Disclaimer: I don't own Grey's or its characters. I only own Steven and Addie.:)
Summary: They're surgeons, they fight death every day. But explaining it to their six year old children proves to be a challenge they're not prepared for, both as parents and surgeons. Prequel to Trip Down Memory Lane, but can be not necessarily related. MerDer and Owentina.
(This actually happened, unfortunately. Last week, in the town where I live a little boy has been killed when a swing fell on him. This is in his memory. May he rest in peace.)
"Coffee? It'll warm you up" Meredith offered a shivering Cristina.
"No, thanks, my stomach seems to be on strike this morning, everything makes me sick" her friend mumbled.
"You are sick" Meredith shrugged. "You should be at home, in bed, not working".
"If I'd stayed home, Owen would have been hovering and he has better things to do on his day off than babysitting me. Besides, I'm fine, it's just the flu" Cristina explained, retrieving her scrub pants from her locker.
"You sound so much like Cristina Yang, the intern also known as surgery junkie. Just the flu ..." but she stopped and turned to Cristina with wide eyes only to be met by a matching expression on her friend's face.
"You think ..." Meredith started.
"Nah ..." Cristina quickly dismissed the question "It's the flu". But her mind was saying otherwise. Could she be pregnant? The thought wasn't as scary as it had been years ago. Cristina Yang, the intern wanted a career. Cristina Yang, the attending, knew she could have both. I have them already, she thought lifting her gaze to a photo she kept in her locker. Her son's smile warmed her heart.
"Come to think of it, it is cold outside. No wonder you've got the flu"
"Yeah ..." Cristina agreed. "Who in his right mind would take the children to the park on such a weather?" she asked.
"My husband and your boyfriend" Meredith answered and they both laughed.
Derek sighed and sat on the bench next to Owen. Maybe coming to the park hadn't been such a good idea after all. Maybe they should have settled for a movie on his and Meredith's living room couch. The only problem was Steven and Addie would never agree on the movie. And when finally someone suggested watching both movies, they would argue over which one to watch first. Plus he needed to go out and breathe fresh air and he suspected Owen felt the same. Thanksgiving week-end hadn't been this busy in years.
"She's still cranky?" Owen asked and Derek nodded.
"I don't know what's wrong with her ..." he sighed looking over to were his daughter stood. Addie seemed to be angry with everyone that particular morning, but Derek was pretty sure he was top of the list. He suspected him being called to the hospital in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner had something to do with it. He knew he had to make up to her for that. To Meredith, too.
He started with Addie, suggesting they check out her favorite swing. She usually loved to swing in it because it was exactly like the one at Meredith's old house only larger so more people could fit in. But today she wouldn't have it. Today she didn't want to play at all. So she stood there, at the edge of the playground alone, sulking.
"She probably hates me" he said bitterly.
"Yeah ... Steven hates me, too, sometimes. Especially when I get paged on my day off. But he comes around, eventually. So will she. They love us and they know how much we love them" Owen told him.
They watched as Steven approached Addie and told her something that apparently got her out of her self-imposed isolation, because she smiled at her best friend and followed him to the monkey bars.
"See? She's doing better already. Thanks to my thoughtful son" Owen grinned.
Derek checked his watch, then scanned the playground for the two kids. They had to leave soon if they wanted to make it to the hospital in time to have lunch with Meredith and Cristina.
"I guess ten more minutes would be okay" he said turning back to Owen to resume their conversation.
They didn't look away from them for more than a second when they heard cries of panic accompanied by a horrible screech and the large swing bent forward and fell with a loud thud.
"DADDY!!!" Addie and Steven cried at the same time. Other children probably did, too, but Derek and Owen each registered their own child's cry.
She was right by the swing!, Derek's mind shouted as both he and Owen ran towards the spot desperately trying to see Addie and Steven. There were a few kids crying and running towards panic stricken parents, two little girls trying to pick themselves up and ... right under the fallen swing there was a small form lying motionless. A kid was trapped under the swing! he realized just as something collided with his legs. He looked down and relief washed over him when he saw Addie. She was shaking and sobbing but she was okay!
He picked her up and hugged her and couldn't help a selfish feeling of gratitude that it wasn't his child lying on the ground ...
Owen thought nothing could ever scare him anymore. He thought he had seen it all. Seen it and lived it. But when he saw there was a child under the fallen swing he felt the earth spinning under his feet. It only lasted for a split second until he spotted Steven a few steps away, in one piece although shocked and scared, but he would never forget the overwhelming fear that took over him.
Once he made sure Steven was indeed alright, his mind switched to doctor mode and with the help of other shocked fathers managed to lift the swing in order to reach the child. One of the men let out a loud gasp at the sight. The child, a little boy, wasn't moving while a pool of blood formed rapidly beneath his head. Owen feared the worst.
"Someone call 911!" he instructed.
"My baby!" a piercing cry followed Owen's voice as a woman tried to get closer to the child.
Derek stepped in trying to stop her. He knew her. Her son had gone to kindergarden with Addie.
"You're a doctor" the woman cried. "I know you are. Help my Danny! Please! Don't let my baby die!"
"Derek!" he also heard Owen's voice calling him.
He struggled to pull himself back together. He was still holding Addie. His baby was okay. But he had to try and save this woman's baby. He had to. He squatted and gently placed his daughter down next to Steven.
"I'll be right back, okay?" he reassured her. "It's okay, you're okay. Nothing's going to happen to you, okay?" he said looking at both kids. Steven nodded and took Addie's hand.
"Daddy?" Addie called.
"Is Danny dead?" she whispered.
"I ... I hope not, baby ..."
But when he approached the he knew. He noticed the awkward position of the small body, then the blood. Then he looked at Owen who shook his head slightly.
They tried CPR fighting to bring him back. Then the ambulance came and the paramedics took over and carried on for almost an hour ...
She had been sent to the ambulance bay to wait for a patient with head trauma. But she could tell by the paramedics demeanor that it wasn't good.
"Daniel Saunders, age six, head trauma due to a playground swing falling on him. He was already dead when we got there. You need to declare him ..."
A playground swing ... Addie loved swings ... Addie was at the playground with Derek ...
"What did you say his name was?" she asked.
"Um, Saunders. Daniel Saunders, age six" the paramedic repeated.
"Dr. Grey, are you okay?" someone asked.
Danny Saunders ... She suddenly felt nauseous.
"Dr. Grey you have to call it!" the paramedic said, just as her pager started beeping.
Derek pit, it read.
"Dr. Mallory, can you take over?" she asked the resident that had been assigned to her for the day. The younger doctor nodded and Meredith could leave.
She found her husband sitting on chair in the pit, their daughter curled up in his lap.
"Derek ..." she called.
"Mommy!" Addie cried and Meredith reached out and took her from Derek. She buried her little face in her mother's hair and started sobbing.
"Shhh ... it's okay, baby, mommy's got you" she soothed her rubbing circles on her back.
Her daughter's tears and the pained expression on Derek's face broke her heart.
"You, um ... should go change. We'll go in your office until she calms down" she told him squeezing his hand briefly. "You know where to find me if you need me ..."
"So the damn thing just fell?" Mark asked Owen.
"Yes, Mark, I've already told you". Owen didn't like to talk about it. Every time he thought about the dead little boy he remembered that it could have been his little boy. A few steps away, Steven was absently pushing a toy car. Back and forth ... Back and forth ...
"Yeah, I know, it's just that ... with Lexie's pregnancy ... I love my baby already and I don't even know him or her. I don't even want to think that I could lose it somehow. But to get to know your child, raise him for six years and then to be taken away from you like that. One moment you're a parent and then the next you're just ... not?"
He was interrupted by Meredith entering the attendings lounge.
"Hey" she greeted them, then turned to Owen "Are you okay?"
"Yeah" he answered. "I'm worried about Steven, however. He hasn't asked a single question, hasn't cried ..."
"Addie's been crying a lot" Meredith said.
"Exactly. She's scared. Steven is, too, but he's playing though" Owen shrugged.
"Like mother, like son"
"Right. But just like his mother he'll have to break down eventually ..."
"Where's Cristina, by the way?" Meredith asked.
"Yang's in the bathroom puking her guts out" Mark's answer came before Owen could say anything.
"What do you mean again?" Owen asked.
"She's been doing that all day" she answered. "Um ... I was thinking maybe you'd like to come over to our place later. The kids could play and ... we should talk to them, you know, about today ..."
"Yeah, sure. I'll talk to Cristina see if she feels up to it, thanks" he smiled briefly and she nodded.
Meredith observed him from across the room. He was reading a book but she suspected his thoughts were anywhere but on the reading since he hadn't turned the page in over an hour. He felt her eyes on him and looked up.
"What time are Cristina and Owen coming?" he asked.
"They should be here any minute ... Derek, if you want to talk ..."
He looked at her and she stopped talking.
"Mer ... it could have been Addie ..." he whispered.
"I know ..." she said and shivered at the mere thought that they could have lost their daughter.
"You don't understand. Addie could have been on that swing, she could have died it would have been my fault"
"I tried to convince her to go on the swing because I know she loves it. But she didn't want to. If she'd listened to me she would be dead right now. I would be our daughter lying down in the morgue instead of Danny ..."
"Stop it!" she whispered. "Just stop. I don't want to think about it, I don't" she said shaking her head as tears threatened to fall.
"I'm sorry" he said standing up to hug her. "I'm sorry, I don't want to think about either. It's just ... how am I supposed to explain what happened to my little girl, how am I supposed to make her understand when I can't understand it myself? How?"
The doorbell interrupted them and Meredith went to open the door.
Owen was looking almost as grim as Derek and the moment their gazes met a quiet understanding settled between the two men. Two surgeons trained to save lives, but who had been powerless while a little boy died before their very eyes. Two fathers guilty of a selfish feeling of relief that the dead child wasn't their own ...
Cristina seemed too sick to feel anything but on of her hands was holding Steven's pretty tight while the other touched his cheek or his hair every now and then as to make sure he was still there.
"Hi, Aunt Mer and Uncle Derek" Steven greeted though without his usual smile.
"Hi, Steven" Meredith greeted back and gave him a hug. "Would you please go to Addie's room and ask her to come down?" she asked and the boy nodded.
"So, how are we supposed to do this?" Cristina asked after her son disappeared upstairs. "I have no idea what to tell him. I realize that he's not okay but I don't know how to help him" she admitted.
Meredith hadn't heard her sounding so defeated before.
"It's funny, you know" Cristina continued "I thought pregnancy was the hardest thing about having a child, then giving birth, but something like this? When he needs an answer and I cannot give it to him? This is harder than anything I've ever had to do since I had him ..."
"Maybe ..." Meredith tried to speak but she stopped when they heard light footsteps behind them. "Hi" she said smiling and extended her arms for Addie.
The girl came to sit in her lap while Steven sat on the couch between his parents.
The four adults looked at each other. Derek moved closer to his family and sat on the flour taking Addie's hand in his.
"Baby ... you know what happened at the playground today, don't you?" he asked.
Addie only nodded.
"You, too, Steven?" he asked again.
"The swing fell on Danny and he died" the boy mumbled, looking down at his shoes.
"You know what dying is?" Owen asked his son.
"When someone goes away and never comes back. Uncle George died. That's why me and Addie ..."
Addie and I Cristina's corrected mentally.
"didn't get to meet him ..."
"Aunt Izzie says so" his best friend confirmed.
"But when Bonbon died, mommy said that sometimes when the someone is very sick or old, like Bonbon, his heart is too weak to pump blood and it stops. She said is the same for dogs and humans, right mommy?" Steven looked at Cristina expectantly.
"Yes, honey" Cristina confirmed with a smile.
"That's not true. If the brain is not working then you die. Tell them daddy" Addie interjected.
"Actually you're both right. One can't live without a functioning heart or brain" Owen attempted to settle the matter. The two didn't seem quite convinced. One of them had to be right. Always. And they usually bickered about it, until one would eventually give up. But right now, Steven had one more piece of information that he hurried to share.
"Bonbon didn't go anywhere, his heart stopped and he died. And then we took him to Grandma's and buried him in the backyard under a tree ..." he said.
"Buried?" Addie exclaimed shocked. "Mommy are they going to bury Danny, too?" she asked turning to Meredith.
"Baby" Meredith called cupping her little face, remember when you went to the cemetery with Grandma and she told you that you were visiting Grandpa?" she asked.
"Yeah ... she said that grandpa was in Heaven ..." Addie remembered.
"Is there a dog heaven, too?" Steven asked Cristina.
"I'm sure there is" Owen saved her.
"But Bonbon can't be there. Because we buried him in the backyard. If we dig under the tree we'll find him there".
"Oh, God ..." Derek mumbled and if the situation wasn't so sad he would definitely have laughed.
"He is so your son" Owen said to Cristina, then turned to Steven. "Remember when we talked about the soul? And I told you that it is what makes us be us, so different from each other, and that without it we'd be just like robots?" he asked and little Steven nodded. "You see, when someone dies, it's actually the body that dies. The soul lives on and goes to Heaven. So when Bonbon died we buried his body, but his soul ..."
"Went to dogs Heaven" Addie concluded.
"Yes" Owen confirmed.
"Then why did Grandma said that she sometimes goes to the cemetery to talk to Grandpa if he's not actually there?" the little girl asked.
It was Derek's turn to answer.
"Honey, I'm sure Grandma talks to Grandpa all the time. Only sometimes she goes to the cemetery because, um ..."
"It's quiet" Meredith interjected.
"So Grandpa can hear her better?" Addie asked again.
"Actually, I think it's so she can, um, think better" Meredith smiled.
"Daddy said Grandpa died because a bad man shot him. And Bonbon died because he was old. And Grandma Ellis died because she was sick. And Uncle George, he saved a girl from being hit by a bus, right?" Addie checked with her mother.
"But Danny wasn't old or sick and the swing is an object so it can't be good or bad. So, why did he die, mommy?" The little girl, in her innocence, had voiced everyone's question: why did this have to happen?
"Yeah, why did he die?" Steven asked, too.
"It was an accident" Derek answered. "Accidents happen sometimes ... People do their best to avoid them, but they still happen. Like with Uncle George ..." he explained.
Both children seemed to be digesting this last piece of information. Steven didn't appear too satisfied with the answer. Even Addie, who wasn't as practical as her friend still held 'why' as her favorite question, seeking for reasons behind everything. Of course, Derek could tell them that most accidents had negligence for a cause. Probably this one, too. That swing wasn't supposed to fall that easy. But he decided not to go there. Six year old's weren't supposed to worry about that, they were supposed to enjoy swings and other stuff without thinking that they might fell due to adults' negligence. So he chose to stop explaining right there allowing them to stay carefree for a little longer.
"Is Danny in Heaven now?" Addie's voice broke the silence.
"I'm sure he is" her mother answered.
"Does his mommy know that she can still talk to him anytime she feels like it?" she continued.
"I think she does, baby"
"Then why is she sad? Is it because she's going to miss him? Like when daddy went to that confrerence ..."
"Conference ..." Derek corrected.
"That" Addie nodded, then went on "We could talk to him on the phone every day, but I still missed him and mommy, you missed him, too"
"I did" Meredith agreed looking at Derek with a smile.
"We talked to him and he talked back, but Danny won't be able to talk back when his mommy talks to him. Is that why she's sad? You would be sad, too if I died right?" Addie looked at her parents.
"My God, honey, of course we'd be sad! We couldn't live without you!" Derek told her, taking her from Meredith to hug her tight.
"But you're not dying" Meredith said ruffling her hair.
"I'm not dying, either, am I?" Steven asked in a small voice.
"Of course not", both his parents answered.
The adults exchanged sad looks. They shouldn't be having this conversation. Not now when Steven and Addie where so young. Their children had just learned how unfair life could be.
"Is it okay if we don't go to the swings for a while?"
"Of course, baby"
"Thank you, mommy"...
"Can I ask you something, mommy?"
"Yes, but then you sleep, okay?"
"Yeah. Mommy, is Danny one of God's angels, now?"
"I guess so"
"Will I be one of God's angels someday?"
"Not for a long, long time. But you'll always be my angel"
"Okay. Good night, mommy"
"Good night, Steven" ...