Chapter 2

A/N: How great was last night? I'm still in awe and keep re-watching the scene over and over again; Mark's face and Lexie's and wow! Now, hopefully but the end of next ep we'll have our reunion. Anyway, here's the second chapter. I hope you guys like it and please let me know what you think of it. I've gotten quite a bit of alerts but only two reviews (which I sincerely appreciate) but this is my first ML fic and I would like to hear what you guys think of how I'm doing. I'm also working on another fic right now but I'd like to know if there's interest on it before I post it. Well, I hope you enjoy. Oh, I don't have a beta, so any mistakes are all mine.

Disclaimers: nope, they're not mine. If they were, they'd probably be married by now w/a kid of their own.

...

Less than thirty minutes later, they were walking into his apartment. Lexie had used that time to gather her composure and organized her thoughts and arguments. She'd thought that she would have also had to gather her courage for the coming conversation but, to her surprise, it hadn't been necessary. It seemed that all of her soul searching had done its job – she had never been surer of what she wanted and just how far she'd go to make sure she got it.

That didn't mean she wasn't nervous; she couldn't think of a time she'd been more nervous in her life. Which made sense since nothing less than her future happiness was riding on the outcome of the conversation. Whether she was ever to know true and lasting happiness again or she was to dwell in an abject misery of her own making rested on her ability to convince him to giver her another chance. And she really had no idea what the chances of that were.

Mark had also used the time to think. Not so much on what he wanted - he loved and wanted Lexie, that wasn't the question. The question was what he was willing to risk for the chance to get it. He'd surprised himself by not pulling her into his arms the moment she said she loved him; but the fact was, that as much as he loved her, he wasn't sure he trusted her not to walk away again. He'd let her go twice before and he wasn't sure he could recover if he had to do it a third time.

And yet, he didn't know if he could afford not to take the chance – not when it meant the chance to have everything he'd ever wanted. He had so many conflicting emotions and thoughts pulling at him that he didn't say anything until they were in his apartment.

"Do you want something to drink?" he asked her as he closed his door.

"Ummm… some water, thanks," she told him as she took off her bag before she sat down on the couch. "Thanks," she nodded when he came back from the kitchen and gave her a bottle of water.

"Well, here we are," Mark said as he sat down on a chair.

"Yeah, here we are," she repeated. She took a sip of water to wet her dry throat, placed the bottle on top of her right knee and held it there between her palms, took a big breath and looked up at him.

"You're right," she finally said, going back to where they left their conversation, "Jackson was the one that ended things between us. But that doesn't make my feelings any less real or strong; it only means that he acknowledged that our relationship wasn't working and never would before I did. I just … I wasn't ready to admit – to myself, let alone anyone else, that letting you go had been the single biggest mistake of my life. I was too stubborn and proud, too steeped in denial to admit that the last year had been a colossal waste of time; time that we could, and should, have spent together. I just couldn't accept that we wasted it because I was too short-sighted, confused about what was important and too afraid to fight for what I wanted most. I just … I wasn't ready then," she repeated with a shrug.

"Would you be ready now and here if Avery hadn't walked first?" he asked her. He wasn't sure why he was pushing her, but something was driving him and he was a man that followed his instincts.

"Yes, I would be," she nodded. "Maybe not right now," she added when she saw his skeptical look. "But I would still be here sooner rather than later."

"You can't be sure of that," he argued but she kept nodding her head.

"Yes, I can," she insisted. "I can be absolutely, 100% sure of that."

"How?" he wanted to know.

"Because," she answered, "there's only so much you can lie to yourself before the truth slaps you in the face."

"That's bull, Lexie," Mark shook his head at what he considered a beyond naïve statement. "There are a lot of people that live quite happily lying to themselves the whole of their lives."

"Okay, fine," Lexie nodded because that was true, "then there was only so much I could lie to myself before the truth of my feelings slapped me in the face."

"And Avery walking was the slap you needed?" for some reason he didn't really like that.

"No, not at all," her answer was immediate. "The façade I'd spent all year building started to crack before Jackson left – that was the reason he left, actually. I was already on my way to realizing the truth; it's just that Jackson did it before I could."

"Then what was the slap?" there was something in her tone that made him more than a little curious.

"There were a lot of things that sort of just came together," she tried to hedge but the look on his face said he was onto her and she sighed before given a more detail answer. "I had a few conversations with patients that made me think," she said. She then took a deep breath and added, "But I guess what really started me thinking about it was seeing you with Julia during the softball game. Seeing you with her was … well, it felt like a real slap."

"You did throw that ball on purpose," it was said with some surprise.

"I, well … umm, maybe. I just … maybe my aim was a little off," she blushed a little and stared intently at the bottle she kept rotating on top of her knee. "The thing is … God, this is going to sound so selfish and arrogant on my part but … I think that deep inside I always sort of thought we'd end up together; I guess I thought that when I was ready you'd be … there."

"What?" he asked, incredulously. "You thought I'd what? Just be here, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for you to decide you want a life with me after all?"

"I know how selfish and self-centered it sounds," she admitted. She drank some water before looking back up at his eyes. "It wasn't anything conscious, really. But when I saw you with her and how happy you looked, I was forced to face the possibility that you might have done what I couldn't – maybe you had moved on and were ready to love and be happy with someone else. That possibility shattered a dream I didn't even know I had. And that meant that I had to finally be completely and totally honest with myself. I had to decide what I really wanted and what I was wiling to do to get it. It wasn't easy; it took a lot of soul searching and …"

"And what?" Mark said when she trailed off without finishing her thought. "You decided what you wanted was me?"

"Yeah," she said softly. "I realized that you're the love of my life and that I was lying, to myself more than anyone else, every time I said I was getting over you because that's just not possible. The fact that I had to talk myself into believing I was happy with Jackson two or three times a day should have been my first clue but well, I guess no one can do denial like I can. I also realized just how very much I miss you, Mark."

"You probably just miss the sex," he said gruffly because her looking at him with big, soft, vulnerable eyes that held an entreaty deep within was getting to him and he just wasn't sure what he wanted to do yet.

"No," Lexie shook her head adamantly. "That's not it – well, that's part of it but not all of it. You remember those six weeks after I …well, ummm," she motioned towards his groin, "sort of broke you?" When he just looked at her, she nodded and continued, "I missed that. I miss talking to you - about work and how Plastics is the best specialty, about what to have for dinner and fighting over the remote. I miss going to sleep in your arms and waking up to your face every morning. I miss knowing I can go to you with anything and you'll offer unconditional support. I miss that when I'm low and sad, like when a friend dies, or when I'm worried and overwhelmed, like when I kept my job but several of my friends lost theirs, you'll be there to support and comfort me. And I …" she had to stop and take a breath to calm down. All this talk about them and her mistakes had made her emotional and though she had controlled herself up to that moment, she could no longer hold back the tears.

"And I really miss the way you have of wrapping your arms around me so that I feel surrounded by you; I've never felt safer, more protected or loved than when you hold me." She could no longer hold back a sob. "I just … I just I really miss you, Mark; I miss us – miss being your lover and friend, having you for a mentor – 'cause Neuro really has nothing on Plastics. And I really can't stand the idea," she was really sobbing now, "the idea that you'll never again be anything more than my boss at work … and my brother in law's best friend outside of it. I can't imagine … you not being a real part of my life but I know … I know I have no right to ask you for anything. I know that if we're never together again, it'll all be my fault. If… if I lost my one shot at happiness it'll be because of my own stupidity and co…cowardice." Her emotions finally got the best of her and she stopped talking, burying her face in her hands.

Mark could no more stand-by, doing nothing, while she cried that he could ignore Sophia crying, so he got up and went to sit next to her. He hesitated for a moment before he reached out and pulled her onto his lap. He wrapped his arms around her and surrounded her, just like she'd said a moment ago.

"It's okay, Lex," he said into her hair as she turned to burrow into him. "Everything's fine."

"No," she shook her head. "Everything's not fine," she argued over her crying, "I miss you and I love you so much and we're not together … and it's all my fault 'cause I was such a dumb fool…. And it hurts so much … as …as if someone had punched me and permanently taken my breath away and … as if someone had thrust a knife into my hurt, twisted it and left it there – it hurts, Mark. And the worst part … the worst is how much I hurt you … but I didn't know … I swear, until I saw you with Julia, I had no idea how much it hurt you to see me with Jackson … for me, it was only a few weeks but… but you, you saw it for months. I'm so so sorry … I never meant to hurt … it was the last thing I wanted to do. I'm sorry, Mark, so so so sorry…" She finally fell silent, sobbing into his shirt. It had been a bit of a garbled mess, but Mark understood most of it.

"We hurt each other, Lexie; it was both our faults," he said into her hair, but she wasn't listening to him. He tried to calm her with soothing murmurs, but she was too gone to listen to him. After awhile, he decided that the only way to quiet her would be to distract her. To that end he said, in a normal voice to force her to listen, "you want to know why I broke up with Julia?" It took a moment, but she finally calmed down enough to listen to him. He took a deep breath and, with his arms around her but looking straight ahead, he started talking.

"I broke up with her because that night you came to my apartment and I saw you playing on the floor with Sophia and Zola, I realized that I love you as much as I did the day we broke up," at that announcement, Lexie's head came up but he was still staring straight ahead. "And I realized that if my feelings for you hadn't faded even a little after all this time then they likely never will because you are the love of my life. And though Julia's a lovely woman, I'm just never going to be able to love her like she deserves. To keep the relationship going would give her false hope, and that just isn't fair – to her or to me. So, I broke up with her."

"For me?" she asked in a small voice.

"Not really," he shook his head, still not looking at her. "I mean I did break up with her because I love you but I had no expectation or reason to think we would get back together. I broke up with her because, given my feelings for you, it was the right thing to do."

"You are wiser than I am, then," she concluded in a thoughtful and, somewhat, surprised tone of voice.

"It isn't a competition, Lexie," he said because he hadn't said it to make her feel worse. He shifted a little to be able to look at her better. She too shifted a little but neither one even attempted to move away from each other. "And if it was, I think we would both lose – we both fucked up, big time and we both hurt each other, quite a lot. This mess we're in – we both created it. I shouldn't have made a decision that affected both our lives without talking to you about it." For a moment she frowned at him in confusion until she realized he was talking about the decision to move Sloan into their apartment and keep her baby.

"That was a lot time ago," she said. And it was; she really wasn't thinking about it at all.

"Maybe," he conceded. "But it's what started us on this self-destructive path. I shouldn't have made such an important decision on my own – I should have talked to you about it first."

"I …" she hesitated but then decision to be completely honest. "I don't know if that would have made much difference. I wasn't ready to be a step-grandmother." Even after all this time, that term still got stuck on her throat.

"We'll never know because I didn't talk to you about it," he argued. "And I really shouldn't have ignored you after you told me about sleeping with Alex – not when I had done the same thing with Addison. Or revert back to my man-whore ways and rub it on your face."

"That hurt – a lot," she said quietly, looking down at her lap. "I know that two mistakes don't really cancel each other out, especially those kinds of mistakes, but I didn't understand why you wouldn't even talk to me about it."

"I know it's hypocritical," he sighed, "but the thing is that resorting to sex is how I've always dealt with bad things – and things were really bad back then. But it's different with you. I know that we'd broken up and that, technically, neither one cheated but what I had with Addison was meaningless sex and you don't do that so, unfair or not, it felt like you cheated."

"That is not fair," she said, glaring at him.

"I know," he nodded.

"And it's not true," she insisted. She then huffed, as frustration got the better of her. "You know, I'm tired of people thinking I'm such a paragon. I can make mistakes – the relationship with Jackson was a mistake and trying to have one with Alex when he was still reeling from Izzie leaving him was also a mistake. And," she added, thinking of Meredith saying that her heart was in her vagina, "I can have meaningless sex – that first night with Alex was a meaningless one night stand." He stared at her in silence for a moment before clearing his throat.

"I don't know if having one night stands is something to be proud of," he told her and at her look, he added, "Yes, I know how that sounds coming from me."

"I'm not proud of it," she started to argue before she stopped herself. Why were they even talking about this? "This was all a long time ago, Mark; do we have to talk about it now?"

"I know it was long ago," he told her. "But we've never talked about it and maybe that's where we went wrong last time. And the fact is that we still have the same problem that we had then."

"What do you mean?" she asked, looking up at him in confusion once more.

"You've walked away twice because you were not ready for a baby, Lexie," he told her and Lexie blinked twice as she understood where he was going. "The first time was for nothing – Sloan preferred to give her baby up to be adopted by someone else and she's not really a part of my life; and I don't think she'll ever be. But Sophia is different. She is a priority in my life and will always be. I love her …"

"Of course you do," she interrupted him. "And you're a great father, Mark. I love seeing you with her. And I would never dream of doing anything to interfere with that."

"That's not really what I meant, Lex," he told her.

"Yeah, I know," she nodded and sighed. "And yeah, okay, I'm not ready to have a baby and be a full time mother …"

"I don't expect you to be her mother," he interrupted her this time. "Sophia's already got a mother – she actually has two and doesn't really need another. But she is a big part of my life and if we get back together, you'll be in my life too and that means you'll be in her life. I will expect you to have a relationship with her, care for her and maybe, one day love her; I will also want and expect you to be there for me, to help and support me with whatever issues come up – whether they have to do with Sophia or not. Just as I will for you."

"You'll expect me to act like the person you're sharing your life should," she summarized. "You have every right to expect that and I can do that. Yeah, I'm not ready to have a baby but I've really enjoyed helping Meredith and Derek with Zola these last few months. I've enjoyed babysitting her – playing with her and taking care of her … I'm not ready to be a mom," she repeated, "but I really like being an aunt, maybe I can start with that with Sophia?"

"That sounds good," he said but there was something in his tone that had Lexie studying him closer.

"What is it?" she finally asked him.

"Nothing," he shrugged and continued when she just kept looking at him. "I guess I just want to be sure you don't resent her."

"Resent Sophia?" she asked, incredulously. "Why would you even think that?"

"It's just that well … you didn't have the best reaction when I told you about Callie being pregnant," he told her

"Well, yeah, of course I didn't have the best reaction when you told me Callie was having your baby," she shook her head in exasperation. "How would you have reacted if I'd have told you I was pregnant with Jackson's or Alex's or anyone else's baby?"

"I wouldn't have liked it at all," his voice was almost a growl at just the idea. "In fact, I would have been tempted to beat the crap out of whoever it was."

"Well, given that Callie was pregnant," she retorted snippily, "I couldn't really beat her up, could I? Walking away was probably not the best thing to do but at the time it felt like the only thing I could do. But that has nothing to do with my feelings towards Sophia; she's the innocent in all of this." When he didn't look convinced, she asked him, "Would you blame an innocent baby?"

"I don't know," he said gruffly. "I've thought about this before," he'd wondered what he would have done in her place a couple of times, "and I honestly don't know how I would have reacted. I don't know how I would feel seeing a baby that was part you and part someone else or knowing that you had such an unbreakable, permanent bond with another man. That's another reason why I'm asking you – because I really don't know how I'd feel."

"Okay, I see your point," she nodded. "And I guess that's part of the reason I spent the past year trying to convince myself I was over you but, just as I've realized in the last few weeks that I'm not and I won't be, I've also come to terms with the fact that being with you means being in Sophia's life. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't okay with that – if I didn't think I could have a good relationship with her. Time may not always cure all but it does give you perspective – it makes you realize what's really important and what's not."

"And the fact that I have a daughter with Callie is not important?" Mark wasn't sure what he thought about that.

"What do you want me to say, Mark?" she asked him, started to get a little irritated. "That I hate the fact that you got Callie pregnant? That for a long time it made me sick to my stomach to even think about it? That it made me feel betrayed, furious and devastated all at the same time? That as bad as it was to know Sloan existed, this was worse because at least Sloan was conceived years before we even met but you got Callie pregnant after we've been together? Is that what you want me to say?"

"No," he shook his head and, in contrast to her agitation, he spoke calmly. "I don't want you to say that but if that's how you feel, how can you not have a problem with Sophia?"

"Because," she said slowly, after taking a deep breath and making a visible effort to calm down, "she's an innocent baby; a beautiful, smart, adorable little girl that has nothing to do with how she was conceived. Plus, she's your daughter, Mark; whoever her mother is, she's yours – I couldn't ever hate her or resent her or feel anything bad towards her. I haven't spent much time with her but I'm halfway in love with her already." It was true and it wasn't all because Sophia was his either. "And you know what else?" she added with a half smile, "knowing how good a father you are, how you're willing to put the welfare and happiness of your children above your own makes me love you more." At his surprised look, she shrugged, "Yeah, I know, it's ironic but a woman likes to know that the father of her children will always put their well being above everything – it's comforting."

"You," he was so choked up he couldn't speak, so he pulled her into a kiss. "You," he repeated when they broke apart, "are a far better person that I am. I don't know that I could get over the fact that I wasn't the father of your baby."

"No, I'm really not," she shook her head in denial. "You say that but I'm sure, if the situation were reversed, you wouldn't take it out on the baby." She took a sip of water and wondered whether she should continued but then decided if they were going to make a go of it, she needed to be completely honest. "Besides, I'm not all that good. While I have no problem with Sophia, I can't say the same about Callie."

"What do you mean?" he asked, frowning in confusion. "What problem do you have with Callie – if you don't have a problem with Sophia?"

"Sophia's your daughter but Callie …" she sighed and shifted so that she was sitting on the sofa while her legs lay across her lap. Even though it might be more comfortable if they sat apart, it had been so long since they've been together that neither one wanted to separate. "Look, I get that Callie is one of your best friends and the mother of your child and as such has certain rights; I respect that and wouldn't dream of interfering with it …"

"But?" he prompted when she hesitated because there obviously was a 'but'.

"But," she answered firmly, "that doesn't mean she has rights over every aspect of your life. I'm your girlfriend; if anyone has have any say over what you do, don't do or how you do it, it should be me. Callie should only have an input over things that affect Sophia; she shouldn't have free access to your home, she shouldn't just come in whenever she feels like it, go into the bathroom," things that had bothered her for years were coming out in something of a ramble, "when you're taking a shower or change her clothes in front of you without a second though. I know she's supposedly into girls now but so are you and she's an attractive woman."

"I've never cheated on you, Lexie," he cut in to declare, "and I never would – with Callie or anyone else. You have to know that."

"I do," she nodded, intellectually she did. "But you do have a sexual history with her and you do have a less than a year old daughter with her." But, emotionally, it still was a sticking point.

"It was only one time," he told her. "We weren't having any kind of affair. And it only happened because you wanted nothing to do with me and Arizona was in Africa."

"So, what happens next time they have a fight?" she wanted to know. "Or the next time Callie decides she's missed being with a man and comes to you?"

"That won't happen," he affirmed. "I told you, that time only happened because we," he motioned to the two of them, "weren't together. Since we are, if she wanted a man she'd have to look for another one. But even if we weren't together, I've learned my lesson. That part of our relationship is over."

"Does she know that?" Lexie asked him, not at all convinced she did.

"If she doesn't," Mark shrugged, "she will soon enough."

"Okay," she nodded, taking him at his word. "But your relationship still needs some boundaries, Mark. It isn't healthy for her to have so much access into your private life."

"Maybe you're right," he agreed. "Maybe I have given her too much leeway and allowed her too much of a say in what goes on in my private life. But I haven't had much of a private life I needed to protect – until now. So, yeah, boundaries can and will be set."

"Thank you," she smiled at him. "I don't mean to be such a hard ass about this but …"

"But it's your private life too and you want to protect it," he finished for her. "I get it. I think I'd do the same thing if I were in your place."

"Yeah, I guess that's about it," she nodded. "I've missed you – so much," she repeated softly, placing her hand along his jaw line. They held a loving look for a long moment before they both leaned forward into a kiss. They kissed for quite awhile before Mark pulled away.

"Umm, what's wrong?" she asked with soft and blurry eyes when he resisted her pulling him into another kiss.

"I just…" Mark hesitated, not wanting to be seen as vulnerable but there was another point he really needed reassurance on. "Are you really sure?"

"Sure? About?" she asked but continued before he could answer. "About us, Sophia, Callie?" Then she shook her head, "It doesn't matter' I'm sure about all of it." When he didn't look entirely convinced, she drew back a little and had to clear her throat before saying, "you don't trust me."

"I trust you," he said slowly, "with a lot of things: with a patient and with my life – hell, I even trust you with Sophia's life but … I'm not sure I quite trust you not to walk away again when things get tough. And things will get tough again, sooner or later, because shit always happens, Lexie, and I just can't live worrying and waiting to see if you'd walked or stayed. I'd have to watch you walked away twice already and I'm not sure I'd recovered from it a third time. I think I'd rather not start this again if you're not completely sure because I don't want to go through what we've been through these last few months ever again. Even more, I don't want to have Sophia get used to you and then have you walk out on her too."

"I …" she shook her head in frustration with herself because she knew his reaction was normal and all her fault. "I am sure. But I know that words are cheap if actions don't back them up," she thought of how she'd told him she'd wait for him and then barely listened to his explanation and winced internally, "so all I can say is that I hope you give me the chance to prove that I am sure and that this time I mean to fight for us. I want … I need us to work, Mark and if that means I have to fight Callie, Julia, or anyone else, I'll fight – I'll even fight you and myself if I have to but I'll do everything and anything in my power to make us work. Because I can't go through this a third time either; it wasn't any easier on me, you know. I tried to get over you twice and twice I failed; I have no intention of trying it a third time, I promise. But I can only hope that you…" but she didn't get to finish because he pulled her into another kiss; this one a little wilder than the ones before. But before they could get too lost in the passion that still simmered between them, he pulled back to give his own assurances.

"I too will fight anyone and anything to make sure we work," he smirked as he added, "you and me included."

"Promise me that if I ever even act like I'm thinking of walking because things get a little hard," she earnestly asked, "you'll remind me of these last few months and how getting over you is just not possible and that trying only brings everyone involved a lot of misery, please."

"I promise," he pledged. "And if I ever start acting like a jerk, forgetting to discuss important decisions with you before making them or refusing to give you a chance to explain, remind me that the last time I did that, it took us about two miserable years to make things right again. And, this probably shouldn't have to be said but, I promise to sleep with no one but you and to always put you first – well, next to Sophia."

"And I promise that there'll never be anyone but you," she made her own promises, "and that you, our relationship and your relationship with Sophia will be my priority."

"Outside of work," he clarified for her. "I don't expect me you to put your dreams of being a kick ass surgeon on hold or to abandon them." And with that, he made her love him even more when she had been sure that wasn't even possible.

"I love you," was the only thing she could say.

"I love you, too," he replied. And though both realized how close to wedding vows their promises were, neither one said anything. It was way too early to talk about that; there were still things they needed to work out and some trust to rebuild. But they'd get there.

….

Close to six weeks later, Mark smiled softly into her hair as he remembered the promises they exchanged. They'd gone a long way in rebuilding their relationship and the trust in each other in those weeks and they haven't been this happy in a long time.

They'd meant to take it slow and rebuild their emotional connection before they resumed their physical relationship but that determination hadn't lasted a week. Still, they were both pleased with and proud of how far they've come. There was still some work to do but he was surer than ever that they'd made it. And he no longer worried about her walking if things were to get tough every moment of the day; with her behavior, she was slowly convincing him of her commitment and determination to make sure they worked.

For once in his life, Mark was proud of how he'd conducted a relationship. Even the decision of keeping things quiet to avoid having everyone give their opinion and criticism on their chances of making it, had turned out to be a good decision. Unlike the last time they'd kept their relationship a secret, he felt no disquiet, shame or guilt because they were doing nothing wrong, lying or betraying anyone; they were just doing what was best for them. And that was their new philosophy: to only do what was best for them, and by extension Sophia and the family they were making, without worrying about anyone but always making the decisions together.

So far, it was working pretty darn good and Mark knew things would only get better. With that happy thought at the front of his mind, he happily followed Lexie into dreamland.