AN: A Mer/Der Christmas oneshot that was supposed to be finished before Christmas, but life happened...
Meredith moved sluggishly down the hall, cursing the man who had gone to one too many Christmas Eve parties, had more than one too many drinks, had gotten behind the wheel of his SUV and had driven through a major intersection on a red light. Her patient had been one of many, and the accident had kept Meredith in the hospital far past her scheduled shift.
The only consolation was the accident had lacked fatalities. No family would lose a loved one on the eve of Christmas. To Meredith that meant more now than ever before.
She had been paged in early, far before the sun had begun its daily journey through the sky – a journey that had ended hours ago. It was so late now that Christmas may have begun without her noticing. One glance at her watch confirmed her suspicion. 12:52AM.
She and Derek were supposed to have spent the evening together. Alone. She had been looking forward to it. Everyone else had been scheduled to be working. She and Derek would have had the run of the house. They had had plans. He was going to cook them dinner. And then they were going to have sex on the couch in the living room. That had been the plan; their Christmas.
Rounding the last corner to the central Nurses' Station, Meredith felt her lips curl upwards into a gentle smile as she spotted her husband. Derek was hunched over the desk, making notes onto a chart. She hadn't seen him in hours. Somewhere along the line he had lost his lab coat and his navy scrubs had become rumpled. He had been at the hospital almost as long as she had.
There weren't many people around – it was a holiday and it was almost one in the morning – but there were still two nurses behind the desk, a few interns milling about and at least one other resident in the vicinity. Plus a small goggle of family members in the waiting room. Not normally one to display her affections at work, Meredith ignored the possibility of an audience – it was Christmas after all – and strode right up to her husband, wrapping her arms around his waist from behind.
He tensed slightly at the contact, out of surprise, but relaxed quickly in her arms.
Meredith pressed her face into the space between his shoulder blades and inhaled deeply. The stress she had been accumulating from her day seemingly melted away.
Derek's free hand found both of hers as he finished writing in the chart. After a few moments, he sighed and shifted – movement she took to signify he had finished his notes. Releasing him, she stepped around so that she was leaning against the counter beside him. She smiled when he mirrored her position.
"It is you," he said jokingly, "I hoped it was." He leaned close to press a kiss to her cheek.
"It better be me," she deadpanned when he pulled away. "'Cause if you let random women in this hospital press themselves up against you, then there are some serious things we need to talk about..."
He chuckled. "I'll take that under advisement."
She rolled her eyes in good nature.
"How's your patient?"
"He's going to make it."
She nodded her agreement. "And yours?"
"Stable. It was a minor bleed. She'll be fine."
"We're a good team today."
He smirked. "We're a good team every day."
She smiled at his comment and – following her earlier decision to ignore the possibility of an audience because it was Christmas and she was feeling uncharacteristically positive – stretched upwards, hooked her fingers into the collar of his scrub top to pull him down an inch or two, and kissed him. He was caught off guard, and it was a moment before he leaned down to her level and kissed her back.
"What was that for?" He whispered when she pulled away.
"It's not Christmas yet. Not that I'm complaining. I like the kissing. More kissing I say."
She giggled as his reuse of the line he had first presented her with so many years before. "Look at your watch."
He did. And then he sighed as his happy smile fell away. "I lost track of the time."
"Me too," she said, offering him a smile and hoping his would return. Yes, it was one in the morning and their plans had been destroyed by a drunk driver, but they were together. And it was Christmas. And she liked seeing her husband smile on Christmas.
"Merry Christmas," he spoke softly, before taking her lead and ducking his head down to kiss her again. "I guess we're not getting our evening alone."
She shook her head. "Nope."
He sighed. "I'm sorry."
Meredith shrugged. "Me too. But at the same time, it's okay. We got to be here, saving lives."
"That's very glass is half full of you." An amused smile returned to his face.
She smiled at the small triumph of making him smile again. "My husband is an optimist. It was bound to rub off eventually."
He laughed out loud and his smile grew. "Does that mean I'm going to become pessimistic?"
"I'm not a pessimist."
He raised an eyebrow and remained silent. His amused smile grew even larger.
She smacked him lightly on the shoulder. "I'm not. I'm a realist. There's a difference. Saying the universe hates me isn't me feeling sorry for myself. It's just the truth."
He laughed again. "Okay."
"Are you done with your patients for now?"
He nodded, but frowned. "I need to check on my last patient in an hour or so. And then I'm scheduled to be back at six. I don't know that it's worth going home at this point..." He offered an apologetic smile.
"That's what I thought," she told him quickly, not wanting him to think he was ruining anything for her. She was scheduled to be on at eight. And even then there wasn't much point in going home. "I was wondering if you wanted to join me in the cafeteria for a late Christmas Eve dinner?"
"I'd love to," he responded easily. He passed the chart over the desk to the nurse, and then turned back to Meredith.
She reached for his hand as they walked together to the elevators. He turned his head towards her as their fingers threaded together, a contented smile now on his face. He was tired – the darkness under his eyes would tell her so even if she couldn't read his exhaustion in the rest of his features – but his eyes still sparkled when he met her gaze, pleasantly surprised at the sudden inhibition in her affections.
It wasn't like her, she knew, but it was Christmas, so she was doing what she wanted. Her husband was kind and loving and a little bit perfect. And he was warm. And he smelled good. And... it was freaking Christmas. If she wanted to touch her husband, to be close to him, to wrap her arms around him and to hold his hand, she was going to do it.
The elevator door opened the moment she pressed her finger to the button.
He was right behind her as she stepped onto the empty car, his hands on her hips, and the moment the door closed, he turned her around and backed her against the wall. His lips found hers in a soft kiss as his hands played lightly at her sides. Her hands found his hair. The kiss wasn't breathtaking or meant to start anything, but still offered comfort and the knowledge that despite his exhaustion, he was as happy to be with her as she was him. She smiled against his lips.
"Mmm," he murmured, his nose bumping against hers, "What?"
She kissed him again before leaning back against the wall, meeting his comforting blue eyes. "It's Christmas," she said simply.
"It is," he agreed.
"And we got to save lives. And now we're together-"
"In our elevator," he added.
She giggled. "In our elevator," she echoed. "And I guess I'm just...doing the grateful thing."
"The grateful thing?"
"Isn't that the whole point of Christmas? I mean, beyond the whole commercialization of the presents and cards and music and whatever. Aren't you supposed to spend time with your family and be grateful?"
He smiled at her. It was the best smile yet, full of warmth and tenderness. Only a couple years ago she wouldn't have been able to say something like this to him; to call him her family and tell him she was grateful for him. But she could say anything to him now. Because he was her family. And she was grateful for him. And you had to take the time to tell the people you loved that you loved them when you had the chance.
"I'm grateful too, Mer," he whispered, his fingers dancing along her forehead as he brushed a few strands of stray hair from her face.
"I love you," she told him. It wasn't something they said often. But he was warm and close and holding her. And he was making her heart all fluttery. And they were in their elevator.
And it was Christmas.
"I love you, too," he told her, "More than you know."
She smiled and shook her head. "I know. Trust me, Derek, I know." Because I love you that much, too, she said without saying.
I know, he told her by way of another tender kiss.
The elevator came to a stop and the doors opened. Meredith sighed as her husband pulled away from her. He always made her feel so warm. So safe. So loved.
He reached for her hand and she felt herself smile as she threaded her fingers through his as they walked together to the cafeteria. "Do you think there's going to be any food left?" He asked.
She shrugged. "There's always something."
She laughed. "To your standards? Probably not."
He chuckled. "I can make an exception today."
"Because it's Christmas?"
When they arrived at the cafeteria they found the tables mostly empty. In the far corner a single table was filled with nurses making the most of their Christmas shift, and a table in the adjacent corner held a pair of green scrub clad interns. A single cafeteria worker was behind the counter, swathed in red, complete with a plush Santa hat. "Merry Christmas," she greeted brightly.
"Merry Christmas," Meredith returned. After practically being raised in hospitals, she enjoyed spending holiday time there. The atmosphere wasn't what one would expect. The hospital workers, for the most part, made the best of their situation.
Derek offered his own greeting, and together they picked out a slightly wilted salad and a slightly soggy sandwich. They added two bottles of water and then Derek passed the cafeteria worker a twenty dollar bill along with a, "Keep the change."
They found themselves a table along the outskirts of the room, along the windows. It was dark outside, but they could make out the flittering of Christmas lights through the glass.
"Pretty," Meredith commented as she sat down across from Derek.
"Mmm-hmm," he agreed. "We can probably see the house from here," he added with a wry smile.
Meredith rolled her eyes at him in good humour. A week before, upon realizing Christmas was a week away and the house was undecorated, the Grey-Grey-Karev-Avery-Kepner part of the Grey-Shepherd-Grey-Karev-Avery-Kepner household had made plans to decorate. Unfortunately, the plans had been made between surgeries at three in the morning and when they had congregated together the next day to decorate two people had bought outdoor Christmas lights and no one had bought indoor Christmas lights. It had been decided that indoor lights weren't that important – especially because no one had remembered to buy a tree – and extra lights could only be better.
The result was a bare living room and a not-so-bare house. Every inch of the outside of the house was covered in bright, often mismatching, shimmering, blinking and colour changing lights.
Derek had returned from his shift in time to watch them argue over who got to plug in the lights. Upon declaring it was her house and anyone who touched the cord would be immediately evicted, Meredith had gotten the honours. However, her triumphant smile had fallen away about three seconds after she plugged in the lights – about the same time the amount of requested power had blown the fuse. It had taken another hour to split up the power sources.
"It's not that bad," she declared.
He chuckled. "You could probably see the house from space."
She laughed and shook her head. "You can hang the lights however you want next year."
"We'll have our own house next year."
She smiled. "Exactly."
"I can't wait."
"Me neither." She cocked her head at her husband. "Thank you for being so patient with the roommate thing."
"I'm a patient guy," he bantered.
She chose not to answer as she reached for a half of the sandwich.
"Hey," he spoke up, stopping her from taking a bite. "Merry Christmas," he said, holding up his bottle of water.
Meredith giggled as she did the same, and clinked her own bottle against his.
"So, this is our Christmas dinner."
She shrugged. "Could be worse."
He shot her an amused smile.
"Seriously. We have time to actually sit down and eat together. There's no roommates interrupting us. We got to save lives today. And it's Christmas."
His eyebrows furrowed together, but he kept smiling at her.
"Nothing. I'm just not quite sure how to act around you when you're being all optimistic and upbeat."
She rolled her eyes. "It's Christmas. You're supposed to be nice to your wife on Christmas."
He reached his hand across the table towards her. She threaded her fingers through his. "I'm glad you're happy, Mer. Even if it's one-thirty in the morning on Christmas and we missed out on our plans last night."
"We can have dinner anytime," she told him, before backtracking, "Well, okay, not any time, because the hospital owns us. But we can have dinner other times. Christmas only happens once a year."
"You weren't like this last year," he commented.
She nodded. "I wasn't. But I didn't get it last year."
He didn't appear to completely understand what she was telling him, but he nodded and offered her a smile. "For what it's worth, there's no one else I'd rather be with right now."
They finished their meal relatively quickly, and with time to spare before Derek needed to check on his patient, found themselves an empty on-call room. Just because they weren't exactly newlyweds anymore and didn't need to have sex all the time didn't mean they weren't going to celebrate the day in the best way they knew how.
Once they were finished celebrating, Meredith lay in Derek's arms and allowed her mind to drift. He always held her so close after sex, and it always made her feel safer than anything else in the world. It allowed her mind to wander to the future. With any luck – and she seriously believed they were owed some luck after everything they have been through – they would have a different kind of Christmas in the future. A Christmas that found them at home, woken up super early in the morning by excited giggles and small hands shaking them awake.
She imagined last minute wrapping on Christmas Eve and remembering to put out cookies and carrots on a plate before their kids went to bed. Cookies for Santa and carrots for Santa's reindeer. It was a tradition George had told her about once, and it made sense. If the reindeer were to pull Santa and a sleigh and a world's worth of presents all over the globe, they deserved treats as much, if not more, than Santa.
She imagined small stockings hanging beside hers and Derek's in the living room. This year their two stockings hung in their bedroom.
She imagined Derek staying up all night trying to put together whatever contraption he had bought for their kids. And he wouldn't read the instructions. She imagined him claiming that, as a neurosurgeon, instructions were beneath him.
She imagined being able to surround her kids by family on Christmas. She imagined giving them all the memories she never had.
This was a good memory, though. Lying in her husband's arms, feeling safe and loved and sated. This was a memory she would cherish. He was her family. Her most important family.
With a contented sigh, she pulled his arm tighter around her middle and closed her eyes.
His lips found the back of her neck, and then he pulled away. "I have to go check on my patient," he whispered apologetically.
She sighed in disappointment, but released his hand. She had momentarily forgotten. "Will you come back?"
He kissed the back of her neck again. "Yes. If there are no problems."
Meredith rolled off the bed and stood. "I'm going to try and get some sleep."
Derek stood up beside her. His hands found her bare hips. "I'll come back as soon as I can." He leaned in to kiss her softly.
She pressed her bare front against his as she hooked her hands behind his head and kissed his back. "Merry Christmas," she offered quietly.
"Merry Christmas," he echoed. He kissed her one more time before releasing her and reaching for his clothes. She did the same, quickly pulling her scrubs back on, and then lay back down. She had been up for almost twenty-four hours and was running on only a couple hours of sleep.
Derek stopped to lean down and kiss her again before he silently let himself out of the small room and closed the door behind him.
Meredith sighed into the darkness, wishing her husband was still there, lying on the bed behind her, holding her close, but understanding his requirement to check his unstable patient. She yawned and then burrowed her face into the pillow, inhaling Derek's lingering scent. Her eyes closed on their own volition, and before she could even think about how tired she was, she was asleep.
The next time Meredith knew consciousness she was woken by her husband trying – unsuccessfully – to rejoin her in the small bed without waking her. She had no idea how much time had passed since he had gone as she moved sluggishly to help him peel the thin blanket off her body. He hovered over top of her for a moment before settling behind her. The blanket fell back over her and then his arms wrapped themselves around her.
"Derek?" She mumbled sleepily.
"Sorry," he whispered in response. "Go back to sleep."
Meredith sighed, and then rolled onto her back and turned her head to meet his eyes in the darkened room. She offered him a soft smile. "It is you," she said, echoing his earlier words. "I hoped it was."
He chuckled. "It better be me," he said without missing a beat, "'Cause if you let other men climb into bed with you in the middle of the night, we definitely have some things to talk about."
She giggled and rolled towards him, tucking her face into the crook of his neck and inhaling. "What time is it?"
"Mmm," she acknowledged his answer, without any actual thoughts.
His hand found her back and rubbed along her spine. "Sorry it took me so long. My patient's family showed up and had lots of questions."
"I wouldn't have noticed if you'd been gone five minutes or five hours."
Derek released a laughing breath. "I'm sorry you're so tired."
"It's four in the morning. Aren't people supposed to be tired at four in the morning?"
This time he did laugh. "I meant overall. What with the roommates and Cristina. And you've been working so much."
He was right. The hospital had lost a significant amount of its staff over the past six months, both from the shooting and from the effects of the shooting, and without the ability to draw new staff, work demand had increased. Seven day weeks had become normal. Add to that the stress of juggling four traumatized roommates, a damaged best friend who wasn't currently speaking to her and a recovering husband, and you've got yourself one exhausted Meredith Grey. "It's okay," she told him honestly. "I mean, it sucks, but I'm getting through it. You're here and we're all alive and we get to save lives. That makes it okay."
Derek's arms tightened around her in a tight hug. "Next year we're going to have a real Christmas."
"As opposed to a fake Christmas?"
He chuckled. "We're going to have Christmas in our house. And we're going to have a tree and decorations, and not spend the night sharing a bed in the on-call room."
"That would be nice."
He rubbed her back again and she felt her eyes shut. "Get some sleep, Mer," he whispered.
When Meredith awoke again, it was to the on-call room door opening and the light of the hallway filtering into the small space. She blinked groggily at the intrusion. At least she and Derek had some semblance of privacy at home. Yes, they had four demanding roommates, but no one entered their bedroom.
Meredith closed her eyes and burrowed her face into the pillow, hoping whoever it was would either leave or close the door and help themselves to the free bed against the other wall. At some point since Derek had joined her after checking on his patient she had rolled over to face the middle of the room and Derek had spooned tightly along her back. She was warm and comfortable and wanted to fall back to sleep in her husband's arms.
Unfortunately, footsteps moved towards her. She opened her eyes and met Bailey's.
"Grey," Bailey said in hushed tones. "The nurses said you were still here."
Meredith ran her hand over her face as she tried to wake up.
"Our patient is unstable. He needs surgery." Meredith and Bailey had worked together to save a forty year old man with a wife and two daughters on Christmas Eve. He had been fine when Meredith had checked on him in recovery.
She sighed. "Crap."
"I wasn't going to page you in, but since you're still here, I could use a hand."
Meredith nodded and reached to pull Derek's arm away from her middle.
He groaned in protest, but released her as he woke up to her movement.
"OR3," Bailey called as she left the room, leaving the door ajar.
"What's going on?" Derek mumbled.
"My patient needs more surgery," she explained.
"What time is it?"
Her eyes found the clock on the wall as she sat up along the side of the bed. "Six."
He groaned and sat up beside her. "It's too bad we can't save lives on a more convenient schedule."
She giggled and leaned against him. "Maybe we can have lunch? I'll page you after my surgery."
"It's a date."
Their lunch date was ruined by a new set of accident victims requiring surgical attention late that morning. Weather conditions and driving a little too fast had sent several cars into a mangled wreck in the ditch. Meredith had scrubbed in with Bailey again on the first victim to be brought in. An eleven year old boy with internal bleeding. The surgery had been tough, and more than once Meredith had thought they were going to lose him, but the patient had pulled through. Another save for the pair on Christmas Day.
She closed while Bailey went to advise the boy's parents, both of whom had been in the crash but came out with minor injuries. She accompanied the boy to recovery and spent close to an hour updating the nurses and supervising as his small body began to recover from the effects of anaesthesia. It was Christmas and she was determined not to let anyone die.
It was after four in the afternoon when she approached the OR board to check in on her husband's whereabouts. The board announced him to be in surgery.
She quickly rounded on her patients, ventured to the coffee cart for some much needed caffeine and then headed to the OR gallery, which was, thankfully, empty. She stood at the glass for several minutes, watching her husband's skilled hands repair damage that resulted from the stupidity of not wearing a seatbelt. After a particularly difficult section of repair, Derek looked up, meeting her eyes as if he had sensed her watching him.
She smiled down at him and despite the fact that he was wearing a mask she could tell he was smiling back at her. His attention shifted back to his patient and Meredith stepped away from the glass. She pulled a chair up to the window so she would have the best vantage point, and settled herself into the seat, one leg curled under her and the other bent in front of her, held by an arm. She rested her coffee cup on her knee between sips as she watched the surgery. Her scheduled shift had been from eight until four, so she could sit in peace and watch her husband without feeling guilty about being away from the floor for so long. Assuming her patients remained stable she and Derek would be able to leave when he was finished with his patient.
An hour passed in comfortable silence before the door pushed open, drawing Meredith's attention away from the scene below.
Bailey and Teddy Altman entered the gallery, coffee cups in hand, obviously looking for a quiet place for a break.
"Merry Christmas," Teddy offered as she took the seat next to Meredith, also pulling the chair closer to the window.
"Merry Christmas," Meredith responded easily.
Bailey sat on Teddy's other side. "Grey, what are you still doing here?"
"Derek's in surgery," she offered as an answer, nodding to the surgery below.
Bailey's eyes narrowed as she leaned forward and observed Meredith. "What was your scheduled shift today?"
"Eight to four."
"And how long have you been here?"
Meredith glanced at her watch and then quickly did the math in her head. "Thirty-seven hours."
Bailey huffed in a way that told her just how much she didn't agree with Meredith's presence in the hospital. "You were here last night when you weren't required to be, and now you're here in the gallery almost two hours after you could have gone home. Can you explain that to me?"
"Derek needed to be here last night, and he's in surgery now. We're going home when he's finished."
"He's a big boy, Grey. I'm sure he can survive without you for a few hours and get himself home. Go home and try to salvage a few hours of the day."
"But it's Christmas," she insisted, "If he's stuck here I want to be too. I know I'm still relatively new to the whole Christmas thing, but isn't the point to spend time with your family and build memories or whatever? I don't want to go home and be alone. I've spent enough Christmases alone." She'd much rather be here, at the hospital, watching from the gallery as her husband operated than be at home alone right now.
"You can build Christmas memories next year."
"That's what I thought last year," Meredith said quietly. "It was our first Christmas together, but we were busy. He was spending all his free time trying to build instruments to save that little boy and we offered to host the Christmas party, which took up any additional time we could have spent together, and I thought 'there's always next year,' but then..." She trailed off as she turned her gaze back to her husband, suddenly even more thankful for his presence in her day, and in her life. "Last year was our first Christmas together," she repeated, "And it almost became our only Christmas together."
Her words met heavy silence. It had nearly half a year, but the shooting was still a fresh wound for those affected. If Derek had died that day, the first Christmas they had spent together would have been their last, and Meredith didn't even want to consider what she'd be doing today had he not survived.
"So, no," she continued quietly, "I'm not going home without him. Because Christmas is about being with the people you love. And I want a hundred Christmases with Derek, but if we don't get a third Christmas together, I'll know we spent what time we could together this year." They had slept together the night before – sort of. They had shared a meal and would have some sort of dinner together tonight. And they would go to bed together that night – or maybe early Boxing Day morning depending on the demands of the hospital. But they would be together. And that was enough for Meredith.
Teddy continued to stare down at the surgery, as if pretending not to hear the exchange. Bailey surveyed her former intern for several moments with an expression Meredith couldn't read. It wasn't like Meredith to voice these kinds of thoughts, especially to this audience. But it was Christmas, and she was feeling sentimental and especially grateful today. Eleven families were spending Christmas without a loved one today because of a psychopath with a gun. But Meredith wasn't one of them. And her only Christmas wish was to get another Christmas with her husband.
Bailey eventually nodded at her and they exchanged a look of understanding. Somehow in the past few years they had switched places; Meredith had become the happily married doctor and Bailey had become single. "I'm glad you feel that way, Meredith," she said, uncharacteristically making use of Meredith's first name.
Meredith offered her a small smile. "Me too." She had spent far too much of her life trying not to care. Sure, caring made it hurt more when you lost something, but not caring was no way to live. Had Derek not survived she would have been devastated, but she wouldn't have given up a moment she had spent with him to rid herself of the pain.
Silence fell between the three doctors for several minutes, before Teddy spoke up, "What do you mean last year was your first Christmas with Shepherd? I was under the impression you two had been married forever."
Meredith laughed and shook her head. "We got married last year. And before that...well, we were on and off for a long time before we figured some things out."
"Huh," Teddy responded. "I guess you two just seem like you've been together for a lifetime."
"I think we've just been through a lifetime's worth of crap. You have to learn to be happy when you can."
The coolness of the glass slowly seeped into Meredith's cheek as she leaned against the car window. It was almost eight in the evening and she and Derek were finally going home. His surgery had been successful, but long, and he had had to round on his post-ops before he had felt comfortable leaving the hospital.
"What do you want to do tonight?" Derek asked softly.
He chuckled. "Other than sleep. We could try and salvage our dinner?" Deciding a turkey was too much for the two of them, they had planned to have chicken the night before, along with a host of side dishes Meredith wasn't sure they'd be able to eat. It was all still in the fridge.
Meredith pulled herself away from the window and turned her head to face her husband as he drove them home. "Okay. And hopefully there will still be eggnog."
"I hid some in the back of the fridge," Derek told her, "Right at the bottom."
She laughed. "You're the best husband ever."
He beamed, despite her laughing tone, which only cause her to laugh harder. She was still laughing when he pulled into the driveway.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she stammered as he shot her a questioning look, "I think I'm just over tired."
He nodded and then opened his door and stepped out. Meredith followed suit. She headed for the front door, but Derek stopped her halfway there.
"Thank you for staying last night," he murmured as he wrapped her in his arms. "I know you didn't have to be there, but it was nice to be able to sleep beside you."
Meredith pressed her face into the crook of his neck with a contented sigh, "I didn't want to be alone on Christmas."
His arms tightened around her in response. "Me neither."
She pulled away far enough to meet his eyes. He offered her a tender smile, and the rest of the world fell away. The excessive lights on the house stopped being so bright and the music playing inside the house stopped being so loud. For a moment it was just the two of them.
"Derek," she whispered, suddenly overcome with what she was feeling. Her husband was alive and well and here, warm and holding her and saying perfect things. The gratefulness she had been feeling all day welled inside her, and she was surprised to feel her eyes stinging. She was Meredith Grey; she didn't cry.
He cupped her cheek with his hand. She leaned into the contact. "Christmas will be better next year," he told her.
Meredith shook her head. "There was nothing wrong with today," she told him honestly. "We got to be together and we got to save lives. No one died on our watch today. That's a good day in my books."
"There you go being all optimistic again. Is this going to be a permanent change? If it is it's going to take some getting used to..."
She giggled, grateful that he was trying to make her laugh. "I'm sure I'll be back to normal tomorrow. Today, I'm just...being grateful. It's Christmas, and I have things to be grateful for."
"I do, too," he told her quietly, "One thing in particular, actually."
She raised an eyebrow. "And what would that one thing be?"
He smiled as he leaned down to press his lips against hers. "You," he mumbled between kisses. She felt her eyes sting again, but she pushed the feeling away as she kissed her husband harder. She wasn't going to cry, especially not over something good.
When he broke the kiss, she hugged him tight. He followed suit, and his arms were so snug around her that she briefly wondered if he'd ever let go. In that moment, she didn't want him to. "I love you," she whispered.
He pressed a kiss to her shoulder. "I love you, too."
"I'm happy," she added, because it was Christmas, and she was grateful, and he should know how much happiness he brought to her life.
His eyes pinched and his mouth tightened in the way that told her she had made the right decision to tell him in that moment. It made her want to tell him more of what she was feeling.
"It's our second Christmas," she said, "But it almost didn't happen..." She leaned back a little further in his strong arms, trusting him to hold her, and placed her hand flat against his chest, right above the scar from the bullet that she knew was there, even through his clothing and his coat. "Last year could have been our only Christmas together."
Derek removed one arm from around her in order to rest his hand over hers on his chest. "We're okay, Mer."
"I know." She offered him a soft smile. "I know you're okay and I'm okay, and that we are great. But I can't help but think about how close we came to losing our future – the future we're living right now."
He leaned down and pressed his forehead to hers. Their hands were still joined above the scar on his chest that marked the event that nearly ended their life together. "I will always fight to stay with you, Meredith," he whispered.
She inhaled a deep breath of air, but when she exhaled it came out with a shudder. Her eyes stung, and were immediately damp. She had been determined not to cry. She was Meredith Grey; she didn't cry. But she was also Derek Shepherd's wife, so maybe it was okay to cry in front of him. He had promised her he wouldn't die, and he had kept that promise. And he would do anything for her, to be with her. She blinked and a single tear ran down her cheek.
Derek squeezed her hand, and they began to sway side to side together, just a bit. Almost like dancing. She wondered briefly what they would look like to someone passing on the street. The thought made her smile.
After several minutes of comfortable silence, Derek pulled his forehead from hers, momentarily replaced it with his lips, and then took her hand. "Let's go inside and see what kind of dinner we can put together."
It was late now, a little after eight, but they were both off work the next day, so it was perfectly acceptable for them to start preparing dinner long after the sun went down.
The music they had been able to hear softly in the driveway grew exponentially the moment they opened the front door. Meredith made a face as she was accosted with Dashing Through the Snow. She was all for being grateful on Christmas, but the commercialization of the music still escaped her.
"We're definitely not getting any privacy tonight," she commented as she slipped off her boots.
Derek shook his head. "Nope."
"Next year," she promised.
"Next year," he echoed, strong in the belief that they would have a next year. He took her coat and hung it beside his in the closet.
"Merry Christmas!" April called as she practically danced down the stairs, dressed in red and white, complete with a Santa hat on her head.
Meredith and Derek returned her greeting and followed her into the kitchen, where they found the rest of their roommates. A stack of dirty dished in the sink told Meredith they had already eaten. Currently, Lexie and Jackson were arguing over an open cookbook with pictures of Christmas cookies. Alex was sitting at the table, beer in hand. He raised his glass when he saw them.
A beep sounded through the room, and April hurried to beat Lexie to the oven. They pulled out a tray of slightly charred cookies and replaced it with another. Clearly Meredith and Derek wouldn't be able to make use of the over, or the kitchen, any time soon.
"We'll find something else to eat," Derek told her quietly, knowing exactly where her thoughts were.
"And somewhere quiet to eat?" She asked sarcastically.
"I guess we could eat upstairs..."
She laughed at the absurdity of the situation. The only way she would get some privacy with her husband was if they ate in their bedroom. And even then they were contending with Christmas music. It was too bad they didn't have someplace quiet to go.
"I have an idea," she said suddenly. They did have someplace quiet to go. She dragged Derek out of the kitchen to the front hall. "Let's go to the trailer."
"It'll be quiet. We can cook our dinner and eat it in peace. No roommates. And we'll be able to check on our house."
"Are you sure? By the time we get there and cook dinner it's going to be really late."
"I don't care if you don't care. It's worth it for the privacy. And we're off tomorrow, so we'll have an entire day to ourselves. Are you in?"
He smiled. "I'm in."
"Good." She pecked his lips. "You pack up the food – and don't forget the eggnog – and I'll pack some clothes."
"Alone at last," Meredith announced the moment the car was unloaded and she and Derek were in the trailer.
He pecked her lips as he stepped past her. "This was a good idea, Mer."
She watched as Derek began pulling food out of the bags he had packed. He placed a few items into the fridge, but when he went to put the eggnog into the fridge, she stopped him by taking it out of his hand. She quickly poured two glasses and passed him one.
"Merry Christmas," she stated as she held out her glass.
"Merry Christmas," he echoed, clinking his glass against hers.
They both took a sip, and then Derek put his glass down. She followed suit, "Is there anything I can do to help?" Knowing she was a slight danger in the kitchen, Derek did most of their cooking, but she could handle small tasks under his supervision.
"I know one thing you can do," he whispered, stepping into her and pressing her against the counter behind her. His hands found her hips as his lips crashed down onto hers.
She kissed him back as a very familiar, and very welcome, heat began to build within her. It took all her strength to push him away. "Later," she promised. "You have to feed me first. I'm freaking starving."
He grumbled something under his breath and kissed her again before pulling away and moving towards the food.
Meredith giggled as she hoisted herself onto the counter. "You know, without any roommates here, we can have sex wherever we want..."
He sent her a look that told her he completely agreed.
"Kitchen table?" She suggested.
He stopped preparing dinner and stepped up to her, his narrow hips easing easily between her dangling legs. "You have to stop distracting me, or we're never going to eat today."
"Sorry," she told him, though she didn't entirely mean it.
He pecked her lips.
"I'll be good," she promised, kissing him back.
Derek pulled away with a smile and moved back to preparing dinner.
Meredith changed the subject as she watched him work. She told him about her conversation with Bailey and Teddy in the gallery that afternoon. She told him about her surgeries that day. He told her about his. She offered to help with dinner again, he made fun of her cooking skills and they both laughed. Once the chicken and potatoes were in the oven, and the rest of the side dishes were ready to go, Derek stood in front of his wife.
"You know, it'll take some time for the chicken to cook."
Meredith bit back a smirk as she shrugged her shoulders, "What do you think we should do to kill the time?"
He stepped forward, fitting easily between her dangling legs again, "I have a few ideas..."
She reached for the hem of his top and pulled it over his head. "Let's hear some ideas."
He rid her of her top before leaning close and whispering into her ear, "Sex on the kitchen table."
"Mmm," she moaned as his hands found her breasts, "I like the way you think."
"I seem to remember that being your idea."
"That's right. It was my idea, wasn't it? I have good ideas."
Derek chuckled. His hands snaked around her small frame to unhook her bra. He rid her of the garment, and then kissed her. Hard.
She moaned into his mouth as his bare chest mashed against hers. She wrapped her legs around his hips, wanting him closer.
His hands slid under her ass, and then he lifted her off the counter without breaking their kiss. She wasn't surprised when he set her down on the edge of the small kitchen table.
"Is this...going to hold...?" She asked between kisses.
He chuckled against her mouth, "We'll find out."
The kitchen table, thankfully, did hold up. After they had redressed, Derek checked on their dinner, while Meredith quickly cleaned the table and began to set it. She was hunting for napkins when her eyes caught on a light through the window at the back of the trailer. Upon closer examination, she realized it was the moonlight reflecting off the windows of their house.
They had opted for large, floor to ceiling windows wherever possible to make use of the light. She hadn't realized the house was far enough into the building process that it warranted windows. She squinted her eyes and realized it also had a door. And walls. And a roof. And a porch.
She and Derek had met with the contractors the month before for a walk through. At that time there was been walls in some places, a floor, a few skeleton doorways and not much more. It had looked like a construction zone, whereas now it looked like a house.
"I have an idea," she announced.
Derek chuckled. "You're just full of ideas today."
She turned to face him. "How long until dinner is ready?"
He stared at the stove for a moment before turning to her and shrugging. "Ten minutes. Maybe fifteen."
"Perfect. Do you have a flashlight?"
"Why do you need a flashlight?"
"So I don't break my neck walking outside in the dark."
"Why do you need to walk outside in the dark?"
"Because. Now; where is the flashlight?"
He studied her for a long moment before sighing and pointing to a cupboard near the bathroom. "It should be in there."
"Thank you." She opened the cupboard and quickly located the flashlight. She donned her coat and headed for the door.
"Do I get to know what's going on?"
"Nope," she called as she stepped outside.
With the help of the flashlight, she found the latch to the luggage compartment. The candles she had once used to build Derek a house were right where she had expected. The holders were designed to hang, but the bottoms were flat. She was sure they'd be fine.
After pulling out a box, she set them on the porch and returned to the trailer.
Derek sent her a questioning glance as she moved past him towards the bedroom, but said nothing as she dug through her duffel bag for two important items and then stacked the pillows. It wasn't until she began stripping the blankets off the bed that he spoke up. "Okay, I'm getting a little concerned. Can you give me a hint as to what you're doing?"
"Do you trust me?"
"Of course. I just-"
"If you really trust me, you'll let yourself be surprised."
He grumbled something incoherent deep in his throat, but said nothing.
Meredith smiled as she walked by, arms laden in bedding. "I'll be back." She let herself out of the trailer and picked up the box of candles before making the short trek to the house. The flashlight gave her enough light to walk by, but she still felt a chill run up her spine at being outside in the dark all alone. She made a mental note to tell Derek she wanted some outdoor lights installed before they moved in.
The porch stairs were solid and unmoving as she carefully stepped up them in the dark, and the front door swung open without a sound. It was a bit creepy, being alone in a partially built house, but this was her house. Hers and Derek's. They had designed every square inch, and so she instinctively knew where the doorways were. The living room was at the back of the house, to make use of the view. The floor to ceiling windows were allowing so much moonlight into the room that she wasn't relying on her flashlight and she was pleasantly surprised to find the room much more put together than the last time she had been here. The subfloor had been laid and there were solid walls.
She draped the blankets onto a clean spot near the window, and then dropped the pillows on top. Having forgotten to bring matches, she smiled triumphantly when she found the half used, extra large, box of matches she had purchased two years prior. She quickly lit the candles and laid them around the room. Lastly, she located two uncut nails on the wall and used them to hang the stockings she had taken from their bedroom while she had hurried to pack.
Stepping back to survey her handiwork, Meredith smiled. She didn't make gestures like this very often, but when she did, Derek's reaction never disappointed. He would love it.
Although the work had slowed down on the house as the weather had gotten colder, there were still work being done. Meredith was grateful when she found several temporary lights and small space heaters. She pulled two of the space heaters to the living room and turned them on. It wasn't as cold as it could be, but it was still cold.
Grabbing the flashlight, she let herself out of the house and hurried back to the trailer.
Derek was pulling the chicken out of the oven when she returned.
"Is it ready?"
He nodded. "Are you going to tell me what's going on?"
"We're not eating here."
"I kind of figured that," he said wryly.
They worked together to prepare dinner to be transported. Meredith filled a bag with dishes and silverware. On an afterthought she added the small portable speakers from the bedroom and her iPod.
"Do I need to bring anything?"
"Nope. I've got it all taken care of."
"And I'm trusting you."
She giggled and leaned into him for a soft kiss. "Thank you for trusting me. I promise you'll like it."
She took a small stack of side dishes and held the door open as Derek stepped outside with the chicken.
"This way," she directed as she headed towards the house, as if he hadn't figured that out.
The walk was much less creepy with Derek by her side. He seemed completely unfazed about being out in the woods in the dark.
"We need to get some lights," she told him.
"What kind of lights?"
"Outdoor lights. So it's not so dark."
He bumped her shoulder playfully. "I'll add it to the list. Maybe we can get the ones with motion sensors? Or the solar powered kind?"
She nodded. "Whatever. As long as there's light. You may be nature boy, but I'm not nature girl. I'll live in the woods for you, but I'd like to not get eaten by a bear."
"Lights aren't going to stop you from getting eaten by a bear, you know."
She glared at him, despite that fact that he couldn't see her face in the dark. "You're an ass."
He laughed. "I've never seen a bear here."
"Alex probably left food outside."
She didn't respond.
Derek bumped her shoulder again. "I promise not to let you get eaten by a bear. I'm too attached to you to let that happen."
Meredith smiled, and bumped his shoulder back.
They arrived at the house, and she opened the door.
"Where am I going?" Derek asked as he stepped into what would one day be their front hall.
"Living room," she announced as she pulled the door shut behind her. She caught up to him quickly, as he was moving without light, and he let her lead the rest of the way with the flashlight.
His expression when he saw the scene in the living room made her solo trip in the dark completely worth it. The candles were cascading light across the room, the makeshift bed and the stockings, and the space heaters were starting to warm the air.
She nodded. "I thought after they were used for the house of candles maybe they should get to be in the actual house. And I thought we could sleep here, if it's not too cold, and, you know, christen the living room?"
He shot her a very agreeable smirk. His eyes were sparkling in the light of the moon and the candles. "I love you," he said suddenly.
Meredith smiled tenderly at her husband, knowing he was feeling what she was feeling. This was their dream house; their future. This would spend many, many Christmases within these walls, but they would always cherish today, their first. "I love you, too," she told him.
"This was a really good idea."
Her smile grew. "The house or having dinner here?"
"All of it. Everything."
"I'm glad you like it." She set her stack of food down and divvied the plates and utensils. Derek served the food while she hooked up the speakers and her iPod. The music was playing softly when she settled herself down beside her husband. They turned so they could see out the window as they ate.
"Our house had windows," he commented.
"Won't be long now."
She leaned her head against his shoulder. "I'll miss my roommates, but I really can't wait to live alone with you again."
"That didn't really last long, did it?"
"Nope. But when the house is done we're standing our ground."
"No more bringing home strays?"
She giggled. "They're not all my strays. I'll take credit for Alex, April and Jackson, but Lexie is your stray."
"I never said she could move back in."
"Neither did I."
He chuckled. "Fine. I'll take credit for Lexie. The other three were all you."
She laughed out loud, and it felt good to do so. Life had been so grating for so long that it felt nice to be able sit with her husband and laugh. She'd have to make a point of taking some time out from the stress of their life for things like this in the future. "Next year is going to be better," she announced.
"It is, huh?"
"There's that new optimism again."
"It's Christmas," she argued. "I'm allowed to be optimistic on Christmas. I have a lot to be grateful for."
"I like optimistic you," he told her as he snaked an arm around her waist, "Even if it's new and short-lived."
"Maybe it'll last longer than today," she admitted, "But don't tell anyone."
"Who would I tell? No one would believe me."
She elbowed him.
He chuckled as he pulled his arm away from her to protect his sides from further assault. "I guess I deserved that..."
"You did," she confirmed.
Comfortable silence fell for several minutes as they sat together, eating their Christmas dinner and taking in the view.
"I can't wait until we can sit here every night."
"Just another few months."
"We'll have a lot of work to do when it's finished."
He nodded. "We still have to pick paint colours. Carpets. Tiles. Fixtures..."
"And we'll have a ton of rooms to christen."
He laughed. "Excellent point. Though we can definitely get started on that now. Make our list one room shorter?"
She giggled as he took her empty plate from her hands and set it to the side with his. This would be their first time in their new house. And it was only fitting that their first time in their new house was on the living room floor.
Meredith lay naked and sated in her husband's strong arms. She was warm, despite the chill in the air, and doubted she had ever felt quite this safe. She could feel Derek's heartbeat through her back, strong and steady, reminding her he was healthy and recovered and would be beside her for a long time.
His hand ran idly back and forth across her abdomen, lulling her towards sleep. When it dipped low, she placed her hand over his and pressed it into her lower abdomen, right over her womb. And silently, they spent a moment together, hoping. A baby was the last piece of the puzzle; their puzzle. It was a piece she had spent most of her life not knowing she wanted, but now wanted more than she could understand.
Having a baby wasn't a necessity for her and Derek to enjoy their life together. She trusted that he wouldn't leave her if it was something she just wasn't able to give him. But it was something she craved in this moment more than ever.
A baby and another Christmas with Derek. That was her Christmas wish. It made her smile. Being able to have a baby felt impossible at times, but once upon a time so had being happily married and committed to Derek. And here they were, married, happy, devoted, trying to make a baby, and together in their dream house on Christmas. She squeezed his hand. If any moment was the perfect moment to make a baby it was now; on Christmas and their first time together in their dream house.
Derek hugged her tight and pressed his lips against the back of her neck.
Despite herself, Meredith smiled. It was a good day, and if they had managed to conceive a baby that would make it even better. For the first time since her miscarriage she had hope.
"Derek?" She murmured.
"Today was my best Christmas ever," she told him, despite the fact that it was so late that Christmas may have ended without their notice.
"Mine too, Mer," he said into the back of her neck.
She smiled and closed her eyes as she savoured the last few minutes of the day before she fell asleep. It had been a good day. They had gotten to save lives, and no one had died on their watch. They had gotten to spend time together. They were currently curled up together in their dream house. And they had maybe conceived a baby. She couldn't ask for a better way to spend her Christmas, because that was what Christmas was about for her, making the most of what the world presented her with. Their original plans had been decimated by the demands of the hospital, but they'd more than salvaged a Christmas together. She couldn't imagine a better scenario to where they were right now.
Derek's breathing evened out behind her, and she knew it meant he had fallen into sleep. Without a single regret to the day, she joined him.