Distance-1 (Epilogue 2)
Addiction is tricky. You could ignore the cravings, be resilient, push it to the back of your mind, but there is where it will always live, it would never go away, it’d just conquer the back of your mind and be there whatever other task was occupying you. Whether it’s to drugs, to a habit, or to a person, it’s something you have to learn to live without. Self restraint requires strength, and Dr Amelia Shepherd had that, though like everything, there comes a point when it will verily run out.
It was a dull Sunday. She woke up a little after dawn to the sound of rain drops knocking on her bedroom window- correction: their bedroom window. Amelia lingered in the bed too big for her alone and rolled on her back to be in the center. She had read somewhere that it’s unhealthy to sleep on one side of the bed, out of all people, she was aware how prone she was to depression, but she wouldn’t allow herself to be, she had to keep it together for her beautiful children. She had been missing meetings; it hurt too much every time she talked about it.
Keeping everything you’re going through inside, shutting out the people who love you, it’s not dealing, it’s hiding. You and I, we don’t have the luxury of ignoring our emotions. Hoping they’ll just go away. That bites people like us in the ass. The only way you’re gonna get through this is to let yourself feel every heartbreaking gut-wrenching part of it.
We’re supposed to feel. We’re supposed to… Love… And hate… And hurt… And grieve and break and… Be destroyed and… Rebuild ourselves to be destroyed again. That is human. That is humanity. That’s being alive. That’s the point. That’s the entire point. Don’t… don’t avoid it. Don’t… Extinguish it.”
Charlotte King’s and Owen Hunt’s words were right. But there was no way she was going to listen to them now, she can’t let her kids see her cry, she remembered seeing her own mother cry over her dad and she would never want Dani or John and Jake to feel the same way she did then. My husband is not dead. She told herself out loud, even when it seemed like he was, and even when the dark thoughts telling her that maybe it was better if he actually was crept into her. Amelia knew all about the mind tricks, and heard from Violet how for some people saying something over and over again you can eventually believe it and live with it. Owen was not dead. He was gone nonetheless.
She forced herself to get up and plastered a smile on, unaware that almost anyone could tell how fake it was. People would look at her like she was a freak, a woman with the person she’s in love with away, and she still acts like everything is perfect. It was especially annoying to Dania, who never told her that it would be easier for her if they both dealt with it together. Amelia had watched her bloom to a quirky smart teenager; she was proud and heartbroken at the same time at how fast she had grown up.
“Mom, you’re making waffles,” the eldest girl was the first one to wake up after her mum, “for the third time this week.”
“Good morning to you too,” she kissed her daughter on her forehead as she sat down on the high chair in the kitchen, “Well, you could help me make pancakes too, how about that?”
“I thought you were a doctor, that’d be like diabetes as breakfast,” Dani chuckled at her own joke
“I always knew you’d get my smart mouth,” Amelia beamed
“You know?” Amelia feigned shock that caused her girl to grin widely, which mirrored her own. “I just wanted to have a nice Sunday breakfast with us and the boys!”
“Dad was supposed to call this morning wasn’t he?”
Amelia turned around to put the mix in the waffle maker, having an excuse to hide her apparent demeanor shift. She didn’t answer, but her silence was enough for her daughter to understand. Her smile when she turned to put the plates on the table was utterly sad and had gotten worse.
The twins waking up together and walking in half asleep to the kitchen was what saved Amelia. She looked at the adorable pair and greeted them a good morning, with a slightly better tone that it would have been minutes ago. The kids told their mother about school excitedly over breakfast while Dania couldn’t stop watching her quietly. The peaceful morning was interrupted by a late phone call that Amelia got up to answer alarmingly too quickly. The teen eavesdropped, knowing exactly who it is, and thought about her 8 year old brothers who are either clueless or are too young to care or understand. She only heard one side of the conversation… by her experience from TV shows and long novels; it seemed too polite for an angry mother and a pressured Dad.
I’m fine, how are you?
Yeah they’re up.
We were having breakfast, what about you?
Oh that sounds nice.
Aha… your flight lands at noon, right?
It’s been delayed. Sure.
Nothing, don’t worry.
I’ll turn on the camera and give you the kids but we need to talk later, it’s important.
Oh you’ll be here tonight. Of course.
It’s nothing, it’s okay. Hang on a minute.”
She then heard Amelia start to walk back in, and rapidly went back to focusing on her food and smiling at her brothers.
“Hey guys! Your daddy wants to talk to you, say hello!”
They all shared messy details of their week, both the twins and Dania. She knew about the problems, but she couldn’t hide her happiness when talking to her father. “When are you coming Dad?” she asked tentatively when the conversation was starting to come to an end. She was playing the guilt trip; it was the only thing she could think of.
Amelia was standing behind her daughter in a way where Owen would see her, and she noticed his face fall and him stumble on his words, so she stepped in to save the day. “Hey sweetie, are you done, I thought I could share my week with Daddy too.”
“It’s okay, honey. We’ll talk soon, I promise, take care now.” Owen said his goodbye nervously and watched as Amelia took the device to another room. Dani knew it was too suspicious to follow Amelia upstairs before finishing her plate, so she passed on hearing the next conversation.
Amelia plugged in her headphones to try and hide as much as possible from her children.
“Do you actually wanna hear about my last week Owen? How about the last freaking year?” Her patience could only last so long.
“I’m really tired here, Amy, we can talk about this when I come home,” He sighed heavily and massaged his temple
“Are you? Coming home? Or are you gonna break another promise?” She hissed in the lowest voice she could manage
“When did I break any promise?!” Owen was getting agitated himself. “I told you my flight was delayed, Amelia! I’m going to come tonight and I’m staying for a week, I gotta go now”
The promise you made at our wedding to never leave me, Amelia thought to herself, and then decided to keep it in, since practically, they were still married. The fact that she answered with “I hope you do. Goodbye.” had scared her. Since when did Amelia Shepherd filter and not say the first thing on her mind?
“I heard Hunt is coming back, why didn’t you share the good news?” Callie tried to get her solemn friend to talk over surgery. She hated being ambushed, but with Amelia she didn’t know any other way.
“Because I’m not sure it’s good news. Suction.” she hadn’t wanted to talk much about it, but with Callie’s raised eyebrows, it didn’t seem like she had much choice. “Today I thought of something mean that I really wanted to tell him on the phone, but I didn’t. When we started out, that would never happen; I said whatever crossed my mind. It’s horrible now.”
“It’s not horrible. More retraction please.” Callie paused before sharing her own marriage experience, “It means you care about your spouse’s feelings. You’re going through a rough patch, but you shouldn’t ignore it, you should fight, explode! Then figure it out.”
Amelia took a moment to look up at the orthopedic surgeon and let her words sink in before the patient had a bleed and she had to push it to the back of her minds and turn her complete focus to fixing the patient.
“You know, I was so angry at you when you first came to work here,” the blonde cardio surgeon said as she sat on the bench next to her friend and handed the cup of coffee
“Yeah you let me know that with a lot of passive aggressiveness,” the well built doctor grinned at her, receiving a strong but playful punch on the shoulder
“I was mad you hadn’t made it work with Cristina, but this year, I haven’t seen you this worried on a daily basis as you were when you were broken up with her,” Teddy returned to the serious conversation as she stared at the full moon from the glass wall in front of them.
“Cristina was an important part of my life, but Amelia, she’s the love of my life, the mother of my children,” he sighed and lunched forward, bringing his head to his hands, and then going slightly back up after rubbing his temple, “this last year..It’s been… difficult,” he paused, thinking how the word doesn’t do it justice, “She’s been a saint.”
“You must be thrilled to go home,” a small smile mixed between yearning, sadness and happiness appeared on Teddy’s tilted face
“I don’t think Amelia is,” he said with obvious melancholy
“Well, I- think it’s going to be just fine. From the facetiming we did I know that she’s– I will come back to Seattle myself to help her take revenge if you mess this one up.” Teddy was only half-joking
“Too bad you can’t fire me like I did you,” Owen’s joke was a little too dark and out of character, earning him another friendly push from her
“You know she’s been patient for a year, do you really think this job is worth your family?”
The sound of the last calling for his flight was announced, saving Owen from having to answer that. They both stood up and hugged. “ich liebe dich,” he whispered to her ear, “I’ll see you in a week.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t,” she whispered back and then pulled away. They smiled at each other knowingly and Owen threw her one last grin over his shoulder before entering to catch his flight.
Amelia unlocked the door and entered her -their- house and was not surprised when she saw her husband just finishing cleaning the kitchen counters. She couldn’t block the memories of how they picked the smooth marble together and how they planned every detail and now- they finally had everything. Perfect, wasn’t it? She laughed internally at the thought. “How was Germany?” she asked dryly as if nothing new has happened
“Good. You’re a little late. I put the kids to bed not so long ago, the twins are starting to act out quite a bit, and Dania has grown so much, although something seems a little off with her don’t you think?” Owen shared his few thoughts from when he returned; hoping a light conversation would be what he’d have with his wife. For Amelia, however, this conversation was nothing but.
“You’re late and the kids are acting out and something’s off? Really? How about a suggestion box and a form to fill in how I could improve my parenting while my husband is across the world having fun?” Amelia snapped, his comment was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“I was not out and about having f-” his voice was getting louder and Amelia would not have it
“We talked about this!” he furrowed his eyebrows, not expecting anger to be stronger than longing.
“We did, and I remember specifically asking you not to go! I don’t believe in long distance relationships let alone a marriage,” she mocked him
“That’s the problem!” he chortled dryly “You need to believe in us, you’ve been patient, and we can do this!”
“Yeah, thanks, that’s just the enticement I needed,” she continued walking randomly into the living room and he walked behind her
“Don’t walk away, we need to sort this out,” he scowled at her
“Oh, whatever,” she didn’t stop walking until she was feet away from him.
“No, not whatever, I was helping soldiers that were brought to us in severe cases, they needed me!” he defended, but his argument was too weak
“I needed you!” she was now yelling, “Jake and John needed you for their basketball matches, and Dania needed her father to listen to her after singing lessons! Your family needed you!” she paused to shake off the tears welling up in her eyes and looked up at him, boring her eyes into his from across the room. “I. needed. you.” she turned around a minute later and headed to the stairs.
“Mia, please, I’m tired and I miss you,” he replied after a beat, following her like a tail, “I miss you, Mia, please, just, stop…”
“No, don’t you do that.” She turned around sharply, “Don’t you Mia me. You see this is always the problem, you’re tired and I have brain surgery, we don’t even fight. I want to fight. I’m sorry that you miss me but your dear wife isn’t in the mood for fooling around.” Her tone was hopeless and harsh, and she hated how they got here. Amelia ran up the stairs and into the room.
Owen stopped for a minute, gathering himself, feeling the tense still in the atmosphere around him. He sighed and went up to their room, determined to not let the night end this way. He found her standing stiffly like a statue, her back to him. He spoke to her more softly, “Amelia, you’re my beautiful wife, and I love you, and I believe in us, we can overcome this. Our promises to each other mean something, and I meant them, I still do.” he stopped talking when he thought he heard a gentle whisper from her.
“Owen.” Her whisper was made into a louder shaky plea, “Please take this from me,” she turned around in only half a circle so that she’d avoid his eyes, and stretched out a hand to hand him the small bottle.
He was truly shocked, she’s been so strong over the years, he almost forgot about her addiction. The last moment of weakness she had was about 10 years ago, or so he thought. He wondered how many times this has happened while he was away, and for the first time, the guilt and regret of going away really set deep inside of him. She gulped a cry down her throat with difficulty, and let him see her sparkling glassy eyes. He walked one step closer hesitantly, urging her to launch herself forward to him and clutch forcefully to his shirt, burying her head between his pecks and holding onto him for dear life. She shut her eyes tight and kept swallowing her tears. He embraced tight and stroked her small frame and missed how it fit perfectly in his arms, allowing him to wrap them all the way around her.
His confusion and wonder didn’t go anywhere when she pulled away wiping the few tears that had managed to escape her closed eyes, she went out to check the corridor if any of the three kids were awake. She then went back in and instinctively placed her hands in his. “Will you go to a meeting with me?” her small breaking voice was able to ask him, and he nodded and reassured her, hurrying to drive her to one.
“I’ve been running away for quite a while. From my problems… my feelings.” She spoke coyly as she shared with fairly big group of people for this time of the night, successfully looking at anyone but her partner.
“When my husband was around, he was my best friend, I was safe with him, I let it all out. So when I was angry at him, I didn’t know where else to put my feelings, I had to keep change to a minimum, their father leaving was enough change for our children. I came close tonight, I almost drank my son’s cough syrup, but I didn’t. My husband is probably wondering what the hell was happening when he was gone and what have I done with our house and kids.” she laughed a short humorless laugh before the stern expression came back to occupy her.
“Nothing happened really. For the past year, I forced myself to be robot-like, even though I know from experience it would bite me right back in the ass. It was tough, and my husband is back now for a short week off. I love him, but I’m not sure I can do this without losing myself.” Amelia looked purposely to Owen before shifting her eyes down and continuing.
She breathed heavily and smiled that old practiced smile she had on for the past year, and it broke Owen’s heart how he recognized it so easily, with it came every hard day she must have endured alone. Sure, she had her sisters in law and April and Arizona, but he was supposed to be there to come home with her every night.
“Maybe there’s a clean way out. Maybe it’s best to get a civilized divorce. I love my kids, and he’ll still see them whenever he comes back, but I’m not sure if he will.” “So anyway. Today I didn’t do any drugs. One day at a time.” The sound of the little audience clapping was muffled by the couple’s heart beat in their ears.