Owen sat down in the conference room and pulled his lunch out of his bag. He sighed at the pile of paperwork to read through and sign – and he would definitely be reading anything that required his signature from now on.

Someone entered the room. He looked up to see Cristina closing the door behind her. He smiled – so far things had been going well, giving him more hope that they were forming a new connection, a good one.

She smiled back, before coming over and giving him a kiss. "I missed you last night."

He nodded, gesturing to the piles of paper. "I had hospital stuff to attend to."

"You haven't been feeling up any more interns, have you?" Cristina joked, taking a seat next to him.

Owen looked up, sharply. "It was a mistake-"

"I know, I know!" She laid a hand on his arm. "Look ... I'm not worried. Really."

He nodded. "Good."

"You are a healthy adult male. You have urges. I can see how, thinking that was me, you acted on those urges."

"Now you're making things worse," Owen quipped.

"I meant, I'm hot and you can't help but react to my hotness," Cristina smirked.

"Ah."

Cristina stretched. "Owen, I'm really not upset. I mean, I'm not going to ask how you handled your urges while I was in Minnesota, but I didn't expect you to act like a monk."

Owen frowned. "I just wanted you."

Surprise flickered over her face, then ... he could see her shut down, as if she were holding something back.

"Did ... you ... ?" He felt like all of the oxygen had just left the room.

"It was a mistake," Cristina blurted out, looking away. "It was stupid of me. I was lonely and I tried to fill the void with a sex friend and ... it was a mistake."

Stunned, Owen sat back. "I see ... when?"

She looked directly at him. "It started after I told you not to contact me. So we were broken up by that time."

"Uh huh." Now it was his turn to avoid eye contact.

"Mer said it was a cry for help. She might've been right, he was a lousy sex friend," Cristina muttered. "I shouldn't have done it. I'm sorry."

Owen turned to face her again. "So what we've been doing -"

"You are not a sex friend," she told him, her voice suddenly choked with emotion. "You mean so much more to me than that. I don't know what we are right now, but this is not just sex, Owen."

"Okay." He looked away again. "I ... need to process this."

"We had broken up and it was just sex," Cristina insisted. "I really thought ... that we were done , but I was wrong. Because you and I ... we're not done. I never want us to be done."

He smiled sadly.

"I'm going to go now, but I ... want to talk with you again. After ... you've had some time." She touched his shoulder before standing up.

His only response was to nod.

OooOo

That night, Owen sat out on the porch with a beer. He looked up at the cloudy sky, disappointed at the lack of stars.

His thoughts travelled back to Cristina's revelation. It had been upsetting ... but he was hardly in a position to judge her, not after his own fall from grace.

"I can be a better man ..."

That day on the bridge seemed like decades ago. They were so full of hope and optimism, and then everything had started to crash down around them with George's death. They stayed together through good times and in bad, until their lack of communication had eventually taken the joy and passion out of their marriage.

He looked up at the sky again and sighed. Part of him wanted to go to Minnesota and track down whoever this man had been and break his nose ... but that wouldn't solve anything. What he really wanted was a future with Cristina. Breaking noses wasn't going to be a part of that.

The lights of a car illuminated the yard. Cristina pulled up and got out of her car. "May I join you?"

He half-smiled and nodded. "There's more beer inside if you want one."

"Maybe later." She sat down next to him, her hands in her pockets for warmth. "I wanted to see how you're doing."

"I'm ... I've had better days," he said quietly.

"I'm willing to listen, if you're willing to talk." The gentleness in her tone made Owen glance at her. Not for the first time, he wondered at the changes in Cristina.

"Well ..." He ran his fingers through his hair. "Logically I know that we were separated. But ... I just ... didn't think you'd go looking for a sex friend."

"Okay." She nodded. "I expect that you're angry with me."

He sighed. "Yes and no."

Cristina tilted her head. "I ... don't get it."

He struggled to find the words. "When I feel anger ... I remember that I'm no saint. I remind myself that I hurt you and I remember how you sobbed on the bed that day and then I'm angry with me for what I did."

"Owen ..." She sighed. "Should I not have told you?"

"You should have. We really need to work on telling each other things." He shifted a little. "I'd like to know what else happened in Minnesota. You're ... different."

"Remember me telling you about Dr Thomas, the old guy who rode my ass pretty hard?"

"Uh huh."

"Well, he was my only real friend in Minnesota. He challenged me and encouraged me, he was the mentor I needed. He believed in me, and told me that I would have a great career ahead of me. When he last spoke to me ... I could see a bright and brilliant future ahead of me. And then he had a heart attack and died right in front of me."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"And when he died ... I thought about my future. What my life was going to be like. I saw myself growing old, mentoring new surgeons as I blazed a brilliant career for myself. I saw myself growing old alone. No friends, no husband, just patients and students and awards. I realized I needed more than surgery to keep me happy."

Owen tilted his head. "You've come a long way from wanting to trade me."

"Because you taught me that we matter." Their eyes met for a poignant minute.

She sighed. "And then I downed a bottle of tequila so that I could get on a plane and come back."

He nodded. "You came back to Meredith."

She leaned towards him. "I knew what kind of greeting I'd get from her. I needed a friendly face, and I didn't know what to expect from you. But all along ... I couldn't stop thinking of you."

His blood surged with emotion. "I could feel you from afar," Owen said gruffly. "Even when I came out here, to escape the memories of you in the firehouse ... I could still sense your presence."

He looked at her. So vulnerable, so sad, so achingly beautiful. He'd been upset to hear that she'd turned to another man ... but she was here now. Because she'd opened her heart to him and asked to try again.

"What are we?" Cristina asked. "I need to know."

"We're ... together," Owen mused. "I don't what else to call us."

"So even though I ...?" Her eyes brimmed with tears.

"I want us to try again too," he said in a rush. "I don't want to judge you and I don't want to brood about you with another man and relive old pain and create new wounds. Maybe I'm not making much sense, but ... I don't want to hold it against you. I don't want it to be something that comes between us."

Owen put down the bottle and extended a hand. She took it. Slowly, he raised her hand to his mouth and kissed it. Now both of their eyes were filled with tears.

"Let's go inside," she whispered.

In the past few days, there had been some rips and tears as they'd torn each other's clothes off numerous times, so hungry they were to reconnect. Now, each movement was calculated and distinct. With great care, he unbuttoned her shirt, kissing every inch of her skin as it was revealed. Her nimble hands undid his belt and unzipped his jeans, reaching inside to stroke him.

Slowly, they fell on the bed together. He couldn't keep his hands off of her, his beautiful Cristina. He didn't have a label for her any more; she wasn't his wife but she was much more than a girlfriend. She was just simply the woman he loved.

Their mouths met, as he entered into her bliss. A primal urge was rising in him ... to connect with her, to love on her, to imprint himself on her. She threaded her fingers through his hair and moaned his name. He reached between them, to stoke her inner fire.

As he set a steady, rocking pace, Owen opened his eyes to watch her. Cristina was always so beautiful in the depths of passion, her eyes half-closed, her lips parted. A few dark tendrils of her hair stuck to her face and neck, as steam built between them. He dipped his head again to kiss her cheeks, her eyes, her mouth.

Cristina couldn't stop touching him. Her fingers traced his cheekbones, caressed his nipples, gripped his shoulders. Her inner muscles clenched him, as she murmured a few words to him. He could feel the reassurance in her touch, he could see the love blazing from her eyes. He couldn't stop touching her in return, savoring her flesh, letting her know that he loved her too.

The heat between them grew and grew. He started to grunt with the effort of holding back, seeking to put her pleasure first. Only when she started to scream and thrash beneath him, did he allow himself to surrender to their ecstacy and pour himself into her.

Spent, he slowly collapsed next to Cristina, panting. They laid there, touching each other's hands, while their bodies cooled.

With a sigh, Cristina sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed.

"Don't go." The words left his mouth without thinking. He sat up and reached for her. "I want you to stay tonight."

She turned her head and kissed him. "Owen, I'm getting up because I have to pee."

"Oh." He smiled in relief. "Okay."

"And then maybe I'll get a glass of water. But I won't leave," she promised, before grabbing her clothes and walking away.

Chuckling, he picked up his boxers and pulled them on, before going outside to retrieve his beer. When Cristina exited the small bathroom, he handed her a cold glass of water before taking her by the hand and leading her back to bed.

"Thank you." Cristina sipped some water as she snuggled beside him, sitting up. Her free hand reached for his. "Do ... you like living here?"

"It's okay," Owen shrugged. "I like the peace and quiet, and looking at the stars when I can."

"Do you think we'll ever live in the firehouse again?"

He considered her words, and the soft vulnerability in her voice. "Cristina ... I ... think we need to take things very slowly this time. I don't want to say 'I don't know' but ... I hope so."

His hand gripped hers. "I want us. I know that for sure."

"Good." Cristina laid her head on his shoulder. "I'm happy, being here with you."

"I'm happy because you're here." He kissed her forehead. "Thank you for staying tonight."

"Thank you for wanting me to stay." They sat there in the dim light, holding hands, and enjoyed the peace between them.

"I can be a better man."

Owen smiled softly. This time, they were slowly building a solid foundation, together. This time, they were striving to communicate. This time, he knew that better choices would indeed make him a better man.

Bad ass beta reading provided by lovemesomeowen.