DISCLAIMER: Grey's Anatomy and all its characters are the property of Shonda Rhimes and ABC.
SPOILERS: Through 2.27 "Losing my Religion" (that's the finale, kids), so. Um. Use caution!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
The first thing Izzie did after quitting her job at the hospital was bake. She came home, and started her first batch of cookies while she was still in her prom dress and her makeup and everything. Over the next few days, Meredith and George both tried to talk to her, to get her to stop and calm down and maybe even process what happened, but they never got more than three sentences out before a lemon bar or a chocolate chip cookie got shoved into their mouth, and they were told to shut up.
The first thing Meredith did after the prom was have sex, which surprised no one except maybe Meredith, who seemed to think her celibacy thing would stick, and in the immediate aftermath she started knitting another sweater, but without Izzie to help her it came out a mangled heap of yarn and needles, and she finally gave up gracefully.
And then there was George.
George wasn't like them. He didn't have to make sudden dramatic decisions to make life better. George liked to think about things, to let them wash over him slowly until his tension eroded and his choice had already been made for him. Which maybe explained why, less than a month and a half after the prom, he was still dating Callie- he hadn't said "I love you", but he'd said "Seriously, I do lo- oh my god, is the bone actually sticking out of that leg?", which was close enough that she'd been placated- but Izzie and Meredith both had brand-new sleeping over-type relationships, which led to George sitting alone at breakfast, studying the box of Cheerios and praying fervently that no one would come down to eat until after he was done.
It was, however, an unfortunate fact of George's life that nothing would ever, ever, ever work out for him the way that he wanted. Which explained why the rustle of robes alerted him to the presence of another person, who sat next to him on one side with a cup of coffee, black. And another person, who sat on the other side with a tall glass of orange juice from the fridge. At the same time.
Which was about when George, whose spoon had just reached his mouth when he processed what was going on, choked on his cheerios and milk and spit them back into the bowl.
"Good morning, George," said one of them, her dark red lip prints imprinting themselves on the shiny black coffee mug the way that he could imagine they covered Izzie's skin.
And, "hey O'Malley" from the other one, who sounded much calmer in the morning than he had crying out in Meredith's room the night before, which was honestly one of those things that George had never needed to hear and never wanted to hear again, ever.
"Dr. Shepherd," George said with a little nod. "Dr. Montgomery-no-longer-Shepherd."
George's life was so weird.
And, okay, you know, the whole thing with Dr. Shepherd wasn't really surprising. Meredith could never stay away from anything that was bad for her. That was why the house was always well-stocked with booze and chocolate-covered espresso beans and really bad porn, but they tended to run out of vegetables and their whole-grain bread developed so much mold that Cristina suggested testing it on some of the patients and after three months, they'd cancelled their subscriptions for any of the cable services except for Cinemax, Showtime, and Sci Fi, claiming irreconcilable differences between them and any station with "learning" in the title. That was why she slept with half of Joe's bar, and probably would have slept with more if they weren't mostly straight women and gay men. And that was why Meredith's whole thing with McDreamy- what he and Izzie had called her Not A Whore Phase- apparently died out as soon as they had crazy closet sex.
Which George wasn't supposed to know about, but hey, everyone else got their information through shifty means; interrogating his girlfriend after she slept over was totally within the guidelines.
Still, there was something comforting about McDreamy being in the house. About the way his pants always seemed to slide down his hips in a way Izzie and Meredith both noticed, and the way his hair was always so perfect even when he'd just slid out of bed, and his complete inability to re-fold the newspaper so that anyone after him could read the Times correctly. George didn't have to like it to be comforted by the normality of its weirdness.
The whole Izzie and Addison thing? Totally different story.
Addison was nothing like her ex-husband. When she walked out of Izzie's room in the morning, her hair was all matted down, and she had to take long showers to get it as full as it had always looked at the hospital, which sometimes took so long that by the time George got a turn they were all out of hot water. She didn't read the paper at breakfast, choosing instead to flip through a magazine she'd read dozens of times before, and read about the news in the on-call room at work. Her robe sometimes slid open a little bit much, but Meredith was never looking, and George, the second it started, would immediately busy himself studying the cereal box, or the TV screen, or whatever else happened to be close enough for him to throw all of his attention to.
"They're breasts, George," Izzie had said one night. " It's not like they're going to explode."
"They're the breasts of the attending," George said in the voice he sometimes used to explain complicated things to the girls when they were angry or upset or really, really menstrual. "That is something that I worry about."
"I don't," Izzie had said with a shrug and a grin that seemed at least a little inappropriate. Sometimes, George thought that the main reason she'd quit the hospital- besides the whole Denny thing- was that it made her relationship with Addison marginally less sketchy than Meredith's with McDreamy.
Izzie, as far as George knew, had never been interested in girls before. Meredith, they all knew, had been pretty open about anything short of necrophilia; in addition to the handcuffs Izzie had told George she found while rummaging around for spare tampons, Hot Girly-Looking Man turned out to be the much easier to say Hot Girl, and there had been at least a few times that they'd been lying around watching TV late enough to see the couple Meredith was dragging up to her room, each hand firm on a different person's wrist. But Izzie, they'd all thought, had been pretty strictly stuck on Monogamous Boy until the day that Meredith and George came home from work and found her in the kitchen, laughing more genuinely than they'd seen in weeks and feeding raw cookie dough to the former Mrs. Dr. McDreamy herself.
So Izzie, the former model, and the hot attending were officially dating. Which meant George got to frequently see them with one tongue down another throat, frequently while wearing even less clothing than the Bethany Whispers ad might have indicated Izzie preferred. And both of them seemed really, genuinely, honestly happy. Which would have been great, but that was about where George's luck tended to come in and kick him in the balls.
Because in the divorce, neither of them wanted the trailer. Which meant a house was being built on McDreamy's property and Addison was searching for a new place, but until then both of them were out of a place to live.
Which meant that breakfast at George's was the funnest thing ever.
Callie stopped sleeping over. Two skinny white girls being judgmental was bad enough, she'd said; two skinny white girls plus the two divorcing doctors from work was going to drive her insane. And apparently she was going to leave that to George.
On the plus side, that meant Izzie stopped teasing him about Callie and interrogating him about their relationship. On the minus, it meant that he got absolutely none of the benefits of a girlfriend to get him out of the Shepherd-Shepherd split, unless he decided to sleep at the hospital, which was a little too problematic on its own because George was starting to really, really, really hate the smell of antiseptics. When he pointed that out to Callie, she said something kind of incoherent about love and relationships and him prioritizing Izzie over her, which he ignored because really, on the list of crazy things happening in George's life, that wasn't even in the top thirty.
Because that meant that there was at least one meal a day where George had to focus very, very hard on his cereal, and pretend that it was completely normal for him to spend his time wishing he was a ninja-spy, searching desperately for escape routes and excuses and reasons to not be there when the He-Shepherd and the She-Shepherd faced off over scrambled eggs.
The first time they both slept over, no one realized except George, who had done his best to run away before breakfast and failed utterly. Instead he sipped at a glass of cold milk and studiously avoided eye contact with Meredith or Izzie, both of whom looked like they might happily kill any of their roommates for not warning them about the situation, or with either of the doctors who had looked at each other maybe once the entire morning but still knew enough to pass milk and sugar for tea (him to her) or to already have half a banana cut up for cereal (her to him), because hiding out? Totally the best plan George had.
Dr. Shepherd said "Hey, O'Malley," and Dr. Montgomery said "Good morning, George", and he just wanted to crawl under a rock and die.
"My life is hell," he'd informed Cristina, facing her in the on-call room.
"You're an intern," she said. "That's what life is."
"No, you don't understand. Everyone's sleeping with doctors and it's madness, madness."
"You're sleeping with a doctor."
"Yeah, but she didn't sleep with anyone else in the hospital."
"As far as you know." Cristina smirked a little, then, like it was funny. "Didn't you think that about Olivia?"
"I hate you," George informed her. "Almost as much as I hate Izzie and Meredith right now."
"Don't hate the player, baby," Cristina chirped. "Hate the game." And she stood up to go to wherever Cristina went when she thought she'd won an argument.
"Izzie's sleeping with Dr. Montgomery," George said.
Cristina sat back down.
"And she slept over last night, and so did McDreamy, and my life is hell and- since when do you care?"
"Addison and Izzie?" Cristina asked. "Seriously?"
"Do you really think I could make this up?"
"But Addison was with McDreamy."
"I know." And in a way, it was nice to be able to get it out to someone not dating either of them. "That's why breakfast was like a scene out of The Exorcist. But with bacon instead of pea soup."
"Did anyone throw up?"
"I almost did. They were sharing a trailer, like, two weeks ago."
"I didn't even know they were divorced."
"They're not," George said. "Separation. It's like the most civil break-up I've ever seen. She cut his banana!"
"Is that a castration metaphor?"
"No, literally. For his cereal. Habit or something."
"Wow. Did Meredith freak?"
"She's Meredith. Of course she freaked."
"She adjusted her neckline to emphasize her boobs."
George and Cristina both turned at the voice.
"Dr. Shepherd," Cristina said in reply.
"Right. Montgomery." Cristina smiled in a way that was just tight enough that George was pretty sure she'd beat the crap out of him later.
"I have a car accident victim with premature triplets scheduled in Trauma 2 in about twenty minutes. Dr. Karev was supposed to help me, but he's assisting Dr. Torres on another case right now. You want to scrub in?"
"Of course," Cristina said, jumping up. She reserved a moment to glare at George for, he guessed, polluting her mind with thoughts of Addison all over Izzie right in time for the operation, and then bounced off to surgery.
Which, with Meredith doing sutures in the pit, left George the only victim available for whichever surgeon needed him next.
At the sound of footsteps, he lowered his head and squeezed his eyes shut. Burke, he prayed fervently. Please be Burke. Please be Burke. Please be Burke.
"O'Malley," he heard instead. "Ready to save some lives?"
George was going to have to give up on prayer.
It was a great surgery to get to watch. A tumor which was nearly impossible to get to in a twenty-seven-year-old woman who was otherwise in good health. And Dr. Shepherd got it out entirely, totally cleanly, a perfect extraction.
Except that, while the woman was lying there, breathing slowly under the anesthesia while Dr. Shepherd cut into her brain, he thought that maybe they should have their heart-to-heart.
"So breakfast this morning wasn't so bad," Derek said.
George stuttered out something that he hoped sounded like "yes".
"I mean, all things considered."
"It could have gone a lot worse, sir."
"There was coffee."
"Right." A cough. "So things are alright, O'Malley?"
George hated his life.
And that was just the beginning. Later that week, he had a conversation with Dr. Montgomery that involved his blushing more than he'd previously thought possible, which established pretty much exactly the same thing, and as a benefit reminded him, right in the middle of the day, that she and Izzie were having sex. A lot. And loudly. When he got home from work that day, Izzie presented him with a platter of chocolate chip cookies, saying only that Addison had called her and they figured he'd need them.
The cookies were good, at least.
But the worst part wasn't the awkward beginning. It was the fact that things became less awkward and almost acceptable. It was the way the divorce papers stayed on the coffee table in the living room, and both of their lawyers knew to reach them at Meredith's. It was how they started carpooling, sometimes all four of them in the car while Izzie waved goodbye, confident they'd survive the morning with the muffins she'd packed them, and George would spend the car ride processing the fact that he was the only person in the car who had never slept with McDreamy but no one else seemed to bat an eye.
"You're late, O'Malley," Burke had said, barely glancing up as George passed him the cappuccino he'd picked up. "You were supposed to help me with the prep for the Anderson case."
"Traffic," George said shortly.
"That was the same excuse Grey gave," Burke said. "And Shep-"
He saw George's face.
"Oh indeed," George said.
"Are you sure you and Cristina don't need a roommate?" he offered.
Burke laughed, a real laugh, the type that boomed out with joy in a way which made George pretty sure his friend was a sadist.
Because the thing was, when Izzie and Meredith were there? It totally wasn't awkward. Derek didn't see anyone but Meredith, and Addison didn't see anyone but Izzie, and George was a fifth wheel but it wasn't, like, crazy. The crazy was only when Meredith and Izzie were still getting ready in their respective rooms, and George was stupid enough to want his Cheerios, and the kitchen suddenly started to resemble Divorce Court.
"Good morning, George," and "hey O'Malley," and then one of three things would happen. One: Icy, stony silence, unbroken until it was time to leave for work. Two: icy, stony silence, which lasted less than forty-five seconds before Derek would read something from his paper out loud to George, and tune out anything Addison said, until there were two completely separate conversations being aimed at George's head and he couldn't keep track and usually his breakfast would end up in the trash because it was easier than sitting there. Or three, the worst of the bunch: they'd be nice to each other.
George was really, really, really creeped out when they were nice to each other.
It was really nice, polite, careful niceness, kind of like when you had a friend over at your grandma's house, but still, it was nice. There weren't any hidden barbs or pointed comments or even offhanded sarcasm. Just... friendliness. They had a pool at work over what insult would come out first- Cristina was betting on Addison calling Meredith a whore, George guessed Izzie calling anyone in the house insane, and Alex's money was on Derek calling someone a dyke- but none of them were accurate. Because they didn't fight.
"It's like the Stepford split-up," George told Alex. "I keep waiting to hear that they stayed late at work one night and someone fixed them."
"You mean like neutering?"
George stared at Alex for a good, long while.
"Just asking," he said, the smirk never sliding off his face. "God, George, they're adults. Maybe they're just acting like it for once."
"In this hospital?" George said. "Acting like adults? Seriously?"
"First time for everything," Alex said. "Besides, if you ask me? They all deserve exactly what they got."
Bailey wasted even less time on it than Alex did. "I don't know, nor do I care, what happens in any of their private lives. Unless anyone in your house manages to injure someone else so badly it requires my treatment as a surgeon, I prefer to believe you all leave the hospital and go into suspended animation until I see you the next morning, bright-eyed and well-mannered and treating my patients. Is that understood?" Yes, ma'am. It certainly was. "Now do your damn job."
So George inserted the catheter for Mr. Rodriguez, and talked to Mrs. Wilson about her treatment options, and steadfastly avoided anyone who looked like they might occasionally do breakfast with him the next morning, so that maybe he could just disappear off the face of Seattle.
It didn't work.
He got a "Hey, O'Malley," and a "Good morning, George," and they talked about some art exhibit in New York and George ate his pancakes so fast he almost choked on them.
And maybe it was, like, a routine. Izzie made everyone muffins, and Meredith made mimosas and laughed a little too hard, and Addison said "Good morning, George" and Derek said "Hey, O'Malley" and George prayed fervently for breakfast to be over soon and it never, ever was.
"It's weird," Meredith said late one night. She was sitting on the sink, and Izzie was on the closed toilet, and George was just glad that he'd thought to look around before heading over to pee.
"What's weird?" George asked.
"That it's not weird," Izzie explained. "Me and Addison, Meredith and Derek..."
"I think it's still kind of weird," George said.
"But it's not weird," Meredith said, stressing the syllable so much that it took all of George's energy to not roll his eyes.
"Yeah," George agreed. "I guess it's not."
Because it wasn't. In a world where he worked eight billion hours a week, and his roommates were two really hot girls, and a few times he got to hold a human heart in his hands, this actually kind of approached normal. They had a schedule, and plans, and once all six of them- Meredith and McDreamy, Addison and Izzie, George and Callie- went on a picnic, and everyone was totally friendly and polite. If you ignored the fact that it felt like a hospital fundraiser or something, it was actually kind of nice.
Creepy. But nice.
It turned out George could adapt to pretty much anything, and it would become as normal as anything else in his life had been. In fact, it seemed like the really weird part was when things finally started to change. At the picnic, they sprung the news: McDreamy's house was getting finished, and Addison finally found an apartment she didn't loathe. For the first time, George realized things might be different really, really soon.
It wasn't as comforting as he'd expected.
He lay awake in bed that night for a long time, trying to figure out what had changed, and coming up empty. It seemed like an eternity before the next morning came. He woke up late, and he felt like he was about to die.
"Hey, O'Malley," Derek said, without looking up from his mis-folded New York Times but offering a spoon nonetheless.
"Good morning, George," Addison said, sipping at her coffee from the shiny black mug that he'd started to think of as hers. She pushed a bowl of Cheerios at George's normal seat.
"Hi," George said, nodding a little. He picked up the spoon, and dug it into his cereal, and started to eat.
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