AN: Oneshot following 6.10. Mer/Der, of course. An idea that popped into my head after the last episode, but didn't come out quite the way I envisioned it, but HAPPY.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Grey's Anatomy. I am simply borrowing characters and promise to return them unharmed.

Derek yawned as he wandered out of the kitchen, beer in hand, on route to the couch. The past few weeks had exhausted him, but the joy of saving the life of the small boy with the nose bleed made worth the hours and nights he had spent devoted to building the life saving tools. And now that the tools were finally perfected – and proven effective – he could relax. It was a good way to start the new year.

The only thing missing was his wife.

All he wanted to do was collapse on the couch with his favourite person in the world, and finally be able to rest.

He swallowed a few gulps of beer before placing the half-full bottle on the table beside him, swapping it for the remote. He sat and flicked aimlessly from channel to channel before settling on a news channel. After turning the volume down to almost nothing, Derek lay onto his back, his head resting on a cushion and his hands gripping loosely to the remote over his abdomen.

Meredith's phone had gone straight to voice mail when he had called a half hour ago, so he assumed she had still been at the hospital. Hopefully she would be home soon.

Each time he blinked his eyes took a little longer; the part where his eyes closed became heavier and heavier until he didn't bother trying to open them anymore.

Just a few minutes, he thought.

And then he slept, and the minutes became hours.

When he opened his eyes again, it was due to the feeling of being jostled.

"Whah..." He mumbled, his hands reaching towards the form hovering above him, barely noticing that the remote had long since disappeared from his hand.

"Sorry I'm so late," Meredith muttered as she settled along side him, between Derek and the back of the couch, her head and arm resting on his chest.

"S'okay," Derek murmured, closing his arm around his wife's familiar form. "I'm glad you're home." He cleared his throat, trying to clear away the sleepiness. "What time is it?"

"A little after eleven."

"Mmm, good."

"Good?"

He ran his hand along her side. "Just enough time to celebrate the first day of the new year..."

Her giggle was flat, but he didn't notice.

"But I have to tell you something first..."

"Please don't tell me something else is wrong."

Derek chuckled. "Nothing is wrong. It's just..." He had to bite down a laugh. "Mark called me and...and it seems he's going to be a grandfather." This time he did laugh. "And as much as I try to be there for him, I just can't help to find this hilarious. A couple months ago he thought he was free, and now...not even forty and he's a-" It was then that he realized Meredith hadn't reacted to the news. She hadn't laughed or scoffed, or even so much as lifted her head to glare at him for laughing at his best friend's predicament.

He stilled his hand on her back. "What's wrong?"

She sighed against him, her fingers curling into a fist, clutching to his shirt. "I think I screwed up."

"Meredith," he prompted.

Finally, she lifted her head. Her eyes were dry, but dark. "It's about the Chief."

"What did he do now?" Derek had sort of made up with the Chief, but resentment and frustration still ran through his veins.

"He told me...he said that he had been misdiagnosed."

Derek furrowed his brow. "With what? When?"

"Alcoholism. Twenty years ago. I...I saw him with a drink at Joe's. Before Thanksgiving; the night Izzie left again and I had to take Alex out. And after...he told me he had been misdiagnosed. He told me he had everything under control."

"But," he prompted, knowing there was more, and knowing his wife sometimes needed the push.

She shook her head before laying it back on his chest. "Joe called me tonight. The Chief was there."

Derek sighed, reading what she was trying to tell him from her tone. "How bad?"

"Bad." She sniffed. "He was really drunk, Derek. He was dancing; really badly. And when he saw me, he ordered another drink, and one for me. And kept going on and on about how I was his star pupil. 'Just like my mother.'"

"Shit, I'm so sorry, Meredith. You should have called me."

"I didn't know what to do," she admitted. "I forced him to leave with me. But I don't know where he lives, and I didn't want to take him to the hospital like that..."

"Did you bring him here?" Derek asked, not wanting to deal with the older man, but glad his wife wasn't dealing with the situation alone anywhere.

She shook her head. "I left him at Thatcher's; figured he owed me, or whatever."

Derek couldn't help the hint of a laughing breath that escaped his lips. It was just like Meredith to consider donating half her liver equal to dealing with one drunken Chief-of-Surgery.

"I didn't know what else to do. And I couldn't..."

He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her snug to his chest. "Tell me," he whispered into her hair.

"I know it makes me a horrible person, but I just didn't want to deal with him like that. There are days where I can barely stand to be around him when he's sober. And right now all I can think is that this is my fault."

"None of this is your fault," he whispered adamantly. "You haven't done anything wrong."

"I covered for him," she responded. "I've known he started drinking again for over a month. I should have done something."

"There was nothing you could have done," he reassured, running his fingers through her hair. "You couldn't have known it would get this bad."

"I still could have done something."

Derek sighed. It was something he wished he could change; Meredith's uncanny knack to always find a way to blame herself. There was so much good in her, but she had been treated so badly that she had no idea just how amazing she was. "Oh, Mer," he murmured. "Richard did that to himself."

"But it was my mother's fault the first time. They broke up and he was depressed."

"First of all; you were five years old, Meredith. And wasn't it Richard's idea to break up with your mother?"

"Well...yeah..."

"People like Richard – and Thatcher – make excuses for their behaviour. But Richard is doing this to himself."

"But..." She lifted her head.

"No buts." He reached a hand to brush the hair away from her face so he could meet her eyes. "Meredith, sweetie, none of this is your fault."

She inhaled sharply. "Then why does this always seem to happen around me? Thatcher. Richard. It's me. I'm the common denominator."

"Meredith, the thing you have in common is that they've both hurt you. Stop blaming yourself." He laughed bitterly. "Seriously. You're blaming yourself, when Richard and Thatcher are the ones who need to think about who they're blaming. Richard chose to leave your mother twenty-five years ago, and he chose to start drinking again for whatever reason." He sighed and cupped her face with his hand. "And Thatcher's drinking...it wasn't your fault that Susan died. He chose to do what he did. And he should never have put you in the position he did when he got sick."

She offered him a small smile. "He never asked me to help him," she reminded. "And even when I offered to be his donor the first time, he refused."

"I know. But I still hate that you had to go through what you did. He never did anything for you. And he hurt you. I hate that after everything he did to you, you had to save him."

Meredith scooted up and lay her head back down so that it rested at the crook of his neck. "I couldn't just let him die, Derek."

He sighed and closed his arms around her again as she resettled. "I know. But that's because you're you."

"Can I tell you a secret?"

"You can tell me anything."

"I hate that I had to be his donor. And I hate that it's been months and the only time I've seen or heard from him was when Lexie invited him to Christmas and I couldn't talk with him for five minutes without biting his head off." She sniffed before continuing. "I feel kind of stupid because I actually thought...I thought that maybe things would change, that maybe I would finally get some sort of relationship with him."

He sighed. "God, Meredith, you deserve so much better. I wish I could do something to-"

"Hey," she cut him off. "You make my life so much better, Derek. You're always here, and you-"

"Say things?" He cut it, smirking. "I'm here all the time, saying things? Like a night in shining whatever?"

Meredith giggled and lifted her head to kiss him. "Something like that." She smiled and ran her hand through his hair. "I guess you are my night in shining whatever; kind of always have been, even if I tried to fight it."

Derek returned her smile. "It's okay. I'm persistent."

"I noticed."

He kissed her. "I'll always be your knight in shining whatever."

"Good," she kissed him back, before turning serious. "You're the best thing that ever happened to me, Derek. You make all the crap I had to go through in my life worth it to get to this point."

He felt tears well in his eyes at her words and the fact that he doubted he had ever seen her quite this vulnerable and open before. "God, I love you, Meredith."

"I love you, too," she responded easily, running her fingers through his hair. "Just promise me one thing?"

"Anything."

She opened her mouth, but hesitated and closed it.

"Hey, what is it?"

"It's just...after seeing Thatcher and Richard follow the same pattern..."

"I won't ever do that to you," he said immediately.

"It's not that I think..."

He nodded. "I know. I did the depressed drinking thing," he reminded. "I didn't last a week at it. I need you, Meredith, not alcohol. That won't ever be a problem. I promise."

"Okay," she sniffed. "Can you promise me one other thing?"

"Of course."

"If you ever see me...going down that path. Will you stop me?"

"Hey," he said, shaking his head. "That won't ever be you."

"How do you know that?"

"Because you're you."

"Exactly. I have a horrible past. I spent years partying and drinking. Richard was my mother's...whatever, and he's an alcoholic. Thatcher's an alcoholic, and he's actually related to me. There's a lot of potential here. And it..."

"It what?"

She shrugged and averted her eyes. "It kind of scares me; the possibility."

Derek sat up, forcing Meredith to follow him, and wrapped his arms snugly around her waist.

"I just don't want to end up like them," she continued before he could speak, now meeting his eyes again. "I've seen how horrible it can be, how destructive it is to the people around you. I don't want to be like them, and I especially don't want to do anything that will push you away again."

"I'm not going anywhere."

"I know; just promise me that if you ever think I'm heading in a bad direction that you'll stop me; that you'll remind me off this conversation."

Derek kissed her, hard, before meeting her eyes evenly. "I promise that I'll stop you if the situation ever comes up. But I also promise that I know you, and that won't ever be a problem. And I also promise that I love you more than anything, and that I promise to always be here with you."

Meredith blinked as tears formed in her eyes. "Thank-you; for having faith in me. And for loving me." She offered him a smile. "I think I'm going to quit drinking."

"For good?"

She nodded. "I'm going to be pre-emptive. It can't become a problem if I don't ever do it, right?"

"Right," he agreed. "But I think that may be a little extreme. The majority of people who drink don't ever develop a problem."

"I know, but I...I'm so happy, Derek. I mean this thing with Richard sucks, and Thatcher and I still aren't talking. And Lexie's mad at me for what I said to Thatcher at Christmas. And Izzie is still gone. And George is still dead. But I'm happy. I have a life, and I have a job that I love, and I have you. And we have a future. I don't want to risk that for something so stupid."

"I'll tell you what; how about we give up drinking for a year."

"We?"

He nodded. "We," he confirmed. "No drinking. And next year, on New Year's Day, we can re-evaluate."

"You'd do that for me?"

Derek smiled, leaning close so that his lips were inches from hers. "I'd do anything for you." And then he closed the gap and kissed her.

"Thank-you," she whispered.

"Anything," he reminded, before releasing her and standing up.

"Where are you going?"

"To start proving my promise," he explained, grabbing the half full bottle of beer he had left on the side table hours ago.

She followed him into the kitchen and smiled as he poured the remaining liquid into the sink. "You know, I would have let you finish that. It's minutes to midnight; we could have started at midnight."

Derek chuckled. "I don't need it." He wandered around the small island to the cupboard where they kept the liquor, and reached for as many bottles as he could carry. "Come and help."

Meredith silently carried the remaining bottles to the sink and helped him dump every single one.

When they were finished, Derek shuffled in behind his wife and wrapped his arms around her waist, his chin resting on her shoulder as they faced the row of now-empty bottles by the sink.

"You know, if someone comes over and sees those tomorrow, they're going to think we got really drunk..."

"Good point." He laughed. "Kind of ironic, actually..."

She turned in his arms and kissed him hard. "Thank-you for doing this."

"Anything."

"How did I get so lucky?" She asked, hooking her hands behind his neck and leaning back slightly, trusting him to hold her.

"Funny; I was just asking myself the same thing."

"It's going to be a good year," she said. "I mean, there are going to be crappy things. Izzie is still gone, and sick. And Alex is depressed. And the Chief is...well, you know. And the Mercy Westers are still here. And there's the whole Lexie and Thatcher thing...

"And the whole Mark becoming a grandfather thing," Derek quipped.

She rolled her eyes. "The point is, there's going to be a lot of crap, but it's going to be a good year for us."

"It is," he agreed, "A great year."

**

A year later, Derek sauntered out of the kitchen, two wine glasses in hand.

Meredith was waiting for him on the leather couch they had purchased to go with their newly built house. She smiled as she took a glass from him and sniffed it thoughtfully. "What is it?"

"Sparkling grape juice. It was either this or pineapple juice. I thought this was closest to Champaign," he explained as he sat and lifted his arm so his wife could snuggle close to him.

She sighed comfortably when she was settled beside him. "Well, happy New Years."

He smiled warmly and clinked his glass against hers before taking a sip. It seemed to be a theme for them now, celebrating the night of New Year's Day instead of New Year's Eve, but as long as she was with him, he didn't care. "Happy New Year."

"This is good," she commented after taking a sip.

"It is, but do you know what's better?"

"What?"

He answered by showing her; pressing his lips against hers and kissing her long and deep.

"You're right," she agreed when he pulled away. "That was better."

"You still happy?"

"I'm always happy when you kiss me like that."

"No, I mean are you still happy like you were a year ago?" The lack of alcohol hadn't been all that difficult. He hadn't regretted his decision, and he was certain she hadn't either. Although the situations of their friends, families and co-workers had changed, the net amount of stress caused by them seemed to be about the same, but Meredith and Derek had remained determined to stay happy. Meredith was flourishing as a senior resident. They had flown to New York and spent Thanksgiving with Derek's family. They had finally built their dream house, and had moved in two months earlier.

"Happier," she reassured. "I feel like I have more control over my life now."

"You're not scared anymore?"

"Not at all. Alcohol will never be a problem."

He nodded his agreement.

"You and I are good," she added.

"Really good," he clarified.

"I'm happy."

He furrowed his brow. "I feel like we're going in a circle..."

She giggled, and he couldn't help but sense a hint of something behind it. "A happy circle."

"So," he prompted, deciding to be the one to bring up the subject. "We said we'd re-evaluate in a year. It's been exactly a year." It was just about midnight. "What's the verdict?"

"You first."

"I asked you first."

"Don't be a child."

He huffed. "I am not being a child. You're the one being a child. I asked first."

"You have to go first," Meredith replied. "It's a thing."

"What kind of a thing?"

"Just answer the freaking question."

"You know; you never actually asked a question..."

"Derek, I swear I will hurt you."

He laughed. "Okay, I don't want to be pummelled by those tiny, ineffectual fists of yours, so I guess I'll go first." He took her glass and put them both down on the floor beside the couch. He then wrapped one arm tightly around her waist and ran the fingers of his free hand through her hair. "I love you, and I'll go another year if you want. But I don't think there's any reason for it. Like you said; we're good. I think we'd be perfectly okay going to Joe's and having a drink tomorrow." He cocked his head. "What do you think?"

"I don't think that's a good idea, for me at least," she said, and he would be worried if she wasn't obviously holding back a smile. "I think I should wait at least another nine months." And then the smile erupted across her face in full.

Derek felt like his heart stopped beating, his lungs stopped working, his stomach dropped through his peritoneum and his throat constricted to a fraction of its normal size...but in a good way. His eyes welled on their own accord. "Nine months..." He managed to stutter through his constricted throat. "That's...that's..."

She smiled through her own tears. "Yeah, cause drinking wouldn't be good for the baby..."

"Baby," he repeated. "You're...we're..." He cleared his throat, still struggling to breathe. "We're having a baby?"

Meredith nodded. "We are."

He cupped her face as he stared at her through blurry eyes. "But we just started trying... When did you find out?"

"Yesterday. I wanted so badly to tell you, but I thought it would be better to do it now."

"Oh, Mer..." He murmured, kissing her before leaning his forehead against hers and breathing hard, overwhelmed with emotion. "I'm so happy."

"Me too." She sniffed. "We're really doing this."

"Are you freaking out?"

She laughed, her forehead still pressed against his. "A little, but in a good way. And only because it's a big step; not because I think it's going to go horribly wrong."

"It is a big step," he acknowledged, leaning back and slowly moving his hand towards her abdomen.

"But a good step," she said, placing her hand on top of his as they considered the tiny being just starting to form beneath them.

"It's going to a great year," he whispered, meeting her eyes.

"Every year with you is a great year."