Author's Note - This is set after the shootings but Cristina doesn't have a break down - or if she did she's already had it, we'll have to see how the next few episodes pan out after Christmas - and that's about all that's different to the show. I think.
Light suddenly cascaded through the window, bathing the snoozing figure in the bed unexpectedly. Her features scrunched up like a wizened newborn puppy and she let out a whine.
"Meredith, it's time to get up. You have a shift in an hour."
The soft lilt of her husband's voice reached her ears and she imagined that stupidly soppy look on his face. It was the one which he got when she was being difficult and he was just indulging her. She'd throw a pillow at it if she had the energy. Instead she just lay there with her eyes closed, too lethargic to move.
Listening carefully, she heard his bare feet pad across the floor over to her side of the bed. Abruptly, the covers were whipped away and she whimpered as the cold buffeted her slender frame, curling herself up in an effort to keep warm. A strong arm slid beneath her shoulder blades and pulled her gently upward. She murmured in protest.
"Come on, Mer," Derek whispered in her ear, kissing her on the temple. "I have a meeting and if you want a lift then you're going to have to cooperate."
"I'm sick," she moaned, blinking slowly as she tried to make sense of her surroundings. However, her head felt like soup and she was having trouble focussing on anything because of the light-headedness that had crept up on her.
Derek sighed, his patience wearing a little. "Meredith," he warned. "You have to work. You can't just pull a sick day just because you're tired. You shouldn't have stayed up with Christina watching all those god-awful horror movies. I told you didn't I…?"
However, he was cut off suddenly when Meredith ripped herself from his grip and sprung to her feet, almost falling over as she did so. Careening across the floor, she charged headfirst into the hallway and over into the bathroom where she dropped to her knees and violently vomited into the toilet.
Immediately concerned, Derek strode swiftly after her and crouched down behind her in order to pull her hair out of the way and rub her back soothingly. "Whoa, what brought this on?"
"I'm sick," Meredith murmured, weakly, "See, I told you, didn't I?"
Derek frowned as she retched again, his smooth brow creasing with worry. "Okay. I concede. Seems you were right. Do you want me to stay? I mean I can cancel the meet-"
"No, Derek," Meredith interrupted, shaking her head and immediately regretting the movement. Her vision swam. "Y-you have to go…" She trailed off just in time to throw up again. "I can look after myself."
His eyes soft with sympathy, Derek stroked his wife's loose hair and climbed to his feet. "Right, well, I'll sort some stuff out for you then. Do you think the worst of its over? Do you want to stay here or go back to bed?"
"Stay here," Meredith replied, feebly dropping down from the lid of the toilet and curling around its foot, pressing the cool ceramic against her clammy forehead. Her dizziness abated slightly.
Feeling his heart go out to his obviously sick wife, Derek was reluctant to leave her in such a state and he was still deliberating over calling in to postpone the meeting when he heard what sounded like a grunt of annoyance. Surprised, he looked down at Meredith who glowered back up at him.
"For Christ's sake, Derek, it's just a bug. Go and save some freakin' lives. They need your help more than I do."
"Fine," he agreed, defeated, "I'm going but I'll call in for you and get you some saltines and water. Okay?"
Barely understanding him through her haze of nausea, Meredith merely whispered, "That would be nice." Then she listened to him leave.
A few minutes later the sound of footfalls signified his return but Meredith couldn't be bothered to move in order to see him properly. She was in exactly the same position he'd left her in – hugging the toilet like a life-line. Vaguely, she sensed him come closer and place the cup and plate down next to her elbow. Then a gentle kiss was dropped on top of her head.
"Love you, Mer. I hope you feel better soon."
"Me too," she mumbled and Derek smiled, tenderly, guessing that she was answering for both his statements.
"Call me if you feel worse. Unfortunately, I have two surgeries planned so I'll see you this evening. Is that okay?"
"S'fine." Turning slightly, Meredith cracked open her eyes and stared at the overly concerned face of her husband. "Now leave me alone so I can die I peace."
Derek chuckled but complied, stepping out of the bathroom and into the hallway so he could get ready for work. When he finally collected his bag and keys, he sent one last lingering look up the staircase to where he knew his wife was suffering and then walked, reluctantly, out of the front door.
It was about two o'clock in the afternoon when Meredith's grey-green eyes cracked slightly open. Through slits, she examined the crevices and knots in the wooden floor that her cheek was pressed up against. Her mouth felt dry and her throat raw but, as she tentatively righted herself, she found that she no longer felt the overwhelming need to barf. That was a promising sign.
That's what she needed. Flailing out wildly, she was lucky not to knock over Derek's considerately placed cup of water. Fortunately, her fingers brushed the cold glass before she could do too much damage and gratefully closed around the cylindrical object. Gingerly, she brought the cool liquid to her parched lips and gulped greedily, wincing at first but then beginning to enjoy the smoothness on the inside of her roughened throat.
Now her dry throat wasn't burning, she could consider climbing to her feet. She did so with some effort, hefting her slight frame up using significant leverage from the toilet seat. Once upright, she fought a moment of unsteadiness and then found her balance. Her bones creaked ominously, obviously protesting after being on the uncomfortably hard floor for so long. However, she was unperturbed as she padded cautiously down the corridor and then navigated the stairs.
Dropping like a sack of potatoes onto the couch, Meredith captured the controller from its precarious perch on the edge of an armchair and flicked on the TV. Images jumped brightly out of the screen and she squinted a little, her head still muggy with sleep. Just as she was settling in to watch some crappy house program, her stomach let out a loud grumble. She blinked, surprised. Usually, when she had a bug and had vomited for the majority of the morning, she didn't tend to warm to the idea of eating. However, her insides seemed to be having other ideas.
With a sigh, she lurched to her feet and shuffled towards the kitchen, her fluffy socks sliding easily on the smooth floor. Rummaging around in the bread bin she found the remnants of a fluffy white loaf that looked just about edible and popped a couple of pieces in the toaster. Whilst the bread toasted, she scoured the refrigerator for some butter. Unfortunately the shelves were pitifully empty after her and Cristina had raided all the food stores last night for a midnight feast and all that remained was a small chunk of mouldy cheese and a can of Mountain Dew. Wrinkling her nose, Meredith shut the heavy door with a clunk and returned to her toast which had jumped up.
As she munched happily on the slightly charred bread, she meandered casually around the kitchen and contemplated tidying up the detritus that had accumulated over several days, perhaps even weeks. Usually, she wasn't much of a cleaner – Derek would agree to that any time he was asked – but seeing the sea of mess around her she couldn't help but want to spruce the place up. They always used the excuse that they were busy people who didn't have time for cleaning and that's why their house was perpetually in chaos (well, Meredith always used that excuse whereas Derek generally tried to be tidy) but now Meredith couldn't work out why she'd never been bothered by the pigsty her home had become. It was gross. She needed to tidy.
And so she set about cleaning the kitchen. And then the living room. And then the hall. And then the entire house. It didn't seem like a chore. In fact, she kind of enjoyed it, especially when she turned the radio on and vacuumed in time to the music. By the time Queen's Don't Stop Me Now blared from the speakers the house was spotless. Meredith dropped onto the sofa and beamed proudly to herself. See! She could be a good wife….when she put her mind to it….which wasn't often…mainly because she was focussed on saving people's freakin' lives! Speaking of which, she probably should have done some paperwork or read some journals on her 'sick day' rather than spring clean the house.
Sighing, Meredith clambered to her feet and went in search of her bag. Just then the phone rang.
"Meredith! Where the hell are you? Why aren't you here having the hellish day I'm currently enduring?" Cristina Yang's unmistakable voice blared from the phone which Meredith had just picked up. She winced.
"I'm…well I was….ill," Meredith said, feeling rather pathetic now.
"You're so pathetic!" Cristina echoed bluntly and Meredith could just imagine her dark brown eyes rolling dramatically. "What happened to the good ol' days when it would literally take a blow to the head or internal bleeding to make us take a sick day? I liked those days when you weren't all complete wusses! Evil Spawn is being a whiny man-child 'cos he's got a 'jack-hammer of a headache'." Cristina quoted Alex with uncanny accuracy. "And everyone is friggin' sneezing on me like it's the plague or something! I hate February! It's official." She paused mid-rant. "Now, inform me again as to why you aren't here?"
"Sick?" Meredith replied, feebly.
"Wuss!" Cristina exclaimed and then sighed. "You better be in tomorrow Meredith or I might actually kill someone."
"I promise I will. I'm feeling better."
"Good. Well, I'll see you then." With that Cristina hung up.
Meredith stared at the phone for a couple of seconds, a little stunned, but she guessed she should really be used to Cristina's ways by now considering how long they'd been friends. Eventually, she placed it back in its cradle and resumed the search for her bag.
The clock read eight o'clock by the time Derek returned home. Meredith heard the telltale rattle of keys and the creak of the front door as her husband stepped over the threshold. He dropped his bag in the hallway with a clunk before hurrying up the stairs; the thump of his footfalls accompanied his ascent. She listened as he squeaked open the bathroom door and whispered, "Meredith" into the darkness. After flicking the light switch and determining she was no longer curled up on the cold, hard floor he called out louder, "Meredith? Mer? Where are you?"
"In the bedroom," Meredith called back.
Another shuffle followed and he swished into the room with his long winter coat still on.
"You feeling better?" he queried, seeing her tucked up in bed. "It's snowing outside."
Meredith's green-grey eyes widened in horror. "You're kidding?"
"No. I'm not," Derek replied, bemused by her reaction. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Meredith nodded, waving her hand flippantly, "I'm not feeling sick anymore but please don't tell me you walked up my clean stairs in your wet, snowy boots."
Derek's brow creased. "I….did?"
"I spent hours on that!"
"Since when did you clean? I thought you were sick?"
"I just said I'm better, didn't I? It cleared up by lunch time so I thought I'd tidy."
"You've never voluntarily tidied in your life." Derek's eyebrows had shot into his hairline. "How much did you tidy?"
"Well, I had the whole day and one room led to the next so I ended up cleaning the whole house."
"This isn't like the knitting thing is it?"
"No. The house needed a clean, Derek. Ever since Avery, April and Lexie went away for their vacation this place has been getting worse. You know April usually keeps everything tidy and now that she's not here I felt the need to tidy, you know, to make up for her absence and then I started to polish stuff and do you realise how much stuff we have that hasn't been polished since forever and…."
"Okay, okay I surrender. Are you sure you're feeling better?" Derek questioned, slightly teasing as he walked round the bed and placed a very cold hand on her warm forehead. Meredith's skin didn't feel too hot so she couldn't have a fever. She batted him away.
"I'm fine. I said. I just felt it was time for me to, you know; step up to the mark and all. Be a good housewife…"
"And you're in bed at eight because?"
"I'm really, really tired. It's strange….I feel exhausted like I've just pulled a double but I've been home all day."
Derek's blue eyes softened. "Sounds like you are sick, Mer. I'm pretty tired too so I'll just have a shower and then join you."
"Surely you should go in one of the spare rooms otherwise you'll get it?" Meredith asked.
"I don't get sick," Derek smiled. It was his trademark smug smile that both infuriated and endeared her at the same time. "Besides." He grinned and patted the covers. "You look so cute and cosy in that bed I don't want to miss out on all the warmth."
"Okay," Meredith yawned and closed her eyes, sliding further under the blankets. "See you in a bit."
By the time Derek returned to the bed Meredith was fast asleep.
Meredith was sick again in the morning and Derek forced her to take another day off. Once again her overwhelming nausea cleared up by midday and she found herself mooching around the house with nothing to do. She'd done the housework and all the paperwork she needed. In the end she decided to go on a walk. It was excruciatingly cold out so she wrapped up extra warm in several layers if only to appease the niggling-omnipresent Derek who now lived in her mind. He was as insanely irritating and organised as the real thing if not more so. Sometimes she hated being married to a righteous know-it-all.
The whole world was carpeted in a wonderful white blanket of snow and Meredith enjoyed the crunch of her heavy boots on the fluffy surface as she made her way along the sidewalk. A few stray flakes were still drifting down from the sky and she managed to get several entangled in her light brown locks. One even dropped daintily into her eye, blinding her with its coldness momentarily before it caught in her eyelashes and she managed to brush it away. Her warm breath hit the cold air sending smoky spirals into the atmosphere where they soon dissipated.
On the other side of the street she saw a man pulling along his two children in a bright blue sled. They shrieked in delight and urged him to go faster as they glided across the smooth snow. He seemed to be enjoying himself too; a massive grin was plastered onto his bearded face. It was a very sweet family scene. Meredith felt a pang of jealousy. If she'd had the baby….if she hadn't lost it….then perhaps Derek would be the one dragging their child along in the snow. Well, actually it probably wouldn't be old enough for such activities but they still would have been a family. Grief gnawed painfully inside her.
She watched the little family curiously as they progressed down the sidewalk and it was because she was so focussed on them that she saw what was about to happen a split second before it did. A boy on a bike skidded around the corner and collided with the father, knocking his feet out from beneath him and sending him sprawling forward, headfirst over the still skidding bike and onto the boy. The bike continued on its devastating trajectory into the sled. Its handlebar struck one of the children on the head, sending her neck snapping back whilst the other end swung round and knocked the younger child into the road. Disorientated, the toddler tried to push itself up but was either too much in shock or too young to get any further than its knees. Instead it cried out desperately.
This had all happened within a few seconds and Meredith found herself gravitating towards the accident, especially when she caught sight of a car speeding much too fast along the icy road. Could this get any worse? The driver would never be able to stop in time even if he saw the child crawling in the road.
Without thinking Meredith sprinted across the street, her boots only just managing to grip on the icy surface. She would never make it in time! Pushing herself to move faster than she ever had in her life Meredith found the child within arms' reach and scooped it off the floor. Unfortunately, she wasn't completely out of the path of the car, a fact she soon realised when she felt the sharp, intense pain explode in her elbow. It spread down her arm like wildfire and she let out a scream of agony. Somehow, though, she still managed to keep hold of the small child in her grip.
A screech of brakes and a massive crash behind her made her spin, despite the excruciating heated pain in her arm, to see the smoking wreck of the car which had collided with parked truck.
Then there was the silence.
A silence that reminded Meredith of being underwater, eerie and surreal. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as she spun in a circle and surveyed the destruction which had been caused by a careless boy on a bike just seconds ago. Her heart thundered deafeningly in her ears. She could feel her hot blood flowing through her veins, just beneath her pale skin. The child in her arms was shaking. Several passersby had closed in. Some were checking on the father who was just sitting up and the boy who'd scrambled to his feet. Meredith realised he was about to run for it but no one else did so they didn't react quick enough to stop him from sprinting away.
"This kid's unconscious! And she's bleeding pretty badly!" someone yelled.
Everything snapped back into normal speed when those words reached Meredith's ears. She placed the trembling toddler into someone's arms, told them to call 911 and hurried over to the prone form of the little blonde haired girl. Crimson blood matted her golden curls. The delicate shells of her eyelids were closed.
"Stand back," she ordered, "I'm a doctor."
Ignoring the pain in her arm, Meredith quickly assessed the child and established that she was breathing. That was good. She definitely didn't want to move her, especially as she'd seen how hard she'd been hit. There was a high possibility her neck was broken. This was definitely going to be a neurosurgical case; the skin on her skull wasn't broken but Meredith suspected an epidural hematoma from the decerebrate posturing she was displaying and the abnormal reaction of the girl's pupils to light. She gently stroked the girl's soft golden fringe off her forehead. There was nothing more she could do until the ambulance arrived.
"Is she alive?" a strangled voice exclaimed and the father of the child stepped into Meredith's line of vision. He was also sporting a head wound. Blood trickled down over the ridge of his eyebrow. He dropped to his knees beside Meredith.
"She's…her condition is serious," Meredith replied diplomatically.
"Are you really a doctor?"
"That's…lucky," the man said but he didn't sound as if he thought it was lucky. He just sounded like his world had ended. His vocal chords sounded as if they were being scraped across cut glass. "He just….he came out of nowhere…the boy, I mean."
"I know. I saw the whole thing."
"Where's Billy?" the man suddenly yelped, looking wildly around.
"Your son? He's fine. He wasn't injured. He's with that woman. See?" Meredith swiftly reassured the distraught father.
"Oh. Yes." The man nodded. "You saved him from that car. Thank you."
"It was….it was nothing. I mean I had to…"
"Her name's Maisie." He gestured to the girl.
"Maisie. Right. What's your name?"
"Okay Tim. I can't do anything for your daughter right now. We'll have to wait until the ambulance comes. I need to go see how the guy in the car is. I'll be back as soon as I can. Okay? You just stay with her. Hold her hand. Talk to her."
"Will she wake up?" he asked, earnestly. His dark eyes pleaded with her.
Meredith paused and then said, softly, "Not yet, Tim."
Quickly she left and hurried over to the car. Several people had gathered around the door and were murmuring between themselves. Meredith pushed them out of the way without preamble and tried to open the car door. It was jammed shut. Sighing, she scrambled through the window – bashing her elbow and hissing in pain as she did so - and inelegantly dropped into the seat beside the injured man. A spider web of cracks showed where his head had impacted with the windshield. The large, ugly red wound on his head was a bit of a giveaway too. Meredith groaned internally. Why did people never wear their damn seatbelts? It only took two freakin' seconds.
By the time she'd assessed the unconscious driver the screaming of sirens had pierced the cold wintery air and she sagged in relief. Usually she would have no difficulty dealing with acute trauma but she was feeling quite woozy due to the pain in her arm and the illness or exhaustion or whatever she was already battling. In fact, by the time one of the technicians began ushering her into the rig she was ready to sit down and sleep. However, the sharp pain in her elbow kept her awake. Well, that and the fact she needed to stay with her seriously injured patients. As the Maisie already had her father and her brother with her, Meredith elected to travel with the driver who had yet to rouse. She'd discovered his name with Ralph Monaghan from his driver's licence.
As the doors sprung open to reveal Seattle Grace, Meredith was as surprised as Cristina to see her standing outside waiting for the incoming trauma.
"Long story. No time to explain. This is Ralph Monaghan. He's thirty-two. Unrestrained driver. Skidded on the ice and hit a parked truck. Severe head trauma from hitting the windshield. BP is…ahhh."
Meredith hissed in pain as one of the paramedics knocked her elbow as he climbed from the ambulance. Cristina immediately jumped on it.
"What's wrong? What have you done? You better tell me Meredith…"
"Like I said," Meredith retorted, swiftly, as she climbed down from the rig and helped get the gurney off. "It's a long story. A lot of stuff happened. I saved this kid from getting flattened by this guy's car but got hit in the process….only on the arm!" Meredith quickly corrected herself, seeing Cristina's eyes widen. "And I dunno, I think it's just bruised."
Before she could do anything in defence, Cristina grabbed Meredith and inspected her arm, not caring when her friend cried out in pain.
"Fractured. I'm fairly certain. You'll have to have an x-ray though." Cristina's face suddenly lit up. "Ooh, what's McDreamy gonna say about you throwing yourself in front of cars?"
"To save a small child!" Meredith reminded her indignantly.
"Oh. Yeah. He'll think you're all heroic. Geez, you two are really sickening, you know that? You make me want to vomit. Wait. Look here it comes." Cristina mimed retching. "I bet you'll get some award. I can see the headline now Super Surgeon Saves Small….Spawn from….Squishing."
"Cristina! Save the friggin' patient."
"Oh right yeah."
By this time Owen Hunt had joined them. "What have we got – Meredith why are you here? I thought Derek said you were ill?"
Meredith opened her mouth to reply but Cristina intervened. "No, she was saving toddlers from untimely deaths." Owen looked baffled. "Oh! And injuring herself in the process. How are you going to perform surgeries with a broken arm, eh? You didn't think of that when you martyred yourself did you? No. And who will be here on her own once again. Oh yeah, that's me."
"Yang, shut up and page Shepherd."
"I don't need Derek!" Meredith yelped.
"Not for you, Grey, for the patient," Owen replied, gesturing to the bloody head wound.
"And I want you to go have that arm seen to. Understand?"
"Yes Dr Hunt."
"Good. Now that's sorted, let's go about saving lives. I mean, that's what we're paid to do, isn't it?" He directed his glare at Cristina but whereas most would have cowered she just flounced away, pulling the gurney with her.
Please please review!