…Eleventh in the Love Game series
A Grey's Anatomy fic by Gigi
Disclaimer: As it was in the first 10 Love Game fics, I hold absolutely no rights of ownership over Grey's Anatomy.
A/N: Alas, good readers, the time has come! And by time, I mean the time for my first ever Christmas story. I have actually had this written since a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, but it didn't feel right to post a Christmas story in mid-November. Anyway, this is based on the emotions I feel whenever I listen to "Winter Song," by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. I hope you enjoy it!
The lights from the city of Seattle reflected off the bay water, casting dancing shadows about the redhead's solemn face. Heavy-lidded clear blue eyes slid open slowly at the feel of the ferry catching the current as it pulled away from the dock, just in time to watch the first snowflakes of the season drift into the bay. As the wind whipped crimson tendrils of hair in front of her face, she let her head tilt backwards and felt a miniscule flake alight on the tip of her nose. The urge to stick out her tongue and gather snow the way she had as a little girl suddenly rose up inside her. She would have followed through with that urge, too, had it not been for the voice behind her that snapped her out of her reverie.
Almost reluctantly, the woman turned away from the water and leaned back against the railing. "Hello, Dr. Karev," she greeted softly.
Addison watched as a faint hint of realization mixed with panic flashed across the man's face. She quirked a perfectly arched eyebrow in amusement when he stammered, "Oh, I, uh—um, Dr. Montgomery. I meant Dr. Montgomery. Sorry."
Nodding thoughtfully, Addison glanced at him in disbelief before turning around. "Sure, you did, Alex." She resumed her previous activity of admiring the snowfall.
Hesitantly, Alex joined her at the railing, and, out of the corner of his eye, quietly regarded the woman next to him. Her cheeks and the tip of her nose were flushed pink from the cold, but the look of sheer serenity that graced her features made him think she didn't mind the icy wind or cold temperature at all. "What are you doing here?" he asked gently.
At first, only silence answered him. He was beginning to think she would refuse to tell him when she spoke. "Derek got me hooked on ferryboats the year before we got married. I had just lost a patient, and he took me on one to cheer me up. He brought me to the railing and just held me while we watched the sun set over the city. It snowed that night, almost as the sun completely disappeared. The first snowfall of the season, and Derek let go of me and got down on one knee." Addison heaved a heavy sigh, the dark circles under her eyes becoming apparent. "I figured the most fitting place to remove that ring for the last time should be in a similar place to where I put it on for the first time."
Alex's eyes darted to the hand that gripped the railing—the fourth finger sported a pronounced ring line, making the absence of two significant bands all the more glaring. "You threw them into the water?" he questioned, noticing the soft, wistful look in her eyes as they beheld the glittering bay.
Addison nodded. "It was the only way I could get any closure. If I had just kept them hidden away or sold them, it would just eat away at me."
Another sigh escaped her lips. "My failed marriage. I already have a house in the Hamptons and a Brownstone in Manhattan. Any reminder of the rings, even just the money I would get for selling them, would just be too much. I don't want to profit from breaking my marriage."
Something in Addison's speech bothered Alex. As he watched her close her eyes and let the frigid wind wash over her, it finally clicked. She wasn't crying. She had just officially reverted from Dr. Addison Forbes Montgomery-Shepherd back to plain old Dr. Addison Forbes Montgomery. The rings that used to signify her love and devotion to one Dr. Derek Shepherd, twelve-plus years of her life, now floated somewhere in the bay. Any other person would be curled up around a pint of Ben and Jerry's or a drink sobbing her eyes out.
But this isn't just any other person, his mind corrected. She's a woman who could out-lift the strongest muscle builder. And she has too much pride to just break down in front of everybody. Okay, so that last part wasn't entirely true, if Izzie was to be trusted. Something involving a bucket hat, lots of muffins and lots of martinis. Focus, idiot! his brain shouted at him.
Addison couldn't help but peek out the corner of her eye to peer at the surgical intern. He was so quiet, and had been for a few minutes. There was a faraway quality to his gaze that made her feel like he was contemplating everything about her, and for some reason, that bothered her, especially when he was vacantly staring at her like that.
"Is there a reason you're staring at me like it's so shocking to find out the She-Shepherd can actually feel emotion?" she barked. That look in his eyes had started to develop into pity, and there was no way in hell that she was going to allow an intern to pity her.
"I'm not staring at you like that," Alex protested, rejecting the nasty retort that formed in his head about her no longer being the "She-Shepherd."
"Oh, really? How were you looking at me then?" Addison took a step towards him in sudden anger. Did all men think she was truly so blind?
"I was wondering why you looked so calm," he admitted.
Addison had her mouth to roast the young surgeon, but upon hearing his confession, she felt her stance relax from one of fury to one of confusion. "What do you mean?"
"I mean you aren't crying," Alex explained. "You're just letting this snow fall all over your face, and you just look…peaceful."
"Snow makes me happy. What's odd about that?"
Rolling his eyes, Alex suppressed a sigh. The woman just didn't get it. "What's odd is that anyone else would be in a fetal position somewhere crying."
"Sorry to disappoint you, Karev, but you missed the Addison Montgomery meltdown," she said wryly. "I'm sure Joe could give you the details as I can't seem to remember, nor do I wish to." She grimaced. "Aren't you cold?"
Thrown off by the sudden shift in subject, Alex could do nothing but lie, badly, and deny it. Truth be told, he felt five minutes from frostbite, but he also felt the unexplainable urge to make sure his boss was okay. "Aren't you?" he responded dumbly.
Addison flipped her red hair over her shoulder and returned her gaze to the ocean. Alex watched as the lights intermittently illuminated her sober profile. "I stopped feeling the cold a long time ago," she whispered into the chill evening air.
Silence fell on the pair after that declaration, and the rest of the ferryboat trip was spent in solemn contemplation of the water beneath them. Neither of them moved until the boat pulled into the dock.
Snow fell heavily outside the hospital. Addison turned away from the lobby coffee cart and checked her watch, 10 a.m. Her eyes caught the way her thumb absentmindedly rubbed the fading ring line on her fourth finger, and she consciously stopped the action. She really needed to stop doing that. It had been a month and a half since she threw those rings into the bay, but her finger still felt naked. Feeling the approach of the inevitable downward spiral, she cast around the lobby desperately for a distraction when her eyes alighted on the giant windows. She found just what she needed. Without hesitation, Addison strode to the lounge-like area in the lobby and settled herself on a plush couch next to the window. Bringing her steaming cup of coffee up to her lips with a contented sigh, she crossed her legs and proceeded to gaze out the window at the fresh white flakes that covered everything in sight.
Alex, with his bag slung over his shoulder, made his way down the large staircase overlooking the lobby. After a grueling 48-hour shift, all he could think about was going back to his apartment and going back to sleep. But when a flash of red drew his eyes toward the woman sitting alone and staring out the window, he found his feet making their way toward her. "Hey," he greeted quietly, not fully wishing to disturb the sense of peace that had fallen about her person.
The gruff grunt of a greeting had Addison turning her attention from the window to the stiff intern in front of her. "Yes?"
"It's been a while since I've seen you," he stated uncomfortably.
"Well, that was your decision, Karev, not mine," Addison responded coolly. "I figured you'd at least make it through Christmas before realizing you missed me. You've still got two weeks to go, you know."
Alex barely hid his grinding teeth at the sarcastic deflection. Instead, he plopped down on the oversized chair opposite her and took a moment to wipe the brooding expression off his face.
Addison didn't seem to appreciate his intrusion. "Seriously, Karev. What do you want?" she demanded, impatient to return to her snow-gazing.
"What are you doing for Christmas?" he asked out of the blue.
With an eyebrow quirked in confusion, she answered evenly, "If you must know, I'm working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day."
"You're working on Christmas?" Alex stammered in shock.
"Why is that such a big deal? You didn't really strike me as a holiday-goer, so why do you care what I'm doing?" Addison never had been one to beat around the bush, and this interaction was no exception. "I'd rather be at work on Christmas Day than be at home—alone."
The last statement gave Alex pause. He'd just been about to vehemently deny the presence of any holiday spirit in his body when she brought up the sad state of her personal life. Why Alex was suddenly privy to Addison Forbes Montgomery's private life, when he'd all but despised her since the moment he met her, was beyond him. But what was even further beyond him was that he cared. For some unfathomable reason, the thought of that powerful redhead spending Christmas at home alone stirred some protective instinct inside him into being. As if he wanted to protect her from the loneliness? Something just wasn't adding up.
"You're staring again," Addison's voice broke through his haze of confusion.
"Sorry. I was only asking because," Alex paused. Why had he asked? "Because I'm working Christmas, too." When Addison raised her eyebrow (again) at him, Alex resolved to become a better liar.
"Oh, really?" she asked slowly, her pale blue eyes screaming disbelief. "Then why would it matter whether I was working? And if you're working on Christmas, why were you so shocked to hear I was?"
Alex bit his tongue in annoyance. In less than two seconds, the woman had managed to find every flaw in his fib. "I'd like to actually get the chance to cut on Christmas, and Sloan never even lets me see the inside of an OR," he declared, deciding to stick to the truth as much as possible. "Since you're working then, too, would you mind putting up with me as your intern again?"
An unexpected success came for Alex when he finally elicited an expression that was neither cool nor collected from the redhead. Instead, her face was the picture of sheer surprise. Obviously, whatever she had expected him to say had been the exact opposite of what he had actually said.
"I thought you hated my service." Her tone wasn't accusatory, but her words were. Once again, her voice and expression was as devoid of emotion as she could make it.
"Well, I thought I hated you, but things change. Get used to it," he bit out in agitation. Unfortunately, that wasn't what he was supposed to say. Not at all.
Addison froze at his words, unsure of how she should take that revelation, let alone how she should respond to it. So she just sat there, watching him. He was the one who just threw her sense of equilibrium (the kind that goes, "Well, since it can't get any worse than this, I might as well enjoy the little pleasantries afforded to me, like snow.") against the wall and shattered it to pieces. He could be the one to speak first.
The long silence that stretched between the two doctors discomfited Alex, to say the least. It took all his manly pride to keep from squirming in his seat under that piercing gaze. "You don't have to answer me right now," he insisted just to break the silence. "I mean, like you said, there's still two weeks left until Christmas. It's no big deal." He stood up and hoisted his bag onto his back. "I'll see you later, Dr. Montgomery. Enjoy watching the snow." He turned to leave.
Addison had no idea whatsoever what compelled her to call after him, but before he'd even left the lounge area, she spoke and stopped him in his tracks. "Karev," she called, and he turned back to face her. "I would very much enjoy having you back on my service."
A broad smile broke onto his face, and he nodded. "See you on Christmas Eve, Dr. Montgomery," he bade before walking out of the hospital.
As Addison returned to her previous activity of staring out the window, Alex's retreating body walking towards his car sent her mind racing. Why did she accept his offer? Why did his confession make her heart stop? And most importantly, why did her breath completely leave her body when he smiled at her?
Trying her absolute best to ignore the warmth in her chest, Addison took another sip of her coffee and continued to watch the snow fall long after Alex disappeared from view.
Alex walked into the hospital brushing off the snowflakes from his head and shoulders. A scowl darkened his face as he remembered the man who was drunk on eggnog and stumbled onto a street filled with black ice. Alex just barely managed to stop his car without losing control or hurting the inebriated idiot. Wouldn't that have been ironic? Alex could just see the news headline now: Man killed in car wreck by a surgeon on his way to the hospital to help with Christmas Eve rush. Alex's scowl deepened at the thought.
"My, my, someone's feeling the holiday cheer," Addison's sarcastic voice sounded ahead of him.
"A guy jumped in front of my car and nearly got himself killed," he mumbled in response. "Would you be happy after that?"
"No need to kill my buzz, Karev," she shot back levelly as she handed him a chart. "I have plenty of things to choose not to be happy about after thinking about them, and I would, too, if I wasn't about to face a bunch of nervous mommies holding onto their Christmas spirit in a death grip to keep from focusing on the possible complications with their pregnancies." She handed him another chart and proceeded to fix him with her stern gaze, one hand on her hip. "This hospital may be our sanctuary, but it's definitely not theirs. You didn't kill the man, so stop brooding. It looks bad on you."
Grumbling, Alex followed in her wake, excusing himself after some time to drop off his things and change in the locker room. As he slipped on his light blue scrubs, he allowed his mind to wander. Somehow, his mind kept fixating on his boss. It infuriated him that the passion seemed to have gone out of her. They used to bicker all the time when she was still married to Shepherd. Her cheeks would be tinged with the slightest bit of pink in her anger and frustration at him. Those clear blue pools of water in her eyes would boil over with her emotions, which were often anger whenever directed at him, but now they were frozen over, unmoving and cold. He didn't know why, but that bothered him.
By the time Alex was finished tying his shoes, he'd made his decision. At the end of the 48-hour shift, he would force Addison to feel something and melt the ice in her eyes once and for all.
After seeing three patients and seeing Addison interact with them, Alex was relieved to see that not all hope was lost. A small smile played on his lips as he watched her eyes soften and her demeanor warm. She was as naturally caring and comforting to her patients as ever, and every smile, every laugh was genuine. It reassured Alex to know that she still knew how to be happy at least for a few minutes. Getting her to be free to feel again was going to be easier than he thought.
Alex had never been more wrong in his life. Getting Addison Forbes Montgomery, the most stubborn woman he'd ever met, to open up to her emotions in a non-professional capacity again was possibly more difficult than his Boards were—and he had to retake those. The woman was maddeningly collected and somehow managed to retain her sarcasm in the absence of all other vocal inflection. He had tried talking to her, but the most he ever got from doing so was, "Karev, I'd love to keep playing This is My Life, but we have work to do."
Alex wanted to throttle her at some points.
His inspiration came to him around one in the morning, when he was picking up two cups of coffee from the cart in the lobby. He could approach this situation in two different ways: he could either make her fall in love with him or make her angry.
Making her angry seemed easier. He had no trouble doing so when he worked under her last. Alex turned away from the coffee car with a glint of determination flashing in his eyes. Pissing Addison Forbes Montgomery off would be a piece of cake.
He found Addison in the tunnels sitting slumped on an unused gurney. Alex was about to turn on the attitude switch and announce his presence when he saw her shoulders hunch in and her head turn to one side, eyes clenched shut. He watched in fascinated silence as tears leaked out from under her eyelids.
Addison was crying. The strongest woman he knew was hanging out in the back of the hospital, crying alone. Her hands were balled into tight fists as she threw her head up to lean against the wall behind her, taking slow, deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself down. She looked miserable.
He couldn't make her angry after seeing that.
"Hey, are you okay?" Alex heard himself asking with genuine concern ringing in his voice, making red hair fly as a red-faced Addison whipped her head in his direction.
Surreptitiously wiping at her cheeks, she mumbled, "I'm fine."
Inwardly rolling his eyes at her stubbornness, Alex slowly approached the gurney. "No, you're not."
"Yes, I am," she insisted, but she refused to look at him.
Alex sat down on the gurney beside her and handed her some coffee. "People only say they're fine when they're the exact opposite," he pointed out. "Otherwise, they'd be able to come up with much better adjectives than fine."
Addison ground her teeth at his words and turned her head to look him in the eye. "Fine. I'm splendid, fantastic, elated, over the damn moon. Enough adjectives for you?" she snapped despite the clearly visible tearstains running down her cheeks.
"Somehow, I don't believe you," he answered dryly.
"What do you want me to say, Karev?" she demanded heatedly. "That I've come to hate Christmas thanks to my stupid mistakes and my stupid ex-husband? That walking around this hospital every day is just a reminder of how much I've screwed up? That I can't even show that I'm upset because I'm Satan, and I'm supposed to be a cold-hearted bitch? Is that what you want?"
"If saying all that means you're finally being honest with yourself again, then yeah. I want you to say that!" he argued vehemently.
Addison laughed bitterly. "If I was always honest with myself, I would be forever curled up in a ball in the corner sobbing."
"Don't say that. You have plenty of great things going for you."
Alex didn't answer. A glance out the window revealed the heavy snowfall outside. Making things up as he went, Alex reached out and plucked the coffee cup out of Addison's hand, placing it next to his own on the window sill before taking her hand and running down the hall.
"Karev, what are you doing?" came Addison's surprised question, which was punctuated by the rapid clicking of her stilettos on the tiled floor.
"Just go with it," he called over his shoulder. They ran into the lobby, earning several confused stares at seeing a surgical intern dragging his attending out of the hospital. Alex honestly couldn't bring himself to care, and he continued on his path until they were both outside and standing in the snow.
"Karev, what are we doing out here?" Addison asked, hugging herself to ward off the cold. "I'm in heels, for God's sake!"
"The snow makes you happy."
Alex walked up to her, looking her dead in the eye. "The snow makes you happy. You have a great job, and you're the best in your field at it," he continued. "You have great friends, and nobody thinks you're Satan anymore."
"Oh, no?" Addison asked miserably.
"I know I don't," came the simple answer. Addison raised her eyes in shock to see Alex staring at her with a burning intensity.
"Why not?" she croaked, unable to think of anything else to say.
Alex visibly rolled his eyes at the question. "Do you really think I would be making this much of an effort to get you to smile again if I did? That I would stand out here in the snow in only scrubs for Satan?" Addison's crystal eyes shone with doubt, and she tightened her hold on herself. Alex held her upper arms and leaned forward. "I'm standing out here for you."
Addison's eyes watered, a phenomenon she blamed purely on the cold weather. She didn't want to think about what her intern just confessed. Thinking about it would lead to considering the implications of that last statement, which would lead to how she felt about those implications—and about him. "I'm cold," she declared, tearing her eyes away from his.
Alex stiffened at her words. He didn't know what he was expecting her reaction to be—or even what he wanted it to be—but her completely ignoring his words was not it. Nor did he expect a knot to form in his chest at her casual dismissal. "I thought you didn't feel the cold anymore," he replied gruffly.
Addison's eyes locked onto his again, and he was pleasantly surprised to see fire in them. "Well, I feel it now, so please let me go so I can go inside," she ordered.
He'd finally succeeded, Alex realized. The ice in her eyes had melted, and she glared up at him beautifully as snowflakes fell onto her hair and eyelashes. Against all rational thinking, the sight made Alex do something extremely impulsive—he kissed her.
When he pulled away, he watched as Addison's eyes slowly fluttered open. Her mouth still hung slightly open in stunned silence.
"Do you still believe I think you're Satan?" he questioned, searching her face intently. Dumbly, she shook her head. "Good." Silence stretched for a few seconds as the snow continued to fall around them.
"Alex?" Addison's voice softly intruded into the quiet.
"I'm really cold," she announced. A shiver ran through her body to emphasize her point.
Alex let out a laugh that warmed her up ever so slightly. He reached out and hugged her shoulders to him. "Let's go inside then."
The two started walking toward the hospital entrance. Alex kept his arm around her shoulders, and Addison, feeling like a teenager again, shyly let him.
"Hey, Alex?" she broke the silence once again.
Still channeling her teenager self, Addison felt her cheeks warm up as she wished her companion, "Merry Christmas."
Alex looked at the stunning redhead in his arms and sent her a warm, almost fond smile.
"Merry Christmas, Addison."
A/N: Was the ending too cheesy? I hope not, because I enjoyed it. I hope you did, too. Please drop me a review and let me know! After you do that, you can mosey on over to Juli's (Darling Pretty) page and read her Addex Christmas oneshot, May All Your Troubles Soon Be Gone, because it's fabulous. It made me incredibly happy, and I felt the need to spread the joy. I've favorited it, so you can look on my profile to get it. But first: REVIEW!