Come Home

…Tenth in the Love Game series

A Grey's Anatomy fic by Gigi

Disclaimer: Nope. Still don't own a thing. Nor do I own OneRepublic.

A/N: Ah, the landmark tenth fic. This is momentous, in my head. I'm also killing two birds with one stone—or at least two odd numbers. My fic count and my LG series count are going from 43 and 9, respectively, to 44 and 10. YES!

With a sigh, Alex finally left the NICU after having spent the better part of two days holding a preemie against his bare chest to help her heal faster. He'd been cooped up inside for so long that all he could think of right now more than a bed was a place for him to be outside—and alone.

He took the elevator up to the top floor, and then he opened to door to the stairwell and climbed until he emerged on the roof of the hospital. There was an elevator on the other side of the hospital that actually opened onto the roof, but that was for the helicopter pad, and Alex needed the quiet.

Walking slowly, Alex meandered across the rooftop until he found himself leaning on the railing, his arms crossed so that his folded forearms each rested in the nook of the other elbow, which propped him up. Staring out at the vast Seattle skyline, a familiar wave of nostalgia swept over him. Those waves had been coming for a while now, but Alex always tried to push them to the back of his head. Today, though, he just let it crash over him.

"I saved a preemie today," he declared softly into the crisp air. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply and savored that crispness. Behind his closed eyelids, in the blackness floated a flash of red hair. "Everybody said she was a lost cause, and the mother was crying because she'd never gotten to hold her." He opened his eyes again, and his voice took on a note of sadness. "Nobody should go through life having never been held."

Alex had no idea why he was doing this. He didn't really understand his need to say all these things aloud as if he were actually telling someone. But with each passing word, that melancholic wave ebbed just a little bit. Confiding in someone about his accomplishments was what he was doing, even though nobody was there physically. In his mind, that someone really cared about what he had done with that preemie.

Just for a second, he heard a faint clicking sound akin to heels on a tile floor.

"I held her, and she got better. Can you believe it? She actually got better." Incredulity at his own instincts paying off colored his voice. "It was my first preemie case since you left, did you know that?" he asked the skyline. "It was my first time in the NICU since you left, too. I used to hang out there once in a while, you know, for the quiet, during lunch." He chuckled to himself, "I used to tell the others it was because you were making me monitor one baby or another, even though you never made me work through lunch. But when you left, I lost that excuse, and I didn't want to listen to them laugh at me about being on the gynie squad, because they had it all wrong."

Alex grew quiet, staring out into the clouds, watching as they continually morphed into different shapes. He stopped trying to identify what those shapes looked like, because all too often, they managed to stir something inside him that made that wave flow back over him.

His eyes refocused, almost as if they were looking inward now. "I had it all wrong at first, too. I hated your service without reason or experience. I was—I am too young, still, to realize when I should speak and when I shouldn't, but I think I'm getting better at it." Alex twisted his mouth in distaste. "Not that any of the attendings here bothers with patient contact anymore. They're too caught up in their personal lives to care about comforting the patient as much as you did." The grimace slid off his face, and his eyes grew distant. "You could make a rock smile with your bedside manner. You made me smile, at least. I haven't been smiling so much lately. It's like you took a part of me with you when you left."

Somewhere in the back of his head, the wrestler in Alex was snorting with derision at this entire situation. He was growing soft, becoming a girl. Alex the Wrestler was subdued when another wave of nostalgia crashed into him.

"I married Izzie, but it was never…never right, you know? We were always in the wrong place. She had cancer, then George died, then I tried to help her keep her job, but she thought I was why she got fired so she left." He found himself wishing for a chair, but despite his tiredness, he couldn't make himself push away from the railing. "We're getting a divorce, which is actually fine by me. I'm kind of tired of justifying her actions."

Returning his gaze to the skyline as the sun began to set, Alex lost himself in the beauty of the scene. It was so serene. So peaceful. Nothing like what he saw in the hospital, with all the chaos and the death and the competition and the accidents. This was another world entirely.

Absently, he wondered if it was like this in California. Did she have a place where she could stop, look out and take it all in as the horizon took her breath away? He hoped so. The last time he saw her before she left was at a wedding, where she said she actually kind of hated him. He couldn't really blame her. Maybe if she had a world like the one he'd discovered on the Seattle Grace rooftop, she could forget some of that hate. Maybe she could even let herself love someone again. She'd been too beaten up in Seattle for her to have healed enough to love back then.

Or, at least, that's what he told himself.

"That was so long ago," Alex whispered. "Three years. Too long."

Glancing downward, he spotted a coffee cart, and the sweet aroma of a vanilla latte filled his senses for a moment and then was gone.

"You were so much stronger than I could ever be," he confessed, hoping against all rationality that on some level, she heard him all the way in Santa Monica. "Even when we argued, I knew I could never win, and after a while, it was just fun."

Unbidden, his eyes started to water. Blaming it on the chill of the wind blowing in his face, he squeezed them shut and kept the salty tears trapped behind his eyelids. He saw them in the NICU, leaning in towards each other, where his lips only managed to brush hers before they were interrupted; he saw them in the bar, when they finally managed to kiss for the first time; he saw them in the linen closet, where he made her face crumple because he couldn't stand her avoiding him and missed her; he saw them in Ava's room in the ICU, where he told her he'd notice if she went missing.

She went missing—and he noticed.

Desperately, Alex forced his eyes to open, hoping to stall the images that seemed determined to replay in his mind. It was no good, because now he saw them in the clouds.

He saw them in Ava's room, when they flirted shyly over the fact that he had for once done what he'd been told; he saw them in the conference room, when she was eating cake and licking her fingers like a child while he let his jealousy over her bet with Mark Sloan show; he saw them in Ava's c-section, when they finished each other's sentences, and he pretended not to see the suppressed jealousy in her pale blue eyes when he soothed Ava; he saw them in the hallway, when they had another argument that put them not two inches from each other's face, and it ended when she kissed him and pushed him into the nearest on-call room; he saw them coming out of that on-call room, flustered and awkwardly fixing themselves as unnoticeably as possible; he saw them in the hospital lobby, where he made her heart crumble because he was too afraid he'd break her worse if he ever tried to be the guy who barbequed and played catch; he saw them in the chapel, where he hit on her, and she told him she hated him before urging him to go chase Ava.

"I never wanted Ava," Alex denied heatedly at the rapidly darkening sky. "I don't even think about her now except in relation to you. I only see you. I only see us, as in you and me, not me and Ava. But I was afraid, because I've only known how to chase you and fight for you, but the second you initiated something, I wanted to bolt because I had no idea how to do anything other than fight. I'm a wrestler, for God's sakes!" His last sentence rang out in the silence, but his shoulders slumped. "I was a wrestler, but I don't want to fight anymore. Now I know how to do more than fight, but you're not here."

Another wave of nostalgia—bigger than ever before—another tsunami of pure wistfulness and regret washed over him and swept him under. Finally allowing some of the moisture to leak out and roll down his cheeks, Alex watched as the last of the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, leaving only the last rays to cast colorful shadows across the sky as a memory.

Reluctantly, he pushed away from the railing and turned his back on the fully set sun. He walked with as much resolve as he could muster and wiped at his cheeks. When he reached the door, he took one last look over his shoulder at the shadowed Seattle skyline and, with two last whispered words, uttered almost like a plea, faced straight once more and descended the staircase.

"Come home."

A/N: I know this isn't my longest, but I felt like if I had made this any longer, it would just be ridiculously out of character and completely unbelievable, as opposed to mildly out of character and only moderately unbelievable. Did you notice I never once mentioned her name? First time I've made it through a fic without doing so, so this is a first as well as a tenth for me! What did you think, though? Was it worthy of the tenth in the series? REVIEW!