Fandom: Grey's Anatomy
Characters/Pairings: Izzie | Alex/Izzie.
Word Count: 3,275
Author's Note: This is my reaction to the episode. In a hopeful, weird world. It's not glorious and it's not the most agreeable thing in the world but it's my reaction.
Summary: Post 6.12 - I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked. Six years later she is a figure on a porch swing; no one lives there anymore
Six years later, she is a hunched figure on a porch swing.
The rain falls.
No one lives there anymore.
Here’s the thing: when she said she was going to start over, she meant it.
Izzie left to reinvent herself on the East Coast; new job, new friends, new place, new life.
She left to find a place to call home.
And then –
She always figured the cancer would come back. She was warned -- be vigilant, be careful, it happens sometimes, you never know -- and so she always figured if it did, that would be the thing to throw her life back into the destructive spin it was on for the better part of those last two years in Seattle.
“Clean bill of health,” Dr. Barnard says, all smiles and teeth, and then a few months pass and she’s driving to Seattle and she just always figured it would be something big like that. Like cancer and the difference between life and death.
Four years into Boston, the red ‘X’ that lingered over Washington State in her mind started to become smaller, more centralized, eventually disappeared altogether.
Year five and she always thought if the cancer came back she’d end up back there. She thought it would be permissible, then, because half the phone numbers she had were dead, disconnected, someone else’s (she knows, she’s tried) and once those people were her friends, her support, and you can only try to forgot those things.
The cancer doesn’t come back and she still, not yet, maybe not ever, but Seattle’s still there, still in her rearview mirror and she can’t quite deal with what that might mean.
They divorced after six months.
He never called, lawyers handled it; it went efficiently, smoothly, what some would call pleasantly.
It was all the things their marriage never was.
Her second marriage (third engagement, she thinks, still with a lump in her throat that she’ll never quite get past) lasts even less time than her first.
She was a doctor and he wasn’t and it dissolves for reasons that she thinks must’ve been similar to Bailey’s – he didn’t understand because he didn’t live it every day.
This new ending chips away at her beliefs, at her resolve that love comes before work, always, and they were all crazy for thinking otherwise.
(she still thinks about the look in his eyes, I’m with them, the way she must’ve known right then that this was only the beginning of the end, that she no longer belonged there, with these jaded and driven people that bore only some resemblance to the green interns they once were)
The divorce is ugly; she was expecting that.
At some point, she becomes the great surgeon with the equally great heart of gold. There are promotions and raises, and at least that’s one area that she finds her footing. One success.
There’s a groundbreaking surgery and she rocks it and when it’s all over she goes out to dinner with her co-workers. Her wine glass keeps getting refilled and when she stumbles home later that night she pukes into the toilet like she hasn’t done since she was much younger.
It should be the one bad thing marring an otherwise unusually great day, except she goes to dial her friend ‘Mara’ and accidentally lands on ‘Meredith’ on her contact list and then she’s crying against the bathroom wall; blaming that on the wine and the way it makes her knees wobble when she stands only goes so far, when she really means friendships and loves gone awry.
Iz, you could be a great surgeon, we could be great together, because I don’t want to be the future of this hospital if you’re not there with me
It’s the first night she thinks about calling him.
It’s insignificant, little, stupid – all of those demeaning words.
“A friend of mine died,” a friend of hers, not close but a co-worker, tells her one day, visibly shaken with unfocused eyes; grief colors her face.
“I’m sorry,” Izzie offers, comforting hand on her shoulder, “is there anything I can do?”
“No. I guess I…I should fly out for the funeral.” The other woman’s mouth moves around silent words, before she adds, “I haven’t even seen her since I moved out here. I mean we talked on the phone sometimes but…I haven’t seen her in years.”
It isn’t her story and that’s the very reason it shouldn’t affect her. But it does. It takes advantage of all the loose ends and regrets and fears of missed opportunities that have been stewing in her mind for the past six years and spins them into a messy ball that seems to rest in the pit of her stomach.
Two days later she flies to Seattle.
No one lives in Meredith Grey’s house anymore.
There’s a ‘for sale’ sign in the front yard and even with the lights off she can see a distinct lack of furniture through the windows. But the porch swing still sits where it always has and she blames the rain when she takes refuge in it, comforted by the familiarity.
Meredith’s cell doesn’t pick up. She has no other numbers to try for her.
She’s too terrified to try anyone else’s. To try the hospital or Joe’s.
She doesn’t know what she’ll find if she does.
She doesn’t know why she’s here, in that moment, and she isn’t sure she ever did.
And yet she can’t bring herself to leave. Not yet.
Over the course of her six year stay in Boston, she switches apartments three times.
The first on her own.
The second with her husband.
The third right back where she started, alone and the happier for it.
She still can’t figure out which of them, if any, ever felt like home. It’s all marked with a strange impermanence, as if they were just individual pit stops and she was only biding her time, always looking for bigger, better, different location, different roommate or lover, something else that’s just supposed to fit.
Home evaded her and something was always missing and a very small part of her had begun to look south and west, because even months before her co-worker’s grief-ridden expose she had a feeling that this wasn’t going to work anymore.
So really, in a way, she was also going back to Seattle just to make sure she hadn’t missed something there. That she was right and that wasn’t her home anymore either.
Headlights cut through the rain and the dark and she counts fourteen cars before number eight comes back around in the opposite direction.
The “fuck” she mumbles when she realizes why gets swallowed up by the wind and the slam of a car door.
Alex is in her line of sight a moment later, hands in the pockets of his hoodie, stopping just in front of the porch steps. There are new lines in his forehead, years etched into skin, but he still holds himself the same. The rain begins to soaks through his clothes but he doesn’t seem to care and she makes no move to meet him halfway, rooted to her seat.
“Hey,” he says, finally, and his voice is rough and tired.
“Hey,” she whispers, closing her eyes against the rush of nostalgia. The sound of his shoes against the wooden porch is somehow startling and she holds her breath until she feels his weight on the swing next to her.
When she left she never meant to come back.
Izzie’s become pretty good at betraying even her own promises.
She thinks asking ‘how’ve you been’ would be stupid, under these circumstances. They have phones for that (she never tried his; she wonders if his number is still the same), not planes. ‘Nice to see you’ is plain, too formal and half-meant. The feelings coursing through her body can be described as many things and she would hesitate to call any of them nice.
Terror, relief, sadness, hurt, comfort. None of those qualify as nice.
Next to her, he shifts, feet solid on the floor, elbows on his knees and his hands clasped in front of him. She watches the wheels turn and keeps her hands to herself.
And then she thinks aloud. “You turned around.”
He covers the flinch with the setting of his jaw, the long pause before the half explanation, “I pass by here every day on my way home from work; usually there aren’t people sitting on the porch of an empty house.”
“It was raining,” she offers, not needing to follow his quick glance to her car in the driveway. She still doesn’t know what she was waiting for. “I tried calling Meredith but…”
“Old number. She doesn’t live here anymore,” he replies, as if the ‘for sale’ sign wasn’t a dead giveaway.
“I know but – “
“If you’re looking for her you’re on the wrong coast,” he finishes, ignoring her attempt at an elaboration. His voice lacks the bitterness that she nearly expects but he sounds just a little adrift. The other woman’s absence weighs heavy in the air between them and doesn’t disappear until his sigh cuts through the background of rain and a passing car. “She left with Derek a few months ago. New York.”
“Oh.” She shifts, somehow uncomfortable with the sense of change that the statement imparts. “I’m surprised the house hasn’t sold.”
He doesn’t comment, fingers fidgeting, stretching, and she notices they’re bare like her own. She doesn’t know if that makes her feel better or worse or anything at all; she wonders if he’s noticed – as it stands he’s barely looking at her. “What are you doing here?”
If she was being truthful, she’d remind him of his own words, telling her to go away and never come back and be happy. How she tried for all three of those things and failed at the last before the middle. But she isn’t. So she lies. “I was visiting a friend.”
“You’re sitting on Meredith’s old porch,” he points out.
“Yeah.” She presses her lips together, looks out at the night, through the sheets of water that obscure her view. She can’t seem to escape the rain, not here or Boston. “I guess I am.”
In the end, he leaves in his car, driving off into the night.
In the end, she leaves on a plane, flying out into the rising sun.
She has it on good authority that Derek and Meredith relocated to Mount Sinai, then New York Presbyterian.
It makes sense when she remembers that the former is a huge teaching hospital, that the latter ranked number five in neurology, in neurosurgery.
It makes less sense when she thinks back six years and remembers that Meredith was the one trying to keep them all together. That when she left, Derek was about to be named Chief.
In August, she tags along with Maya on a trip to Manhattan. There is a woman on the street, leaving a coffee shop not far from the hospital, with light brown hair, a few shades darker than Meredith’s normal, but her smile is all too familiar. Her ear is pressed to her phone and Izzie can’t bring herself to stop her old friend so she just keeps on walking in the other direction.
A month later, she starts looking at Philadelphia, at Baltimore, at higher ranking hospitals than her own. It’s more about a change of scenery but she still backs it up with logic and facts, the numbers one and eight, both above her ten.
Seattle Grace Mercy West is back in the top ten but she skims over it on the list.
Richard Webber dies in the fall. There’s very little question regarding the cause.
She doesn’t attend the funeral.
A month and a half before she’s set to move, Baltimore this time, she’s back in Seattle.
The ‘for sale’ sign is still ever present and she sits on the porch steps and tries his number. He picks up on the fifth ring, right before the voicemail is about to take over.
“I’m at the house,” she says, hating the way her voice shakes, blaming it on the cold.
“Izzie – “
“Yeah, I know. I know what you told me to do and I know that you were right and you deserve…” the rest of that thought is lost to the air; she switches tactics. “I’m moving to Baltimore and I – I lied last time, when I said I was visiting a friend. I lied.”
“Izzie,” and his voice softens, reminding her in all of the worst ways that this was never about who loved who and whether or not they still did.
“These past six years have sucked, Alex.”
When he tells her “twenty minutes” he sounds defeated.
It’s similar to how she feels.
“I’m sorry,” and her voice seems to echo off of non-existent walls; it’s night, silent without the engine of his car running as he approaches.
“What are you doing here?” He sounds more forceful and more desperate at the very same time, a marked difference from the indifference from last time. She wonders what he left behind, what he dropped to get here. If it was a case, a surgery, his friends, maybe a woman. She wants to ask but she lost that privilege; even she knows that.
This time she doesn’t lie. “I don’t know. It’s not working there and I just thought I should – “ her eyes leave his form, finding interest in the flicker of the porch lights across the street for a brief time. “I’m different now, you know. I got married again and I screwed that up because he didn’t get the surgery thing and…I’m different now and I get it now. That surgery doesn’t go away and I did.”
“You can’t – “ he shakes his head, and when he starts up again he’s yelling, shouting for the whole street to hear him. “You can’t actually be serious with this right now. Why the hell are you telling me this? You’re leaving, moving to – wherever the fuck you’re moving. I told you to leave, I told you to go be happy somewhere else and then you – “
“I wasn’t happy,” she shouts back, finding her voice and her own fire. “I was, at best, okay. I wasn’t happy and it wasn’t home and I needed to make sure that this still wasn’t it either. I’m sorry for what I did, I’m sorry if I made you feel like crap, but being told to leave and never come back didn’t exactly have me jumping for joy.”
“You left in the first place,” he retorts and she hears a door slam from somewhere, someone listening in or trying not to.
“I did, you’re right, okay? Is that what you want to hear? Fine, I left.” She wants to kick something, she wants to take the old planter next to the old swing and hurl it at his car or at the tree or at the damn swing itself. She wants the feel of him on her skin, wants his arms around her and the smell of his aftershave filling her nostrils. She wants to know why she can’t move on no matter how far she moves or who she dates or what she does.
Seattle’s always in her rearview mirror and he’s always in the back of her mind.
“It isn’t working, no matter how hard I try, and I keep thinking that maybe this is where I’m supposed to be. Maybe this is it – maybe this is as good as it’s going to get for me.” Tears prick at her eyes but she’s become better at not letting the emotions get the best of her, at keeping them at bay. “I’m not asking to be welcomed back with open arms, I’m saying I’m going to Baltimore and if that doesn’t work then I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
His mouth opens, forms words that don’t come out, and then he shakes his head and walks back towards the car.
“Alex,” she cries out but he ignores her, punctuating his current feelings towards her with the very loud slam of his door.
She leaves that night.
“Are you sure about this?”
Izzie takes one long look at her still intact apartment, the calm before the storm, and finds that her sense of attachment is weak. “As sure as I’m going to get.”
And then she opens the first cardboard box and starts with the kitchen cabinets.
Two days before the move, her cell phone rings.
“I found something of yours.”
“Alex,” she shuts her eyes and bites her lip, “I’m moving Thursday.”
“You can be a day late.”
She doesn’t know why she gets on the damn plane, but she does.
When she arrives, she leaves a voicemail letting him know that she’s there and waits on the porch because it’s the only place she knows to go.
The sign’s gone but the house is still empty and she wonders what happened.
She hasn’t been there for ten minutes by the time he gets there, parking his car and taking the keys out of the ignition. He holds them in his hand and stands before her.
“The sign’s gone,” she remarks, nodding to the hole that still remains in the ground.
“Yeah,” he says, with a nod of his head. “It is.”
“It’s strange that it’s someone else’s now.” She wraps her arms around herself. “Feels like we’re trespassing.”
“I don’t think we are.”
He sounds so sure of himself then, and she raises an eyebrow in confusion and doubt, half a second before she gets it. His keys are still in his hand and he’s standing there like he belongs there, like he has every right to stand there, because he does. She’s a little breathless, a little surprised, as she says, “You bought it.”
“Yeah,” he confirms, shrugs under her gaze, “Guess it felt more like home than anything else.”
“That’s – “ she takes a breath, looks back at the place she used to call home too, the one place in Seattle, maybe anywhere, that she’s been anchoring herself to. “That’s great.”
“Yeah,” he repeats, this time more subdued than the last. “Look, if you think this is the best you’re going to get, if Seattle is the only thing that makes sense, then do it. Then come back.”
“You told me – “
“I told you that almost seven years ago. I said a lot of things I don’t mean anymore.” His shoes scuff in the dirt and the grass. “I’m thinking so did you.”
As the gravity of his statement sets in, all she can manage is a nod and a weak, “yeah.”
Izzie does not move to Baltimore.
She looks at apartments in Seattle and for the week that she’s there before she finds the right one, she stays in her old bedroom and he stays in his, moving in that very same week. They co-exist in the same space and they do it with minimal contact, and what little they do have is measured, careful.
(I wasn’t happy either, he says once, so quiet that she can barely hear him and he’s out the door, leaving for work before she can ask him to repeat it)
Tacoma is happy to have her. Seattle Grace Mercy West would be too, but she can’t bring herself to walk back in there yet.
He helps her move into the new apartment and when she hears his car drive away she thinks she’s okay.
Two years later, she moves back home.