Fandom: Grey's Anatomy
Characters/Pairings: Alex/Izzie; Burke/Cristina.
Word Count: 3,157.
Author's Note: This is inspired by -- with the latter part for -- nursebadass. Both parts can serve as standalones, since they are essentially variations on the same idea. The headers for both parts come from "Grapevine Fires" by Death Cab For Cutie, which is also where the title comes from.
Summary: Post 6.24 - Death And All His Friends. CNN reports first gunfire, then causalities, and the news spreads exactly like wildfire. It crosses first a state, then a country.
When the wind picked up, the fire spread
And the grapevine seemed left for dead
And the northern sky looked like the end of days
The end of days
They’re probably among the first to hear.
Seattle Grace is a forty minute drive, without traffic, and the televisions run local news on mute, switching to CNN for the news crawl every time some midday or late-night talk show interrupts. It’s a system that works like clockwork and every now and then someone will glance up, looking for accidents, wary of a sudden onslaught of patients.
Someone must glance up around ten. Fifteen minutes later, there’s chatter in the waiting room when she passes by. Still after, there’s a circle around the nurse’s station.
A shooter at Seattle Grace. There are causalities. They don’t know how many. None of it this is past tense.
Mrs. Tate in 342 still needs to have a CT scan, Dr. Hadden’s still going to expect her to be there to look at the results, and Izzie’s still far too new here to linger.
So she puts it out of her mind and goes about her business.
When she heads out at seven, her phone reads three missed calls and a match number of voicemails.
The television tells tales of mass causalities but gives no names. It’s over, by now, has been for hours, but her former place of employment is now a crime scene and she’s got images of her friends as she’d last seen them emblazoned in her memory.
She dials her inbox, listens as the first message begins to play, and stops cold in the middle of the concrete walkway that leads up to the hospital doors, keys hanging loosely in her right hand.
“Izzie? This is Lexie Grey. I don’t know if this is still your number – I saw Meredith’s contact list last time I used her phone and, well, I have a photographic memory so it’s not like I meant to memorize it. But I did. Anyways, that’s not the point.
“There was a shooting, at the hospital. I don’t know if you’ve heard; I guess the news is probably carrying the story but…I don’t know. So I just thought I’d tell you that,” there is an audible break, a sigh, choked, “Alex got shot. And, um, he was asking for you. He didn’t know that he was asking for you, I don’t think, because he was losing a lot of blood and – well, he was asking for you. He’s going to be fine, they think, but I just thought you should know.
“It’s Lexie Grey.”
The message ends there, abruptly, like she got cut off or just didn’t know how to end it. There’s a shaky sort of panic evident in her voice and it turns Izzie’s blood cold.
She finds a nice bench that lines the walkway and sits down to replay the message. She ignores the other two.
Izzie goes home.
Gets her car in the parking lot of her apartment complex, her key in the lock, eventually herself in bed, but the clock counts three hours since she’s been home and her feet itch and her eyes refuse to close.
he was asking for you
The words beat a steady rhythm inside her skull, meet the headache that aspirin hasn’t been able to dull all day. There’s no relief and ten minutes of pacing her apartment doesn’t do anything to alleviate the nervous energy either.
It’s the television that ends up being the last straw. The eleven o’clock news finds a microphone shoved in Richard Webber’s face, the man’s focus anywhere but the camera. He keeps looking to his right, he keeps dodging questions, and there are sirens in the background. There is no comfort to be found in his words.
She throws on a pair of jeans and a jacket, ignoring the fact that it’s far too cool outside for the thin camisole she wears underneath, and leaves.
The manila envelope with signed divorce papers inside, resting on her coffee table, is the last thing she sees as her front door closes.
At twenty after twelve, she charms a security guard with her credentials, her badge from Tacoma General, and he tells the nurse on the floor that she’s fine. She’s a doctor. That gets you places; professional respect and all that, occasionally mixed with kindness.
“Could you tell me what room Alex Karev is in?”
She doesn’t really know that she’s going to go through with this until the words are out of her mouth. Then it’s pretty much set in stone.
She still doesn’t know what she’s going to do once she gets in that room.
There’s a blonde curled up in the chair next to Alex’s bedside and it takes Izzie close to an eternity before she realizes it’s Lexie.
She chooses to focus on that and not the IVs or the machines that surround him. She really can’t look at that right now.
It’s strange because she stands in the doorway without a clue of what to do for longer than can be considered normal. And when she finally rests a hand on Lexie’s shoulder, feels Lexie jump like she’s been burned, it hits her like a freight train that this is the woman sleeping with her almost ex-husband.
This is also the woman who called her.
Lexie blinks sleep out of her eyes, once she registers Izzie’s presence, and they head out into the hall so as not to wake him.
“You came,” Lexie says, fairly breathlessly. “I mean, I know you called but…you came.”
Izzie smiles faintly but it’s false. The surprise in Lexie’s voice is either overexaggerated thanks to the sleepiness that’s evident in her movements, or indicative of what they all think of her. That they all think she doesn’t care.
You know, she used to be the heart of this whole operation. Her and George, they used to be the heart. Now she’s the cold bitch who left her husband and she has no recourse because said husband is lying in a hospital bed with a gunshot wound.
She always liked Lexie. Before she heard Alex was sleeping with her, she always liked her. It’s why she gives her the benefit of the doubt, attributes it to the hell these people have been through today.
“You should get some sleep, in an actual bed,” Izzie suggests, the nicest way she can think of to insinuate that she wants to switch places with Lexie. That she wants to be alone in that room because whatever’s going to happen? It’s certainly not going to happen with the three of them in there. “I’ll watch him.”
“I didn’t want him to be alone,” Lexie says, her bottom lip caught between her teeth; there’s real honest to god tears in the corners of her eyes, “I didn’t – I couldn’t leave him alone.”
When Izzie rests a hand on her shoulder this time, it’s meant as comfort. It’s also meant as a thank you.
She needed to be here. There’s too much history between them for her not to be, all things considered.
She needed to be here and she just didn’t know it for sure until she walked in that room.
Sometime after three, there is movement from the bed. His hand twitches, gropes along the blankets, and she slides her hand into his instinctually. It coincides with the clearly pained groan as he moves the wrong way, jostles his injury or the IVs or something.
She’s really not clear on the specifics here. Strangely, she hadn’t thought to ask. It’s an injury. It’s an almost life-threatening injury. It’s the same degree of worry, of tightness in her chest, no matter where it is.
“Lexie,” he says, low, not at all sounding like himself, and she swallows as he blinks at her. “I’m hallucinating again, aren’t I? This is what you were talking about.”
“Alex,” she leans in closer, in the dimly light room, the moon just breaking through the clouds and letting in a blue glow through the unobscured window. “Alex, it’s me.”
He frowns, groggy from the drugs. Confusion is clear, whatever else might be at work notwithstanding.
Lexie said he’d been asking for her. The more he talks, the more she assumes that means he was mistaking Lexie for her. She wishes she’d asked.
She wishes a lot of things.
“It’s me. It’s Izzie.”
Alex stares at her for too long, through half-lidded eyes, and there’s a point where she wonders if he’s gone back to sleep. Then he swallows, pulls his hand back from her grasp. She chases it. “Crap. I told Sloan not to kill me.”
There’s almost a laugh that slips through her lips. If anything, she thinks that might prove it’s really her, laughing at the most inopportune times. There’s still a hint of amusement as she says, “You’re not dead. Mark didn’t…he didn’t kill you, although I can only imagine it was a struggle to stop himself. It’s really me.”
He still looks doubtful, but it’s just hinting at the emotion; the rest of him is back on the edge of unconsciousness. He’ll be out in a matter of minutes, she knows. They’ll probably have to have this conversation again.
Maybe a few times.
“Don’t leave,” he murmurs, apparently deciding that, whoever she is, she can stay, and she smiles as he stops trying to resist contact, lets her tangle her fingers with his. The words are a strong contrast from the last ones he said to her, marked with a confused sort of desperation that a completely aware version of Alex would hate himself for.
“I won’t,” she whispers, but he’s already out before he can hear it.
And the news reports
On the radio said it was getting worse
As the ocean air fanned the flames
But I couldn't think
Of anywhere I would've rather been
To watch it all burn away
Annie, the intern on his aortic valve replacement gets preoccupied during post-op. He finds her on the phone in the hallway later and she makes a hurried show of getting off the phone before he can get within five feet of her.
“Sorry, Dr. Burke, I was just – ”
He gives her a kind smile before she can ramble on, finds that a less strict approach tends to have people like her clamoring for his approval anyways. Most people like him; the ones who don’t respect him. It’s a balance that he likes to keep. “How is our patient?”
“Her vitals are stable. It was a…” a rosy blush creeps high in the intern’s cheeks, “it was a great surgery.”
“No. It was a successful surgery. That’s what matters.”
He talks with Mr. Buchanan, just coming out of anesthesia, lets him know that it went well, and when they both leave, separate ways down the hall, Annie calls out to him.
“Dr. Burke,” she waits for him to turn, charts held close to her chest, “where are you from?”
It doesn’t strike him as an odd question so much as a sudden question. “Alabama, born and raised.”
“No, I mean, where were you before you came back?” He frowns, and she covers as quickly as humanely possible. “I just heard that you came back. Or were somewhere else for awhile. I didn’t ask but…people talk.”
Burke nods. “Seattle.”
“At Seattle Grace?”
This he neither confirms nor denies. “Why?”
“I grew up in Spokane. My best friend still lives there, works at Valley Hospital. She’s a nurse.” If she looked less nervous about this whole thing, he’d be asking her to get to the point about now. As it is, he’s taking pity on her. “Anyways, she said there was a shooter at Seattle Grace. It’s been all over the news there, I guess. I just thought – well, I thought you might want to know.”
He doesn’t hear himself say “thank you”; pleasantries are automatic. He doesn’t remember if she said something back either but he’s willing to bet he was halfway down the hall by the time she did.
CNN’s running the story.
They may have been for some time now, but he’s been in surgery or checking on patients, moving between floors and never getting anywhere close to the televisions in the waiting room or the lounge. He’s holed up in the latter now, alone, with his hands folded and his elbows resting on his thighs, bent and leveling with the small television set in the third floor lounge.
The Chief of Surgery’s been shot – it’s been said twice now, in the last five minutes – but they don’t know how many others are wounded or dead. They certainly don’t know names.
Burke keeps tabs on Seattle Grace. Really, he keeps tabs on Cristina, but the hospital is an extension of that. He knows they mean Derek, not Richard, and it’s only confirmed when he sees a flash of Richard’s face on the screen, talking to cops on the scene.
“We’re told several doctors have lost their lives in this tragic event that has only just now come to a close. Names aren’t being released until police can contact the families of the victims but we’re expecting a press conference within the next hour or two.” The reporter plasters a smile on her face for the send-off. “Back to you, Daniel.”
The door opens and he switches the television off. One of his fellow attendings stands in the doorway, framed by the bright light he’s letting in. “Everything alright, Preston?”
“Is Dr. Aiken on call today?”
His co-worker frowns. “Yeah, I just saw her giving her resident hell on fifth. You know the one I’m talking about – Langenfeld or something? The one who got the labs mixed up on the Gomez case.” Burke collects his pager from the small table next to the chair he’s sitting in and then gets to his feet. “Wait, why?”
“I need to get her to take over my cases for a few days.”
“Seattle,” he throws over his shoulder and then he’s heading for the elevator.
He takes the first flight into Seattle-Tacoma International that they’ll give him.
It’s a last-minute cancellation and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth doesn’t run non-stop to Seattle so he ends up with a half-hour layover in Atlanta. Dr. Aiken calls to reconfirm the treatment plan for one of his patients and after that he entertains the idea of calling over to Seattle Presbyterian, to see if Cristina’s checked in there.
His flight is boarding.
It ends up that he gets a rental when the flight touches down and drives to Seattle Pres. It’s after eight there, even with the three hour time difference, and the sun is just choking out the last few minutes of light it’s got left before it dips below the horizon. When he parks the car, the only light left is from the numerous streetlights and the fluorescents that peek through the sliding glass doors of the hospital’s entrance.
On his way in, he passes a red-haired man with his arm in a sling, bulky padding under his shirt, along his shoulder and determines two things from a ten second pass. One, he’s one of the gunshot victims, probably a through and through if he’s up walking around, even though he’s got a nurse arguing with him. Two, he fits the description of the new trauma surgeon at Seattle Grace, the one he heard has taken up with Cristina.
He calls for the elevator, on his way up to look for an old friend who works here and can get him the information he wants, and the man nods to him when he catches his eye. Burke nods back but his smile is tight.
“She’s not a patient here.”
He rests his elbows on the nurse’s station, face to face with an old friend from another time. Burke has connections here, still, and the people who know who he is are the ones that should. “You didn’t even look.”
The man laughs. “I don’t need to. She operated on their Chief of Surgery, took a bullet out from right next to his aorta. I don’t know who trained her but, for a resident, that’s pretty damn impressive.”
Burke doesn’t give himself away but he’d be lying if he said there wasn’t some small surge of pride coursing through him. He does give away the relief he feels at the mention of her heroics. It means she’s fine. Not injured, not dead. Fine. Physically. “You don’t happen to know where she might be?”
“No idea. Although I’ve run into her twice on fourth.” His friend looks up from the discharge papers he’s signing. “That’s where they’re keeping Shepherd.”
“Thanks.” He eyes the elevators just down the hall, the ones he came from. “I appreciate it.”
“Yeah, sure. You staying in town long?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
There was never any question whether or not he’d get on that plane.
It’s what you do when there’s even the slightest chance that someone you love has been injured, let alone possibly killed.
Burke left. That doesn’t mean he stopped loving her.
There was never any question.
As it turns out, she isn’t on fourth.
She’s in the elevator.
Their eyes lock as the doors slowly reveal her, alone and checking her watch, foot tapping an impatient beat against the floor. She stops when she registers who he is. Her foot stills and her arm drops limp to her side, mirroring her other one.
She straightens when he enters, stands next to her like this is a Thursday sometime four years ago and there hasn’t been the better part of an entire country between them for the last three.
There is nothing but silence as the elevator moves between the second and third floors, and the circle for fourth is lit up on the panel. She doesn’t start up tapping again but she does turn her head to look at him. “This is a joke, right?”
A smile breaks through his façade.
“This is a joke? This has to be a joke.”
“It’s not a joke,” he replies, calmly.
“So, you’re just…what, you’re just here?”
“I heard there was a shooting.”
She laughs. It’s not a pleasant sound, and her shoulders shake as she leans back against the cold metal wall.
He presses the emergency stop button when the laughter dissolves into tears. He was expecting that. Just like he’s expecting the curl of her hands into his shirt as he moves closer to her, as she anchors herself to him. His hand cradles the back of her head, holds her body flush with his, and her sobs mix with curses, muffled against his clothes.
It’s his best decision in years.