Author's note: Takes place immediately after the events of "The End of the World" and "As We Know it."
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Shonda Rimes.
Addison Shepard leaned forward, blowing her warm breath against her hands. She'd been sitting on the porch for more than an hour now, despite the increasingly cold wind coming from the north. At least it wasn't raining. It was a beautiful night, clear, and here, away from the city lights, she could see thousands of stars decorating the night sky. She shivered, hunching her shoulders forward, and bending her head. She could go into the trailer and get warm, but today, she just wanted to be out in wide open spaces.
She'd sat out here at least a hundred times -- had it really been that many days since she'd left New York and came to Seattle? -- waiting for Derek, listening to the sounds of the night, and wondering what it was he liked so much about being so far away from civilization. This trailer, this setting -- it was light years away from the life they'd shared together in New York, but then, maybe that was the point. Addison stood up, wiggling her toes in her leather boots, just as the bright headlights of Derek's Range Rover turned into the drive. Hugging herself, she walked to the driver's side door, standing a few feet away so he could get out.
"Hey," she said. She hated how her voice sounded, a little high-pitched at the end, as if she were a seventh grade girl waiting for her crush to ask her out to the dance.
"Hi." Derek pulled his bag from the SUV. "Sorry I'm late. Something came up."
"No doubt," Addison said without a trace of irony. "Crazy day. It's not every day you get a patient who is literally a ticking time bomb."
"Yeah." He watched her rubbing her hands together. "How long have you been sitting out here?"
"About an hour. Give or take."
"That's a long time. Anything wrong?" He was watching her carefully, and for some reason, that made her nervous.
"No." Addison shrugged. "I wanted the fresh air, to breathe it in, to remind myself how lucky I am. How lucky we are, the hospital. The outcome, terrible as it was that we did lose the two bomb squad guys, it could have been so much worse, so much more devastating."
The terseness of his response caught Addison's attention. "I worried about you," she said quietly.
"It's not your fault. None of it is." Addison bit her lip. "I, however, have much to apologize, but then, what's new?" She laughed hesitantly, another manifestation of the seventh grade girl. She hated, that after more than a decade of knowing this man, of being *married* to her, that he still had the ability to bring all of her insecurities to the surface and letting them simmer there. "It's all I seem to be doing these days." The breeze ruffled through her hair, whipping a strand or two across her face. She exhaled strongly, blowing the hair out of her face.
She held up her hand, effectively pre-empting him. "I snapped at George this afternoon, because all he wanted to do was help, and I couldn't hear him because I was too worried about you, about Bailey, about the Chief. And I thought, I can't hold it together. This is the moment when it finally, finally crashes down on me. This is it, this is the end. And he's an intern, he's someone I should be helping and I couldn't." She paused for a moment, looking off into the distance, at the graceful firs that formed dark triangles against the night sky. "I couldn't even help myself."
"It was a difficult and unprecedented situation."
"*I* wasn't the one in an OR next to a bomb. That was you." Addison tipped her head to the side. "For what it's worth, I'm proud of you for not leaving Bailey's husband on the table. I'm proud you didn't run, even when every inch of me was screaming for you to." She took a step towards him.
"I couldn't do it," Derek said. His voice sounded hoarse, and he wasn't looking at her. Addison shivered, but this time, it wasn't because of the cold. "Leaving Bailey's husband wasn't even an option."
"I know it wasn't. That's--" she hesitated for a moment "-- a quality about you I've always admired, from day one, that you put the patient first, regardless." It sounded trite, but at least the words filled the distance between them. Maybe, Addison thought with a tinge of bitterness, Derek would actually *hear* what she was saying.
"You're the same way," Derek said and she thought, in the dim light, she could see his expression soften, that he was looking at her the way he once had. She caught her breath, and thought she could hold on to this moment, or she could risk losing it all. "You would have done the same thing, if you were the one in the OR."
"I don't know what I would have done," Addison said truthfully. "I think you can think about what you'd do, what you should do, but when you're not actually in the situation--" she shrugged. "Adrenaline takes over, makes your decisions for you."
"I guess that's why Meredith did what she did."
Addison looked directly at her husband. He'd provided the opening, and as much as the truth could hurt, Addison knew she couldn't let the opportunity slide, to let Derek knew *she* knew.
"When you saw Meredith, how was she?" she asked softly.
Derek jerked. "What?"
Addison glanced at her watch. "You got off shift hours ago. You obviously went somewhere." She held up her hand once again. "I'm not accusing you of anything, Derek. I just want to know. How is she doing?"
Derek cleared his throat. "Um, she's doing good. Relatively speaking. For watching two guys get blown up. She's holding up well."
Addison remembered the moment she heard the explosion, heard the Chief say two people were dead, and his words had seemed so far away, a distant echo. "But Derek is fine, Addy, Derek is fine," Chief had told her twice, his hands resting firmly on her shoulders. She'd leaned against the wall, closing her eyes, and taking deep breaths. Derek was be all right, *it* would be all right, she'd thought at the time. After all, what was the point of a second chance if there was no happily ever after to go along with it?
"I can't imagine how terrifying it was for you, for all of you," Addison said, trying to keep her tone evenly modulated. She'd been playing at 'understanding' for the last few months; another go at it wouldn't kill her, but she couldn't deny that it still hurt.
"I tried not to think about it," Derek said. He glanced towards the trailer. "You must be cold." And then he said, "Have you eaten? I picked a sandwich up earlier."
Addison pressed her lips into a thin line, deciding not to think about the chicken breasts and the bottle of wine she'd picked up on her way home in anticipation of a celebratory dinner. Her inner seventh grader berated her: You should have known better. "I'm not hungry," Addison said more calmly than she actually felt.
"Okay." Derek slung his bag over his shoulder and took a step towards the trailer. Addison waited a second and then put her hand gently on his forearm. The touch startled him, and he spun around. Addison thought about how unnatural his reaction was, the expression on his face telling her that just the mere pressure of her fingers against him was unwelcome. She swallowed hard.
"You called me the 'Queen of the Land of Passive-Aggressiva' and maybe I am, but 'denial' is probably the kingdom better suited for me. You told me you love her, and I agreed to wait, to let it pass." Addison let out a half-laugh, somewhat uncomfortably. "I just need to know if there's a reason for me to wait, Derek." She waited a few seconds before turning to face him. He was standing there, bathed in the warm glow of light from the trailer, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his jeans, his jacket open, revealing the button-down shirt beneath. The wind ruffled his hair. "I'm not angry you went to see her," Addison said. "God knows, I gave up that right when I slept with Mark. I just need to know if we're okay--" she hated that she had to ask for validation nearly every day "--if we're going to make it."
"I don't know the answer to that question."
"I want to know if you're trying as hard as I am, if you want this marriage to work as much as I do," Addison said. "I can't be the only one holding us together. That's what I figured out today. In all of the chaos, the one thing I wanted to be certain of is if our positions were reversed, would you feel how I felt? That the world was collapsing in on me, that I couldn't breathe, and I thought my heart would leap right out of my chest if anything had happened to you. You can say you don't know, but I *know*. And that's why I need you to tell me why you're giving me a second chance if you're not in it, one hundred percent." She glanced at the door to the trailer and then turned her attention back to Derek. "You don't have to tell me now," she said. "But soon. I don't want to waste my time or yours." She took a step towards the door. "I still have the divorce papers."
She was halfway to the door when Derek called her name.
"I told you," he said, "I don't want to leave you."
"That's not the same as wanting to stay with me," Addison said softly. She laid her hand gently on the door knob, the metal cold to her touch. Then she turned slowly to face Derek again. "I worried about you," she said, and then she went inside, shedding her jacket on the kitchen table. She decided the moisture in her eyes was due to the cold wind blowing in from the north.
~ the end
In "Grey's Anatomy" tradition, I did pick a song title for this fic
-- "Back to Good" by Matchbox 20. The lyrics are over here.
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