Thursday, November 23rd

"UNCLE DD!" Sammy exclaimed as Derek ran through the living room with his niece attached to his back, her voice squealing loudly as he laughed, swinging her into the dining room as he slid across the floor and swung her around on his neck, where he caught her in his arms as she giggled. "Let's do it again!" She exclaimed as Derek breathed heavily, laughing as Sarah shook her head.

"You shouldn't be running through the house." Sarah said with her eyebrows raised as Derek laughed breathlessly.

"I wasn't running through the house, Uncle DD was running through the house…"

"Uncle Derek…" Sarah replied.

"Eh." Sammy shrugged her shoulders as Morgan stood on the ground holding her arms up.

"Up! Up! Up, DD! Up!" She exclaimed.

"Look at that…" Derek said as he slid Sammy to the floor and lifted Morgan into his arms. "Someone wants some hugs…" He said as he lifted his niece above his head and listened to her happy squeal.

"Uncle DD, when is Zoey going to be back from visiting her mommy?" Sammy asked as she sighed. She looked up at Derek and watched as the smile fell from his face.

"Oh, she'll be home soon…" He said with a kind smile, watching Sammy's eyes on his. "What?" He asked as she shrugged.

"Nothin…" She said as she turned and headed off down the hallway. Derek was about to sit down, when the doorbell rang. "Doorbell, doorbell!" Sammy exclaimed as she ran toward the door.

"Samantha! Don't you open that door!" Sarah called as she glared at Derek rolling his eyes as he walked down the hallway.

"I'm coming, Sammy…" Derek said as he carried Morgan down the hallway with him, and looked out the peek hole on the door. He took a deep breath as he looked down at Sammy. "Are you ready?" He asked as she nodded her head and grinned. He swung the door open and laughed as Sammy hopped in front of him. "Who is that?" He asked as Sammy's eyes widened and her jaw dropped.

"NANNY!" She exclaimed as Marjorie laughed at the sight of her granddaughter standing in front of her.

"Oh my goodness! I must be late!" She exclaimed as she bent down and hugged Sammy, lifting her into her arms as she gave Derek a half smile. "You are getting so big!"

"I am!" Sammy exclaimed as her grandmother let her down and she ran into the house to announce the arrival to her mother.

"You found the place." Derek said with a smile as he held his hand out to her.

"I did…" Marjorie said with a smile. "It was quite the experience, let me tell you… I didn't know if the cab driver was trying to trick me or something." She said as she took his hand and stepped into the house, accepting a kiss from Morgan as she stepped into Derek's house. "Oh my goodness, Derek… this house is absolutely breathtaking!" She exclaimed as she looked at the woodwork and fine detail put into the entrance.

"Thank you." He said with a smile. "Now it's time for the tour…" He said with a chuckle as he watched the kitchen door open. "Sarah…" She said with a smile as the door opened and Sarah and Sammy came walking out.

"Hey, Mom…" She smiled.

"Where is everyone else?" She asked, looking around as she watched Derek let Morgan to the ground.

"They'll be here soon." Sarah said as she gave Marjorie a hug. "Let's show you around…" She said as Derek rolled his eyes.

"I already said that…" He chuckled as he took Marjorie's arm and began the tour of the house.

As the tour moved upstairs, Marjorie tugged on Derek's arm slightly, their eyes met and she tilted her head. "What's going on, Derek?" She whispered as she squeezed his hand as they reached the top of the stairs.

"What do you mean?" He asked as he watched her inquire with her eyes.

"Your eyes…" She said softly as she touched his forehead. "You have the exact same eyes as your father, Derek… I can see that there is something missing in them. Are you alright?" She whispered, watching his eyes dart to the side.

"I'm fine…" He said softly. "I'm fine… but… thanks for asking, I'm alright." He nodded as she tilted her head to try to get him to look at her. "Mom, I'm fine." He said with a little more of a stern tone and turned out of her grasp as he led her down the hallway.

"This is my bedroom… Zoey's bedroom… there are plenty of rooms, plenty of beds, plenty of blankets. Sarah made sure there were enough towels and sheets and pillows… She…"

"Where is Zoey?" Marjorie asked, her eyebrows raising as Derek stopped.

He didn't face his mother right away, running through his mind what he had told her and what he hadn't told her. "She's with her mother." Derek replied. "She's visiting her mother." He said softly.

"Her mother?" Marjorie asked as Derek cursed himself internally.

"Her mother is in the hospital." Derek said as he turned around and faced her. "Mark took Zoey to visit with her. He's been helping me out a lot with her, making sure she gets to school and that I stay sane. It has been pretty busy." He said with a soft nod as he watched his mother's surprised expression. "Don't worry… an explanation is in order." He said as he sighed. "We'll get to that when everyone is here… after you meet Zoey." Derek said softly as Marjorie nodded.

Marjorie was about to ask him again if he was alright, his behavior was very disconnected, very lonely, very worried and concerned. He just exuded a strong sense of pain and hurt, and she couldn't quite identify it, but the feeling was causing her stomach to stir as the doorbell downstairs rang.

"That's probably another one of your sisters." Marjorie said as Derek nodded.

"You can walk around up here… look at anything you want." He said with a half smile. "Pick out your room or whatever too." He said as he nodded, walking past her quickly as he made his way for the stairs, his pace was almost as if he was trying to get away from her. She listened to him pound down the stairs quickly, as he opened the door to his sisters.

"Derek!" Nancy exclaimed as a van load of kids started piling into the house. "Kids! Take off your sneakers and coats, Uncle Derek will tell you where to put them!" She called past him as they all ran down the hallway to explore the house, saying hello to Derek as they went, their voices loud and excited as they all talked.

"Put coats in the living room on the couch for now… sneakers in the hall closet…" Derek called as Nancy hugged her brother quickly.

"You live in the middle of nowhere!" She exclaimed.

"Do you even have running water out here?" Kathleen asked as her husband walked up the steps.

"Michael…" Derek said as he held out his hand for his brother in law as the flood of children rushed into the house and Michael shook his hand.

"Ray said he's sorry he couldn't make it." Nancy said quickly as one or two if his nieces attached themselves to Derek's legs as Kathleen hugged her brother. "He had to work today..."

"Come on in, come on in…" Derek said as he suddenly felt overwhelmed with his family surrounding him, knowing he still had a sister and two brothers in law on their way, not to mention four more kids and Zoey.

"Starting to regret it, Derek?" Kathleen asked as she watched Derek lift one of his nephews from the floor.

"Absolutely not." Derek said as he nodded his head. "Living room is over there… television, the football games should be starting soon. There are chips and dip for before dinner… dinner will be at four… Sarah is in the kitchen. Derek rattled off as he looked around as everyone made themselves comfortable, the children played throughout the house as they explored their uncle's house, stretching their legs after such a long, tiresome plane ride.

Derek stepped to the stairs as his mother walked down the steps, she smiled at the look on his face, she watched as his eyes scanned the room and several of his nieces and nephews talked to their grandmother when they discovered that she had already arrived. The volume in the house was becoming louder, mixing together to form just a cloud of conversation that Derek had no idea how he'd be able to keep up, as the doorbell rang again, and Derek sighed, walking toward the door.

He opened it quickly as two little girls came running inside, followed by two older boys of eight and was greeted by the bright grin of his brother in law.

"Jim!" Derek exclaimed as he held his hand out.

"Der." Jim said as he shifted and Derek's sister's head leaned against his as she held tightly to Jim's neck, her legs wrapped around her husband's waist.

"Saving money on a cab? Did you carry her from New York?" Derek laughed as Jen swatted at her brother.

"Haha, funny… I twisted my ankle last week… and I'm on crutches… jerk…" She said as she swatted at him again.

"Well come on in… though I'm not sure about how I feel about monkeys in my house." Derek said as Jim laughed and stepped past Derek, leaning to the side as Jen reached out for her brother and grabbed him by his shirt, pulling him close as she hugged him from his back.

"You're just jealous that you don't have a hot man to carry you around and answer to your beck and call…" She said as everyone laughed at her joke, and Derek's face turned red as he let his sister grab hold of her husband one more time as the volume in the house became even louder, and Derek moved around the room, accommodating.

Randy stepped into the house and gave Derek a smile as he gave him a friendly handshake. "Randy…" Derek said with a smile.

"Where are you keeping my wife?" He laughed. "She said you've been running her ragged." He laughed as Sammy ran to her father and giggled as he lifted her from the ground.

"Me running her ragged? She's been running me ragged!" Derek laughed as he looked toward the kitchen to see Sarah come through the door with a big grin as Morgan jumped near Randy's feet as he lifted her up and gave her a hug and Sarah approached for a hug and a kiss.

"I am keeping you on your toes, Derek… not running you anywhere…" She said with a laugh as she said hello to everyone and hugged her husband again, kissing him on the lips as they all visited and began talking at the same time.

Derek stood by the couch, watching his family converse and visit, his stomach was in knots, his head reeling as he tried to comprehend everything, preparing for the questions and answers that would be bouncing in the room in a few short minutes. He backed up slightly, stepping out of the room and away from everyone as he took a deep breath, when the door suddenly burst open and a flurry of pink and purple came racing through the room.

"DADDY! GUESS WHAT! GUESS WHAT, DADDY!" An excited voice exclaimed as everything around Derek melted into nothing. The sounds and sights disappeared, all that mattered was the hands that reached out to him, and the weight of the tiny soul in his arms as he lifted her into his arms. Her grey eyes were filled with excitement, her freckled nose wiggling as she grinned at him.

"What, baby?" Derek whispered as he pulled the purple hat from her hair as Mark stepped in the door and turned to close it.

"I'm home!" She said with a giggle as her eyes widened and her jaw dropped as she suddenly realized the house was filled with people.

Life is full of need. From the day you are born, you rely on other people. You need someone to feed you, to give you water, to clean you, to hold you. You need someone to clothe you, to keep you warm, to smile at you, to coddle you, to discipline you, to teach you, to protect you.

The day you are born, you are nothing but a wrinkled bundle of flesh and bones that relied upon the souls of the people that surround you to protect you from the unknowns and fears of the world. The day you came into this world, you were cold, afraid and alone until the moment that your mother's flesh touched your own, and you could feel that connection, that hunger, that need for closeness and happiness and contentedness.

Derek held the little girl in his arms, pausing for a moment in the hallway as he watched the little girl's eyes as they stared off into the living room as the sounds from the room became quieter as all eyes were on the stranger and the little girl.

"Hey everyone!" Mark said with a bright grin as some people said hello, but most of the eyes were still on Derek and the excited little girl in his arms who had called him 'daddy'.

Derek leaned forward and whispered in her ear. "I told you they were coming." He said as she turned her face toward him, her cheeks were turning red as her blonde pigtails swung and dangled as her eyes met his. She leaned in and pressed her lips to his ear as she whispered.

"I forgot." She said as Derek smiled and whispered in her ear, fully aware of the stares he was getting.

"Didn't you see all the cars?" He whispered.

"I didn't notice." She whispered back as Derek smiled at her. "I was too excited to see you…" She said as she smiled at him.

"Do you want to meet everyone?" He whispered in her ears, his cheeks burning as he smiled at the little girl as she moved her lips to his ear again.

"Yes, please." She said as she turned her head, her pigtails swinging a little more as Derek lifted her to the floor. "Can you please hang up my coat, DD?" She asked as she pulled her coat off her shoulders, trying to not act nervous as she listened to the whispers in the other room.

"Of course." He said with a smile as he took her coat hang hung it by the door on the coat rack.

"I think I'm ready now." She said as she swallowed and looked up at Derek, her smile was soft and her eyes were filled with bravery. "We practiced… so we're ready…" She nodded.

"Right…" Derek said with a laugh as he took her hand. "We practiced…" He said with a smile as he walked into the living room reluctantly, Zoey's hand giving his a squeeze for support as they entered the living room.

"Hi everyone…" Derek said as he felt Zoey squeeze his hand. "There's someone I'd like to introduce to you." He said with a smile as the tiny spirit tugged his hand and smiled, her bravery swelling within her belly as she faced her newest family members.

That child that you were knows no love in the moment it comes into the world. You knew nothing about the fears and anxieties that you would face in the future. You knew nothing of the happiness you would feel, or disappointments that you will be victim to when you grew into the person that you were to become. A blank slate without a name, you grace the world with your presence and everything happens so fast, that before you know it, you are living the life of someone that you never thought you'd become, and learn as you grow older whether you have become a success or a failure in a world that your parents pulled you into.

Most children emerge from their womb head first, a testament to how your parents expect you to face the world. Head first. Dive in. Your first cries are due to the bright lights, the loud noises, and the cold wet feeling of the afterbirth as your skin hits the air of the room, where you feel a pinch of pain as your umbilical cord is cut, and you are sent on your way to a world of blurry sights and loud sounds and tests that will conclude with the decision of whether you are perfect or not.

Derek took a deep breath as he stood behind the door to the kitchen. Introductions had gone well, and the family seemed content with the idea of him caring for a 'friend's' child. He had explained that his friend was in the hospital and was unable to care for her daughter, so he took her in, her eyes flickered mischief while he told the story, and he knew she wanted to talk to him about it, but she was now playing with Derek's nieces and nephews as if she had known them forever, as if she belonged in the brood, as if she were Derek's own daughter as she had actually said to his family.

"He's my daddy." She had said quite confidently to everyone as Nancy gasped slightly and her jaw dropped and Marjorie stood aside and smiled as she waited her turn to meet the little girl, the sound of 'Nanny' coming off the little girl's lips as if she had been waiting her whole life to have a grandmother to smile at her beautiful shining eyes. It was as if she understood everything and knew that her smile brightened Derek's spirits, and made the dread of explaining his situation to his family disappear for minutes on end as she began to jabber away and make everyone's heart warm as she walked around and shook everyone's hand, meeting her new family one at a time.

Derek took another deep breath as he released it slowly, closing his eyes as he heard the door to the kitchen opening. "Derek?" It was Nancy and Kathleen. He knew that this was coming.

"Don't say anything." He said softly as he listened for the sound of the little girl's voice in the other room, her giggle calming him for a moment as the kitchen door closed and his sisters stood in front of him.

"We think that you should talk to us…"

"Of course you think that." Derek said as he opened his eyes. "What?"

"You… took custody of a stranger's child?" Kathleen asked.

"I took custody of Zoey, Kathleen." He stated flatly. "She's not a stranger's child, she's her mother's child."

"You said that you don't know her mother well… Derek, do you really think this is a wise idea?"

"I wasn't thinking wise at the time, Nancy." Derek said with an irritated growl. "I was thinking more along the lines of necessary, needed, destiny…fate." He replied as he shook his head. "I invited you here for Thanksgiving, and to meet her… if you don't want to be respectful, and you don't want her to be a part of my family…then you can leave. No questions asked." Derek said as he turned and walked out of the kitchen, leaving his sisters to stand in the kitchen after him as the door slammed in their face.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten fingers, ten toes. Two eyes, two ears and a nose. Perfect.

When you're born, it's easy to say you're perfect. You've made no mistakes, you've committed no sins, and as your lungs fill with air, you squeak with the life your parents gave you, getting your first taste of this new world is exhilarating and absolutely frightening at the same time.

I am like a newborn child.

I am a woman who has spent six years of my life inside my own body. I was contained in a womb of safety and security of my own mind, my own body, my own thoughts and intentions. There were things around me that I could not control. There were people and events that influenced my very life and future, and the future of my family and friends. Through it all, I had no one to rely upon but myself.

Like a child in the womb, my nourishment came from a tube. My experiences came from those who spoke to me, touched me, cared for me, and loved me. Like a newborn child, life now is a blurry mess of sights and sounds that frighten me, and make me fight for the safety and security of my own mind, and dream of a time where I was safe, secure and warm against the body of someone who loves me. Like a newborn child, I am frustrated with the inability to communicate to those around me my needs.

I have needs.

I have the need for protection, the need for love. I have the need for hope for the future, and the need for the past to rest. I have a need to heal, and to fight for my happiness. I have the need to be cared for, and to care for others as they have done for me when I was in the direst of situations. I want to give. I need to give. In order to give, I must take, and if I take, I will hurt those that have protected me.

Izzie stepped into her friend's room and watched her sleep, her eyes closed, her body peaceful as she checked her vitals. The patch over her ear was large, the look on her face was peaceful. "Meredith… she waited for you to open your eyes… she waited for such a long time, why are you being so stubborn." Izzie whispered as she thought of Zoey's visit with Mark.

She had wished her mother a Happy Thanksgiving, told her a thanksgiving poem, and waited patiently for her to open her eyes, to acknowledge her, to say her name as best as she could There was no movement, there was no change only peace and quiet and the wishful hopes of the little girl as Meredith didn't wake up for her, she slept peacefully through the little girl's visit, and when Mark whispered it was time to go, she reluctantly kissed her mother goodbye and told her that she was thankful that she had Derek, thankful that she had Mark, and thankful that she would never be without her mother, ever again.

"Meredith…" Izzie whispered. "Don't slip away… there are too many people that love you, too many important people who need you." She said as she squeezed Meredith's hand, as she turned and walked from the room, leaving Meredith to her peaceful slumber.

I am like a newborn child in circumstance, but not in spirit, not in my soul. In my soul, I am Meredith Grey. I am a woman who has lived the life of a caged creature for far too long. I am stronger than a newborn child. I am courageous. I will not cry. I will not fight it. I will fight for it.

My life has been filled with challenges. From the moment I came into this world a wet, cold, screaming newborn, to the day I slipped away unknowingly. I have always been a fighter. When the love of my life died, he took with him, the soul that he had embedded in me. With that, he took my love. In its place, a dark hole remained.

My mother took my child from me, the only piece of my love that remained, sending me deeper into a sleep that never wished to lift. My father cared for me as best as he could until the day he died, replacing his warm hands with the hands of my half sister. My child was gone, my love was gone, why did I remain behind?

I remained behind because there was something more for me here.

I didn't know it then, but I know it now.

My daughter is a ray of sunshine. She is a burst of energy that is so bright, so blinding, so intense, that she herself could provide the energy for the entire world with just her smile. I am her sleeping beauty, her mommy, her focus when she walks into this room. I am her family.

But he…

He is her life.

He is the be all and end all for that child, and for that, I respect him. For that, I love him. He doesn't try too hard. He doesn't beg or plead with her to love him.

He just is.

And she just is.

And together, they're perfect.

Derek stood before his family with his glass in his hand, his arm outstretched as he smiled at his family before him. His eyes were filled with joy, though his heart was missing something. He didn't feel complete and he knew why, and he tried his best to hide his emotions as he toasted his guests.

"First and foremost, I'd like to thank all of you for coming out here across the country on one of the busiest holidays of the year. It means a lot to me to have you all here in my home together. It makes it a little more real, a little more official, and a little more like home having everyone here. I am glad you could all make it, and I love you all very much." He said as his eyes passed over the table full of adults, and the large table of children as they all smiled and giggled as they tried to remain quiet.

"I want to thank so many people for so many things… and I'm thankful that… that we have this delicious meal before us… and that I'm doing well at work… despite some rocky days over the past two months… I am thankful to have my family… especially Zoey… here to share her first Shepherd Thanksgiving… with her new family… I'm thankful that you have all been so nice to her… inviting and loving of her… though there are some skeptics out there." Derek said as his eyes passed to his two sisters. "We're happy… and we will be happy… I'm thankful that Zoey's mother made it through her surgery… Meredith…" He choked out her name as he tried to remain calm. "She's recovering…and…" Derek said as he started to become choked up, his tears rolling down his cheeks as Mark patted his arm. "Thank you everyone." He said with a smile as he held his glass up. "Happy Thanksgiving."

"Happy Thanksgiving!" Everyone exclaimed as they held their glasses up and toasted one another, and all of the many things they have to be thankful for.

Sometimes when they visit, I just lay here and listen to them color or talk to one another. It's like being in the room of a secret society where 'pink' is the secret code word, and giggles and tickles are the secret handshakes.

Sometimes when they visit, I can't help but wonder if there is a bit of her father's soul that snuck from her tiny body into his, finding its way to his eyes or his smile, showing its face so that I know that it's there, so that I get a feeling in the tips of my toes and warms my entire body, reassuring me that she is in the best care possible.

I am afraid though.

To love him.

He's a young man with his own life and ambitions and dreams. He's a young man with a home of his own, and a heart that I am frightened to death that he may give to me. I am afraid that if I love him, that he will share the same fate as everyone else that is connected to me. I am afraid I will disappoint him. I am afraid that I will hold him down and make him feel obligated to help me.

I want to love again.

I want to feel the love that he feels when she says his name. I want to feel the love that she feels when he holds her. He brought her back to me, and for that he is my hero. Not some idyllic being that stands heads and shoulders above all others, but a young man who took in a small child that he had no obligation to take in. A young surgeon with dreams and responsibilities and the heart of a lion, full of strength and youth and stubbornness, and not without his faults.

Derek sat at the table for dessert, the pieces of pie had been handed out and Kara and Carrie had joined them all, introduced to the family one at a time as she marveled at the busyness of the house, and the happiness that the house was filled in. Everyone laughed and enjoyed themselves as they ate their desserts and questions passed around the table as they noted Derek and Kara's close friendship.

"So are you and Derek dating?" Jeni asked as she watched Derek shake his head and Kara laughed.

"No… no…" She giggled. "We're just good friends… We can call one another any time day or night..." She said with a smile.

"She's a good support system." Derek nodded as he shoved a mouthful of pie in his mouth and nodded. "It's a good thing to have when you're raising an energetic child on your own." He said as Kara laughed.

"Or if you have a bread making disaster at two o'clock in the morning…" She laughed as Derek chuckled.

"Yeah, like that hasn't happened before…" He said as Kara nudged him and they laughed as everyone enjoyed the levity of the conversation.

Suddenly, the sound of Derek's pager pierced the happy mood as Derek lifted it to his face, his face gone pale as he stood up and stared at the pager. "I…" he whispered as he looked to Kara. "I have to take this." He whispered as he turned and walked toward the door. "Excuse me…" He said as he walked into the kitchen.

Kara and Mark exchanged a look and she stood up and excused herself as she walked toward the kitchen.

Derek stood in the kitchen pacing as he listened on the phone line. "Uh huh…. Uh huh… yes… Yes… Izzie… just… just calm down." He sighed as he looked up at Kara as he sighed. "I will be right there." He said as he flipped his phone closed.

"What's wrong?" Kara asked as Derek sighed.

"It's Meredith…" Derek whispered. "Izzie is worried about her… and she… she isn't responding to anything and Izzie is scared that she's falling back into her depression." Derek replied.

"Are you going in?" Kara whispered.

"Kara, I have a house full of…"

"Shut up and go in… I'll take care of your family… you look like you can use a break from them anyway." She said as Derek watched her give him a fake dirty look. "Oh, just go tell your famly, and get the heck out of here before I kick your ass." She said as he chuckled nervously and walked out the kitchen door.

I don't want him to think that is why I love him. I want him to know that the fact that he took in that precious little girl is only one of the million things about him that I have learned that makes me feel like the flashes of one thousand lightning bolts lighting the nighttime sky, sending wild surges of energy through my body when he touches my hand, or presses his lips against mine.

Derek followed Izzie into the room and they found that her eyes were open as she stared directly into his eyes as he stepped into the room. "Izzie, she's awake now…" Derek said as she shrugged.

"I know." Izzie said softly as she shrugged her shoulders again. "But if I sent you a page that said she was awake and wanted to see you…"

"I would have rushed here just as quickly." Derek replied. "Don't kid yourself." He said as he approached the bed without looking to Izzie, he didn't even notice that she had stepped out of the room. The only thing that existed for him at that moment… was Meredith.

"Jjjj…." Meredith whispered, her face concentrating as Derek reached for her hand.

"Meredith… don't…"

"Jjjjjjjju…Jjjjjuuuu…" She whispered as Derek moved closer to her.

"Meredith…" He whispered as he moved his face toward hers as he smoothed her hair back softly as he watched her eyes talk to him, he watched her eyelids flutter involuntarily as she watched him. "Meredith…" he whispered.

"Jjj…." She whispered.

"Meredith… what do you need? He whispered. "What do you need, I'll give you anything?" He asked as she swallowed and concentrated, her eyes burning into his as she licked her lip softly and watched his eyes.

I think I love him, and I want him to know it.

I need him to know that.

"Jjj…" She whispered. "Jjjj…"

"What do you need, Meredith?" He whispered. "I'm listening… I'm listening to you." He said as he watched her eyes. "I promise…"

"Jussssst…" She swallowed. "Jjjjussst…. Dah-rek" She said, her voice forceful as she listened to the words tumble from her mouth as she watched his lips curl into a bright smile, his eyes sparkling, his hand gently running along her cheek, as he leaned down slowly and leaned his forehead onto hers as she watched the happiness in his eyes.

Because life is too short to push people away. Life is too precious to lie in a bed stuck within yourself and not allow anyone inside. I'm ready to face the world. I'm ready to be reborn. I'm ready to fight for my life and my love.

"Deh-" She said as she watched his lips move closer to hers, the soft warmth of them making her feel complete as they pressed gently against hers. "Rek…." She whispered as he felt her hand move up and touch the back of his head, pulling him close as she accepted his gracious and loving mouth upon hers, sharing their love for their lives and their family with that kiss, he pulled himself onto the bed with her and held her, kissing her lips, her cheeks her ears and her temple, as she repeated his name over and over again, the happiness in her voice being the most rewarding thing that Derek had felt, in a very long time, and a warmth that he never, ever wanted to let go of.

I'm ready to live again.

For Zoey, for Derek, but more importantly.

For myself.

The end. (There is a sequel, if you're interested... thoughtful reviews are often rewarded)