note: Set after the season 2 finale.
Disclaimer: Characters and places belong to Shonda Rimes. I'm just playing.
He drives, like always, and in this one constant, Addison can take some comfort that not everything in her world has been turned upside down. She's still wearing Derek's jacket, which he perfunctorily placed on her shoulders when she was standing on the ferry deck, leaning against the railing, the cold metal pressing through the red silk and against her skin.
"You should come inside the cabin," he said. "It's cold."
Addison shrugged. "The city lights are pretty." She pointed towards the sky. "Look at all the stars." The comment sounded inane even to her own ears, but Addison wanted something neutral to fill the space that was growing between them. Derek stood next to her, his shoulder brushing up against hers. He didn't put his arm around her, and she knew he was standing beside her out of obligation. She supposed she should take her victories where she could; at least he acknowledges her and doesn't call her Satan any more.
Now, she stares out the window at the shadowy evergreens lining the road to the trailer. It's well after midnight, and the houses edging the road are dark. There's no traffic, but Derek's still driving cautiously, his hands at the 10 and 2 o'clock positions. Another constant, she thinks. Derek's always been a cautious driver; sixteen years of subways, buses and taxis in NYC will do that to you.
She thinks about rummaging through the glove compartment and putting on a CD, or even turning on the radio. Anything to push away the silence she's starting to find suffocating. She remembers how she used to find the silence comforting, those long hours spent driving to Vermont or Montreal, how they could go for an hour or more without exchanging a single word. "We have one of those comfortable relationships," she told Savvy years ago, "where we don't need to fill every moment with noise." In retrospect, Addison thinks it's one of the stupidest comments she's ever made. She realizes now she was rationalizing the silence, that the fact they didn't talk didn't mean they were completely in sync, but that they were too wounded to face inevitable truths.
She shifts in her seat, the fabric of her dress stretching tight against her thighs. She thinks about reaching over, putting her hand on Derek's right leg. She'd done that as recently as yesterday morning on the way to the vet's office for the update on Doc. Funny how everything can change in 24 hours. She swallows hard. She wants to say something to push the quiet away, but she can only think of questions she knows she needs to ask, but doesn't really want the answers to. For instance, "Which patient were you with this evening when you left me on the dance floor?" Or maybe, more likely, "Were you with Meredith tonight?" and then the one she has been thinking hard about for the last 24 hours: "Do you still have the divorce papers?"
Addison clears her throat, loudly enough that Derek actually takes his eyes off the road to look at her. In the darkness, she can't read his expression.
"What?" he says.
She ignores the obvious irritation in his voice. "Nothing."
"You cleared your throat. That's something."
"I can't clear my throat now, Derek?"
"You don't do that unless you're about to launch into one of your endless tirades—"
"I'm not going to launch into a tirade—-"
"I was just going to say—-" she pauses. "The prom was nice," she says finally, settling on a nice neutral topic. "The interns did a good job. That was all. That was all I was going to say."
"Much different than my prom," Addison says. She brushes her hand across her face. "I stood on the sidelines most of the evening watching." She took a deep breath. "I didn't even have a date at first. I was tall, taller than most of the guys in the class, and I had those braces, that lisp." She knows she's repeating herself, but at least she's saying something. At least she's trying. "And even though I'd traded my glasses in for contact lenses at Christmas, I wasn't one of the pretty girls." She doesn't dare look at Derek. He's staring ahead, and she wonders if he's even listening.
She keeps on going. "I didn't have a date to my senior prom. I told myself, it didn't matter, I didn't need to go. And then my mother, she called Skippy Gold's mother. Can you imagine your mother setting you up for the prom?" Even years after the fact, she can't believe it. "Skippy and I, we'd grown up together, but we'd grown apart in high school. But he didn't have a date. So it worked out." Addison tips her head against the window. "My dress was horrible. Hundreds of dollars worth of blue taffeta ruffled, flounced and tortured into big bows. I looked like a wedding cake. My mother said I looked beautiful. That's what mothers are supposed to say, aren't they?" She looks at Derek. His expression remains impassive. She bites her lip. Don't cry, she thinks fiercely. Not now, not here. It was bad enough she'd lost her composure in front of the Chief, Yang and oh God, Grey, at the hospital, and in theory, Derek is the one she should be able to be the most open with.
The Land Rover hits a pothole and Derek swears loudly. Addison closes her eyes and leans her head against the seat back. They're only a few minutes away from the trailer now, and she can slip out of the dress and into bed, and then this day will finally, finally be over. She will deal with the inevitable next steps in the morning.
The car comes to a stop, and she opens her eyes. Derek is looking at her.
"You didn't finish the story," he says.
"Your prom story. You didn't finish."
Addison struggles to keep the surprise out of her voice. "That was it, the whole thing. I almost didn't have a date and then I did, and spent the evening standing on the sidelines watching everyone else dance to Elton John." She reaches for the lock, and then opens the door. "The senior prom didn't rank as one of the high points of my teen years." She gives a self-conscious laugh before cautiously stepping down from the Land Rover. The gravel driveway isn't easy to navigate in her heels, but she manages. Derek is just ahead of her, unlocking the trailer door. Once inside, she sits on the bed and unbuckling her shoes, massaging her blistered and swollen feet.
"I didn't go to my prom," Derek says.
Addison stares at him. "What?"
"I didn't go." He picks up the jacket she discarded and hangs it up in the tiny closet.
"How come I didn't know that?"
"How come I didn't know you went with Skippy Gold?"
"I guess some traumas are best left in the high school gym." She unhooks her necklace. "Why didn't you go?"
"I didn't have a date."
"I don't believe that either. Not you, the captain of the football team, Homecoming king," Addison says, sarcasm undercutting her tone. Be nice, she reminds herself sternly.
Derek sighs as he unbuttons his cuffs. "I was supposed to go with Melinda. I knew her for years. She was one of my closest friends and it just seemed natural that we'd go together. But then Kate broke up with her boyfriend and I'd always wanted to ask her out and now that she was free, I thought it was the perfect opportunity. So I did." For a moment, he looks extremely weary, the lines at the corners of his eyes more prominent than usual. At times like this, when he's vulnerable, he starts to look every bit of his forty years. Addison thinks about putting her arms around him, but then reminds herself he's not the one who needs comforting. "She was very nice about saying no." He removes his shirt, but instead of hanging it up, drapes it on the back of the chair.
"I'm sorry," Addison says softly and she resists the urge to touch him, to call him 'honey'. Some habits, she realizes, will be desperately hard to break. "What happened with Melinda?"
"While I was chasing Kate, she managed to find herself another date. With my best friend."
Addison sucks her breath in sharply. There's an ache just below her ribcage on the left. She presses her thumb against it, taking deep breaths, until the pain finally subsides. And because she can't look at Derek, she stands up, nearly tripping on her dress. "Oh," she says, placing her hand flat against the wall for support. "So you didn't go to the prom," she says.
Derek shakes his head. "No. I couldn't choose so I didn't go."
"Did you tell her? Melinda, I mean? That you were going to ask Kate?"
Addison closes her eyes. She suddenly feels very tired, the walls of the trailer closing in on her. Awkwardly, she fumbles for the zipper on the back of her dress, and then she feels Derek's warm breath on her skin. She tenses, a chill running down her spine. His hands are cold on her shoulders and he gives the zipper a gentle tug, pulling it down in one smooth motion. Her skin still bristles where Derek touched her.
"I couldn't choose," he says quietly.
"I can. I did," Addison says with a sudden burst of energy. "But I'm not going to stand on the sidelines anymore. I refuse to be second-best." Addison looks her husband squarely in the eye. "Now you have to choose." She inhales sharply, feeling just as surprised as Derek looks; she hadn't meant to bring this up now. "I don't want to be, and I can't be, the only one holding us together, Derek. I'm exhausted with the effort, and I don't know what more I can do. I know now better than ever what I need and what I deserve, and it's certainly not this, whatever this is." She bites her lip for a moment. "Maybe eleven years were all we had in us."
"I'm sorry." Derek's eyes are dark, opaque, and maybe even a little sad. Addison knows he won't miss her when she's gone.
"Don't be," she says. "You can't help how you feel, or rather, or how you don't feel. I just wish you had been honest. It would have hurt less if you'd signed the divorce papers when I offered them to you. I wouldn't have given up my practice, my friends, and I would have gone back to New York." Addison decides to omit mention of Mark, but that's what hurts the most: that she gave up Mark for Derek, Mark who loved her, who adored her, who didn't have a problem choosing. "I would have missed you, desperately, but it would have been closure. Better late than never, right?"
Derek doesn't look at her. "What are you saying exactly?" There's a plaintive undertone to his voice that Addison finds annoying. She wonders if Derek whined before, back in New York, when he still saw her, still loved her. And for the first time, she realizes the man she fell in love with, the one she married, he no longer exists. "Addison?"
Addison shrugs. "You don't want to choose because that means taking a risk, and while you might do that in the operating room, in real life, you walk -- no, run –- away from your problems. That's not fair to either Meredith or me. One of us has to decide, one of us has to choose for certain, and if it's not going to be you, then I'll do it. I'm not going to stand here and wait for something to happen with us, Derek. The last time I did that, you caught me in bed with Mark because it was impossible to get your attention in any other way." She reaches for her nightgown. "Am I always going to have to resort to desperate measures for you to see me? What do you want me to do now, sleep with Richard?"
"I can't talk to you when you're like this."
"You can't talk to me at any time," Addison says. "Your way of dealing with things is running away. I ask to talk, you tell me you're tired, you're busy, it's always later. Later never comes, Derek. That's how we ended up here."
He spreads his hands wide in what she perceives as a conciliatory gesture. "What do you want from me, Addison?"
"What does any wife want from her husband?"
"I'm not ready to give up on us. You said it yourself. We are trying," Derek says.
"No," Addison says. "*I* am trying. There's a difference. You asked me to move to Seattle, so I did. You wanted to live in this trailer, so we do. You said you would give up Meredith, but you didn't." She touches his forearm again lightly, an involuntary but familiar action born of years together. "I'm tired of waiting for it to pass, Derek." She slips off her dress and hangs it up in the tiny closet. When she moves out of the trailer, she'll buy a townhouse, one with plenty of closet space, and a bathroom with a garden tub.
"We don't have to any decisions tonight. It's late, we're both tired," he says in a low voice. He pulls the covers back on the bed. "Addison--"
"Why do you keep holding on?"
"You keep holding on and I don't understand." She bites her lip. "How I feel about you, Derek, that has never changed, not in the fifteen years we've known each other. But you--" Addison's laugh is short, bitter "-- you don't even see me, you don't want to talk to me, you don't want to be around me. And yet, you seem to think you're doing me a favor by staying, by telling me you're trying when clearly, you're not. You're not happy and you haven't been since I came to Seattle." She shakes her head. "I don't understand."
There's a long silence and Derek runs his hand through his hair. Finally he says softly, "I can't imagine my life without you in it."
"That's not good enough for me." Addison offers him a slight smile before slipping beneath the covers.
Derek breathes heavily and then sits, the mattress sagging under his weight. He reaches over, weaves his fingers through Addison's. His grip surprises her in its firmness, its tenacity, but she refuses to put any stock into the action. She's been deceived before.
He looks at her.
"I choose me," she says, and with that, she pulls away.
~ the end
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