Author's Update: June 2017
Hi guys! Wow. This story was started five years ago, basically the weekend after Lexie died on the eighth season finale of Grey's Anatomy. I think I first published it a few months after that and now here we are. The good news? This story is now COMPLETE. So for those of you just clicking on it for the first time, you're guaranteed an ending. And for those of you perhaps going back and rereading? I sincerely thank you for following along. Your patience and readership has been so, SO appreciated.
Anyway, there's no way I could summarize a story like this in a few sentences on the homepage, so for the new readers, I figured I'd do so here.
First off, Louder Than Words is pretty much a full-fledged novel as far as length and structure. It begins several weeks after "Flight," the season eight finale of the show. Like many, I was pretty upset that Lexie died and so this story was born. No, sadly, this is not one of those stories where Lexie miraculously lives (though I'm sure I'd enjoy those too!). The plane crash does happen here. But since the book was actually started on the heels of season eight, everything leading up to the crash pretty much follows the Grey's canon and everything after diverges from there. Post "Flight", differences are to be expected and any similarities are unintentional. Basically, this is the story of how Meredith copes with her sister's death while also remembering her life (and their rollercoaster relationship). While much of the action takes place in the present, there will be frequent (and sometimes lengthy!) flashbacks to the previous five years, so you'll see a lot of different characters who have popped in and out of the hospital. George, Izzie, Alex, Christina, Derek, Mark, Avery, April, they're all in here! And yes, you'll see plenty of Lexie as well. Even though this story begins after her death, she actually pops up on a fairly regular basis.
Some parts may seem a little confusing at first, but trust me, the picture gets clearer as you keep reading. There will be sad parts, but sweet parts as well, so if it feels a bit depressing at first, just know that the mood tends to shift as the story goes forward. There are crazy conversations and plenty of adventures to be had here. And like the show itself, I tried to include a healthy dose of humor in all of this drama. (Quick note: I'm not any kind of doctor, so I apologize in advance for any medical inaccuracies.)
Other things you should know:
- You'll see a lot of callbacks in this story, both to scenes in the show and scenes earlier in the book. Dialogue in chapter forty-eight may refer all the way back to stuff in chapter thirty-nine. I like to add little things for those who are reading closely. But even if you don't catch some pieces, this story should be fairly easy to follow.
- When I first started, people would ask me where I came up with some of the ideas or why I'd gone one direction or another. So as you get into later chapters you'll start to see author's notes at the end, just in case you're interested.
- Yes, I now know Christina's name is actually spelled Cristina… but by the time I remembered that, there were too many chapters up to republish the whole thing, so please forgive me on that one.
- Any and all reviews are appreciated. This book has taken a long, long time to write (five years is kinda ridiculous, let's be honest). And the only thing that kept me going was hearing from you guys! It was tough to spend two or three weeks on a chapter then wonder if anyone was reading it. Now this story is over for me, but I would still be so, so happy to hear from you all. I've just published the last chapter and I miss it already. So if you could hit that little review button at the bottom and write something (thoughts, questions, comments, favorite characters or storylines!), you will make my day.
Anyway, I think that's it on my end. Please enjoy! And thanks again!
"But ever since I knew you existed, I had this fantasy about my big sister. And you have failed, on every occasion, to live up to that fantasy. But I still love you, whether you are capable of letting me or not. So I forgive you." –Lexie Grey
Meredith Grey couldn't sleep. She desperately wanted to go back to the hospital, some place with noise, people shouting, monitors beeping, all those sounds that came with saving lives. That was where she was the most comfortable, where the world made the most sense. Sometimes horrible things happened there, sad things, things that crushed your heart and soul, but she was prepared for it. She was trained for it. And sometimes she could fix it. And if not… well, then there were so many other distractions, other lives to be saved, other things that could make her forget.
But here… here in a dark house on the edge of Seattle… here it was too quiet. There were no late night talks, no sounds of feet padding down the hallway. The only thing she could hear was her own heart beating in her chest, pumping her blood through her body. It was just one more reminder that she was alive, still around after nearly drowning, nearly dying, time and time again. She'd survived explosions and gunmen and ambulance accidents. All of that luck… all of that life she had lived. And then she'd stepped onto a plane, one stupid plane that never reached its destination.
Meredith tried not to think about that as she looked in on Zola. Her daughter was sleeping, one tiny hand tucked under her chin. Zola had no idea how much the world had changed. She didn't feel the grim shift in her home. She didn't seem to notice the sudden absence of laughter. No, she was still happy, peaceful…
Meredith let the door close and continued down the hallway. That forest should have been peaceful… It should have been peaceful and quiet, just like this house. The air should have smelled fresh, hinted with the scent of pine needles instead of the scent of smoke and jet fuel. It should have been a day of gratitude, of prayers made and prayers answered. But it hadn't been… Meredith sighed. It hadn't been at all.
The sound of metal banging against the hull of the plane… On second thought, maybe this deathly quiet wasn't so bad. Because that… that pitiful tapping out in the forest, it still haunted her. It was the worst sound she could ever imagine.
Who would have thought? She'd heard bones break, patients screaming in agony. She'd heard families crying en masse, their bodies so wracked with sobs that she'd thought they might die right there on the spot. But again, she'd been ready for all of it. The tapping… nothing on earth could have prepared her for that… or for everything that came after.
Meredith blinked back tears as she made her way down the stairs. She wasn't quite sure where she was going, only that she had to keep moving. Because if she stopped, if she closed her eyes, even for a second, she'd see it… The hand sticking out of the wreckage, looking so small…
She was there in the kitchen, standing behind the island… just as she had been the night before… and the night before that. Meredith knew she should have been surprised to see her. But the truth was, nothing surprised her anymore. The sudden twists and turns in her life, she'd given up trying to react to them all.
"You're up late."
A bright smile, the kind that came so naturally to her, quickly spread across Lexie's face. But behind it, Meredith could see the concern.
"I didn't wake you, did I?"
"No," Meredith shook her head, ever aware of how sensitive Lexie could be. "No, it wasn't you. I just… I have a lot on my mind I guess."
"Yeah… I know."
Lexie's smile faded, just for a second. No one else would have caught it. But somewhere along the way, Meredith had become more attuned to her sister's expressions… joy… hurt… excitement… sadness. All of them had been filed in Meredith's brain, just one more way to help her navigate a complicated relationship. She realized now what a waste that had been.
"So how's life at the hospital?" Lexie turned away, as if reading her mind. They'd been talking around the truth for days now, making light of a situation that could never be funny. It was easier just to meet up in the kitchen, to have dessert, tease each other a little. "Any sink holes or plagues?"
"How about locusts?"
"Ewww," Meredith shuddered as she lowered herself onto a nearby stool. "Don't even joke."
"Okay, how about hurricanes?" Lexie glanced over her shoulder. "It felt like the wind was picking up earlier."
Clearly, she'd had time to think about all the other ridiculous possibilities for the poor, cursed doctors at Seattle Grace/Mercy West. They'd experienced so, so many horrible things, way more than their fair share. Lexie wasn't the first one to joke about it. They needed some way to cope after all, some way to release all of that tension and anger.
"You can see it, can't you?"
Lexie squinted a little, as if the scene was playing out right in front of them. Her hands twirled through the air, directing all the invisible characters.
"Alex as the reluctant hero, huddling with small, adorable children. Derek running down the hall, every hair still in place-"
"Is he running in slow-motion?" Meredith grinned as Lexie finally found the two bowls she'd been searching for. "I feel like he would run in slow-motion."
"It kinda seems that way, right?"
Lexie laughed and Meredith closed her eyes, just for a second, wishing she could record this moment. Now there was a sound she really missed. Her sister was one of those lucky people. She tended to see the brighter side of life. Sure, she'd had her heart broken, but she'd always bounced back. She was resilient, happy. And she laughed… or she had laughed… once upon a time.
"Well…" Meredith sighed, wondering how much longer they could go on like this. "As much as I'd love to see my husband run in slow-motion-"
"And you really would-" Lexie added
"I really, really would." Meredith had no problem admitting to that. "I can't say we've had any hurricanes yet." She paused and thought about that for a second. "Unless you want to count Owen. He's pretty much a force of nature right now, the horrible, pain in the ass kind."
"Oh, it's fun alright."
Meredith watched as Lexie reached into the freezer and pulled out the ice cream. Chocolate chip cookie dough, her absolute favorite. It had been sitting in there for weeks, unopened.
"Owen's just rushing around," Meredith continued, not wanting to get off track. "He's still not sure who's staying or going. I think I told you, he hired Kepner back. But meanwhile, he keeps asking all these questions and doing evaluations and basically driving everyone crazy. And if he's not driving you crazy, then he's treating you like you're broken."
Lexie's back was to her, but still, Meredith could see her shoulders slump just a little.
"You're not broken," she said quietly.
Meredith bit her lip, realizing she'd hit a nerve. Somehow, she'd strayed into the one topic they'd been trying so hard to avoid.
"You're right, I'm not," she amended, hoping that would be enough to bring Lexie back around again. "I'm not broken, Lex."
Maybe it was a lie, but it didn't matter anyway. What did matter was getting past it, jumping right back into her story.
"Basically, the whole place is just a madhouse right now." Meredith smoothed over the transition with more hospital gossip. That stuff was so much easier to talk about.
"We've got three new surgeons, all supposedly temporary. I mean, the plastics lady… Christina calls her FrankenBarbie. This woman, she has no wrinkles on her forehead. I mean none," Meredith ran her fingers over the smooth countertop, just to further illustrate her point. "She's the perfect cliché. Once she puts her mask on for surgery, it's like staring at a wax figure."
"Yuck." Lexie wrinkled her nose, properly horrified. At least now she was back into the story.
"Avery's refusing to do any surgeries with her," Meredith continued. "He said he can't tell whether she's happy with his work or getting ready to murder him."
"She's probably getting ready to jump him," Lexie mumbled to herself as she scooped out the ice cream. "They usually are."
"What?" Lexie tried to appear innocent, a look that usually worked for her. But not this time, not on this particular subject.
"You're not exactly one to talk."
Lexie quickly slid a bowl in Meredith's direction, her eyes cast downward as her face turned beet red. Meredith smiled. This felt good, normal, just like all those other nights that they'd met up for dessert. But eventually, Lexie's gaze began to wander and Meredith could see her mind working, trying to formulate a question she wasn't sure how to ask.
"And you?" She glanced up slowly. "You're back in surgery, right?"
"Yeah, I start this week."
Someone had to get back to work, after all. Derek was still recovering, Mark refused to even step foot in the building, Arizona was on crutches and everyone seemed sure that Christina was just one botched surgery away from another breakdown.
"So, they really think you're ready?" Lexie stumbled a little. She was obviously nervous broaching this subject. "They think you're okay?"
"I already told you," Meredith stirred up her ice cream, her spoon scraping the side of the bowl. This was not a matter she wanted to discuss.
"I'm not broken. I'm fine."
It was stupid, she realized that. Who exactly was she trying to fool? Certainly not the girl eating ice cream in front of her. That was all but impossible and they both knew it. And yet they'd continue to pretend, continue to keep talking and talking about everything that no longer mattered.
"But you should see Owen."
Meredith attempted to change the subject again. It was a losing battle, of course. Eventually, everything would circle back to her. But she wanted to delay that for as long as humanly possible.
"He's just, he's everywhere." She tried to smile, tried to return to silly hospital tales. "And he's suddenly all nice, like creepily nice to us, buying donuts and bringing in lunches. Christina thinks he's losing his mind."
"He just wants you guys to be happy again." Lexie's tone was solemn now and Meredith knew their light-hearted conversation was over. Lexie was no longer playing along. "I mean, is that really so bad?"
Meredith just shook her head, trying not to get upset at the turn this had taken. She had so little time here with her sister. But still, she couldn't let that pass without saying something. Because Seattle Grace/Mercy West, it wasn't the place that Lexie remembered.
"Happy is not a word I'd ever use for that hospital," she explained quietly. "Not anymore."
"But you've been happy there," Lexie reminded her. "You shouldn't just think of all the crappy stuff that happened. There was other stuff, better stuff. That's where Derek proposed. It's where you met Christina and Alex and Zola…"
The words caught in Meredith's throat.
"That's where I met you."
Lexie was trying hard to hide her sadness, but once again, her sister could easily see it. That day, that first meeting, it was seared into both of their minds. So much had happened since then. So much had changed.
"But you're allowed to keep going, Mer," Lexie attempted a half-hearted smile. "I mean, things can't just stop, right?"
Meredith swallowed, hoping she could push back the wave of emotions that was about to wash over her. But her efforts were useless and she felt her face growing warmer, her throat closing up.
"They already have," Meredith's voice fell. "Everything's stopped."
Lexie glanced down again, staring into her quickly melting bowl of ice cream. She didn't seem to know what to say anymore. But finally, something grabbed her attention. She nodded towards the fruit bowl, perfectly placed in the center of the table.
"You started buying apples again."
"What?" Meredith tilted her head as if she hadn't quite heard her.
"The apples," Lexie pointed with her spoon. "I noticed them earlier."
Maybe that was supposed to make Meredith feel better, to serve as a reminder that Lexie didn't mind, that it was okay for her to move on. But if anything, it had the exact opposite effect. Lexie hated apples. It was one of the first things Meredith had learned about her.
I hate apples, hate them. I think they shouldn't be allowed to be a fruit.
And years ago, when Lexie had first moved in, Alex had decided to test this declaration of hers. He'd skinned an apple, then spiked her fruit salad with tiny slices of golden delicious. And then they'd all waited, trying not to stare as Lexie ate her breakfast. She'd been too busy chatting to notice the offending fruit. She'd talked about Christina and surgeries and all the new techniques she wanted to learn. And it had all seemed very funny… until Lexie actually bit into the apple, tried to spit it out and started choking instead. A table full of doctors had frozen in horror… all except for Alex Karev. He'd leapt out of his chair like it was on fire, then performed the fastest Heimlich maneuver on record.
After that, Meredith had stopped buying apples, even after Lexie moved out and then back in again. The little round fruit hadn't returned… until now.
"Derek brought those home," Meredith finally spoke up again. Suddenly, it felt like the ultimate betrayal, like a sign that Lexie no longer mattered, that she was no longer wanted here.
"He and Zola, they picked them at an orchard somewhere."
"Meredith, it's okay," Lexie was still trying to reassure her, still trying to make her feel better about all of this. "They're just apples. They're not gonna kill me."
They're not gonna kill me…
How had this happened, Meredith suddenly wondered. Why did everything hurt so much more than she could ever remember?
She stared at Lexie for a long moment, her eyes moving over every inch of her sister. Her dark hair was pulled back from her face, fastened in a hair tie. And instead of pajamas she wore jeans and the striped sweater that Meredith remembered so well. She looked younger, like the girl she'd first met so many years ago.
That day, that scene outside the emergency room, it made Meredith cringe just to think about it. Everything had gone wrong… right from the beginning, everything had gone wrong. She should have known even then, that this is how it would end, that somehow she'd doomed her little sister from the start. She'd wanted her to disappear and now… now this.
Sweet little Lexie… The girl who seemed to love everyone and everything, the aunt that Zola adored, the resident that Derek had come to rely on…
Meredith could hear the tapping on the plane again, see the seatbelt buckle hitting the fuselage… Her eyes filled with tears as she sighed, wishing she could go back. She just wanted the chance to go back again.
"Meredith, it's fine, I'm okay." Lexie came around the island. She took the opposite stool then reached for her sister's hand. But Meredith pulled away.
"No, you're not," she murmured under her breath. "You're not."
She could see the tail section, seeming so out of place in that beautiful forest. She'd told Lexie to enjoy the flight. It had rained recently so the air would be clear, they'd be able to see for miles. It was the kind of crap that her sister ate up.
Stop worrying about everything, stop worrying about Mark, or whether I'm gonna move. Just enjoy the view. Just relax for once… the rest you can figure out when we get home…. Those words replayed in Meredith's mind over and over again. When we get home…
"What were you even doing in the back of the plane?" Meredith looked up at her sadly. "There were other seats."
"Meredith, there were six of us."
"But there were still other seats."
"That was just the one I sat down in," Lexie shrugged helplessly, knowing she couldn't give her sister the answer she wanted. "It was empty, it was there."
"But still," Meredith's voice wavered as the forest began to close in all around her. She could see it, feel it…. All of that terror.
"You should have found another seat."
Lexie started to say something, but her voice was drowned out. Now Meredith could hear all those noises again, the ones from that day, the ones she couldn't forget. Screaming and crying and tapping… always tapping. That awful seat belt…
She pressed her face into her palms, trying to stop the tears that were forming. And just for a second, she saw darkness, a peaceful nothingness. She tried to hold onto it, to stay in that space where nothing could hurt her, where the world was empty and devoid of pain.
But then, it came back all at once, that image that was forever etched in her brain, the one she wanted so badly to forget. It was there. It was always there. That hand, looking so small as it reached out of the wreckage, searching for her help.
It was the last time she would ever see her sister alive.
Okay guys… hope you liked the first chapter. The story definitely expands from here, so stay tuned. And PS, this is not a ghost story… Please review if you'd like.