Meredith has another feeling that
The feeling hits her when she opens her eyes and realizes, gradually, that the
bed is empty aside from herself, though there is a persistent lingering smell
of Someone Else having been there.
She lies staring at the tousled sheets on the other side of the bed, the side
she doesn't favour, as a growing feeling of horrible foreboding, along with a
few other things, rises in her belly. Being reasonably sure that it's nothing
digestive, she pulls the covers over her head and closes her eyes tightly and
wishes fervently for death.
Izzy comes in some time around eleven.
Meredith hears her coming - more like feels her coming - a minute or so
in advance, long enough for her to consider her options. She will never get the
window open in time, and in any case she is on the side of the house with no
eaves, and the fall will kill her. On the other hand, there is a strong
possibility that whatever Izzy might do to her will not end up being
appreciably more fun. She won't fit under the bed, and the closet is too small.
From the sound of the footsteps, Izzy is already in the corridor. There is
nowhere to run.
In the end, she opts for playing dead. Izzy is unconvinced.
She comes into the room with surprising quiet, and Meredith decides, lying very
still and straining her ears and reminded inappropriately of Christmas morning,
that the subject of impending conversation is downstairs and that Izzy is
trying to be discreet. There are limits to Izzy's discretion, however, because
after closing the door carefully behind her she crosses the room in what sounds
like three steps and tears the covers off the bed. The cold air hits Meredith
like a blow, which some part of her brain suggests might be good preparation for
what might be coming.
"Are you stupid?" Her tone is bizarrely calm and reasonable.
Meredith blinks up at her. "I'm sorry?"
"Are you stupid?" repeats Izzy. "Are you brain-damaged? Did the
close proximity to Asshat McSteamy damage your brain? Or was this just some
kind of delayed post-traumatic stress reaction to getting almost blown up?
Because at the moment I cannot think of any other really good reason not to
throw you out that window," she finishes, in a harsh whisper. Her voice
has actually gone down in volume with every syllable, and up in pitch.
Meredith reaches for a pillow and covers her head with it.
Izzy confiscates it and it goes the way of the covers. "Answer. The.
Question," she says, punctuating each word by hitting the mattress with
her open palm.
"I don't know," Meredith tells her, miserably.
"You are stupid," Izzy says, as if pronouncing it to a room full of
people. They stare at each other, for something like twenty seconds, and
Meredith is seized by the instinct to hold very still and thus render herself
Finally Izzy sighs and sits down on the edge of the mattress. She stares
determinedly at the closed door. "This morning, I came down for coffee,
and I found him sitting at the kitchen table staring at a bagel, tipping his
head back and forth like it was going to talk to him. He was TALKING TO A
BAGEL, MEREDITH. Now I can't be completely sure but I'm comfortable assuming
this is your fault, and that the reason George didn't wake me up tripping on
his way back from the bathroom at two this morning like he usually does is that
he was in here."
She turns to glare questioningly at Meredith, and Meredith can only blink up at
her, so Izzy snatches up one of the remaining pillows and sniffs it.
"Hah!" she exclaims. "I knew it! You are STUPID."
She glares at Meredith again. "I am stupid," Meredith repeats
obediently, flinging one arm over her eyes.
"The plan was so simple," says Izzy, rolling her eyes exasperatedly.
"He was supposed to tell you, and you were supposed to let him down,
GENTLY, and then he could feel like he'd accomplished something and maybe move
on, and get laid, and then the pining would stop, and the anguish would stop,
and the incessant talking to me about it would stop. You screwed up the plan,
"What plan? Nobody told me about a plan--"
"You screwed up the plan," Izzy reminds her, fiercely.
"I screwed up the plan," repeats Meredith, meekly.
"So," Izzy says, suddenly more cheerful, but with a still vaguely
threatening demeanour, "what are you going to do?"
A while later, Meredith drags herself out of bed and goes downstairs and stands
outside the kitchen door for a full minute, and makes several false starts
toward the smell of coffee, and finally, on the premise that at least the
coffee will have a fortifying affect, she bravely forges the threshold, makes
the coffee pot, and pours herself a cup, all without actually looking at the
kitchen table, where her peripheral vision soon tells her the object of her
evasion is sitting, nodding over a plate.
"You want some coffee?" she asks, feeling courageous for the gesture
towards eye contact.
George doesn't look up, so Meredith pours him a cup and crosses the kitchen,
and sets it down on the table next to the plate. "Coffee is good,"
she says. "Coffee is helpful in mildly awkward social situations. There's
things to hold and stir."
George is fiddling with the bagel on his plate, turning it around and around,
and Meredith looks at it, and it looks back up at her.
There is a long moment of sensory delay before Meredith realises that there is
an eye in the middle of the bagel, that it is blue, and that it is blinking.
Presently, the bagel says: "I'm getting dizzy," to George, and then
looks at her, and smiles.
"Good morning, Meredith."
Meredith wakes up alone in bed. The window is open and the room is cold.
Meredith believes it is Saturday just long enough to be embarrassingly late for
work, and long enough for George and Izzy to leave without her, but not long
enough to avoid meeting Christina coming into the locker room thirty seconds
"Is it bad that I miss us not getting along?" Christina asks,
ostensibly of the thin air, but obviously to Meredith, as she is feverishly
undressing and then dressing again in scrubs. "Because it was a lot easier
to get out of the house on time when we weren't, and only one of us actually
has to show up for role call." She slams her locker shut and begins
un-knotting the laces on her shoes. "Not that the sex isn't great. The sex
is great. It's just inconveniently great."
She only belatedly notices that Meredith is being very quiet as she gets one
shoe tied and knocks the other under the bench. She glances up at Meredith, and
then does a double-take and stares for a moment. She blinks, in a distinctly
Christina-like, "oh-I-only-just-noticed-you-were-actually-there" way,
and asks: "What?"
Meredith very quietly ties back her hair, and turns back to her locker.
Christina has gone tense, the way she does when a fascinating injury or gossip
enters the range of her radar, and she stands, and puts one hand on the locker
next to Meredith's, and says, rather than asks: "You had sex."
Meredith lets her head fall and it makes contact with the locker door with a
loud clang. "Yes."
"But--" Christina's face goes contemplative, eyes searching the
ceiling for information. "Not McDreamy, definitely not McSteamy, because
you were way more morose than that when you left the bar, not..."
Christina has been ticking down men on her fingers and her face freezes as her eyes
dart back to Meredith's profile. "You slept with George!"
Meredith slams her locker shut. "What is that - an accusation?" she
demands, and Christina, still frozen, unfreezes and shrugs, slowly, making an
attempt at nonchalance, which fails, miserably.
"No. Yes! You slept with George?"
"What's wrong with George?" Meredith surprises herself with a surge
of protectiveness she simply doesn't know what to do with.
Christina blinks at her. "Nothing. Just-- you slept. With George."
Meredith heaves a sigh and slumps down onto the bench. Christina sits down next
to her with a slightly more graceful gesture. "So," she says.
"Yeah," Meredith replies.
"He's got a cute butt," says Christina, meditatively. She drums her
fingers on the bench. "I guess this is one of those times I'm not supposed
to tell everyone, right?"
"Yes!" Meredith agrees, looking at Christina sternly, and with more
than a hint of panic, though on whose behalf, she could not say.
Christina drums again, and then says, with detached pity: "This is pretty
much going to kill him, isn't it?"
"Aughhhh," says Meredith, with feeling, and her eyes closed.
About a minute later Meredith skids up to the nurses' station, where Bailey is
ignoring them with determination, talking very seriously to the baby, who is in
turn ignoring his mother to stare at the kissy-faces Izzy is making. Derek is
handing a clipboard back over the counter, and Christina is making a visible
effort to avoid speaking. Meredith wills her strength, because she has a strong
feeling of foreboding that revolves around this moment, of déja vu. When George
comes skidding up next to her, bracing himself on the counter, and does a
double-take that very skilfully evades eye contact, he takes a breath as if to
speak and then takes a slow step to the left.
Meredith notices everything having gone momentarily still, but tries to dismiss
the perception because just then, Derek starts explaining the morning rounds.
She cannot dismiss the shrewd look Bailey has on her face, before she turns and
disappears down a corridor, because the baby is crying, and she probably needs
privacy to convince him to stop.
The patient assigned Meredith by pure chance is a miserable specimen of a human
being, which she can tell from ten feet down the corridor from the sound of his
voice. He is yelling at someone, and he is bad-tempered, and he is ten seconds
from a Code White when Meredith makes the doorway, and he sees her, and he
stops, and his face dissolves into a leer that is probably supposed to be a
smile. The man is thin, and gray in every respect, and consumed of an obvious
general nastiness, and Meredith has no idea why she keeps ending up with the
sourpusses. The creepy sourpusses. She looks at the chart in her hands. Mr. Riordan
smells of alcohol, even from this distance.
"New doctor," he says, the leer growing warmer. "Hope you're
ballsier than this one." He jerks a thumb to his right, and Meredith
realises with a jolt that George is already here, wrestling vainly with the
cabling of the IV monitor. Meredith blinks, and then turns back to the patient
with a raised eyebrow.
"Mr. Riordan," she greets him, looking down at his chart. "It
says here you've been having chest pains and... embarrassingly explosive
diarrhoea at socially inopportune moments...?" Meredith re-reads the
chart. "It really says that. Wait--"
Mr. Riordan nods, suddenly pleasant. "I've also been experiencing periods
of catalepsy and prolonged episodes of unexpectedly articulate verbal
Meredith bites her lower lip and flips through the chart, eyes flickering
across the bed to George, who is still struggling nobly with the IV monitor.
Mr. Riordan carries cheerfully on.
"As the result of which, I thought I should mention, you're going to burn in
Meredith clutches the clipboard convulsively, and asks: "Excuse me?"
"That's where the selfish go, young lady. People who exploit the
vulnerable to fulfill their own whoring needs of the moment. This poor
boy--" he jerks a thumb helpfully in George's direction, "--doesn't
know what he's getting into, does he? Taking advantage of him like that."
Mr. Riordan's tone has turned chiding, and George has just frozen in horror.
Meredith feels her face growing hot.
"Look, this is really, really none of your business--"
"The hell it isn't!" Meredith turns to see Bailey standing in the
doorway, and has only a moment to wonder why she's still here, because she
enters the room, hands Mr. Riordan the baby, and rounds on Meredith.
"You'd better listen to him, Doctor Gray. All things considered his
approach is a hell of a lot nicer than mine."
"That's the part where I stick you in a food processor and you become my
baby's first solid food."
"You heard me. You hurt that boy and I will mess. You. Up."
Meredith buries her hands in her hair and closes her eyes. "What is this -
Unprovoked Attack on Meredith Day?" she asks of the air.
"Did it not occur to you that recent events and my charmingly awkward and
yet protective attitude towards Doctor O'Malley might inspire me to take
violent measures against you, Doctor Gray? Is your survival instinct in some
Meredith sputters. "This is none of your business!" This time, she is
addressing the room, but her voice carries, because beyond the window the
entire ER has turned to stare at her. She freezes, blinks, and turns back to
Doctor Bailey. "This is personal. It's not for public amusement!" She
turns to George, who is still staring horror-struck at the wall behind Mr.
Riordan's head. "Tell them, George!"
"I'd beg to differ, Doctor Gray," says Mr. Riordan. "We're all
intimately involved in this."
"How do you figure?" demands Meredith, turning back to him.
"Because we're your subconscious," says the baby, sounding uncannily
like Eric Idle. "Otherwise I wouldn't be talking."
This time Meredith wakes up flailing so hard she lands face-first on the floor.
The bed is empty and the room is cold.
Meredith manages, somehow, to avoid eye contact throughout the morning, and slips
suspiciously into a table near the back wall of the cafeteria occupied only by
Alex. He and Izzy have been arguing all morning about something inconsequential
and sitting with Alex should protect her from uncomfortably well-informed
conversation. It seems her fears are unfounded, though, because Izzy and
Christina are MIA for fifteen straight minutes, so Meredith ventures to look up
from her lunch. "So," she asks Alex, "what did you do?"
Alex continues eating with concentration for a few seconds, and then sets down
his fork with exaggerated care. "Lingerie," he says. "Is it
really such a big deal?"
Meredith chokes a little, swallows, wipes her watering eyes, and looks at him.
"Um. Context, I ask, with great hesitation?"
Alex glares at the tabletop. "I bought her a present. Not even a
special-occasion present. Just a... Thanks For All The Good Sex present. I
thought it was nice! It was... red."
Meredith nods, regretting asking with every passing breath.
Alex fidgets with his fork. "Turns out it was something she'd gotten paid
Meredith blinks at him. "Ah."
"Yeah. And she puts it on, and then comes and walks up and down in front
of the bed, and asks me: 'does this look familiar?'"
Meredith can only nod, with a vague feeling of impending doom. "Uh...
"And then when I didn't know what she was talking about, she screamed and
threw the bag at me and stormed out."
"Oh," says Meredith, feeling enormously relieved that the story ends
"Yeah," says Alex, shaking his head, then he shrugs, and starts
eating again. "She'll get over it."
"You don't think so?"
"I think you may be overestimating your... um..." George has just
entered the cafeteria, and he is coming towards their table apparently without
looking at them. He stops two tables away from where they're sitting, and
studies his tray, flicking peas off his plate. Meredith bites her lip, then
turns to look back at Alex: "Alex, do you think..."
Alex is smiling at her vacantly, with a slice of processed cheese perched
jauntily on his head like a hat.
"I wear the cheese," says Alex. "It does not wear me."
Meredith awakes with a yell, throwing a pillow with one convulsive motion as if
defending herself. When her vision clears, she is alone, and the room is cold.
Meredith is so tired by the end of her shift that day that when she hears the
sirens from the ER entrance she almost weeps with exhaustion, but pulls on
scrubs and digs in. She steps out into the ambulance bay to find no one else
there but the paramedics. The woman in the gurney being unloaded has stabilized
en-route, and Meredith is relieved because it seems almost like the hospital is
empty but for herself.
She walks with the gurney through the bay doors, and looks around as she
establishes that the patient is, indeed, stable, barring the thready pulse.
"Cardiac arrest. She's stable, get her a bed." She looks up. There is
no one at the admitting counter, and she realizes that the only people in the
lobby are herself, the patient, and the young paramedic, who looks startlingly
"Where is everyone?" she asks the young woman checking vitals,
reaching out to check pulse and respiration in only a moderate hurry. She
reaches over the counter to call for orderlies, but there's Zydeco music playing
on the other end like a hold-track. She's almost put down the receiver again
when she remembers that there is no hold-music on the hospital telephone
system. She raises it again to her ear.
"The telephone is playing Zydeco music. Why is the-- where is everyone?"
She turns around. The paramedic is filing her nails with deliberate care, and
the patient is sitting up in the gurney with a crossword puzzle, and is her
"They're all gone, dear," says her mother. "Didn't I warn you
about sleeping with co-workers? Especially sweet, helpless ones like that nice
"You did not warn--" Meredith has an unpleasant feeling low in her
belly. It's a familiar unpleasant feeling. "This isn't real, is it?"
she says, putting down the phone.
Her mother waves the crossword puzzle dismissively. "It's real enough to
you. You drove them all away."
"What are you talking about?" The fact that her mother is lucid makes
it easier to hate her, right now.
"That nice boy." She gestures. Meredith can see the back of George's
head through a window, sitting at the foot of an empty bed. He is nodding, as
if agreeing with her mother. "He offers you something so sweet, so
unselfish, and you don't even think about his feelings, do you?"
"I... I..." Meredith points an accusing finger at her mother.
"You are in my head! Imaginary people don't get to judge me!"
"Oh, of course I do, dear," says her mother. "I'm in your
head." She scribbles enthusiastically for a moment, and then holds up the
book with a puzzled expression. "What's a six-letter word for
"Rutabaga," volunteers the paramedic, and Meredith's mother rolls her
"No, dear. That's a lymphatic organ."
"Okay," mutters Meredith to herself. "That's enough of
She closes her eyes, as tightly as she can, and pinches herself, and then she
She is sitting in bed, and the room is cold, and Derek is here.
"So here's the thing," says Derek.
This time she's sure she's dreaming, because Derek is here, in her bedroom,
sitting at the foot of the bed, and Adison is nowhere to be found, not even
present, not even the idea of her, except in Meredith's head, and in reality
that wasn't the problem at all. In the real world the fact that she is always
there, even when she isn't, would mean Derek could not be here. Which he is.
"The thing is," he continues, kindly, "he's not me."
"That's a stupid thing to say," Meredith tells him. "Especially
since you're not you, either."
"Okay, I'll give you that one," he agrees. "But I stand by my previous
Meredith looks over at the other side of the bed. George is sleeping, facing
away from her, and doesn't seem to hear either of them.
"He's George," she says, very quietly. When she turns back, Derek is
"That's sort of what I meant," says Derek. "You want to be
"'Course I do," Meredith whispers, deciding not to wonder why none of
this feels strange.
"So... he's George."
Meredith blinks at him. "And?"
"Everything he said was true," Derek tells her, softly.
Meredith glances over at the other side of the bed again.
Derek smiles at her, then stands up. "He's George."
"Yeah," she agrees. She looks at Derek again, suspiciously.
"You're staring," he points out, after a time.
"I'm just waiting to see if you turn into a talking bagel or
something," she explains.
He smiles again. "Should I?"
She frowns. "I'd really rather you didn't."
"I'm sure." She yawns. "I'm tired."
Derek comes around the bed, pulls up the covers. "Close your eyes."
"But what if I don't remember this? Won't I just act like myself and ruin
everything and... and make it all comes true?"
He laughs. "Close your eyes."
She closes her eyes.
This time, she wakes up very slowly, but the border between closing her eyes and
being aware of being awake is hazy and indistinct. Gradually she becomes aware
of the give of the mattress, and the fact that her hair is in her eyes, and
that she has an itch between her shoulder blades.
She has been lying with her eyes tightly closed for a very long time now, she
thinks, eventually, because try as she might she cannot work out whether or not
she is alone. Finally the bed shifts and she is sure, and she cracks open one
eye and sees the outline of a shoulder. The opens the other eye, and gradually,
as her sight adjusts to the dim light, the line of the shoulder resolves into
the muscle connecting shoulder to neck, to an ear, to messy dark hair and--
--George is still asleep, although his eyebrows are drawn together high on his
face, as if he's worrying about something despite being unconscious.
It's strange that having another person in the bed makes the room so warm.
George is radiating heat, and the room is warm. Comfortable.
She can't think why it never occurred to her before. Why she's been looking at
George, on and off, for a long time, now, and has never thought how much she
likes his face - and the rest of him, come to think of it. There's something
innocent in it, and boyish, sure, but she thinks she has been dismissing him simply
because he is... George.
There is so much in George that she just never noticed, before. She does notice
that he is awake, and that his eyes, half-open, are focused on her face, as if
he can't quite believe what he's seeing, and she wonders if he's been having
the kind of dreams she's been having.
"Hey," he says, softly, and there is a touch of panic in his features
that seems to freeze him to the spot despite an apparent urge to flee that
Meredith thinks, for a moment, that she has impressed upon him somehow via
osmosis. At the same time there is an earnest, desperate affection in his eyes
that terrifies her just as much.
"Hey," she says back, trying to smile, but she thinks it comes out
more like a crooked grimace. "You're still here." She tries to say it
with as little surprise as possible. She's repeating, inside her head, over and
over, that she just needs to lie still, and everything will be all
right. She's not quite sure what that means, but it seems to be working,
because when George smiles, it's still terrified but isn't awkward at all.
George is never really awkward - just so very sincere about everything that to
other people that it seems excessive and stumbling when he meets up with the
"So," she says. She can hear that the shower is running, and the
sound of Izzy and Alex arguing carries down the corridor. The house is full of
people, and it is Saturday, and none of them have anywhere to be, and George is
smiling at her.
This time, she does not wake up.