Episode: 1x01 Hard Day's Night


chapter two: horse of a different color

"So, what's your story?" he asks.

"My...story?" she echoes, stalled for a cavalier quip that's never let her down before.

Who asks that, of a stranger? Meets it with undivided attention and genuine interest in a bar, where even here people are still looking past each other. She looks at Joe, who's moved farther away, at the people passing behind them on their way in or out, and at him, who's watching her expression with good-humor, like he can see her debating.

The story of Mari Grey, she thinks. Yikes.

Why she's in this bar. Or this city. Why she's starting a job where Ellis Grey made her start. At a surgical hospital. Basically, the premier surgical hospital on the West coast. Why that's a big deal. Why is she even a doctor then? Why did she say yes to living in a house that had once been a broken home, with a sister who rather run.

There are too many thorns in that story to untangle them all.

She fiddles with the Queen of Hearts between her fingers, stops herself from intentionally knocking down the house of cards she built, just for distraction. "I don't know," she decides, "I'm new here. That's the point of being new, right?"

"Ah." He says like she's being philosophical, profound. Like he's embracing being a person with an unscripted story. He's in a dive bar, in an expensive red silk shirt, intentionally left untucked, open at the chest. Not like he's taken off a suit jacket, or a tie that choked him after a hard day at work, but like he wants to be purposely disheveled. Tired of neat, when his nails and his hair, show he is fastidious about personal hygiene, maybe even a little high-maintenance, used to fine things. Drinking single malt in a sticky bar built on rounds of shots and pitchers of beer.

New to Seattle too.

"I think I might buy a motorcycle," she grabs an impulse.

"Oh, no," he shakes his head.

She raises her brows in bemusement.

"See this scar?" he points to his forehead, just over his left eye. She leans closer, not helped by the low bar lights and the reflection of buzzing neon, only minorly distracted that he's watching her. There is a scar. Barely. Stitched by someone who knew what they were doing. "This is why I don't ride motorcycles. First time and I hit a tree."

"Poor tree," she murmurs, lips curling. She tilts her head, thinks of something else the Seattle version of her could enjoy. The girl she doesn't know yet. She's close enough to see his eyes aren't as dark as she thought, more of a silver-y blue. "I might start running," and there's enough honesty in it, to mean something less casual. "On the trails," she clarifies, in the brief pause.

He hums, tilting his head slightly in concert, understanding. "I'm going to fish. I've always wanted to really learn. Spinning, bait cast, overhead, telescopic. Fly fishing."

"So. You don't ride motorcycles and you can't fish."

He laughs. "Yet. And I have…. other, qualities," he grins, eyes crinkling in his self-conscious flirtation.

"Singing? Dancing?"

He coughs, "uh, no. Badly."

Dare, she thinks. But that's entirely contingent on seeing him again, and she's known him for five minutes.

"Play an instrument?"

He ruffles the back of his hair, an indecisive breath escaping him as he debates truth and lie.

She tilts her head, a smile playing, wondering which he'll try.

"I played sax…in high school. In marching band."

"Marching band," she echoes. "with the…" she flickers her fingers, drawing an image.

"With the uniforms. And the hat." He laughs at himself.

She glances away, for a quick second, considering how she should play along to what in truth is a cultural disconnect. She didn't experience high school. Didn't ever tire of the travel the way Meredith did, when she chose boarding school. In college, the marching band was the best part of the half-time show. Was it seen so differently, in high school? She fakes being magnanimous, to let it slide without comment, when she really doesn't know how to counter with the tease he expects from her.

"Favorite band?"

"You like music," he realizes, eyes dancing at the discovery.

She flushes, feeling that heady thrum that comes from meeting someone who looks and listens and finds any of it worthy of note.

"So, this answer is important," he guesses. "It's going to tell you something about me."

She clears her throat. "Answers tend to do that."

"Perhaps I should wait then."

She lifts her brows. Until what?

She waits, curious as his chest expands with a heavier inhale, as the fingers of his right hand tap against the bar top.

"For the second date."

A laugh bubbles out of her. Second date, as if this chance encounter was the first? "Not the third?" She parries, as an allusion to the date typically associated with intimacy.

"No. Third date is when I show off my impressive, newly acquired, fly fishing skills."

She laughs. He laughs too, like he can't help it.

"You still have…fourteen questions, I think, if you're going for the full twenty," he encourages. That wasn't quite her intention, but she likes the idea. A game of Twenty Questions to ease her nerves, absorb and distract. She wonders if he's mathematically inclined and so, using a similar tactic.

She picks a different vein, but still in the realm of first date conversation topics.

"Can you…finish a crossword?"

"If I cheat."

"Do you smoke?"

"Occasionally. With a very good cigar."

With the rising stance to ban smoking indoors, most casual smokers are reluctant to admit to the habit. Would think no was honest enough.

Lies, hedging, omissions, are interesting, but she's a moth to a flame, when it comes to honesty.

"Favorite color?"

He takes more time to commit to this answer. For a split second she wonders if he'll choose the flirtatious answer about her eyes or what she's wearing. "Blue. But not light blue. Indigo."

"Favorite book?"

"Sun Also Rises."

She twists her mouth, trying to recall it. "Was it a sad or happy ending?"

He pauses, the moment carrying more weight than she expected. "Sad," he says, slightly subdued, touching his scotch for the first time since he's sat next to her.

If he's learned that she especially likes music, she's learned that something in the ending of this book she hasn't read, mirrors a sadness in him.

She looks at the bartop, wondering what she should say.

The house of cards, nearly finished, sits before her.

Maybe she doesn't have to say anything.

She slides the Queen of Hearts, still a blade in her fidgeting hand, into the center.

He watches the house of cards tumble, with a shadow cast over his eyes.

"So," she regards the wreckage with potential "how steady are your hands?"


Meredith comes in, in her slinky black dress, and her strappy heels, and moves to the bar like she's done it a hundred times before. She orders tequila, straight. The bartender looks over her head, towards Mari who's moved away from the bar to a table, as he pours.

She doesn't have to pull out her phone to know that Meredith hasn't called her. Might have never intended to, or did, but only after.

"Everything okay?" Derek asks.

She looks at him blankly, not sure what to think yet.

"Do you have any siblings?"

His brows raise. "Four sisters."

She 'huh's, but her attention is drawn back to her one sister's head. He says something but she doesn't hear it.

She turns back to him reluctantly, with dropped shoulders, and a bitten lip. "I'm sorry, Really - it's just…" She wants to stay, but –

She needs to know what her life is going to be like, here with Meredith. If she's going to go back to living with an alcoholic, or at the very least a frequent, or just sometimes drunk. Cleaning her up, and the messes, and the mood swings, and the things that get broken. Getting her in the shower and sleeping with the door open so she can hear her snore and know she's still breathing, that she's still on her side and won't asphyxiate. And caring for someone, who resents that she's a witness to it all.

He sees something, in her face, some tie that's pulling her away and he nods, slowly, understanding. "You have to leave."

The cards are neatly stacked on the table, foxed and worn, and bent beyond repair. Joe could use a new set. She's determined then, to gift him one.

She writes her name and number on the battered Queen of Hearts, swallowing her nerves.

"So, you know, you don't take me running, the wrong way," and just as quickly as she slides it over, she's out of her seat, and gone.


Meredith says, "you had to get away too?" like they've stumbled on common ground, like there's nothing strange about her sister standing at her shoulder.

Mari isn't sure what she means. "What do you think I'm getting away from?" She asks slowly, confused.

"You know," she gestures absently with her wrist, her speech more relaxed than she was before the mixer, wine and tequila on her breath. "The house. The boxes. My boxes, and your boxes, and Mom's boxes."

The house. The house Meredith doesn't want to unpack, the master bedroom she's half-heartedly claimed. The house she said she'd rather sell.

"No, I was just…waiting for you," she decides, careful with her words.

Meredith wrinkles her nose. "I stayed as long as I could. I smiled. I smooched. I hated it."

"Was it weird being there?" She wonders, licking her lip, pushing to see how deep Meredith's unease runs beneath the still surface.

The question causes a grimace. "I don't know," she downs a shot, making a gesture to Joe for another one. "Yeah, sort of. I mean, not yet, because nobody knows yet, but.." there's bitterness layered under the resignation.

Derek comes up to the bar, on her other side. He settles his bill with Joe.

"We could have gone together," Meredith muses aloud. "If you hadn't been such an overachiever. Or if I hadn't of been an underachiever. We'd be doing this together. Or I would be ahead of you, and you could actually come to me for advice, ya know?"

With other drunks in her life, musing is how it starts, before buried resentment starts to pour out like a weeping wound. She has a keen ear for it. Not yet, but her spine is ramrod straight, waiting.

"There's no wrong time to start something," she says, for lack of anything else to say, wondering how Meredith doesn't realize they are doing this together.

Meredith pauses, looking down at her empty glass. "Very inspirational. You should put that on a poster. With like, a cat."

Derek leans slightly, not close enough to feel him, and whispers good luck. She keeps her eyes cast on the line of liquor behind the bar, her hands folded in front of her.

Meredith is focused on the bartender, waiting. She's drunk each shot straight, in one gulp. Feast or famine. Will probably continue until the bartender chooses to stop serving.

She's taken the best part of her night, and might have given the impression, in her withdrawn silence, that she didn't want to see it again. Last impressions are the ones that stand out, and instead of an unfinished, trailing note, a mood of promise, she pulled a full stop. To learn something about Meredith that she didn't want to know. To lower her guard with tequila, and pose careful questions to her that won't change their relationship at all, just Mari's understanding of it.

She could sit next to her, drink with her, try to create an artificial camaraderie. She could...

She pats Meredith's shoulder, as she passes. As she slides into the crowd, brushing against one of the guys who looks about her age, in a suit with a loosened tie. He says hey, in the preamble of a look or a come on, in a deep voice with a Midwestern inflection. She doesn't look up, certain that by the time she passes, his eyes will have found a new target.

"Hey!" she calls down the street.

Derek turns his head.

She's slightly out of breath as she jogs to him, certain another moment would have made her miss him. She's too used to fleeting, fleeing things.

"Hey," she swallows. There's a crinkle between his brows, as he blinks the rain out of his eyes, off his lashes. The rain shows his coifed hair is being contained by product and mouse, with curls starting at his temples.

She can feel her heart hit against her ribs as she presses forward to kiss him.

It's a soft press, as she hasn't anchored herself against him, is precariously tilted on her toes.

He presses back, sliding his hand right above her braid, cradling, as he kisses her, the other looping around her waist. The relief of having it reciprocated melts her. Electricity buzzes under her skin, pushing her to arch into him, pressing her hands into his sides, at his waist, cold dew on their face, as his tongue slides against her.

Her whole body shivers. She's so close she can feel his heart beating into hers. This. This, this, this, this.

She pulls back for air, his lips and his warm panting breaths, sliding to the corner of her mouth, her cheek.

"I needed to do that," she pants, heady and dizzy.

His mouth is still parted, eyes heavy-lidded, as his hand plays through her curls, massages the back of her skull.

"The Clash," he says, in a daze.

"Huh?"

He leans closer, brushing his lips against her, kissing her again in quick pulses.

"Favorite band," he clarifies.

She slides her hands around his back, using his leverage to tilt her chest away so she can breathe, their hips slotting together. "I thought that was second date conversation," she murmurs.

"Couldn't wait," he teases, lightly brushing his nose against hers, sharing her grin.


Meredith is naked and face down on the couch, her clothes trailed from the foyer.

The man is shirtless, zipping up his pants. There's a pillow and blanket on the floor, where he seemingly slept. Where they passed out away from each other. She picks up the blanket to throw over Meredith's body, because she doesn't want to see her sister like that, and it seems he wasn't going to extend the curtesy.

She doesn't know if Meredith couldn't make it up the stairs, didn't want to do this in her old parent's room, or didn't care what Mari would walk into.

The man follows her into the kitchen, buttoning his shirt without hurry, asking casually if she knows the number of a cab company.

"Nope."

"I need to get to work. I start my surgical internship today." Someone else might word that as an excuse for why he's trying to leave before his one-night stand wakes up, instead of a declaration of why he's annoyed to even still be here.

She pauses, processing that Meredith hooked up with someone she's about to work with. Well.

"You've got a little more than an hour until you need to be there, right?"

"Yeah," he answers shortly, like 'what's your point?'

She hands him a cup of fresh coffee, brows raised at his attitude. He takes it like he isn't sure she's offering it to him until he has it in his hands.

"Is there anything you need at your place besides a shower? Because you can do that here and drive into work with one of us," she offers.

He narrows his eyes. Bristly she decides, like a cactus. Is this the kind of guy Meredith goes for?

"You're working at the hospital too? As what, a nurse?"

She sweetens her smile. "The nurses are going to love you." Hopefully they'll make a few of his shifts difficult if he doesn't check the attitude.

He gives her a once over, the short-sleeved, starched, fitted red button-down tucked into creamy slacks. "So not a nurse. Don't tell me you're a surgical intern."

Again with the charm. She rolls her eyes. "You want the shower or not?"

"Shouldn't you wake whoever that is on the couch first?" he jerks his head. She's half convinced he says it like that to goad a reaction. The other part wonders if he forgot, or didn't know Meredith's name.

She holds up the second cup of coffee in emphasis.


She touches Meredith's blanketed shoulder loosely, crouched but well out of range of a flailing arm. The one night stand watches her.

"Yeah, I need the number of a Seattle cab company-" he directs over the phone, with the same abruptness he greeted her with, barely modulating his voice.

Meredith blinks blearily at her. When realization dawns she clenches her eyes tight, pulling the blanket over her head. "Crap."

"I need to ask you a serious question."

"Uh, okay…?" Meredith mumbles, peeking out slowly, squinting at the sunlight coming through the windows. Mari hands her the coffee, keeping the one night stand in her peripheral.

"Was everything…consensual, last night? You're not hurt?"

The one night stand turns his head sharply.

Meredith closes her eyes, using the mug to block her face. "This is so embarrassing..." she groans.

"Meredith."

"Yes...it was consensual. Stupid and humiliating, on so many levels right now, but..."

Mari unwinds. Before that had crossed her mind, she was planning on saying something about taking this kind of scene somewhere private. And though the one night stand is probably offended, he was caustic enough himself. She needed to make sure his prickliness was his sparkling personality and not because he felt guilty for hurting or taking advantage.

"Well, you've got like forty minutes to get ready." Plus a house guest to throw out, that wants to be thrown out.

She leaves that to Meredith.


She wants to ask Meredith, that's what you're wearing? A wrinkled white button down with oversized pants, pulled out of a laundry pile.

Her sister is pretty, even with minimal effort, but that's what this is. Minimal effort. Wan. Hair wheat dry and limp.

It's the opposite of Ellis Grey, for all she abhorred expected femininity, she still wielded it in her arsenal. Always looked presentable, and untouchable, and enviable. Joan Crawford. Bette Davis.

And Mari has taken a half hour on her hair alone, pulled into an elegant chignon that pulls her curls away from her face, but teased to show off their volume. She has a twelve-step skin care routine to give her a dewy glow, a hint of pink stain to her lips, eyelashes curled and fanned out without weighing them with mascara. She's studied this, as she had to with sensitive skin and unruly hair.

Now, she feels like she's playing dress up.

Mari waits for her to say something, anything, to shake off the anxieties of a first day, to talk about the uncertain note they left last night. The one night stand.

In truth, she wants Meredith to ask for her advice, about being an intern.

Meredith focuses on the road, like the hospital is hard to find, like it needs her undivided attention. Mari opens her mouth, and Meredith flips on the radio.

Hello Seattle. This is Dr. Frasier Crane. I have a very special guest with me today. My brother, the eminent psychiatrist Dr. Niles Crane.
Hell-o Emerald City. What's doin'? What's happenin'?
*click* *the smooth, baritone voice turns exasperated, slightly muted* What in the hell do you think you're doing?
*Hushed* That was my radio persona. Every great radio personality has one.
I don't.
That's my point ex-actly.
*ruffled huff* Just try to be yourself, will you. *Voice smooths again* Our topic today is siblings. What makes you love them. What makes you hate them. What-
-what little things do they do that especially annoy you. These could be things from your childhood, OR they could be things from your adolescence, OR they could be things from your young adulthood, OR-
-or they could be things that are going on right now!


Two Grey's starting on the same day. Identical initials. The Mar in Mari and the Mer in Meredith are the same syllable. It's a surgical hospital. They're the daughters of a surgeon. Mari is the typical age for a surgical intern. For an internship that starts today.

She gets how something was miscommunicated, why someone assumed.

But she's annoyed that she doesn't catch on that it's wrong, right away.

They're both directed to an OR, where the Chief is going to give a welcoming speech.

"Each of you comes in hopeful. Wanting in on the game. A month ago, you were in med school, being taught by doctors. Today, you are the doctors. The seven years you spend here as a surgical resident will be the best and worst of your life-"

She heads out the double doors. Leans against the wall, exhaling her annoyance.

It's just a mistake.

They didn't accidentally enter her into the surgical program.

She waits for the interns to file out, to head to the locker room to change before their first shift. If Meredith looks at her, she doesn't notice, laser focused on the door for the Chief to exit last.

"Chief Webber," she calls, pushing off the wall. She doesn't mince words, as his instinct to hearing his name from a stranger is probably to say that he's busy. She thinks she's right, as he glances at her before, in one breath, glancing away. "I need to find out how I'm employed in this hospital?"

That pauses his step. "Excuse me?"

"I was told to follow along to your intern speech...My employment contract was for a non-surgical residency."

"Ah," he clears his throat. Slow to look at her, out of the corner of his eye. "You're not interested in surgery…"

That sounds more like a question. "No. I'm here to focus on internal medicine."

"That involves a lot of pre and post op."

This is starting to look less accidental.

She can tell that his defense is prepared.

"You knew my mother," she declares flatly.

He closes his eyes, to take a deep breath. "Yes. I did."

And he probably feels he owes something, to see her daughters continue her legacy, to push to make sure, because he can't understand not choosing surgery.

She didn't realize Ellis Grey's ghost was in this hospital too. She forgot, what it was like, being around surgeons who knew her mother, and didn't know her. Realizing that her employment here might have less to do with Mari Grey's resume, and more to do with Ellis Grey's.

"Chief Webber, surgery...isn't for me," she's embarrassed how open she needs to be, to have any chance of him hearing her. "I want more."

This time he looks directly at her, surprised.

She shrugs, her hands still tucked under her elbows. "First year residents aren't supposed to specialize, right?"

"They tend to, anyway," he mutters.

Her heart skips. It sounds like a concession. "I want everything." Wants to see everything, experience everything, learn everything. She's not going to follow a paint-by-numbers of anyone's career. Not her mother's, not her mentors, not her idols.

"That's…different, than how we do things here."

She smiles, eyes lit with challenge. "Why'd you go into general surgery?"

Her mother would have answered, to see everything.

Chief Webber looks into her face, sees what he feared to see, and something new and unexpected. Ellis Grey's daughter.

"Alright," he acquiesces, slowly. "I see your point."


She sees Derek.

In a lab coat.

They're on both ends of the hallway. It's just by chance that someone moved, and she caught a familiar head of thick, black hair, had glanced in the direction like a magpie seeing something shiny, completely unconscious, searching for reminders of the imprint left on her to give a secret smile to her lips.

Derek looks up from his chart, in the same moment she's pulling air into her lungs. He glances up absently, and then blinks, looks again with mouth parting.

He traverses the distance quickly, while she slumps back against the wall, eyes cast upward.

"You're a doctor," he greets, with more delight than surprise. He's doesn't question how, or say what are the chances.

"You're…" she looks at his attending scrubs to avoid his eyes. His badge. Derek Shepherd. And…. "a…neurosurgeon."

He laughs. "I don't think anyone has ever said that to me in that tone before."

She kissed a surgeon. She had warm, fuzzy butterflies for a – she can remember the scratch of his stubble on her cheeks, his mouth – his eyes are so much prettier in the light -

"Interns started today," he seems to realize, blue, blue eyes dancing over her shifting expressions. "Does this mean you're…"

She slides a step backwards, hand protectively hiding her badge from sight. "Uh, no."

"That's not fair," he directs towards her covering hand.

"Dr. Shepherd," she says professionally.

He follows without looking down at their feet. "What is it then? Obviously it's something where neurosurgeons have a bad name."

"Yes," she lies. "From ancient grudge break to new mutiny…"

"Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean," he finishes the quote. He laughs at the dramatics. "Don't say neurologist, I might agree to this feud," he jokes.

She's biting her lip hard enough to draw blood, eyes refusing to meet his.

"Mari," he says, softer, wondering what he's missing. He touches the outside of her elbow, not to lead but to gently beseech her to stop.

She does, conscious that he's barely, not really, touching her.

"Hey, no sudden movements," he says barely moving his lips, staying perfectly still.

She lets go of her lip. He smiles, soft, and pleased, and unbearably charming. "We'll pretend I'm not a neurosurgeon. I'll be Derek, not Dr. Shepherd."

She's still covering her badge. Her own name. She knows why even as the plastic digs into her palm.

She shakes her head, mutely.

"Oh," he inhales, blinking as he pulls back on his heels. "You…don't…want to date me?"

His hand is still around her elbow, tucked into her side, just barely touching her, his fingers a light brush, tapping against her sleeve. His expression is thoughtful, seeking, but his tone stays light. "You take advantage of me and now you want to cancel because I'm a neurosurgeon."

Somehow it works, it pulls her attention up to his eyes. "I took advantage?" she repeats, incredulous.

He nods fake-seriously, widening his eyes. "Didn't you? I remember being drunk, and good looking, and you kissing me."

She steps closer, her elbow dropping into his grip. "I remember you kissing me."

His eyes dance. "I remember that too. Would you like to do it again," he pauses intentionally, stretching the moment, "Friday night?"

It's like this situation hasn't thrown him at all.

She purses her lips. "If I really was an intern, how would you have reacted?"

He shrugs, smile becoming less flirty, but silver-blue eyes still intent. "It wouldn't have changed anything."

The certainty of it hooks her, pulls. She pulls in a breath, in preparation. "There's an age difference." She doesn't know how much, but he's certainly older than Meredith. The oldest man she's ever kissed, even.

He shakes his head wryly. "Yeah," he agrees, not nearly sheepish enough for true embarrassment. "And yet…"

She waits, and yet, and yet…

"So, why?" he asks, wanting to know the precise cause of her hesitation. Why the girl who followed him into the rain because she couldn't let him leave without kissing him, is now backing away.

"It's not…neurosurgeons, in particularly," she admits quietly.

He waits, knows that underneath the flirting, he needs to.

"Dr. Shepherd," a nurse calls his attention. They both blink. She shakes her head to reorient, realizing they're still in the hallway, hadn't moved to somewhere private.

He turns to address the nurse, to ask for a moment, and Mari slips out of his grasp.


They didn't plan to have lunch together, but she learned when Meredith would be free, so here they are, in line together.

Meredith spends the whole time in a fast-paced vent, retreading the teen princess who paged 911 because she was bored.

Mari looks over the food selection, doesn't say that Meredith is acting pretty entitled for an intern on her first day. That Katie is probably upset to be in a hospital, alone, missing out on her life. That seizures can be traumatic. That scuffing at rhythmic gymnastics reminds her of the Meredith who dropped out of ballet even though she was really good, because 'she didn't want to be like the other prima-donna ballerinas'.

Meredith makes a beeline to an intern table with only one chair left. Mari debates letting herself be left behind, and instead joins them after hooking her own chair.

A tall attending approaches the table for a speech.

"Good afternoon interns. It's posted, but I thought I'd share the good news personally. As you know, the honor of performing the first surgery is reserved for the intern that shows the most promise. As I'm running the OR today, I get to make that choice." He claps one of the intern's shoulders, the youngest as far as she can tell. The intern jolts. "George O'Malley. You'll scrub in for an appendectomy this afternoon. Congratulations."

George stutters, "me?"

The attending smiles coolly. "Enjoy."

The rest of the interns bounce their eyes from the attending's back to George's face, as warm as a pile of snakes.

"Did he say me?" George blinks quickly.

"That's rough," Mari whistles, opening her bottle of water.

"You're the one with the most promise?" The Korean intern with the big hair scoffs.

Meredith tilts her head at her sister. "That's a good thing, right? Being picked?"

The rest of the interns look at her to hear her answer, realizing that she's not someone they recognize. George is looking at Mari, with guileless Bambi eyes.

She looks at each of their faces, realizing she can direct to them part of what she wants to say to her sister. "You're interns," she enunciates. "Gophers –"

"Grunts," the blonde with the brown eyes interrupts. "Yeah, bottom of the food chain, we heard the speech."

"Are you saying you're not an intern?" The intern with the curly black hair questions.

She continues undaunted. "You're not going to be performing surgery anytime soon. You'll be in pre-op and post-op, learning to take patient histories, comforting families, explaining surgeries to patients, lab work, fetching things, sutures. Dangling lead on a supervised surgery on your first day isn't a reward. It's hazing. They want to take you down a peg, temper your cockiness. By doing it to one of you they're doing it to all of you."

George swallows hard. The other interns have mixed reactions. Meredith watches, her thoughts easily hidden behind her eyes.

"Or maybe they're trying to motivate us, to be competitive, to be our best," the blonde intern tilts her chin, optimistic. Like she thinks a highly competitive environment can only be a good thing.

"This is the best surgical program in the country, it makes sense that they let their interns actually do something," one of the male interns agrees.

Mari takes a bite of her sandwich. "Second best." Mass Gen is the best, and she highly doubts these little scalpel junkies didn't know that. Didn't compulsively check the rankings.

"So, you don't think O'Malley here has the most promise?" The other woman intern needles, aiming the hit at George. She's the one most bothered by not being picked. If the blonde wants a highly competitive adversary to sharpen her scalpel with, there's her best bet.

"Look," Mari directs at George, softer, seeing he needs encouragement. "Everyone runs the gauntlet. You're the first. So, you get to be the example. Take the stones and the jeers and-"

"Not helping," he mutters, dropping his chin to his chest.

She forgoes furthering the metaphor.

"Find someone to quiz you on the procedure. Remember to breathe when something goes wrong."

"When something," he repeats, slightly hysterical, shaking his head like a dog coming out of the rain. "No. Okay. I'll- I'm just going to –" he picks up his tray and leaves, dodging the hand of the blonde intern who tries to pat his shoulder, still muttering under his breath.

None of the other interns speak, as they watch him go, like he's an exhibit in the zoo. Like they're already taking bets.

"So," the blonde interjects peppily, in the vein of, well, anyway. "You're both Ellis Grey's daughters? That sounds awesome."

Mari takes a big bite of her sandwich. Meredith stabs at her salad.


Meredith doesn't mention her conversation with Dr. Shepherd when Katie Bryce's case was transferred to Neuro.

When he looked at her, he blinked.

It would be flattering if he wasn't her attending, because that would be a really bad idea.

Dr. Shepherd, the new Head of Neuro might be dreamy, but she was a professional. She was a surgical intern now. She was immune.

"Your sister," he greets her, looking surprised.

Meredith blinks back, nonplussed. "My…sister? Uh, no, Katie Bryce isn't my sister."

He shakes his head. "Mari." He looks down at Meredith's badge, and a picture-perfect smile spreads across his face. "Mari Grey," he says, like he's committing it to memory.

Meredith narrows her eyes. He hardly notices.

"What does she have against surgeons?" he questions, apropos of nothing, familiar like they're friends.

"Does she have to have something against them, just because she doesn't want to be one?"

"No, but –"

"Is this relevant, medically? Because I don't believe in talking about my sister's personal life at work."

His eyes narrow slightly at the rebuff. It's like a veil falls over his features, makes him less approachable. He holds out his hand for the chart. "I just wondered what her specialty was," he excuses.

Meredith bites her cheek. "She doesn't have one."

"Okay then," he straightens his shoulders, instead, instructing her on how to monitor Katie.

On Day 2, Meredith walks to answer Katie's page, certain that she's faking it, again. Annoyed that the guy she slept with before her first day was magnanimous enough to not act like they knew each other, but an ass in calling her a nurse.

She screws up. Katie isn't faking it. She has two grand mal seizures. Her heart stops. Shepherd yells for her to get out, Bailey chews her out, and Cristina sees her vomiting in the bushes like a failure.

She runs the tests Dr. Bailey instructs her to, and stays far out of Dr. Shepherd's way when he tells Katie's parents they have no idea why their daughter is seizing.

When he comes into Katie's room where she's sitting vigil, where she isn't trusted to do anything, he looks as tired as she feels.

"Pathology," she offers. She doesn't want an attending, and her resident, disdaining her, questioning if she can cut it. She at least knows what to offer Dr. Shepherd. "Mari's interested in pathology I think. She worked with a medical examiner in med school, and she was Dr. House's intern at Princeton-Plainsboro before moving here."

And she can tell Mari didn't want to leave New Jersey. Had established a home there, a job she loved, had found a mentor that just happened to be world-renowned.

His brows furrow. "Dr. House the diagnostician?"

See. That.

Instead of always being Ellis Grey's daughter, Mari can be known as Dr. House's intern. Mari was good at that, making connections with other doctors, while Meredith ran off to play alone.

"So, she likes figuring things out." He tilts his head to the doorway, asking her to follow.

He pulls a nurse aside and asks, "can you page Dr. Mari Grey for me?"


"I'm going to do something rare, for a surgeon," Derek grins at her, in one of the brightly lit conference rooms. Meredith is leaning against the table, watching the interaction guardedly.

His smile softens. "Asking for help. I have no idea why my patient is having seizures. The labs are clean, scans pure," he hands over a chart, she takes it with a puzzled frown. "No seizure disorder. 4 mg of Prazepam had no effect. 2 mg of Phenobarbital. She coded for 72 seconds with sinus rhythm brought back after 360. No white count. No strep. No meningitis. No ceteal lesions. No fever. Nothing in the spinal tap." He puffs out a breath. "What else Dr. Grey?" he directs at Meredith.

She takes up the report without expression. "No headaches or neck pain. No trauma. Negative for pregnancy. Clean tox screen. No tumor or bleed on the CT. No anoxia, chronic renal failure, or acidosis."

Mari licks her bottom lip. "You want me to...help you diagnose your patient?"

"Yes," he nods.

She's stunned.

She looks at Meredith, wondering what her sister told him about her, to bring this case to her. Had to be her. Though Meredith is in one her more aloof moods, and she can't read her expression.

She chooses to open the chart, to stop herself from saying something flirty to Derek, like you're not playing fair.

"Okay," she focuses "who took history?"

"I did," Meredith answers, after a pause. "I did a partial history. Cristina took over, once the tests came back negative."

"Can you page her?" She asks of Derek.

Meredith interrupts, frowning at her. "Why? You have the chart."

Derek watches the interaction with his arms folded, leaning back.

"Because histories are important," she answers evenly. Histories are her bread and butter. She's been doing them for House since she was an undergrad. Usually, that's what makes extraordinary cases ordinary again.

"There isn't a family history of seizures," Meredith negates.

Why does this feel like Meredith is fighting her? Before the DDX.

Instead of saying histories include more than genetic backgrounds, she narrows her eyes, replies shortly, the way Ellis Grey would, like you are no longer interesting enough to be worthy of my time.

"Just because there isn't a family history of heart attacks doesn't mean there isn't a family history of heart disease."

Meredith clenches her jaw, and heads out. "Fine."

"Problems?" Derek asks, in an understatement.

She rubs between her brows with her knuckle. "Can I say the things to you that I want to say to her?" she asks in frustration.

"Sure," he agrees amicably.

She isn't sure how much time she has, until Meredith is back. She doesn't want to unload and then have that cliché, 'she's standing right behind you, and heard everything'.

"You can complain about not having anything to do but you shuffle off patient history to another intern?" She huffs. "Is anyone checking to see if they know what they're doing? Or are all of you so surgery obsessed that everything else is irrelevant? White noise? This is what they're supposed to be learning. You don't get the keys to the kingdom on the first day when you haven't earned anything."

He's nods, very seriously, like he's trying to not smile at her. "You really don't like the surgical program, do you?"

She chooses to ignore that as she flips through the chart.

The intern that ran the labs? Cristina Yang. Who's case is this, if Meredith can't fulfill her own task? Did she entirely misinterpret what she was supposed to do? Did she actually play babysitter and sit on her hands?

Meredith enters the room only after she has the other intern by her side.

Cristina Yang doesn't wear the tiredness in her eyes at all. She knows how to power-nap or just power through. She's maybe the same age as Meredith, but she bets there's a higher degree in her resume before medical school. Too driven by nature not to be.

She stands almost at attention, answering Mari's questions without blinking, reciting the patient history without asking for the chart. She doesn't whine, she doesn't ask why she needs to answer Mari's questions, but she does look at Dr. Shepherd like he's the one conducting the test.

Mari pauses. "Did you offer to have an intern in surgery with you, once you have a diagnosis?" She asks Derek in an aside.

Both Meredith and Cristina's expressions flicker.

Derek makes that 'ah' hum again, like he did in the bar. "Yes."

She sighs through her nose. "Any symptoms from the parents?" she asks Cristina.

"No, they aren't sick," Cristina Yang answers with the height of professionalism. It's obviously for Dr. Shepherd's benefit.

"Is that your assessment or theirs?"

Cristina blinks, for the first time without a ready answer.

Meredith says, "you think there's a seizure disorder without seizures?" to cover the stumble.

"Her entire life is spent at home or training for this pageant. If her parents, and the other contestants, or pageant staff, haven't exhibited symptoms, then we can probably rule out environmental causes like chemical or metal toxicity. So, anyone sick?"

Cristina drops her shoulders, for a split second. "Not that we know of."

Which means she didn't follow up beyond the parents and her doctor.

"She hasn't exhibited any signs of toxicity. No vomiting, tremors, confusion, renal failure," Meredith rattles off.

It's true, but Mari advises, "it's not a bingo card. Don't look for one presentation and rule it out if you don't get it."

It's not nearly as fun as she thought it would be. She always liked the collaborative part of it, bouncing ideas. Second to that, is the rare epiphany. That lightening strike where it all fits.

She closes the chart.

"Next time," she directs at the two interns, wondering if they'll even listen. "Do more than the minimum-required on the tox screen. Get into a habit of running everything twice instead of having to go back later. Interview the environment, not just the parents. Check the lymph nodes on the physical exam, instead of letting your nurse do it. And, when someone comes in with unexplained seizures and you're running a shotgun, you should add lithium levels and vitamin deficiencies to the list."

Cristina responds first, catching herself as she half-steps forward, looking surprised. "You already know what's wrong with her?"

She shrugs one shoulder, looking over at Derek. "Think so."

A diagnosis that requires another test. Something that sounds far-fetched.

What would he make of it? What kind of doctor was he?

He raises his brows, surprised at the way this has gone so far.

They weren't a diagnostic team. She didn't need to make suggestions when she's pretty sure the only one who wants her here is doing it because of who she was at the bar, more than who she is with a white coat. She needed an answer, just one. Not a good guess, but the best one. That's what she has, one really good guess.

"I'd like to hear it," he prompts her.

"The benefit of having a patient that's obsessed with winning her Miss Teen pageant is this is her entire life," she presents.

The two interns share a look. "Which is tragic…?" Cristina offers sardonically.

She shakes her head. "She had a slight sprain two weeks ago when she fell doing her rhythmic gymnastics."

Cristina blinks. "Her doctor didn't mention she fell."

Mari looks to Meredith, holding back her need to say, this is why you can't just trust the chart. Because Meredith didn't note it. Just as she didn't note Katie's pageant talent.

"She…had a minor fall, two weeks ago. That's why she sprained her ankle." Meredith is frowning, recalling the conversation.

"I would do a cerebral angiograph," Mari directs to Derek, after Meredith's confirmation.

He thinks it over, head tilted. "Anyone ever tell you when you hear hoofbeats think horses, not zebras?"

She taps her bottom lip. "No, I think that's the first time, how does it go?"

He's still frowning, arms crossed, shoulders rolled forward as he thinks.

"I like your suggestion about a vitamin deficiency. If it was vitamin K…"

"She had a kale and spinach salad for lunch yesterday, and chicken with broccoli for dinner, two hours before her seizures. So, I'm going to say no. It was noted by Nurse Tyler that she was observed finishing both meals." Which is why she agreed with Meredith, that toxicity was unlikely. And she takes note of the nurse's name. He knew to make sure the beauty queen didn't skip meals. Plus, he was filling in the gaps in care, created by the new interns. Excellent charter, knowledgable, attentive.

"An aneurysm, with no blood on the CT," it's not quite a refutation, but close.

Cristina and Meredith's eyes yo-yo between them.

"Aren't angiographs so much better?" she mock-enthuses.

He bites at the corner of his lip. "1 in a million odds."

She sees it, when he decides to find out, and learns more about him in that moment, than she could have in two or three or four dates.

"I guess we'll see if she's one in a million."


She performs the dye test, with Cristina and Meredith watching behind the glass.

She looks at Katie's chart again, to check her fluids, and pinches the top of her hand to make sure she's fully hydrated.

She wants an accurate test.

She wants an accurate diagnosis.

She wants this to look easy.

That's always been her mother's advice. Even if it's the hardest thing you ever do, make it look easy.

"So, Ellis Grey is your mother," Derek broaches, both of their eyes on the screen. "That's where this enmity against dating surgeons comes from."

"Is that your diagnosis?"

He hums. "Maybe. It's funny that you never asked me what I did for a living."

No, she hadn't. She met a guy in a bar, next to a hospital. Attractive, mid-30's, put-together, neat, and she avoided asking about his job.

She doesn't respond, focused on the monitor, feeling her chest ease, when the dye shows the bleed.

"I'll be damned," Derek murmurs. "A subarachnoid hemorrhage."

"A zebra," she quips.


"Who would you pick to scrub in on the surgery?" he asks as they're washing up.

"Who do you want?"

"Who I want apparently doesn't like surgery," he teases.

She rolls her eyes, turning off the water. "Take them both."

He shakes his head. "Full OR. I'm new too. They're still putting me through my paces. I can't have both."

She frowns, as they both lean against the sink.

"Meredith won't want it. Having everyone find out she's Ellis Grey's daughter bothers her. If she thought you were letting her in because of anything I did…" she sighs.

"Because you made the diagnosis or because I might have taken her aside and asked her about you?"

She smirks wryly. "I'm sure she didn't have much to say."

He rests his hands against the sink's stainless steel, his right hand in the equal space between them. He addresses her seriously, doctor to doctor. "So, who would you choose?"

She rubs at the back of her neck, rolling out the tension.

Meredith is going to hold either decision he makes against her, so might as well be honest.

"Cristina took it seriously. Meredith didn't."

He searches her eyes, to see if she means it.

She's cool, about this decision. Conflicted about everything else. "It's your OR." Which reminds her. She pulls in a full breath, tentatively stepping forward. "How do you like to be wished a good surgery?"

His tilts his head, with a surprise quirk to his lips. "Do you think I'm particularly superstitious or is this aimed at all surgeons?"

"Oh, all," she nods decisively, smirking. She leans into her impulse, matches the good luck he whispered to her against the shell of his ear, her lips brushing.

She smiles when he leans into her, already pulling away. "And especially good luck telling Katie you'll need to shave her head before surgery."


It is a full operating room.

But somehow, Dr. Shepherd manages to squeeze in two interns.


Notes:

1. Here's my impression of Alex Karev. He doesn't handle people being nice to him well. Or people who see him in moments of weakness, after he's done something hurtful. So, when Mari came in, saw Meredith wasn't even covered with a blanket, and him ready to scurry out, he got defensive, was prepared for her scorn or to kick him out, not to be polite.

2. I think Meredith always intended to hook up with someone the night before her internship, to settle her nerves/blow off steam and be irresponsible before committing to this new life-change.
And when Joe needs surgery, we found out Alex had been at the bar basically every available night, so I think he would have been there too, and was searching for the same type of distraction.

3. Fictional characters from other fictional universes. Like Dr. Frasier Crane's radio show.

4."From ancient grudge break to new mutiny where civil blood makes civil hands unclean" is from Romeo and Juliet.
5. I'm not going to be like Grey's and pretend Meredith looks 10 years younger than she does. Instead, only about 5. And my comment on her appearance is because, well her hair and complexion sucked for prime-time TV. They did it with all the girls in the beginning. Less so with Izzie, because her hair is healthy and shiny, and less with Cristina because again, healthy enviable hair, packed with a great complexion. I'm not saying the actress, any of them, are unattractive. They're really not. But Meredith really isn't shown to best advantage until much later. So, I'm creating my own excuse for Meredith's low effort. She doesn't want to look put together like her mother. Not being image focused is her act of rebellion.

6. Any suggestions on pairings for Meredith. Alex, Finn the vet, Mark, someone else?