So about 100 years ago I actually posted one of the first 'Grey's' fics on this site, and was also a huge fan of Cristina/Burke (I regret that now). I've been bouncing around other shows for a while, but basically left Grey's. Still I watched, and last week I decided to try a "Five Times" style piece. I'm terrible at avoiding fluff, so you've been warned. These are all, obviously, straight out of Teddy's imagination, minus #6. Let me know what you think!
Teddy Altman meets Preston Burke at a conference on emergent laser techniques in cardiothoracic surgery. The conference starts Wednesday and she's presenting on Friday and had considered not showing up until then, but Henry thought that was kind of rude and so she decided to attend the whole three days. When she gets to the conference center she sees that Dr. Preston Burke, Emory Medical Center, is presenting on Thursday, and regrets her husband nagging her into doing the right thing (he just wanted the trip to L.A., let's be real). She considers going to his talk ("On the Use of .16 mm Lasers to Repair Ruptured Cardiac Aneurysms") but decides against it, because it would somehow trickle back to Owen and Cristina, and she is On Their Side, obviously.
But she doesn't count on Dr. Price from the University of Chicago pulling her over during the Wednesday night cocktail hour and exclaiming, "Dr. Altman! Have you ever met Dr. Burke? He worked at Seattle Grace as well, though I believe before your time."
She looks at the man and knows he knows she knows who she is. Still she proffers her hand. "No, we haven't met in person. Teddy Altman, chief of cardio."
"Dr. Preston Burke," he says.
"You're in Atlanta now, right?" she attempts to make conversation.
"Yes," he stares at her. He's kind of unnerving. And creepy. And she can see why Cristina, a younger Cristina, would fall for this, but still. Her friend did so much better with Owen. Because this guy, with the frowning, and the seriousness and the imposingness, just does not seem like a very joyful or pleasant person. Not that she's been biased from years of, you know, not liking him on principle. "How is everyone? I heard Chief Webber stepped down a few years ago."
"He did. He's still on staff, though. Owen Hunt is chief now, he's doing really well," she starts.
"Dr. Burke won the Avery with work done when he was at Seattle Grace," Dr. Price interjects helpfully.
"Yes, I actually currently work with his former intern. She worked on several of those cases," Teddy replies.
Burke's face goes ashen, before he barely recovers. "How is Cristina doing these days?"
"She's doing very well. She's finishing up a fellowship with me. A very gifted surgeon."
"I was her first teacher. Though she was always astonishing with the scalpel."
Dr. Price excuses herself to go get them drinks — Teddy just asks for water — and leaves the two of them alone. It's awkward. He's awkward. So is she, really, in this situation, though she knew that already. Finally, she says, "She really is doing exceptionally well. Teaching, even. She's turned into a good teacher, too. With the interns and … others. She's really grown. I wouldn't quite say she's a 'mentor' since that's just a little too touchy-feely for Cristina, but she's doing well." She still didn't know how to feel about Cristina, sometimes, since the things she admired and loved most about Cristina she also considered major flaws (the woman was a surgical machine), but she knew that she deserved an awesome report to this guy. Cristina would want to appear like she had emerged the better.
He nods, inscrutable. Then, "Do you know where she's going after the fellowship?"
"She's staying at Seattle Grace," Teddy says. "It's not like she can leave, really."
Burke cocks his head. "Why not?"
"She's married. To Owen. The new chief?" she prompts, before realizing he must not know. How arrogant, really, to follow her career but not her life.
"It's Cristina," he replies. "She's not going to let a piece of paper stop her from taking whatever job suits her interests best. It would be … untrue to her character. A disservice, even."
Her heart breaks for that Cristina he remembers. "Dr. Burke, I know that you and Cristina were close, and Cristina is still probably going to become the top cardiac surgeon in the country in the next ten years, but I assure you, she's not leaving Seattle Grace. She loves her husband. She's not leaving." She looks him directly in the eye for being such a tool, and wished she could be as ballsy as Mark or as waspish as Meredith when it came to these kinds of situations.
There was a pause. "I must admit, I haven't completely kept in touch with the Seattle Grace team. How is everyone else doing?"
She's always gotten the impression — never verbally confirmed — that her friends and colleagues weren't exactly the most adult surgeons when they all first started working together: Meredith and Derek, the married power-couple neurosurgeons with a kid, picked each other up at a bar; Callie was married for about two minutes to the intern that cheated on her then died; Izzie Stevens, the epitome of a hot mess, consumed everyone with her drama. There was something about an LVAD wire that she knew she was better off not knowing anything about. He had been around then, had been part of the Seattle Grace High set. Teddy was grateful she'd come after all that. She was a combat surgeon, and a wife, and she honestly did not have time for all that nonsense. She liked her life exactly the way it was, and her friends as the grown-ups — a little odd and flawed, of course, but adult, with children and marriages and mortgages — that they were.
So she didn't know quite how to answer. "They're good," she finally said. "I mean, the staff has more or less stayed the same, and we're back in the top five, so everyone's happy. Lots of research. Derek Shepherd is doing some really great Alzheimer's research again, Meredith Grey's working on linking endocrine secretions in the brain to kidney overproduction and diabetes, Alex Karev has set up a pro bono network connecting surgeons to kids who need surgeries in Third World countries …"
"Dr. Karev?" he chortles in amazement.
"Yeah, Karev," she rolls her eyes, because even Arizona can't believe it. "Bailey's working on pancreatic cancer now, Sloan's on new reconstructive scalpel techniques." She doesn't like listing these things, feeling like she's defending people so she asks, "And what have you been up to, since you won the Avery?" and that thankfully distracts him for several minutes. She wishes she could text Henry and make him magically appear but that would be in poor taste. And obvious.
Somehow they segue away from Cristina and into the current work being done with laparoscopy — he's still formal and not at all Teddy's cup of tea but at least it's not so fantastically terrible. And, like the godsend he is, Henry finally, mercifully, appears. They'd made plans for dinner at the Pier.
"Henry," she calls, waving him over.
"Hey," he says, kissing her forehead quickly and handing her Hannah, who settles easily against Teddy's side, a wonderfully comforting weight. She kisses the toddler's forehead and smoothes her hair down. She sees Dr. Burke's eyebrows rise, but he says nothing.
"Hey. Henry, this is Dr. Preston Burke. He was actually chief of cardio at Seattle Grace when Cristina started her internship. Dr. Burke, this is my husband, Henry Burton, and my daughter, Hannah."
"Nice to meet you," Henry smiles, making her feel less awkward. "Cristina as an intern — I have to say, I'm glad I never saw that."
"She certainly was … intense, I'll say," he says benevolently. "Anyways, it appears that I'm holding you. Dr. Altman, it was excellent to get to meet you. Give my best to … everyone."
"Thank you," she smiles. "It was nice to meet you."
As they walk away, Henry's arm snakes around her waist and she exhales. "Wow. Now that was awkward."
Henry snickers. "Yeah, I kinda picked up on that."
"He was engaged to Cristina, actually," she says, "He walked out on her at the wedding, according to Miranda."
"Whoa, now he really seems like a big jackass."
"Yeah, but, like, think about a younger Cristina. Of course she'd be into that. Plus she's totally into sleeping with the boss. You're lucky I'm straight," she teases.
"On I know it," he replies, smirking.
She laughs too, then sighs again. "He's just … I don't know. He just felt so smug. He was all, 'I was her first teacher' and he was creepy and all 'The Cristina I know… and I didn't want to be, you know, no, she's different now, and then he had won the Harper-Avery, and it was like, really. It just made me self-conscious and … I don't know."
"What is it?" he asks, alarms.
"It's silly," she stalls.
"Come on, Ted. Cough it up," he nudges her shoulder.
"I just … I think he seems sad. You know? And I'm happy. So, so happy," she starts.
"You know, it helps to sound convincing when you say that," he says dryly.
"No! But that's the thing. I am. I'm really, really happy. I'm happy that I'm stepping down from cardio chief. I've got you, and this one, and the next two, and I usually feel like shouting it from rooftops and being really annoying and smug about it. And there was … something about him that just made me feel … I don't know, defensive. He was just so arrogant.And so I wanted to say, yeah, Cristina's going to be the first departmental chief straight out of a fellowship in years because I'm stepping down in six months and handing it to her, to knock him down a few, but he just … He seemed so smug I didn't even want to try. Weird, right?" It is. She knows it is. She's the 40-year-old mother of a 18-month-old, and she knows this is beyond ridiculous. "He was just … I wanted to put him in his place. For being so toolish to Cristina a million years ago. But then I realized he wasn't even worth it. He wouldn't get why she's changed, and why I would be making the choice I'm making, and he'd just be … smug about it. And it was frustrating, but also, god, it just made me really, really sad for him."
He'd been lazily swinging their interlocked hands back and forth, but stops at this. "What?" she demands.
"That was kind of sweet of you, that was all," he smiles.
"What?" she asks, bewildered.
"You were defending my honor."
"Your honor?" she snorts. "No. I was justifying my honor, if anything. Did you see that look he had when he saw Hannah?" she twists one of the girl's blond curls around her finger. "Could you believe it, Hannah Banana? No you could not, I bet." She tickles Hannah's stomach and she laughs merrily.
"No, you were kind of defending my honor. Don't get me wrong, I think it's pretty hot. I've spent enough time in a hospital gown to be secure in my manhood."
She laughs, and smacks him. "I still don't get how I was defending your honor, but I will always take the view of you in a hospital gown."
"Oh, I know," he says. "Believe me. But you're getting all hot and bothered about some jackhole who used to be some sort of Cardio Overlord to Cristina about your decision to step down to do something for us? Yeah, you were defending my honor. And yes, I will always think it's hot."
She laughs, finally understanding, and feeling so bad for Dr. Preston Burke. "Just call me your knight in navy blue scrubs," she jokes.
His eyes darken with emotion for a second, and she remembers right then how much she really, really loves him. Before he can make the moment too sappy — because they're bad at sappy, and she's the one that always drags them down into sappy anyways — she tilts up, kisses him, Hannah cradled between them, and laughs into his mouth, just a little. "Come on," she says, breaking apart. "Let's get dinner."