“Meredith!” he eventually snaps, turning around to her with anger plastered all over his face, only to look at her mortified a moment later. Of all the people to snap at, she deserves it the least. She’s just been trying to be there for him, to help him sort through these messy and overwhelming feelings he has towards his father. Towards this situation, he finds himself in.
“Meredith…” Andrew tries again, raising his hands in a surrendering gesture, trying to convey how sorry he is for letting this out on her.
But she doesn’t look angry or pissed or any of the emotions he thought he might see on her face. Instead, she has this soft, kind look in her eyes that calms him down in an instant. Her face doesn’t give any other emotion away than the one that’s so clearly written in her blue depths and it makes the rage in his veins quieten again.
She takes a few steps closer to him and puts a hand on his shoulder. Tender, reassuring.
It grounds him somewhat, calms the raging emotions that are wrecking hammock in his mind.
“It’s alright. You need to let it out. Because I know what it feels like when you don’t.” Her eyes search his for a second and he feels guilt bubbling up inside of him. He doesn’t know the details of her family history, but there are always rumours floating around in this hospital, so he’s got a good idea just how strained the relationship between her and her parents must have been. They have never really talked about it, their own relationship too fresh and new to tap into these waters.
Her hand finds a way to his cheek, cradling his face gently and he feels his affection for her consume him. It overwhelms his anger for a moment.
“I’m here, when you feel ready. Just don’t take too long. Or find another way to let it all out if you don’t feel like talking about it. But swallowing it all down won’t do you any good, Andrew.” Her voice is soft and she gives him a slight smile before leaning in to plant a kiss on his cheek.
His heart trips a little in his chest.
“I’ve been there, trust me. And I’d hate to watch you go down the same road.”
She gives him another smile but this one’s tinted with sadness and regret. He wishes he wasn’t so angry at his father right now, wishes he hadn’t been the one to make her remember these things, wishes he could wipe away the pain he just saw in her eyes.
Instead, he watches as she turns around and leaves, feels the cold air whipping through his locks and thinks he’s never felt more alone in his life. Knows he didn’t when Meredith was standing here with him.
Andrew leans back against one of the walls, shivering a little as the chill of it seeps through his scrub top into his bones. He sighs, lets his head fall to his chest and breathes in shakily.
He wants to scream!
This roof was supposed to be filled with good memories with her. Now he’s ruined that for himself when he came here to mope about his father.
He sighs again and looks over the city lying before him.
He’s still angry, sad and so many other things he can’t quite figure out yet. He’s confused by his father, who seemingly just came here because of this research. And then he said these things about Meredith and how she was beyond him. As if he didn’t know what an amazing and unique and extraordinary woman she was. Like he wasn’t aware that she could do so much better. And yet she had still chosen him.
He sighs once more, lets his gaze fall on the cold hard ground below him, tries to calm himself once more.
He knows he should let it out, but he still doesn’t feel like talking about it. But he wants to be with Meredith.
Wants to bask in the warmth and comfort she offers, without pressuring him into telling her.
Just wants to feel anything but the things he’s feeling right now because of his father.
He looks up, takes in the scenery in front of him. Tries to think of a way to make it up to her again, to prove that he’s deserving of her.
Just as this thought enters his mind he knows it’s stupid. He IS deserving of her. He’s a good man. An honest man.
Why was it so easy to fall back into this pattern in which the words of his father can make him doubt almost everything so easily?
Andrew shakes his head and exhales, straightens as if that could push off the insecurities he feels building up inside of him. Hates that they’re even there in the first place.
He thinks back to the moment Meredith was still standing here with him, how her presence grounded him. How it quietened the raging feelings and wrecking nerves inside of him. How she made it more bearable, this situation with his father.
He makes a quick decision and pushes himself away from the wall, and starts walking in the direction of the door, and hopes he's not too late. For what, he doesn’t know himself.
Meredith leans against the elevator wall, hears the doors close but doesn’t care to open her eyes. She puffs some air out of her lungs and crosses her arms over her chest.
He wasn’t exactly pushing her away, she knows that, but still, she can’t shake the worry growing in her stomach. She’s never seen him as closed off from the world as he was standing on that roof, snapping at her. He’s always been so open and honest with her, put himself on the line when he admitted to having feelings for her, that she’s never anticipated he might not act like that one day.
She saw the toll this research took on him and wishes now that she’s done more to help him, maybe even protect him from his father.
She huffs and stands up straight again. He's a grown man who doesn't need protection. He's very much capable of doing that himself, she knows. But she still feels her worry and the wish of having done one thing more to help him burn through her, painfully so.
She opens her eyes as she hears the elevator’s ‘ding’.
Meredith tries not to ponder too long on the thoughts she’s just had. Of the feelings that accompanied them.
She can admit to herself that his reaction hurt her, but she also understands where it’s coming from. There were days when the sole mention of either her mother or her father had sent her into a blind rage or made her shut herself off. She vividly remembers the pain and despair she had felt in those moments.
She halts in her steps and looks back at the elevator, a contemplative frown forming on her face.
She left him to deal with it alone because he acted out. Because it’s what she would’ve wanted in that situation. But it’s not really how she’s gotten to know him, is it? Andrew doesn’t deal well with his emotions alone, he’s generally not a person who wants to be alone, like she used to be. He lets his emotions out, however big they are and terrifying it is to do so, and talks about them. She’s never seen him afraid to let another person see what he’s feeling. And if he ever tries to hold it in, it just stumbles out of him at one point anyway.
And does she really want to leave him alone when he’s trying to get a handle on these overwhelming emotions? Being alone can make the darkness feel all-encompassing, like a black, cold, hard stone crushing you under its weight. She doesn’t want him to have to feel that on top of everything else. And just because it’s been her way of dealing with feelings, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s his too.
She turns back into the direction of the elevator and starts walking, only to stop again a few seconds later.
But what if Andrew did want to be by himself tonight? Maybe she can ask him tomorrow? If all he wants is one night to try and deal with it himself? He’s an open person, but his father is another matter entirely. He wasn’t purposely sharing what he told her when they were stuck in the elevator. He was under the impression she wouldn’t understand. And that was the sole reason for him telling her. Maybe the wound is too fresh?
She cocks her head to the side and tries not to care about the looks she’s receiving from the hospital staff because she’s staring at the elevator she just vacated.
It takes her another moment but then she starts walking again, determined. Pushes the buttons on the wall and waits patiently for the doors to open again and take her back up to the roof she’s just left.
Maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it, but he doesn’t need to be silent alone. It just doesn’t sit right with her to leave him to his bitter thoughts.
She nods to her herself and hears the doors open, is ready to go inside when she runs into a broad set of shoulders.
Andrew grabs her hips to keep her from tumbling over and pulls her closer to him, looking at her surprised.
“Meredith!” he exclaims, his eyes wide and shining in that way she's grown accustomed to. “I was looking for you!”
“Me too!” She’s holding onto his shoulders and feels a smile forming on her lips as she realises that he went to look for her.
“Can we talk? Again?” There’s worry etched onto his features and she finds herself nodding at him without a second thought. Hopes he doesn’t think she’s mad at him, because she’s not.
But instead of walking, they keep staring at each other, stand unmoving like they're glued together and to the ground.
It's only when the elevator makes a noise, the doors not able to close with them standing in between, that they jump apart.
“Where?” His head is cocked to the side, his eyes searching for answers in her own.
The doors close and she can feel people staring at them now and it's starting to make her feel a little uncomfortable. This is personal to them. It's private. She doesn't need the hospital knowing about their minor problems right away.
“Come with me.” Meredith takes his hand and pulls him with her, ignoring the curious glances the hospital staff keep throwing in their direction and the voices she can hear talking. They weren't hiding their relationship, but they weren't broadcasting it either. All the important people to them knew, but by tomorrow morning the whole hospital will too. She wishes she could care less but being the hospital’s number one piece of gossip was never her thing. She hates it. Hates what it did to her relationship then. Hopes it won't ruin this one.
She shakes her head to get rid of the thoughts and tries to concentrate on how to make Andrew understand. That she'll be there for him, that she won't run away.
She wants him to be able to feel like he can open up to her. Like she does when she's around him. Though she won't admit to it out loud yet.
Meredith comes to a halt in front of a room that awakens another kind of memory inside of her. Of times when Cece was still alive and she was still resisting the pull towards Andrew, the tension and attraction she felt back then. It's turned into affection now, whenever she looks at him she can feel that. It makes her heart swell with these blossoming emotions she didn’t think she’d ever want to feel again in this lifetime.
She pushes him inside and shuts the door, leaning against it with her back. The blue-ish glow of the screens hurts her eyes for a second, but she adjusts quickly enough.
Andrew's pacing now, his head bent as he seems to go over words in his head.
She smiles at the sight despite herself and just watches him, trying to figure out if he can catch himself or if she’ll have to do that for him.
As soon as the door closes, he starts pacing, running things over in his mind to figure out what to say to her. He keeps his gaze fixed on the floor as to not get distracted by the mere sight of the kindness shining in her eyes.
It baffles him that after how he's treated her tonight, she's still here, providing the same grounding presence as earlier.
“Andrew, stop.” Her calm voice shakes him out of his pondering and he looks back up at her, stops in his tracks.
He watches as she walks closer and feels some of the residual tension and anger subside.
She stops right in front of him and turns her eyes on his, before slowly threading her arms around his broad frame and hugging him. It's strong and gentle at the same time and he feels like melting into her, and does exactly that when he can’t fight it anymore. He wants the comfort she’s offering right in this moment, doesn’t want to argue with her or lash out. Instead, he sighs and leans into her, lets his head come to rest on her shoulder, presses a kiss there.
“I'm sorry.” It's a whisper against her collarbone and Andrew exhales shakily, feels her small hands travel over his back.
“I know. It's fine.” Her breath tickles the crook of his neck and he closes his eyes and just breathes her in, finding refuge in her embrace.
Now that he’s standing here with her, he realises it’s what he needed all along.
Meredith lets him lean on her for a little while, draws small circles on his back and feels him calm further against her. Thinks that this day must’ve been draining for him, emotionally. Wishes she would’ve realised it sooner and stayed with him.
The implications of this situation, of this embrace and the way he’s letting go, leaning against her, still terrify her to a certain degree. She’s not used to a relationship anymore, has a hard time dealing with these emotions, but she’s also glad that it’s her he chose to look for comfort in. It feels more right than anything has for her in the longest time. The offer of him, to just give in and lean on him herself, to trust him with her heart that she’s kept hidden behind numerous walls for far too long since Derek died, is tempting. And she knows that he’s climbed these walls and broke through them, is worming his way under her skin, into her thoughts and into her heart as well. She’s nowhere near ready to admit to any of this, but she feels the way her whole body just seems to react to him, how her face just lights up when she sees him. And even if she didn’t use the words that keep invading her thoughts, she might need to tell him anyway. Just so that he doesn’t keep thinking he needs to hide his pain from her.
She feels him move, leaving her arms and pressing a kiss to her temple, before letting go completely. She shakes out of her thoughts and looks at him, misses the sparks she’d usually see in his dark orbs in such a moment. Meredith feels the knot in her stomach squeeze her insides almost painfully, leaving her breathless for a second. How did it ever occur to her to leave him alone with this?
Her fingers brush over his cheek to his curls and he smiles slightly at the motion, exhaustion painted on his face by the lines she can see on it.
She lets herself rest against the desk behind her, still only watching him. She wonders whether she should ask him or just let it go for the night.
She contemplates the thought for a long moment, but decides to let it go eventually. To try a different route this time. One she’s never imagined she’d take voluntarily one day. But she needs to show him that she does care and that she trusts him.
She feels his curious glance sweep over her and something inside of her flutters at the concern that alights his brown eyes, taking over the pain and sorrow that has been written in them for the last few hours.
“I just thought of something,” she explains to him and settles her hands on either side of her, tilting her head.
He nods, not completely reassured but doesn’t add anything further. She’s glad. She might lose the courage otherwise.
“Come, sit down. This isn’t the best place to have this conversation but it has to do.”
“Meredith, what ar-” She interrupts him again by standing up and putting a finger to his lips.
“Sit down, please?” It’s a question as much as it sounds like a demand and after another curious glance thrown her way he concedes and takes the chair not far from her, angles it so that he can look at her.
“Thank you.” She has to grin at the earnest twinkle she can see fill his eyes again and it makes her pause for a second, not sure whether or not she should really continue, now that his eyes aren’t dampened by pain and sadness anymore. At least for the moment.
She knows those feelings are still residing inside of him but isn’t that why she chose to speak about this in the first place?
“I did tell you that I know what it feels like. I felt that ache in my chest for so long because I just wanted my mother’s approval, until I didn’t anymore, or for my dad to care enough to not just leave.” She leaves the ‘me’ out, but it's still hanging in the air, ready for Andrew to catch. She thinks he does.
She sighs and brushes a strand of hair from her face and looks over at Andrew, sees his curious glance and the questions written in it. Sees the empathy he’s feeling for her but also something else she can’t quite put her finger on. Is it regret? Guilt?
Meredith doesn’t understand why he’d feel this way, but decides to not think too hard on it for now.
There’s a story she has to tell.
Something to make him understand.
“While my mom was a brilliant surgeon, she wasn’t great at being a mother. Sometimes not even good at being a person.”
She can see Andrew raise his eyebrows, probably wanting to unpack more of what she has shared so far, but her mother isn’t her favourite subject - and not what she wanted to touch on today. That’s a whole other mountain to climb for a different day, a different time. If ever.
“The one fond memory I have of my father faded with everything else that happened between us. Or didn’t, for that matter.”
The words are circling in her mind but she has a hard time catching them. They’re not forming any coherent thoughts, much less sentences. It’s just a big ball of messy letters and she can’t figure out how to form them to make the point she had in mind when she pulled Andrew into this room. Doesn’t know how to use them appropriately.
She’s never had trouble getting a point across, making a statement, but she feels weirdly out of her depth at this moment.
“Meredith?” It’s Andrew’s voice that makes her realise she’s trailed off and is staring off into space, hoping she might find her answers there.
She shakes her head and squeezes the hand that reached out to touch her leg. She smiles at his gesture.
“What I’m meaning to say is that I know how it feels when you’re confronted with your parents failing you on every level imaginable. And how much that hurts because you want to believe in them, want them to be proud of who you are and who you’ve become. I gave up, Andrew. I gave up believing in my parents and while it was a relief of sorts, it was also one of the hardest things I ever went through. I didn’t handle it well. Still don’t.”
She swallows thickly against the lump in her throat.
It’s one thing to know it, but a whole other to say it out loud to someone you care about.
Andrew just looks at her, a little wide-eyed, probably surprised at her openness and the things she’s just told him.
She usually never shares anything like this. But she needs him to get it so that he won’t walk down the same path that she once chose. She wants him to keep that light and openness and his way of not being afraid to speak about feelings and the like. She knows he’d lose that if this manifests.
And maybe it’s mostly for his sake, but it’s also for her own because he’s brought so much joy back into her life that it overwhelms her at times. And she knows that she doesn’t want to lose that feeling now that she’s gotten used to it again. It’s weird how fast that can happen, isn’t it?
She turns her eyes back on Andrew and watches him for a few seconds before she sighs anew. “As I said, I don’t want you to go down that same road. And I also don’t want to watch you become something you’re not because you decided to keep all of this inside and never talk about it to anyone. And I get that you need a minute to wrap your head around what happened with your dad, but don’t push others away.”
They’re both silent for a while and Meredith feels like every particle in her body has been laid open by his intense stare. It terrifies and excites her at the same time.
“Did it ever get better again? Your relationship with your parents?” Andrew looks at her, all earnest and sad and she feels her heart break a little. He wants so badly for his father to be okay, be the man Andrew has always perceived him to be and it’s hard to watch his world falling apart around the realisation that he’s not. Andrew's still holding on to the hope that one day it'll get better.
She doesn't want to take that away from him, not tonight, but something inside of her knows that his father will never be the man Andrew wants him to be. He won't own up to his mistakes and apologise. He won't be as brave and brilliant as Andrew is.
The knot tightens in her chest. He deserves her truth, even if it might dim his hope. But he might not forgive her if she says something only to dampen his sorrow. He's an honest person, someone who tells the truth, even if it’s painful. Like he did with Cece when he told her she might die during her kidney transplant. He values honesty. It’s a trait she appreciates in him very much. And she wants to give that back.
Meredith walks around the table so that she’s standing in front of him and brushes gently through his hair.
It’s not her usual way of acting, she knows, but if it’s what Andrew needs right now she wants to provide it.
“No, it didn’t.” She lets him pull her close so that his head is lying against her middle and lets her hands rest against his shoulders, her fingers softly travelling to the nape of his neck. “Not with my mother, she had Alzheimer’s and didn’t remember me most of the time but when she did...she hardly had one nice thing to say.” She pauses and mulls over her words, feels Andrew’s hot breath against her stomach and closes her eyes at the sensation. “I’m still learning new things about her every day.”
“I’m sorry,” Andrew whispers and she raises her eyebrows as she looks down to the top of his head.
“Don’t be. I’ve come to terms with it.”
There’s another pause before she can bring herself to talk about her father.
“With my father on the other hand...there was a day, one last moment, and while it didn’t erase our past of hurt, regret and abandonment, it gave me another fond memory of him. And the wish that I had tried sooner.”
Andrew looks up at her and caresses her hip, as if trying to convey that he’s there for her. It seems silly now, that she wanted to comfort him but it’s turning into her get comforted by him.
“You know, you don’t need to tell me anything, Meredith. I appreciate you trying to, very much, but if this is hard for you, and I can see that it is, you don’t need to.”
His voice is a soft rumble against her stomach and she leans her head against his, pressing a kiss on his temple.
“I know that I don’t need to, Andrew. But I want to.” She keeps her reasons for that to herself, not ready to share that much yet.
“He died, you know.” Another pause. “A few weeks after the storm when we were stuck in the elevator. He was in hospice and I didn’t want to see him, but Richard urged me to, saying he might not have too long left. And so I went and I saw him. And it wasn’t easy, not at all, because I never wanted to see him again after my sister died. But I did and it was a wise decision, in hindsight. Because we got to come clean about some things. And that felt good, in a way.”
She sighs and disentangles herself from Andrew, suddenly feeling overwhelmed by the proximity and the things she had been talking about.
He just follows her with his eyes, not moving.
She turns her back to him, surprised at how much she’s shared with him just now. It wasn’t what she had planned but now that she has, she feels weirdly relieved by it.
She turns back around to look him in the eyes, wanting to get this point across more than anything she’s said today. If all he remembers of this conversation is that one thing, it’ll be fine.
“My point is, don’t let these feelings ruin you. Don’t hate him, it takes too much out of you. And talk about it, to someone, anyone, when you’re ready. Don’t make my mistakes.”
She exhales heavily and tries herself at a slight smile.
Yes, she feels relief flooding through her, but also a little apprehension. She feels like she just vomited all her feelings right at him, and it’s not something she was ever prone to do.
But here, with him...it just felt so easy. And right.
And isn’t that a little scary?
But the smile she sees on his face makes her feel lighter again, like a weight has now been lifted off her chest after having told him.
And she decides to hold onto that.
To say he's surprised at her openness would be an understatement. She’s always kept things more to herself and to see her sharing this with him, seeing how painful it is to her, means more to him then he could ever put into words. It shines a light on a side of her that’s been hidden from his sight so far. And he's falling for her a little more for sharing those things with him that are evidently very hard for her to talk about.
He knows that she trusts him and cares about him but this moment right here proves to him just how much. He admits that it’s not something he ever thought he’d see from her. Dreamed of it, of course, and wished she’d one day be as open to him, but he never dared to believe it might happen, as he knows she’s slow to trust and likes to keep things to herself that might make her appear vulnerable.
But she’s here and she’s sharing and his heart feels ready to burst with affection and a small amount of pride, too.
He stands up again and walks over to her, slowly. He doesn't want to startle her and thinks there might've been a reason for her walking away from him.
He gently takes her hands and squeezes them, smiling when she looks at him.
“Thank you, Meredith.”
It's plain and simple but he can't think of any better words to convey what he feels, so he decides to not use any more.
She nods at him.
“Just promise me?” It's worded as a question and his heart flutters at her request.
Because this isn't just her asking him to be careful and not make her mistakes, but more a way of her making sure that he knows he can turn to her, confide in her and trust her. Even though their relationship is still fresh. She wants him to know that she'll be there for him. And that she won't run if he comes to her.
And it's the most wonderful feeling.
“I promise.” Andrew cradles her face in his hands and presses a kiss to her smiling lips and feels the darkness in his mind and heart change to a warmer colour, one that has “Meredith Grey” written all over it.
He's not past the pain his dad left in his wake, but he'll get there.
It’ll certainly take some time, but he has all the help he needs.