waltzmatildah: (greys: fab five green)
[personal profile] waltzmatildah
Title: I Can Hear You
Fandom: Grey's Anatomy
Characters: Alex, Izzie, Meredith, Cristina (mentions of George)
Word Count: 2000
Rating: PG-13
Summary: For [livejournal.com profile] rorylie as part of what I owe her over at [livejournal.com profile] fandomaid. A future fic that was meant to be cracky but I'm not entirely convinced actually is AT ALL. It's been seventeen years since they were all in the same room together...
Disclaimer: At my user info. page. Title and cut text from “Louder Than Ever”, Cold War Kids.
Author's Note: THANK YOU to [livejournal.com profile] leobrat for the beta! And to [livejournal.com profile] rorylie for the premise, even though she didn't mean it at the time!



It's the most sombre of occasions that eventually brings them back together. And really, hasn't it always been that way? Black dresses have been slipped over carefully brushed curls in various parts of the city. Ties have been knotted at throats that swallow with more than just a little hesitation.

This is not the first funeral they've attended. And it probably won't be the last.

But it's been seventeen years since they were all in the same room together, and while time has continued to march them ever forward, a certain degree of looking back is suddenly unavoidable. No matter how painful it may be.

They farewell a man who will forever be remembered as The Chief. Call him exactly that as his final resting place is filled with dark, damp earth despite the fact that he has not held the official title for decades. Not for them and not for anyone else.





*






Afterwards Joe's bar is crowded. And it's the unfailing familiarity that seems so indelibly leached into the wood pannelling that finally breaks the ice that floats precariously between them, decades in the making.

“Tequila?”

Meredith delivers the suggestion as if on instinct. Is met with a chorus of reluctant groans. Cristina offers up a laugh that could be code for Why not? but probably isn't. That they're no longer fresh of out med. school is more than clear.

Shots of the cloudy liquid materialise nonetheless. Fingered gingerly, as though bringing more than just an inevitable headache.

Alex snakes his fingers around one of the carefully lined up glasses and downs the lot with a lopsided shrug. That he's the first to cave surprises no one.

It's not until they've moved on to red wine in over-sized glasses and designer label beer that the giggles start. Eyes are rolled in immediate response, but the surreptitious sigh of relief that filters through the group is undeniable.

“Do I even want to know?”

It's Cristina that dares to ask. And Izzie's face is firmly in her hands by this stage, the chances of an intelligible answer fast diminishing.

Meredith rolls her eyes again. Meets Cristina's with a silent how am I supposed to know?

“You do realise you're almost fifty, Iz?” And he still hesitates for a beat before he can say her name. A learned response that he wonders if he'll ever lose. “Enough with the old woman giggles.”

She whacks him with the back of her left hand. A glancing blow that reeks of a casual familiarity she should not still possess as she snorts into the palm of her right before sucking in a deep, deliberate breath and raising her head.

“It's ridiculous!” She splays her hands across the table that separates them, as though the words she's just uttered answer all the questions they could possibly have and then some.

“Fine. What's ridiculous?” Meredith this time. Resigned to her fate.

“Do you know...” Izzie's got her wine glass in one hand and she's using the stem and base to gesture wildly in Cristina's direction. “Do you know... you're the odd one out!”

“Excuse me?”

“You! You're the only one!” Pale blonde curls have escaped the intricate up-do that had mesmerised Alex from the moment she'd slid into the church pew beside him. As wordlessly as she had exited his existence, she then eased herself right back into it.

Almost as though she'd never been gone.

She'd smiled at him. A familiar grin that had made his jaw ache all the way to his back teeth as he'd barely managed to reciprocate the gesture with any degree of feigned casualness.





*






He's watching now as Cristina's brows rise into perfects arcs of surprise.

“I'm the only one for a lot of things. The Yang Technique being the most recent of these. You're going to have to be more specific.”

But she doesn't get a chance. At least, not just yet:

“You do realise that the Yang Technique,” Alex illustrates his comment with air quotes, “is quite possibly the most euphemistic medical procedure name known to the entire surgical world, don't you?”

It's Meredith that cuffs him on the shoulder this time, offers up a chastising you're just jealous that successfully hides the fact that she agrees with him one hundred percent.

He knows this because he spent the space of several explicit text messages detailing this very topic with her just last week. He remembers lamenting the fact that he'd never experienced it, the Yang Technique, and wondering, quite genuinely, if Meredith had.

Her answer had been just the right amount of evasive.

“You do realise I'm a mother now, evil spawn? I've produced and successfully raised several of those creatures you spend your days only just managing not to catch chicken pox from.” And he thinks that Cristina has missed the point entirely.

“But surely that's just testament to the success of the Yang Technique, wouldn't you say?” He raises his eyebrows in the direction of the other two. As if seeking affirmation. The slap from her completes his full house.

“Aaanyway...” The word is drawn out. Not quite slurred but not far from it. “I was saying something. About an observation that I've made.”

“About me?”

“About all of us.”

“So, enlighten us as to your observation”.

“There was five of us. To start with there was, well, there was four. And then you arrived,” the stem gets shifted, moves unsteadily from Cristina to Alex, “because you were flunking out and Bailey was 'sposed to ship you into shape.” She frowns around the words. As if she knows they're not quite in the order she intended them.

“But, totally beside the point.” She cuts off his impending rebuttal. “There were five of us. And you,” the stem moves back in Cristina's direction. “You're the only one that was never dead at some point.”

The silence is almost tangible for several beats.

“I mean, is that not the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard?”

She's back to the giggling. And there's a brief point where they're not sure if she's about to completely flip out. But the laughter is genuine. And she's right, it is completely ridiculous.

“So, I'm the odd one out because I managed to not get myself killed at some point during our training? Go me! I always knew I was the one most likely to succeed.”

“I'm pretty sure it just means you're not hardcore. I mean, I had like, zero blood.”

“I still had all mine but it was frozen so...”

“And mine was completely laced with poison.”

“And O'Malley well...” Alex trails off, as though unsure how to finish something he almost wishes he'd never started. “Well, to be honest, if anyone was likely to get hit by a bus, it was that guy. If you really think about it.”

There's an awkward half silence that falls, before: “Actually, I'm pretty sure it was always you that I thought would get hit by a bus. And that I'd be the one driving it.”

He meets Cristina's eyes, a fleeting flick of lashes and brows and silent, sincere thank yous. He's learned how to give those out in the preceding decades and she's not as taken aback as she once might have been.





*






Derek and Owen are at a table behind them somewhere. Gathered together amongst their own former peer group. The agreement that they'd spend this aftermath separated, a silent one that didn't require a stumbled articulation as to why.

Every now and then a bottle of wine will be delivered or a babysitter update provided, hands resting on shoulder-blades and thumbs rubbing, skin on skin, against forearms. Soft kisses exchanged without second thought.

As natural now as breathing.

“I'm glad.” It's just them again now. The four that survived. That beat the not so insignificant odds and made it through.

“You are?”
“Glad for what?”

It's Meredith who spoke. And the questions roll out in unison as she can't quite bring herself to meet their gaze.

“I'm glad that it was us five. And Bailey. And I know there were times when no one, least of all us, thought we'd make it but... I'm glad we did and I'm glad it was us. I'm just... I'm glad.”

Izzie swats at mascara clumped lashes in a half hearted attempt to rescue her painstaking handiwork from earlier in the day. Even Meredith's face reddens as the words trip and tumble, settle heavily onto the worn table that sits between them.

It's not the first revelation the piece of furniture has been privy to and it won't be the last.

Alex studies his thumbnail. He may manage thank yous these days, but he doubts he'll ever be comfortable with this type of conversation.

No matter how sincerely he agrees with every last syllable of it.

He grabs at his almost drained bottle of beer from where Izzie is idly picking at the soggy label. Offers up a shrug and smirk and a genuine to O'Malley that it takes the other three a second or several to respond to.

“To George.”

And Meredith allows them all time to drink their private salutes before adding, “To the Chief.”





*






Derek is the first to materialise with a purpose more defined that checking their current tequila levels.

“We should get a move on?” A question more than a statement of fact.

“Yeah. Two minutes?” He nods and looks around, takes in what remains of a group that still has an air of the untouchable about it, even now.

“It was good to see you all today. Richard would have been pleased.” He offers a hand in Alex's direction. Tosses an enigmatic grin the way of Cristina and Izzie. “Don't be strangers, okay? The house is always big enough for visitors. And you can hardly hear the kids when we lock them in the basement!”

They nod even as they know taking him up on the offer is unlikely.

Meredith's farewell is more subdued. Hugs all round. All of them just that little bit longer and little bit tighter than first expected.

Cristina takes it as her cue to do the same.

Alex watches the girls, most definitely women now, if they weren't already before, and knows that some things will never change. Not their fierce loyalty to one another. Not their ability to communicate volumes in the space of a single facial twitch or shoulder shrug.

They say nothing to each other in farewell but he knows they say everything that needs to be said just the same...

And with the table emptied out now, they're suddenly face to face.

Alex and Izzie.

It's foreign and familiar and uncomfortable and so achingly not all at once.

He knows she's not long ago divorced for the second time. Information Meredith had felt sure he needed to know.

A deliberate effort shuts down the running monologue of reasons why he should also up and leave before he can sabotage himself once more.

Some habits die harder than others but he's not the same man he once was.

And she is not the same woman. There is a hard edge to her laugh and the backs of her hands are beginning to show signs of time passed and still passing.

“So, Iz.” He baulks, lifts his head and grins, “It feels weird still calling you that. Like we're still interns and nothing has changed.” She smiles, nods, agrees. It's a tired movement and in that moment he wonders if maybe it's true.

If maybe nothing has. Despite all evidence to the contrary.

“Isobel.” He tries again. Uses her first name deliberately, wraps the three syllables around a well intentioned smirk, “Wanna go get coffee?”
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