This story was requested by lex_sloanfangrl who wanted to see Mark vulnerable and it is in the same universe as my family vignette series. I am always nervous writing stories for people just because I am always so worried about it disappointing them. But here it is and I hope it has turned out alright.
Mark knows that he has taken Lexie for granted over the years. He has naïvely, or stupidly, thought that she would always be around and that nothing would ever happen to her. He has thought that because he is older than her, something would happen to him first and secretly, that was always a silent comfort to him because honestly, he wouldn’t know how he would make it if something happened to Lexie and he was the one who was left behind.
That was before last night though. Now, Mark sits and waits, feeling sick to his stomach, feeling as if the room is spinning around him, feeling as if everything is suddenly falling apart around him and he has no idea what pieces to pick up first.
Ally and Ellie are at school and Sam has come to the hospital with them but after she finally got out of Mark as to what was going on, Callie took Sam down to the daycare to play with him and keep him occupied so Mark could focus on Lexie. Mark had made Callie swear that she wouldn’t breathe one word as to why he and Lexie were at Seattle Grace that morning. He doesn’t plan on telling anyone anything unless there is something to tell.
They are in an exam room, Mark sitting in one of the chairs, Lexie wearing a paper gown, sitting up on the examination table, both waiting in a thick silence for Dr. Carroll, her OB/GYN, to come in and begin their last-minute scheduled appointment. Neither speak and though Mark knows he should say something, he has no idea what that could be.
He can’t remember the last time he has felt this useless. Lexie’s his wife. They’ve been married for ten years, have three kids together, have created this entire life together and there he is, having no idea how to even begin comforting her.
He sits there, trying to think of anything besides the possible outcome of them sitting in that room. He tries to not think about how this morning could possibly change their entire lives and not for the better. Usually, when they come to see Dr. Carroll together, it’s because Lexie is pregnant and they are getting her checked out. But this morning, this is all about Lexie and Dr. Carroll’s diagnosis could be possibly devastating to both of them.
Things had been normal the night before – like most nights in the Sloan house. Lexie had picked Ellie up from her school, Explorer Academy, the autistic private school she attends, and then Lexie was home to meet Ally at the bus stop when she arrived home from her own middle school. Ally is only nine but she skipped a grade and is in the fifth grade now. Lexie was worried about having Ally in a class with ten, and some eleven-year-olds but Ally does what she always does. She adjusts perfectly and exceeds far beyond anyone’s expectations.
It was a cold but clear November day and the kids went outside to play in the backyard and when Mark got home from work a couple of hours later, they all come running in to greet him, cheeks flushed and breathless, hugging him and Ally and Sam talking over one another as they tell him all about their days. And then, they ate dinner as a family like they do every other night. Mark had never had that growing up – family meals – and when he and Lexie started their family, he made sure that this was one tradition they always kept.
And hours later, when all of the kids were put to bed and were sleeping, Mark and Lexie undressed one another and had slow, almost painfully and torturously slow, love-making, their soft gasps and groans filling their bedroom as the slight squeak of the mattress matched their rhythm. But when Mark cupped her breasts in his hands, that was when he felt the lump on the underside of her left one and he didn’t understand how he hadn’t felt it before that night.
Now, sitting in Dr. Carroll’s office the next morning, Mark having threatened bodily harm to the doctor if he wasn’t able to see Lexie as soon as possible, it amazes Mark that the idea of this – of possible breast cancer – has never crossed his mind before. He knows Lexie gets her regular checkup with Dr. Carroll but Mark never thinks to ask her about it. He always figured that if there was something to tell, she would.
He now hates himself for that. For his complete lack of interest when it comes to Lexie’s health. This is Lexie. He has no idea what he will do if anything ever happens to her, especially if it’s something that he can’t control or take care of himself.
He doesn’t want to jump to conclusions. That’s the worst thing he can do but he can’t stop himself from wondering what the fuck he will do if the lump is something. Even though Izzie Stevens’ cancer had been gone for nearly ten years, Mark still remembers perfectly what it was like when she was suffering through it. He doesn’t want to imagine Lexie now being the one like that. Going through chemo, bald, throwing up constantly, slowly dying.
Dying… Now that the word has been thought, it echoes in his mind like a gunshot and Mark looks at Lexie as she sits on the examination table, staring down at her hands, also deep in her own thoughts.
Is Lexie dying right now? Is there cancer in her breast spreading at this very moment as they sit there and wait? He doesn’t know what to do. He has to do something but there is absolutely nothing he can. He’s a fucking plastic surgeon and he has never hated that before this morning.
What if that lump he felt in her breast is cancer? What would they do? Would Lexie beat it? Of course, he thinks she can. She’s Lexie. She’s the strongest woman he knows. But what if… what if it’s bad? Stage four bad? He already knows he wouldn’t make it without her. And the kids… they wouldn’t bounce back from this. This is their mom. They adore the ground Lexie walks on. His thoughts momentarily wander to those of Ellie. Jesus. He doesn’t even want to imagine how Ellie would be if anything ever happens to Lexie, especially when she is at such a young age.
Lexie reaches out and rests her hand on his knee that is bouncing up and down, startling him from his thoughts and she gives him a small smile. He has no idea how she can even think about smiling, let alone actually produce one. He covers her hand with his, grasping it, but his knee still won’t stop fidgeting. He is feeling as if he is about to burst from his skin but looking at the clock ticking softly on the wall, he sees that only two minutes have passed since he has looked at it last time.
“Where the fuck is he?” Mark releases a heavy breath.
“We’re not his only appointment this morning, Mark,” Lexie gently, softly, tells him.
“I tell him that we felt a fucking lump on your breast and he makes us wait,” he almost growls, standing up, needing to go somewhere but not letting go of Lexie’s hand, gripping it tightly, holding onto it almost desperately.
“Mark,” Lexie says, using that gentle tone that she always does whenever he is losing his temper and she knows that he is because his language always worsens. “It really doesn’t matter one way or the other.” She shrugs. “If the lump isn’t anything, we don’t have to worry and if it is something… Just be patient.”
He lets out another deep sigh and rubs the back of his neck. He reluctantly lets go of her hand and begins pacing up and down the length of the small exam room. This room is too damn small, Mark notices. It feels almost claustrophobic, as if the walls are slowly starting to move closer together. He wants to get the hell out of there.
Lexie watches him. “Do you want to talk about-”
He shakes his head fiercely, cutting her off before she could complete the suggestion but she continues nonetheless.
“He’s probably going to do a mammogram,” she says. “And if he thinks there is something, I’ll probably have to come back for a diagnostic mammogram and then I might have to get an ultrasound. I don’t want you to miss your own surgeries-”
“You better not be suggesting what I think you are,” Mark says, almost glaring at her.
Lexie sighs softly and glances away from him. He watches as she lifts one of her hands and wraps it around the silver locket necklace he gave her for their fifth wedding anniversary that she rarely, if ever, takes off. When she opens it, on one side, there is a picture of her and Mark and on the other side, there is a picture of the three kids. Over the years, Mark has given her anything she wants, or things he think she would like, but she has never hidden the fact that the locket is her favorite.
Mark runs his hands through his hair with frustration and then goes to stand in front of her. “I’m not leaving,” he tells her.
“I know,” she says softly, still not looking at him and he sees tears beginning to brim in her eyes.
Instantly, his body deflates and his anger disappears like a puff of smoke. “Lex.” He shakes his head. “Don’t do that,” he says, his voice straining to remain steady. He is really going to lose it if she starts to cry. He has never been able to handle it, never knowing what to do when she cries.
Lexie shakes her head and it is as if the dam breaks. Tears begin rolling down her cheeks and Mark cups her head between his hands, trying to get her to look at him but she keeps her eyes avoiding his.
“Lex,” he says, his voice thick and he tries to swallow past the dry lump clogging in the middle of his throat. “We-”
Words are beyond him though. He doesn’t know what to say to her to make her feel better. He has never been one for false promises. He can’t promise her that everything is going to be okay until he knows it himself.
Lexie closes her eyes and wipes at her cheeks, trying to keep her breathing steady.
Mark presses his lips to her forehead and she slips her arms around his waist, hugging him, clinging to him, needing to hold onto him in that moment and Mark can feel her shaking as more tears come.
He reminds himself that he has to be the strong one between them. He always has been. He doesn’t allow too many things to get to him. There were only a couple of times before Lexie – which really feels like another life – that he lost control, those times always involving Derek and Addison. And then, with Lexie, when they had the miscarriage and after weeks of suppressing it all in, he finally just took it out on her and then, a few years later, when they got into a horrible fight and Lexie kicked him out of the house for almost three months. When Ellie was diagnosed with autism, they both lost it but they both quickly stepped up and got through it.
Every other time though, Mark has dealt with things the only way he knows how. He either ignores them or keeps them inside where he buries it so deep down inside, he eventually forgets all about it.
But this… he can’t just pretend that this isn’t even happening but he can’t lose it either. That’s the last thing Lexie needs him to do. He has to be the one who is holding it all together.
He tries his hardest not to think about it but he feels Lexie’s slim arms around his waist, her head resting against his chest, and he doesn’t even want to imagine what it would be like if she wasn’t around anymore to hug him. He’s been with a lot of women in his life but Lexie is the only one who has ever mattered to him.
Lexie takes another deep breath and pulls away from him, tilting her head up to look at him. “I need some,” she swallows. “I need some water.”
He nods. “Okay.” He gives her forehead another kiss. “I will be right back.”
He goes to the door but he hesitates with his hand on the knob. A feeling of cold dread sweeps over him, seeping through his skin. He tries to shake it off as he straightens his back and leaves the room, heading down the hallway towards the break room where he knows a vending machine is.
He wants to hurry back as quickly as possible and he reaches into his back pocket for his wallet, pulling out a dollar bill. He tries to feed it into the machine but it spits it back out. He sighs heavily and trying to straighten it over the corner of the machine but when he tries to feed it again, the machine once again spits it back out.
Mark clenches his jaw, trying to keep calm. He grips the side of the machine, his knuckles turning white and squeezing his eyes shut, he bows his head. Trying to keep his anger at bay is futile though and suddenly, like a bottle of shaken champagne, he explodes. He begins kicking the machine over and over again, not feeling the pain in his foot or the pain in his knuckles as he also begins punching it.
The machine shakes but Mark seems to be doing more damage to himself. He doesn’t stop though. He feels as if he cannot hit the machine enough.
A nurse is standing in the doorway, looking horrified, and Mark glares at her, wondering how long she has been shouting his name. He is breathing heavily and he notices that his knuckles are already bruising.
“Dr. Carroll has sent me,” the nurse says. “He has begun your wife’s examination.”
Mark remains silent. He nods his head and leaves the break room, ignoring the way the nurse quickly steps back out of his way. When he enters the examination room again, Dr. Carroll is there, standing in front of Lexie, the top of her gown pooled around her waist, exposing both of her breasts and he is talking with her as Lexie feels her left breast, nodding her head.
When she sees Mark, she smiles brightly. “Mark, come here.”
“How are you today, Mark?” Dr. Carroll asks him but with one sharp glance from him, Dr. Carroll nods his head. “Right. Stupid question. I was just having Lexie feel the lump for herself, explaining to her what this particular lump is.”
“It’s a cyst,” Lexie explains before Dr. Carroll can.
“A cyst?” Mark repeats. “Are you sure?”
“We are going to do a mammogram, of course, but just from feeling it, you can feel that it is softer than most lumps in the breast are,” Dr. Carroll says. “Would you like to feel so you know what I am talking about?”
Mark nods and reaches out, touching her breast gently, feeling the lump.
“It’s important that you both can feel the distinctiveness of this cyst so if you ever feel something in Lexie’s breast, you will know if it is a cyst or possibly something else. This is smooth and has distinct edges and cysts are always round or oval shaped. Lexie has also expressed the tenderness of the lump when touched,” Dr. Carroll says and immediately, Mark removes his hand, not wanting to hurt her.
“So it…” he breathes. “It isn’t cancer?”
“We are going to do a mammogram right now but I am almost a thousand percent certain that it is a fluid cyst and not cancer,” Dr. Carroll says. “We are going to have to do a needle aspiration biopsy and I can do it right here in my office. We’ll schedule it for tomorrow and I need you to not eat anything for at least twelve hours before and no medication. We are also going to run some blood work today and tomorrow, just as a precaution.” He then looks at Mark. “After the procedure tomorrow, Lexie is going to be bruised and sore so she is going to have to take it easy for a few days.”
Mark nods his head and then looks at Lexie. She is smiling, tears brimming in her eyes, and then she laughs slightly and reaches up, cupping his cheeks. “I can breathe again,” she says and Mark closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. “Mark, what happened to your knuckles?” She asked, now frowning.
“The vending machine wouldn’t take my dollar,” Mark answers and then looks at Dr. Carroll. “Are you doing the mammogram now?”
“Yes. Come on, Lexie,” Dr. Carroll nods. “Let’s put both you and your husband at ease again.”
“Mark, I can walk,” Lexie murmurs quietly as he swings her up in his arms and begins carrying her to the house even though she is still under the influence of pain medication from the needle biopsy and can barely keep her eyes open.
“I know you can walk,” Mark placates her. “But let me do this for you.”
Owen is in the living room, having the day off and volunteering to watch Sam for the morning while Lexie and Mark went to the hospital for Lexie’s procedure.
“Mommy! Daddy!” Sam exclaims, grinning widely, scampering over to them as they enter the house.
“Shhhhh, Sammy,” Mark says, closing the front door behind them with his foot. “Mommy’s sleeping right now, buddy. We have to be very quiet.”
Sam looks at Lexie in his arms and then slapping his hands over his mouth, he nods, still smiling with his eyes.
Owen comes up behind Sam. “How is she?” He asks Mark.
“They drained the cyst and everything came back clear but they want her to come back next week for a checkup,” Mark answers.
“So… no cancer?” Owen whispers the word.
Mark shakes his head. “She’s clear. Can you stick around for a little bit?”
“I’m not on until this afternoon,” he answers and with a nod, Mark carries Lexie up the stairs to their bedroom.
She is sleeping as he gently places her on the bed and pulling off her shoes, he then carefully takes her coat off. Lexie shifts in her sleep and he pulls the blanket folded across the foot of the bed over her body. Mark stands at the side of the bed, watching her as she sleeps and then toeing off his own shoes and stripping him of his coat, he climbs onto the bed, careful to not touch her bruised and sore breast.
He moves his head onto her pillow, so close to her own head that his nose brushes against her cheek. She turns her head slightly towards him but remains deep asleep.
Mark continues to stare at her, almost afraid to blink, almost afraid that she’ll disappear.