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Santa in July

Fic:The Kind of Heart-Stopping Terror That Only Comes From Being With Loved Ones at Christmas

Santa in July

Fic:The Kind of Heart-Stopping Terror That Only Comes From Being With Loved Ones at Christmas

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comm: tousled hangover britta
Title: The Kind of Heart-Stopping Terror That Only Comes From Being With Loved Ones at Christmas
Challenge: santainjuly, for lone_lilly. Meredith, drunk Addison, a "stuck" elevator. Optional making out.
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3403. I got a bit carried away.


The only logical explanation Meredith can find for this is that the universe is conspiring against her. Somehow, the stars have somehow aligned themselves in a way that punishes her, and only her. If she had to guess, she'd say it's probably due to a lack of Christmas spirit and questionable conduct, which is probably reasonable. But it's still unfair, and just because the universe or karma or whatever thinks she should be miserable, there's no reason why she can't still be upset about the fact that this is shaping up to be quite possibly the worst shift of her entire medical career.

Even ignoring the fact that Bailey had her stuck downstairs doing sutures instead of letting her scrub in on that guy whose wife tried to choke him with a string of lights, after she did all of Bailey's post-op notes and volunteered to work on Christmas Eve. Even ignoring the fact that Derek found her at the end of his shift, with his great hair and his clean clothes and asked her if she wanted to go out for a drink. And he was leaning against a doorframe, all sexy and rugged and seriously, he makes it so difficult to turn him down she almost hates him.

But even without McDreamy and the hot surgery that passed her by and everything else, this is still the worst shift of her entire life because she has to get the Chief's signatures on the chart for the lady in 204. And proof of the grand celestial conspiracy against Meredith is sitting in his office, legs crossed delicately with one four-inch Prada stiletto dangling idly from the toe of her raised foot while she talks.

"I just. . .I mean, it's Christmas. People are supposed to get together, and sing songs, and overeat. And, ooh, have uncomfortable gatherings where everybody gets dressed up and drinks more than they should because they don't really know each other that well." Addison sighs wistfully, then adds almost under her breath, "We should have had a hospital Christmas party. Those are. . .that would've been good."

There's a long pause, long enough that Meredith starts to worry she's listening to Addison talking to herself in the Chief's office or worse, Addison having sex in the Chief's office.

"But. . .people are supposed to at least pretend to like each other, right? And want to bake things, or have festive decorations, or hope it'll snow and. . .it's like he stole Christmas. I used to love Christmas, and then he went and made it all about him and Meredith Grey, and I hate it. He's like the Grinch."

"Addie, you're drunk."

"I know that." Addison's voice is so grouchy and petulant that Meredith can almost see the scowl, and if she wasn't filled with dread right now she'd probably find it endearing. "It doesn't make him any less of an ass, though."

"Go home, Addie. Go to bed."

"I can't, Richard." Her tone of voice goes from exasperated to heartbroken in the space of a breath, and something inside Meredith tightens. "I can't spend another Christmas sitting in that goddamn trailer making small talk, and if I go back there I'm just going to ask him to sign the papers."

"Is that what you want?"

"A lady does not divorce her husband on Christmas Eve. It's tacky." Meredith can hear the Chief chuckling sadly, and it stirs dim memories from when she was younger. "Of course, it's also tacky to hog the trailer so that your wife has to get a hotel room to drink alone and listen to Elvis, but. . ."

She kind of trails off, and from her place next to the door Meredith can see red hair fall foward to cover Addison's face as she glances down.

"Do I want to ask about Elvis?"

"'Blue Christmas,' Richard," like he's just asked her how many chambers there are in a human heart.

It's like it's happening in slow motion. Meredith can feel the laugh bubbling in her throat long before it actually comes out, but she can't seem to do anything about it. She just stands there by the door, letting that nervous feeling pass from the top of her head down to the pit of her stomach as she giggles. Once. But forcefully enough that the pen she's holding against Mrs. Watson's chart slips out of her grasp and clatters against the linoleum so loudly she's sure they can hear it two floors down.

Part of her is horrified, but at the same time she isn't really surprised. After all, this is a terrible day. It's almost fitting that she'd accidentally walk in on her ex-boyfriend's almost-ex-wife lamenting the fact that she, Meredith, ruined their marriage. And it's almost fitting that before she realizes that the best thing to do would be to forget her pen and hide around the corner, she's already stepped into the Chief's line of sight and bent over to pick it up.

Not only is this a terrible day, but Meredith's pretty sure she's kind of an idiot.

She straightens and passes the Chief her pen and her clipboard, trying her best not to look at Addison. Who is still composed and dignified despite her slightly slurred speech, and even though she should be above catty thoughts like this, Meredith can't help but hate her a little for effortlessly being more ladylike drunk than Meredith could ever be sober.

Meredith also can't help but wish she was invisible, because she can feel the weight of that intelligent, too-bright gaze on her as she collects her charts and leaves the office as fast as she possibly can. She can't help pausing and sending a brief prayer to the gods of elevator occupancy that she won't have any surprises on the trip back downstairs, even as she hears Addison making her excuses and collecting her things. She can't stop herself from increasing her pace a little, trying to make it to the elevator before Addison, even though she can hear the clack of expensive heels on linoleum behind her.

She can't help wondering why she even bothers to hope anymore, as Addison slips through the closing doors. At this point, she should really know better. The universe is conspiring against her today, whether she wants it to or not.

Of course, the problem is not just that Meredith's life is awful and this is clearly going to be the second most uncomfortable elevator ride of her life. It's also that when she looks up, Meredith realizes that she's not trapped in an elevator with Dr. Forbes Montgomery Shepherd. Or Dr. Montgomery-Shepherd. Or Dr. Shepherd. The woman in front of her is just Addison, her eyes slightly unfocused and still bright with frustration.

And somehow, being with Addison the person is more intimidating than Dr. Montgomery-Shepherd, because Addison the person is tipsy and lonely and just as scary and damaged as she is. Meredith can't deal with Addison the person.

"Merry Christmas, Meredith."

It's like time has stopped. She's standing in the elevator, admiring Addison's necklace and judging her for her blouse, and the only thing she can focus on is how much she's always hated that expression. It's always seemed so insincere, like saying "what's up?" but not waiting for an answer. Merry Christmas has always grated on her, because she usually gets the feeling that the people saying it don't really mean it at all.

But she grits her teeth and nods politely, because it's easier than hashing out her holiday season issues. This'll just be one more thing to complain about when she and Cristina are spending the evening at Joe's after work. Just one more thing about Addison that sets her on edge.

+++
There's something about Meredith Grey that's always set Addison on edge, a little. It's not that she slept with Derek the first time, because - well, Addison has first-hand experience dating Derek, and she knows exactly how he can be when he decides he wants something. It's not even that she slept with Derek the second time, because that was Derek's fault, too. No matter how often he says it, "she was looking at me" is still an excuse for picking on your kid brother when you're in grade school, not adultery.

It's not that wide-eyed, fresh-out-of-medical school innocence, either, although with Seattle Grace's seemingly endless supply of wet-behind-the-ears interns, Addison's almost had her fill of that, too.

It's this look Meredith gets in her eyes sometimes, when she's faced with Addison and the consequences of Derek being Derek. The look she has right now, staring at the numbers above the elevator doors like they're going to offer some kind of salvation. Like she wants to take responsibility for something. Like she wants something to be her fault, so she can justify her guilt or the awkward silences or whatever it is she's feeling. It makes Addison's shoulders tighten, and she can usually brush it off, but tonight. Tonight her shoulders are relaxed with a little too much scotch, and tonight is the night she finally accepts the fact that she can't hold onto what's been slipping away from her for months. Tonight is the night she gets to be cranky and catty and actually say what she thinks, because it's not like she can drive Derek any further away.

"Survivor's guilt," is what she says aloud. Meredith blinks, doe-eyed and confused, and Addison knows that alcohol tends to make her skip explanations when she talks. "Have you ever been there when an accident happened? Like a car crash, or something? And you couldn't have done anything, but you still walk away feeling really guilty, like you should have been able to help."

Meredith nods, once, eyes fixed on the numbers above the door like she's willing the elevator to move faster.

"This was going to happen anyway. You were just there when it did."

This is when her eyes finally move so that they're at least focused on Addison's face. "I know."

"Then why do you keep looking at me like that?"

There's a horrible moment as her sentence settles in the small space. Addison can feel her stomach lurch, and it's almost in time with Meredith flinching back like she's just been physically slapped. And they both react in time with the elevator stopping between floors with a shudder.

The silence is filled by the gentle trilling of an alarm, and Addison is grateful as she leans back against the doors.

+++

Meredith is paralyzed. She can't move, she can't talk. All she can do is watch as Addison's hands cover her face and she slides against the elevator doors until she's sitting. And try to breathe, try to ignore the moment where Addison's eyes flashed like Derek's, because the lines she's drawn around her relationship with Derek are blurry enough as it is. She doesn't need to think about whether or not he's channelling his wife, or his wife is channelling him, or how after eleven years with somebody you're bound to pick up some mannerisms. She just has to. . .good air in, bad air out.

So Meredith is breathing, which is a step in a positive direction, and she realizes Addison is breathing too - not that she's usually not breathing, but she's breathing. In time with Meredith. Good air in, bad air out. Which is weird, because Meredith isn't used to being in sync with people she's mildly afraid of. It's too friendly, too intimate, and she suddenly needs to break the silence.

"Thank you."

Addison raises her head slowly, her brow furrowed in booze-addled confusion. "What?"

"You said 'Merry Christmas,' before. So. Thank you."

Meredith has nothing left to say. Mostly because she didn't have anything to say to begin with, and really, she doesn't even know why she started talking in the first place when this is Addison Shepherd, and Meredith should be used to awkward silences with her. She definitely doesn't know why Addison's little half-smile makes her feel slightly warm with seasonal goodwill. It shouldn't. They're not, and never were, friends. But for some reason, Meredith keeps talking anyway.

She thinks it has to do with the conspiracy.

"You and Izzie would get along really well. You should see my house - she actually managed to find fresh holly and real mistletoe to hang on the doorframes. Which - well, she has way too much time on her hands right now, and I think she's starting to miss the hospital, but still. It's pretty over the top, and the whole house smells like a freaking evergreen forest. But we're being supportive again this year, so I've been trying to take it in stride."

Meredith is about three words away from actually clapping her hands over her mouth to shut herself up, because why is she still talking? But then Addison picks up her end of the conversation, which is - well, it's still weird, but at least Meredith isn't babbling anymore.

"Wow, I haven't seen real mistletoe in. . .god, I used to love it so much. Hanging it up, the whole tradition of it. Plus it's all green, and. . .and white, you know, and it just makes everything seem classier. In a kind of old-fashioned way." She gestures at Meredith and the empty space in front of her with her index finger, like she's saying something very important. "And. And, it's also an excuse to kiss everybody who visits. So it has to be pretty great."

Meredith can't hold back a snort, and Addison's gaze snaps up. "What?" she says, in a voice that for once isn't searching for an answer she already knows. She's just asking an actual question, and Meredith surprises herself by responding with an actual answer.

"I just think it's funny that mistletoe is supposed to be this symbol of spreading love and cheer, when it's actually poisonous."

"And you think that, what?" Addison's face is cool and collected, but the tone of her voice is slightly hurt. "Speaks volumes about the true nature of Christmas?"

There's a subtle shift in the way Addison's staring at Meredith, that makes her feel like Addison is looking through her now, instead of at her. It makes Meredith feel like she's done something wrong. Except she knows she hasn't, because she can see the way the fingers of Addison's right hand move to twist her wedding ring and this clearly isn't about her.

"Sorry," she says, and slides down to sit next to Addison on the floor.

Normally, this is where the conversation would end. Normally, they would stay there in awkward, hopeful silence until the nice gentlemen from maintenance called down to help them out, and they'd pretend the whole discussion had never happened. But normally Addison would be sober. And instead she's drunk, and it's Christmas Eve, and she's probably going to divorce her husband in about a week. So instead of ending the conversation she leans over until her shoulder touches Meredith and smiles in a sadly conspiratorial way that tugs at something behind Meredith's ribcage. "Derek and I used to love mistletoe."

Meredith just smiles at her. She has no idea what to say - can't even believe this is happening - so she falls back on what she knows. "Seriously?"

"Mmm." Addison smiles again, like she's somewhere besides the elevator and some time besides this year. "And holly, but mistletoe was always the best part. We used to - we'd both try to surprise each other, try to find it and hang it over the doorframe first." Addison pauses, and the only thing Meredith can hear is the sharp, uneven sound of Addison's breathing. "I always let him win."

There's a beat, and then somehow, the moment breaks and Addison turns her face away with an embarrassed half-smile. But Meredith can't seem to look away, because there's something. Something almost familiar in the defeated slope of Addison's shoulders and the way she's twisting that ring on her finger like it's going to help anything, and oh. Oh.

She at least has the presence of mind not to say anything, but the realization hits her like a one-horse open sleigh. Derek is Addison's McDreamy.

There's something surreal and almost profound about the simple, blunt obviousness of it all. Of course he is. Of course he would have been. But knowing it is nowhere near the same as knowing it, as seeing it on this woman's face and reaching over to quiet the hands that are still fidgeting with her wedding band.

"Do you miss him?"

She has no right to ask, has no right to talk about Addison's husband like they're already divorced, but somehow Meredith knows she'll get an answer anyway.

"Yeah."

And it's then that she realizes that somewhere in between mistletoe and Derek and now, Addison's shifted from a respectful distance away to inappropriately close. And Meredith feels like she should be doing something, but Addison is a little bit McDreamy herself, and she's frozen. She can't do anything but stand there like an idiot, noticing that the He-Shepherd and the She-Shepherd both wear exactly the same expression as they're about to kiss her. And idly wonder if they both did that before they met, or if it's a product of being married for so long, which is counterproductive for two very important reasons. Because one, she's kissing Addison, and enjoying it and thinking about the symmetry of kissing both spouses in the same goddamn elevator, enjoying the taste of really good scotch on Addison's breath because that's the only way, she thinks, that Addison would ever get drunk. And two, she has a fabulous boyfriend who saves puppies and births ponies and she's cheating on him and the only think she can think is that maybe she and Finn aren't meant to be because he seems to be the only major player in her love life who hasn't made inappropriate sexual advances on her in this elevator.

They start moving again with a bump, and maybe there really was a power outage and it's been restored, maybe Addison pushed in the "emergency stop" button while Meredith was distracted. It doesn't really matter, anyway, because the doors open with a gentle "ping" and she can see sweet freedom in front of her, over Addison's shoulder. And Meredith should be happier. She should be bolting for the doors while she still can, terrified that the awful woman who stole her Dr. McDreamy is going to eat her, but somehow she's not. Because Addison isn't that person anymore. And she probably never was, but. Now they both know that.

Somehow, as Addison turns to leave, Meredith feels her arm reach out, realizes she's holding a fistful of Addison's coat in her hand. "Addison."

Meredith doesn't know what she's supposed to say, doesn't really have anything to say at all. But she smiles as much as she can, makes eye contact with her for the first time in a long while. "Merry Christmas, Addison."

And Meredith means it.
  • but the realization hits her like a one-horse open sleigh.
    LOL YOU USED IT!!!! yay =D

    okay, so i love this. its perfect and just loveeely. and i can't tell you how happy it makes me that it's long THREETHOUSANDPLUSWORDSOMG.

    you make me happy. ♥
  • There is so much about that this that I love, m'dear. SO. Much. And really, aside from the making out option (totally FTW, by the way) I can totally see this on the show. I love, love, love it.

    Also, I think this whole section:

    Meredith can't hold back a snort, and Addison's gaze snaps up. "What?" she says, in a voice that for once isn't searching for an answer she already knows. She's just asking an actual question, and Meredith surprises herself by responding with an actual answer.

    "I just think it's funny that mistletoe is supposed to be this symbol of spreading love and cheer, when it's actually poisonous."

    "And you think that, what?" Addison's face is cool and collected, but the tone of her voice is slightly hurt. "Speaks volumes about the true nature of Christmas?"


    Says everything one needs to know about those characters.
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