Author's Note: Sets after Archer's surgery in season 5 of Grey's Anatomy, but doesn't follow any events of Private Practice.
Disclaimer: All Shonda Rhimes'.
If he weren't already in love with the trembling angel in front of him, he'd fall for her now, hoping to never hit the ground. Knowing he probably will, because even if that white dress so perfectly hugging her body and her auburn hair cascading down her back in natural curls both make her look like a fallen angel, she's actually the devil.
Yet he couldn't help but love her, despite the fact that he was in for another round of heartbreaking. For a moment, they took each other in; the past lovers who still held so much power above the other.
When she finally spoke, her voice was as sharp as a dagger: "I hate you, Derek Christopher Shepherd."
Yet she came to him, crying.
6 days earlier...
Amelia called between surgeries. Seeing her name on the screen made him uneasy, they hadn't been close since, well, since she wrecked his car and almost killed herself, and he couldn't help but put the words "Amy" and "trouble" into one sentence now. Still, he picked up.
"Amy." Sighed. "What did you do?"
In L.A., Amelia Shepherd rolled her eyes and asked herself why she was doing this. She had changed, she worked through her problems but each time she heared her brother's voice, always sounding so tired, she knew to him she was just the twisted little sister who wrecked his car.
"Hello Derek.", she said, "L.A. is great, I'm good, thanks for asking."
"What, is it too much for you to talk for two minutes to your little sister whom you haven't seen since you fled from New York?"
"No, of course not. Just... Not now. I'm between surgeries."
"So am I. But I think you'll want to hear this. Addison is getting married again."
Derek leaned against the wall behind him for support, suddenly feeling like the air got knocked out of him. It became hot in here, too, and he couldn't t get enough oxygen into his lungs and...
Addison is getting married again.
The words rang in his ears.
Addison is getting married again.
They wormed their way into his brain, sounding so... wrong.
" Addison is getting married again?"
Even as he whispered them, he couldn't wrap his head around them.
Addison is getting married again.
And why did that even concern him? He hadn't seen her since Archer's surgery a few month prior. She was his ex-wife, for god's sake, he let her go for good and if she wanted to, she could marry another man. There was no reason in the world for him to feel like he was about to get sick any minute, right?
"...Derek?", Amelia's voice seemed to come from far, far away and it took a little while for him to register that she had said his name and even longer to snap out of it.
"Are you still there?"
"Yes." No. His thoughts were going a mile a minute. Thoughts he was not supposed to think because they suddenly all circled around Addie as if she'd still be the center of his world.
Stop, he chided himself, Addison is getting married again and it's none of your business. End of the story.
"Why are you telling me this?"
Amelia squirmed. She had dreaded that question, because really, she didn't have an answer. Or maybe she had too many.
It could be because she just couldn't see Addison getting married to a man she had only known for 6 months; a man who was most likely the complete opposite of the redhead, and wanted her brother to talk some sense into his ex-wife because Addie wasn't listening to her.
Maybe it was because Amelia still couldn't think of a sentence including Addison without Derek being added in the same breath.
So many answers, but she settled on the easiest: "Just thought you should know."
A pause on the other end of the line. Then:
"And how is this... fiance of hers?"
"Nice. Smart. Good-looking. He's a banker and... well, I don't think they have much in common. But, you know what? See for yourself."
"Wait – are you inviting me to Los Angeles to check out my ex-wife's fiance? Seriously?"
"That, and I'd really like to see my big brother. Believe it or not, I missed you."
Hearing her say that, he realized he had been missing his baby sister too, somewhere deep inside. So he answered: "Okay. I'll see what I can do."
"You own a house on the beach?", Derek asked, puzzled as he and Amelia emerged her car a few hours later. He had done it; he had requested a few days off for 'personal reasons' and took the next Red Eye to L.A.
"Ah, no. It's Addison's. I live with her."
In retrospect – maybe that wasn't one of his brightest ideas.
"And... Addie's okay with me living here?"
Amelia turned to open the door, so her brother wouldn't see her pause while she searched for the right words. Because the truth was: Addison didn't even know that her ex-husband was in town.
"It won't bother her.", she finally said, letting him in, "Addie lives with her fiance anyway."
Amelia showed him around and ended her short tour with pushing a door open and saying: "Now, this is your room. I'll be downstairs, searching for something to eat that's not old take out... or cat food."
His sister retreated and Derek sank onto the bed, taking the room in. It had Addison written all over it, from the open book on her nightstand to the furniture's color.
She seemed to be in every corner, curled up on the chaise reading, standing in front of her wardrobe exclaiming that there is absolutely nothing inside that matches her new shoes or leaning against the balcony's balustrade watching the sunset.
Her scent still lingered on the pillow as he discovered now, even if she hadn't set foot in here for months according to Amelia.
Suddenly, it was all too much to take in, so he left and went downstairs.
It's easier there because even if Addison had left her imprints, they were now overshadowed by Amelia's presence and for that he was grateful.
He found his sister outside, sitting on a deckchair and staring at the ocean. It's peaceful, he thought as he sat down next to her. He understood why Addie came here after their divorce.
Amelia sent a smile his way. "I ordered pizza."
"So... how's your intern? Addie said you were going to propose to her."
"She's not "my intern" and she's a resident now. I think she's okay. Dunno. We broke up."
Amelia raised her eyebrows. "Oh. Uhm... I'm sorry?"
Derek nudged her. "No, you're not."
The next morning Amelia took him to see the practice.
But as soon as they emerged the elevator, all Derek could see was his ex-wife standing at the reception desk, going through her appointments.
Addison turned around, probably about to go into the kitchen – and blue eyes meet stunned emerald ones. For a moment, they looked in silence at each other, before she broke it by asking: "Derek?"
He smiled the dreamy smile he hadn't graced her with in years and she couldn't help but smile back.
"What are you doing here?"
Derek shrugged. "I'm just visiting my sister."
"You do?" Despite it's directed at him, Addison looked at Amelia, an eyebrow raised. "I didn't know that."
At least Amelia had the decency to blush a little when she said: "Surprise?"
Addison nodded. "Yeah, certainly."
All three fell silent, all for different reasons.
Amelia because she wanted to see this scene being played out undirected by her.
Addison because she just didn't know what to say. Once upon a time, it had been the easiest thing in the world to talk to Derek, the words had always come so naturally. But since their divorce, well, it had changed. If they talked, then they tried to avoid for it to get too personal in fear of a shouting match or tears,so, it was mostly about medicine. But he hadn't come to L.A. for something medical, she couldn't hide behind facts or treatment plans. She was exposed now, but way more fatal was that the tiny box she had put him into after their divorce hadn't really been closed after Archer's surgery. It could lose its cover anytime now.
Derek on the other hand did know perfectly well what he wanted Addison to hear, he was just struggling to find the right words. Ah, to hell with that. Between the both of them, Addie had been the more eloquent one anyway. So he just ripped the band-aid off:
"So, I've heard you're getting married. Congratulations."
For a second, Addison looked like a deer caught in the headlight.
"I, uh, yes. Ah, thanks. In five days and..." She felt vibration on her hip and looked down.
Saved by the pager. Amelia's went off as well.
Addison smiled sweetly at her ex-husband and said: "It's the hospital, sorry. I'll see you around." Then, she grabbed Amelia by the arm and all but shoved her into the elevator.
"You told him, didn't you?", she hissed once the doors were closed.
Amelia freed herself and leaned against the wall. "So what. It's not a secret."
Addison ran her hand through her hair, frustrated. "No. Just... It should have been me. It's my wedding, I decide when to tell my ex-husband."
"But would you have done it?"
No. Maybe one day, when she was bound to run into him on a medical crisis in Seattle anyway.
"I, for one, would like to know if the person I loved for a big part of my adult life, the person I once thought about as my best friend, is going to get married again. And I would like to know it before the wedding, so maybe I'd get the chance to express my happiness. Not someday." Amelia sighed. "I remember a time where the two of you told each other absolutely everything. But now you can't even tell Derek about your second wedding. What happened, Addie?"
Indeed, what happened. Too much in their daily life as doctors, too less in their relationship. A fairytale gone bad, that was what happened.
"I have news for you, Amelia.",Addison snapped, "We're divorced. My life is not Derek's business anymore."
Addison might have been right, but it didn't necessarily mean that Derek didn't turn it into his business on purpose.
As she returned to the practice after successfully treating twins with TTTS, she found that Derek was still there... and currently talking to her fiance... who came to pick her up an hour ago. Damn.
Addison took a deep breath and walked up to them. "Hey.", she smiled, "The two of you aren't sharing embarrassing stories about me, are you?"
"Hello Addison.", her fiance gave her a kiss on the cheek, "Derek here was just telling me about your fascination with the viewfinders in Seattle. You really go search for them in every city you visit?"
Addison nodded, well aware of the 'I told you so' look in Derek's eyes.
"Can we get out of here?", she asked, "I'm starving."
They bit Derek goodbye, leaving him staring at their retreating figures.
Addison was just about to go to bed, when she got the call. A multi-vehicle accident, a 35-weeks pregnant woman in labor suffering from an intercranial hemorrhage.
While slipping her shoes on, she dialed her home number. "Come on, Amelia. Pick up.", she murmured, reaching for her coat.
It kept ringing three times, but finally, finally someone picked up.
"Amelia?", Addison asked, hurrying out of the apartment she shared with her fiance.
"No, this is Derek. Amy got paged half an hour ago."
"Damn.", she sighed, tapping her food while impatiently waiting for the elevator.
"Is... everything alright?"
"No, of course not, Derek!" She knew it was unfair that she was losing her temper and letting it out on him, but she couldn't help it. "St. Ambrose is short on neurosurgeons these days, I just got a mom in labor and I need someone to stop the hemorrhage in her brain -"
"I could do it.", he interjected.
"Oh, thank you, Derek. Thank you."
Everything for you, he thought while hanging up and calling a cab, still everything for you, Addie.
She briefed him on their way to the OR; easily falling back into their routine.
When they operate together, it's like their lives outside don't exist. Here, they are a team, no matter what. It's a well-known choreography, no need for words, but tonight they both thought it was time to come clean.
Making the first incision, Addison asked: "So... how's Meredith?"
"Okay I guess. I haven't really spoken to her. We broke up a few weeks after Archer's surgery."
"Oh... I'm sorry, I – why?"
"I guess I finally saw the person she really is, not the one I wanted her to be. In the end, we were just too different."
"Is that why you came out here?"
"I told you, I came to visit my sister."
"Yeah, but I know you and Amelia. The two of you wouldn't exactly get the siblings-of -the-year- award, if there was one. So, did you?"
Derek shrugged. "Probably, yes. But... I also came for you. I know I shouldn't interfere with your life, it's just... we used to look out for each other, not only as lovers but also as friends. It's something we can't stop easily, I mean I know you walked up to Meredith and basically threatened to kick her ass if she didn't start fighting for me. I guess I just wanted to know if he's the guy you deserve."
Behind her mask, Addison smiled. "That's... sweet.", she said, "So you think he's the right guy?"
"I hear a big BUT. Aspirator, please."
"But he's certainly not the type I'd see you settle down with. Why him, Addie?"
For a few seconds she just concentrated on cutting, her thoughts going a mile a minute. At last she said: "He's... safe. This may not be a crazy, all consuming love, but at least I won't be left shallow if it ends. He's a nice guy who'll never hurt me and that's all I'm asking for."
He understood her reasoning, after all that was exactly what had drawn him to Meredith after Addison's betrayal: an easy love. And it stayed easy – until all the secrets unraveled, poisoned the relationship and showed who they really were.
"Nice he is.", Derek agreed, "But do you know him well enough to marry him? And does he know you? Because when I talked to him it didn't seem so. He didn't know about the viewfinders. I bet he doesn't know that you used to play piano and tennis as a child either. And did you tell him that one of your favorite dishes is Mac'n'Cheese because it's like the only thing you can cook?"
Addison shook her head. "He knows the important stuff.", she said, "As for the other things – we've got the rest of our lives to figure them out, don't we?"
The rest of our lives.
She had been pacing her office all afternoon, not able to stop thinking about what she had said to Derek yesterday.
The rest of our lives.
What did that mean – 30, 40 years with some nice enough guy?
That somehow had sounded more appealing when she was about to marry Derek.
Stop second-guessing yourself, Addison chided herself, those are just cold feet.
You might haven't had them with Derek, but seriously – we were hardly grown up then, two residents madly in love, thinking we could change the world.
Just because that went wrong doesn't mean this marriage will go to hell as well. It's different, this time around. Completely. Different.
And you want this.
You want this.
"Hey!", Amelia came rushing in, all dressed up, "You ready for the bachelorette party of the year?"
Addison sighed inaudibly. "Sure."
Sam had taken pity on Derek, after Amelia had thrown him out for the night of Addison's party. The neurosurgeon sat on Sam's patio, looking up at his ex-wife's house. He thought about crashing the party, whisking Addison away and telling her that she was about to make a huge mistake. That she shouldn't settle for second best, if she could have crazy, all consuming love. He wanted her to know that, when she came to Seattle all those months agosomething inside him changed. Or more likely, with their friends around singing her love song, something fell back into place. He had forgiven her and was finally able to see that she was there, the woman he had fallen in love with. The woman he still loved. He had tried to ignore the feelings, tried to go back to the blissful state of denial. Just, he couldn't. Because there had been this ring sitting on his nightstand in the trailer; the ring his mother gave him for Meredith.
He brought it with him to L.A., the ring that had always been Addison's, and was toying with it now.
Maybe it was time to give it to its rightful owner.
He rose, fully intend on going over, as the glass door to her patio got opened and Addison stepped out. She looked a bit feverish; her hair was all messy and the pink tiara looked like it would fall down any minute. She was fiddling with her 'bride to be' shirt as she came over.
"Derek.", she said and he could smell the alcohol in her breath, as she came to stand right in front of him, invading his personal space. Not that he did mind.
"Would you take me home with you and, say, hide out with me in your trailer, if I asked you to?"
Yes, he wanted to say, anytime. Instead he answered: "You're drunk, Addison."
She ignored him. "Because, I feel like this wedding is a mistake. A huuuuuge mistake. So say no if I ask you to run away with me. Tell me I'm doing the right thing. Tell me."
Derek sighed. "Addie, you can't ask me to do that. Because, I love you, okay? Still, after all this years. Only, I haven't realized it until after Archer's surgery and then it was already too late. I've messed up royally, so many times."
"No, hear me out. I'm not thrilled about your wedding. If you were to ask me to go to Seattle and hide in the trailer, I could never say no to you. I love you, Addie. And because I do, I want you to be happy. I know you'll be happier with him then with me because in the end, all I ever do is causing you pain. So get married, you have my blessing or whatever. But before you go, I need you to have this.", he put the ring into her palm and closed her fingers around it, " It's always been yours anyway. Take it as your something old or throw it away, I don't care."
Her eyes traveled from her fist back to his face, tears shining in them.
"Will you be there tomorrow?"
He shook his head. "No, I won't. I can't see you getting married to another man.", he leaned down a bit and kissed her, before whispering "Goodbye, Addie." and going back into Sam's house.
The bride in the mirror looked like an overtired, clad in a white dress version of herself who tried to plaster a smile on her face that never quiet reached the eyes.
Was that how a woman who would marry was supposed to look?
Someone knocked on her door.
"Come on in!", she yelled.
It was Naomi. "Aww, look at you.", she gushed, "Absolutely stunning."
"Thank you.", Addison murmured, straightening her dress, "Hey, Nae – did Derek show up?"
"No, sweetie. Do you want us to wait for him?"
What had she been thinking? That he'd change his mind?
"No, it's okay.", she said softly and rose from the chair in front of the mirror, "Let's get this show on the road."
'Here comes the bride' was being played as she walked down the aisle. She was halfway down to the altar as her eyes settled on the groom.
I can't see you getting married to another man., she heard Derek say.
Derek, who had been on her mind all day long.
Derek, whose kiss was the only sharp memory of yesterday's events.
Can I see myself getting married to another man?, she asked herself, slowing down.
Can I spent the rest of my life with someone who doesn't know me at all because I'm afraid to open up?
Can I marry someone I'm not in love with?
She stopped. Looked at the man at the altar, waiting for her.
No. This was wrong.
Addison turned around and ran.
That's it for now, but it will be at least a two-parter. Thoughts?