Grey's Anatomy Fanfiction: The Ultimate MerDer Alternate Universe

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Grey's Anatomy Fanfiction: The Ultimate MerDer Alternate Universe

Are you a fan of Grey's Anatomy fanfiction or just super into alternate universes when it comes to your favorite characters from Grey's Anatomy? Well, you're not alone. It brings together fans on their favorite show and allows them to imagine a world beyond Shonda Rhimes'. And today, we bring you one of our favorite Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) fanfics from the Grey's Anatomy universe from ariaadagio from The catch? The alternate universe aspect of the story? Well, you're just going to have to keep reading. This story is guaranteed to get you hooked!

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Recover by ariaadagio

Zero days.

He doesn't stop breathing when the plug is pulled. He doesn't stop breathing, and she has no idea what to do. She prepared herself for him to stop breathing. Not for him to keep breathing. He sucks air through the endotracheal tube, again, again, again, without assistance, and his heart plods at a slow, determined pace. She stares at the monitors, jaw slack. The air in the tube whistles. He keeps breathing.

"Derek?" she says, the word a soft, hopeful clot of syllables.

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But of course he doesn't respond. Doesn't move. Doesn't give any indication that he's heard her.

She grabs his chart and reviews the tests that were done to determine whether he is, in medical terms, dead. All of them are standard tests. All of them say he shouldn't be breathing, now. Brain dead people are dead, dead. They only continue to look alive because of mechanical assistance.


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Grief makes her eyes burn, and she realizes she's shaking. He's breathing, and his heart is beating, and nothing is helping him do either of those two things. Breathe. Pump blood. She can't stop trembling. She reads the test results on the chart over and over and over again until the words blur, and she can't comprehend them anymore. The doctors did five separate checks to determine absence of brain stem reflexes. Five. And this chart, which is signed by three different doctors, says he failed every single one of them.

She starts with the first test listed on the chart. She doesn't even make it to the second test before she's confirmed his chart is all wrong. She has no penlight with her, so she grabs the lamp by his bed, pulls it close to his face, peels his left eyelid back, flips on the lamp, and she sees his pupil adjust. She repeats the test with his right eye. Same result. He has a pupillary response.

Derek isn't dead.

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Grey's Anatomy via ABC

She bursts into tears and grabs his hand, squeezing it for all she is worth. She wonders if his doctors did the tests wrong, or if they even did them at all. She has no idea, but she doesn't have time to worry about that, now.

Derek Shepherd isn't dead.

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via ABC

Three days.

A vegetative state, they determine. Not brain death.

She does all the tests herself, this time. Amelia and Dr. Mike Weller, both rockstar neurosurgeons, help her confirm it. Derek's not brain dead. He's in a vegetative state. His recovery is unlikely but not... not impossible.

Not impossible.

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She's not sure what to do. He's alive in the barest sense of the word. And she knows Derek. She knows what his advance directives say. She knows he wouldn't want this. To live like this, alive but not alive. His recovery isn't impossible, but... it's improbable. And Meredith Grey knows quite a lot about getting kicked in the ass by bad odds.

She should let him go. She knows it. He would want her to let him go. But she can't. Not yet.

Derek Shepherd isn't dead, and she tries to intersect her hope with his wishes at a reasonable midpoint.

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One week.

Meredith has Derek transferred to Seattle Grace. She sends Derek into surgery with Mike Weller to fix what the other neurosurgeon broke, or at least failed to fix. Amelia wanted to do the fixing, but Mike is more than competent, and Amelia is too close to this to be objective. If Owen hadn't forbidden it, Meredith would have.

Meredith and Amelia both sit in the waiting room, hip to hip, for six hours. Alex stays with Meredith, too, sitting to her left, a quiet bastion. Miranda, Owen, and Richard pop in and out, but they're too busy with emergencies to stay for more than a little while at a time.

The minutes crawl like snails.

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When Mikes comes out of the OR, his face is grim. "I fixed what I could, Meredith," he says. "The damage was, as you know, extensive."

Meredith swallows. "What... what do you think his chances are? To recover?"

Mike looks at her with sad eyes. "I don't know," he begins slowly. "I've seen a woman go back to her normal life from a vegetative state, but it was a long, hard recovery that took years, and I've never seen anyone recover from something like this without deficits."

"He means it'll take a miracle," Amelia says, the words bitter and hating.

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For a moment, Meredith can't breathe. She can't breathe. "Derek believes in miracles," Meredith says in a panicky sort of way that's more denial than anything else. Someone squeezes her shoulder, and she looks up through a blur of tears to see Mike hovering over her, his expression concerned. "Thank..." She hiccups with grief. "Thank you for trying," she manages to say despite the crushing pain in her chest.

"There's a chance, Meredith," Mike says. "A small one. Yes, it would be a miracle if he finds his way back to being who he was, but there's still hope he'll heal enough to have some sort of life. You just need to give him some time."

She looks at Alex, wordless, and he gives her hug, but he doesn't say anything. She thinks there's nothing he could say to make it better, anyway.

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When Meredith sits with Derek after his surgery, she holds his hand, and she's grieving the Derek she knew. She won't ever see him again. She knows it. But, maybe, she'll be gifted with a new Derek, if she just freaking waits. Three months is the usual window for determining whether some amount of recovery might happen. She decides to give him four.

If there's no improvement in four months, she'll consider withdrawing care. She'll consider letting him go, like she knows he'd want to go. But she can't consider it, now. Not yet. She isn't ready.

Wait for me, he said.

She can wait. She can wait, but she refuses to hope. If she has her hope crushed again like Dr. Weller and Amelia crushed it today, she probably won't survive it.

Derek Shepherd isn't dead, and she's going to give him every chance to live.

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via ABC

Nine days.

After some detective work, Meredith finds out that all three doctors who signed off on the tests confirming Derek's supposed brain death were interns. Untrained interns. The resident in charge had been called away to deal with an emergency, and interns had been left alone to handle a case they simply weren't ready for. Everything involving Derek's care from start to finish was one heartbreaking mistake after another, and she's tired of thinking about it.

Derek Shepherd isn't dead, and she chooses to spend her time focusing on that, instead.

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Grey's Anatomy via ABC

Two months.

She's reading The Sun Also Rises to him. She doubts he can hear her. She knows that she won't ever hear him say, "I love you," again. But she visits him every day, and once a week with the kids.

She can't decide whether it's easier having him suddenly ripped away from her in a car accident, or easier having months to prepare for the inevitable. This is worse, she thinks. This slow rot, knowing what's coming. Knowing the difficult decision she'll have to make. Knowing his death might be at her hands instead of at Fate's.

But he still has two months to improve, she tells herself, resolute. She promised herself four months, and she'll stay with him until the end, no matter what that end may be.

Derek Shepherd isn't dead, and she refuses to give up on him, yet.

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Ten weeks.

His eyes open, and he looks at her. Not through her. Right at her. Her heart gets stuck in her throat, and she gasps.


He doesn't speak. He just looks.

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She picks up his hand and squeezes it. He doesn't squeeze her fingers in return – his hand is limp, like it has no conscious owner. His palm is warm, and she strokes his thumb. "Derek, can you hear me?"

He blinks. But he doesn't speak.

He's opened his eyes before, but not like this. Not like... there's somebody there. People in vegetative states can respond to stimuli, sometimes, but they don't interact with their environment. When he's opened his eyes before, all he's done is stare at wherever his face was pointing.

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Her heart is thumping in her ears like thunder when she gets up, and she moves. Just to see. She walks to the foot of his bed and around to the other side. His head doesn't move, but his gaze follows her. The whole way.

The horrible countdown clock in her head stops ticking. Her eyes brim with tears and overflow. She touches his face. "Hi," she says. He's still looking at her. "Oh, my god, hi."

He doesn't say anything back to her, but she doesn't freaking care, because he's looking at her, and the hope she's stifled blooms like a rose.

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Grey's Anatomy via ABC

"I've missed you," she says.

Derek Shepherd is alive, and Meredith Grey hopes.

Four months.

She has Derek moved to a rehab facility that specializes in traumatic brain injuries. He can move. He can respond to simple commands. He can't talk, but he clearly recognizes her, and he brightens when she's in the room with him.

Derek Shepherd is alive, and he knows her.

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Six months.

He has to learn how to do things again. Simple things most adults take for granted, like speaking. He starts slow. Single syllable words, at best, like yes, no, stop, ow, and things of that nature. He can't make sentences, yet, and he sounds like he's speaking with food in his mouth, but he knows enough to communicate a little.

The first time he shakily says, "Mere...dith," when she visits, she thinks her heart might burst.

Derek Shepherd is alive, and he can speak her name.

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Nine months.

She has no idea how much he remembers, if anything, because he can't string more than four words together, and he can't understand complicated sentences, but his recuperation seems to be gaining momentum. He's learning old skills with increasing ease. He can't walk, yet, but his fine motor skills seem to be returning, and when he speaks, he no longer sounds like his tongue is too big for his mouth. He knows her. And he knows Zola and Bailey and the rest of his family and his friends from Seattle Grace who visit him. This is more than she ever could have hoped for, and she finds herself hoping for even more. Because he's alive, and he's talking, and it feels like she's noticing things getting better on a daily basis.

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Today, when she visits him, for instance, he's sitting up, and he has the television turned on. She's not sure how much he's comprehending, but he's got his hand clutched around the remote, and he's pressing buttons with clear intent to change channels, or the volume, or something. It's a level of problem solving that she finds amazing, a level she hasn't witnessed before from him. Her jaw drops when she turns to see what he's watching. A baseball game. Not just any baseball game. The Yankees.

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"Do you know what you're watching?" she says when she sits down beside him in the chair by the bed.

He looks at her for a long moment. His mouth opens and closes. From the look on his face, he's struggling to remember the word or words he wants to say. She doesn't push. She gives him as much time as he needs.

"I like... this," he says.

She blinks, wiping tears from her eyes. "Yeah, you do. Do you know what those people are doing?" she says, gesturing at the television.

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"No," he says.

"It's called baseball," she says.

He is silent. Another struggle. "Base...ball."

She picks up his hand and squeezes it. "Yeah. Your favorite sport."

"A... sport," he says. There is a question in his eyes, even though there isn't one in his tone.

She nods. "Yeah," she says, "like a game."

"Go Fish," he says. His lips turn up in a smile.

"Yeah, like Go Fish," she says, sharing his grin. This is a complex connection for him to make, and that's... amazing to see. "Exactly like Go Fish." They've been playing that with an old deck of playing cards to help him with recognizing numbers and with counting sets. He's not very good at it, yet, but he tries.

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Out of the blue, she remembers Before. Him and her and Zola playing Go Fish at the dining room table in their house on the cliff. She remembers the way he laughed. Your mother's a card shark, he accused when she stripped him of his sixes to win the game. Zola giggled. The night was so... mundane, spending it at home, and yet... special. The memory shanks her like a serrated knife, and she has to look away. Derek is so much better, but... she doesn't think she'll ever see that Derek again.

"Why... sad?" he says, yanking her out of spiraling thoughts.

She blinks. She didn't realize he could understand concepts like "sad" anymore, at least not enough to verbally identify them. She wipes her eyes and sniffs. "I'm sorry. I just remembered... something."

He nods. He watches the baseball game for a few minutes. She doesn't like baseball, so she lets her thoughts drift, content simply to spend time with him.

"Me?" he says.

She frowns at him. "You, what?"

"The rem... mem... ory." He struggles with multisyllabic words and conjugations, and she can't figure out what he's trying to say.

"What do you mean?" she says.

For the first time today, he looks frustrated. The edges of his eyes pinch, and he makes a sound deep in his throat. Almost like a growl. "You... mem... mem... memory. Me."

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Grey's Anatomy via ABC

A lump forms in her throat, and she swallows when she realizes what he's asking. She's not sure what to think. The fact that he has the presence of mind to even ask... Maybe, he does remember before. Maybe, he just doesn't know how to process it or communicate about it. She's not sure whether to tell him yes or no. She doesn't want him to feel bad. If she tells him yes, and he knows about before... would that make him feel bad?

"I know," he says as if he's read her mind. He's staring into space. "Not... not..." He closes his eyes, thinking for an interminable moment. "Not same."

She bites her lip. With his limited vocabulary, this might mean anything, but... it sounds like he's trying to tell her he knows there was a before. "Derek, do you remember before your accident?"

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But this is too much for him. She's confused him. She can tell from the quizzical, nonplussed look on his face. And then she's lost him. He's back to watching the television, whether to retreat from a conversation that makes him uncomfortable, or... because he doesn't have an attention span anymore, she doesn't know.

It's more than she can bear. She swallows, rubbing tears out of her eyes. "Derek," she says, pulling him back to her. She touches his arm for emphasis. "Derek."

His gaze flicks back to her. "Me."

She smiles despite the pain in her chest. "Yes, that's you."

He nods.

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Grey's Anatomy via ABC

"Can I..." She swallows again. She can't think of how to ask what she wants. Not in a way he'd be able to comprehend. But she needs this. She needs him. Even if he's different, now. Even if he's different, now, he's still Derek. Her Derek. And the fact that he's alive in any capacity, well, that's... a gift that makes her heart hurt. She's been given a gift. She puts her hand on his shoulder. "Say no if this is bad," she tells him. A simple directive that she's used with him before.

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He watches her, expression wary. She sits on the lip of his hospital bed. The mattress sinks. He says nothing. She kicks off her shoes, pushes the blanket down past his knees, and she crawls into the hospital bed with him. She's jammed between the bed railing and his hip, and everything pinches, and she's not sure she'll be able to stay like this very long. But then he shifts. Not away from her, as in to get away from her, like she first thinks. When he resettles, he's given her about four extra inches, and she can breathe.

She scoots away from the bed railing, closer to him. He doesn't say no, and she knows he can. He does that when something is happening that he doesn't like. She's seen him do it. So, he must... at least... not dislike this.

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She rests her head against his chest, and she pulls a tent of his t-shirt between her fingertips, curling up against him like a cat. His skin is warm, and she sighs against his body. She listens to his heart beat. Listens to the rustling sounds of his breaths filling his lungs and then emptying from them. She hasn't done this in ten months, hasn't been this close to him in ten months, and she's missed it more than anything.

"I love you," she says, trembling. She kisses him through his shirt.

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She feels like scum for it, the kiss, because she's taken advantage. She knows it. She's not even sure he understands concepts like love anymore. She doesn't think he knows what marriage is or that she's his wife. She doesn't think he gets that Zola and Bailey are his children. He recognizes her, but she still doesn't know if he knows her as a vague recollection from before, or if he knows her because she was there when he woke up.

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For a moment, he doesn't interact with her, and the scummy feeling feels worse and worse as the moments pass. He doesn't say no, but he doesn't do anything to indicate he likes her where she is, either, and she is. She's scum, and she's taken advantage, and now she's dripping tears and snot on his shirt.

"I'm sorry," she says. She has been selfish. She tries to pull away.

But then he wraps his arm around her, and he holds her like he used to.

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Grey's Anatomy via ABC

"I..." He struggles for words. His grip tightens. He runs his palm up and down her shoulder and then through her hair. Just like he used to. "Here. Mere...dith."

I here. Meredith.

I'm here, Mere.

She realizes what he's doing. Trying to comfort her. Just like he used to. And she falls apart all over him.

Derek Shepherd is alive, and she's pretty sure he can remember at least some of what came before.

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Want more?

Wish this was actually what happened to Derek on Grey's Anatomy? Yeah, us too. Dying to read more? Well, luckily for you, there is. Continue reading this story on Archive Of Our Own. You can also check out more of ariaadagio's work.

Tell us your favorite Grey's Anatomy fanfic or alternate universe ideas in the comments below!