[identity profile] angelamermaid.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] in_the_after
Title: "Time After Time"
Author: [livejournal.com profile] lovemesomeowen and [livejournal.com profile] angelamermaid with voiceovers by [livejournal.com profile] shli1117
Rating: Teen
Disclaimer: Characters from the show are not of our creation and belong to Shonda and ABC. No monetary compensations were gained from this fictitious work.
Authors' notes: We're back! Once again, we clean up after Shonda's messes. Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

No matter how we may imagine in the likes of sci-fi books or films, we mere mortals ultimately have no control over this expansive thing called time. We can't time travel, we can't make the day repeat, and we can't glimpse into the future. All we can do is assign a human construct upon this infinite phenomenon, where a mathematically-minded fellow decided to separate morning and night by noon. He allotted 24 hours or 1,1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds in a day. And we are all, regardless of the where, united in these hours or minutes or seconds. Though the experiences will undoubtedly be different, they are bound to the same numeric construct.


Cristina Yang stirred slightly as someone shook her shoulder gently but firmly. Awakening with a start, she opened her eyes to see the contrite face of a flight attendant looking back at her.

"My apologies for disturbing you, Ma'am. We'll be arriving soon. I'm afraid I must ask you to return your seat and tray table to their upright positions and prepare for landing." He collected the cup and napkin from Cristina's tray.

"Okay...thank you," Cristina mumbled, yawning broadly as she struggled to get her bearings. She sat up carefully, rolling her head and shoulders gently. The eight and a half hour flight had done her neck no favors. Checking her watch, she saw that the plane was on time. That always made things easier.

A few minutes later, she looked out the window as the plane made its final approach. As they began their descent the skyline came into view and Cristina remembered her last visit to this city, three years ago. Unbidden memories floated across her mind. First of Meredith and then, suddenly and disconcertingly, of Owen. Cristina wondered for a moment how he was doing, then forced her attention elsewhere.

To her relief, the landing was smooth and uneventful. She managed to tolerate flying amazingly well now, despite the butterflies in her stomach upon takeoff and landing. Her mind flickered for a moment, recalling the months after the crash when taking an airplane was either unthinkable or possible only with copious amount of alcohol in her system. Those days were behind her now, she realized with amazement, filled with wonder at what one could bring about by sheer force of will and determination.

First Class tickets had their perks and being one of the first passengers off the plane was one of them, Cristina thought with a smile. Slinging her bag across her shoulder, she made her way down the concourse and headed towards Customs. It was a slow night and she made her way through the line without much waiting. She handed her forms and passport to the customs officer.

"Good Evening, Dr. Yang," said Agent Barnes. His eyes scanned his computer screen and then appraised her quickly. "You live in Zurich now. Why are you visiting the United States? Business or pleasure?"

"A little of both," Cristina replied. "I'm spending the weekend with a friend in a professional setting."

"I see that you have nothing to declare. How long will you be in the country?"

"Just a few days, then back to Switzerland."

He handed back her passport, apparently satisfied.

"Enjoy your stay. Welcome to Boston."


Cristina paced impatiently in the Baggage Claim area. Carousel Number Five remained maddeningly free of suitcases. After nearly thirty minutes had passed, she finally pulled out her phone and dialed Meredith, who answered immediately.

"Hey! Where are you? I thought you'd be here by now. Our suite is fabulous."

"The bags are delayed. I can't believe I had to check a suitcase. I never do that. This is your fault," she said accusingly, only half-joking.

"Some things never change," Meredith said, teasingly. "Suck it up. You need to look presentable when I accept my Harper Avery Award tomorrow night."

Cristina grinned, her mood restored. "True. Is it bad form for past winners to upstage current winners? Because I'm going to be stunning."

"I would expect nothing less," Meredith replied. "Can you believe it's been three years since you won? And five since you should have won. I still think you were robbed. Where does the time go?"

Taking a moment to process the fact that she had been living in Zurich for nearly five whole years, Cristina answered crisply, "I don't know. But how long does it take to get the freakin' bags on the conveyor belt? I need my damn suitcase!" She paused, then said, "I've read the submissions, Mer. You deserve to win this year. But can you win? Will they allow you to win? The Avery Foundation still runs the hospital."

"Catherine Avery gave me her personal assurance that that loophole has been closed," said Meredith.

"And you believe her?"

"I do."

"Okay, then, you heard it here first. You're going to win," Cristina said confidently.

"From your lips to the committee's ears," Meredith replied.

"Oh thank god!" Cristina exclaimed as the yellow light started flashing. "The baggage is finally here. I'll grab my suitcase and get a cab. Is Derek with you?"

"Not yet. He's flying in tomorrow afternoon. He wanted us to have tonight and tomorrow morning together. "

"Really? That was thoughtful of him," Cristina said.

"Why do you sound so surprised?" asked Meredith, chuckling.

"Because I am. I know. He's dreamy and charming and has perfect hair. Whatever."

"Get your suitcase. I'll see you soon."

"See you soon."


When Cristina let herself into the hotel suite, Meredith was on the phone, barking orders.

"No, do not assign Hager to do any of my post-ops. Worst intern ever. And make sure that Mr Craven is having bowel movements before discharge." She waved at Cristina. "If Mrs Bradley is still experiencing discomfort, bring in Edwards for consult. Bye now."

"Hey." Cristina smiled widely. "How are your nerves?"

"I don't have time to be nervous." Meredith pointed at her phone. "Unpack the essentials, because you and I are going down to the bar."


In Seattle, the rain drizzled lightly as Owen pulled his truck into the driveway. He quickly crossed the few feet to the front door of his house and unlocked it quickly.

He briefly heard the scrabble of nails on wood, before a golden retriever came bounding towards him and leapt up on him. "Hey Smitty!" Chuckling, Owen scritched the dog behind his ears. "Do you need a walk?"

"I walked him, Dad." A tall teenage boy appeared in the hallway, accompanied by a shorter girl.

"Thanks, Kyle!" Carefully, Owen guided the dog's paws off of his shoulders and back onto the floor. "Did you kids eat yet?"

"I tried to make supper." The girl wrinkled her nose. "It didn't go well, I think I ruined one of the pots."

"Tricia welded the pasta to the pot," the boy teased.

Owen smiled and shook his head while he walked to the kitchen. "And why didn't you cook, Kyle? You know how."

Kyle grinned. "I was walking Smitty before it rained."

Wincing, Owen picked up a pot full of burnt pasta. "This ... wow."

"Sorry Dad." Tricia smiled sheepishly. "I let it boil dry while getting the salad ready."

"Mistakes are how you learn," he told her. Owen paused for a second, before handing her the pot. "I think you should clean this out, while I make us something to eat. Deal?"


Owen chuckled as he opened the refrigerator and looked inside. His children were lively and kept him challenged and he was grateful to be their father.

"You call that a salad?" Kyle asked, behind him. "You massacred the tomatoes."

"We should just get a pizza," Tricia laughed. "That's the kind of dinner I can serve."

Owen's smile dimmed a little, hidden from the teens. Not a day went by that he didn't think of Cristina and what they had shared, like pizza dinners and take-out food, and snacking on cereal. He stood up and turned around. "I think pizza is a great idea."


"So Bailey has stopped biting that boy in his class," Meredith slurred, before downing a shot. "And Zola is all signed up for summer camp."

"Uh huh." Cristina signalled the bartender for more. "What's new in Seattle?"

"April is pregnant again, and Derek has gotten approval for a new study." The blonde woman sighed. "I miss you."

"I miss you too." Cristina cleared her throat. "What's Karev up to lately?"

Meredith's face turned sly. "He's got a new girlfriend, and I like her. She's an orthopedic surgeon from Seattle Presbyterian."

"Uh huh." Cristina took shot glasses from the bartender and handed one to Meredith. "How is the hospital?"

"Good, good. We've been able to attract better talent now that Catherine closed the Harper Avery loophole." Meredith downed the shot and turned to her. "Are you going to ask me about Owen or should I just talk about him?"

Cristina downed her shot. "How is Owen?"

Meredith smiled slightly. "He's good, he looks happy. We just upgraded the blood laboratory to improve efficiency."


"You seriously haven't spoken in five years?"

"We haven't." Cristina sighed. "It's better this way. This way, we're both free to have what we want. He would never have become a father if we were chatting on the phone or were friends on Facebook." She glanced at Meredith. "How many kids does he have again?"

"Two." Her friend smiled softly. "Do you have what you want, Cristina?"

"Yes." Cristina handed her another shot glass. "My career keeps me busy and happy. I couldn't do this if I were with Owen, we're just too ... complicated."

Meredith raised her glass. "Here's to an uncomplicated life."


As soon as Meredith stepped off of the stage, flush with victory, Derek and Cristina converged on her.

"Congratulations," Derek said, before kissing her. "You deserved it."

"You did." Cristina embraced her friend. "Kick ass speech."

"I have no idea what I said," Meredith laughed. "Thank you."

Grinning, Cristina stepped back to allow other well-wishers to come forward. Smiling, she looked at the stage and the podium, remembering her own moment three years ago.

As she spoke the final words of her acceptance speech, Cristina glowed. She'd done it, she'd claimed the glory that was rightfully hers. Standing in front of her peers, Cristina felt on top of the world.

Everyone stood and applauded as she stepped back from the podium. She lifted the fabric of her red gown, as she prepared to step off of the stage. As the crowd began to converge, her eyes sought out Meredith. She frowned as she thought she saw a flash of ginger hair out of the corner of her eyes, but when she turned to look at the back of the room, she only saw a blonde, clean-shaven waiter.

Owen should be here, she thought sadly, before Meredith wrapped her arms around her.

"Cristina, I hope you're free for the next couple of days," Derek's voice broke through her reverie and brought her back to the present. "If not, clear your schedule."

"Excuse me?" Cristina frowned.

"I'm going to throw a party for Meredith ... and you," he smiled. "Your friends in Seattle didn't get the chance to congratulate you in person three years ago, so I insist that you grace us with your presence."

She blinked. She had felt that she missed out, going back to Zurich after her win. It would be good to celebrate Meredith's win with their friends in attendance. She had already flown this far, and her schedule was clear.

But it would mean seeing Owen for the first time in five years. Five years of struggling to breathe without him.

"I'm not taking 'no' for an answer," Derek continued. "I'll loop in Meredith and Callie and Bailey and Karev to convince you if I have to."

He's a father now, Cristina told herself. We can be in the same room without tearing each other's clothes off. Probably.

"Yes," she said.


Owen opened his closet door and looked at the array of ties in front of him. He sighed. If there was one thing he missed about being in uniform, it was the distinct lack of ties. He looked down at the black suit that he was wearing, then back at the ties.

His eyes fell on a particular red one, with a combination of squares and circles. Hesitantly, he touched the fabric. Cristina had picked it out for him to wear at their wedding, and he still could not bring himself to give it away.

Solemnly, Owen looked down. Tonight would be the first time that he would see her in years. He swallowed hard, trying to imagine their eyes meeting. He was eager to see her, to speak with her, to find out how she was, but he was also filled with anxiety. Would they still have a connection? He wasn't sure what would be worse - feeling the love between them when they couldn't be together, or there not being any heat at all.

He turned at the clicking of toenails behind him. "Hey Smitty." The dog trotted up to him for head scritches and Owen dutifully obliged.

"Do not let him get fur on your suit!" Tricia commanded. Smirking, Owen stood up to face his daughter. She was dressed in a deep blue party dress and her bobbed brunette hair was decorated with the very latest fashion in headbands.

"Yes ma'am!" He mock saluted the girl, who cocked an eyebrow before walking over to the closet and looking at the contents.

She reached in and grabbed a tie the color of the ocean. "This one."

"You think?"

Tricia nodded, authoritatively. "It matches your eyes." She handed the tie to him.

"Um, I need help." Kyle entered the room, struggling with his own tie. His sister quickly took over the task and made him presentable.

Owen checked his watch. "Well well. You're both ready on time."

The boy shrugged while Tricia smiled angelically. "We know this is an important evening," she said. "We can't wait to congratulate Dr Grey on her award."

Wagging his tail, Smitty brushed up against Owen.

"No, bad dog!" Tricia scolded, pulling the dog away. "Kyle, do something with him."

"It's just a little fur," Owen frowned. "You don't normally yell at him like that."

"She just wants you to look nice for ... the party," Kyle said, tugging on the dog's collar.

"Hold still," Tricia commanded, as she grabbed a lint brush and started attacking the fur on Owen's leg.

Owen looked back and forth between the teenagers. "What do you know about the party?"

The teens exchanged a look. "We know that it's to celebrate Dr Grey's award," Kyle slowly replied.

"And ... we know that it's also in honor of the mysterious Cristina Yang, who will be there." Tricia stood up and faced Owen. "You know, your ex-wife."

"I know who she is." Owen struggled for further words. "I loved her very much, yes, but -"

"You wanted different things," the teens finished in unison.

"You've told us that." Tricia added.

"And we want to meet her," Kyle grinned. "We've watched you crash and burn with every single mother we know -"

"I didn't 'crash and burn'," Owen protested. "It just didn't work out-"

"Because Cristina Yang is the love of your life according to everyone at the hospital," Tricia finished. "Which is why we want to meet her." She briefly looked anxious. "You are going to introduce us, aren't you?"

Owen looked at his children. He loved them with all of his heart, and they made him as happy as he could be, even though their presence meant that he would never have everything that he wanted. "Of course I will." He checked his watch. "And we need to go now."


Cristina assessed her reflection in the full-length mirror with brutal objectivity. The lightweight navy knit dress that traveled so well also served in this instance to cling to her body in all the right places. Her only jewelry was a pair of diamond stud earrings. She hoped the navy slingback shoes would survive Meredith and Derek's backyard. She had not planned on Garden Party Chic when packing for this trip.

Satisfied with the overall look, Cristina went to the bathroom mirror for one last check of her makeup. Simple and elegant was a motif that had served her well over the years. She added an additional coat of black mascara before the final touch of crimson lipstick. Not bad, she thought. Not bad at all.

She walked towards the bedroom door, then stopped short as she caught a sideways view of her hair in the mirror. She'd pulled it up and back for the party.

"You should wear your hair up more. It shows off the back of your neck. And I like the back of your neck," Owen had said so long ago. A shiver ran down her spine as the memory made her tingle.

Pull it together, she chided herself. You should not get this bent out of shape over a guy.

But, of course, she knew in her heart that not only was Owen not just any "guy", she had been trying to live her life without this man, this singular man, for five long years. What would it be like to see him again? The idea of seeing him face to face after so many years both intrigued her and scared her to death. She felt sick to her stomach. Could five years of self-control be undone in one day?

As she waffled on whether or not to wear her hair down instead, Meredith popped her head in the room. "People are arriving. Are you ready?"

Cristina sighed, "I guess so."

"You look great," Meredith offered.

"I know," she said, halfheartedly. "I shouldn't care so much. It's just...I haven't seen...these people...in a long time. I guess I want make a good impression." She rolled her eyes in disgust. "Stupid and pathetic."

Assessing the situation, Meredith simply said, "He'll think you look terrific."

"That's what I'm afraid of..." Cristina explained. Why were her hands so clammy?

"Maybe you should have worn sweatpants?" Meredith asked, smiling.

"No good. I look hot in everything. It's a curse," Cristina said, only half joking. She took a deep breath. "Come on. Let's just do this." I can do this.


"Wow," said Kyle, eyes wide in amazement.

Owen had to agree. The Shepherds' back yard was unrecognizable. Several tents were set up with seating for guests and serving areas for food. Small tables and chairs were also scattered throughout the property. Large, colorful lanterns and strings of lights were strung up and there were many large pots of flowers. It was extremely festive.

"What do you think?" Derek asked as he approached, offering his hand to Owen.

"Impressive," Owen replied, shaking his hand heartily. "You've outdone yourself."

Derek smiled. "It's a special day."

"It is," Owen said. "Kyle, Dr. Kepner looks like she could use some help. Would you please carry her things? I'd appreciate it."

"Sure, Dad. No problem." Kyle took off in the general direction of April and two small children.

Owen scanned the yard in search of Tricia, only to discover she was right behind him.

"This is awesome, Dr. Shepherd. Very cool," she said, brightly.

"Thank you. I'm glad you approve. Did Zola find you yet? She and Sofia have been looking for you."

Tricia smiled. "I'll go find them now. No worries." She started to walk away then turned and said, "Don't forget, Dad!" She waved at Zola and Sofia in the distance.

"Don't forget what?" Derek asked, curious.

Owen sighed. "My children are very eager to meet the enigmatic Cristina Yang. I promised I'd introduce them."

"And how are you feeling about seeing Cristina again? It's been a long time," Derek said.

"A very long time," Owen concurred. "And I feel about fourteen years old, thanks."

"I'm sure it'll be fine," Derek said, reassuringly. "It's just one day."

"Right," Owen said. It's just one day.


"There you are!" Callie Torres came bounding up to Cristina, a huge smile on her face. "I practically had to take a number just to talk to you! Congratulations! My gosh, I've missed you so much!"

"I've missed you, too," Cristina said, a little surprised by how happy it made her to see her friend. "It's been a long time. How are you?" She spotted Arizona talking to April, several young children surrounding them.

Callie shrugged. "I'm okay. Arizona and I are...fine. Not spectacular, I guess, but fine. We have another daughter now, Annika. That's her in the yellow dress. The other two are Bryce and Rachel Avery."

Cristina eyed April keenly. "I hear there's another on the way."

"There is another on the way. But she's handling it all really well. She and Jackson are really solid and Owen relies on her heavily in the ER. She's become a very capable trauma surgeon. Who knew?"

Callie paused as she realized that Cristina had flinched at the mention of Owen's name. "I'm sorry. Are we not talking about Owen? I thought you two were on good terms when you left."

"We were," Cristina said. "It's just...well, we haven't spoken since then." Callie's eyes widened. "It was just...I don't know. It just happened." She turned away. "I don't want to talk about that right now. Tell me about these people. Who's the red head with Alex? I heard he has a new squeeze."

"Erika Chamberlain. She's a very good doctor. And she's very good for him. I think she might be The One," Callie said sagely.

Cristina turned to look at her. "What happened to Jo Wilson? I though they were MFEO," she snickered. "Personally, I never saw it."

"Flamed out," Callie said. "I really thought she had a future in Ortho but she fell apart. Couldn't handle the pressure. She moved to San Antonio. I think she'd doing Social Work now. Working with abused and abandoned kids."

"Hmm..." Cristina muttered, distracted. She'd caught of glimpse of Owen in the distance, talking to Derek. She felt an irrational urge to get away. She wasn't ready to see him yet. She flagged down a waiter and grabbed two pigs in blankets and a mimosa. "C'mon. Walk with me."

"O-kay..." Callie said, perplexed. "Why are we walking away from every else?" Seeing Owen and Derek she suddenly exclaimed, "Oh! Got it. Never mind. Come with me...and tell me all about Switzerland. How's your love life? I want to know everything. Any hot suitors?"

Cristina shrugged. "Not really. I tried dating a little here and there. Nothing much ever came of it. I work long hours and travel a lot and...I don't know. I have other priorities now."

Callie look appalled. "I'm glad your work is going so well, but...trust me on this...you owe it to yourself to try to have a personal life, too. It's important, Cristina. Love is...important..." She stopped mid-sentence as Arizona gestured broadly. "Hold on, I'm needed over there for a minute. I'll be right back."

"Whatever. Take your time," Cristina said. She looked around, spotted a waiter with a tray of canapes and walked towards him.


She turned around and froze to see Owen approaching her,

"Hi." He stopped in front of her, smiling tentatively. The smell of his aftershave was familiar and comforting. "It's good to see you again, you look well."

"It's good to see you too." Cristina gripped her glass, hard, and it made her inwardly cringe that Owen noticed the gesture. "It's been ... too long."

"Agreed." Owen's mouth felt dry, standing so close to her. His eyes went to her scarlet lips then back to her eyes. It was a little reassuring to see that she was nervous, because he felt terrified of saying the wrong thing during the short time they had together. "I'm glad that you could come, that we could celebrate your award too."

Cristina smiled and stood a little straighter, trying to maintain her composure. Her eyes flickered to two teenagers who were gathering nearby, watching them. The boy was tall and slim, almost Owen's height. His tie was askew and his smile was crooked but friendly. The girl was neatly dressed and beaming at her. Cristina thought she was very pretty and welcoming.

"Are ... do you know them?" Cristina nodded to the children.

Owen turned and chuckled awkwardly. "Yes." He waved them over and they came, almost stumbling over each other in their hastiness. "Cristina ... I'd like you to meet Kyle and Tricia, my children. Kids, this is Dr Cristina Yang."

"Hi!" Tricia boldly stuck out her right hand, and Cristina shook it. "It is so nice to meet you!"

"It's nice to meet you," Kyle shyly echoed, offering his hand as well. Owen couldn't help smiling with pride.

"It's my pleasure." Cristina tried to look friendly, despite feeling incredibly awkward. She glanced at Owen before turning back to the teens. "So, um, how old are you?"

"I'm 17," Kyle offered. "And she's 15."

"I'm going to be a doctor" Tricia informed her, eyes sparkling. "Dr Shepherd says that with my reflexes, I should be a neurosurgeon, but I haven't made up my mind yet. I read about your latest surgical trials and you make Cardio sound very fascinating."

"It is." Cristina smiled a little wider, noting the light in the girl's eyes when she spoke of surgery.

"Kyle is going to join the Navy next summer after graduation." Owen proudly grasped his son's shoulder.

The teen grinned, bashfully. "I haven't decided what I want to do, other than see more of the world. We never got to go anywhere until Dad adopted us."

Tricia's eyes lit up. "We've been to Canada and Disneyland and Washington, D.C. Last summer we went to Italy!"

"Italy." Cristina's mood dimmed as Owen looked uncomfortable.

"We travelled around southern Italy," he clarified. "Nowhere near Zurich. I wanted to show them Rome, you know how I always wanted to go there..."

And we never made the time to go there together. Cristina nodded. "Italy's nice."

"I would love to visit Switzerland sometime," Tricia informed her. She winced as her brother elbowed her. "What?"

Owen coughed lightly. "I see there are people waiting to speak to Dr Yang who haven't seen her in years. We should let them have their chance." He glanced at her, poignantly.

"I'm very glad that I got to meet you," Cristina told the teenagers.

"Nice to meet you!" Tricia waved as Owen led them away.

"Here." Bailey handed Cristina a fresh mimosa, which she gratefully accepted. Miranda watched as Cristina's eyes followed Owen. "They're good kids, and have made him very happy."

Cristina swallowed some of the alcohol. "Good. I, um, don't know all of the details of how he adopted them."

"He rescued them," Bailey said, softly, before turning back to face Cristina. "Now tell me everything about your clinic."


Hours later Cristina finally sank into a chair under one of the large tents. She groaned as she pulled off her shoes and rubbed her feet. Off in the distance she could see Owen. The jacket and tie were long gone. His shirt was now open at the collar as he played a game of tag. Numerous young children laughed merrily as they scrambled to elude his grasp.

Cristina sighed. He's like the freakin' Pied Piper. It was difficult to watch him like this. He was such a natural with children...such a great father. She turned away, her heart aching. God, she missed him.

"He's got a knack for it." Cristina jumped as Alex Karev sat down next to her.

"He does," Cristina agreed. "Where'd Erika go? I need to interrogate her some more."

Alex chuckled. "I thought you liked her."

"I do like her. And I'll like her even more when she spills your darkest secrets," Cristina said with a sly smile.

"Not gonna happen. She's a vault. It's one of her best qualities."

"She's a good one," Cristina said. "I approve." She paused and then added. "I heard things ended badly with Wilson."

He shrugged. "For the best. We were too much alike."

They sat in silence for a few minutes, taking in the cool breeze and watching people mill about the party.

Finally, Alex said, "Thank you."

Cristina looked up. "For what?"

"For the board seat. It changed everything. So thank you."

"You're welcome. You deserve it. And I hear you're kickin' ass."

"I do my best." He gave her sideways grin. "Hey, I've got a question for you."


"Any chance you could stay on for a few days and do a consult? Robbins and I are working with this kid. Major heart problem."

Cristina didn't say anything. Staying in Seattle was the absolute last thing she wanted to do. "You've got a very capable Head of Cardio. What does she have to say about this?"

"She's on board. This is a very complex situation. Frankly, she's very good, but she's not you. This kid needs you." Seeing Cristina's hesitation he added, "Just think about it."

"Fine. I'll think about it. No promises."

"Hey, you two!" Meredith came over and joined them.

"Hey, Mer," Alex said, standing up.

"Was it something I said?" Meredith looked at him quizzically.

"Nah. I just need to tell Robbins that I talked to Yang."

Cristina made a noise under her breath. "You know that I can hear you."

"Whatever. I'll catch you later." He sauntered off.

Meredith sat down in his chair. "What a day. I'm can barely move. I don't know how I'm going to work tomorrow. Seriously." She put her head back and closed her eyes. "How are you holding up? I saw you met Kyle and Tricia."

"Yeah," Cristina said quietly. "I did. They're great kids. Owen's a great father. No shock there."

Meredith looked at her friend, concerned. "I know it's been a hard day. Are you alright?"

"Not really," Cristina admitted, her voice shaking a little. "It was harder than I thought it would be to see him. It's as if no time passed at all."

Meredith reached over and grabbed Cristina's hand without saying a word.

Finally, a long moment later, Meredith said, "I think he still loves you, Cristina. Maybe there's a chance..."

"No," Cristina interrupted. "He's someone's dad now, Mer. I knew it would happen one day. He's got two kids. And that means it's really over." She stood up abruptly. "I've got to go inside for awhile. I'm not feeling well. Check on me in a bit in case I fall asleep?"

Meredith nodded.



"Me! Me! Get me!"

Owen shook his head as he carefully removed two more children from his limbs. "No more right now," he said, breathing heavily. "I'm tired. Go play over there." They giggled and ran off.

Owen grabbed his jacket and tie and started to walk towards the house. The party was starting to wind down. Jackson and April were on a blanket, Jackson's head in April's lap. Callie and Arizona sat side by side at a nearby table as Sofia and Zola solemnly fitted them with colorful bracelets made of rubber bands.

He'd been trying for a while to get a few moments alone with Cristina, but whether by accident or by design, she'd managed to avoid him for hours. He did a quick scan of the yard. Tricia was deep in conversation with Derek. Kyle was talking with Miranda and Ben. Owen checked his watch. He might just have time, assuming he could track down the elusive Dr. Yang. He spotted Meredith on the porch.

"Meredith," he said. "Have you seen Cristina? I've been looking everywhere for her."

Meredith considered what to do. She opened her eyes and looked at Owen.

"She's inside," Meredith said quietly. "In the guest room."

"Thank you," Owen said, gratefully. "I appreciate it."

"I know you do."


Cristina barely heard the knock on the guest room door. Lost in thought, she sat bolt upright on the bed. The knocking continued, louder now. Cristina rose and crossed the room. "Mer?"

Flinging the door open with a flourish, she found not Meredith, but Owen standing in the hallway.

His eyes were clear and bright. "Not Mer." They looked at each other awkwardly. "May I come in anyway?"

Cristina tilted her head and then said, "Um...yeah...sure. Come on in..." She looked around and realized that the only place for them to sit was on the bed. Sitting on the edge she gestured for Owen to sit next to her.

They sat in silence for a moment before Owen finally said, "Meredith said you were in here. I...wanted to see you...before we have to leave." Seeing her quizzical expression, he added, "It's a school night."

"Right," Cristina said. "I...You have kids. I'm not used to that yet," she confessed.

"Sometimes I'm not either. And they're my kids." He smiled gently.

She considered him thoughtfully, then said, "I really like them, Owen. They seem...great...and you're great with them. You seem happy with them." She paused. "Are you happy?"

His expression was unreadable. After a moment he said, "I love having them, being their dad. They are great. We have our house and our dog and work's going well, so...yeah...I'm happy...mostly."

Their eyes met.

"How about you? Are you happy, Cristina? In Switzerland? The hospital seems world-class."

She nodded. "Yeah, the work is...more than I could have hoped for...surgery, research, pretty much endless resources, a great staff...I'm happy, too." His gaze was unrelenting. "Mostly." She turned away.

"It's a nice party," she finally said, inwardly cringing at how that sounded.

"It is," he agreed. "It's good that you could be here. We really did want to honor you both. We're very proud of you." He nodded for emphasis.

Cristina immediately had a flash of memory. Upon returning to Zurich after winning The Harper Avery Award three years ago, she had opened the door to her office to find a beautiful spray of flowers.

The message on the card had read:

Congratulations! Richly deserved and long overdue. Well done. I'm so proud of you. Take care now.

Cristina looked at Owen intently. "The flowers you sent me...meant... a lot. Thank you."

"You're welcome."

She eyed him carefully. "Quite a sentiment..."

He shook his head. Was he rueful? Resigned? "Some things don't change, Cristina. They never will."

She sighed and fought back tears. She would not cry. She would not.

He looked up at the ceiling but moved his hand towards hers. Their pinkies grazed as she pulled away.

He exhaled and grasped for something to say. "How long are you staying? I heard Karev and Robbins are lobbying for a consult."

She snapped her head at him. "How do you know that?" she asked irritably. "I haven't decided yet."

"I know what goes on in my hospital," he said simply. "I hope you'll do it. I think you could help that boy and...I would love spend some more time with you." His eyes found hers again and locked on as if daring her to look away. They both jumped as an incoming text pinged on his phone.

Owen glanced down. "From Kyle. Wondering where I am." He texted a quick reply.

"I've got to go. Like I said, I hope you'll stay. But, just in case, I'm saying goodbye now. Not taking any chances." Seeing her stricken look, he added, "I didn't mean it like that. I really didn't. I just would like a proper goodbye. That's all. Come here."

Owen wrapped Cristina in his arms.He held her tightly, stroking her hair. She pulled back and looked at him.

"I thought of you that night," she said. He looked confused. "The night I won The Harper Avery. It should have been the best night. It almost was. I won. And Meredith was there. I gave a great speech. It was gracious and not braggy." They both smiled. "But it would have been better if you'd been there. I actually imagined I saw you there. How lame is that?" She shook her head in disbelief.

"Not lame," he replied. "And not wrong. I was there."

"You...what? You were there? In the room?"

"In the room. I strong-armed Avery for a ticket. I watched the whole thing. I couldn't help myself," he said, simply. "The speech was just right. And you looked amazing. The red suited you..." His voice trailed off as he remembered how exquisite she had looked that night. He forced himself to focus on the present moment before he became lost in the memory of it all.

Cristina's brow was furrowed as she took this in, "Meredith never said a word..."

"Meredith didn't know. Other than Avery, the only one who knew was my mom, because she took care of the kids for me. No one else." He paused, then added, "Well, that's not quite true. Richard figured it out."

"Why didn't you say anything? Why didn't you come see me?"

Owen shrugged. "To what end? It just seemed...better."

"Easier..." she countered.

"Maybe," he said. "I guess I didn't see the point. To see you only to lose you again? You have your life now. I have mine. Wishing things were different doesn't make it so."

He cupped her face in his hands. "I've got to go. Be well, okay? Be happy."

He kissed her gently on the forehead and then stood and started to walk away.

"Owen!" Cristina said.

He turned to look at her. "What?"

She looked at him intently, her chin quivering. "Take care now..."

Owen looked stunned. As he fully realized just what she had said, his face softened but his eyes became intense.

He crossed the room in three quick strides and pulled Cristina to her feet. As their bodies pressed together, his lips crushed hers in a deep, pulsing kiss as everything but the two of them fell away.

Pulling back for a moment, Cristina looked at him.

"What?" he said again.

"It's a school night," she said weakly.


He smiled broadly, resuming the kiss, and running his hands through her hair.

Sighing in resignation, Cristina kissed him back, touching his face, reveling in his scruff on her skin.

Owen's phone pinged again. They leapt apart, as if electrified.

"Dammit!" he swore softly, then sighed. "It's Tricia this time. I've gotta go."

"Okay," she said, trying to gather herself. "Goodbye..."

He hesitated and then decided to be bold. "Stay a few days? Please?"

Blue eyes met brown and Cristina felt her resolve melt.

It's just a few days, she reasoned, before saying, "Okay."

He grinned. "Okay. Then I'll see you soon."

He bent down and kissed her lips one last time then exited as Cristina stared after him, wondering what she had just set in motion.

As we get older, we begin marking time in longer stretches. The 2 week relationship from middle school becomes the 40 year marriage. The 6 years and three-quarters years of age becomes a purposely vague "over 30." Spans of time seems to pass by both more quickly and more slowly as we watch children grow into adults or the items on the bucket list grow shorter. Time goes on, whether we notice it or not. But there are some moments where all of time seems to stop. It's as though the past, present and future all exist at the same instance. And time almost seems to be within our control as we are faced with a decision that could determine what the next minutes, the next hours, the next years will look like.
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In the After

December 2014

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