It's TWO fic commentaries! And an interactive meme.
Fandom: Grey’s Anatomy
Summary: These are the things that McDreamy is not.
Any Other Name
These are the things that McDreamy is not.She isn’t the first one who called him McDreamy. Meredith’s been using it to refer to him for so long that she’s adopted it as part of her own personal vocabulary, sometimes forgets it was her fellow intern who came up with it. It rolled off Cristina’s tongue without thought, on a whim, as a joke. It used to be a joke.
Yeah, I didn’t even remember where the name came from, and had completely forgotten it was Cristina’s invention until I went fact-checking and fell over in shock. Sometimes I wonder if Cristina ever got really ticked at herself for starting that whole phenomenon…but never mind that, I’m making a profound statement here.
The first time she refers to him as such with her friends, she laughs off the silly nickname, refusing to put too much stock into it. The second time, she writes it down on a piece of scrap paper, curling the letters with a secretive smile on her face. She crumples the paper and throws it away a second later, but the image lingers in her mind and the name lingers on her tongue. [I think Meredith is juuuust juvenile enough to enjoy that immature fantasy, and then immediately be disgusted with herself for doing so. But she wouldn’t be able to forget having thought about it once.] Later on, it turns into a coping mechanism, a protective barrier against reality. McDreamy is nothing but an adjective for windswept hair and a charming smile. It is another word for illusion, everything a woman could want and nothing tangible to keep.
These last two sentences were some of the first I wrote, and I basically built the fic around them. Consider the legend of McDreamy in popular culture – even people who aren’t fans of the show recognize the name bandied about in magazine pieces or entertainment shows as an ideal, even though if you really stop to examine him, the character has quite a lot of flaws.
McDreamy is not Dr. Shepherd, her boss. Dr. Shepherd is a man who will make or break her surgical career, who will watch her cut into people at their most vulnerable, all the while knowing what it means for Meredith to be the same. Dr. Shepherd is unpredictable, alternates between indulgent and frosty, keeps her on edge. Dr. Shepherd is dangerous.
I like my connection between the two kinds of vulnerability – bare in the bedroom vs. unconscious beneath a knife, such different scenarios, yet acutely linked in this case. I thought it was important to highlight the power imbalance, too. Finally, the repetition throughout these paragraphs is deliberate - constantly driving in the differences between each term's connotations.
McDreamy is not “a guy in a bar.” Anyone can be a guy in a bar. Joe is a guy in a bar. [*giggle* I really love that tiny bit of flippancy.] Guys in a bar do not whisper lines like poetry in the throes of passion and turn a drunken, anonymous blitz into a romantic fantasy. Guys in a bar are empty and looking for the next cheap thrill. There are times when she is too, so she goes along with them when she wants an escape. They never return, nor does she expect them to.
I’ve always really despised the story of how they met, and somehow turned a drunken one night stand into an Epic Love Story of the 21st Century, so I make up my own coping mechanisms. Like the idea of him being completely incapable of turning off his romanticism for even one night. Plus, let’s face it, there is like a 1% chance that any guy you pick up in a bar is going to turn out to be as much of a catch as Derek Shepherd.
Further proof he is not a guy in a bar? He returns. Well, more like “unexpectedly turns out to be her boss the next day,” but he keeps coming back and won’t let the encounter go.
McDreamy is not her boyfriend. Setting aside the fact that she tossed that term along with her graduation cap [nice syntax, yes?], a boyfriend takes you on dates. He calls to say goodnight and tells you you’re pretty, even when you’re not […I meant that more in a “even when you’ve been crying or you think you’re all bloated from PMS, etc.” way]. He brings flowers. A boyfriend also gets jealous, gets into arguments, and forgets you were going out to dinner that night. A boyfriend makes mistakes. [Well, not that he doesn’t, but his Shiny White Knight Armor has a way of blinding me to that fact; presumably it blinds Mer as well.]
McDreamy is not – and this is important - and never will be Derek. The former is an idealistic fantasy, the latter is only human. The intimacy of his first name lets her look closer than she wants, marring the guilty pleasure of her perfect fantasy. [That’s the most important distinction, which is why I saved it for last.] Derek has opinions and interests, history, a family, more detail than she can handle. [Real life is messy. Complicated. McDreamy keeps her in a fairy tale, unattached.] She knows enough about him, his fingertips against her hair and which section of the paper he reads first, and other things she would like to forget. [The latter things suggest intimacy, you see, domestic bliss, and that domesticity? Kinda belongs to another woman.]
Derek has a wife. Her name is not Meredith.
*shivers* I love that closer. Like Mer’s been reflecting on all of these things, knowing all the while that none of it matters, because there’s
Summary: Gibbs quit without forewarning or explanation, and Abby needs to know why.
This story spun out of my reaction to the end of the season 3 finale, which was to fling myself onto the bed and sob into my teddy bear’s fur for a while (possibly after having kicked him across the room a few times). And then I realized, “Hey, you know who else has a big stuffed animal and is prone to outbursts of emotion? Abby.” I watched the whole scene play out in detail in my head, and was able to repeat it a few times over, so I had to turn it into fic.
It took me until September to finish, and I was feeling pretty good until 48 hours passed with zero reviews. I hung my head in shame over my self-indulgence and vowed never to mention the horrible story again. But later it got nominated for a Rose Award, so…that redeemed it quite a bit in my eyes.
Despite her wildly unorthodox hobbies and interests, there were still some things Abby Sciuto couldn’t believe. People who thought that tattoos were a gross desecration of the human body, for one. Prejudice and discrimination, for another two. But most of all, she didn’t believe that a man like Leroy Jethro Gibbs would ever quit his job and desert his team without forewarning or explanation.
The introduction was a much later addition – I had the hardest time figuring out how to start – but in the end I think I came up with textbook perfect intro: start with a broad, generalized statement, and narrow towards your thesis.
Incidentally, I am one of the people who believe tattoos are a gross desecration of the human body. Still can’t figure out how Abby is my favorite character in spite of this fact.
“Gibbs-” she’d croaked, pleading, begging him with tears in her eyes, but he shushed her with a finger against her mouth and lips pressed to her cheek. It was a lingering kiss, meant to let her know how much he cared - but it wasn’t enough; it wasn’t enough when he could do that and still walk onto the elevator, let the doors shut, and disappear from sight.
I always hate trying to narrate actual scenes from the episode, because everyone has a slightly different interpretation and sometimes you just end up sounding dumb. I had to do this one for transitional purposes, though, so I kept it as brief as I could, hoping people would jump over the first part and focus on the “it wasn’t enough,” because that’s central to this piece. He’s been working there for how many years, unintentionally built a surrogate family out of the team – it’s so insignificant, the way he leaves.
They all stood in there shock and disbelief for over a minute, as if he might reappear the next second and bark at them all to get to work. Nobody dared look at anyone, as if they were sitting an exam, and the only requirement to pass was this wait. Abby broke the spell first. Without a sound she turned on her heel and fled the room, running down the stairs, back to her lab and safety and refuge, trying to run back through time [That last bit is so true, isn’t it? In a word-arty metaphor-type way].
In minutes she was tucked into the corner of the office, huddled with knees tucked into her chest and arms around the plush hippo, crying into his synthetic fur. She had no idea how long she sat there, with tears streaming down her face, her mind spinning over the fact that he had just quit, that with one stupid kiss he ended years of tradition. She hadn’t realized how much she relied on him to come through those doors demanding answers, placating her with Caff-Pows; how much she needed to hear “Abbs,” no matter if the tone was tender or vexed…
McGee. Of course it was McGee. McGee always wanted to be there for her, and most of the time she didn’t mind, even appreciated it, but she didn’t want him right now. She wanted Gibbs. Of course, if Gibbs were here, she wouldn’t need him, because she wouldn’t be crying.
Her thoughts were a mess. She dropped her head into the stuffed animal. [Heh, this seemed so very Abby to me, the way her thoughts seem to run ahead of her and get tangled up until she trips over them. But it was also precisely how my thought processes were going – I was frustrated that Abby needed comfort and Gibbs couldn’t provide it, because Gibbs was the reason she needed it in the first place. I feel bad for McGee’s helplessness here, though.]
“Abby,” he tried again, and when he caught sight of her red-rimmed eyes, for just a minute it stopped him in his tracks. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her cry. He couldn’t remember if he’d ever seen her cry. [And by “him,” I clearly mean “me,” stupid sieve-like brain] Before he could even think about comforting her, though, she leapt to her feet, tone suddenly furious. “How could he do that?” she demanded. “Just WALK AWAY like that?”
I can hear her tone echoing so clearly through my head, I don’t know if I’m just really good at imagining her voice, or if I actually unintentionally copied a line from an older episode…
“He’s been through a lot…” McGee tried, not knowing what else to say. She spared him the trouble of rationalization.
“Well, damn it! Damn HIM!” she shrieked, wheeling and hurling the toy with as much force as she could against the wall. [In retrospect, I debate the swearing, but the animal-throwing…I buy.] It came dangerously close to shattering a few beakers, but managed to fall to the floor without causing undue harm. [Though am not sure Abby has beakers just sitting around.] She gave it another vindictive kick with platform shoes [I do love that image], sending it sailing in the direction of McGee, who grabbed it and stowed it safely out of harm’s way [He cares about poor Bert!]. He braced himself to receive a punch for his trouble, but instead she stalked to her desk, grabbed her coat and purse, and walked past him. “I’m going home.”
“I’m going home!”
She came in to work the next day with only one agenda: to analyze evidence for the new case. No music. No idle conversation - and no acknowledgement of yesterday. If she didn’t think, it didn’t hurt. He didn’t contact her. She didn’t contact him. He might as well have died on the ship.
It was a week before she couldn’t take it any more. She couldn’t take the cycles of hurt and anger that wouldn’t stop repeating on loop [Not projecting here. Nope. Not at all.], especially when the latter kept winning, until it was all that was left. It was a week before she pulled up in his driveway and rapped on the door, arms crossed and eyes smoking. Her knock was not a query but a demand; the door might have opened of its own accord if Gibbs hadn’t been there to open it.
But he was, and he did, looking neither surprised nor pleased but merely impassive. She was sure he knew that she would come eventually, and it irked her that he’d known it before she had. [I love AllKnowing!Gibbs] Abby didn’t wait for an invitation and he didn’t offer one, she just pushed past him, made her way to the sofa and tossed her purse down. [Does Abby even have a purse? She does, right? It’s just that I seem excessively fond of mentioning it.] She heard him shut the door and follow her into the living room as she turned, flopped onto the sofa, and stared up at him accusingly. He stood before her, waiting patiently for her verbal attack.
It was a question laced with bitterness and anger, though her voice cracked unexpectedly when she said it, forcing a furious quelling of tears.
“I had to.” [No one ever accused him of being verbose.]
“That’s not a reason,” she shot back. He started to say something else, but then just stopped and shook his head. At this lack of response, her temper rose again.
“You’re unbelievable,” she muttered, and suddenly shot to her feet. “Goodbye, Gibbs.”
“Abby.” It was a patient command, and one she ignored without so much as a turn of the head, making for the exit intent on leaving without returning.
“Abby!” That was a tone she remembered. Just a bit of a rise to it, enough to make her pause and look back.
“Sit down,” he sighed, nodding back at the sofa. Looking at him with not a little mistrust, she did, and he took the seat beside her.
“I didn’t mean to…” he began, automatically reaching for her. She flinched and pulled away, not wanting his touch. He paused in mid-action, smiled ruefully as he realized what he was doing, and withdrew his hand. “I don’t even know where to begin.”
Abby was not in a mood for half-finished sentences and uncertain leapt up again angrily [the hell, self. I thought you edited this twenty times over! Must have been a last minute change – I think it’s supposed to read “and uncertainty. She leapt…”] and began to pace the room, feeling a tirade coming on as words began spilling from her lips, accusations and probably an insult or two or five [heh]…she wasn’t really sure what she was saying; it just felt good to vent, especially if he wasn’t going to say anything in return. She probably could have kept it up for hours if he hadn’t finally held up one hand.
“Hey, would you stop?”
She considered ignoring the request, but settled for one last glare before throwing herself onto a kitchen chair, straddling it backwards. “You’d better have something really good,” she scowled. “Something absolutely over-the-top, above-and-beyond any major thing, ever, in the history of NCIS [lol, superlatives], that makes you think you can just leave without considering -- anyone.” Her voice squeaked before she got to the last word, as if she’d thrown on the brakes and barely jumped aside in time. [I’m really in love with the idea of Abby’s wild ramble, and I can just see her throwing on the brakes there. She still has a little bit of guarded hurt, and saying “me” makes her seem both needy and a little bit selfish. Even though she really is asking how – when she’s particularly special to him – he left her just like everyone else. Also, please notice how Abby concedes to his request but deliberately keeps space between them – it’s very symbolic.]
Whether this was lost on him or he just chose to ignore it, she wasn’t sure, but either way he didn’t react. He did, however, surrender his last defenses. Slowly, hesitantly, he filled in the details of what [had] happened upstairs, in that hour-long interim that had changed the world. But even when he finished, she still couldn’t quite fathom the improbability of the whole thing.
“Wait, they let the ship get blown up…just so it wouldn’t get on the news?” He didn’t have an answer for that, and she blinked, trying to think of an appropriate thing to say. When this proved impossible, she chose an inappropriate one. [“She,” a word which here means “the author.” Seriously. I watched the MTAC scene like 8 times and still had trouble figuring out what the hell happened/why.]
“Okay, it sucks,” she said bluntly, though at his harsh look she cringed a little. Truth be told, if she really let the story sink in, it was appalling. It wasn’t permissible or even excusable, but it had happened. The outcome couldn’t be altered, so she pushed ahead. It couldn’t be the first time he’d seen something awful, and she told him as much.
“But usually you just go find the guy responsible and, I don’t know, go over his head to get him fired or beat him up in a dark alleyway or something. You do something. You never just ‘accept’ it! The Gibbs I know doesn’t settle.” Abby wasn’t trying to be belligerent, she just wanted to find some meaning in his decision, and despite his supposed explanation she still hadn’t figured out a darn thing.
Once again, he seemed at a loss for words.
“It was just…too much,” he finally muttered. “Okay? After that, it’s too much.” The words revealed little, but something about the way he said them made her think the root of the problem was about more than the explosion he’d been in. There was an odd expression on his face, and though she thought that the unknown component would remain that way, after a minute he spoke again.
This is where I made an executive decision to go ahead with the Kelly/Shannon reveal. Originally I was just going to move to resolution after he explained the MTAC bit, but somehow it didn’t feel like enough.
“You know I’ve got three ex-wives,” he stated flatly. She bit back a retort about stating the obvious, and just nodded mutely while she sent her brain scrambling to make sense out of the abrupt subject change.
“Three after the first one,” he continued, and whatever thoughts she had in her head vanished, leaving her mind a blank white slate. “I want to show you something,” he said, getting up and momentarily disappearing from sight. He returned with a photograph, just a thin photo, and handed it to her without a word. Her eyes widened at the sight – a considerably younger Gibbs, on a beach, with a red-haired woman and a girl with hair the same color [FAIL. Kelly was blonde], to whom he bore more than a passing resemblance. Her lips parted in a gesture of speechless surprise, but she still wasn’t sure what to say, and her eyes looked to his, questioning.
I really debated the potential sappiness of Gibbs sharing all this so soon afterwards. I was terrified of doing it wrong, of making him uncharacteristically emotional, but I thought that if he was going to admit it to one person, Abby was a safe haven – maybe the only one he’d feel comfortable opening up to.
This line, I think, is what convinced me I wasn’t being too terribly sappy. Because getting all this out there, speaking it aloud? Cathartic experience. She’s the trigger release, but ultimately he ends up not really talking to her.
“How could you carry that all these years? Without telling anyone?” she breathed when at last he finished.
He couldn’t quite meet her eyes as he made an attempt at an apathetic shrug. “Push the thoughts away. Don’t think about it. Hurts less until you can’t feel it anymore, good memories or bad.” [Gibbs definitely compartmentalizes. And blocking out the memories seems like a reasonable explanation for why we went almost 3 years without so much as a hint of such a past.]
Her next question was hesitant, but she had to know. “Did they get the guy?”
Something flickered behind his eyes, and then was gone. “Yeah,” he answered shortly. “He got the death penalty.” The words rang hollowly, and she could only assume it meant the punishment had brought little comfort.
Cathartic or not, there are some things Gibbs won’t share, because nobody, least of all Abby, needs to know. I wasn’t sure if I made her too naïve in her assumption, but then again, it’d be a little paranoid to assume Gibbs carried out this death penalty. Besides, she tends to see the good in people.
With a mixture of pity and empathy and heartbreak etched on her face, Abby stared at the dejected figure in front of her. Abruptly she stood and crossed the divide [symbolic!] between them, arms around his neck, chin resting gingerly on his shoulder. “I’m really sorry,” she whispered, even though she was sure whatever she said would be inadequate. He leaned into her embrace, barely reciprocating; there was an air of tiredness that didn’t belong.
[Even when I wasn’t sure where I was going with the whole conversation in the house, I knew I wanted to end up here – the hug signifying final forgiveness after her earlier refusal to touch him and the physical distance between them during the conversation – and to highlight the air of exhaustion in Gibbs’ figure]
Eventually, she knew she had to let go, but rather than pulling away she merely slipped down until she was resting against his chest, tucked beneath his chin. It was a familiar, comforting position, and one she was reluctant to leave. Besides, he seemed glad of something tangible to hold onto.
Pretty sure I threw in the first sentence or two of this paragraph just for the shipper’s kick, but I’ll staunchly it defend it anyway – they can hold it longer than a hug, allowing some time for thinking to pass. The last sentence was always there, because after fighting with the ghosts of the past, Abby’s a comforting support.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, Abby had been sure that if she could only find out what had gone wrong, she could talk him into reversing his decision. If anyone could - besides Ducky, and he’d had his chance [to clarify: on the drive home. I wrote this before the season 4 premiere aired; we didn’t yet know it was a silent affair.] – she could. Eventually she felt confident enough to look up and broach the subject. His rebuke was gentle, but firm.
“I’m not coming back, Abbs,” he said quietly. “I don’t know what comes next, but it’s not at NCIS.” Her hopeful expression slipped; she could all but feel her progress unraveling. He saw it, too, and tilted his head thoughtfully.
“That doesn’t have to mean we never see each other again,” he said. “Believe it or not, I do occasionally associate with people outside of work.” [Flippant!Gibbs! He’s getting sassy with all that emotional baggage lifted.]
Abruptly she sat up and faced him. “Hey, good point! Without you badgering me for results all the time, I might actually get to have regular hours for a change!”
“Watch it,” Gibbs groused, “I haven’t officially finished the paperwork yet.” She responded to the empty threat by sticking her tongue out at him, and with that one immature gesture, any remaining hint of the temporary rift between them vanished.
“So…you think you can still manage to do your job without me ‘badgering you for results’?”At his scornful tone, which seemed to belie that he’d never been anything but polite and soft-spoken, and couldn’t imagine why she’d think otherwise [Man, I love flippant!Gibbs], she couldn’t help but grin. After a minute, though, it turned into a frown.
“Now what’s wrong?”
“Tony doesn’t bring me Caff-Pows,” she admitted woefully, looking up at him through her eyelashes with exaggerated puppy-dog eyes and pouting lower lip. [This was one of my earliest lines, and it still makes me giggle. Because you know she said that at some point! Or a version of it, at least.] At the sight, Gibbs relaxed, chuckled and flipped one of her pigtails. “It won’t kill you to quit drinking those,” he chided affectionately. “Might even do the opposite.”
“Oh, no,” she answered immediately, looking aghast at the idea. “I haven’t given them up. It’s just that it’s not nearly as much fun convincing McGee to go get one every day.” [BWAH! And you know McGee would just be roped into service. In fact, I think on more than one occasion he has been, so…]
He rolled his eyes, and she defensively changed the subject by asking what, exactly, he planned to do with unlimited free time. “Just work on the boat?”
“It did cross my mind.”
“Does that mean you’ll actually finish it? And if so, can I be the first person to see the final product?”
“Only you, Abbs,” he promised.
The dialogue breaks in this fic somehow came about rather naturally…their voices just slipped into my head. It’s sad, and a little bit frustrating to me, that I haven’t had any story ideas for them since, but at least this back-and-forth turned out well. I think, anyway. Right here, I love how smoothly it slides from fairly serious to teasing.]
“How about considering some of my conceptual artwork for decoration?”
“Not a chance.” [But seriously, Gibbs, a skull motif would be so badass…pirates are all the rage these days, come on!]
“Ah, I had to try,” she shrugged. The conversation seemed to have reached its natural close, and after a minute of shared quiet, Abby got up and began gathering her things to leave. He offered her one last hug, and she took it, feeling considerably better, if not completely satisfied. “It’s still not going to be the same without you, Gibbs,” she said wistfully. He considered this for a minute, then, “Not all endings lead to a permanent end.”
Her mouth crooked up in a smile, and she couldn’t resist teasing, “You spend a lot of time coming up with lines like that?”
“Nope. Get ’em all out of the handbook for crotchety old Marines,” he answered with a perfectly straight face.
“Well, don’t ever lose that book.”
You know who spent a lot of time coming up with that line? ME. I would have killed for a Crotchety Old Marine handbook, as I struggled for literally weeks to think of something quasi-profound he might say there.
He walked her to the door, but rather than going back inside, he remained on the porch as she got in the car. Keys in the ignition and seat belt buckled, she glanced up to see him watching. When their eyes met, he signed a single phrase that, in its simplicity, brought a genuine smile to her lips. She wasn’t sure whether he could see her response quite as clearly, but she signed back anyway, and was rewarded with a tiny nod and a wink as she pulled out of the driveway and headed back down the road.
Honestly, I never did have any idea what they signed. It just seemed like a nice parting gesture.
Her confrontation hadn’t changed anything, really, but she’d arrived with fury and left with hope, his words, both spoken and not, bordering the path ahead with promise.
Oh yeah, me and ending lines are mortal enemies. I fought with this for ages and ages – even longer than with the quasi-profound saying - and was pretty *facepalm* about the whole thing, but eventually I managed to sort out the last part. Good thing too, because for quite a while there, it went “…left with hope, and the only thing that mattered was that she hadn't lost him after all.”
"It's That Song Lyrics Meme!"
Step 1: Put your music player on shuffle.
Step 2: Post the first line from the first 25 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing.
Step 3: Strike through the songs when someone guesses both artist and song title correctly.
(which I, uh, may not be doing owing to the tempermental nature of Rich Text Editor + pasting from Word. If not, check the comments instead)
1. She says she's no good with words but I'm worse
2. Look around, wonder why we can live a life that's never satisfied
3. We were both young when I first saw you
5. I'm so tired of being here
6. It's all about the way you feel it, deep in your heart
7. You sit there in your heartache
8. If you're a thought, you will want me to think you
9. Mick came home late last night
10. Lily is dancing on the table
11. If shame had a face I think it would kinda look like mine
13. I never felt nothing in the world like this before
15. Breaking my back just to know your name
16. She was lying on the floor and counting stretch marks
17. Hey little girl with your tangled hair
18. I was riding shotgun with my hair undone
19. Hello little boys, little toys
21. I'm watching all my steps now
24. I got my sights set on you