Photo albums are stacked in piles in the front corner of the living room near the bookshelves and Ally is sitting underneath the window, resting against a pillow she has propped up against the wall and flipping through the photos that have been taken through the years. She has already gone through her baby album as well as Ellie’s and Sam’s as well as random collections of family photos but this one is one she has never looked at before.
Her parents are younger, everyone in the photos are. Charlie is just a puppy and there is a picture of Mark and Lexie standing in front of the house they live in now with a “Sold” sign in the front yard. Ally smiles as she looks at pictures of her parents, of their wedding dinner at that Italian restaurant that mommy loves so much, of Aunt Sadie and Uncle Owen, of seeing how their lives used to be.
She frowns though when she comes to a black and white ultrasound photograph. She has seen her ultrasound photo – Lexie put each child’s in their own baby album – but this isn’t any of them. Ally can tell. She has never seen it before and she searches the corners for a name but only sees baby Sloan and a date almost ten years earlier.
“Mommy?” Ally asks, sitting up. Lexie is sitting on the couch, reading one of her medical textbooks and she lifts her head when Ally says her name. “Who is this?”
It takes Lexie a moment to realize what photo album Ally is looking through. “Oh,” she says when she looks at the old ultrasound picture. “That was mine and daddy’s baby,” she answers, a lump beginning to form in the center of her throat and she tries to swallow past it. Even after all of this time, she doesn’t like to talk about it.
Ally continues to frown, not understanding. “But why isn’t it in one of our baby books then? Who is it? Me, Ellie or Sam?”
She stands up and bringing the album with her, she goes to the couch, sitting down next to Lexie and draping the book open in her lap. Lexie stares down at the photo and then sighs softly, stroking her fingers through Ally’s hair, tucking some strands behind her ear.
“This was a baby that was going to be born before you, Ally,” Lexie says. “But…” the lump grows in size but she still struggles to swallow it. “I had a miscarriage.”
Ally turns her head away from the photo to look at Lexie. “Miscarriage?” She repeats, not understanding the word.
Lexie nods. “I lost the baby…” her fingers brush against the picture. “The baby died a week after this picture was taken.”
Tears begin to brim her in eyes and she blinks quickly, not wanting to cry in front of Ally, but it is too late and Ally sees them. She closes the book and putting it aside, she stands up on the couch and puts an arm around Lexie’s shoulders.
“Don’t cry, mommy,” Ally says. “You still have me, Ellie and Sam.”
Lexie smiles through her tears, wiping them away before moving her text book away and pulling Ally down into her lap. “I know and your daddy and me are so lucky to have all three of you.” She kisses Ally’s head and smiles again.
“Why did the baby die?” Ally asks.
Lexie didn’t want to tell her that even after all of these years, she still didn’t understand why she had miscarried the first time. Even when she and Mark went to L.A. so tests could be run by Addison, there had never been a clear answer provided. Just that women often had miscarriages during their first pregnancy. Even after all of these years, Lexie thinks about the baby and what things would have been like if she hadn’t had lost the baby and Mark and her had four children now instead of three.
“The baby just wasn’t ready for this world,” Lexie answers instead, managing to give Ally a small smile when the girl nods her head as if she understands perfectly.
“Can I show you another picture?” Ally asks and Lexie nods, watching as Ally remains sitting on her lap but leans over, grabbing the album and flipping it open to a picture located on one of the first few pages. “Is this my grandpa?”
She is pointing to a picture of Susan and Thatcher – the last picture taken of Susan Grey before her death, the last picture that showed a sober Thatcher Grey.
Lexie nods. “Yes. That’s my dad… Thatcher.”
“Thatcher,” Ally repeats, testing it on her tongue. She has heard the name before, mainly when Mark and Lexie are fighting with one another. “Can I meet him?”
Lexie looks at the photo and then at Ally. She knows that Ally has a right to meet him. He is her grandfather, her only living one, after all and he is family no matter what he does. And it is only natural for Ally to be curious about the man she has never met – especially when her other friends have their grandparents around.
She gives Ally a squeeze and then kisses her head. “I’ll talk to your father about it.”
Ally isn’t stupid. She knows what that means. Looking back down at the picture of Thatcher, she knows that, for some reason, her mommy and daddy won’t let her, and don’t want her to, meet him.
Every Saturday morning, before anyone else in the house is awake, Mark tugs on running shorts and a tee-shirt, or depending on the weather, sweats and long sleeve tee-shirt, and then hooking the leash onto Charlie, Mark will go for a jog around the neighborhood, the dog steadily keeping pace next to him.
One morning though, he realizes that Charlie isn’t next to him and instead has lagged behind, his pace slow, his tongue hanging from his mouth. Mark stops jogging and walks back to where Charlie has stopped, crouching down in front of him.
“Hey, Charlie,” he says softly. “I’m feeling kind of tired. Want to walk the rest of the way?” He asks, rubbing a hand the dog’s left ear.
He stands up and turning them around, Mark and Charlie begin walking down the sidewalk, slowly making their way back home.
Mark is sitting on the bed, tapping on his laptop, working on his lecture that he is giving at a medical conference in Toronto next month on cleft lip and palate reconstructive surgery and Lexie is sitting on her side of the bed, reading a paperback novel she had bought at the store earlier that day. The house is quiet, the kids having already been put to bed nearly an hour ago, and both Lexie and Mark also dressed for sleep – Mark in a pair of boxers and Lexie in one of his tee-shirts.
Mark sees the smooth expanse of the bare skin of her legs from the corner of his eye and then he looks at the clock on the nightstand next to his side of the bed. It isn’t even ten o’clock yet and he already feels exhausted. It had been a long day of consult appointments and one skin graft surgery followed by coming home and dealing with three – well, two since Ellie just sits back and watches – over active and hyper children, all vying for his attention and wanting him to play with them.
He frowns when another thought occurs to him.
“Lex? When was the last time we had sex?” He asks, turning his head to look at her.
“Last week, I think,” Lexie answers, her eyes still set on her book.
“Last week? You think?” Mark repeats in disbelief. “That can’t be right.”
She shrugs. “Why not? We don’t have to have sex every single night, Mark.”
“Yes, we do. We do. That’s what we do, Lexie. We have sex. All of the time.”
She can’t help but smile. “You make us sound like sex addicts.”
“We are! We always have been and now you’re telling me that we haven’t had sex in a week?” Mark shakes his head. He quickly saves his word document and then closes his laptop, pushing it onto the nightstand before moving up onto his knees. “Take your shirt off and get on your back.”
Lexie lifts an eyebrow at that. “You have got to be kidding.”
“No,” he says. He plucks the book from her hands, tossing it on the nightstand on her side of the bed and begins pulling her shirt up himself.
“Mark!” Lexie exclaims, suddenly finding herself almost naked with the exception of her panties. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to have sex with my wife,” he answers but then pauses. “Actually, get on top of me. I’m an old man now and I’m not risking having a heart attack during sex.”
Lexie rolls her eyes, pushing him in the chest. “You are not an old man and you are acting absolutely crazy right now.”
“So me wanting to have sex with my wife makes me crazy?” He asks with a raised eyebrow. “I am not going to turn into one of those old men who never have sex.”
“Mark, you are not old-”
“I’m fifty-years-old, Lexie. That’s old. I don’t care how long people are living for now. I am old. And it doesn’t help that I have a wife who’s still in her thirties.”
“I can’t help how old I am, Mark,” Lexie says, making a reach for the tee-shirt again but he snatches her hand in his. She sighs, looking up at him. “So because you’re oh-so old now, you can’t even bother in seducing me anymore or making this the least bit romantic?”
“We’re married. Why do I need to romance you into fucking me?” He frowns.
Lexie gives him a disgusted look and pushing him back away from her, she gets off the bed, grapping the tee-shirt on the way and yanking it back on over her head.
“Lex-” he says but she ignores him and flings open their bedroom door, leaving.
When he follows after he, he finds her downstairs in the living room, fluffing the throw pillows and taking the blanket draped over the back of the couch, she unfolds it and lays down on the couch, covering herself with it.
“You have got to be kidding,” Mark says, crossing his arms over his chest, looking at her. “You are not sleeping down here, Lexie.”
“I can sleep wherever I want, Mark,” she snaps at him. “And that includes not with my husband if he pisses me off enough.”
“I’m not apologizing for wanting to have sex with you,” he tells her.
She shrugs, rolling onto her side, facing the couch now. “Then don’t apologize. I wasn’t expecting you to anyway. The great Mark Sloan never has to apologize.”
He frowns. “What does that mean?”
“You’ve been alive for fifty years, Mark. Surely, you can figure it out.”
The next morning, they don’t speak to one another but after kissing all three kids on the heads goodbye, Mark does give Lexie a quick peck on the cheek before telling her that he’d be home earlier than usual so he can take Sam to the barbershop for the boy’s haircut. Lexie doesn’t respond; simply nods her head and goes to refill Ally’s glass with milk when the girl asks for more.
Mark is lying on the couch in his office when he hears the door open and looking over his shoulder, he sees it’s Owen. With a sigh, Mark pulls himself up into a sitting position and rubs a hand over his scruffy jaw.
Owen looks at him curiously. “You look like shit.”
“I didn’t sleep last night. Where do you want to go for lunch?” He asks, getting up, stretching his arms out behind him and tilting his head from side to side, sighing with relief when he heard his neck crack.
“Why didn’t you sleep last night? Is everyone alright?” Owen asked, now worried.
“I haven’t had sex in a week.”
Owen stares at him for a moment and then a smirk slowly begins to pull at one corner of his mouth. “Mark… a lot of people don’t have sex for weeks.”
“You mean people my age?” Mark frowns.
“No. I meant people in general. And now I see what the problem is. Still freaking out about the big 5-0?”
“No. And shut up,” Marks says, grabbing his wallet and cell phone and then leaving his office, Owen, trying not to laugh, following him.
Lexie is in the backyard, keeping a watchful eye on Ellie and Sam as they play on the playground set, when Mark sneaks up behind her, slipping one arm around her waist and thrusting a bouquet of roses in front of her.
“Mmmmm,” she says, pretending to be disinterested. “Someone really wants sex.”
Mark sighs. “Come on, Lex. I know I was an ass last night and I’m sorry about that.”
“Do you even know why you’re apologizing?”
“Because my wife deserves to be romanced and not be treated like some random nurse in an on-call room,” he responds and she turns around to look at him, still ignoring the roses in his hand.
“I don’t understand why you’re freaking out,” she admits. “You had to have known that eventually, you would turn 50. And for our entire relationship, I’ve been sixteen years younger than you and it never really has bothered you before.” He opens his mouth to speak but Lexie continued without letting him. She puts her hands on his cheeks. “You have know how hot you are. And you’re only getting hotter. I know you don’t notice it but I see all of the looks women give you when we’re out somewhere. I know Megan wanted you, though she was a bit more obvious about that.” Lexie circles her arms around his shoulders. “You’re in perfect shape, you’re handsome, you couldn’t be more successful if you tried. You have me and three children… why is turning 50 such a bad thing?”
Mark binds his arms around her waist and brings her body to his. “Because, Lex. It’s 50. That’s half a century already.”
She suppresses an eye roll and instead, linking her fingers behind his neck, she pulls him in for a firm kiss on the lips. “And I will still love you in another half a century like I do right now.”
She always planned to go back to her residency once she thought the children were old enough and since Sam will almost be two in a couple more months, she feels that maybe it is time.
Lexie tries not to cry as she kneels down in front of Sam and Ellie. “Alright. Now I am going to be back in a few hours and we can have lunch together and then in another few hours, we’ll be able to go home again,” she says, trying to smile. “Both of you promise me that you will be a good boy and girl today. Mind your manners and don’t give the women watching you too hard of a time, alright?”
Sam nods his head, followed by Ellie doing the same, and Lexie embraces both of them in a tight hug, squeezing them and kissing their heads.
“Be good. And I’ll see you both in a little bit, okay?” She stands up reluctantly, staring down at them as they stare up at her. She forces herself to move and she takes shaky breaths, waving goodbye, trying to keep the smile on her face and to not start crying in front of them. “I love you. Be good,” she adds again.
The instant she leaves the hospital daycare, she begins to cry and the tears don’t stop even as she rides the elevator up to the surgical floor to begin rounds. It is her first day after being gone for so long but already, she wishes the day was over.
She loves being a doctor but she realizes, during her first week back, that she doesn’t love it as much as she once did. Her mind is constantly crowded with thoughts of Ellie and Sam and how they are doing in the daycare, wondering what they are doing and if Ellie is alright and getting close to any of the other children there. She thinks of everything she has to do when she gets home. The errands she has to run. The school project Ally needs her help on.
She is distracted and though she is continuing her residency under Dr. Cadman – the doctor who become the head of the Plastics Department for the hospital after Mark left – and she is back in the OR, a place she feels completely at ease in, the truth is, she realizes that she would much rather be at home with her children.
Lexie doesn’t tell anyone though, not even Mark. She knows how pathetic she is being and she knows that no one will understand it if she would rather choose to be at home than at the hospital. She wants to finish her residency but it still doesn’t feel like the right time. When she and Mark had both been working at the hospital and Ally had been a little girl, they had put her in daycare and even then, that hadn’t boded well with Lexie. She wants to be home with her kids like her mom was for her and Molly.
She keeps it to herself without uttering a word to anyone. She has already taken a three-year break and people whisper about it behind her back. Calling her “mommy” or “the Sloan sperm bank” when they think she can’t hear. She doesn’t even want to think about what they will say if she puts her residency on pause yet again.
“Lex? You okay?” Mark asks, watching as she loads the dishwasher after dinner.
She doesn’t look at him. She doesn’t give him a verbal answer. She merely nods her head and continues with the task at hand.
Ally got a Wii for Christmas and she and Brandon Wyatt come back to the Sloan house nearly every day after school and play Wii Sports in the living room until Lexie returns from the hospital or Mark returns from the office and Brandon either stays for dinner or he skateboards the two blocks back to his own house.
With Lexie continuing with her residency once again at the hospital, her hours become longer and she begins spending less time at home. When both she and Mark are at work, they have hired Mrs. Parker, who lives next door to them, to meet Ally at the bus stop after school and sit with her in their home until either Mark or Lexie get home. And if Lexie is working exceptionally late, Mark will swing by the hospital to pick Ellie and Sam out of daycare to bring them home.
The whole new way of life takes some adjusting, which Ellie doesn’t like because she needs her schedules and this isn’t the way she is used to things being. She is becoming quieter and more withdrawn and Mark can’t help but compare Ellie and Lexie now since their behaviors seem to be identical.
One night, Lexie doesn’t get home until almost eleven o’clock having left before six that morning and she is practically dragging her body exhaustingly through the door. Mark has waited up for her and she gives him a soft kiss in greeting before sinking down onto the couch, peeling her shoes off and rubbing the back of her neck.
“Come here, Lex,” Mark says and she turns her body sideways on the couch so he can begin rubbing her back. “The kids ate grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner tonight. Ally has a spelling test tomorrow so I helped her study for that and Sam discovered Top Chef reruns on Bravo tonight and I had to pull him away from the television. They’re all sound asleep in their beds now.”
He notices her back starting to heave up and down and looking at her face, he sees that she is crying.
“Lexie, you have to tell me what’s wrong,” Mark demands yet in a gentle tone. “And no more of this bullshit and saying that it’s nothing.”
Lexie shakes her head but then answers, “I’m so unhappy. I don’t see you or even our own kids anymore.”
“But I can’t do anything about it,” she continues, her voice shaking. “I have to be a wife and mother and doctor and I have to be happy about everything all of the time. But I’m not happy, Mark. I’m so unhappy all of the time.”
Mark wraps his arms around her from behind, pulling her back towards him, holding her as she cries and she wraps her fingers around his arms, clinging to him, not able to stop the tears now that the dam has been opened.
Much to Sam’s disappointment who wanted a boy cousin, Meredith and Derek have a baby girl, Amy Carolyn Shepherd, and Lexie was right. The instant Meredith sees her daughter and holds her for the first time, nothing else matters in that moment. Mother and daughter stare at one another with matching watery blue eyes and Meredith smiles at her, brushing her fingers across the baby’s smooth, soft cheek and Derek kisses the side of her head.
In that moment, they are good. They are happy. And neither, for once, are thinking about how long it is going to last this time.
Lexie joins the unfortunate club and has a patient die on her table during surgery. After Dr. Cadman has the intern in the OR with them call time of death, Lexie rushes out, scrubbing out as quickly as possible, wanting to get away before anyone can talk to her about it. She knows it isn’t her fault. Dr. Cadman was with her every step of the way and he said that nothing could have been done as Lexie struggled fruitlessly to resuscitate the patient.
“Mommy!” Sam exclaims the instant Lexie enters the daycare center and both he and Ellie come running over, Lexie dropping to her knees and the two children instantly colliding with her, nearly knocking her over.
Lexie hugs them as tightly as she can and as she listens as Sam babbles happily about the city he and Ellie have been building out of every block they can find, and as they each grab one of her hands and pull her over to see it, Lexie realizes that it is the first time she has smiled all day.
She doesn’t tell Mark about her losing a patient. He wants her to leave the residency program until she knows for certain that she wants to return, if she wants to return, but she won’t leave and Mark doesn’t understand why.
Mark reclines back on one of the lounger chairs on the back deck and Lexie is sitting between his legs, her back resting against his chest. He has one arm wrapped around her while his other hand holds a bottle of beer that they are sharing between them though Mark is drinking most of it while Lexie only takes small sips.
She rests her head back against his shoulder and tilts her chin up, looking towards the dark night sky above their heads and she smiles faintly as Mark presses his lips to her temple, leaving them there.
“Please be happy again, Lexie,” he whispers to her. “I would do anything for you to just be happy again.”
Lexie closes her eyes, turning her head towards him, her nose nuzzling against his jaw. “I have to do this, Mark,” she answers him softly.
“Why though? No one is forcing you to keep going with your residency,” he says, pulling his head back so he can look at her face. “Why are you doing this if you’re miserable and all you want to do is be home with the kids? Why is that such a crime to want to do that?”
She looks at him with those big, sad doe eyes of hers and Mark lifts a hand to her cheek, his thumb brushing across her skin.
“I have to do this, Mark, because I have to prove to people that I can.” She swallows a lump in her throat. “You don’t hear what people say about me.” As expected, there is a flash of anger in his eyes. Even after all of this time, he gets so protective of her and would plunge headfirst into battle for her without a moment’s pause. “I have to show everyone that I can do this. I’ve been out of that hospital for three years and no one thinks I can juggle all of these hats. No one thinks I can do this.”
Mark squeezes his arms around her. “Lexie, who gives a fuck what those people think? They don’t know you. They don’t know anything about you or what you’re capable of. You’re brilliant and capable and you’re infamous in Seattle Grace history for not only staring an intern underground fight club but for bagging me. That just shows that you can do anything.”
That makes her smile and he presses his lips to her forehead in a kiss.