Summary: AU - Cristina Yang is a young, talented and ambitious photographer who seems to have everything going for her. But there’s something missing, that special someone to share it with. At her first photography exhibition a handsome artist captures her attention, but is he the one she’s been looking for…?
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It had been almost three months since Cristina had left to Europe and she and Jackson quickly created a routine. During the day they sent each other messages and photos and every evening they talked on Skype until Cristina eventually fell asleep or until Jackson had to get back to work. Cristina was taking thousands of photos all around Europe while Jackson was working on his paintings as much as he could to finish them on time. Their work was keeping them busy enough to think too much about the fact that they hadn’t seen each other for so long. And while they missed each other a lot, it seemed to work.
But now it had been three days since Cristina last spoke to Jackson and she was getting worried. He messaged her that he was busy and that he would let her know once he had more time, but she was afraid that not having enough time wasn’t the only reason why they hadn’t talked for a few days. She was afraid that Jackson realized that only seeing his girlfriend through Skype wasn’t enough for him anymore. She tried to push those thoughts away, but it wasn’t that easy. She felt like something was different but she wasn’t sure what it was. So she really hoped Jackson would call her in the evening and she could find out what was going on. After all today was Cristina’s birthday and even though she had never been into celebrating nor she found that day special, she knew that Jackson loved birthdays. And if he didn’t find time to talk to her on her birthday then it would be a sign that something really was wrong. Because she knew Jackson well and even though she told him she didn’t want big celebrations or surprises, she was sure he would at least attempt to do something like that. She still clearly remembered how they celebrated Jackson’s birthday and despite the disastrous start it was a really good day.
“I thought you said you can’t cook,” Jackson said as he walked into Cristina’s kitchen, surprised when he saw her preparing breakfast that was more difficult than pouring some cereals and milk into a bowl like she usually did. They had only been dating for little over two months but the fact that Cristina couldn’t cook was one of the first things she told him about herself .
“Good morning to you too.” She grinned at him, ignoring the sarcastic remark about her cooking skills. Even though it was true. “And just because I can’t really cook doesn’t mean I can’t try. Besides, making pancakes doesn’t really count as cooking.”
“Oh, really? What is it then?” Jackson asked with a smirk as he walked behind Cristina, wrapping his arms around her waist and kissing her cheek.
“It’s preparing breakfast,” she answered, while trying to find out whether the pancake were done or not. “But if you keep distracting me like this, I’ll ruin your special birthday breakfast.” Cristina giggled when she felt Jackson’s lips move from her cheek to her neck.
“So that’s what this is all about? My birthday?” Jackson asked a little surprised that Cristina remembered his birthday, but also really pleased. Not that he thought she was the kind of person who didn’t remember important dates. But Cristina told him that she wasn’t into big celebrations or romantic gestures so he didn’t expect her to do much. Perhaps just some hot birthday sex.
“Of course. Why do you think I’m making you pancakes?” Cristina asked, rolling her eyes. She could hear the surprised tone in Jackson’s voice, but then again she could’ve expected it after she told him that she wasn’t a big fan of birthdays or any huge celebrations for that matter. But that mostly applied to her own birthday and there was no way she was going to ignore Jackson’s big day. Especially since she knew he enjoyed that kind of attention.
“I was thinking it’s just because you love me.” He laughed and kissed her again.
“I do. But there are much easier ways to show you that than making pancakes.” She winked at him and put the last pancake on the plate. “Now sit down, sir, you’re breakfast is almost ready,” Cristina said and pulled out some maple syrup, nutella and some chopped strawberries from her fridge, carrying everything to the table. She really didn’t have much experience with making pancakes, but she hoped it was easy enough even for her and that it would taste good.
“It looks delicious.” Jackson smiled, seeing how proud yet nervous Cristina looked about the food she prepared for him. He quickly put some of the strawberries and nutella on the pancakes, coating it with some maple syrup and took a huge bite of it. He knew that Cristina never cooked but he assumed it was just because she didn’t enjoy doing it and that saying she can’t cook was just an excuse. At least from most part. But once he tasted the pancake he knew she wasn’t lying. He couldn’t quite describe the taste, but he was sure it was not what pancakes should taste like. But when he saw the proud look on Cristina face, he decided not to say anything and continue eating.
“So? What is it like?” she asked, anxiously awaiting Jackson’s response.
“It’s… Good,” Jackson said and forced a smile on his face before sticking another fork full of pancakes to his mouth and barely chewing it before quickly swallowing it.
“Really?” Cristina raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Let me taste it.”
“I thought these were my special birthday pancakes. But if you want some I can make you your own.” Jackson tried to stop Cristina from tasting the pancakes she made for him and realizing they didn’t taste good at all and that he lied to her.
“I don’t want my own. I just want to see how I did. Don’t worry I won’t eat it all.” She grinned at him.
“I’m not worried about that,” Jackson murmured, ready to tell her that the pancakes didn’t taste as good as he told her, but it was too late because Cristina was already putting a forkful into her mouth.
“Oh, God.” She screwed her face once the piece of pancake hit her tongue. “It tastes like paper,” she said once she spat it out. “Burned paper.”
“My mum told me that when I was little I secretly used to eat paper.” Jackson shrugged his shoulders and smirked at Cristina, hoping she wouldn’t find her little cooking disaster too tragic. Sure he would be happier if what Cristina cooked for him was actually edible, but he was happy she even tried to do something like this for him.
“That doesn’t make this any better.” Cristina frowned and took the plate, angrily throwing the pancakes into the trash can. She really just wanted to surprise Jackson with something nice, but now she just felt stupid for trying to cook for him when she clearly had no idea how to properly do it. She always told herself that her cooking was bad because she didn’t really want to do it and didn’t put much effort into it, but today she actually tried and failed. Which made her feel worse about it.
Jackson saw that Cristina looked upset about her little surprise for him not working out the way she wanted it to and he felt a bit guilty about it. After all if he didn’t tell her how much he liked celebrating his birthday she probably wouldn’t try to make breakfast for him. “Oh, c’mon. It’s not a big deal. I liked your little surprise,” Jackson said as he walked towards Cristina and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her in for a hug. “Even though it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to.”
“I just wanted to do something nice for you. Something different. But I guess I screwed it up,” Cristina mumbled against Jackson’s chest. She wasn’t used to failing or not being good at something. She always found a way to succeed. So her little birthday surprise for Jackson not going the way she wanted upset her more than she wanted.
“It’s the thought that counts. And I know that you don’t like celebrating birthday so I appreciate it even more.” Jackson tried to cheer Cristina up a little. Even though the pancakes tasted horrible, he was still really happy about what Cristina tried to do for him.
“I don’t like celebrating my own birthday. That’s a difference. But now I’m ruining your day. And I didn’t want to do that,” she said with her face still buried in Jackson’s chest.
“That’s not true. I love every day I get to spend with you. And even though today seems to have a bit of a rocky start, I’m sure we can still make it my best birthday ever.” Jackson smiled. He knew he sounded a bit cheesy, but it was true. He loved Cristina and he enjoyed every second he spent with her. Even if it included eating burned pancakes. “How about we go to that nice restaurant we went to on our first proper date?” Jackson suggested. “The food was delicious and the place is really nice too. I don’t think anything bad can happen there.”
“That actually sounds good. I’ll call there to make a reservation for tonight.” A small smile appeared on Cristina’s face again. Maybe she could still turn the situation around and do something nice for Jackson.
Later that day Cristina and Jackson headed to the restaurant they both thoroughly enjoyed when they visited it on their first date.
“I can’t believe we haven’t been here since our first date. The food here is delicious,” Jackson said once the waiter left their table with completely empty plates. “I don’t have any space left in me so I’m kinda glad we didn’t order any dessert.”
“Yeah, we definitely need to come here more often.” Cristina smiled. She was happy that unlike the breakfast, their dinner was running smoothly. The food was even better than she remembered, the waiter taking care of their food was very nice and polite and the quiet music playing in the background was quite enjoyable too. “But as for the dessert, you may want to find some space for it.” She grinned at him and turned around to see three waiters coming their way, holding a small chocolate cake and singing happy birthday.
“What do you…” Jackson tried to ask what was Cristina talking about, but his question got interrupted by loud singing. “Oh my God.” His jaw dropped slightly when he realized what was going on. The cake and singing was meant for him. He felt like he was in a movie and it felt good.
"I know that it's cheesy as hell and I would never want you to do anything like this for my birthday but I thought you would like this,” Cristina said once the waiters left their table. Earlier that day when she offered to make a reservation in the restaurant for them, Cristina decided to ask whether they could make a little birthday cake for her boyfriend’s birthday. She knew it was a really overused cheesy gesture, but she was sure that Jackson liked that kind of stuff. And as it seemed, she was right. “And I wanted to make up for that horrible burned pancakes I made you eat this morning,” she added with a bit of embarrassment in her voice. She wouldn’t forget about that anytime soon and as she knew Jackson, he would gladly remind it to her.
"I love it," Jackson replied with a huge smile and leaned over to give Cristina a kiss. He really didn’t expect anything like this and the fact that Cristina came up with this idea for him made him even happier than he already was. "Not as much as I love you though."
“That’s so cheesy.” Cristina laughed, but on the inside she couldn’t be happier that Jackson liked her little surprise. This one definitely seemed to be a bigger success than the one she prepared for him earlier that day. “But since it’s your birthday I’ll allow you to be cheesy. Now blow out the candles and wish for something you want.”
“I already have everything I want. So I’ll just wish it stays that way,” Jackson said, took a deep breath and blew up the candles.
Cristina sighed at the memory of Jackson’s birthday. Maybe you really weren’t supposed to say your wish out loud or it wouldn’t come true. Because right now things definitely didn’t seem to be the same. Jackson was thousands of miles away from her and she was afraid it wasn’t the only thing between them that changed. She let out another loud sigh and rubbed her face with her hands. There was no time to think about whether there was something wrong between her and Jackson. It was not why she came to Europe. And if her work was really going to cost her her relationship with Jackson at least she should focus on it.
“Happy birthday!” Meredith yelled the second she accepted Cristina’s call on Skype. Cristina logged in about the same time as usually, hoping that Jackson would be online and she could finally talk to him and perhaps even ask him what was going on between them. But unfortunately Jackson’s name in her contact list was gray, which meant that he wasn’t there. Or at least he was not visible for her. However Meredith was online, so Cristina though she would at least talk to her best friend for a bit, while hoping that Jackson would show up.
“No, don’t do that. Don’t make a big deal out of this day just because it happens to be the day I was born a couple of years ago. It’s no different than any other day,” Cristina said, trying to stop Meredith from talking about her birthday. For some reason Cristina didn’t like celebrating that day. And she hated when people made a big deal out of it. But the most ironic thing was, that the whole day she was hoping for Jackson to call her and make a big deal out of her birthday. Because then she would at least know that he still cares and thinks about her. But apparently he was avoiding her and as much as she tried, she couldn’t stop thinking about it.
“Okay, okay.” Meredith put her hands up in surrender. “I was just trying to be nice. Sorry for that,” she apologized and grinned at her best friend. “So how are you?” Meredith asked, seeing that Cristina didn’t look exactly happy, but she didn’t want to ask. Despite being best friends, they didn’t often ask each other about their feelings. If the other person wanted to talk about it, they would.
They talked for a few minutes, Meredith telling Cristina about everything that had happened at work in the past few days while Cristina briefly told Meredith about how she enjoyed staying in Berlin. It was truly a beautiful city and there was a lot to talk about, but even though Cristina was talking to Meredith, she couldn’t stop thinking about Jackson and all the possible reasons why he was ignoring her.
“Have you seen Jackson today?” Cristina asked all of sudden while Meredith was telling her about an article that she was working on. Cristina didn’t want to tell Meredith about her worries because she was afraid she would sound ridiculous, but at the same time she knew that Meredith was her best friend. If there was anyone that she could talk to about this, it was her. And Cristina had to talk about it with someone or she wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else.
“Why?” Meredith answered with another question. She wondered whether Jackson was the reason why Cristina’s mind seemed to be somewhere else the whole time they talked.
“It’s just…” Cristina didn’t know where to start. She didn’t want to sound too clingy. She knew that Jackson had his own life. His own work. He couldn’t sit in front of his computer all day, waiting for her to call him. But she also knew there was something going on. She just couldn’t quite put her finger on it. And she hoped Meredith could help her. “We’ve barely talked for the past few days,” she let out a loud sigh. “Before I left we said we would be able to handle it. The long distance relationship. But it’s harder than we though. And what if… What if he wants to break up with me? What if he’s avoiding talking to me just because he’s polite enough to not break up with me on my birthday?” Cristina sounded almost desperate when she thought about the possibility of her and Jackson breaking up. They both knew that being separated for so long was going to be a big challenge, but none of them thought that maybe they really couldn’t make it. “I know I might be overacting, but I just can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want to lose him.”
“Cristina…” Meredith took a deep breath, trying to come up with some words of comfort for her friend. It was not going to be easy because she couldn’t speak for Jackson, but she was more than sure that he was not going to break up with Cristina. But it was not something she could prove. “Maybe he is just busy. Jackson would never break up with you, okay?”
“How can you be so sure?” Cristina asked. She hated when people were trying to comfort her, telling her everything was going to be okay, even though they knew nothing about her situation. Or at least that’s what she thought.
“I just know. Whatever reason he has for not talking you so much lately, I’m pretty sure he can explain it to you. So just don’t give up.” Meredith tried to cheer up her best friend a little, but she could see it wasn’t working very much. She knew very well that someone telling you that things were going to be alright wasn’t really helpful. But it was all she could for Cristina at the moment.
“You sound too optimistic. Way too optimistic for you.” Cristina scrunched her face, wondering what was going on with Meredith. Cristina wasn’t the most optimistic person in the world. Actually she was far from it. And so was Meredith. And while Meredith was getting more bright and shiny ever since her daughter was born, this behavior still seemed a bit unnatural to Cristina.
“Maybe you should try being a little optimistic too.” Meredith winked at her and smiled.
Cristina was just about to say that she was not shiny and optimistic person, when she was interrupted by a slight knock on her hotel room door. “Someone is knocking so I need to go and take a look. I’ll call you later. Bye.” Cristina clicked the red button to end the call and reluctantly got up from the bed. She didn’t remember ordering any room service so she was curious to know who was bothering her at such a late hour. They better have a good reason to come here now. She thought to herself as she opened the door, freezing when she saw who it was. “Jackson?” Cristina’s mouth dropped open in shock when she saw her boyfriend standing in the doorway with a bright smile on his face.