Sorry Seems to Be (The Hardest Word)

By Seema

Disclaimer: Characters and places belong to Shonda Rimes. No profit or infringement intended.

Author's note: Set prior to the pilot and through the end of the first season. My thanks to Rocky, who as always, served as my fic doctor and cures what ails, and Lori who caught at least a gazillion typos. The mistakes are mine.


Addison Shepherd never intended to have an affair. She certainly never intended to start one in the bed she shared with her husband. But she was dizzy with laughter and champagne, and she stumbled through the house, tripping in her high heels, leaning against the wall, and Mark was there to catch her. She leaned back, put her hands on his cheeks.

"Thank you," she said breathlessly. She felt giddy, out of control, as if Mark had erased this day, this week, this month, and even this year out of her life. "Thank you."

"For?" Mark looked at her quizzically. He put his hands on either side of her, effectively boxing her in against the wall.

"For turning what could have been an absolutely miserable evening fundraising into a lovely one, but mostly, thank you for being there," she said.

"You're welcome." Mark's gaze was dark and intense. She put her fingers to the corner of his lips, where soft skin met the faintest trace of stubble. In her logical, rational mind, Addison knew she needed to pull away. But she closed her eyes and didn't open them until she felt Mark's fingers closing around her wrist, pulling her close to him.

"Mark," Addison said. The glint of her wedding band and engagement ring caught in the glow of the Waterford crystal lamp -– the only light she'd turned on when they'd entered the townhouse.

"God, you're beautiful," Mark said. His breath was hot against her face. He pressed his lips to her cheek, to the curve of her jaw, to her ear. "And you were amazing tonight."

Addison couldn't speak, not when he was touching her like this. He reached out to brush something away from her face and his fingers lingered for just a second too long.

"You are really beautiful," Mark said. He was cupping her face in his hands, brushing her hair away from her forehead, kissing the tip of her nose with a softness and gentleness she hadn't expected. "The most beautiful woman in the world."

//"Do you know you're the most beautiful girl in the program?" Derek leaned against the cinder-block wall, his arms crossed against his chest, looking hotter than any man in scrubs had a right to.

Addison stopped in her tracks, glancing over her shoulder. It was indeed just the two of them. "Are you talking to me?"

"I'm pretty sure I'm talking to the most beautiful girl in the program and yes, that would be you," Derek said. The ease and confidence in his tone unnerved Addison. Three years into medical school, and she'd only seen Derek Shepherd around two or three times –- and those occasions, like today, she'd been wearing her glasses, hair pulled back in a straggly ponytail, and wearing scrubs that, in her opinion, hid a multitude of bodily sins. She had certainly noticed him –- what woman *wouldn't*, especially with that devil-may-care lean of his that was incredibly sexy? –- she had never thought he'd ever noticed her before.

"Here's what I'm thinking," Derek said casually, as if they'd been friends for years. "I come by and pick you up for drinks around six. Then we go for dinner, and at some point, we go back to your place and we study."

Addison frowned. "Study?"

"I was thinking anatomy," Derek said. He took a step towards her. There was no mistaking the intention in his eyes, and the way he was looking her over. "You'll find I'm a very good study partner."

Addison said yes.//

She found it even harder to breathe now. She knew she should back away and call Mark a cab. There were a million things she should -- and could -- do to get him out of her foyer, and a million things that wouldn't change her life forever. But three heady glasses of champagne combined with the intoxication of his touch and smell, and Addison knew she was falling. Mark's hands on her waist, running down her thighs, and she couldn't think when he was touching her like this.

Addison managed a feeble and unconvincing "This is a bad idea," but she was kissing him back now, running her hands through his hair, and pressing up against him. She pushed his jacket off, and it fell into a pool of black worsted wool on the hardwood floors. "Upstairs," she said, even though she knew she shouldn't. She led him by the hand into the bedroom. This once, she thought, just this once to feel wanted, to feel loved. She didn't turn on the lights. In the dark, she could pretend she wasn't really doing this, that it wasn't Mark touching her so reverently. Just this once, she thought. Only this once.


It happened in slow motion. The sound of Derek's footsteps on the wooden stairs. The light turned on in the hallway. Derek in the doorway. Mark rolling away. Addison grabbing the flannel sheet, and holding it to her chest. Mark swearing under his breath. Derek in the doorway, film noir style, dark silhouette against the hall light. Addison sitting up. Mark looking for his pants. Derek turning. The sound of Derek's footsteps receding. Addison putting her hands to her face. Not for the first time that night, she cried.


"He's gone."

Addison stood in the middle of the living room, staring out the window at Central Park. The sky was blue, no clouds, and the forecasters said there was no chance of rain for the next week. It was funny, Mark thought, the things you think of at times like this.

"I'm sorry, Addie," Mark said, though he wasn't sure what he was apologizing for. He certainly didn't feel sorry in any shape, way or form. Addison didn't look at Mark and he pretended talking to her back didn't hurt.

"I thought he'd come back," she said dully. She took a step towards the window. She was wearing old jeans, a sweatshirt, and she'd pulled her hair back into a loose ponytail. She looked beautiful, Mark thought, though he knew Addison -- she of the Stella McCartney suits and Prada shoes -- would disagree. "I thought he'd eventually come back and we'd talk." She gave a short, harsh laugh. "But then, Derek and I, we haven't talked much lately, so why should last night have been any different?"

Mark took a step forward. He wanted badly to touch her, to wrap her hair around his fingers, but he restrained himself. At least she'd called him, he thought. "A guy doesn't leave you, Addie, not easily," Mark said, and even though it hurt to say the words, he added, "Derek's somewhere nearby. He's checked in a hotel, and when he's calmed down, he'll be back."

"Don't think I haven't thought about calling all of the hotels in the area." Addison put her palms flat on the window sill, her forehead nearly touching the glass. "And our friends, God. I've been thinking about it, but what do I say? I don't want to be that woman, Mark."

Mark cleared his throat. "You're not, Addie."

"I want him to come back. I *need* him to come back," Addison said, her voice cracking. Mark remained rooted in place. This Addison –- her glittery glamorous persona replaced with a raw air of vulnerability and insecurity -- was the Addison Derek never saw, but it was the Addison Mark had become intimately familiar with over the course of the past year. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have called you. But I did, because you come, you always do when I need you. And, you shouldn't have to be here for this--" she put her hand to her cheek.


"I don't want to be that woman."

"Okay, so don't be."

Silence fell between them for few seconds. Mark could see the tension in the line of Addison's shoulders, in the way she propped herself against the window. He wanted her, so desperately, and he realized that was the problem. This, he thought with some hurt, was an impossible situation.

"You and I," Mark said finally. "We should talk."

"Great, let's," Addison said. "You and I, we could always talk. That doesn't get me anywhere, except maybe in bed with you and quite possibly, the end of my marriage." Her laugh was tinged with a note of hysteria. "All of Derek's surgeries have been cancelled. He didn't give a reason. Just cancelled them and said to find other surgeons to take over. He wouldn't be available for the near future." She turned to face him now. "The hospital called this morning to find out if he was ill." She shoved her hands in her pockets, her shoulders hunching forward. "They wanted to know if they should reschedule. He left no further instructions." She started to pace, her bare feet leaving shallow indentations in the thick plush carpet. "The Land Rover is gone."

"Did you try your house in the Hamptons?"

"All the keys to that house are still here," Addison said. Wearily, she slumped down onto the black leather sofa. She looked pale, her eyes rimmed with red.

"You should get some rest," Mark said. He sat on the arm rest, keeping a proper distance between the two of them. "Did you sleep at all last night?"

She stared at him. "Are you crazy? My husband walked in on the two of us having sex and you expect me to have just turned over and slept like a baby?"

Mark held up his hand. "Addie--"

"Just," she said, "go away. Please."

He didn't move immediately. "If you need me, I'm here," he said quietly.

She lifted her head wearily and stared at him. "That's always been the problem," she said softly. "You're here. He's not. Don't you see? It's always been the problem."

"Do you *really* want me to go?"

"I don't want you here when he comes back."

"Okay," he said. He couldn't help adding, "Call me if you need me." He was halfway to the door when Addison called his name. He stopped, turned around. She was holding his tux jacket out to him.

"Don't forget this," she said. Mark took the jacket and then let himself out. He stood on the sidewalk, contemplating catching a cab. And then he looked up at the sky, and then across the street at the Park. He walked up to the next pedestrian crossing. At the edge of the tree line, he couldn't resist looking back, wondering if Addison was watching him. He knew, with painful certainty, she wasn't waiting for him.


Five days after Derek had walked in on her and Mark, the email came from Seattle with all the fanfare an email program could possibly muster: a perky beep and a pop-up notification from Outlook. Addison, curled up on the sofa in her home office, laptop precariously balanced on her thighs, stared at the email, almost in disbelief, as she read the sender's email address and then the subject line. Taking a deep breath, she clicked on the email.

"Dear Addie," it read. "Derek arrived at Seattle Grace yesterday and he will start as an attending next week; I wanted to give him some time to settle in. Honestly, Addie, I was surprised and disappointed you didn't come with him. I thought I'd made it clear in our conversations over the years that I wanted both of you here. The offer is still open if you're willing. I wanted you to know that. I haven't talked to Derek so I don't know what you're thinking or what your plans are; I assume you intend to join him once you finish things up with your practice there. Let me know. Richard."

Addison read and re-read the email until the 12-point blue Arial type blurred. Derek was in Seattle. In the five days when he was ignoring her phone calls, her pages, her emails, he'd been driving to Seattle and she had no idea what states he'd gone through, what roads he'd taken. She could almost see him now -- Derek, right hand on the wheel, the fingers of his left hand tapping a steady beat against his thigh, as the Rolling Stones played loudly on the stereo; if the weather had been nice for his drive, he would have rolled down the window, let the window ruffle through his hair. Derek liked to drive, and when they had first started dating, he thought nothing of driving all night to Maine or even to Quebec for the weekend. She'd offered, at first, to share in the driving, but Derek had waved her off. He liked being behind the wheel. He liked being in control.

Derek had gone to Seattle. He wasn't down the street in a hotel waiting to cool down. He had driven clear across the country, to the other coast, to that other ocean, to get away from her.

Her fingers were trembling as she typed a response back to Richard.

"It's good to hear from you, Richard. And under the right circumstances, it would be wonderful to work with you again. You taught me more than anyone else in the program, and I am grateful. I appreciate that you continue to think so highly of me enough to want me on your staff." she paused there. Should she say something about what happened between her and Derek? Richard seemingly didn't know. Deciding against drawing her former mentor into the conflict, she chose the neutral and diplomatic response. "If there's any way I can help you in the future, don't hesitate to ask me. Again, it was nice hearing from you. Please don't be a stranger." She clicked send and then turned off the laptop.

She picked up her cell phone and once again, punched in Derek's number. It rang, went to voicemail, and she hung up; she could take a hint. She stood in the middle of her office, not seeing anything -- not the bookshelves sagging under the combined weight of their medical texts and journals, not the degrees hanging on the wall, or even the silver-framed photograph of the two of them sitting by a waterfall in the White Mountains, a trip they'd taken for their fifth wedding anniversary. The cell phone in her hand rang and without checking the caller ID, she picked up.

"Addison Shepherd," she said hoarsely.

"Addie, it's me."

She clutched the phone tighter. "Mark," she said, hoping he wouldn't pick up on her disappointment.

"I didn't see you at the hospital today."

"I was there. In surgery all day." She hated lying to him, but she also didn't want to admit she didn't want to see him either.

"I checked the board. I didn't see your name." There was a pause. "Addie, I'm worried about you."

"Please. No. Don't. I'm fine," she said with a bravado she certainly didn't feel. She hated how she was considered a world-class surgeon, that she was strong and competent in the OR, but when it came to the man -- men? -- in her life, she was painfully aware of her own insecurity, that she still saw herself as the gawky long-limbed freckled redhead with braces, glasses, and a lisp; the girl who could never find herself a date because she towered over all the guys, because she wasn't dainty and flirty, because she chose to be captain of the team's math league instead of trying out for sports. There were times, even at the age of 38, when Addison Montgomery-Shepherd still felt very much like the 17-year old whose mother had to ask Skippy Gold's mother if her son could escort Addison to the senior prom. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"I just want to know you're okay." There was a tenderness to Mark's tone, a sweetness and a connection she desperately wanted. It would be so easy, she thought, to ask him to come over. So easy to have him here in this house, to push away the silence. It would be comfortable, warm and safe to have him here. But that wouldn't be fair either. Mark had done nothing but push away silence for the last year.

//"Why do you do it?" she asked one day when they were both sitting at the table in the doctors' lounge. Mark was sipping coffee and thumbing through the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. She should have been reviewing test results or at least looking through Christmas catalogs, but she was distracted –- something that was happening more and more often these days. "Put up with someone like me who literally does nothing but whine all day."

"You don't whine, Addison. The last thing you do is whine."

"And you're Derek's friend. Best friend. It can't be easy on you, listening to me whine about him for the past, God, how long has it been?" she shook her head.

"A year, give or take, but who's counting?" Mark's grin was easy, casual. "I'm your friend too." Mark gazed at her and she realized she'd never noticed how dark his eyes were before, how soft his expression could be. In some ways, Mark and Derek were caught from the same mold –- intelligent and arrogant hot shots who were gunning for the top, and while they both had excellent bedside manners when it came to patients, their professional relationships suffered to an extent because of their drive for perfection and excellence and their inability to tolerate the least bit of imperfection in others. But somehow, in recent years, Mark had managed to curb that tendency in himself, and Addison admired him for it.

"You're going way beyond the call of duty," she said. She bit the end of her pen –- an unattractive habit, but one she was unable to break –- thoughtfully. "I was thinking of taking you off the hook, writing to Dear Abby instead."

"And what would you say?"

Addison tipped her head to the side. "Dear Abby, I'm a successful physician of a certain age living in Manhattan and ten years ago, I married the man of my dreams. He is also a very successful physician. I love him, but lately, I'm not sure that he feels the same about me. He seems to find every excuse not to come home, not to spend time with me, and I'm not sure he hears me when I speak. I tell myself that he's in a demanding program that requires long hours, but I'm starting to get tired of the excuses. And no, I don't think he's having an affair. I think he just woke up one day, looked at who he was married too, and had a change of heart." Addison cleared her throat. Some days it was easier to laugh at the state of her marriage, but more times than not, she found herself close to, if not in, tears. "It's not that I don't think he cares, he just doesn't love me as much as he should." She looked at Mark. "Well?"

He considered. "Does anyone love anyone as much as they should?"

Addison had looked down at her hands, unable to speak. She didn't move until she felt Mark's warm fingers gently touching her wrist.

"Don't write the letter. Dear Abby can't buy you a cup of coffee," he told her. "You deserve more than a column inch."//

Mark's voice over the cell phone brought her back to the present. "Addison? Are you okay?"

Mark had said she deserved better, but she also knew he did too. It was a question of fairness. At least, that's what she told herself as she bit back the urge to invite him over.

She ran her tongue over her lips and then finally answered. "I want to be."


Mark found her in the hospital cafeteria, pushing her food around on the plate. He didn't blame her. Today's special of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and chocolate pudding looked decidedly unappetizing. He watched for a moment and then said, "May I sit down?"

Addison looked up. When she saw him, a half-smile played on her lips. "As long as you're not part of the pity party. Or the blaming brigade. There doesn't seem to be any neutral ground these days." She dipped her spoon into the chocolate pudding. "Obstetrics and gynecology are firmly lined up on my side, but I'm not a fan favorite over in neurosurgery. Recent polls suggest the nursing staff is divided."

"Well," Mark said, "as a plastic surgeon, I don't fall into any of the categories you just mentioned. Just call me Switzerland."

"Not sure the nickname suits you. It's a little cold and craggy, making it completely inappropriate as a descriptor," she said. She nodded towards the empty chair in front of her. "Please. I could use the company and friendship."

Mark felt some of the tension ease out of his body. The last conversation he'd had with Addison had been fraught with emotion, and he wasn't sure she wanted to talk to him, let alone see him. "That makes two of us," he said with some relief. He pondered for a moment. "Hell with Switzerland," he said.

Addison jerked to attention. "Excuse me?"

"You can't expect me not to have an opinion," he said.


"Derek ignored you. No matter what you did, there was always a case that came up that was more important to him. It was always something or someone else, wasn't it? And in your desire to wear a hair shirt and self-flagellate endlessly, you seem to have forgotten the reality of your marriage." Mark stared at her hard and Addison didn't flinch. "I'm not looking for forgiveness for how I feel about you or even for what we did, Addie. He was a lousy husband, and you know it." He could feel the heat rising in his face, and his heart was beating rapidly. Mark took a deep breath. "So forgive me if I'm not going to make excuses for him, so forgive me if I don't want him to come back, but mostly, I'm not sorry that he's gone from your life."

Addison's expression didn't change. Slowly, she laid down the fork. "Mark," she said evenly, but he could sense the dangerous undertones in her voice. Addison had a slow-burn personality, the ability to take and take until she finally exploded. She never stayed mad for long, but for the brief period that she was, her temper was a thing to be feared. And the last thing Mark Sloan wanted to do was cause a scene in the cafeteria.

He shook his head. "Stop beating yourself up, Addie. We made a mistake, but I'm not sorry. I'm not sorry I slept with you and I'm not sorry I've fallen in love with you."

Addison put her palms flat on the table. "What did you say?"

"I was there, Addie. Every single time Derek stood you up, every time you had a pair of tickets or a dinner reservation that was going to go unused, I was there. I was there when you were served with the malpractice suit, and I was the one who took you out to dinner to celebrate when it was dismissed because Derek was too busy to even notice you were home free."

//He remembered Addison in red, the diamonds at her neck and ears, and the way he'd been tempted to reach across the white linen tablecloth and take her hand in his. Despite the burden of the lawsuit being lifted, she'd seemed distracted, uninterested in her food or the wine.

"A penny for your thoughts," Mark had said lightly. He'd pulled his fingers back, reminding himself sternly that while he was sitting in a four-star French restaurant with a beautiful woman, that woman just happened to be his best friend's wife. "Come on, Addie, it's over. You're done with the lawsuit. Until the next one that is."

Addison smiled feebly at his macabre humor. "I'm sorry, Mark. It was sweet of you, really, to take me out tonight, but it's been a long day and I'm tired, and I have four surgeries planned for tomorrow."

"I understand, Addie. You know I do."

"I'm just tired. Tired of everything."

"I know that too and I'm sorry."

"We need to get away," she said distantly. "It's been so long since we've even ventured out of Manhattan. Maybe Vermont for skiing. Derek likes Stowe. Christmas is coming up and that's as good of an occasion as any for a vacation."

Mark managed keep his reaction muted. He hated himself for even fantasizing for one moment that Addison was talking about the two of them, that he was the one she was envisioning going to Stowe with. We don't have that kind of relationship, he thought.

"You should talk to Derek then," he finally said. "Tell him that it might seem like he has plenty of time before winter ends, but if you go on like this, you won't have a chance to hit the slopes and at some point, before the snow melts, you'd like to spend time with him somewhere other than within the four walls of an OR or eat dinner somewhere that doesn't have pastel green walls and linoleum flooring. Tell him there are other neurosurgeons in this city, in this state, in this country, and that they are competent and reliable. He doesn't need to single-handedly operate on all the neuro cases; leave some for the others. Don't ask, Addie, *tell* him."

"I will. Tonight," she said. And then she'd smiled at him. "You're a good friend, Mark. Thank you. I honestly don't know what Derek and I'd do without you."//

Mark jerked back to the present. "And I was the one who sat in the audience the other night when you made the keynote speech at the fundraising gala. I helped you write it, I helped you practice, and I was there to listen to you. Where was Derek during all that, Addie? He stood you up an hour before you were supposed to leave."

Addison closed her eyes. "Mark, please. Stop."

"I'm sorry," he said. "But I've been there. I'm still here. I hate to see you beat yourself up over someone who looked right through you, who didn't even seem to know or appreciate what he had. So yes, I do have an opinion and I'm not sorry."

Addison took a deep breath, composing herself. Mark sat stiffly, trying not to wonder if he'd crossed the line, if he'd gone too far. He didn't, by any means, want to cheapen the relationship Addison had shared with Derek, but he also wanted her to realize that she was mourning something that had been broken for a while now. Derek's relocation to Seattle was merely a physical manifestation of the emotional distance he'd put between himself and Addie long ago.

"I don't know what to do," Addison said finally.

"Yes, you do. You just don't want to face it. Derek's looking at a different ocean than you and me," Mark said. "He's changed his perspective. You should consider trying it yourself." He didn't bother cushioning his words. The time for tact and gentleness had long since passed.

"I never thought I'd hurt him this way." Addison stared at some point beyond Mark. He didn't bother to turn around to see what she was looking at, possibly the mural of children playing that an inner city group had painted last year. "I'm a married woman--" she held out her left hand to him, the diamonds on her engagement ring glinting despite the cafeteria's fluorescent lighting. She shook her head. "I broke my vows." Addison took a bite of her sandwich and then put the rest of it down on the plate. "He is your best friend."

"I think we can safely put that friendship into the past tense," Mark said.

"And it doesn't mean anything to you?" Her eyes flashed with intensity.

"It hurts but not in the way you might think. I miss him as a friend, the companionship and the support, but I hated the way he treated you," Mark said. "I'm not going to lie to you, but I'm also not going to apologize. We did things in the wrong order, Addie. Sooner or later it was going to turn out this way. You know that even if you don't want to admit it. You were going to leave or he was going to leave. You and I, we just accelerated the inevitable."

"You're implying I would have chosen you."

Mark offered her what he thought was his most charming smile, the one that seemed to work wonders on the nurses and even on some of the female doctors. "You would have chosen me," he said confidently. "And you know why too." He reached across the table, laying his hand on top of hers. Her diamond engagement ring jutted against his skin, but he didn't care. It was only a matter of time before she took it off for good.

"Yes," Addison said slowly, "I do know."


"You should move in with me."

Addison stopped in her tracks and then slowly turned around. Mark was sitting up in bed, his knees pulled to his chest. His hair was standing up on end. The early morning light streaming through the slits in the blinds drew alternating stripes of shadow and light across the white bedspread, and the floor.


"You use that word a lot when I say something," Mark said. "It doesn't exactly inspire confidence."

"It's 6:30," Addison said. She ran her hands wearily through her long hair. "I haven't had my first cup of coffee yet."

"Okay, so go get your coffee and then come back and consider my proposal."

"It's too early," she said.

"How about seven o'clock? Is that too early?"

"I need to take a shower," Addison said. She disappeared into the bathroom, and turned on the water. She slipped her robe off, letting it puddle in a pile of white terrycloth around her feet. For a moment, she just stood there, breathing in the deep steam, and then finally entered. Derek's shampoo/conditioner -- 2 in 1 because he was too impatient for the two bottle system -- still sat on the edge of the garden tub. Addison contemplated the bottle for a moment and then turned her face up towards the hot water. She loved feeling the pressure beat life back into her body, waking her up cell by cell.

//She was waking up in the shower, sleepily soaping shampoo through her hair, when she saw Derek's shadowy and naked figure on the other side of the glass doors.

"I'm coming in," he said.

"Are you?" she asked with a trace of defiance –- after all, she *was* somewhat aggravated with him –- but she moved aside anyway, because he was grinning at her, and damn it if he still couldn't get her with those baby blues and slow, lazy smile of his.

"Hey, you. Good morning." He pecked her on the cheek.

"It's certainly morning."

"A cold one it's going to be as well. I think January has to be my least favorite month of the year, though March isn't much fun either," Derek said. He reached for the shampoo bottle. "This the one you're using today?"

"Yes. You come home late yesterday," Addison said. "It was well after midnight, wasn't?"

"Certainly later than I thought it would be. I'm glad you didn't wait up for me. Complications, you know."

Yes, Addison certainly knew complications, that generic term that now seemed to be an unarguable reason for dinner reservations and theatre tickets going unused and why weekend getaways, even to the Hamptons, were now out of the question. She now hated complications with a raw passion that was only exceeded by her dislike of fish.

"You're not a resident anymore," Addison said. She shifted so Derek could get some of the hot water. "And the Christmas holidays are over. There's no reason for you to have to work these crazy hours. It's not good for you, it's not good for us. You need to do something, Derek, because it's not working."

"I will try," he said and once again, he flashed that grin at her, the one that was ninety-nine point nine percent guaranteed to change the subject. "Do you have a good time at the show last night?"


"Was the name again? It was a revival right, something about the heat in Texas?" Derek furrowed his brow in concentration.

"'110 in the Shade'."

"'110 in the Shade', right." Derek gently massaged the rest of the shampoo through her hair, his fingers putting light pressure on her scalp. "What was it about?"

Addison shrugged. "A hot day in Texas. Dancing, singing, angst, one-night stand, followed by a truly convenient romance. It's a musical. There were no surprises."

"I'm glad Mark could go with you. It would have been a shame for those tickets to have gone to waste. First row, opening night—-" he leaned in closer to her, his cheek brushing up against hers "—- well, that kind of serendipity doesn't happen that often."

"Patients always come before theatre tickets. Isn't that the rule?"

"Something like that, yeah. But next time." His hands were massaging her shoulders now and damn if he wasn't massaging away her anger. She hated how good he was at that, down the drain. Addison turned to face him.

"I missed you," she said. She felt somewhat ridiculous -- the water running down her face, the soapy bubbles foaming on her skin -- trying to have a serious conversation with Derek, who had an unnatural love of doing things in tight spaces that made it hard to think or speak coherently. "But I do understand, Derek."

"I'll make it up to you. This weekend or—-" his hand paused on her hip "—or how about now?"

Addison attempted a smile. So it wasn't a carefully planned dinner and a show, but he was here and these days, she took what she could. She wrapped her arms around his neck. "Now is good," she said, and with considerable optimism that she hoped wasn't misplaced, she added, "But the weekend better be even better."//

When she finally turned off the water, she was more than ready to deal with Mark.

She found Mark downstairs in the kitchen, reading the New York Times and drinking coffee. He nodded towards the coffee maker.

"Fresh brewed coffee, Colombian roast. Help yourself," he said.

"You're too good to me," Addison answered. She pulled a mug out of the cupboard and then put it back, realizing it was Derek's favorite mug, the one with the yellow smiley face on it. She'd always thought it rather juvenile, but someone had given it to Derek in high school just before his team -- the underdogs -- had played in the state football championship, and he'd kept it all these years as a tangible reminder of that victory. Now the insides were stained with many years' worth of coffee and tea, and Addison had argued many times that they should just throw it out. "We can buy you a new one," she'd said. "We're not interns anymore. We can afford mugs now, Derek."

"It wouldn't be the same," Derek had told her flatly. "I drink out of that mug before every surgery. You know that." And with a pointed glance, he'd said again, "The mug stays."

Now, Addison contemplated the mug. She had a few options, the way she saw it--


She whirled around. "Yes, what?"

"There's that word again."

"I'm thinking. God. Do you always talk this much in the morning?"

Mark nodded towards the mug. "You going to fill that with coffee and join me here at the table or what?"

"You not only talk a lot in the morning, you're demanding too." Addison held the mug out towards him. "This is Derek's mug. His lucky mug."

"Oh." The cocky grin vanished from Mark's face. "Right."

"I have three options. I could put it in back in the cupboard," she said quietly. "We -- I -- have other mugs."

"You could do that."

"I could wrap it up and ship it out to Seattle, God only knows where he's living. I'm afraid to ask Richard." The question of Derek's living arrangements was something Addison had thought about a lot lately. Was Derek in a hotel? Or perhaps one of those long-term stay apartments? Renting a room in a Queen Anne Hill Victorian was an option, or maybe he'd chosen First Hill in order to be close to Seattle Grace. "I could send it to the hospital."

"Derek might appreciate the gesture."

"Though if he doesn't take my phone calls or emails, I find it difficult to believe he'd accept a package from me; he'd probably chuck it without opening it. And besides, I assume he's performing surgery just fine without it," Addison said. "And I haven't heard any negative noise, oh hell, I haven't heard anything at all, but I'm pretty sure he's operating just fine without it."

Mark was watching her carefully. "And the third option?"

"I could smash the mug right here on the kitchen tile."

"That would be apropos in so many ways, a metaphor for what was and what is," Mark said.

"I don't want to be that woman," Addison said. She ran her fingers over the mug once more, pausing briefly on the smiley face. "I'll get another mug."


"You didn't answer my question the other day." Mark propped himself up on one arm and stared across the bed at Addison. She was sitting up, wearing her glasses, knees to her chest, reading. He loved the way the glow from the lamp caught the highlights in her hair.

"You ask a lot of questions," she said.

"I'm inquisitive."

The corners of Addison's mouth tugged upward. "You are," she said, "but you really are going to have to be more specific. What question exactly did I not answer?"

He smiled. Addison sounded like she was in a good mood and yesterday, she'd shipped several boxes of Derek's things to his parents' place in Buffalo. Mark figured the tide could be turning his way finally. Might as well go all the way. "Move in with me."

Addison put her book down. "What?"

"You heard me. Move in with me."

"I've already got a place to live and you're here practically all the time."

"Be that as it may--"

"I hate that phrase."

"I'm sorry. As true as that is, you say yourself the brownstone is too big for just you." He didn't add the words "and too filled with Derek", but he knew she was thinking that.

"What I do with the house?"

"Sell it. You won't have a problem finding a buyer for a Central Park brownstone. Sell the house and move in with me."

"I'd have to talk to Derek first."

"Derek doesn't take your phone calls. He doesn't return your emails. He's all the way across the country--"

"I get the point." Addison let out a sigh of exasperation. "So, that's your proposal. Sell the house, move in with you."

"What are you holding on to?" The moment he asked the question, Mark realized that he didn't necessarily want to know the answer. The last week with Addison had been relatively easy, and she'd actually gone to work on Tuesday sans engagement and wedding rings –- the first time she'd been without them since Derek put them on her finger thirteen and eleven years ago, respectively.

//"I'm asking Addison to marry me," Derek said. He took a swig of his beer. "The way I see it, we've got medical school and our internship behind us, it's time to move on to the next big thing. Now that we're residents, I anticipate nothing but smooth sailing from now on out."

"This is why I hang out with you, Shepherd: your incurable, if not misplaced, optimism is refreshing and original," Mark said, raising his voice over the music. He wasn't fond of this particular joint, but it was close to the hospital, and the food was seasoned the way both men liked it -- lots of grease, ketchup and salt.

Derek stared thoughtfully at the row of bottles lining the back wall. "How hard can residency be?"

"I can't believe you're saying that."

"Relax, Mark. I'm just joking."

"So you're really going to ask Addison to marry you?" Mark reached for the bowl of peanuts. "Does she have any idea? Or more importantly, is she going to say yes?"

"Of course she'll say yes," Derek said with his usual cockiness, "and no, she doesn't know."

"It's always good to talk about things like marriage ahead of time."

"You could be right." Derek shrugged. "But in this case, I have no doubts. I've never met anyone like her, Mark," he said, his expression softening and Mark had to strain to hear him. "She's intelligent, yes, but she's warm and compassionate, and she makes me feel good." He signaled for another beer. "She makes me laugh."

Mark's chest tightened. He had imagined Derek's relationship with Addison would be short-lived, as none of Derek's previous relationships had lasted more than a few months; when it came to women, Mark liked to say, Derek had the attention span of a bee, always buzzing off when someone more colorful caught his eye. The fact that Addison and Derek had made it three years together was nothing short of astounding. "She does have a good sense of humor."

"We're both staying in New York City, we've been talking about moving in together, so why not make it official?"

"Yes, why not?" Mark said. "When are you going to ask her?"

"Tonight. That's why I'm here. Nothing builds courage like Sam Adams." Derek reached into the pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out a blue velvet jewelry box. He flipped it open and showed Mark the ring.

"Wow," Mark said. "How much did that set you back?"

"Enough." Derek grinned. "You think she'll like it?"

Mark attempted a smile. "She'll say yes."//

"What are you holding on to?" Mark repeated.

"You don't want to know," she said.

"I do," Mark said. She threw him a questioning look and he nodded as sincerely as he could. "I do want to know, Addie."

"Derek and I, we picked this house together. We re-modeled it, we furnished it, we lived here," she said. "We loved this house, we loved being in it together."

Mark opened his mouth, ready to remind Addison that the last few years or so of the Shepherd marriage were less than loving, but then decided to let her indulge in her nostalgia.

"I can't just let go and forget this--" she waved her arm, as if encompassing the room, its furnishings "-- part of my life never existed. I just can't. We did have good times here, Mark, and we were happy. *That's* what I'm holding on to."

"Okay," he said. "In your own time."

Addison put her hand to her hand and slowly turned around, taking a long appraising look around her seriously. "There's always the possibility Derek might come back. He might change his mind, decide he wants the house."

"You're still going to need somewhere to live and I have room," Mark said, deciding firmly not to think about Derek leaving Seattle and coming back to New York. He also decided not to think about Addison revealing just the slightest glimmer of hope that Derek might come back. At least she hadn't said, "Derek might come back to me." At least she hadn't talked about still living in the house with Derek. Tiny steps, Mark thought, tiny steps.

She reached across, intertwining his fingers with hers. "Give me time to figure this all out," she said. "It's only been a few weeks. You don't say good-bye to a life, to a marriage, to a *person* easily."

"Derek did." Mark immediately regretted the words.

"Yes," Addison said sadly. "In that respect, he's stronger than I am."

"Okay," Mark said. "I can wait." It wasn't really a matter of 'can' though, he reflected. He'd been waiting for more than a year for Addison; what was another couple of days/weeks/months compared to that?


"You're sure about this?" Savvy pulled the tape gun across the flaps of yet another box, sealing it firmly. Addison paused from her own packing. She felt light-headed, whether it was from boxing up a decade plus worth of memories or from the Sharpie fumes, she couldn't quite tell. She tucked her hair behind her ears and then turned to face her friend.

"No," she said slowly. "I'm not sure about this, about anything. But it's not like I have a choice."

"You could go out to Seattle. You could fight for your marriage."

"That's a great idea, Sav. I certainly hadn't thought of that." Addison put her hands on her hips. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you."

Savvy frowned. "I'm just trying to help, Addie. I've been worried about you. Derek's gone, you've been working long hours, I've hardly seen you, and now you're selling the house, moving in with Mark... you have to forgive me, it's a lot to take in at once."

"I appreciate you helping me though on such short notice, especially with your mother being sick," Addison said. "How is she doing?"

Sav shrugged. "There are good days and there bad days, and unfortunately, the bad ones are winning out."

"I'm sorry, Sav. If there's anything I can do—-"

"I know, you're just a phone call away."

Addison reached over and hugged her friend. "Don't hesitate," she said. "For anything. Don't."

"I won't. I promise."

Addison marked another box in big squared-off letters: Goodwill. At Savvy's questioning look, Addison added, "I'm donating most of this stuff." She took a deep breath. "Derek finally responded to me."

Savvy's face lit up. "And?"

"I should clarify. He responded through his lawyer."

"Oh Addison."

Addison brushed off Savvy's sympathy with a wave of her hand. The divorce papers had arrived two days ago, and Addison was still trying to absorb what they meant. Derek's intent was clear and she'd suspected he'd eventually file, but to see the physical papers hurt more than she thought. Derek was generous indeed. He wanted nothing except for the Land Rover. Not his clothes, not his CDs, not even his medical texts. Sell the houses, the lawyer's note instructed, and split the proceeds evenly. Everything else, Addison was free to do with what she wanted. She had decided to start almost immediately on the packing, donating and selling. She had thought of asking Mark to help her as well, but then decided there was something unseemly about asking her lover to pack the things that reminded her of the love of her life.

"It's time for a new start," Addison said. "Derek's made his position clear and I've been hopelessly stupid."

"It's not stupid to hope, Addie."

Addison attempted a smile as she reached for a stack of books. "I'm sending his medical books to his parents," she said. "He says he doesn't want them now, but he might change his mind later."

"You're taking this all remarkably well."

"What choice do I have?"

"You shouldn't have slept with Mark, to begin with." Savvy clamped her hand over her mouth. "I'm so sorry, Addie."

Addison shook her head. "No, I deserved that, and don't you think I've been turning that moment over and over in my head? I can't explain it, just a complete lack of judgment. It was the night of the annual fundraiser at the hospital, and I was giving the keynote address. Derek couldn't come and honestly, I can't even remember why." She frowned. Had she even spoken to Derek that night? All she could remember now was Mark coming towards her in his tux, the satin lapels shining beneath the fluorescent lighting. "But Mark came instead, and when I looked out into the audience, I saw Mark and he was watching me, and he didn't look bored or that he was doing me a favor by being there. He wanted to be there and I could see it clearly in his face, and the way he treated me that night and every time before that." She paused for a moment. "I'm not an obligation to Mark."

"Mark's in love with you."

"I know."

"Are you in love with him?"

Addison shook her head. "I don't know." She slumped on the sofa, already marked for the Salvation Army to come and pick up. "I want to be desperately, and at times, I think I could be." She thought back to all of the times Mark had listened, the way his gaze never faltered when she was speaking, and how, without fail, he always noticed her.

//"What's for lunch?" Mark asked. He slid into the seat opposite Addison's. He wrinkled his nose as he surveyed her tray. "Meatloaf special?"

"So they claim," she said. "What about you? Aren't you going to eat?"

Mark shook his head. "No, no time. I was passing by, saw you sitting here with only your charts and test results as company and thought I'd say hello. So, hello." His smile was charmingly disarming, showing just a hint of tooth. When he leaned closer to her, Addison could smell the faintest trace of musk on his skin.

Addison chuckled. "Hello." She finished the last of her creamed corn, grimacing as she did. "I'm glad you made time out of your busy schedule to see me, Dr. Sloan."

"It's my pleasure, Dr. Montgomery-Shepherd." Mark rose from his chair. "I'm only sorry it couldn't have stayed longer to watch you eat whatever the hell that reconstituted meat is, but hey, if things calm down and you and Derek are free later this week, let's have dinner, okay? Somewhere with real food that doesn't come out of a can?"

Addison nodded. "I'd like that."

Mark gave her a long look and for a moment, Addison felt unsettled. Then he smiled at her, and she let out her breath in a slow exhale.//

"What's holding you back? Is it Derek?" Sav's eyes widened. "You still love him."

"Yes." Addison leaned forward, resting her elbows and forearms on her jean-covered thighs. "If I could have talked to him just once, apologized, anything, I'd feel better about what was happening to us. I'd be better able to pack up our life together. But he just walked out, Sav. He just walked out and didn't look back. I had to learn from my former resident that Derek was in Seattle. How do you think that made me feel?"

Savvy didn't answer immediately. She finished stuffing newspaper into a Waterford vase and then gently laid it in the box. "It seems to me," she said finally, "that there's been enough hurt to go around. You're wrong if you don't think Derek's hurting too. He loved you, Addie."

"You say 'loved'," Addison said with some bitterness. "Isn't that odd? How you can be madly, wildly in love with someone one day, and then the next day, you can walk away and think of that love in the past tense, as something that no longer exists. Where does that emotion go? I didn't stop, Sav, and I haven't stopped. So you're wrong about Derek hurting. If he felt the way I did, he wouldn't have left the way he did. He would have stayed, and we would have fought, and at some point we might have come to this same point and you and I would still be standing here packing. But if he still loved me when he walked into our bedroom that night, he wouldn't have left. So don't tell me he hurts in the same way."

"I'm sorry."

Addison flinched. She was heartily sick of that word, sick of hearing it, sick of saying it. "Please, Sav. Don't."

"Don't what? You're my friend. Derek's my friend. Weiss and I saw what was happening to the two of you, we thought you'd pull it together. My God, you and Derek were our role models, the way a marriage of equals was supposed to be." Two bright splotches of pink appeared on Savvy's cheeks. "And if I can be honest, I don't know if I can forgive you for sleeping with Mark, for making me have to pick *sides*."

"I wasn't asking for your forgiveness or your support, only your elbow grease," Addison said shortly.

Savvy bit her lip. "Okay," she said. "I deserve that."

"I never intended to hurt Derek," Addison said. "But Mark, he was there, and he listened to me, made me laugh, and he remembered things I said to him, and he never said no when I needed him. Forgive me if I found that convincing, attractive, something to fill in the spaces in my marriage. I never intended to sleep with him. It just happened and at that moment, I let go, because I wanted to." Addison froze, and then slowly she repeated the words because she needed to hear them again. "I wanted to."

"Whatever you do, you have to be fair to Mark," Savvy said. "You can't lead him on."

"I plan to sign the divorce papers, don't worry," Addison said. The words came out surprisingly easily and with little pain. "My marriage is over. Derek's moved on and so must I." She smiled brightly and got to her feet. "Okay, I guess the dining room is next."


"We should take a vacation." Mark faced Addison. She kept staring resolutely ahead at the board. Her name was next to three surgeries, but he noticed the glint in her eye, saw that she was looking at the one open space three quarters of the way towards the bottom. Which meant that if she grabbed it, she wouldn't be home until well after 10, and he could pretty much kiss dinner plans good-bye.

"I was thinking we could go to Cape Cod," he continued, even though she'd given no indication that she'd even heard him. "Addie, are you listening?"

"I heard you, and right now, I can't take the time off. My caseload is pretty heavy right now."

"Your caseload is always heavy, Addie. You've been through a lot in the last couple of months. Maybe you should think about getting way. *We* could use the time away."

Addison paused, and turned to face him. "Mark, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I'm fine. We're fine."

"You're not acting fine. I hardly see you anymore. You leave early in the morning, and if you come home at all, it's after midnight. Sometimes, I think you've taken up permanent residence in an on-call room." Mark took a deep breath. He hadn't expected it to be this way, not after Addison had finally sold the house, moved in with him. He had this romantic vision of candlelight dinners, of slow-dancing in his spacious living room, cuddling in bed together.
But he couldn't remember the last meal they'd shared outside of the hospital cafeteria and even those meals were hurried affairs. How times had changed.

//"So dinner tonight?" Mark asked casually. He leaned against the nurses' desk and he noticed Addison was looking him up and down, appraisingly. He wondered what she was thinking. "I talked to Derek a little while ago to see if he wanted to grab some dinner. He says he can't get away, but that doesn't mean you and I need to be cooped up. It's a beautiful spring evening, perfect for a street café."

Addison's assent was slow, but deliberate. "Okay," she said finally. She scrawled her name –- Addison Forbes Montgomery-Shepherd –- at the bottom of the chart she was reading. "I need a shorter signature." She glanced over her shoulder at him. "Do you have somewhere in particular in mind?"

"Anywhere you want to go. Your choice, your night."

"That's very generous of you."

"I try," Mark said.

Addison eyed him critically. "You know, you've changed," she said. "You're not the complete ass you were back in medical school." She briefly thumbed through another chart, and then said, "Italian would be nice."

"How about Carina's?"


They walked side by side on the sidewalk and in no particular rush. Mark enjoyed the slower pace; they spent way too much time at the hospital running from emergency to emergency. There was no wait at the family-owned café, and Mark asked for an outdoors table. Addison shed her coat, and looked around happily.

"If you hadn't asked me for dinner, I'd probably have gone home, heated up a Lean Cuisine, and eaten it in front of the television. You know, the usual dinner menu and entertainment program chez Shepherd," she said.

"I'm glad I saved you from that fate. Life is too short for processed food." Mark lifted his wine glass to hers. "Cheers. Or is it salut?"

"The sentiment is the same and appreciated," Addison said. For once, she didn't look distracted or upset, and when her pager beeped, she checked it and shook her head. "It's Derek. I'll call him later." She smiled. "I hear this place has a great chocolate mousse."

"You're planning to order dessert for dinner?"

"Life is short. Might as well skip ahead to the good stuff."

"Or," Mark said, and without thinking (or perhaps it was the wine thinking), he reached across the red-checked tablecloth and covered her hand in his. She didn't pull away. "Or you could say life is too short for just one course. And that we should enjoy every bite, from the hors d'oeuvres to the dessert."

"That sounds very European," Addison said. She settled back in her chair. "But it'll also take hours."

"What's the rush?" He braced himself, knowing she'd answer that she had to get home for Derek. But she merely tipped her head to the side.

"I'm not in any rush," she said softly. "But can you put up with me for that long?"

Mark swallowed hard. "As long as you'll have me," he said. When he squeezed her hand, she smiled.//

"Do we have to do this here?" Addison gestured. There were patients, nurses and other doctors in the hallway. "Lower your voice."

"If not here, there where? You won't talk to me at home, that's when you actually remember to come home." Mark paused. He didn't care, he realized, if anyone heard them. "What are you trying to prove, Addie? Trying to take over the title of busiest surgeon in the hospital now that Derek's left and it's up for grabs?"

Addison glared at him. "We're short-staffed. You know how it goes in the summer. People taking time off to be with their families—-"

"I know, but it's not up to *you* to hold this hospital together. You're not a machine. You need a break too."

"Soon," Addison said. And she picked up the blue marker and wrote her name into the empty space. "Look, it's going to calm down soon and it'll be fine. My surgeries aren't elective, Mark--"

"Mine aren't always either, you know."

"Don't get mad."

"I'm not getting mad, it's just that I wondering if you even need me." The words slipped out and Mark felt his face heating up. Who was he fooling anyway? He stood there, his heart pounding, knowing he really, really didn't want her answer. "I don't know what else I can do." Mark swallowed hard. "I'm not sure how much longer I want to wait."

"Wait for what? You asked me to move in with you, I am. I'm selling the house, I'm getting rid of Derek's things, and I'm meeting with lawyers, and in a couple of weeks, I'll be a free woman again. I don't know what you're waiting for, Mark. I don't know what else you want from me."

"A gesture would be nice, something that says I mean to you what you mean to me."

"That's not fair. It's competitive and unfair."

"I need a sign, Addie."

"Or what?" She threw up her hands in exasperation. "I get it that you're upset, Mark. I get that you're not happy that I'm mourning the loss of marriage, that I hurt the man I love--"


Addison glared at him and Mark wondered if he'd gone too far. "You have to let me absorb this new reality, Mark."

"I love you."

Addison's face softened. "I know you do." In a rare display of public affection, she put her hands on his cheeks and leaned down and brushed her lips quickly against his. The touch was soft, sweet, and tender. "I'm not ready to say those words back to you. It doesn't mean I won't, it just means I'm not ready."

"Okay," he said, trying hard to push away his disappointment. He knew Addison cared -- deeply -- for him, but he had said it himself: does anyone love anyone as much as they should?

"I'll make it up to you," Addison said finally. "This weekend, okay? We'll do something this weekend." She capped the marker and walked away, the sound of her heels receding as the distance between them grew. It was only later that Mark realized that as in so many times before, Addison had neglected to answer his question.


Addison lay in bed, unable to sleep. Mark's bed felt different to her, too soft -- mattress and pillow both. And there were a new set of noises to get used to-- the hum of the air conditioner, the creaking in the walls as the building settled, the occasional rattle of the pipes. Mark called the various moans and groans of his apartment "character, a testament to the history this building has witnessed," but Addison found the sounds strangely unsettling. She rolled over and touched Mark's shoulder gently.

"Hey," she said. "Are you awake?"


"I want to talk to you."

"Now? I ask to talk at dinner, you say not now, and three in the morning, you want to talk?"

"You sound awake to me."


She let out a sigh. The shadows crisscrossed the room, faint light from the street streaming in through the gaps between the window sills and the blinds. She tried to make out the unfamiliar objects -- the shadowy black box was the dresser, then to the left of that was the entertainment system, complete with an Xbox, and then the closet with the mirrored doors (she'd never thought of Mark as the mirror-type, but he assured her those doors had come with the apartment), and the armchair in the corner.

"Okay," Mark said. He reached over and turned on the light. Addison blinked. "What do you want to talk about?"

"You and me."


"You can stop saying 'okay'. It throws me off-balance when you're being agreeable."

"I'm quite often agreeable. It's part of my charm."

"I'm serious, Mark." She propped herself up on one arm and looked down at him. He offered her a smile. "I'm grateful. Don't think I'm not."

"I'm not looking for your gratitude, Addie. You know that."

"You've been there for me. I know you have. You deserve better than I've been treating you."

"I won't argue with that."

The confirmation stung, but Addison didn't flinch. "So here's the thing. There's you and there's me, and somehow, we have to figure out we're doing together."

"I've already figured it out." Mark pressed his lips into a thin line and then he said, "I don't want to be your rebound guy, Addison, the guy you use to get over the guy you really love. I don't want to be the default, your second choice." He stared down at his hands. "That's something I've struggling with these last few weeks -- the fact you're going through the motions, but I don't know, I really don't know where you stand."

"I don't either, Mark, to be honest." She pressed her lips together. "I don't want to hurt you." She gave a short laugh. "There's a lot of hurt to go around, isn't there?"

"Yeah," he said. "I've got an early morning, Addie." He leaned towards her and gave her a perfunctory kiss on the lips. "We can talk then, okay?"

"There's something you should know," she said.

"Tell me in the morning." Mark rolled over, tugging at the covers as he did so.

"That sounds exactly like something Derek would say," Addison said bitterly. She knew the comparison would hurt Mark, but at this moment, she didn't care.

//"So what did you want to talk about?" Derek sat on the park bench. "What was so important anyway?" It was a cool March day. The wind whistled through the streets, and there were puddles of melted snow along the walkways. Addison hunched her shoulders. She would have much preferred to talk in the comfort of their home, but it was impossible to pin Derek down these days. Catching him on his morning run through Central Park seemed to be the safest option.

"You and me," Addison said quietly. She shoved her hands deep into her pockets. "Where have you been, Derek?"

"I've been right here."

"No, you haven't been. You haven't been for a while. And I just thought if you could tell me what was going on with you--"

"There's nothing going on." Derek got up and walked a few steps away from her. "Look, it's been busy--"

"You keep saying that. I don't know what it means. I mean, rationally and logically I do, but I can't help get the feeling you're pushing me away, Derek."

"Don't be sensitive."

"I'm not being sensitive. I'm trying to tell you how I feel." She took a tentative step towards him. "I want to fix this, but I don't know how because I don't know what's happened to us, and I can't do it alone. I can't be the only thing holding us together, Derek." She held her hand out to him. "Please," she said. "Talk to me." She stared at him, wondering what he was thinking. The silence scared her and she hunched her shoulders, pretending that the cold was the only thing that bothered her.

"Okay," Derek said finally. "How about tonight? I have to get to the hospital."

Addison bit her lip. "Tonight's the fundraiser. It'll be late. As the keynote speaker, I won't be able to slip out, and we'll be tired by the time we get home."

"Okay, tomorrow then." He flashed a smile at her. "I promise." He took her outstretched hand; his fingers were cold against hers.//


"You're going to Seattle."

Addison tipped her head to the side as she stared across the lounge at Mark, defiance clearly etched across her face. She was going to Seattle and Mark knew there was nothing he could do to stop her. Perhaps these last two or three months, perhaps it was all building to this singular moment, the moment where he finally lost Addison. It seemed impossible to him that Addison could resist Derek or even that Derek could resist her. Mark stood in the door, not trusting himself to come any closer to her. He leaned against the jamb, his attempt at casualness.

"Just for a couple weeks. Richard wants me on a consult," Addison said.

"Why you?" he tried to sound calm, when he was feeling anything but. Clearly, Addison had known about this trip for a while now, because her suitcase was packed, and he could see she'd written out copious notes on the charts she was leaving behind. He wondered exactly how long she'd known, and why she'd only chosen to inform him of her trip minutes before the car service came to take her to JFK.

Addison looked surprised. "Because I'm the best," she said. It always surprised Mark how she could repeatedly make that assertion -- which was true -- and not sound conceited. That was part of what he adored about her, the genuine warmth backed by solid credentials which tempered what others might perceive as arrogance. Me, Mark thought with some bitterness, I just come off as a jackass nine point nine times out of ten.

"I see," Mark said. He took a step forward. "You'll be gone two weeks?"

"About that, yes."

"And you'll see Derek?"

"That's a very good possibility, given that we'll be at the same hospital and Seattle Grace isn't really that big a hospital. I've been calling him all morning."


Addison shrugged. "He's not answering." She shook her head. "Though why should this time be any different than any time before this?" She finished putting her charts into her briefcase. "This trip will be good for me, for us. It'll be the closure I've been looking for." She showed him a manila folder. "I'm taking the divorce papers. We'll sign them there and then it'll be over."

Finally, Mark thought, but instead he offered, "Call me if you need anything."

Addison's expression was pensive. "You know I will." She slung her bag over her shoulder. She was all in black, and Mark decided not to read too much into her clothing. "Take care, Mark." There was no promise in the kiss she placed on his cheek, though it was soft, gentle, and sweet as always.

"I'll miss you," he said.

Addison gave him a long searching look and then she nodded. "I'll see you in two weeks."

//Addison was standing by the nurses' station. Her hair was loose around her shoulders, contrasting nicely with her green evening dress. She looked at her watch and then bit her lip pensively. Mark inhaled sharply and walked towards her.

"Addison, *Addie*," he said.

She stared at him in confusion. "You're… you're dressed up." Then she smiled tentatively. "Not that I don't find you highly attractive or even sexy in a tux, but--"

"Derek's not coming."


"He's not coming."

"It's the annual fundraiser," she said. "People will be expecting him."

"He said something came up." Mark took her arm in his and pulled her away from the desk. "He says he's sorry, asked me to go with you, said to wish you good luck on your speech."

"He can't come?" Addison put her fingers to her lips. Her brow wrinkled, her eyes half-closing. Mark didn't care who saw; he put his arm around Addison's shoulders and firmly propelled her into one of the on-call rooms. He closed the door.

"Okay," he said. "Have at it."

Addison shook her head resolutely. "I'm not going to be that woman," she said. She sniffed a little and then said with a trace of bitter laughter, "Besides, I don't want to redo my make-up."

"You're going to do fine," Mark said. "I've heard your speech. It's fantastic, and you look fantastic. You'll be fine. Better than fine."

Addison, looking unconvinced and unhappy, nodded slowly. "We'd better catch a cab. I can't be late."

"You are, after all, the guest of honor," Mark said, opening the door with a gallant bow. "After you."

"It's just a 20-minute speech, no big deal," Addison said quietly. She looked at Mark. "Right?"

"Right. No big deal. You speak, there'll be applause and maybe some dancing if the band's any good. We'll drink some champagne, I'll bring you home, and we'll call it a night." Mark smiled at her. "No big deal."//

~ the end

Feedback always appreciated at or in my LJ.

Back to Grey's Anatomy fic page

Read more of Seema's Fanfic