In the Other
Cristina yawned as she entered the front door of the house. Peering into the living room, she saw Owen reading something on his laptop.
"You didn't have to stay up for me," she murmured, putting down her briefcase.
"I wanted to talk while the kids were asleep," he said, shoving the computer aside.
"I haven't changed my mind," she informed him, sitting down. "You want to go on the trip, go without me."
"We can't have a family vacation without you," Owen pointed out. "There will be other conferences."
"Harper Avery asked me to deliver the keynote address himself. You don't turn down opportunities like that. Well, I don't."
He raised his eyebrows. "Are you still mad that I turned Mercy West down?"
"I wouldn't say 'mad', Cristina rebutted. "I just don't understand you sometimes. You could've been their Chief of Surgery and have so much more influence -"
"And my beard would be whiter and I'd have less time for the family. Which includes you."
"I know we're a family," Cristina retorted. "But I'm also a surgeon."
"I never said you weren't." Owen sighed and stood up. "You are the great Cristina Yang, who never surrenders and never compromises."
"I compromise! I let you pick out the new paint colors for our bedroom!"
He made a face. "Do you even hear yourself? You 'let' me. You really didn't care about the paint."
"Owen!" She stared at him. "Why are we doing this? Why have we been fighting for the last month?"
"Because we're working too much," he told her, gruffly. "We've been on opposite schedules for too long which is why we need to take a vacation. And we agreed that we would take one, and then you bailed at the last minute, to kiss Harper Avery's ass." With that, he turned and went upstairs.
"Men!" Cristina pulled out her phone and quickly checked her messages. "Lexie wants to set up a coffee date when she comes to Seattle next week. So she can whine about her stupid ex-husband, I bet. I'll be 'busy' that day."
She stood up and stretched, before going upstairs. Quickly, she checked on the children. Diego was sound asleep and clutching his favorite blanket. She smiled softly. He was growing up so fast, soon he'd be leaving his crib behind.
Moving quietly, she next checked on Mallory. Her younger daughter was sprawled under her brightly patterned duvet, her long red hair splayed out on her pillow. Asleep, Mallory's face had a calm serenity that she rarely displayed while awake.
Next, Cristina peered into Chloe's room and saw a telltale light under the blanket. She smirked, before coughing loudly.
Guiltily, Chloe pulled back the blanket, exposing her tablet. "Sorry, Mom. I just had to know how the chapter ended."
"I know! But you need your sleep, you have that Science test tomorrow." Cristina extended her hand.
Sighing, Chloe gave her the tablet, then settled into bed. "Good night."
Chuckling, Cristina turned the tablet off and put it on the nightstand. She remembered how her own mother would catch her reading books under the blanket with a flashlight. Yawning, she left the room. Sometimes she wished her mother was still alive, so they could laugh over the memories.
After a shower, she climbed into bed. Owen was already asleep, his back to her.
She sat and watched him for a few moments. She hated their rare disputes, when they were out of sync. Why did he keep forgetting how much her career meant to her?
Shaking her head, Cristina laid down and turned her back to him. What was really annoying was – he had a point. They'd agreed on the vacation together. And it couldn't be rescheduled – Chloe had soccer camp and Mallory had art workshops lined up and Owen's mother was going to take the girls on a trip to California to see Saul. They had one week free for the whole family, and she'd changed that with one phone call from Harper Avery.
How did I ever end up like this? She wondered. My life was supposed to be about surgery. Now I've got a sulking husband and three kids to plan my career around.
In the Now
Propped up in her bed, Cristina rolled her eyes as her mother fussily laid an afghan over her. "Mom, I'm fine."
"You were in a plane crash a few days ago," Helen reminded her. "You had hypothermia when they found you, Owen said you were blue. So I'll make sure you're nice and warm."
"I know what happened." Cristina pointed to her left shoulder. "This didn't just happen from me tripping on a curb." She winced, as she flashed back to the sensation of falling from the sky, as objects and people went flying.
"A mother always has to take care of her baby." Helen quickly placed a hand against Cristina's cheek. "Owen just got home with the groceries, so I can make you some supper."
"Hey." Owen appeared at the foot of the bed. "Helen, I found everything on your list. The bags are on the counter."
"Thank you." With one last pat on Cristina's hand, Helen left the room. Quietly, he slid the doors shut, giving them some privacy in the firehouse.
"How are you doing?" Owen asked, sitting down on the other side of the bed.
"I'm being smothered. Tell me again why my mother is here," she snapped.
His face fell. "I thought she'd like to know that her only child had been in a crash. And if I hadn't told her, she would've seen it on the news. I didn't call her to torture you."
Cristina felt guilt lash through her. Of course he was only doing what he thought was right. And she was criticizing him for it.
Her eyes roamed his face. She hated how guarded his face was. She hated that even though she'd chosen to convalesce in the firehouse, it didn't really feel like it was their home. Not with so much unsaid between the two of them.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sore and taking it out on you when you have a hospital to run."
Owen's face softened a little. "Do you need anything?"
"I just took something for the pain," she said. "I'll feel better after I get some sleep." They fell into another awkward silence.
"I've, uh, got to call Richard. Check on things. I'll be back." He stood and walked out, as if to escape the awkwardness between them.
Sighing, she stared at the ceiling. Meredith had wanted her to convalesce at her house, but Cristina had declined. With her mother flying in, it made more sense to be at the firehouse. And despite their problems, she wanted Owen close by. He was always good in a crisis. The crash had left her very confused about her priorities and once again, she was undecided about what she wanted to do.
Cristina looked at the empty side of the bed, before closing her eyes. How did I ever end up like this?
In a dreamlike state, Cristina moved through mists, unable to see anything. She peered at the grey nothingness all around her as she moved in what she hoped was a forward direction.
It seemed as if a shadowy figure passed close by. She called out. "Owen? Are you there?"
In the Other
When she came out of the fog, she was flying through the air, surrounded by debris. But when she landed, it was somewhere warm, instead of the cold damp ground of the forest.
She moaned and pulled a blanket over her head, as Owen gently shook her shoulder. "What?"
"I gotta go to work early, multiple car crash."
"Okay." Sleepy, she kept her eyes closed. "Have fun."
"I'll see you later."
"Uh huh." Cristina laid there for a few moments, slowly waking up. She frowned, remembering bits of a dream. About being lost in a fog and the crash and the pain...
Her eyes flew open. She was lying on her back. Her left shoulder didn't hurt. Experimentally, she moved her arms – there was no pain.
"Owen?!" Cristina threw back the blanket and sat up in the bed, breathing rapidly. She blinked to find herself in an unfamiliar bedroom. "What the hell?"
A small red-haired girl ran into the room. "Hey, you're up! Can we have pancakes for breakfast?"
Cristina stared at her. "Who are you?"
In the Now
She stumbled when she walked out of the fog. She landed somewhere soft, but there was pain...
Vaguely, Cristina became aware of a dull ache in her left shoulder. The ache began to throb and became more painful. She opened her eyes and frowned. She was looking at an unfamiliar fireplace.
Hissing, she sat up, mindful of her shoulder. Stunned, she looked around the unfamiliar room. Where the hell am I? What happened?
"Good morning!" Her mother stepped into the strange room, carrying a breakfast tray, and looking very much alive. Cristina gaped at her, before screaming.
In the Other
"What?" The little girl frowned at Cristina. "I'm me."
"What's your name?
The strange child stared at her. "Did you hit your head or something?"
"Yes, in the crash." Tentatively, Cristina touched her left shoulder, still miraculously uninjured.
The girl's eyes widened. "What crash?"
"I ... was in a plane crash?" Cristina looked around. She didn't appear to be in a hospital, just someone's house.
"In a dream?" The child looked very confused. "I don't understand, Mommy."
'Mommy'. Shocked, Cristina took in the details of the girl standing in front of her. She was wearing a lime green t-shirt with purple pajama bottoms. Her hair was long and tangled, and the exact shade of Owen's. Her eyes ... her eyes were as brown as Cristina's and were vaguely Korean...
"Hey." A taller girl entered the room, reminding Cristina of herself at a younger age. "Are you going to make breakfast or should we just get cereal?"
Stunned, Cristina clutched the blanket closer to her. "Huh?"
In the Now
Panicked, Cristina leaped from the bed and ran to the nearest door, which opened into a bathroom. She slammed the door shut and locked it. Breathing heavily, she leaned against it.
"Cristina?" Helen knocked on the door. "What's wrong?"
Her heart pounding, Cristina stepped away from the door. This can't be happening.
"Did you have a bad dream?" Her mother's voice was full of concern. "Open the door."
"What happened?" She could hear Owen on the other side of the door.
"She woke up and screamed and ran into the bathroom," Helen explained.
Owen. Just the sound of his voice was a relief. Cristina leaned against the door again, her hand tentatively reaching for the lock.
"Owen?" She called out.
"I'm here." He jiggled the doorknob. "Cristina, what's going on?"
She briefly closed her eyes. "I ... I don't know. This is all wrong." She looked around the strange bathroom. "Where are we?"
"What?" Owen sounded confused. "We're home. In the firehouse."
Her eyes widened. "What?"
He jiggled the doorknob again. "Please, Cristina, come out. We're worried about you."
"I've got your breakfast ready!" Helen called out.
Cristina ran her fingers through her hair, trying to orient herself to her surroundings. "I don't understand." Fear gripped her. "Where are the kids? Are they okay?"
Silence. Finally Owen spoke. "What kids?"
Wildly, Cristina looked around the bathroom for another door. There wasn't one.
Hesitantly, she stepped in front of the mirror. And gasped. Her reflection was of a younger self. Her hair tumbled down her back, like it was before she'd had children. She'd started keeping it at shoulder length after Chloe began to grab handfuls of her hair.
Shaking, she lifted up her shirt and examined herself in the mirror. She saw the light scar from the icicle, and recent cuts and scratches. Her stretch marks were gone, as well as her C-section scar. There was no denying it – this body wasn't the one she had gone to bed in.
She spotted Owen's watch by the sink. Hands trembling, she picked it up and looked at the date. This can't be ...
The room tilted, and she slowly collapsed, until she was lying on the floor, blinking at the ceiling, while Owen pounded on the door and Helen called out for her.
In the Other
Dazed, Cristina got out of the bed. She followed the girls downstairs, to a cozy kitchen. The older girl got out bowls and poured cereal for them.
Trying to appear casual, Cristina poured herself a cup of coffee, and went into the living room. She paused when she saw a playpen. A little brown-skinned boy was standing up inside it, smacking his hands on the fabric sides. He grinned at her and gurgled. "Ma-ma."
"You've got to be kidding," Cristina muttered. "How many of you are there?"
"Hey there, little dude!" The red-haired girl leaned into the playpen and hugged him. "Do you want Mommy to put you in your high chair now?" He grinned and raised his arms.
Cristina put down her mug and lifted up the boy. Hoping she didn't look clueless, she walked around until she spotted his high chair in the dining room. She buckled him in, as the older girl brought him a bowl of Cheerios. Happily, he began to feed himself, as Cristina shrank back and watched the children.
In the Now
Cristina knew that she must have passed out. Because her mother had been alive again and Owen was now bending over her, eyes full of concern.
She smiled to see him. "I had the strangest dream," she murmured. "My mother was alive. She brought me breakfast."
He looked puzzled. "Your mother isn't dead."
"Here I am!" Helen stepped into her field of vision. "You must have hit your head!"
Cristina stared at her. "Huh?"
"In the crash!" Helen clucked and stroked Cristina's face.
Stunned, Cristina looked at Owen for an explanation. She became acutely aware that she was still in the strange bathroom, instead of their house. "What happened? Where are we?"
"We're in our bathroom at the firehouse," he explained, worry etching his face. "Are you seeing double? What are your symptoms?"
She did a quick mental inventory of her body. "My left shoulder hurts."
"I've got your pain medication here." He held up a bottle. She quickly read the label. "Do you think you can sit up to swallow the pill?"
"I don't think I should take any codeine right now." Wincing, she sat up with his assistance. Quickly, she glanced at her mother, wondering at the hallucination in front of her. "What crash?"
"The plane crash last week," Owen explained patiently. He rubbed her good shoulder.
Cristina shook her head. "I ... don't remember a plane crash."
"It's probably best that you don't," Helen said, kindly. "You must hit your head when you passed out in here."
Curiously, Cristina looked at Owen. There was something radically different about him. He looked ... cautious. A bit distant. And he looked older and sadder.
"Are you sure there are no kids here?" Cristina blurted out.
He flinched. "I'm sure."
"Maybe she means the kids that were playing outside yesterday?" Helen mused. "They were really noisy."
"Do you want to go to the hospital?" Owen asked Cristina. "Get your head checked out?"
"I don't know," Cristina said. "Is Derek on duty?"
His eyes widened. "Derek is on short-term disability leave. He was in the crash too and his left hand is badly damaged."
"You really don't remember?" Helen asked.
"I don't understand." Frustrated and in pain, Cristina's eyes filled with tears. "I don't know what crash you're talking about and the wrong people are here."
Owen's eyes were gentle as he moved so that he could sit on her right side. Gingerly, he put his arms around Cristina. Grateful for the familiarity, she leaned against him and clutched at his t-shirt. He made soothing noises as he stroked her hair.
"There was an accident last week," he said, softly. "You were flying to Boise with others, to assist in separating conjoined twins. The plane crashed, possibly because it hit a flock of birds. You hit your head and your shoulder was dislocated. Meredith, Mark and Arizona were also injured. You were all half-dead with hypothermia by the time the rescue team found you."
"He was there," Helen added. "He called me then talked his way onto a helicopter."
"There's more," Owen said gently. "Lexie was in the crash. She died from her injuries."
"Oh shit," Cristina muttered.
"I've arranged for Richard to cover me for this week," Owen told Cristina. "I'll be here for when you need me."
"Good." Cristina snuggled against his chest. "I'm sure the Pit will be fine without you."
"Oh, Bailey's covering the Pit. Richard is the acting Chief."
Cristina raised her head. "Acting? Oh, because Derek's hurt?"
"No." Owen stared at her. "I'm the Chief of Surgery for Seattle Grace-Mercy West."
The room tilted again, as Cristina realized that she was definitely a stranger in a strange land.
Author's note: bad ass beta reading performed by lovemesomeowen. To be continued soon!