No One Knows
A/N: This is my first GA fic but it was an idea that wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it down. I hope you guys like it and let me know what you think of it. The fic is finished, so I should be posting the next and final chapter in two days. It's set right after the ep "If Only You Were Lonely" as it was inspired by the scene where Mark and Derek are at the daycare.
Disclaimer: They're not mine.
"Derek asked how it was going with Julia earlier today," Mark, lying on his bed with his hands crossed under his head and staring at the ceiling, commented to the seemingly empty room.
"He did?" the reply came from the bathroom.
"Yes," he then frowned as he thought about it. "Actually, he asked how it was going with my better half."
"What was your answer?"
"I said that he was uptight, worried about the board and snapping at patients," he answered.
"Of course you did," the response was accompanied by a chuckle. "What did he say?"
"He clarified that he was asking about Julia," Mark said and then trailed off.
"To which you said …" the voice from the bathroom prompted.
"That she was doing fine, that she was doing well," he replied, turning his head to watch his girlfriend walked out of the bathroom wearing only an old t-shirt of his. She walked towards the bed, sat down next to him and studied his face for a few moments before sighing.
"It really bothers you to lie to him, doesn't it?" she asked in a tone of voice that indicated she already knew the answer.
"We agreed it was better to keep this between us for the time being," he shrugged.
"That's not an answer Mark," she pressed.
"What do you want me to say?" it was another evasion and they both knew it.
"The truth," was the simple answer. "I always only want you to tell me the truth."
"Derek's my best friend," he started to say only to be interrupted.
"He's more like your brother," she pointed out.
"Maybe, but that doesn't mean he's entitled to know everything about my life," he stated.
"That still doesn't really answer the question, Mark," she argued.
"What is it you want me to say?" he asked again, sounding a little irritated. She didn't think repeating that she only wanted to the truth would prompt a more enlightening response, so she decided to make a guess.
"Does it remind you of the time you were with Addison?" she asked.
"Of course not!" he vehemently denied. "That was a completely different situation. We are not cheating right now."
"Okay, how about the time when …" but before she even finished the thought he was shaking his head.
"No, that was different too," he argued. "That time I was actively keeping what I was doing from him because I was doing something he asked me not to do. This time we're not doing something behind his back, we're just trying to figure it out without anyone interfering or gossiping about us."
"I know," she nodded, "but that doesn't mean you don't feel bad about not telling him."
"Lexie," he said, sounding just a little exasperated, "do you want to start telling people about us?"
She thought about it for a moment before she shook her head.
"No," she said firmly. "Not yet. The reasons we decided to keep quiet are still there." They were in a good place at the moment but they'd only been back together a few weeks and, as much as they loved each other, they weren't completely secure in the relationship yet. They'd mended a lot of the damage they had both done to each other but there was still a little more patching-up to do before they could feel the sense of security in their relationship they'd felt before Sloan had arrived in their lives.
"I agree," Mark said just as firmly. He hesitated a moment before he sighed and nodded, "And okay, I might not feel great keeping it from Derek but you and our relationship are my priority right now and since this is what we need to do to make sure we get it right this time, this is what we'll do."
Lexie's smile at hearing that declaration was beautiful and had Mark grinning back at her.
"I love you," she said softly and leaned in to kiss him.
"I love you, too," he whispered back before pulling her on top of his chest. He joined in her laughter as he rolled over until she was under him and then their laughter faded as they got lost in each other.
Hours later, Mark watched as Lexie slept next to him and as he too drifted off to sleep, he thought back to the day when everything started to change: last Valentine's Day …
"Don't be stupid. You love steak. Sofia, your friend's here," he called over his shoulder as he pulled Lexie into the apartment.
What followed wasn't the most uncomfortable evening of Mark's life but it sure wasn't the most comfortable either. Lexie and Jackson made an effort to keep a conversation going during dinner but Jackson made his excuses almost as soon as he finished his steak. Lexie would have also made her excuses but good manners made her offer to wash the dishes and when he declined, she said she'd keep the girls entertained while he did them.
It wasn't until Mark was done with the dishes and turned to go back to the living room that he understood why he'd been so restless the whole night. The sight of Lexie playing with Sophia and Zola in his living room all but took his breath away. It was at that moment that he realized that the niggling, nagging sensation he'd been feeling all night was a sense of rightness that he hadn't felt in a long time – since the last time he'd had dinner with Lexie in the apartment as a matter of fact.
He leaned his hip against the counter and crossed his arms across his chest as he watched his daughter, his best friend's daughter and the woman he'd just realized he's still and would always love playing on his living room floor while he tried to assimilate that realization and come to grips with what it would mean to his life. The realization probably shouldn't have been such a surprise but he'd been sure he'd at least, finally, started to move on. His relationship with Julia was going pretty well and …
Julia, oh, God, Julia. What was he supposed to do about Julia now? It was one thing to be in a relationship with her when he thought he was on his way to being over Lexie and that they had a shot at a future together. It was another thing entirely to be with her knowing that he was nowhere near being over Lexie and that it wouldn't happen in the near future. Keeping the relationship going under those circumstances, allowing her to keep hoping and expecting that one day he would love her like she loved him, would not only be dishonest, it would also be cruel.
And the second shocking realization of the night was that he needed to break up with Julia and he needed to do it as soon as possible. Once that decision was made, Mark felt a sweeping sense of relief that only proved it was the right decision. With that settled in his mind, he walked forward towards Lexie and the babies. He'd barely joined them, however, that Lexie was up and saying she really should be going. He didn't say anything as she gathered Zola's stuff and made beeline for the door.
As the door closed behind her, he wondered what had brought her to his door that night. Part of him wanted to believe that she'd come because she still loved him and part of him was convinced that it was anything but that. In the end though, it didn't really matter. Whatever her reason had been, whatever the future had in store for him and Lexie, wouldn't change what he'd just realized or what he had to do about it. Whether he and Lexie ever got back together or not was irrelevant to the fate of his relationship with Julia because he just didn't have it in him to be in a relationship with one woman while in love with another.
Since Mark wasn't a person that put things off, he'd decided to break up with Julia the following day. Some people would consider it callous and cruel to break up with someone the day after Valentine's day but Mark knew it was better to do it sooner rather than later. He knew his feelings wouldn't change in a few days or weeks and that the only thing that waiting would accomplish would be to give Julia more time to emotionally invest in a relationship that was going nowhere. But knowing he was right didn't make breaking up with a good woman that had done nothing wrong any easier.
In the end, it had been her being a classy lady that made the whole thing not be as horrible as it could have been. As blindsided, confused, hurt and angry as she must have been, she'd very quietly and calmly asked for an explanation. Acknowledging that she deserved one, Mark had given her one without going into details – he saw no reason to mention that the woman he loved was the same one that had once thrown a ball at her chest.
When he was done, she nodded once, murmured 'I see' and with quiet dignity walked towards the door. With her hand on the doorknob and without turning around, she told him to just throw out anything she'd left behind and that she was sure he'd understand that she wanted nothing to do with him for a very long time – if ever. With that, she opened the door and walked out of his life. And, except for the fifteen minutes he spent collecting and disposing of her things, that was the end of his relationship with Julia.
On his way to work later, he decided that he'd find Lexie and find out why she'd stopped by his apartment the night before. Unfortunately, the hospital was so busy that finding and talking to Lexie proved harder than breaking up with Julia had been. It was days before he was able to able to talk to her. He finally got his chance one afternoon almost a week later.
He was standing by the nurse's desk, filling in a patient's chart, when he heard a gasped 'no' followed by sobbing. He looked up to see Derek and Lexie, who was standing a step behind Derek, talking to a distraught looking man, who was holding the sobbing woman. Derek and Lexie were wearing their scrubs and it was obvious by everyone's demeanor that the surgery hadn't gone well. Mark saw the man nod once before he turned and wrapped himself around the woman as he, too, broke down. Derek hesitated before he sighed and turned away- knowing nothing he could say would comfort the grieving family. He tried to speak to Lexie but she just shook her head and turned away; Derek watched her walk away for a moment before he walked towards the nurse's desk.
"Rough surgery?" Mark asked.
"Yeah," Derek nodded. "Kid didn't make it. And Lexie's taking it hard; she seems to have a difficult time dealing with what she calls 'the impossible cases'."
"Yeah, 'cause you're taking this one so well," Mark told him with a knowing look. Derek shrugged and sighed.
"Some of them hit you harder than others," Derek said simply. He finished writing on his chart and put it away before turning to look at Mark. "I think I'm going to go spend some time with my daughter," he informed Mark before he walked away.
Mark watched him walked away for a few moments before he gave his finished chart to the nurse and, without giving himself time to second guess his decision, he went to look for Lexie. He found her in the first place he looked, the landing between the second floor and the third floor of the west staircase. She was huddled up in one corner, her face against her drawn up knees and her arms wrapped around her legs, crying. He didn't hesitate before walking towards her, sitting down next to her and putting his arm around her shoulder. He didn't know if it was because she knew it was him or because she just needed comfort but she came easily into his embrace.
She sobbed 'Mark', dispelling his doubts as to whether she knew who she was, as she burrowed into him, draping her arm tight around his torso and burying her head in the hollow of his neck. He put both arms around her, kissed her forehead and laid his head on top of her head, murmuring reassurances.
"He was so young," she cried out, "So smart and funny and optimistic – he had his whole life in front of him. He wanted to go to college to be able to help people. And I … Derek and I … we killed him."
"No, you didn't, Lex," Mark disagreed. "You know you didn't."
"I know no such thing," she argued. "He was alive when he went into surgery and he died on our table. We killed him."
Mark knew that sometimes a case, a patient could get to a surgeon despite all their training. He also knew that platitudes wouldn't be enough to snap her out of it.
"What were the chances he could have had a long, normal life without the surgery?" he asked instead of giving her more reassurances.
"Non existent," she answered after a few moments of silence.
"If the surgery had been successful, what were the chances that he'd had a whole life?"
"Upwards of 90%," she said in a calmer tone of voice.
"And what were the chances that the surgery would work?" he wanted to know next.
"Less than 7%," was an honest estimate.
"Did you and Derek make a mistake?" was his final question.
"No," she shook her head. "We did everything right," she said slowly as she thought back over the surgery. "I can't think of anything that we missed or did wrong; I can't understand why he died."
"Sometimes shit happens, Lex," Mark told her, as blunt as ever. "Sometimes we do everything right and we still lose our patient. You know that, Lexie."
"Sometimes I wonder why we keep doing this," she told him earnestly.
"We do it," he told her because, even though she knew it too, he thought she'd needed to hear it, "because sometimes we do everything right and even with odds as abysmal as 7% we can give our patient a new lease on life."
"And what makes one case different from the other?" another question she already knew the answer to but needed to ask.
"Life, fate, luck," Mark shrugged and she lifted her head enough to glare at him.
"That's not an answer, Mark," she protested.
"It's the only one I have – the only one anyone of us has," he told her. "Because despite what we think – what we like to tell ourselves, we're not God. We might hold our patient's lives in our hands but the outcome isn't always up to us."
"That sucks," was her succinct response and such a childish reply to the heavy philosophical subject had Mark grinning.
"Yeah, well, life can suck," he agreed.
"Yeah," she started to nod but then froze. "I'm sorry," she stammered as she drew back. She'd known all along that it had been Mark that was holding her but it wasn't until that moment that it dawned on her that she had no right to expect or accept such unconditional support and comfort.
"What for?" he asked as he too shifted away.
"For taking up your time," she told him. "For keeping you when you probably have plans – I'm sure Julia's waiting for you."
"No," he said simply and Lexie frowned in confusion.
"No? No what?" she asked.
"No, I don't have any plans," he clarified. "And no, Julia's not waiting for me."
"Well, maybe you could call her and you could do something …" she trailed off, wondering why the hell she was trying to get him to go see Julia.
"I don't think that'd be a good idea," he shrugged. "We broke up," he added before she could ask.
"You … you broke up?" she asked, stunned; she hadn't expected that at all. "Why?" she asked, looking at him with big, wide eyes. But he answered with a question of his own.
"Why did you come see me on Valentine's Day?" he finally asked what he hadn't stopped wondering about for the last week.
She hesitated, taking aback by the question. It had taken all her courage to go to his place that night, she wasn't sure she could just tell him what she wanted to tell him without preparing herself first. She would sure feel better if he answered her question first but, when she thought of all the time he'd put himself out there and she'd turn him down, she decided maybe it was time that she step up to the plate. So, she took a deep breath and finally said out loud what had taken her so long to come to terms with.
"I love you," she looked him right in the eyes when she said it. "I've always loved you and I always will." She wasn't sure what she expected his response to be but absolute silence hadn't been it. "Mark, say something," she prompted when the silence became too much to bear.
"But loving me was never the issue, was it?" he finally asked. And no one was more surprised than him that he hadn't hauled her into his arms and kissed her but after everything that'd happened between them, maybe a little caution was in order. "The problem was that you didn't want to love me - that loving me hurt you. You said that we were in different places in our lives; that you wanted, needed to concentrate on your career and not in a complicated, messy relationship with a man with as much baggage as I have. You wanted a fun, easy, no mess and no fuss relationship; that's why you were with Avery. So, what's changed?"
"Mark, I … I," Lexie stammered before trailing off. She wasn't prepared to answer that question. She'd been so busy coming to terms with the understanding that she still love him, that he was the love of her life and then with gathering the courage to tell him that that she hadn't thought how to explain why she was coming to him now when she'd walked away months before.
"Nothing's changed," he answered for her when it was clear she wouldn't answer. "You're still a young resident that has to focus on proving herself as a surgeon and I'm still an established surgeon that has two daughters with two different women and who's ready to settle down and start a family."
"No, the circumstances haven't changed," Lexie said slowly, figuring out what she wanted to say as she said it. "What has changed is my perception of them. I realized that love is a precious, rare gift and that if you're lucky enough to find it then you should hold on to it tight, cherish it and never let it go. Because you're right – shit happens all the time and you can't really plan life … well, you can plan it, you can plan until doomsday but life is what happens while you're out planning and if you don't adapt to the curveballs thrown at you, if you don't roll with the punches then you risk watching life, and even what you most love, pass you by… I'm not willing to risk that. I love my career and I want to be the best kick ass surgeon I can be but I also love you, Mark. As much as I want to be a rock star surgeon, I want to have a life with you and I don't see why I have to choose one or the other. I'm not just going to stand back without at least fighting to have both."
"Well," Mark said a moment later, "I guess that is an admirable sentiment," though his tone was even, Lexie flinched at the implied sarcasm in the words. "But I wonder when you had this epiphany – before or after Avery ended your relationship?"
Lexie opened and closed her mouth without saying anything, once more thrown by his question. If she'd thought this would be easy, that he would make it easy, she'd have been sorely mistaken. Then again, given everything that'd happened, maybe it was to be expected.
Before she could say anything, though, the door to the stairwell on the floor below them opened. Moments later, Laura, a lab technician, walked by them and it dawned on Lexie that while they were on an isolated corner of the hospital, they were still, in fact, in the hospital and it wasn't the best place to have this discussion.
"Could we go somewhere else to talk?" she asked. "Your place, maybe?"
"Yes," he nodded before he got up. "I'll meet you in the lobby in 20 minutes." He waited only until she nodded and stood up before he turned and walk away.
She stood still, watching him go, for a moment before she sighed and left to change. No, this wouldn't be easy at all.