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Watch Her Stir

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It was a day for drinking. Drinking was bad, drinking never solved anything – she knew this. But she was an adult, and she knew that sometimes it did help, for a while, to be drunk. It was a tool, an anesthetic for the voice in your head that got you through med school and into surgical residency but drowns out the other voice which still whispers of one true love and happily ever after.

Except that Izzie was not a drinker- she was a baker. And so she was standing in the cramped kitchen at back of Joe's bar with a spatula in one hand and a bottle of rum in the other. Standing and knowing it was a very very nice thing that Joe had done, letting her into his kitchen with her baking supplies, and letting her take a bottle of alcohol after she had promised to be very very careful and not drink too much. She was knowing this and not thinking this because thinking was what sober Izzie did, and thinking was dangerous and she was baking and drinking in order to stop thinking. Thinking told her-

The knowing Izzie was wise. Maybe it was women's intuition that- no, not maybe. It was women's intuition, she could feel it, it was intuition guiding her steps now. She was women, watch her stir. And fold. Folding raisins into a delicate lemony batter might not sound impressive but it was just as hard to do right as surgery and lots of men worked hard to be surgeons and she could do that too, if she wasn't working right now on folding raisins into the delicate batter. And even these things, surgery and cakes, wasn't all she could do. She could also fold shirts, quickly and precisely into sharp little packets ready to slide into place in a drawer or a shelf.

She put down the bottle again, screwing the lid on tightly as if it were one of her ingredients. It was one of her ingredients. And not just for her day of drinking and baking, she was using it to soak some of her raisins. Neat and precise, she was baking, she was woman.

The door opened behind her and she knew it was Joe. Joe, who had been checking on her every fifteen minutes to make sure she was still okay. She was okay. She wasn't using knives, she always used oven mitts and she wasn't drunk yet but it was sweet of him to check on her. Especially since he didn't have to let her be back here, cooking in the kitchen of his bar and drinking a bottle of rum she hadn't even paid for yet. Izzie felt the sadness blossom out and force a solitary tear from her eye, and knew it was because Joe was a good guy and a good friend and she never imagined she would have a friend like Joe when she was grown.

"I'm good" she called out to him, laughing a little in a choked way because she knew it was silly to be sad over a man who was happy and well and alive and being a kind and good friend to her.

"Izz."

But the voice (she knew) wasn't Joe's, and she whirled around, still with spatula in one hand and a bottle of rum in the other. And laughed again, because she saw those things there in her hands and knew it was a pretty funny thing to see- a woman who was a surgeon baking in the cursory kitchen of the bar across the street from the hospital ORs, caught holding a dripping spatula in one hand and a bottle of rum in the other. Caught by a surgeon who frequented the bar, and whom she used to date and/or screw, in between the drama that was life in a life or death world. So she laughed and smiled and accidentally forced another tear from her other eye.

But Alex wasn't laughing, and he didn't laugh when he saw her. Just let the door close behind him and stood, watching her laugh and cry and hold her dripping amulets.

She saw his eyes on her trophies, followed his eyes as they tracked a lone drop of alcohol slipping from the bottom of the bottle and hitting the floor. She didn't know why he stepped forward, not until he had torn a paper towel from the roll and knelt on the floor, cleaning up her drips.

Sniffling a little as she turned Izzie was further struck by the incongruity of the two of them, here, with the smell of fresh cookies instead of the usual deep fried morsels. It was all wrong, the smell of home here in a bar. But she couldn't leave her baking so she took another swig of rum instead.

"Cookie? They're still warm, the chocolate chip, or a really good lemon cake will be done in a while, if you want to go wait." And she busied herself scooping the lemon batter gently into a floured pan and willed Alex to leave. Leave and not talk because if he talked to her she might have to think, and today was a day for drinking and baking. Not thinking.

"Izzie, what are you doing?"

He was standing back by the door, far away from her, but she felt her shoulders hunch forward in defense and turned quickly to place her batter in the oven, even though it hadn't had time to rise. That was the question she wasn't thinking about. Because she knew what she felt but knew it didn't make sense. Not really. Not in the end.

"Izz-"

"I'm baking. I'm baking cookies and cakes for Joe because sometimes that's what people need." After setting the timer she reached again for her bottle. "And I'm drinking. Because this is Joe's bar and this is what people do here."

Finally, finally she let herself meet his eyes, wishing he'd already gone. Alex took a step forward, and the look in his eyes was the old familiar one of understanding pity. The one that made you forget why he was ever called 'evil spawn' in the first place.

"All you have to do is survive." He took the bottle and took a sip of his own, putting a little color into his pale cheeks.

She didn't know why, but now she knew she was mad at him. "Is that what you do? Just 'survive' and everything is okay? I survive. Alex, I survive and I keep surviving but everything is not okay and I don't need you to tell me I can survive this. I can survive this, I can survive life all on my own, but if you think it's enough to survive you don't know me at all."

"Alex knows Izzie better than she thinks he does."

"Then tell me. Why do I feel it all over again? Like everything bad just happened, all at once. Losing my daughter, losing Denny, losing George. It all hurts, it hurts and I did, I did survive it but what's the point in surviving if you never really get better? If it never really heals but every time cut open deeper and harder?"

She was crying now, in earnest, and her anesthesia had stopped working because she felt everything, and it was no longer enough to feel sad and to hurt but she also felt everything she loved slipped away from her. How happily ever after and true love kept flitting within reach, only blow a raspberry and scamper away right before her hand closed around it. How she had never had anything, and would never have anything, no matter how hard she tried, no matter how much she survived.

Her day of drinking and baking had failed, and she no longer cared what Alex might say next. It didn't matter, better almost that he would turn and leave, than offer more platitudes.

The seconds stretched on as he didn't speak, but let his gaze trail down to the bottle still in his hand. Giving it a little swirl he offered it back, and she saw that he looked defeated, like her tirade hadn't been words but punches from which he hadn't defended himself.

"Izzie, I love you."

"How can you tell me that?"  Her surprise turned mean, meaner than she meant but she hurt and Alex, he never felt anything at all.  "Is that supposed to help me? You cheated on me. You cheated on me Alex and you're in love with Ava. You love Ava and I'm just a safe fallback and believe me Alex, that is not love. So why can't you leave, leave me alone." And she watched as her words hit him again, both knowing she was saying them to hurt him and both knowing it was working.

"Because it's true. I do, Izzie, even with everything else. And that's gotta count for something."

"Well, it doesn't. If it did, all it would mean is that I'm sorry for you. You're not the one, you never were."

"I'm not good enough? That's it?" He gave her a smirk, that pained, disdainful smirk he had, and stepped even closer with a hard look in his eyes that made her shrink back against the counter. "You want your fairytale ending Izz? All I'm saying is, you keep throwing it away before you even have a chance."

And he kissed her. Against her will. He kissed his ex-lover, the woman who was a baker who was a surgeon who could knit and fold and slice and dream, who was drinking and baking in the kitchen of the bar across the street from the hospital ORs. Kissed her fast so she didn't have time to pull away. Then shoved the bottle of rum back into her hand and left quickly to do some drinking of his own, to dream that he was right and they did have a chance at a happily ever after.