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ice cream soup

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It’s late, and Meredith is lying in bed, in pajamas, tapping away on her laptop, trying to compose a sternly worded email to her lawyer informing her that no, there is no such thing as a “non-practicing Harper Avery-winning general surgeon.” Her kids have long since gone to bed and she’s been sitting on her bed, in her pajamas, angry, ever since.

Not “ever since.” It started in the morning. She woke up and it was raining, again, and she knows it’s Seattle and this is how it is, but honestly, nothing is going right. Honestly, it didn’t start this morning, either, and she knows it, but her life is so day-to-day she can’t think about root causes.

She’s not working, she’s stuck in the city because of her stupid ankle monitor, and Ellis has another ear infection so she cries half the night.

Andrew wasn’t there when she woke up, either, which didn’t help. He was back at work, his charges having been lowered to a misdemeanor. It was funny, she muses, that three of their longest-tenured surgeons had been fired, but it was the resident that got to go back to work.

She can’t hold it against him, she knows. He’d been trying to do the right thing and he hadn’t done anything wrong. She can’t be bitter about him having a place to go and things to do, any more than she can’t be mad about Bailey firing her and Alex and Richard.

Alex and Richard, at the very least, don’t have felony charges hanging over their heads. Alex found a private surgical practice close to the hospital, and Richard’s taking advantage of what he called “forced retirement” to do pro-bono surgeries at Seattle Presbyterian.

So here she is, a jobless middle-aged single mother with a felony indictment.

She got the kids ready for school in the morning, trying very hard not to bite off Amelia’s head in the kitchen when she dropped Zola’s lunch box.

She drove the kids to school.

She went to the supermarket and wandered up and down the aisles, throwing things in her cart at will. She had reasoned at the time that she might be a jobless felon, but she still has money.

She put the groceries away and scrubbed the house. She found an old box of condoms in the basement and wondered for a solid two hours who might have left them there.

She opened her computer and started rewriting her C.V., which she hadn’t had reason to do since she submitted Megan’s surgery for the Harper Avery. It gave her a quick thrill of pride to add mini-livers to her published papers, but then she was immediately struck by the feeling of

Maybe I’ll never work again. Maybe I’ll never save another life.

So then she spent a couple hours in the bathtub, too proud to cry, but too upset to do anything other than stare at her bunions in the water.

She called the sleep clinic and made an appointment. Andrew’s been harping at her for months that her snoring might be sleep apnea, and she has never had the time to spend an overnight at a sleep clinic, but now she’s got all the time in the world; at least, until she has to serve actual time.

Then it was time to pick up the kids, and Ellis’ ear infection had improved, so no one was crying, but then Bailey asked her why Maggie hasn’t been picking them up and Meredith felt the dark and twisty rising up again.

Dinner was a quick and dirty affair, with salad and chicken nuggets and Meredith drinking a far bigger glass of wine than was prudent.

Kids to bed, and here she is. Grumpy, directionless, unemployed felon Meredith Grey.

She slams her computer shut, having reached the end of her accomplishments, the end of her email, the end of any hopeful feeling she might have had. “Fuck.”

“Watch your language,” she hears from the downstairs hallway, and she perks up the tiniest bit.

“Andrew?”

“Yeah, it’s me.”

She’d move, but she’s too pissed. She hears him jog up the stairs and is surprised to see him in scrubs when he gets to her doorway. “Hey, babe.”

It doesn’t help that he’s so freaking hot sometimes. “Hey.”

He looks at her with that direct way of his. “Everything okay?”

She rolls her eyes. “Wow, that was a stupid question.” She almost immediately regrets saying it, as she watches the hurt reverberate.

He exhales, looks to the side, and looks back at her. “I’ll rephrase. How are you?”

“Unemployed and felonious, and you?”

He stares straight at her. “Meredith. It sucks. Yes. Please stop taking it out on everyone else.”

She looks at him, incredulous. “Who is everyone else? Last I checked, you signed up for this.”

She can see him almost raising his voice, but he never does. “Meredith, you’re pushing everyone’s patience. This sucks, yes, but you’re doing everything you can.”

“No I’m not, Andrew. I’m not doing anything.”

“That’s everything you can do, right now. Just think of it as unpaid vacation.”

She rolls her eyes. “Did you swallow a self-help book?”

He smiles at her, infuriating her and turning her on at the same time. “No. But Gabi just had her last round of chemo, so we had a win today.”

“Who’s this we? Last I checked, I’m stuck at home with an ankle monitor and a court date to look forward to.” She’s being snappish, but secretly, that’s the first good news she’s had in ages.

“We, as in you, the woman who helped Gabi get to where she is right now, and me, the guy who did a dumb thing to try to keep helping her.” He gingerly sits on the edge of the bed and covers her hand with his. Her heart melts, just a tiny bit, and the corners of her mouth turn up.

“Why are you still in scrubs?” she asks, threading her free hand through his hair.

“I was really excited to tell you about Gabi, so I just came home.” She feels the dark cloud over her head momentarily evaporate; things can’t be that bad when this amazing, thoughtful man is in her life.

“Home, huh? Don’t you have an apartment?” She smiles at him, and he blushes.

“You know what I mean.” He leans down to kiss her, and she pushes her laptop off her lap and pulls him down onto her. Off-balance, he face-plants into her chest. “Mere!”

She laughs, as does he, and she swears she feels her shoulders lift. It’s been an awful, garbage, mess of a month, but he has been the one wonderful thing she’s got going right now. She threads her hand under his chin and he looks up at her, green eyes blinking curiously, and just as she’s about to say something, she’s interrupted by a loud grumble.

She laughs. “Hungry?”

He hums and moves to kiss her, deepening until again, they’re interrupted by the rumbling of his stomach. “What did you have for lunch?”

“I had hummus and carrots… yesterday?”

“Go get something to eat. I’ll still be here when you’re done.” He hops off the bed, shedding his leather jacket on the floor and toeing off his shoes on the way out. Meredith giggles and re-opens her laptop, deleting the cranky draft she’d written to her lawyer and instead sending a well-worded treatise on the Gabi situation. There’s no way the fact that the child is healthy and thriving and alive won’t help her case.

Just as she’s hitting send, she hears footsteps in the hallway and heading down the stairs; one or more of her kids must have heard Andrew come in. She hops off the bed and tiptoes down the stairs, to find Andrew doling out ice cream to Ellis and Zola.

“It looks like someone went on a shopping spree,” he smirks, passing a bowl to Ellis.

“I was hungry,” Meredith replies, “and you know you can’t go to Whole Foods on an empty stomach.”

They lean back against the counter, not quite touching, watching the girls eat their ice cream. Zola has her nose deep in a book and Ellis is doing her level best not to drop any on her lap. Meredith sneaks a look at Andrew and sees him smiling at the girls, and her heart swells a little. For all the hellishness of the last month, he’s been such a gift to her.

Soon, spoons are scraping empty bowls and Meredith is herding the girls upstairs, back to bed, while Andrew cleans up. After making sure Ellis washes the chocolate from her cheeks, she heads back into her bedroom, only to find Andrew in his underwear, on the bed, with a bowl of ice cream and two spoons.

“No reason the grownups can’t have a treat,” he murmurs, and Meredith dives into bed beside him, grabbing the bowl from him and putting it on the bedside table.

“No kidding,” she responds, and slowly unbuttons her pajama top.

By the time they get to the ice cream, it’s melted into soup, but neither one cares.