket up as not to trip, as she crossed the study. Another tear slipped down her cheek as she closed the glass French door behind her; the door clicked shut, the glass rattling slightly, and ... it felt final. She quickened her pace and climbed the stairs, the wooden staircase creaking beneath their shifting weight. Lilah quickly grew heavy in her mother's arms; luckily, her lilac-colored nursery was the first door on the right. Meredith stepped into the room, which was fit for a princess, and flipped the light on. Lilah's eyes snapped shut in protest of the light; Meredith apologized and placed a kiss on her forehead as she crossed the nursery. She put the little girl in the brand-new 'big girl bed' and tucked her in. She covered her with her sheets and blankets, and the little girl held her security blanket tightly in her hands.
Lilah's big green eyes fluttered open and closed. "I love you, Mama," she whispered, her voice sweet and melodic. "To the moon and back."
"I love you, too, little one," Meredith replied, smoothing Lilah's flyaway curls away from her perfect little face. She bent down and kissed her cheek, and within seconds, the little girl surrendered to sleep, her eyes closing peacefully. "To the moon and back."
Meredith stayed in the room, perched at the edge of the toddler bed, watching her little girl sleep. As much as she still looked like Meredith, all Meredith could see was Andy; the way the little girl's lips popped open slightly when she inhaled, the way her nose wrinkled slightly as she breathed out, even the position in which she slept was all Andy. Meredith watched her for a few more minutes; tears flowed down her cheeks. How would she ever explain this to her little girl?
She stood quickly and crossed the room; she turned the light off, and the castle-shaped nightlight popped on, illuminating the nursery a little bit. Meredith left the door open, just a crack, as she stepped out of the room. She leaned up against the wall, exhaling a deep breath, a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. She sobbed freely now, gasping for air as the memories of last Monday overtook her mind...
It was just after seven p.m.; in just two more hours, Meredith could stop being a doctor, a hero, and return to her family and home. She was mentally exhausted; one of her favorite patients had, unfortunately, perished on the table earlier in the morning. The sleet that was falling angrily from the sky didn't help her mood much, either. She just wanted to go home, eat some cold leftovers, kiss her baby girl good night and snuggle up in bed beside her husband. Her ringing cell phone interrupted her thoughts.
"This is Dr. Campbell," she said into the receiver.
"Dr. Campbell, this is Shannon... from the day care center?"
Meredith's breath hitched in her throat. "Is everything okay, Shannon?"
"I was... well, it's just that...," she said, taking a deep breath before she continued. "The center closes in 15 minutes, and your husband hasn't picked Lilah up yet. We can't get a hold of him... now, it's no big deal, she's fine here, playing with the other kids. Was someone else supposed to get her today?"
"I, uh... no," Meredith replied. "Andy was supposed to pick her up an hour ago, at the usual time. He must be writing. I'll see if I can reach him... and get someone to take the rest of my shift. I'll be there soon, okay?"
"It's fine, Dr. Campbell - really. She's a sweetheart."
"Thank you, Shannon. And thanks for calling," Meredith said, rubbing her fingers over the bridge of her nose. She hung the phone up and dropped it back into her lab coat pocket. She sighed as her pager rang out, its ring loud and shrill. 911 to the pit. She frowned as she quickened her pace, opting for the stairs instead of the elevator.
The emergency room was packed and chaotic, nurses and doctors were scrambling everywhere. "What's going on?" Meredith asked a nurse.
"There was a rollover MVA on the freeway... five or six cars were involved. We've got one more ambulance, ETA five minutes, Dr. Campbell," the nurse quickly explained before turning on her heel to tend to a group of patients.
Meredith took a deep breath; she pulled her phone out of her pocket and dialed Andy's number. It rang six times before she got his voicemail; she didn't leave a message. Instead, she texted Izzie and asked her to pick Lilah up, pulled her hair into a sloppy ponytail, and focused solely on the task at hand.
"Campbell, you've got the incoming trauma, according to EMTs, looks like a suspected closed-head injury," the ER resident rambled, his voice somehow calm and commanding. She nodded as she tied the gown's laces behind her neck and slipped her hands into a pair of gloves.
The sound of sirens filled the air now, insistent, loud and distinct, signaling the arrival of the impending trauma. The ambulance doors flew open; EMTs jumped out, rattling statistics.
Driver. 36-year-old male. Pupils unresponsive. BP falling. Weak pulse.
"Dr. Campbell! Dr. Campbell!" the trauma resident yelled as Meredith stared at the victim on the gurney.
"Holy shit...," one of Meredith's friends, Alex, said as he stood beside her.
"What is it Karev?" the older doctor barked at the younger resident.
"It's her husband," he explained, watching as Meredith's face fell, and tears lined her eyes, threatening to fall. She kept her eyes trained on the gurney as the trauma team moved it into the hospital. The trauma resident barked fresh orders; Alex quickly followed him into the hospital.
She couldn't move. Bile rose in her throat. She wanted to scream. She wanted to help. She wanted to...
... but she couldn't.
"Meredith!" Cristina called out as she pushed her way through the thick crowd of doctors who were standing in her way. She uncharacteristically threw her arms around her best friend and pulled her in for a tight hug; she rubbed Meredith's back in slow circles.
"How bad is it, Cristina?" she croaked out.
Cristina paused, and she knew. Cristina had 'the look' on her face - the look that doctors get when they tell their patients' families that they did everything they could, that they were sorry, but that they had lost the patient.
"Just say it," Meredith whispered.
Cristina shook her head; a single tear trickled down her cheek. "He wouldn't respond to anything... they think his aorta was shredded in the accident, Mer," she whispered into her friend's ear. "I'm so sorry."
Meredith stifled a sob as she pulled away from her friend. She slowly walked back into the hospital; the nosy gathering of busybody nurses and doctors parted like the Red Sea as she made her way back into the emergency room. She avoided eye contact; she didn't want their looks of sympathy or pity. She made her way into trauma bay one, where Alex pulled her into a tight hug before drawing the blinds closed, giving them a moment of privacy. She stared at her husband - a victim in all of this, a drunk driving accident at six p.m., unusual but not unheard of - she wanted to say so many things. Her mind flashed to all of the future memories they'd never share, the 'I love yous' that would remain forever unexchanged, and to her little girl, who worshiped the ground her father walked on.
This couldn't be happening; everything was perfect. His newest novel was hitting the stores in a week, she was climbing - slowly but surely - to the top of the surgical food chain, their little girl was brilliant, beautiful, amazing, the center of their universe... and now...
Everything would change.
She pounded her fist against the wall, angry with herself for allowing those memories to take control again. She wiped her tears from her cheeks and turned the hallway light off. By this time, it was nearly one a.m., and she knew she wouldn't be able to sleep at all, not after the day she had. Not after that funeral; the funeral that, at only 32, she should have never had to have planned. She padded down the stairs and into the kitchen, which was littered with what seemed like hundreds of floral arrangements and trays of desserts and casseroles. She wanted to throw all of them away, to clean her kitchen so the smell of flowers was replaced by the scent of Lysol and Clorox, but she couldn't. She'd have to go through each and every one of them and write thank-you notes, which unfortunately didn't allow for her to scoop everything up and toss it into trash bags and bins.
She smiled sadly, realizing exactly how many lives both she and her husband touched. Her smile almost instantly dissolved; she couldn't be bothered by any of that now - she needed to readjust her focus and think about something else or else her head would surely explode. She sighed and crossed the room; she pulled the cabinet beneath the sink open, effectively breaking the baby lock that Andy had installed. She froze and picked the white lock up, holding it gingerly between her fingers, and she was unable to stop fresh tears from cascading down her cheeks. Meredith reached into the cupboard and pulled a bottle of vodka out; normally, she'd prefer tequila, but tonight was different. Everything was different.
She didn't bother grabbing a glass; instead, she headed straight for the living room, where boxes of photo albums and other mementos of their life together. She sat down Indian-style, leaning up against the couch for support. She took a swig of the clear liquid, feeling the familiar burn as it made its way down her throat, and pulled a box of photographs toward her.
She thumbed through Lilah's baby book, smiling and almost laughing as she reminisced, thinking about how much Lilah changed her life. Half of it was still empty; Izzie bought one that was for ages zero through five - so nearly half of the pages were still blank, waiting to be filled with pictures of the little girl who was growing up far too quickly for her mother's taste. She sighed, taking another sip of vodka before setting the book down and grabbing another. She continued this pattern - drink, thumb through photos, laugh, cry, drink - for what felt like forever. Each photo album was neatly stacked, the room somewhat organized now, and she felt a little bit better. She twisted her wedding bad around her finger as she looked around the room, trying to figure out what to do next.
That's when she spotted it - her 'Derek' box. Alex must have brought it upstairs with the other picture boxes,' she thought to herself. She crawled across the living room floor and sat back down beside the box. She took a deep breath and pulled at the tape on the lid, unsealing a large part of her past. She reached inside and pulled the first photo album out. She sighed, realizing that she left her half-empty bottle of vodka across the room. Oh, well - she couldn't avoid it any longer, could she? She was already dealing with more than she could comprehend - either sober or inebriated; she might as well face all of her demons.
She opened the first photo album. It held photos, articles, letters and printed out copies of e-mails... everything from the first year and a half of their relationship. Inside the box were two more photo albums, each of them held contents similar to the first one. She reached into the box and pulled out two jewelry boxes; one held the pair of diamond earrings he had given her at their graduation. The other held the modest engagement ring that he had given her at Christmas the previous year. The more she thought about it, the more she didn't understand, especially now... but like most things in her life seem to, their engagement crashed and burned. She sat up on her knees to put everything back in its place in the box.
Meredith wiped the tears from her cheeks, and as she held the pile of photo albums, she noticed an aging envelope. She dropped the albums onto the floor, their contents spilling out all over the place - just another mess that she'd have to clean up later. Meredith grabbed for the envelope; its postmark date was from nearly five years ago - just about the time that she and Andy were engaged. Then she remembered; the letter from Derek. She traced her fingertip over the familiar scrawl.
She chewed on her lower lip. Should she or shouldn't she? There probably, honestly, would never be an appropriate time for her to open it, so she crawled across the room, returning to the couch (and her bottle of vodka). She sat up, took a swig of the alcohol, and, without second thought, ripped the faded envelope open.
She read the words quickly, the tears that were forming in her eyes making everything blurry.
It is with a happy, heavy heart that I am sending this letter to you. I am happy for you and happy that you are moving on... that you have found someone who makes you happy... someone who loves you, and whom you love in return. It's all I've ever wanted for you... you know that, don't you?
I admit that I was surprised (but mostly jealous) when I saw the wedding announcement in the Times. Of course, we could have had this, but I walked away. And I know that I've never given you an explanation, though you deserve one. You do. The simple fact of the matter is ... I don't have one. I was selfish. I didn't think.
That's neither here nor there, though; the point of this letter was to first and foremost congratulate you. I hope we can someday be friends, Meredith. You will forever be an important person in my life.
If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to call. My phone is always on.
All my love,
The letter fluttered to the ground slowly, almost teasing her. She buried her head in her hands; if there were ever a time where she would need Derek, this would surely be it. He was there for her when she failed her first exam. He was there for her when her father passed away. He was there for every big moment in her life for four years - and then he walked away. She almost felt guilty about not opening the letter - he had meant well, of course, but perhaps his ... betrayal... had stung more than she had ever realized. She sighed, taking another small sip of the vodka.
She reached for the home phone, pulling it from its cradle on the end table beside the couch. She set the bottle onto the table and held the phone in her hands; she stared down at the number pad. His phone number was still imprinted in her mind, of course, as if the last time she called it was only days- instead of years - ago. She sighed again and chewed on her bottom lip. If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to call.
Her heart was nearly beating out of her chest. She silently prayed, hoped, wished that his number was the same; it'd be even more embarrassing if it wasn't. She slowly dialed the numbers and pressed the phone to her ear. It rang once, twice, three times before he picked up. "Hello?" his tired voice answered.
She took a deep breath; he actually answered. She had to say something. So she said the only word she could. "Derek?"
Part two of two to follow