It's finally here! I'm so sorry for the wait, but I have had major frustration due to what I think has been a downfall in the show and completely abandoned the story. I think I've grown out of it and figured out where I want the story to go, so I hope you enjoy!

Meredith couldn't help but smile as she made her way to Derek's room the following morning. She had spent the night in his hospital bed, and although she had been interrupted each time the nurses had come in to check his stats, she knew that it had been the best night she'd had since she and Derek had last spent the night together. Derek had still been sleeping the hour before when she'd slipped out of the room for a quick shower in the residents' locker room and then gone in search of coffee. While she'd been on her way back to his floor she'd run into the doctor who had been treating him and had been pleased to learn that if all went well he would be released later that afternoon. Generally patients weren't released as quickly after injuries similar to his, but since had had shown remarkable recovery thus far and would be released into the care of a fellow neurosurgeon, there was a good chance that he would be allowed to go home that day. She knew he would be happy to hear that, and though part of her felt as though she shouldn't get his hopes up in case the plan didn't work out, she knew that he needed some good news. He had been through a lot emotionally over the past couple days, and knowing that he could return to his apartment would likely give him something to look forward to.

"Hey stranger," she greeted him as she walked into his private room. "You look pretty good for someone who just had brain surgery."

"I think it has something to do with my company," Derek smiled, reaching for her hand as she sat down on the side of his bed. "I missed you when I woke up."

"I went to shower," she explained. "And find coffee."

Derek nodded in understanding. "I guess last night probably wasn't the best night's sleep you've ever had," he sighed. "I wish we could have spent the night at one of our places."

Meredith leaned forward so they were closer together as she offered him a warm smile. "We were together, Derek," she said softly. "That's all that matters. I know I screwed up and made a lot of mistakes, but I know now. As long as I'm in your arms, I could never have a bad night's sleep."

Derek's eyes reflected his gratitude, but he couldn't resist the opportunity to tease her. "Why Meredith Grey, I do believe that the lack of sleep has caused you to become cheesy."

Meredith rolled her eyes as she pulled her hand out of his grasp. "You better watch it," she warned. "I have the full ability to leave this hospital any time I want. You, my friend, are not so lucky."

"You wouldn't leave me," Derek insisted, and he smiled as she leaned in to take his hand again. "You love me too much."

Meredith couldn't help smiling as she leaned in to kiss him softly. "I do love you," she whispered. "And I will spend the rest of my life trying to make this whole thing up to you."

"Meredith," he breathed softly. "Once we're out of here we can really talk, but I want you to know that there is absolutely nothing that you need to make up to me. Just the fact that you love me is enough."

"I do," Meredith promised. "I do love you, I know that things are going to be difficult for a while, but we can do this. I want to do this."

"Me too," he whispered. "And this time…I want to do it right."

"Do it right?" Meredith asked, a confused and curious smile playing on her face. "What do you mean do it right?"

"I mean dating," Derek said. "I love you too, Meredith, but I know that last time we were cheating on people. It wasn't right, and this time we have to things the right way. I'm talking wining and dining and ferry boat rides."

"Ferry boat rides, huh?" Meredith asked. "You sure know the way to a girl's heart."

"I know the way to yours," Derek said sincerely, causing Meredith's smile to become less amused and more loving.

"You do," she said. "And you already have it."

"Two cheesy comments in one conversation," Derek smiled. "I think you are going soft."

Meredith smiled as she leaned in to kiss him. "I blame you," she said softly. "You and your bright and shininess."

"I'm not bright and shiny," Derek argued. "I have my dark and twisty past, just like you."

"Somehow I doubt that," Meredith said. "With your momish mom and the family things that you're always running off to."

"Just because I have a family doesn't mean that I'm bright and shiny," Derek argued. "See this cast on my head? Proof that bad stuff happens to me too."

Meredith nodded slowly. "Your mom thinks I'm one of those bad things," she commented.

"She doesn't," Derek insisted. "She just doesn't know you. I'm the only boy, she's being protective."

"So you're a mama's boy," Meredith nodded. "I have no hope of her ever liking me, do I?"

"I told you, she just needs time," Derek said. "Let her get to know you, and she'll learn to love all there is to love about you."

"Even the fact that I made you dark and twisty for months?" Meredith asked.

"Give her a couple months to see how happy we are once I get out of here and she'll forget all about the dark and twisty."

"Will you?" she asked softly.

Derek's expression turned to one of concern. "Meredith," he breathed. "I already told you…"

"I know that you said I don't have to make anything up to you," Meredith said. "But is this one of the things that is going to come up when we fight? Because I don't want to always lose because I made this mistake and can't take it back."

"It won't be," Derek shook his head. "We weren't ready, Mer. Last time…things weren't right, and we were both with other people. I can't blame you for wanting to make sure before you broke things off with Nathan."

"I love you for understanding that," Meredith whispered. "I know you're right, I just…good things don't happen to me. Even with Nathan, I was content, but I had no idea how to be happy with him. With you things are different. With you, I don't need to think about being happy, I just am."

"I feel the same way," Derek whispered, pulling her closer to kiss him again.

"So what do we do now?" Meredith asked after a long moment.

"We wait until we're given the all clear out of this place," Derek said. "And then we go home so I can kiss you the way I want to."

Meredith laughed. "That sounds amazing," she said. "But I'm thinking more big picture. What do we do about our relationship?"

"We take it one step at a time," Derek said. "If there's one thing I've learned, it's that planning to do things a certain way never comes out the way we think they're going to."

"So just…figure it out as we go," Meredith breathed. "People do that?"

"They do," Derek nodded. "We do."

Before Meredith could respond, a doctor knocked on the door and smiled widely as he entered. Meredith slipped off of the bed and into the chair beside it, allowing the doctor room to read Derek's stats and make some notes in his chart.

"How are you feeling today, Dr. Shepherd?" he asked.

"Pretty good," Derek said. "Head still hurts a bit, but given the circumstances I think that's not bad."

"I agree," he nodded. "Your stats look good, and we'll continue monitoring you for the rest of the day. Given how well you're progressing, if everything goes according to plan we'll send you in for another scan this afternoon and send you home if everything looks good. Sound okay to you?"

"It sounds more than okay," Derek nodded. "It sounds amazing."

"Relax, enjoy your day, and we'll check back after lunch." With that, the doctor was gone, leaving Meredith and Derek alone in the hospital room. Derek offered her a wide smile, and she reached for his hand.

"You're recovering quickly," she said. "That's amazing, Derek."

"Home," he breathed. "It's only been a couple days, but it sounds amazing."

"You know," Meredith said, setting her coffee on the side table and sliding onto the bed again. "I happen to be an excellent doctor who specializes in traumatic brain injuries."

Derek smiled as he traced the back of her hand with his thumb. "I do think I've heard that somewhere," he commented.

"And I don't usually do this," Meredith continued. "But I think that I could make an exception for handsome neurosurgeons who have traumatic brain injuries."

"Really?" Derek raised his eyebrows in curiosity. "And what rule exactly are you thinking of breaking? Because it sounds quite promising."

"The rule about house calls," Meredith whispered. "I think on this particular occasion I could make just one house call."

"Just one might be okay," Derek agreed. "I won't tell if you won't."

Meredith laughed as she leaned in to kiss him. "I love you."

"I love you too," Derek smiled. Before either of them could say anything else, a throat being cleared in the doorway, and both of them turned to see Carolyn Shepherd standing before them.

"Mom," Derek breathed, and Meredith scrambled back from him and back into the chair beside his bed.

"Good morning sweetheart," Carolyn smiled, coming closer to press a kiss to his cheek. "You look much better today."

"I'm feeling a lot better," Derek admitted. "The doctor said there's a good chance I could get home this afternoon if the scans are all clear."

"That's wonderful news," Carolyn smiled, turning to Meredith. "Good morning, Meredith."

"Good morning, Mrs. Shepherd," she said. "I'm glad you were able to make it out here so early."

"Well, I'm here to care for Derek as he gets better," Carolyn replied. "I want to do all I can to make sure he gets better as soon as possible."

Everything is looking great," Meredith said. "They said that since I'm a surgeon he can go home sooner than we usually let our patients with these kinds of injuries get discharged."

"That's wonderful, Derek," Carolyn smiled. "Meredith, I was hoping that while Derek is getting his tests we could perhaps get some coffee or lunch and get to know each other a bit better."

"Oh," Meredith breathed, wondering whether she was somehow falling into a trap of some sort. "That would be nice. If Derek's okay for a little while maybe I could even show you around Seattle for a bit."

"That sounds excellent," Carolyn said. "Darling, is there anything you need?"

Derek shrugged. "I just want to get home, but while I'm in here there's not much more I can be doing," he said. "I can entertain myself for a few hours. Mer brought me a copy of Hemingway's complete works, and given how little time I have to read it might be nice to catch up on some of the classics."

Carolyn shook her head. "You truly are your father's son," she said. "If he got started rereading any of Hemingway's works there was nothing I could do to get through to him."

Derek smiled as he looked at Meredith. "I hope you're taking notes," he commented. "You have all the information you need about Shepherd men right in front of you."

Meredith smiled slightly, feeling slightly more confident about Carolyn's presence in the room. "I guess I'll have to make sure I pay attention during lunch," she said.

"You guys should go have fun," Derek insisted. "I'll be fine."

"Are you sure?" Meredith frowned. "I don't want to leave you when you're still in the hospital."

"I think they know what they're doing here," Derek laughed. "I've heard good things. I'll tell the doctors to call you first if anything does happen."

"Sweetheart, I came here to spend time with you," Carolyn said softly. "I simply meant that if you're going to be in tests it would be nice for Meredith to have some company. Neither one of us wants to leave you alone in a hospital bed."

Derek turned to look at his mom with pleading eyes. "Please, Mom," he whispered so Meredith wouldn't hear him. "Meredith doesn't know how to do this, she needs some time alone with you to make her feel confident."

Carolyn sighed as she squeezed his hand. "You're sure you're alright?" she asked.

"Positive," Derek promised.

"Well, Meredith, if you're willing I suppose we're being kicked out," Carolyn said with a warm smile. "Would you care to show me the cafeteria and I'll treat you to breakfast?"

"Sure," Meredith said, standing and leaning towards Derek, freezing halfway as she realized Carolyn was watching the two of them. Derek seemed to recognize her hesitance and pulled her down to kiss her softly.

"She'll have to get used to it," he said with a smile against her lips.

Meredith blushed as she pulled back, avoiding Carolyn's eyes as she reached for her phone where it sat on the table. "Call me if you need anything at all," she said. "We'll be back in an hour or so."

"Okay," Derek nodded, reaching for the heavy book that sat on the table beside his bed.

Meredith led Carolyn out of the room and through the halls of the hospital, leading her to the elevator. She wasn't sure if she should be the one to start the conversation or if she should wait for Carolyn to bring up conversation. She wondered if Carolyn would somehow transform into an evil mother in law now that they were away from Derek, and finally figured that it was best to follow Carolyn's lead and wait for her to speak first.

"I don't think I'll ever get tired of spending time in a hospital," Carolyn commented as a group of doctors raced by while the pair was waiting for the elevator. "I worked as a Navy nurse for twenty five years after my husband died, and the excitement is not to be matched by anything."

"I didn't know you were a nurse," Meredith said, genuinely interested. "Is that why Derek became a doctor?"

"And all of his sisters as well," Carolyn said. "After my husband died I realized that I needed to make ends meet, so I found a hospital near the house we lived in at the time. The kids all spent a lot of time there, and I have to wonder if that's why they all became doctors."

"Probably," Meredith agreed. "My mom was a surgeon as well. I was always running around the hospital, sneaking into patient rooms and the OR gallery. That's probably why I became a doctor."

"From what Derek tells me you have quite a bit of potential," Carolyn commented as they reached the cafeteria. "He speaks very highly of you every time I speak with him on the phone."

"I didn't realize that he had been talking about me," Meredith said, reaching for a fruit cup.

"For several years now," Carolyn said, eyeing the young girl's expression. "It always seemed that you were more than a coworker."

Meredith didn't say anything as she paid for both of their breakfasts and they made their way to an empty table. "You must think I'm an awful person," she commented after they had both sat down and started on their meal.

"Why would I think that?" Carolyn asked.

"Because Derek was with Tiffany," Meredith replied. "They were living together, but he was talking about you when he called you and talked about me. Normal men don't do that."

"From what I understand," Carolyn said softly. "Derek was very confused about his relationship with Tiffany. I only met her a couple times, but from what I saw she was clearly not right for him."

"Really?" Meredith asked, her interest piqued. "Why not?"

"She was a very nice woman, but she simply didn't have what Derek needed," Carolyn replied.

"Oh," Meredith nodded, wondering if she wanted to hear the answer to the question she desperately wanted to ask. Finally deciding she had nothing to lose, she met Carolyn's eyes and asked, "What does Derek need?"

"He needs a strong woman who can take care of herself and him at the same time," Carolyn commented. "Someone who can help him see the color in the world, not just the black or white. Meredith…he needs you."

"You really think so?" Meredith asked, her face heating. She'd never discussed her love life with anyone in this way before, and she was acting on instinct alone.

"I know so," Carolyn promised. "I've only seen you for a few minutes together, but I can tell that he loves you more than he's ever loved any girl. And you somehow know exactly what he needs."

"I've made mistakes," Meredith said softly.

"We all make mistakes," Carolyn replied. "What happens is how you make up for the mistakes you do make."

"Derek said I didn't have to make anything up to him," Meredith said softly.

"I know that boy thinks he knows everything," Carolyn shook her head. "But I will tell you right now that's not the case. You've made mistakes, just like everyone else. And you make that up to him by loving him, caring for him, and helping him become a better man."

"You make it sound so easy," Meredith commented. "I've had relationships before, but…none of them were like what I feel with Derek."

"Meredith, the secret to a healthy relationship is simply making sure that you love the other person with all your heart in soul," Carolyn advised. "I wasn't married for nearly as long as I should have been, but in the fifteen years I shared with my husband I learned that if you simply love each other and make sure to communicate appropriately, the rest will fall into place."

Meredith nodded slowly, attempting to process everything she had just heard. Carolyn seemed to accept her as part of Derek's life, even approve of her, and she now knew that things would really work out in her life. After a moment, realizing that the serious talking points had all been addressed, she leaned forward and allowed a smile to grace her lips.

"Tell me about what Derek was like as a boy," she said. "I bet you have a lot of embarrassing stories that he won't let me hear while he's around."

"Oh, you can take your pick," Carolyn laughed. "Should I start with the time he tried to calm his hair with his sister's hair spray scented as flowers or the time he decided to make me dinner and ended up setting the stove on fire?"

"Let's start with the fire," Meredith giggled. "Apparently I'm not the only one who is a bad cook."

"I have plenty of stories about the kitchen alone," Carolyn laughed. "And when you meet my daughters I'm sure there will be other stories they have that I have forgotten. And there are likely some that I'm not even aware of."

Meredith smiled, finding that she was truly enjoying herself. She had been completely nervous about being alone with Derek's mom, but she now knew that it had been completely unnecessary. She wanted to get to know Carolyn better, to understand where Derek had come from and know the woman who had raised him to become the man that he was. She was truly enjoying herself, and she finally felt completely confident in the future of her relationship with Derek.