Author's Note - Thank you very muchly for the reviews! Sorry for the gap! I hope you enjoy! There's quite a lot of dialogue and humour in this chapter so I hope you find it funny and can picture the scenes! :D
"We're going to the zoo."
"Derek, you will die."
"Oh ye of little faith."
"No, I'm serious; you will die taking four nine month old babies to the zoo! That's just asking for a pulmonary embolism. I mean, you'll keep an eye on one, yeah, two tops but then you'll lose the other two in the lion enclosure and then where will you be?
"Two babies short of a string quartet?" Derek couldn't help but grin.
"I'm trying to be the responsible one here, Derek!" Meredith declared, adding a small stamp for emphasis. Derek's eyebrows shot up into his hairline and he offered his wife an amused look.
"Meredith, I won't be alone anyway, my mom is coming down from New York to help."
Meredith, who had been about to continue arguing, paused, then asked, "She is?"
"Yes." As he spoke, Derek scooped up a bit of mushy banana and offered it to Rosie. She declined with a screwed up face and a forceful fist bump which knocked the gooey mess to the feeding table with a resounding splat.
"And when exactly were you planning on telling me this?"
"When you weren't screeching at me and pulling your hair out like a crazy woman?" Derek offered, teasingly.
"Don't! Don't push it, mister," Meredith said, warningly, looking unmoved.
"And don't call me ma'am."
"Yes, sir!" Derek barked and mock-saluted; his periwinkle blue eyes were sparkling with mirth.
"Oh ha, ha" Meredith sighed.
"Does the sergeant get a kiss before his boss goes to work?"
"Don't count on it," Meredith retorted but they could both she was melting to Derek's formidable charm.
Slowly, he leaned towards her across the table and she reluctantly, with a half smile on her face, closed the distance between them. Their lips met in a soft caress which lasted only a few seconds because Rosie chirped, demanding attention, at the same time as Malachy launched his bowl of Cheerios across the kitchen floor with a well-placed elbow. In his defence, he looked a little contrite…but not much. Perhaps the smile gave away how unabashed he really was.
"Oh would ya look at that? Seems that the sergeant has some scrubbing of the floor to do," Meredith smirked. She ruffled Malachy's wavy brown hair affectionately. "Now, I have to go. I love you." She kissed Derek on the cheek once more, feeling the roughness of his morning stubble against her lips. "You need a shave," she whispered, breathily against his skin.
"Love you too, Mer," Derek replied with a little bit of sarcasm.
"Bye. Wish me luck."
"Yeah," Meredith stated, surveying the mess that four rowdy nine month old babies had already created at seven o'clock in the morning, "You sure are gonna need it."
Once she'd gone, Derek finished feeding the babies their breakfast – they were now eating three mushy meals a day, like real people! – and then left them to chatter nonsensically among themselves whilst he clattered around with the dishwasher. It was strange being home alone with them. Usually it was Meredith left alone with them or else they would both be there. He had decided to take the next two weeks off to look after the quads whilst Hilda was looking after her father because he certainly didn't want Meredith missing anymore surgeries if it could be helped. She was just getting back into her rhythm. He just hoped he could handle the mischievous foursome as well as she did on her own.
They were nearly ten months old now. They'd all reached various milestones; some minor, some major. Will and Lucia had both started cutting their first teeth, much to the dismay of Meredith who had only recently managed to get them all sleeping for at least eight hours straight through. Unfortunately, it was now back to how it had been when they were tiny babies, waking at all hours screaming and crying. It was very painful to watch the distress his two children were in and he wished he could do something for them but other than kissing and cuddling them, there was nothing else he could do to help. His comforting did seem to be having some effect though because the other night the two of them fell asleep on his chest as he lay on a beanbag on the floor and slept for six hours. It was both a relief for him and them to see them so at peace. In fact, he'd fallen asleep as well and had woken to find Meredith snapping photos of him.
"Wha?" he'd questioned, dog-tired.
"Oh sorry, Derek, it was too cute to pass up. Go back to sleep." She'd dropped a butterfly kiss on his forehead and then one on each of the babies' noses before leaving them alone.
Another interesting side effect of the teeth-cutting was the fact that the babies would bite anything for relief and that included the arm or leg of the person closest to them. It was like having two little – admittedly adorable – vampires in residence.
The babies had also all managed to stand, holding onto something of course, but it was quite exciting for all involved – especially for Rosie who had squealed in pure delight and promptly fallen on her backside. However, it had then led to Meredith and Derek baby-proofing the higher up furniture that the quads could now reach and setting up a fenced off area in the living room to place the babies in. They realised they needed to fence them in now they'd gotten more mobile and inquisitive, otherwise the whole house would be torn apart. All the babies could crawl now and they seemed to enjoy pulling books – even massively heavy medical textbooks – off shelves so those had to be barricaded up.
The final two milestones they'd reached were feeding themselves. Well, mainly this involved popping a piece of cereal in their mouth but it was a start. And Lucia had managed some actual words after they were repeated continually to her. She could say 'bubbles' in the bath and whilst watching the television she had called 'Obama' after he was mentioned several times. Now she just said Obama whenever she felt like it, much to Derek's amusement.
"We have a politician on our hands," he'd laughed, chucking her under the chin.
"Nah, she's too laidback for that. My bet is on environmentalist. Have you seen how she eyes those dandelions?"
"Yes, I have but I think she just wants to eat them," Derek replied with a grin.
Also, Lucia, Rosie and Malachy had all managed to say 'mama' which Meredith assumed was in reference to her but Will still had a little way to go. He was much more reserved than his siblings, quietly observing the world. However, he had discovered the delights of the bouncy kiddies' baseball that Derek had dropped in the playpen and he liked to throw it across the carpet before scrambling after it on his hands and knees and throwing it again. Unfortunately, whenever any of the others tried to 'play' he would immediately whine and stop playing altogether. After a time, his brother and sisters had realised this and just left him be. In fact, he wouldn't even play with Derek. The only person he'd ever willingly thrown the ball to was Mark – who'd come round for a spur of the moment visit to his godson – and from that moment Mark had declared that he was going to make him into a pro-athlete. Derek had looked on sourly until Meredith reminded him that William was not yet one and probably had no idea what was going on so Derek had plenty of time to teach him whatever he wanted in the future.
"So, guys," Derek said, once he'd finished with the cleaning up of the kitchen and scooped up the smattering of Cheerios courtesy of Malachy. "You ready to go to the zoo?"
"A-whoo!" Lucia chirruped, clapping her hands, her honey-golden curls bobbing around her head.
"I'll take that as a yes?" Derek grinned, taking them each out of their seats at the feeding table and carrying them over to the playpen. "Right, I've gotta phone your grandma to see whether she's going to be making an appearance any time soon. Okay? So can you entertain yourselves? Here, look, I'll put the TV on."
He sought out the remote from the back of the couch and flicked on the screen that was mounted on the wall, away from small damaging hands. Baby Einsteins shimmered into life.
"There you go. Enjoy."
About an hour later, Caroline Shepherd knocked on the door of her son's house and waved the taxi cab away. She hadn't wanted to make him come all the way out to fetch her when he had all the quads to look after so she'd made her own way; just as she had when she visited him the first time, all that time ago. It was hard to believe so much had happened since then. He'd gotten married – sort of – and had four gorgeous grandchildren to add to her already large brood. She couldn't wait to see them again. Often she wished that Derek would move back to New York so she could see them all more often but she knew that he was happy here with his job and his friends and the new life he'd created for himself after the devastation he'd experienced with Addison. She understood that Seattle was his place; his safe haven and she supposed she couldn't fault him for wanting to stay.
The door swung open moments later to reveal an unshaven Derek with tufty morning-hair, dressed in sweats and balancing a bright-eyed baby on his hip.
"Nice to see you've dressed up for my visit," she said with a wry smile, taking in his attire. However, before he could reply, she asked, "Now, how's my youngest grandson?"
Malachy, who was currently sucking his fist with great concentration on his face, stared at her with large, round brown eyes. He couldn't understand what she was saying but he seemed to recognise that she was addressing him. With a wet noise, he extricated his balled up hand and thrust it towards her, covered in sticky drool.
"Ah, like father, like son, I see," Caroline laughed, gently taking his tiny fist between her thumb and forefinger and shaking it. Malachy merely looked confused by her strange actions and he stared at his hand after she'd released as if it had turned green and grown antlers. "Oh, that frown is all yours, Derek."
"That's exactly what Meredith said," Derek chuckled.
"Boy, has he grown though." Caroline let out a low whistle.
"Yeah. They all have," Derek agreed, looking a bit nostalgic.
There was a pause. "So, are you going to let your ma in or am I going to have to beg?"
"Oh, yes, right, sorry. Come on in, Ma."
He gestured for her to come through and the two of them made their way into the living room where the rest of the quads were waiting. William was still sitting in front of the television, watching some kids' show whilst Lucia and Rosie seemed to be engaged in some kind of game that involved a lot of giggling and pushing each other. Every time one touched the other they would both collapse into fits of laughter.
"Looks like fun," Caroline commented, dryly, surveying their antics with grandmotherly affection. Her usually cool, shrewd eyes were warm and amused by what her granddaughters were doing. "Gosh, and they've grown too. Look at them. All that hair. Last time Rosie was practically bald."
"Yeah. I swear they change every minute. Each morning I wake up and go to get them out of their cribs and they look different."
"Well, savour it whilst it lasts. Before you know it they'll be all grown up and wanting to move across the country to become hotshot surgeons and…" she tailed off with a smile, glancing at her son so that he knew she was joking.
"Yeah, I hope that doesn't happen too soon," Derek replied with a thoughtful expression on his face.
"Oh come on, goose, I was only joking." Caroline punched him lightly on the arm. "Now, you said we were going to the zoo?"
"Well, we better get going if we want to be there before closing time. From what I've heard from Meredith over email, it takes you guys hours to get out of the door."
"Rawwwrrrr!" Malachy shouted, gleefully, from his perch in his father's arms. "Rawwwrrr!"
"And what animal is that?"
"Rawwwrrr!" the little boy giggled again, his brown eyes alight with excitement.
"Lion. Can you say li-on?"
"Maybe not then."
"Do you like the lions, Malachy?" Caroline asked her grandson with a gentle smile. "They're big and they roar don't they?"
"I think that's all we're going to get out of him for now, Ma," Derek said with a sigh, "I guess we can safely say which his favourite animal is though. How are the others doing?"
"I did manage to get Lucia to say 'el-pha' but I thought giraffe might be pushing it," Caroline stated as she jiggled the baby in her arms. Lucia gurgled happily, her eternally sunny disposition shining through on the slightly murky grey day.
"She's definitely our resident whizz-kid," Derek said, proudly, his eyes sparkling as he stared at his small perfect daughter. She smiled back at him, showing off her two tiny front teeth. "I've got high hopes for you, kiddo."
They walked on for a bit, each holding a baby, whilst Derek pushed the mammoth quad stroller with his spare hand. It was a bit of an effort but the babies didn't like being cooped up in the confines of their seats for too long when there was so much to look at so they had to take turns being out. He was definitely building up the muscles in his arms from all this pushing and carrying though. It was more of a workout than he'd ever done at the gym. Sneaking a quick peek into the stroller, he saw that Rosie had fallen asleep beneath her blanket whilst William sat quietly in his chair just watching the world go by with semi-interest as his eyelids gradually drooped.
"We've tired them out," Derek declared, amused by his children who were now dropping like flies. Malachy's heavy head had just dropped onto his shoulder and Lucia was battling to keep her eyes open so she could gaze in wonder at the flamingos in all their pink, one-legged glory.
"What are they, Lucy?" Caroline questioned her bright grandchild.
"They're fla-ming-goes. Can you say that?"
"Okay, we'll stick with that then."
Moments later, Lucia had also succumbed to sleep. Mother and son continued to walk steadily around the zoo, despite the fact that neither of them were really looking at the exhibits. They passed the bear enclosure without much of a glance and the penguins went completely unnoticed. Each was lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Caroline broke the silence.
"So, Derek, how're you coping with all…this?"
"By 'this' you mean them?" He jerked his thumb at the quads.
"Yes. As your mother, even though you are an adult and I know that, I feel it's my duty to ask after your welfare. I mean no one else will. Meredith doesn't have the time to worry about you with all these four and your friends won't really understand or won't notice because I know you, Derek, and you put up a good front so people think your coping but as I just said, I'm your mother and I know when things are tough. You look shattered, sweetheart."
Derek slowed in his pace and turned to look at his mother. He held her gaze for a good few seconds as if contemplating what exactly to say to her. She waited patiently.
"It is…hard," he finally, admitted, "But it's a good hard. You know how things only feel like they were really worth it if you've worked your ass off for it? That's how it feels with the quads. Yes, there are some god-awful days that are just so goddamn hard that I just want to sit down and never get up again but I think that would be parenthood even if I didn't have four of them. And then there are the good days - which are most days in all honesty - where Will learns to say 'Da' or Rosie pulls herself to her feet or they all just roll about on the floor giggling like something I did was the funniest thing in the world and I'm just so, so glad to have them. I love them so much it hurts to think about them not being in my life. They mean everything to me and I wouldn't change anything about my life right now."
"Well," Caroline kissed him softly on the temple, "That's what I like to hear. And I am happy for you, Derek. You deserve all this, more than anyone."
Meredith was leaning against the nurses' station when someone tapped her gently on the shoulder. She turned around to come face to face with Owen in all his tall, red-headed glory. Blinking a little, she raised an eyebrow in question when he didn't say anything straight away. He seemed to struggle to form words the first few attempts – and Meredith was immediately reminded of Will trying to say a difficult word - but finally he got the hang of some syllables.
"Cristina wants to talk to you. I mean….I mean she hasn't actually said she wanted to talk to you but…but I can tell she wants to," Owen said, scratching the back of his head awkwardly, "She feels bad about what happened yesterday."
"Did she actually say that?" Meredith questioned, suspiciously.
"Not in so many words but…"
Meredith experienced a brief flash of anger. "Then she should be making her own apologies and admitting what she said was childish and unnecessary. She should be happy that I'm not competing against her for all the surgeries. Now she gets the pick of the bunch."
Owen shrugged, helplessly. "I don't know what to say. I can't say I understand what goes on in Cristina's head any more than you do, than anyone does. She's got her own way of thinking about things and I'd be lying if I said I knew how."
"I know," Meredith sighed, "I know." Seeing his pleading expression, she caved. "Fine, I'll go talk to her. Where is she?"
"On the observation platform, watching one of Bailey's surgeries."
"Okay. I'm going, I'm going," she muttered, darkly, and headed for the doors.
"Thank you, Grey."
"Don't thank me yet!" Meredith called over her shoulder. "This will probably all end in tears….and broken glass….and a very angry Bailey."
Owen laughed behind her but she could have sworn there was a hint of nervousness there. He wasn't entirely sure if she was kidding or not.
Ten minutes later, Meredith slipped into the quiet observation room above the OR and spotted Cristina sitting in the second row with her knees bent up into her chest and her feet on the back of the chair in front. She was munching loudly on a green apple and had a bag of chips sitting beside her. It must be lunchtime. There were only a couple of other people in the room so hopefully their conversation wouldn't be overheard.
Tentatively, she walked down the steps and shimmied along the row of chairs to where her friend was sat. With a deep breath, she went to sit down.
"That seat's taken," Cristina said, immediately, in a sharp tone without looking up.
"I'm serious," Cristina replied, still not looking up as she took another massive and slightly aggressive bite of her apple. Meredith winced. "My nachos are sitting there."
"Okay," Meredith sighed and shuffled to the next seat.
"Ah-ah-ah, that's reserved for my coffee when it comes."
"I sent an intern; they should be here any minute."
"Cristina, this is stupid."
"You're stupid," Cristina muttered.
"Now you're being childish."
"I think my point is proven," Meredith replied, wearily. She moved back along and moved the nachos out of the way, sitting down. Cristina made an unintelligible sound of annoyance but didn't say anything else. "Look, I have to deal with four kids at home. I'm not willing to have you be all angsty teenager on me, got it?"
"I'm serious. We need to talk."
"We do not," Cristina said, primly.
"I'm not getting into this again, Cristina. I'll come here to say what I've got to say and then, if you don't like it, well, tough."
"Is being a hard-ass in the job description when you become a mother?" Cristina quipped, coolly.
"Actually, it's in the job description of a surgeon," Meredith retorted, "Which I still am. I may not be destined for greatness like my mother but it doesn't mean you can't be great. You don't need me. You're Cristina Yang, cardio-god. I'm just Meredith Grey, daughter of Ellis Grey. That's all I have to my name Cristina. You made your name all by yourself. You didn't need a famous mother. You were just you: hard-headed, competitive, a slight bitch." Meredith paused to smirk, her eyes sparkling. "And undoubtedly crazy and you got here and you'll go way, way further. But I've decided to go a different route. One where I won't always be treading in my mom's footsteps. That's how I can finally be my own person. Do you understand? You're destined to be the famous one because you're freakin' awesome and you deserve it and you saved my husband's life."
Cristina was quiet for a few minutes and Meredith just waited patiently.
"That's probably the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me," Cristina said, softly.
"Even with the bitch bit? And the crazy part?"
"Yeah. Those were the best parts. They made it more real, otherwise it was just gonna be a clichéd diatribe."
"No, I'm sorry for yelling at you."
"That's okay too. We're the twisted sisters, remember? We've forgiven each other much worse."
"Shall we hug it out?"
"I'm glad we agree," Cristina said with a satisfied nod and promptly turned back to watching the surgery. Meredith shook her head and smiled.
Review? I hope I got Meredith and Cristina IC!