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Four Seasons (And Then Some)

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Meredith Grey had finally moved on from her One Great Love. It took years - two and a half years to be exact - but she had finally come to terms with it. She still had their kids, their three great kids that emulated him in so many ways, and she was Happy. It had taken her so long to be truly Happy. Her family was great, her Nathan was good for her, and her colleagues and work life had never been better. Meredith Grey was finally able to let Derek go.

It started out like any other day. Meredith woke up the kids and got the younger ones ready, and sent them downstairs to breakfast with Nathan - who they had started calling Uncle Nathan now that they were comfortable with each other. She got her own clothes on and made herself look acceptable for a work day as the Head of General Surgery at Grey Sloan Memorial before heading downstairs herself. She walked quickly down the steps to the smell of waffles and bacon being cooked, a smile spreading across her face as she crossed the threshold of the kitchen to find her family.

"Waffles? Haven't you spoiled these kids enough?" She teased Nathan as she walked deeper into the kitchen and past the island to stand with her boyfriend as he slaved over a waffle maker. He turned towards her as she spoke and smiled, leaning down to close the space between them in a kiss hello.

"I'm trying to keep myself on their good side. If it's waffles and bacon they want, then Uncle Nathan will provide them waffles and bacon." Nathan remarked as he took a steaming waffle out of the waffle iron and placed it on a fresh plate. "Sit down. Enjoy your breakfast, working woman." He nudged the plate towards her, and Meredith laughed as she took the plate out of his hands and sat down at the table with her kids.

As she ate her waffle, she checked her phone to see what her work schedule was like for the day. She only ever had to work late once or twice a month - a perk of being a department head and setting her own hours - and it just so happened to fall that day for the month. "Okay kids, Mommy has to work late tonight which means Uncle Nathan will be here to put you to bed. Is that okay with you all?"

"Yay, it'll be an Uncle Nathan night! He always has the funniest bedtime stories!" Bailey exclaimed with the type of enthusiasm you only see in 4 year olds like him. "Will you still come to kiss me good night like always when you get home Mommy?" Zola asked as she looked up from her waffles. Meredith smiled at her kids and nodded in reply to Zola.

"Of course, Zozo, I will always come kiss you good night. Just like I kiss you goodbye every morning before I leave for the hospital, right?" She reassured her too-smart-for-her-own-good 7 year old daughter. "In fact, I'll give you your goodbye kiss right now since I'm going to be late if I wait any longer. Nathan is going to take you guys to school and daycare, alright?"

She got up and kissed all 3 of her kids, making sure to pay equal attention to all three of them. "I love you Mama, I'll see you tomorrow!" Zola said in her sweet voice, making baby Ellis wave to her as she grabbed her bag. "I'll be very grown up and help Uncle Nathan put Ellis to sleep for you." Meredith couldn't help but smile at her oldest baby while walking towards Nathan to give him a quick kiss goodbye.

"You do that for me, Zo, and I'll be sure to come bring you lunch at school soon as a reward. I'll see you all later, okay? I love you!" She told her family as she left the kitchen, smiling at the chorus of I-Love-You-Too's she got back. She grabbed her keys off the wall hook and picked up her coat from the heap on the floor, putting it on as she opened and closed the door behind her. She headed out to her car, unlocking it with a chirp. It was a completely normal day. She'd go to work, deal with clueless interns and residents, and then come home to a house full of sleeping kids and her Nathan. She couldn't imagine anything better - unless Nathan was Derek.

It was an uneventful drive to work, with a bit of characteristic Seattle drizzle falling from the grey clouds that were almost always in the sky. She parked in her usual spot between Owen Hunt and Alex Karev, two people she had worked with and been friends with for a very long time. The short walk to the attendings lounge was very quiet, which meant it was a pretty quiet day in the ER. Hopefully she could get away with getting home early if there wasn't any patients to so surgeries or procedures on. She found Alex after changing into her navy blue scrubs and lab coat, and her day went on.

Her day definitely got busier, after two mass-casualty accidents came through the pit and called for all hands on deck. There were a lot of neurosurgical injuries, and since she had learned a lot of neurosurgical procedures during her residency thanks to Derek, she helped the short-staffed neurosurgery department on a large number of cases. By the end of the day, she was exhausted - both emotionally and physically. The physical pain was nothing she couldn't handle and it was normal after a long day of standing in the OR over multiple different patients. The emotional pain, though, she wasn't prepared for. She didn't realise all her memories of Derek - from the mundane to the more prominent - would come flooding back to her while working with neurosurgery patients. She had been doing so well with her grief that it had become a nonissue - so little that she barely even flinched at a PA announcement saying "Dr.Shepherd" in reference to Amelia or the mention of any neurosurgical injury they had worked on during their time together as doctors. Today, though? Today, her grief was falling over her in waves. She missed him so much, she didn't think she was going to make it home.

Meredith tiredly changed back into her street clothes and gathered her things, grabbing a coffee out of the lounge before she headed out to her car. She sat in the drivers seat for a few minutes while she tried to regain her senses enough to drive. It didn't take long for her to wake up, but she made a decision she wasn't sure was a good one. Instead of turning left out of the parking lot towards the neighborhood where her house was, she turned right to go to Derek's land. She was really glad at that moment that she had decided just after he died to not sell the land, because it was perfect for this moment. She needed to be around him for a little while before she went home. She hoped that it would get the emotions out of her system before she went back home to Nathan and the kids. It wouldn't really be fair of her to unload all of her troubles on him, when he probably just wanted to relax after a long day of running after an overactive toddler. She smiled at the thought of her youngest child - but that smile quickly dissolved when she remembered that Derek never got to meet her. Derek was the one who wanted to have more kids. He should have been able to see the baby who looked and acted the most like him.

She turned onto the gravel road that led to the cliff where Derek had built her a house - the one she had affectionately dubbed the "Dream House". She and the kids had moved out when they returned from her year of running away, because she couldn't handle all the reminders of him. She smiled as the big house came into her field of view, and she parked and turned off the car. She let herself stare at the house and the view of Seattle behind it before getting out of the car and digging for the keys to it as she walked to the front door. Eventually, she found them and the latch of the lock clicked, opening the door and letting her into a world where Derek still existed. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before stepping into the house, and she let the memories flood over her. She let her mind go and let her feet take her wherever they wished. Suddenly, she found herself standing in front of Derek's side of the closet, reaching out for his well-worn Bowdoin shirt. Before he had died, she loved to wear the shirts that smelled and felt the most like him, and this one was a personal favourite of hers. She reached for the hem of her shirt and pulled it over her head before slipping on the familiar fabric of the grey t-shirt. She took off her jeans as well, trying to get as close to how she looked when she and Derek were happy and married and both alive.

She reveled in the feeling of knowing she was wearing something so definitively Derek, and let herself go back downstairs to sit on the couch. Before she got too comfortable, she took in the room and her gaze landed on another thing so very Derek - his record player. Figuring "why not?", Meredith got back up and found his favourite record from The Clash to put on. After turning up the music and grabbing her coffee, she let herself relax on the couch and just be in a place where she felt like nothing had ever gone wrong. There was no such thing as an 18 wheeler semitruck, death didn't exist, and Derek was just on a long shift at work. She lost herself in thought and eventually felt herself dancing on the line between consciousness and sleep.

Meredith snapped awake when she heard a knock at the door. Why would someone be knocking on the door? She told everyone she knew that they had moved back to her old house, and she couldn't think of a single reason why someone would be out here in the middle of nowhere knocking on the door of a house on privately owned property. After what felt like forever, she heard another knock - this time louder. Whoever it was must have known she was in there, and really wanted to get to her. She sighed as she got up, and made the trek over to the door. She unlocked it and opened the door, and staring back at her were eyes she swore she'd never see again.

"Hey," Derek Shepherd said in that all-too-familiar voice, "I lost my keys. I'm sorry I was gone so long."

And then the world went black.

Chapter Text

Two years was a long time. A really long time. A baby could learn how to walk, and talk, and feed themselves in two years. So, naturally, pretending to be dead for two years means you miss a lot. At least, Derek felt like he missed out on a lot in the past two years. Just seeing Meredith for the first time in what felt like forever made him realise just how long he'd been gone, and how much older they both were getting. He'd made a terrible mistake in agreeing to this whole 'fake death' thing.

He crouched down near Meredith as he waited for her to come to her senses after fainting. He let himself stare, take all of her in in all of her glory. He was in the middle of thinking about how much he'd missed seeing the sparkle in her eyes when she was teasing him when slowly, her eyes blinked open. He smiled as she regained all of her five senses before she quickly sat up and scooted as far away from him as she could. The smile bled away in record time as he put his hands on his thighs and stood up. "I suppose I should explain why I'm here and not decomposing into carbon in a wooden coffin buried six feet into the ground." He chuckled, hoping to get a reaction from her that wasn't just pure terror.

"How are you even alive?" Meredith said in a voice barely above a whisper, because that's all she could muster with all the emotions swirling inside of her. "You. Are. Dead. Like, completely, totally, legally confirmed by a doctor in multiple hospitals dead. You shouldn't be here. You shouldn't even be breathing! Please, tell me I'm dreaming or something, because I don't think I can deal with any more of your crap!" She yelled at him while trying to keep her breathing even. It was taking all of her energy to keep from falling into the fetal position and crying until she woke up from this cruel and horrible dream. It couldn't be real. No one comes back from the dead. Not even Derek freaking Shepherd.

Derek smiled an apologetic smile towards his Meredith, completely torn up inside because he couldn't do anything to make her feel better. He was the reason she was feeling this way. "Why don't we go to the couch? I've got a lot to say, and it would probably be a lot more comfortable than sitting her on the step by the door." He suggested with a shrug as he headed farther into the house he remembered so fondly. It felt like years ago that he had stood in that exact same spot and kissed her goodbye before leaving to Washington D.C. for the last time. He decided to let Meredith come to terms with this little (well, that was an understatement) situation and headed over to the couch to make himself comfortable. After a few moments he watched her find the courage to stand up and walk over to the couch, but she sat as far away from him as she could possibly get. It seemed like she was trying to protect herself from getting hurt again - for which he couldn't blame her. He had ruined everything.

He took a deep breath and forced himself to look at her in the eyes, even if she wouldn't look back. He hadn't prepared himself for her reacting this way. "Okay. I guess I'll start from the beginning, right?" There was so much he needed to say, he could barely figure out what order he needed to say it in. "Well, you know that car accident that happened on the backroads when I was avoiding traffic on the way to Seattle-Tacoma? That did happen, and I did help out with the injuries. It took me a little while to get everyone loaded up onto an ambulance and heading to a hopsital, but I was still on schedule for my day. The whole semi-trailer plowing into my car thing? That didn't actually happen." He took a moment to let her digest this information, and a moment for himself to keep composed for this whole confession. "The car accident hadn't been planned, but the semi had been. When I told the government I was quitting the brain mapping initiative, for some reason they decided I couldn't do that and put me into something that resembled the Witness Protection Program but for people that worked for the government. They came up with a plan that would cut me off from everyone I cared about here in Seattle so that they would have me full time until they came to a point that they were pleased with the initiative. I didn't expect that they would make me fake my death. I never even wanted to say yes because I didn't want to leave you or the kids, but they forced me into it. Hell, you can't say no when the President of the United States tells you that he's practically forcing you into pretending to die." He chuckled in an attempt to make the atmosphere a little less dark, but it was futile. Talking about pretending to die was a pretty dark conversation no matter what the context was. "So, the plan involved my Cayenne - with a fake Derek lookalike that I think was already dead - getting into an accident with a semi-trailer on my way to the airport to trick you all into believing I was dead. The body that you unplugged wasn't actually my body. I got into a different car the government provided and went to the airport, and I've spent the past two years working miserably on the brain mapping program in D.C. That's why I'm alive now." Derek ran his hands through his hair as he finished speaking, hoping that she wouldn't freak out too much.

Meredith was stunned, to say the least. It was all a trick? The government made him pretend to die. All to keep him working on their stupid brain mapping program. She didn't know what she thought, and her first reaction was to yell at him again. So, she did. "What in the hell were you thinking? It never crossed your mind to say hey Meredith, if I get into a car accident soon it isn't actually real! I'm not actually dead, don't worry!" She stood up and started pacing to get all of her anger out. "Our kids were wrecked! I was wrecked, Derek! I couldn't do anything for weeks! I ran away because you managed to make every little thing in Seattle remind me of you, and I had to move out of this beautiful house because you were in. Every. Corner. I've only just become someone that vaguely resembles me before you died, and now you show up? Not. Freaking. Dead?"

"I'm so sorry Meredith, but the government is someone you can say no to! I never meant to ruin your life, and I feel terrible about the fact that I've already missed two years of the kids' lives. I'm here now. I'm here, Meredith."

"Oh, you're here now? Now? That would have been nice to know two years ago, Derek! You were the love of my life. You don't know how hard it is to get yourself out of the hole that losing the person you love leaves you in. I've been there, thanks to you, and it was the worst experience of my entire life. I can't possibly see how you think I'm ever going to be able to trust you now!"

Derek stood up and started messing with the hem of his shirt nervously, trying and failing to think of something to say back to her that wouldn't sound so completely pathetic. All he could think of was a time that felt like centuries ago - when they loved each other. "Meredith." He said in a tone that he usually reserved for the height of their sex adventures, in hopes that it would bring back good memories in her and she would at least stop yelling at him.

"No, Derek! You lost the right to say my name like that when you went and faked your death! I genuinely cannot see how anyone would think that pretending to die would end well when you reveal that you're not actually dead. And the kids, Derek. What were you expected to say to the kids? This will just make them think that the next person important to them that dies isn't actually dead. You're going to ruin them even more." Meredith suddenly remembered where the kids were, and how late it was. "Speaking of the kids, I really need to get home to them before Nathan gets too worried." She said with a sigh, fishing her phone out of her pocket to check the time and if she had any texts. Thankfully, her notifications were completely clear, and it was only 10.45 pm.

Derek couldn't help his reaction when Meredith mentioned another man's name. "Nathan?" He whispered, surprised by how hurt he felt. He should've realised that she would find someone else to replace him. He just didn't realise that it would actually happen. "Who's Nathan? Are the kids alright with him?"

She only let herself feel bad for Derek for just a moment before collecting herself to speak again. "Nathan Riggs. He's a good friend of Owen's from when they were in the army, and he's my boyfriend. The kids call him Uncle Nathan, and Ellis has really taken a liking to him considering she doesn't know any different. He was watching the kids for me tonight since I had a long shift at the hospital today."

"Ellis? We have a third baby?" At this point, Derek couldn't help but let himself cry silent tears. He had missed so much, but he didn't think he had missed Meredith having another baby. "Meredith, I don't think I can possibly tell you how sorry I am. I really never meant to cause so much pain in our family,"

"Yes, we have another baby. Ellis was born almost 9 months to the day after you said you wanted to have more kids. Funny how well you work sometimes." She looked him directly in the eye when she spoke to be sure just how un-funny that entire situation was. "Save it, Derek. I really need to get home. I guess you can stay here for now. All your clothes are still in the closet, and I haven't taken the sheets off the bed since your fake funeral." She found her purse and started to gather her things up before realising that she was still wearing his Bowdoin shirt. "If you let me change, you can have this one back too. There's some fresh coffee in the pot if you want some." She grabbed her clothes and hurried towards the bathroom to quickly change before he could say anything else. While she was changing in the privacy of the bathroom, she sat down on the toilet lid and let herself sob for a few minutes. Her dreams for the past two years had finally come true - her Derek was alive.

She came back out into the kitchen to him sitting at the bar and sipping coffee out of his favourite red mug. She tried to fight off her longing smile as best as she could, and walked towards him. "I'll be back tomorrow before my shift with some food to hold you over for a few days. We can talk about how you're going to go about reintroducing yourself to everyone then, okay?" She said as she held out the shirt she loved so much.

He couldn't help but smile as he reached out to take his shirt, brushing her fingers with his in the hand-off. "Okay. I'll see you in the morning then. Will you bring pictures of the kids please? And tell them I love them for me." His voice had gotten really low, to reflect how small he felt. He really could not remember a time where he had felt worse in his life - even counting when his dad had for-real died. "I really missed you, Meredith."

Meredith took a deep breath and closed her eyes as she felt his fingers brush across hers, a small gesture she never thought she'd ever feel again. "I'll bring the baby books, and some of Zola's artwork from school. She really missed you, so a lot of them feature what she remembers you two used to do together." She picked up her purse and grabbed her keys. She gave him one last look before putting her hand on the door handle, and opened the door. She couldn't help her emotions, and she let herself do one thing that her heart wanted.

"I really missed you too, Derek." And with that, she let the tears come and the door shut behind her.

She ran out to her car and quickly got into the driver's seat, putting the key into the ignition and turning the car on. She let herself cry all the way back to her house. It helped the drive home feel less painful, less like she was leaving him high and dry emotionally. From what she had seen, he had been just as wrecked about leaving her alone as she had been about being left alone. That - although kind of cruel, in a way - made her feel a little bit better about such a terrible and senseless act.

She was still crying freely when she unlocked her door and walked into her living room to find Nathan watching the late night news. He looked up at the sound of the door and immediately his expression changed from happy to concerned.

"What's wrong, honey?" He asked in a low tone.

"Derek's alive."

Chapter Text

Meredith couldn't remember the last time she had laid awake thinking like this.

Well, no. That was a lie. She could remember the last time she'd had sleep stolen from her by her thoughts - and it was because of the same person. Derek Shepherd had a knack for causing her sleepless nights for many, many different reasons.

Thankfully, she'd managed to get herself a day off from work to give this whole "Derek's alive and not actually dead" mess her full attention. She still couldn't believe that he had the nerve to pull a stunt like that, even with all the crap he had put her through in her years of knowing (and loving) him. Somehow, she thought that he couldn't possibly do anything worse. Meredith couldn't tell whether she was glad he was alive or mad that he wasn't actually dead. Her heart was tearing itself into two pieces, and she didn't know if she had the strength left in her to fight through another messy situation caused by Derek. The last one had caused enough pain for a lifetime.

Nathan had, thankfully, left her mostly alone that night and morning, as if he had sensed that she needed to not be around men for a little while. The kids hadn't noticed anything was up, which she was grateful for. The last thing she needed was her very emotionally tuned-in kids to sense that something was wrong with her. She definitely wouldn't be able to keep from telling the kids about Derek, because they deserved their dad. Even if she hated him with every fiber of her being in that moment. After they had been carted off to school and daycare by Nathan on his way to work, she finally found the courage to drag herself out of bed and get a different outfit on. She was in the middle of microwaving a chocolate chip muffin when she remembered Derek's one request from the night before - things from the kids. She made sure to take her muffin out of the microwave and set it down on a plate before abandoning it and heading upstairs to the kids' rooms. She went to Zola's things first, knowing that most of the things that would involve Derek would be found there. After finding a substantial amount of artwork that made her smile despite herself she headed back down to the living room to get Bailey and Ellis's baby books chronicling their infancy. Derek had missed so much, she realised as she flipped through Bailey's book and watched as Derek suddenly disappeared from the pictures.

She snapped back to reality after a few moments and remembered why she was looking at these memories in the first place. She sighed and stood up in an attempt to get herself back into a better mood for the day. Her abandoned muffin had lost all it's chocolate meltyness, and her coffee was lukewarm. With a sigh she poured her coffee into a travel mug and decided against her muffin. She instead grabbed a box of Cheerios and muesli to take to Derek so they could share breakfast together - something to make herself pretend that everything that happened had just been a dream.

The drive to his land went by faster than ever, and she was parking in the familiar driveway before she even recognized where she was. She grabbed the bag of stuff she had brought with her from the backseat and turned the car off, taking the key out of the ignition. She walked up to the door, debating whether or not she should knock or just walk in - it wasn't like she didn't know him or hadn't seen him in every sense of the word naked. But, then again, she hadn't seen him for almost two and a half years. Would that make a different? She had just decided on raising her fist to the door to knock when it opened to reveal a Derek with ruffled hair and a towel wrapped around his waist.

"You know you can just walk in, right? It's not like I'm going to call the cops on you for trespassing." He joked, walking away from her back into the house. Slightly stunned, Meredith just stepped over the threshold and headed straight for the kitchen island to unload her bag. She mechanically took the cereal boxes out, trying not to remember what he looked like under that fluffy white towel he was wearing. Out of the bag next came Zola's artwork, and then the baby books. Looking at stuff that was so blatantly childlike helped, and she didn't feel as tempted to turn around and look at her husband (could she still call him that?). When she did manage to turn around, he was gone. She presumed he had gone to change into actual clothes, so she busied herself with making a bowl of cereal.

She was in the middle of pouring herself some Cheerios when Derek walked back in, this time wearing his Bowdoin shirt that she had worn the night before and his favourite pair of pajama pants. This time, it wasn't as hard to control her mind. It made her smile, in fact, taking her back to simpler times before the kids had been born. He walked over to her and grabbed the box of muesli to pour his own bowl. They worked in silence, as if it were any regular morning for a married couple like them. As if Derek hadn't just technically risen from the dead the night before.

Neither of them seemed to want to be the first to speak, so the sound of metal spoons clinking against their bowls was the soundtrack to their breakfast. Once they were both finished, though, speaking had become unavoidable. So, Derek got up and put his bowl in the sink to clean later, and leaned against the counter to look at Meredith. "So. What are we going to do about me?"

Meredith looked up when he spoke, the words cutting into what had been silence. "Uh. I don't know. I figured you'd have some sort of plan?" She shrugged. "Did the government not cover that too? Or did they leave you on your own to deal with the fallout of faking your death?" She spoke as she put her own bowl away and went to the living room to sit down on the couch. The topic of conversation he had started made her have a feeling that her whole day was going to be spent here figuring this all out.

"I don't really know. They just said that I couldn't come back until they said so, but they didn't say anything about what happens afterwards. I mean, there's no easy way to tell everyone that I was just pretending to be dead. It isn't exactly the nicest thing to do." He chuckled and ran his hands through his hair as he sat down himself. "And then with the kids, and my nieces and nephews, it'll be even harder. I guess I never really thought about this with everyone else. I mainly thought about coming home to you."

"Derek..." Even after so long, she still couldn't believe that he didn't think about much but her. "No matter how you do this, it isn't going to be easy. I think your best bet is having me set up some sort of meeting through Skype with Bailey, and trying to get you your job back. After you have a steady source of income, you can worry about how you're going to say sorry to your sister and your friends."

"I really did a fantastic job with this, didn't I?" Derek couldn't help but laugh at the size of the mess that he had gotten himself into. What was he going to do?

Meredith couldn't help but shake her head and smile at him. "You did a great job at fantastically messing things up for a lot of people. It goes perfectly with your ego the size of Texas that makes you unable to think about anyone but yourself."

"Meredith.. What are we going to do about us?"

She wasn't prepared for this subject change. To be perfectly honest, she would be happy avoiding this topic for as long as she could, because she just didn't know how she felt about him right now. It definitely wasn't something she could just automatically come to terms with. "I think you should keep living here, and I'll stay at my house with the kids. We can see about reintroducing you to them soon, if they take it okay when I tell them. Did you see the stuff I brought you? It's on the counter."

Derek looked towards the counter and his gaze fell on the pile of papers next to the cereal boxes. He smiled and got up to get them, and bring them back to the couch. He flicked through them, smiling as he came across ones that involved him, and the whole family. "I really don't want to miss anymore. I've already missed too much." He told Meredith as he stopped the picture of what he presumed was Ellis on the cover of her baby book. He had missed two years, and his youngest's entire life. He didn't want to miss any more milestones.

"I don't want you to miss any more, either. Believe me, Derek, I'm on your side here with the kids. As for my feelings..." She sighed, trying to figure out what exactly she should say. "I don't know how I feel about you. I thought I had gotten over you, gotten over the love that we had. I found Nathan and he treated me like you did at your best. But.. He wasn't you. I think I just need to take a little while away from the both of you to get some perspective and think about what I really want. Is that okay?"

"Perspective...Yes. As long as I can still see the kids, I'm okay with you taking all the time you need." He stopped to think for a moment and came upon a terrible realization that scared him to his wits end. "Wait, they don't call him Dad, right?"

"No, Derek, they call him Uncle Nathan. You'll always be their Daddy." She took a risk that was sure to cloud her judgement and reached out to him, putting her hand on his thigh. "They miss you. Zola and Bailey, they really miss you. Bailey's always asking when Daddy's coming home. No one will ever be as important to them as you are."

Derek brushed his hand against Meredith's on his leg, letting himself revel in the feeling of her closeness. It was a feeling that he hadn't felt in a very long time, and he couldn't believe that he was getting it back. "I really miss them too. I missed them so much." He could feel tears welling up in his eyes, because so many things were happening that he thought might never happen again. He was sitting there with his Meredith, looking at artwork made by his kids. It was a life he never thought he'd get to have again, one that he wanted more than anything else in the world. He wanted his family more than anything fame and power could ever give him. He turned towards Meredith with a reverent smile on his face, using his free hand to brush a tear away from his eye.

Meredith had never been able to resist herself when Derek had cried. Never. So when he turned to her with an expression on his face that told her so many things, she couldn't hold everything in anymore. This was the man she loved. This was her husband. She decided to let her heart win for a little while, and do something that would help make both of them happy. She scooted right up next to him and pressed their sides together, taking his arm and wrapping it around her shoulders. "Let's just sit here for a while. Okay?"

Derek smiled and held his wife tight against him, resting his forehead against her head. "Okay."

They stayed curled up together for the rest of the afternoon.

Chapter Text

"He's what?" 

"Yeah, I thought that's where we'd start."

Meredith had gone straight to Bailey's office when she'd arrived at work that morning, and sat herself down in front of her to tell her everything that had happened with Derek the past few days. It took a while to explain but she'd eventually just paraphrased by telling her that he was alive. And then they went from there.

"He's alive. And he's sitting in my car wearing the most ridiculous get-up in an attempt to disguise his true identity. He wanted me to ask about getting his job back."

"I think he's going to have bigger problems than getting a job, Grey. What is he planning on doing about all the people that are under the impression he's dead here?" Bailey shook her head as she spoke, a small smile on her face as she realised just how Derek this situation was. 

"I know, I told him that about 50 times this morning. He's set on returning to work. I think he's just trying to block out the fact that he hurt so many people in the worst way possible. Should I have him come up here and talk it out with you?"

"Yeah, that'll probably be best. The fool needs to get a bit of sense slapped into him. I'll call a meeting for the evening shift change so everyone can get into the loop tonight. You'll be there?"

"I'll be there. Thanks, Bailey. He'll be up in a minute." Meredith gave her boss a smile and made her way out of the office back to the parking lot. She hurried towards her car and got into the back seat where he was sitting. She touched his arm and he jumped, making her pull her arm away from him immediately. He rubbed his eyes as he turned to her and registered who it was.

"Sorry, I fell asleep. What happened with Bailey?" Derek spoke, his voice rough with sleep.

"She wants you to go to her office and talk to her for a little while. She's arranging an attending's meeting tonight so that you can tell them all that you're alive personally. I'll walk you to her office, but after that I actually have to work. I'm already missing rounds, Richard is covering my cases." She checked her watch before looking back at him. "So, you ready?" She asked as she opened the door and got out of the car. It took him a minute, but eventually he followed suit and was looking at the hospital they owned. 

"It looks different. Did you do remodels?" He asked.

"No, we just moved the physician parking lot. You probably weren't paying attention when we drove in." She laughed and started walking towards the entrance, glancing behind her to make sure he was still following. It was actually nice to see him looking around in wonder at the place they had so many memories in together. They walked to Bailey's office in silence as they approached crowds of people, careful to avoid people hearing Derek's voice and getting suspicious. That was definitely the last thing Meredith needed. 

It wasn't long before she sat Derek down in the chair she had just sat in fifteen minutes before, leaving him to work things out with Bailey. She gave him one last smile before disappearing to the attending's lounge to change into her scrubs and begin her work day.

Derek took off the sunglasses he had been wearing and made very uncomfortable eye contact with Bailey, swallowing down the lump of nervousness in his throat. "Miranda. How are you?" He asked as if it were any normal day from Before.

Bailey scrutinized him for a second, looking him up and down in a way that made him even more uncomfortable. "Derek Shepherd. It's good to see you." An uncharacteristic smile spread across her face and Derek let himself relax for a moment before the uncomfortable feeling swallowed him whole again. "That doesn't forgive what you've done to be here today. You ruined that girl of yours. I don't think anyone here was left untouched. You're going to have to apologize profusely, Shepherd."

"I know, I know. I feel so terrible, there's nothing else you could say that I haven't already told myself. Meredith won't even let me kiss her. I screwed up, I know that." He looked down to his lap for a moment and took a deep breath. "I just want to start over. I need a job, and I need to make up with everyone. Will you let me do that?"

"I can let you work in the clinic for a few weeks until everything settles down. I don't need any more fights in the halls, I get enough of those daily." 

"It's still a job. Thank you so much, Bailey. I won't let you down this time."

"That's not a promise you need to make to me." Bailey took her pager off her desk and pressed a series of buttons before putting it down again. "I just paged your sister. You're going to tell her everything first, to avoid more family drama this hospital does not need."

Derek just stared at her, his colleague, his friend. He should have realised that she was going to throw him straight into the deep end with no life jacket. He licked his lips and nodded, wrapping his mind around the fact that he was about to have a very angry woman in his vicinity in a few moments. It didn't take long for Amelia to answer the page, and soon he heard the familiar voice of his youngest sister fill the silence. 

"You need something, Bailey?" The girl asked, not noticing Derek in the slightest.

"I need you to talk to this godforsaken man sitting here, and I need to not be here while you do it. Derek, talk to your sister. I'll be back with coffee in twenty minutes."

Derek crumpled into himself when he heard Amelia's gasp as she recognized him sitting there. He slowly turned around to look at his sister, and offered her a pitiful smile. "Hey, Amy. Long time no see."

She blinked at him a few times, looking like her brain wasn't functioning properly. He couldn't blame her for being shell-shocked. He got up and walked towards her at the door, pulling her into a hug. His arms around her seemed to wake her up, and soon he had fists coming into contact with his chest. 

"Derek! Freaking! Shepherd! You ruined me! How could you even think that this would end well? You made me lose my sober chips!" Amelia kept hitting him as she spoke, taking short breaths. "You're going to wish you were dead when Mom finds out you're alive. Oh my God, Derek, what were you thinking?"

Derek managed to escape Amelia's fury filled grasp and backed away from her to avoid being hit with more fists. He looked at her for a few moments before he even tried to speak, completely unsure of what to say. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, okay? You have to realise that this wasn't my decision." He sighed, running his hands through his hair nervously. "The government made me do it. They forced me into pretending to die. They didn't even let me tell anyone that it was happening before it did, and I regret never being able to tell anyone. But I'm here now, okay? I'm not going anywhere, Amy."

Amelia stood there for a second, breathing hard in an attempt to regain stability. "You're going to have a hard time getting me back on your good side."

"I know. I know, Amelia. I'm already having a really hard time with Meredith." He sighed.

"Meredith knows? Who else?"

"Just you and Bailey. We're having a meeting tonight to tell everyone else. I'm working in the clinic for a few weeks so everyone can get used to seeing me not dead before I go back to the Neurosurgery department."

It was silent for a few moments before Amelia went up to him and pulled him into a hug. "You're really alive."

He smiled and put his arms around his sister, rubbing her back. "Yeah. I'm really alive."

------

Who knew that the clinic was so tiring? 

Derek had only been back for all of eight hours, and the clinic had chosen that one day to be completely swamped. Luckily, no one from the surgery department had come over to the clinic, so he'd only dealt with clinic doctors all day. He finally signed out of his shift and began the work of cleaning up and restocking for the next day. He changed the bedding on every bed, and restocked all the medicine on the bedside carts. It took him fifteen minutes to get the clinic back into proper order, and he grabbed his phone off the reception desk. 

He checked his notifications as he walked across the ambulance bay to the ER before deciding against going in through there. He instead turned on his heels and started walking the long way, towards the back entrance where he had gone in this morning. He had half an hour before he had to be at the "Derek's not dead!" meeting, so he took his time and reveled in the tired feeling that came with a day of treating patients. He hadn't been in his hospital for two and a half years, and he didn't realise how much he'd missed it until he finally had it again. Walking through the hospital was like coming home after a long vacation, seeing the familiar halls and faces was a better feeling than he'd ever felt before. 

Eventually he made it to the conference room they had booked for the meeting, and found himself in a room with Meredith, Bailey, and Amelia. He gave the three women a sheepish smile as he sat down in a chair near the front of the table and let himself rest after a busy day. 

"How was the clinic?" Meredith asked, sitting down in the chair across from him. 

"Busy. But it was good to treat patients again. What about you, any good surgeries?" He smiled at his wife (could he still call her that? He wasn't sure) and rested his hands on his chin to listen to her. 

"That's good. It was a slow day for me, just post-ops and consults." She sighed and looked towards the door as it opened, seeing more people spill into the room. "I think you should probably go sit in the front with Bailey, now."

He looked to where Bailey was standing and found an empty chair just to the right of her. He gave Meredith one last smile before he got up and sat in the chair at the front of the room. He heard lots of whispers and felt too many pairs of eyes staring at him, and he shrunk into himself again. He'd felt this small too many times today. 

After a few more minutes the room was full of attendings either ready to go home or ready to start their shifts. The buzz of conversation in the room was almost deafening and he couldn't make out any voices other than Meredith's. He ran his hands over his face and through his hair, praying that this meeting would go well. 

"Okay, people, I know you're all busy so let's get this over with. You all remember Derek Shepherd, yes?" Bailey's authoritative voice rang through the room and the side conversations stopped as the room full of doctors turned their attention to the Chief. After a few murmurs and agreements, Bailey looked at him and motioned for him to join her at the front of the room. "Well, he's alive. Have fun explaining, Shepherd." Bailey walked to the back of the room as a chorus of gasps and "I knew that was him!"'.

That was twice today that his former friend had thrown him straight into the deep end of the pool emotionally, leaving him to struggle to breathe. "Hi, uh.. I know I'm supposed to be dead. I'm not, actually." He laughed nervously as he scanned the crowd, trying to find the words to keep the staff of Grey Sloan Memorial from getting outraged at his expense. "If you want to know the details, you can find me personally sometime the next few days, but other than that let's just leave it at the fact I'm alive and glad to be here. I'm working in the clinic if you need me. Thanks." His voice got progressively smaller as he finished his sentence, and he retreated to his chair in the corner to escape from the scrutinizing eyes of his former colleagues. 

He wasn't paying any attention to Bailey adjourning the meeting or the people leaving the room. He didn't even know that he was alone with Meredith until she was crouched in front of him, one hand on his thigh. 

"Derek... Let's get you home."

He nodded, sniffling in a pitiful attempt to not cry in front of anyone. He let Meredith help him up and get him stable on his two feet. He didn't pay any attention to the walk through the hospital and through the parking lot to her car, and as soon as she shut his door he let the tension leak out of his body. They were both completely silent on the drive back to his land, and she mercifully gave him a chance to get his emotions out without being watched. She went into the house with him, making him a microwave meal that she had brought him the other day. She made sure that he ate and got into bed before she left to go home to her kids. 

The drive back to the mainland of Seattle was a thoughtful one for Meredith. A lot of things went through her head - mainly about Derek and Nathan. She needed to figure out what the hell she was doing when it came to the two men. She let herself think about the two as she drove the empty nighttime streets in her neighborhood. After arriving in her driveway, she didn't get out of the car until she made a decision. She walked into the house and found Nathan sitting in the living room playing with toy cars with Zola. 

"Hey, Zo, could you go get ready for bed for me? Uncle Nathan and I need to talk. Help him clean up and tell him good night." She smiled at her daughter and watched as they picked up the toys that were strewn across the room. They hugged and Nathan kissed her forehead before Zola ran past her to go up the stairs to her room. 

"What's up, Meredith?" Nathan asked as he sat down on the couch. He'd had his day off today, so he wasn't at the meeting earlier. She was grateful for that, because it had given her time to make a decision that needed to be made. She walked across the room and sat on the couch next to him. 

"You know the miracle dream?" She asked him, and he nodded. "This is my miracle dream. I'm living it. And... you're never in it." She sighed and gave him a smile before she continued. "I think that you need to go back to your place. Just while I figure things out, while I figure out what I want. I'm not sure that I want you if I have the choice of having Derek."

Nathan stared at her for a minute before slowly nodding. "I get it, Meredith. You need time. I'll give it to you." He pressed his hands against his thighs and stood up. "Are we still on for our date this weekend, though?"

She smiled at him and nodded. "Yes. I just need to figure out what I'm doing. That doesn't mean we have to stop dating. It just means that I have a choice, and I need time to make the right one." She followed Nathan to the front door, leaning against the wall as he opened it. 

"I hope you make the right choice." 

"I hope I do, too."

And with that, she was left alone with her kids.  

 

Chapter Text

Lunch had always been a interesting time. 

Derek was having a bit of trouble settling back into life at Grey Sloan Memorial. Not everyone was exactly thrilled that he was actually alive, and working in the clinic meant his lunch schedule hardly ever matched up with anyone that wasn't currently pissed off at him. He had made the executive decision to start bringing his lunch to work and stop eating in the cafeteria to avoid stares from his fellow colleagues. He eventually found himself sitting cross legged on a gurney in the back halls Meredith and her friends used to hang out in when they were residents. Leaning his head back against the wall, he closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. Life was not being very nice to him at the moment. 

His time to himself was cut short when he heard the door to the hallway open, and his eyes flew open to look in the direction of the doorway. The tension he didn't even realise had taken over his body bled out when he realised that it was just Meredith, carrying her own brown paper bag that resembled the one in his lap. He couldn't fight off the smile that grew as he watched her grab a wheelchair from the other side of the hallway and pull it towards him so she could sit across from him. They looked at each other for a moment, neither of them seemingly want to ruin it with talking. 

Meredith was the first to break the silence. "I haven't seen you in the cafeteria since you started working again, so I figured you'd enjoy having someone to lunch with." She smiled again as she took her plastic bowl full of noodles and her fork out of the bag. "And.... I missed seeing you here all the time. I'm off shift now, so I figured I'd hang out with you until you're done as well. I have some stuff I want to tell you." She finished off her sentence by starting on her noodles and letting her gaze fall to the bowl so she could keep the mess down to a minimum. 

Derek let himself stare at Meredith while she spoke to him. It had been so long since he had been able to just be with the woman he loved. He felt so lucky that he had managed to get himself a second (well... more like fifth) chance with her. He started on his ham and cheese sandwich, chewing thoughtfully. "I missed being here with you all the time." He said. "I'd love to hang out. I've got probably an hour until I can get away with clocking out, is that okay with you?"

"Yeah, that sounds good. That'll give me time to change and make sure I know where the kids are." She took a bite of her noodles before speaking again. "Speaking of the kids, I think you should see them soon. I was planning on telling them about your being alive tonight. Is that okay? I don't want to do anything faster than you want me to."

He couldn't help the smile that grew on his face at the thought of getting to see his kids soon. "Yeah. Yeah, that sounds great. I'd love to see them. I still have yet to meet Ellis." His chest swelled with emotions that he couldn't quite pinpoint. It was a very overwhelming feeling, knowing that his kids were soon going to be in his life again. He had Meredith, and soon, he would have his kids too. 

"Okay, good. I'm sure they'll be over the moon." She couldn't help but laugh as she thought of the reactions she would likely get from the kids. "But you're going to have to make sure that you stress that this doesn't mean everyone is going to come back to life after they die. That would not be good for Zola to tell her friends at school, especially the one whose dad actually died."

"Don't worry, I'll be sure to tell them that I never actually died. I'm going to say I went away for a long time. Does that please you?"

"Oh, don't ask if it pleases me. You're going to have to please Zola and Bailey. They're both in the 'why?' stage of childhood, so prepare yourself to be bombarded with questions. The questions never end, I swear."

"Oh no. I'm going to have two curious children on my hands, aren't I?" Derek laughed. "Well, they are our children. I shouldn't expect anything less, right?"

Meredith nodded, finishing off her noodles. She got up from the old and breaking wheelchair to throw away her trash, and came back to sit on the gurney next to Derek. "They are definitely you and me put together." She agreed. "So, I'll go finish up my shift so you can finish your own. I'll meet you outside the clinic in the ambulance bay in an hour?"

"Sounds good. I'll see you at the ambulance bay in a hour." He repeated, turning his body so he could look at her again. "What are we doing when you meet me in the ambulance bay in an hour?"

"You'll see." She said with a mischievous smile. "It'll be good for you. I promise." And with that, she waved at him before opening the door to the main hospital and leaving him alone in the quiet, empty hallway. He smiled to himself for a moment before getting up to throw away his lunch trash. Then, he walked back to the clinic with a stupid smile plastered to his face and a spring in his step - so oblivious to the world that he managed to completely ignore the looks people gave him.

-----

Meredith was sitting on the bench outside the ER bay looking at the sliding doors of the free clinic, waiting for Derek to step through them and be in their meeting spot they had agreed to. She had spent her hour after lunch changing into the spare outfit she kept in her office for when she had to go straight from the hospital to a date - her 'good looking' outfit. She'd also touched up her makeup and took her hair out of the tight bun she wore to work. After a few minutes of waiting, she found the familiar face that belonged to Derek Shepherd walking across the way towards her with a bright smile on his face. She stood up and closed the gap between them, and returned his enthusiasm with a smile of her own. 

"I'm in the ambulance bay at our predetermined meeting time. Have your way with me, Meredith Grey." Derek joked, looking her up and down. He noticed that he looked nicer than she usually did coming off of a shift at the hospital. He had no earthly clue what she could possibly have them doing for the afternoon. 

"So, you know how I told you I needed to get some perspective?" She started, making sure he remembered. "I know how I'm going to get it. I told Nathan that I needed some time not committed to anyone. I told you I needed some time away. Now, I've made a decision. Do you remember how I chose between you and Finn the Vet?"

Derek almost choked on air when she mentioned Finn the Vet, and what she had planned clicked into place in his mind. "You're going to make us both wine and dine you. Am I warm?"

"Exactly." Meredith almost giggled with glee, her eyes shining with a glint of happiness Derek hadn't seen in years. "Your date with me is starting right now. Nathan has me tomorrow night. And then it'll be up to you guys to set the schedule. So, what do you want to do?"

"Okay, next time, give me a little bit of a heads up if we're going to be going on a date. I'll dress a little better and actually plan something for us to do." He ran his hands through his hair as he thought of something they could do. "You know, we hardly went on dates when we were actually dating. What makes you think will we this time?"

"I know we will. You thrive best when you're competing against someone." 

"You know me too well." He narrowed his eyes at her, when an idea came to him. "Okay, let's go to the supermarket. I need to get supplies first." He grabbed her hand and started walking towards the parking lot where their cars were. Fishing his keys out of his pocket with his free hand, he pressed the unlock button as he approached the car. He let go of her hand to open the passenger door for her, smiling at her as she got into the car. He ran around the front of the car and got into the drivers seat, turning the car on. It was a mostly silent ride to the nearest supermarket he could find, and he imagined it was because they were both realising exactly what they were doing. Dates had never really been their thing. When they first met, all they really had done was have sex and sleep. Even after Addison, they never had gone on dates. It just wasn't something they ever needed to do. 

Soon, he pulled into the supermarket parking lot and found a parking space. They both got out of the car and walked into the store together, Derek grabbing a cart as they walked through the entryway. "Okay, we're going to the meat section first. If you see anything you want that would go well with what I get, feel free to toss it into the cart. It'll be your dinner too." He led the way towards the back of the store to the meat counter. The plan in his mind fleshed out more as he thought about it, and looked at his choices through the glass in front of him. "Do you want pork or sausage?" He asked, turning to look at Meredith. 

She looked at the meat sitting in front of them for a second before turning back to him. "Pork." She said simply, a small smile on her face. She listened to Derek ask the person working behind the counter for two pork chops, and followed his hands with her eyes as he put them into the cart. "If we're having pork chops, we have to have roast potatoes and corn. Vegetables we go!" She managed to commandeer the cart from him and ran a few steps before riding it like a scooter. She looked behind her and giggled, seeing Derek running to catch her up. She decided to stop running through the store when she realised there were quite a few people looking at her like she was mad, and once Derek caught up with her, she gave control of the cart back to him. 

They played around with each other while they found corn on the cob and a bag of little potatoes that were perfect for roasting. It wasn't long before they were in the checkout line, watching the food items ride along the conveyor belt to the scanner. He paid for it with his credit card, and he and Meredith took a bag each to carry back out to the car. They put the two bags into the backseat and were quickly back on the road. 

"What are we doing tonight, then?" Meredith finally asked, once she realised that they were heading towards the land they shared. 

"Well, I found my grill in the garage the other day and moved it out to the deck. I figured since it was a rare nice day, we could grill up dinner and have a few drinks on the deck." He explained to her as he drove the familiar roads back to the house he had built for their family. 

Meredith smiled at how simple his idea was, and nodded as he explained. "That sounds great. Is there any wine in the wine cabinet?"

"I think there might just be a brand new unopened bottle in there with our names on it." He smiled as he turned onto the gravel road that led to the clearing where their house was. It wasn't long before the car was parked and they were both out of the car. He tossed her the keys to the house and grabbed both shopping bags, following behind her into the house. After shutting the door behind him, he walked over to the kitchen island and put the bags down. He walked around to the cabinets and opened the one with the wine glasses in it, and got two out. He then found the bottle of wine he had conveniently just bought and poured them both a glass. "Let's go make dinner, shall we?" He asked as he handed her the glass of wine he poured for her. 

She nodded, grabbing the bags of food before following him outside. Conversation between them lulled, kept to short sentences and questions pertaining to the food they were currently cooking. She was in charge of the vegetables, and he the meat. They were concentrating on the food, both of them trying to put their nervous energies into cooking the food. It didn't take long for the food to be ready, and Meredith went inside to find plates and silverware while Derek turned off the grill. She came back and they each filled their plates until there was nothing left to be taken. They sat down at the table on the deck near the grill across from each other, and began eating. It only took one bite for the silence to be broken. 

"I forgot how good a cook you were, Derek." Meredith couldn't help but laugh as she tried not to eat her food too fast. "Its been so long I've had to cook for myself, I forgot things could actually taste this good."

"Wow, you haven't gotten any better at cooking? I don't know why I thought you did. Good to know you're still you." They both laughed at the fond memories of Meredith's failed attempts at cooking. "I'm glad that I'm here to cook for you, though."

Meredith put her fork down to look at Derek for a moment. The sun was starting to set behind him over the cliff, and it was turning the sky all sorts of pretty colours. She rested her hands on her chin for a moment before an idea popped into her head that she wasn't sure whether or not she should act on. After staring at him for a few more seconds, her mind was set. She had missed her Derek too much not to.

She got up and walked around the circular table to where he was sitting, and pulled his chair out away from the table. She sat down in his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. He put his fork down in surprise, his own arms snaking around her waist. "What are you doing?" He asked, looking at her. 

"I'm sitting with my husband. Is that so wrong?"

"No, no, I'm not complaining. Its just... sudden." He smiled sheepishly at her, shrugging a little in sheer confusion. She had gone from running away from him like he had the plague a week and a half ago, to sitting in his lap now. It was definitely a very sudden change - but one he definitely wouldn't complain about. "You know what would make this moment even better?"

"I think I do." She smiled as one of her hands moved up to his cheek, and she leaned in closer to him. 

Their lips met, and her world exploded for the third time in her life. 

Chapter Text

Meredith was worrying herself out of her mind. 

She found herself pacing back and forth in the front living room of her house, trying to put her nervousness into something a little more productive than simply worrying herself into a frenzy. Derek was minutes away from arriving with lunch for her and the kids - and it wasn't lunch that was making her nervous. It was the reaction that her kids might have towards seeing their father again. Or, for the first time, she realised soon after. Oh God, so many things could go terribly wrong with what was supposed to be a simple family lunch. She peeked over the couch to look at the play area where all three of the kids were playing together, and a smile spread across her face as she forgot her worries momentarily. 

Almost as suddenly as she had forgotten how nervous she was, it came rushing back to her when she heard a car's engine turn off in the driveway. She hurried towards the door and stepped out onto the porch, closing the screen door behind her as she watched Derek get out of the car with two boxes of pizza in his grasp. He smiled brightly at her, and she sent him back a weak smile. His bright gaze lost a little brightness at her less than enthusiastic reaction to his arrival. He took the steps two at a time and stood in front of her, gazing down at the beautiful woman stood in front of him. 

"Two cheese pizzas, as you ordered." He smiled, leaning down to kiss Meredith's forehead. "Oh, and you were like the 100th costumer of the day, so you won a Derek Shepherd too. Lucky you!" He joked in an attempt to make her laugh. It worked, but only barely. He could tell from her stiff and unyielding body that she was worrying herself to the ends of the earth. 

"Thank you, Derek." She started with a smile, "I think our best bet would be for me to go in and distract the kids so you can slip through into the kitchen. Do you think you'll be able to be quiet?" Her voice rose with a teasing lilt, grabbing the handle of the screen door. She put a finger to her lips in an attempt to tell him to be quiet, and crossed the threshold of her house. She turned towards the living room and headed over to where the kids were playing happily. She crouched down to be at their level and put a hand on Bailey's shoulder. "Hey guys, remember how I told you we were doing something special for lunch today? Go into the kitchen for your surprise..." She smiled them as they scrambled to get up, and she picked up Ellis and rested her on her hip. She followed the older two running into the kitchen and nearly tripped over Zola when she stopped dead in her tracks. 

She'd never heard anyone yell louder than Bailey did when he realised who was standing in the kitchen getting their lunches together. "Daddy!" He screamed and tore across the kitchen to latch onto Derek's leg. She couldn't help but smile at the interaction between father and son, but her attention was soon turned to Zola - who looked as though she was about to cry. Meredith hurriedly put Ellis in her high chair and gave her a bottle to occupy her before getting on her knees in front of her oldest baby. "Hey, Zola..." She said softly, rubbing her shoulders. 

"Mommy.. is that really Daddy?" Zola asked in a small voice. "He's suppose to be dead, Mommy. When did he come back?" Meredith's heart broke for her Zola as she struggled to find the words to explain it all to her. She looked towards Derek, who seemed to understand exactly what she wanted him to do. They switched positions, Meredith taking Bailey to the table once Derek was crouched down in front of Zola. 

"Hey ZoZo! You look so big, have you grown three feet since I last saw you?" Derek tried to get his favourite child to say anything to him. He looked at her, trying so hard to get anything out of his big girl. 

"Daddy... Why did you leave?"

"Well, I had to go help fix other people's brains in Washington D.C. Remember Daddy was working for the President?"

Zola nodded. "I remember. But why couldn't you have come home to Mommy and I a long time ago? You made Mommy sad, Daddy." 

If it was possible, Derek's heart broke even further in that moment. He both loved and hated the fact that Zola was so emotionally sensitive. "I know, Zo. I tried really hard to come home for you, and her, and Bailey, but the President asked me to stay. But, I'm home now. I'm not going anywhere, baby girl." He pulled her into a hug, and she wrapped her small arms around him tightly. 

"Don't leave again, Daddy. I missed you too much."

"I promise baby, I won't." Derek looked over Zola's shoulder at Meredith, who was watching the exchange between the two of them with teary eyes. "Let's go have some pizza, okay? You still need to introduce me to your baby sister!" The mention of Ellis made Zola's eyes light up, and she took his hand and dragged him to the end of the table where Meredith stood feeding the baby in her high chair. 

With a smile, Meredith picked up Ellis and handed her to Derek. He bit his lip as he held the baby he had never gotten to meet, overwhelmed by his emotions. "Hi, baby. I'm your Daddy. I'm so happy to meet you." He ran his hand along her small back, smiling at the happy reaction he got back from her. He put her back down in her high chair and then sat down in the chair across from Meredith's. 

It wasn't until the kitchen was overtook by loud conversation between the two older kids that it truly hit Derek - he was having lunch with his whole family. He shook his head and stared across the table at Meredith, who gave him a small smile when she noticed his gaze on her. Man, he had missed this so much. He promised himself that he would never, ever do anything to screw this up ever again. 

----

Derek had forgotten just how much he loved playing with his kids, and just listening to what they had to say. Meredith had gone off on a date with Nathan (much to Derek's disappointment, he was hoping for a family bonding day together) and had left him in charge of the kids. It could not have possibly been a better afternoon. Zola had read him her favourite books from school, he had played with Bailey's favourite matchbox cars, and Ellis had fallen asleep on his chest during nap time. He was finally a dad again, and he couldn't think of a time when a job title had made him happier. All he had wanted his whole life was kids of his own - and he had finally gotten them back after two long years. 

He was sitting in the living room after putting the kids to bed, watching a rerun of Masterchef Junior on the TV when Meredith came through the door. He smiled as she walked into the living room and sat down against his side. He pressed the mute button on the remote and looked down at her. "How was your date?" He asked, pressing a kiss to her forehead as he wrapped an arm around her and she leaned into him. 

"It was okay. He took me to that steakhouse by the Space Needle - you know, the one we almost went to on Valentine's Day once?" 

"Oh yeah, the double date with Cristina and Owen that got cut off by a building collapse at the Italian restaurant. That was a good Valentine's Day." He laughed at the memory.

"It was definitely the usual way our holidays ended. I think I can still count the number of holidays we celebrated outside the hospital on one hand."

"Well, we'll just have to something about that this year, won't we?"

Meredith laughed and nodded before a yawn took over her, making her realise just how tired she was. "How about you stay here with me tonight? I'm tired, but I don't want you to leave."

Derek looked down at Meredith, a lone eyebrow raising at her proposition. "Are you sure, Meredith?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. Do you want to?"

"Are you kidding? I definitely want to." He nodded, getting up off the couch. "In fact, you don't even have to move. Let me take care of everything." He picked her up off the couch almost effortlessly, making her giggle and lean against his chest. 

"Are you still trying to be my knight in shining whatever?" She asked as he started the journey up the stairs. 

He nodded, a smile spreading across his face. "Hey, I promised to take care of you. That means I'll always be your knight in shining whatever."

She simply smiled, and fell silent for the rest of the trek to her room. He set her down softly on the bed, and shut the door behind them. He took his shirt off and threw it towards the door, walking towards the dresser that he remembered fondly. He opened what was his drawer all those years ago, and much to his surprise, still found a few of his shirts and pajama pants that he used to sleep in. He turned around and looked at Meredith with a quizzical expression on his face. 

"Oh, those...I missed you a lot sometimes. I might have stolen those from your closet back at the other house." She explained with a sheepish smile. 

He laughed, taking out his favourite pair of pants. "I'm not mad. I think it's cute, actually. I used to sleep with one of your shirts as a security blanket when you were gone for a while, in fact." He told her as he pulled his jeans off and put on the new pair of soft pajama pants. 

"I know you did. I always found that shirt in the laundry pile when I would be doing laundry after a trip." She told him as he laid on top of the covers with her. 

"Of course you knew. I couldn't do much without you knowing." He teased.

She rolled her eyes at him, giving him a smile. They stared at each other for a few moments, just taking each other in. They inched closer and closer to each other until they were as close as they could get, then their lips met. They kissed each other deeply and passionately for a long time before pulling away. 

"Did I ever tell you how much I love you?" Derek said softly as they rested their foreheads against each other.

Meredith nodded, looking up at him. "I don't think I ever told you I loved you enough." She settled against his chest, getting comfortable and sleepy. 

Derek sighed and pulled Meredith as close as she could get. He pressed a kiss to her head and he listened to her breath slowly even out. 

The last thing he heard before sleep overtook him was Meredith's voice: "I love you so much, Derek."

Chapter Text

Summertime - the weather gets warmer, the days get longer, and for some odd reason, people look better than they do during the rest of the year in the summer haze of heat and sweat. Summer had always brought luck in the romance department for Derek. He had met Addison in the late summer, and Meredith around almost the same time. There was just something about the heat and the feeling of freedom during the summer months that brings out stronger feelings between men and women - leading to more sweaty bedroom adventures. Put simply, summer was Derek Shepherd's favourite season, and he had a feeling that this one was going to be great. 

It was the first properly hot day in Seattle, with a bright blue sky that was very uncharacteristic for the usually rainy town. June was setting in and it was showing in the city. It was as busy as the weekend every night, the tourists were overtaking all the tourist traps like the Space Needle, and for some reason, the weather was actually paying attention to the fact that it was June and supposed to be warm and sunny. After spending almost three months with mostly rainy days and progressively warming weather, Derek was ready to get out of town and see somewhere that doesn't have an almost constant chance of being rained on. So, he booked four nights and five days at a hotel right on the beach in Los Angeles, California, and told Meredith to find someone to watch the kids for a week. They had never gone on trips Before, but they were doing everything they'd never done Before this time around - so the only logical decision was to continue it by taking a Couple's Trip. He had to admit - he was extremely excited. Five days of just him and her at a hotel right by the beach. It was the stuff that his dreams were made of. 

His mind snapped out of his daydream when he realised he had been idling in Meredith's driveway for at least five minutes, leaving his cheeks red with embarrassment as he hurriedly turned off the car and hopped out. He headed up to the front door as he dug around in his pocket for the key Meredith had given him a few weeks prior. The key slid into the lock and he opened the door, walking through and setting the keys for both the door and his car on the table right beside the door. "Hey, I'm here!" He called through the house, not finding Meredith or any kids upon first glance. He walked into the living room and noticed a suitcase and a duffel bag propped up against the couch, figuring they were Meredith's bags. He sat down on the couch and relaxed for a moment as he waited for someone to acknowledge his arrival. 

It didn't take long for Meredith to come bounding down the stairs, Ellis relaxed against her hip. "Hey, I'm just finishing up making sure Nathan knows what the kids need. Want to take Ellis for me so I can get my purse together?" She asked while walking towards him. He smiled and nodded, reaching up for his youngest baby. He let her stand up on his lap, bouncing her up and down. "We're on time, right? I'm not making us late?" She called from the hallway. 

"No, I know how you are when it comes to travelling. We have a good three and a half hours until we are running late for our flight." He said, smiling at her as she walked into the room with her bag in hand. "Are you excited?"

She beamed at him, sitting down next to him. "So excited. I haven't been anywhere but Seattle or Boston in so long, I know it's going to be good for me to get out for a little while. I'm a little worried about leaving the kids for so long, though."

"Hey, they're going to be fine. I'm sure they're going to have a great time. Who's watching them?"

"Nathan. He's so good with them, and they love him too. Is that a big deal? I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier." If Derek had any reaction about his kids being taken care of by the man that he was technically competing for her love with, he didn't show it in his expression. Hopefully it wouldn't be too big of a deal. Right?

"Don't apologise, Mer. I know he's good with them, I'm totally fine with it. It isn't a problem." He reassured her, making sure to add a smile to keep her happy. He didn't want her to worry about anything for their entire trip - the point was to escape from stress for a week and for them to have a good time, together. He definitely didn't want her thinking of anyone other than him (or the kids) until he dropped her back off in a week. 

They smiled at each other for a minute before the moment was ruined by Nathan sauntering into the living room. Their attention was torn from each other and Meredith stood up abruptly, taking Ellis from Derek. She murmured goodbyes to the little girl, giving her kisses on her cheek before handing her to Nathan. "Thanks for watching them. I know it isn't the best way to spend a week off, but it means a lot to me."

Nathan nodded, adjusting to the new weight of Ellis in his arms. "Not a problem, Meredith. We like spending time together, don't we?" He managed to elicit a smile from Ellis, making Meredith smile. "Go have a good time with Derek, and we'll have a good time here. Zola and I will call every night before bed."

Meredith took a deep breath as she nodded. "Okay. Okay, we're going to go." She turned towards Derek, who in turn stood up from the couch. "I already said goodbye to Zola and Bailey, all my stuff is right there, you know where everything is.... Okay, we can go now. Bye, baby, I'll see you next week!" She gave Ellis one last kiss, and Nathan gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and a hug.  Turning towards Derek, he said "Derek." And gave him a curt nod. 

"Nathan." Derek mimicked Nathan, giving him a nod as well. "I'll have her back in a week. Have a good time with the kids." He said, then picked up Meredith's duffel and suitcase to take outside. He put his free hand on Meredith's lower back and led her towards the door. She opened the door and held it open, waiting for him to get on the deck before calling goodbye one last time and shutting it. They walked down the path to the driveway, and Derek opened the trunk with the button on his key fob. Meredith got into the front seat as he put the bags next to his, and hurried around to the drivers seat. Putting the key in the ignition, he gave her a smile before turning on the car and beginning their journey to Seattle-Tacoma. 

Their drive to the airport was spent in song, after Meredith turned on the radio to their favourite station. They sang along to song after song in their off-key voices without a care in the world until they were parked in the long-term parking lot at Sea-Tac. The next hour of their time was spent getting checked in, through security, and to their gate with time to spare before they had to board their plane. They then had half an hour to kill before their flight boarded, so they took a short walk to the food court and shared a Subway sandwich for lunch - ham, cheese, and some veggies for Derek and the meatball sub for Meredith. They each rolled their eyes at their respective choices, but they were both very happy at how familiar it all felt, and how much like home they were for each other. After finishing and making their way back to their gate, their group was boarding the plane. Derek still had thousands and thousands of air miles leftover from when he was constantly flying all over the country from consults, so he used them to book first class tickets for the two. If they were going to go on a trip, they were going to do it in luxury. 

Derek sat in the window seat, giving Meredith the aisle. He remembered how uncomfortable she still was about flying in planes - even 5 years after their plane crash. They sat there in silence, both reading their own magazines. Her hand slowly inched over the armrest that was separating them until her hand was on top of his, and without looking he grasped her hand tightly. They remained that way from takeoff until touchdown and taxi at LAX. It was comfortable, just sitting there in each other's presence. It made them both feel better about being in a plane, something that they both had terrible memories of. 

It took them about half an hour to get off the plane and get their stuff from the conveyor belt, and they were soon standing outside of the airport in search of their hotel's airport shuttle. The website Derek had booked the room on had said that they had a shuttle between the airport and hotel that ran every fifteen minutes, if he remembered correctly. He was about to say something when Meredith pointed at a shuttle that had just turned on to the road, making him smile and wonder if she was psychic as it pulled up in front of them. They gave the driver their bags to put in the trunk and climbed onto the shuttle, accompanied by two other younger couples that looked to be on their honeymoons. He pulled Meredith close and put an arm around her, holding her there for the drive to the hotel. Their conversation for the drive through LA was mainly about their plans for the week, and the tourist traps that were a must for them to do at least once. 

They soon arrived at the hotel, wheeling their suitcases behind them through a revolving door to reveal an elaborate hotel to them. He turned to look at Meredith, smiling at the look of wonder and awe on her face. "It's nice, right?" He nudged her, teasing her ever so slightly. 

"Nice? I think that's an understatement. How much did you spend on this?" She gaped at her surroundings in an attempt to take everything in.

"I have my ways." He said simply, finally spotting the check-in desk. "Come on, let's go check in. I want to have a shower to get the plane smell off of me." He took her hand and dragged her to the desk, telling the clerk his name and reservation number. The man behind the desk typed away at a computer for a second before scanning two room keys and writing the room number down on the paper sleeve he put the keys in. They thanked him and headed up to their room on the 10th floor - he had booked a somewhat romantic suite for the two of them, but he wasn't going to tell Meredith. He wanted to see her reaction when she first walked in. The elevator climbed up floor after floor before finally arriving at floor number ten, and the doors trundled open. They walked down the hallway to find their room, and Derek took out a key and handed it to her. She opened the door, and stopped dead in her tracks after about two steps into the room.

"Derek Shepherd, I am going to kill you!" She laughed, turning around attempting to hit him, but he ducked away just in time. "Why do you never tell me these things? It would have been nice to know I'm going to have to pay you back somehow for this trip! I was expecting some Hilton franchise hotel with the free waffle maker breakfasts, not some super fancy 5 star honeymoon suite!"

Derek couldn't help but smile at her. "Hey, I have plenty of ideas for how you're going to pay me back for this. You agreed to come with me, right?" His smile turned into a smirk as he let his bags fall to the ground before pulling his shirt over his head and throwing it to the bed. "I'm going to take a shower. If you want to start paying me back, you're welcome to join me." He teased, taking off his belt and unbuttoning his pants before bolting into the bathroom. All Meredith could see was his pants flying back into the main room through the hallway, and she rolled her eyes despite the smile on her face. 

"Derek freaking Shepherd, you're a dead man!" She yelled, running towards the bathroom and tearing her shirt off in the process. 

This was definitely going to be a good week. 

Chapter Text

"What is there to do in Los Angeles?" Meredith mused, looking at Derek sitting across the table over the top of her coffee mug. It was the first morning of their little getaway and she was determined to make sure they didn't spend the entire trip in their hotel room - not that she would be complaining if that happened. She just thought that the trip would be a waste if the farthest they went was the lobby of their hotel for food on breaks between 'adventures', considering if they wanted time to themselves they just had to go to the house on their shared land without the kids. So, excursions were a must. What were they going to do today? She had a feeling no matter what it was, Derek would find a way to make it an adventure. 

"Well, there's definitely no shortage of beaches, there's Hollywood, or Santa Monica Pier, or maybe even Disney in Anaheim. Whatever tickles your fancy, dear." Derek smiled at the woman sitting across from him as he stirred the milk into his coffee. After years of drinking his coffee black in New York, he'd decided that life was too short for the bitter, acrid taste of pure coffee - and he began drowning his morning drink in milk and sugar. "If you want to go to the beach, we can go in the morning and do something different in the afternoon. Amelia told me a few great bars and restaurants when I booked the trip, so we'll have to go out at least one night."

"Do you want to go to the beach? This is your trip too, you know. I don't want us to do everything I want to do and nothing you want." She frowned as she took a sip of her coffee. As she watched his expression change into something more mischievous, she decided to amend her statement. "That is, unless what you want is to have your way with me all day every day until we leave. That we won't be doing." 

"Damn, you just foiled all my plans. Come on, you can't go the entire time without letting me have my ways at least once, Meredith. We are on vacation, you know." Derek smirked. 

Meredith rolled her eyes, biting her lip in an attempt to fight off the smile that was coming on. "Derek Shepherd, what am I going to do with you? We need to whip you into shape." She thought for a minute as she looked at him, and then got an idea. "How about we go to the beach for a few hours, and then when we get back you can take my bikini off for me, and I'll do the same for you? Is that an okay compromise?" She asked in as innocent a voice as possible.

Shaking his head, Derek couldn't help but smile at her proposition. "You know I'll never be able to say no, because it's you who's asking. Beach day it is, then."

Meredith grinned at him, finishing her last sip of coffee. She stood up from the table and grabbed the room key, slipping it into her pocket. She waited for Derek to join her and took his hand, walking with him to the elevator that would take them back to their room. It was funny how much they enjoyed just being together in silence. Yes, their conversations were always captivating and definitely very interesting, but she found that she enjoyed just being around him as much as she enjoyed teasing and joking around with him. It was just like before - all their moments together were moments that Meredith kept close to her heart, even more so now after such a lucky occurrence. How many widows got to say that their husband came back to life and was never really dead? She realised just how lucky she was as she entered their shared hotel room and sat down on the bed to watch him take his shirt off and reveal the perfect chest that was hidden by the cloth of his shirt. Derek Shepherd was everything she had ever wanted, and she had gotten that second chance she had dreamed of forever that wasn't supposed to come true. Maybe, just maybe, the world was going to be on her side now. It wasn't until she noticed Derek staring at her with the same look in his eyes that she imagined was in hers that she snapped out of her dream world. She smiled at him, now only dressed in swim trunks. She got up off the bed, brushing her hand against his chest as she passed and quickly changed into her swimsuit - a deep burgundy two-piece that complemented her skin tone just the right amount. She pulled her cover-up over her head and rejoined Derek by the door. They exchanged smiles as they looked each other up and down, just taking each other in and reveling in the presence of one another. 

Soon they were walking down the street - hand in hand - heading to the beach just down the street from their hotel. The people of L.A. were very interesting to observe, and Meredith noticed people from all walks of life and amounts of clothing. She couldn't help but laugh at just how little clothing some of these teenagers were wearing. Shaking her head, she directed her attention to what was directly in front of her until they reached the beach, and needed to find a place to put down their towels and personal belongings. "Do you see anywhere that's open? Is it seriously this busy already?"

"Meredith, it is the beginning of the tourist season, and it isn't actually that early. I think I see a good spot." He turned around so that he could look at her. "Leave it all to me. Don't worry your pretty little head, Mer, I've got it handled."

"Hey now, you don't have to be mean about it, Mr. Egotistical. I've got things handled just as much as you do." She retorted as he pulled her along the beach to the clear area he must have noticed earlier. 

"Mr Egotistical? Now who's being mean?" He raised an eyebrow, his voice rising with a teasing lilt as he finished his sentence. He let their towels hit the ground and he grabbed the hem of his shirt, pulling it up and over his head. He let it fall to the ground with the towels, and then stepped closer to Meredith to help her take her cover-up off. "Actually, I think you might have a bigger ego than I do. You're going to be showing an awful lot of skin, dear." He began to untie the halter strap tied behind Meredith's neck, but he didn't get very far before she slapped his hands away. 

Meredith narrowed her eyes at him, making him pull his hands away from her as she took her cover-up off. "You know you have to be good now to have fun later, right? Just because you aren't technically a kid doesn't mean I won't use my mom techniques on you." She grinned at him, almost laughing at how good of a time they were having. 

"Oh, come on, Meredith, you gotta let me have some fun. You can't just look like that and not expect me to play around a little bit..." He trailed off and stepped closer to her as he got a glint in his eye, and picked her up and took off. He smiled as he listened to her screaming and wriggling in his arms, running full speed until he hit the water. He pulled them both under, swimming a little before coming up for air. "You can't say you don't like fun."

"Derek!" She screamed, trying to regain her bearings as she grasped onto his wet body. "You have to warn me when you practically try to drown me!" She shook her head as she finally returned to equilibrium. She smiled at just how familiar this situation felt, pulling his body closer to her. The look on his face softened as they stared at each other, and finally, their lips met. He tasted like sea salt and the familiar scent of coffee, and she smiled into the kiss. It all felt so familiar - like coming home after a long trip. But, really, that's what Derek was to her. He was her home. She was truly at home anywhere, as long as she was with him. Wasn't that what life was about? Finding your home in another person, and truly losing yourself in them and just being with them. She knew she would be happy anywhere as long as that anywhere included him. Now that she had gotten him back, she didn't plan on losing him again. Derek Shepherd was all she wanted. He was all she needed. 

So, on that warm morning just off the coast of California in the Pacific Ocean, Meredith Grey realised she was finally happy again. Life was finally on her side.