Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Pairing: Mark/Callie Callie/Hahn Mark/Addison
Summary: What happens when a man steps up and offers you everything you've ever wanted at the same time that a woman does? What happens when you're feeling things that you've never felt before and you question everything you thought you knew about yourself. Callie takes a journey that is rocky, wonderful, terrifying, and breathtaking as she realizes that there is one heart too many in her life and that's the one that she will have to break.
Dedicated: To the readers. Thank you! And for Ange, I hope you know that I love you for a lot more than your art. You are outstanding and I'm blessed to know you.
Ange, life would suck without you! :)
I’ve never liked my birthday.
It happens in the summer so I was deprived of the fun of taking cupcakes to school for my classmates. Not that I had friends who would have appreciated it or anything, but other kids got to be King or Queen for a day in our classroom. They got to wear a little tiara or big crown and pass out paperwork and pick the book to be read before naptime. I resented that those kids had a normal birthday. My parties were always on the beach with my immediate family around me. My mother stopped lying about why none of my classmates could come after a while. I think she even stopped inviting them by middle school. I was weird and tall and different from the other kids. It was a bitter pill for her to swallow and when she eventually got it down I was in high school and she stopped having a party at all. She’d simply cook my favorite foods all day and shower me with what she perceived as enough presents to make up for the lack of gifts from anyone else. Most people count the days to their birthday, but I counted the ones afterward ... thinking that being sixteen, seventeen, eighteen ... would be so much different and better.
It never was.
I have decided to embrace the fact that I’m a year older and wiser. I’m in the happiest place I’ve ever been and if Erica wants to throw a birthday party for me then I am going to be really friggin’ grateful that she cares enough to do that. I will dance, eat cake, be merry, and appreciative because I finally have someone who wants to be a part of my life. She wants to celebrate that I’m here. Finally ... there is someone who appreciates *me*.
Erica hasn’t told me all the details of the little get together at Joe’s because she wants some element of surprise there. I don’t bother telling her that I hate surprises or that being the center of attention could very easily cause another ulcer. I let her have her fun because it obviously means a lot to her and when she suggests that I wear my sexy black dress with spaghetti straps because she wants a picture of me in it ... I agree. I have to admit ... the dress makes me feel like a million bucks and I love the way it hugs my body. I curl my hair in loose waves so that I don’t look like a Gothic Shirley Temple and rub glittery lotion on my arms and shoulders before we leave for the festivities. The almost argument we had the night before has both of us on our best behavior. She went so far as to cook me a grilled cheese for lunch even though I was more than willing to eat Caesar salad with her. And I think I’ve told her I love her about a million times because not saying it ... even for a second ... feels like too much wasted time.
While we wait for the garage door to open, she leans toward me and gives me a kiss. "You look beautiful, Callie."
"So do you," I tell her. She does. She’s wearing slim black pants that sit low on her hips and a tight red shirt that defies all the laws of modesty. It’s incredibly nice, sleeveless and low cut. Her cleavage may be the death of me. I’ve never seen her in red unless you count the red scrubs she wore once, but I didn’t know her then. I also never dreamed that such a sexy article of clothing could have escaped notice in the closet that we share. She doesn’t *do* sexy. She’s not a school marm, but she’s not a vixen either ... but now she is. It’s unreal and I can’t decide if I like this new Erica or want her to wear a jacket to keep anyone else from liking it. "The shirt is pretty hot."
"It’s yours," she replies. "You don’t mind, do you?"
I look at the top a little closer. "I don’t think that’s mine."
"It’s definitely not mine. I’ve never bought a Versace anything."
"It’s driving me crazy." I take my seatbelt off and lean over the console, kissing her neck, then her mouth. She stops the car and puts both of her hands on my face, smiling at me before she returns the kiss with enough ferocity that I can barely breathe when she pulls back. "I think we should be late, Yellow."
"Bite your tongue, baby."
"You bite it for me."
She does and my legs start to tingle when she slides her hand over my thigh and under my skirt. She moves to my backside and makes a face. "No panties! Jesus, Torres! How am I supposed to drive us there!?"
"We could skip the party entirely and you could take this dress off me and -"
"Get back in your seat before I agree." She lets me go and points at the passenger side. "I promised your mother that you would show up and that you would have a nice time."
"I could have a better time here."
"Let’s compromise." She pulls me down for another kiss, her thumb on my jaw. "You go to this party, pretend to be surprised, and laugh a whole lot so your mother sees that you’re happy ... and I’ll do anything and everything you want when we get home. Repeatedly."
"Blue panties," I tell her. "Strip tease. And a lap dance."
She chuckles. "You like my blue panties?"
"Your blue panties haunt me in my sleep." I slide my fingers through the ends of her straightened hair. Her lips are darker than usual and if she’s ever looked prettier ... I can’t recall. Her skin is smooth and she’s *mine*. I think the realization that I finally have what I want pulls a confession from me. "I’m so scared that I’m going to wake up and find out that this has been a dream. I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to find you and you’re finally here. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and you’re everything I ever wanted. And I keep trying to fuck it up. I’m sorry about last night. I really -"
"Shhh." She rests her finger over my lips. "You don’t have to apologize again, Cal. I know. And I’ve been waiting my whole life for you, too. You’re safe with me. You know that, right?"
I nod. "I do know that."
"Sit down. I want to give you something."
I slide back into my seat after kissing her one more time and put my seatbelt on. She opens the console and takes out a small box wrapped in silver paper. "Oooooh! Presents!"
I expect to find earrings because she lost one of my favorite pairs, but when I open the box ... there are two rings inside it, platinum eternity bands. One is accented with round rubies and the other is accented with round yellow diamonds. My heart feels like a sunburst in my chest and the fluttering of butterflies in my stomach makes me grin like a nervous school girl. What these rings mean ... it’s commitment. It’s forever. "They’re beautiful. Our birthstones, right?"
"Not really. November is topaz, but I didn’t want to get you a topaz ring. You’re a diamond girl." She takes the yellow ring from the box and looks at it. "The ruby one is mine. I want everyone to know that I have someone and that I’m happy. I’m sure people can look at me and see it, but I want to wear you all the time. I don’t need to stand in front of a preacher or sign a paper to know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. You are my life and I love you more than you will ever know. So, if you want to wear this now or wait a while and do it when you’re ready -"
"I’m ready now." She has made me cry and I did not wear waterproof mascara so I probably look like a skunk by now. I pluck the ruby ring from the box and take her left hand. "This past year was the best and worst of my entire life. I never stopped wanting you. You nearly killed me and I was so miserable without you that I kept digging my own grave. The only times I felt alive ... were stolen moments with you. I know how much you love me, Erica, because I love you that much, too. You were put on this earth to find me and I’m really, really glad that you did. And I don’t want to wait another second for anything."
She’s crying too and when I slide the ring onto her finger and kiss her hand, it’s trembling. She thought that I would say no and she has every right to think that. I haven’t been sure with her. After our first night together in Miami ... I freaked out. I moved in with Mark and then refused to move in with her. So, she has every right to worry about and fear my responses, but I’m never going to let her doubt me, or us, again. I watch her slide my ring into place and smile at the way it looks with my bracelet. It’s like a matching set and the yellow looks great against my tanned skin. Yellow has become my favorite color, actually. "Perfect fit," she says.
"Yeah," I tell her. "We are."
"People will say it’s really fast."
"They wouldn’t if they knew that I’ve been with you in my heart since Miami. Hell, before Miami. I’ve been yours the entire time, Erica."
So, we wind up being late despite Erica’s penchant for being early for everything. The Lexus has a great hood for sex ... great hood. If you don’t count the part where I slid off it and almost sent us both toppling to the ground ... it was mindblowingly perfect. We have to go back inside the house and freshen up and I groan when I see the damage to my makeup. I wash my face and start over and we turn onto the main road at the precise moment that I’m supposed to be making my grand entrance at Joe’s. I’m sure my mother is wringing her hands and pacing like a mad woman while she watches the door. She would worry the stripes off a zebra if she could get hold of one. She invents things to fret over. When Erica’s phone rings and she clears her throat, I don’t have to wonder who it is. I listen to her one word answers and roll my eyes. If I didn’t know about the party ... her responses would definitely clue me in. And my mother talks so loud that I can hear every word she says.
Erica tells her that we’ll be there in fifteen minutes and speeds up.
I rub my thumb against the diamonds on the bottom of my ring. It’s more beautiful than anything I’ve ever seen and I watch the light from the setting sun bounce off the stones. There are rainbows and slivers of light that reflect my happiness perfectly. I wanted Erica Hahn with every fiber of my being and she’s here, she’s real, and she loves me, too. It may be my birthday, but I’m going to be celebrating what we have tonight at Joe’s instead. I’m not a year older ... I’m a year *better* because she has made me become a better person. She gets us to The Emerald City Bar in just under fifteen minutes and parks in the first spot nearest the door. There’s a reserved sign there that I’ve never paid attention to before. When I see that it says ‘This spot belongs to Callie Torres, Birthday Girl’ ... I have to groan at the cheesiness of it all. And the fact that they actually thought they could surprise me. I’m not blind.
Erica unfastens my seatbelt and kisses me again. I could taste her all night, but we’re already late and the sooner we get in and get our party on the faster we can go. I let my finger trail over her cleavage and lick my lips, aware that she’s watching my every move. "When we get home, Yellow, I’m going to show you just how flexible I am. You will be amazed."
"I’m already amazed."
"Your sweet talk is very, very nice."
"When we get home, Cal, I’m going to show you something else that’s very, very nice."
"Can I have a hint?"
"You will beg for seconds." She opens her car door and goes around to the trunk. I’m pondering all the possibilities of seconds when she knocks on the window. Her hands are laden down with festive bags and I quickly jump out to help her. She refuses to let me and I glare down at the mountains of presents in shock. "What?" she asks innocently. "I can spoil you if I want to."
"Erica!" I don’t even try to count the number of gifts she has amassed. Apparently my girlfriend has decided to pick up the same slack that my mother picked up for years. Odds are she invited a ton of people and that same ton of people declined the invitation. "Are you insane?"
"There you are!" Addison suddenly cries in a loud voice. "CALLIE, YOU MADE IT! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, *CALLIE*."
Subtlety has never been my friend’s strongest suit. She announced my arrival for the benefit of the handful of people who are waiting to surprise me. It’s possible that Addison is the only guest in attendance other than my family and that’s perfectly fine with me. I can’t help but wonder though ... what it would be like to have a circle of friends instead of the couple that I constantly fall in and out of love/hate with. When you convince yourself that you don’t like people, you really do it because people don’t like you and it hurts less to say it first. You make yourself an outcast before anyone else can do it for you because you can at least save face when it happens. It’s just easier to be self effacing or to carry a tough exterior around ... even when that tough outer shell buckles your legs under the weight of it. The best part about being with Erica ... reason number 494893 that I’m glad she’s mine ... is that she helps me take off one piece of that armor at a time and loves the rough spots under it until it’s easier to accept that I’m me. And I’m flawed, but not unlovable.
Addison rushes forward to hug me and I wrinkle my nose. "What is up with your hair?"
She pats the ringlet curls on her head and glares at me. "Your *mother* has been in town for four hours and someone had to entertain her!"
I feign shock. "My *mother* is here!?"
Addy looks at me, then at Erica and claps a hand over her mouth. "Oh shit!"
Erica gives her a wry smile. It’s a smile that can curl my toes in the blink of an eye. Clearing her throat, she says, "I won’t hold your inability to keep a secret against you, Addison. After all, you did dress like Little Orphan Annie for the festivities. Are you going to sing for us, too?"
Addison stares down at her red dress and scowls. "That’s exactly what I told Lori Anne! You owe me BIG for keeping her occupied, Erica. BIG."
"I’m not combing out those curls for you," Erica replies. "However, since I did force you to babysit Lori Anne ... I will help you burn the dress."
Grinning, Addy holds out her hand to help with the packages. "That’s a date!"
"No, it’s not," I interject, putting my hand in Erica’s free one. "She’s taken and I’ll pull your hair out."
"Ooooh! You wanna pee on her to mark your territory?" Addison winks at me and heads toward the front door of Joe’s. "You guys look nice, by the way."
I’m too occupied with kissing Erica to reply right away and I hear Addy groan behind us and mumble something about getting a room. I chuckle and take a step back, grinning at my girlfriend. "You ready to party?"
"I suppose. Addy is right ... you do look nice."
"I’m not nice. I’m very, very naughty." I hug her and take her hand again. "Wanna go back to the car so I can show you?"
"No, Miss Nymph, I do not. We’re already late. Come on."
Addison has disappeared into the bar and two things happen at once when I open the door. Flashbulbs blind me and the thunderous roar of ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’ is too loud to only come from the handful of people that I expected. I blink a few times to clear the white spots I’m seeing and gasp. The last person I expected to see celebrating anything other than my death is Mark Sloan, but he’s standing next to Derek Shepherd and Meredith Grey. Cristina, Alex, and a few X-ray technicians are clustered near the bar and Louise O’Malley is standing with Lexie, George, Ronnie and Jerry. Chief Webber and Adele are next to my parents and Jim Phillips, Rachel’s brother, has an arm around Jasper’s shoulders. Miranda is happily chatting with an anesthesiologist that I always pick for my procedures and my favorite scrub nurse is grinning as she talks to two EMT’s. My eyes move from the impressive crowd to the big banner over the bar that says, ‘Happy Birthday, Callie’.
To say that I’m stunned ... that would be an understatement. I’m also highly embarrassed and more than a little uncomfortable, but my mother hurries forward and wraps me in a hug so the moment passes. My dad lifts me off my feet when he hugs me and I’m shocked because he’s never done that and I’m not exactly a lightweight, but I can feel his muscles under his shirt and raise a brow. "I’ve been working out," he tells me. "Nothing like almost dying to make you rethink your decisions."
"He had a gym put in the house," my mother says, one arm around Erica’s waist. "And that’s the first place he goes every day. He won’t eat anything good, either. Just endless bowls of salad and grilled chicken."
"Mom ... that *is* good," I say.
"You ADMIT it!" Erica says.
My dad steps around me to hug Erica and I watch him kiss her cheek and whisper something in her ear. She gave him a second lease on life. Erica pulled him back from the brink of death and put him on a much different path. She did the same thing for me. I was existing. I was drawing breath, eating, sleeping, working, but I wasn’t living. Now ... when I breathe ... it’s because I’m not ready to leave her anytime soon ... and I love my life. The difference in existing and living is the vast ocean of loneliness that people swim in, where hopelessness creeps into your dreams and you tread water until you sink. If you’re lucky, someone comes along and pulls you out of that ocean and shows you what you were made for. For the first time in my life ... I don’t doubt why I’m here. Hell, now *I* want to celebrate my birth because clarity makes me sensitive and full of revelry.
Jasper’s exuberant greeting ... where he acts like my Dad and lifts me off my feet ... causes everyone in the vicinity to laugh because while he’s hanging onto me he says, "Be on time, Lee! Cake now!"
The party theme is The Flash, one of my favorite DC Comic characters of all time. When I turned twelve, I wanted The Flash on everything, but my mother refused and decorated the beach with sunflowers instead. I’m pretty sure I told Erica this story when she asked me why I hated sunflowers. This was obviously information that Erica stored to use against me later because the party is over the top, but very nicely done. Yellow and red balloons, streamers, and comic books are *everywhere*. I would possibly be moderately embarrassed if I didn’t overhear Derek explaining why Superman could have easily kicked Spiderman’s ass. Ahhh, the universal language. You can put a million cliques together and they can still speak fluent comic. At least the cool cliques.
I eventually make my way around the room, thanking people for coming and making small talk. I purposely avoid Mark, but when I run out of people to greet, I see him staring at me. It’s a stare. It’s not a glare. It’s definitely not inviting or charming. It’s just a blank slate that I don’t particularly enjoy. I actually contemplate walking back across the room, but I hear him clear his throat, then he takes a step towards me. Every awkward moment I had growing up ... food stuck in my braces, my underwear showing during P.E., tripping at graduation, forgetting lyrics during the talent show, becoming deaf and mute when a guy talked to me ... none of that really prepared me for this moment. Being responsible for destroying someone’s happiness for the sake of your own ... that’s a different kind of discomfort. It all comes down to knowing that you left an immeasurable scar on someone’s heart ... a heart that they trusted you with. It’s watching someone wear their heart on their sleeve ... and then hide it behind thick walls of anger that apologies and tears won’t penetrate. I hurt him. The fact that *I* was able to hurt Mark *Sloan* is the most insane part of the entire situation because I’m not his type ... only I was. And I don’t know if hurting him will be something either one of us can forgive me for.
"Hey." I wish I had pockets. I suddenly don’t know what to do with my hands. If I hold them behind my back, it looks like I’m hiding something. If I hold them in front of me then it looks like I’m trying to be prim and proper ... which the idea of that is too laughable to even contemplate. So, I let them dangle like dead fish at my sides thinking maybe that looks a little apologetic. "How are you?"
Okay, so maybe asking the person you obliterated how they are is akin to detonating four nuclear bombs right next to their open wound, but I didn’t exactly think of that before I said it. I watch his jaw tighten and the way his eyes narrow slightly on my face. "I’m only here because Addison threatened me. And ... well, I bought you a birthday present *months* ago. Before you left me for Screech over there."
"Screech?" I shake my head at him. "That’s not a really good cut down. You’re losing your fire."
He sighs. It’s the hollow, bitter sound of defeat. It’s not aggravation or anger. It’s that last breath before the fire you’ve been clinging to is finally extinguished. "Yeah, I guess I am."
I watch him run a hand over his face the way he always does before a big surgery, like he can push the tension from his body by wiping the frown off his features. As much as I enjoyed a lot of my life with him ... I’d go back in time and undo it right now if I thought that it could help him. Saying that I’m sorry or that I never meant to hurt him reeks of platitudes and self effacing maneuvers ... and the truth is ... I’m not sorry enough to be truly apologetic because you should never apologize for following your heart. Even if you stepped on another one to get there. That makes me a pretty shitty person, but I can’t be sorry for that either. If you live your life for someone else ... the resentment will eventually eat you alive. "You and me," I say, "we never would have worked out. I’m into comic books and you think Archie and Jughead was a rock group from the seventies."
He smiles a little. It’s small and unimpressive, but it’s dancing around the corner of his mouth. "There is that. Plus ... you think football games have innings and actually asked me why they don’t wear catcher’s mitts. That was a sure sign that we were doomed."
"No, Mark, the sure sign was the fact that you own every Jack Black movie known to man. I have standards."
"Says the woman who wanted to have Superman’s symbol tattooed on her ass."
"All right ... I’ll give you that one. I’ve changed it to Wonder Woman."
He flashes me the all-American, movie star smile that has been known to make panties catch on fire. "If you need me to inspect the artistic integrity ... I’ll be glad to."
I laugh at him, punching him on the arm.
It’s not back to how it was. It’s pretty far removed from how it was ... but this is the start that I’ve been silently begging for since the day I walked out of his life. I can almost almost almost call him a friend again. Almost, but not quite. It’s good enough for now.
My mother didn’t bother to interrupt my conversation with Mark while I was sweating bullets and praying for the floor to open up and swallow me, but the second we’re laughing comfortably she rescues me with a lame excuse about cutting my birthday cake. Okay, maybe that’s not a lame excuse, but if her timing could have been just a little better then my dress would not be clinging to me from dehydrating under the heavy blanket of awkward that was wrapped around me tight enough to cut off my circulation. The cake is jumbo sized, The Flash running in his yellow and scarlet ensemble. I point out that he’s well endowed, earning a swat to my backside from my Mom, who turns red. I cut the cake so that his crotch is snipped out perfectly and hold it out to her, smiling, and I rest comfortably in the knowledge that I paid her back. She’s purple from embarrassment and I wink at her, then lick the icing off my finger.
Erica’s plastic fork clatters to the ground beside me and I look at her. She tries to be inconspicuous about retrieving it. When she stands up and tosses it into the trash, I hand her another one. "Feeling clumsy?"
"Stop licking yourself," she tells me through gritted teeth.
I look down at my cake, then back at her. Slowly, deliberately, and with far too much enjoyment, I swipe my finger through the frosting again. I swear she’s not breathing when I bring it to my mouth and slide my tongue out for a taste. I can’t do all the things I’d like to do to torment her because there are other people in the room who would probably not be as amused as I am, but I do enough. When I’ve licked the icing off, I take a bite of cake and close my eyes. The sound I make sounds like cake heaven to anyone nearby ... but Erica knows it’s the sound I make the first time her tongue slides against me. When my eyes meet hers again ... she’s flushed. I can see it spreading over her chest and her breathing has become just a little more ragged. I know exactly what I’m doing to her.
I move in for the kill. "You know what we did the whipped cream this morning, Yellow?" Dipping my finger in the icing again, I hold it up. "It could almost be body paint. And it’s pretty thick so that would take a really, really long time to clean up. Don’t you think?"
Something sparks in her eyes. Before I can bring my finger to my mouth ... she takes it into hers and I kid you not ... I nearly lose my balance. My legs go weak, my breath tears at my lungs, but won’t escape, and my mouth drops open in shock ... and desire. When she releases my finger, she grins at me. "Play with fire, baby, and you will get burned."
She never even has to struggle for the upper hand. She *constantly* has it and the truly pathetic part is that I don’t mind at all. Her eyes twinkle a little in the glow from the jukebox and I watch her smack her lips playfully as she savors the sweet confection. I don’t even debate it. I can’t. I lean forward and kiss her. If my mother has congestive heart failure over the entire thing ... at least Erica knows what to do. Her lips are warm and pliant under mine, but she raises her hand to my face after a split second and returns the kiss easily. When we break apart, I rub my nose against hers and am about to go in for a second time, but Jasper interrupts us to say, "Naughty, naughty!"
Erica chuckles and pokes him in the side, causing him to giggle. I can see my mother out of the corner of my eye. She’s got a hand on her chest and her mouth is slightly ajar in that Southern ‘I can not believe you just did that’ way that I’m very used to. If we weren’t surrounded by people she would pull me outside by my ear and possibly try to spank me. I don’t think she realized that we were OUT of the closet all the way. I think that the idea of being openly ... different ... in front of people you work with has never crossed her mind as a possibility. I’m almost tempted to tell her that women’s lib has never felt more rewarding to a person than it does for *me*, but I refrain. My father, who can sense my mother’s altered state of mind from a mile away, puts his hand on my elbow and says, "Sweetheart, you should open your presents."
He’s trying to prevent me from doing anything that would make my mother go into a state of catatonia. I have to admire him for that. I let him lead me to the table where the gifts have been piled and quickly unwrap everything from new Wii games, to comic books, to computer programs, to a really nice dress from Addison. My wonderful friend refuses to embrace the geeky side of me, but that’s perfectly fine. I’ll wear her dress and make her happy. My favorite gift, hands down, is the Rubik’s Cube from Karev. That’s a gift that keeps on giving. I attempt to help my mother clean up wrapping paper and am quickly shooed away. I give Jasper money for the jukebox and watch him press random numbers. God, he plays everything from Hootie and the Blowfish to Patsy Cline. He’s content to stand and watch the flashing lights as it plays his songs so I leave him to it.
Cristina hands me a shot and says, "I can’t believe your girlfriend bought Joe’s for a night."
Obviously my eyes widen in shock and I gape at her like a freak, choking on my shot. "What?!"
"Yeah, she basically made the rules and made it clear that if we wanted to come and drink we had to bring you a birthday present and eat cake."
"Are you SERIOUS!?" I wheeze, still choking.
"That’s not the best part. The best part ... is that she told Izzie they’d find her in pieces if she tried to gatecrash this little shindig."
"Did you just say shindig?"
Cristina shrugs innocently and refills my shot glass. She holds hers up and says, "To ... Hahn’s softer side. She’s still pretty damn abrasive, but she hasn’t drawn blood lately. So ... cheers."
I can drink to that. I don’t choke on the second shot. I enjoying the slow burn that works its way down my throat and settles in my stomach. The best part of Tequila ... is that burn. I’m about to enjoy my third shot when Lexie Grey nearly tramples me on her way to the bathroom. One hand is over her mouth and she’s green, a color that would give Elphaba a run for her money in Wicked. George goes after her, giving me a deranged look as he says, "She was so freaked out about meeting my mother that she hasn’t stopped drinking once."
"That’s not gonna make a good first impression," I tell him.
He looks toward his mother and nods at me. "Tell me about it. She thinks I made you gay, Izzie crazy, and Lexie an alcoholic."
I pat him on the shoulder as he scurries to the bathroom. I can’t take too much pleasure in karma biting him on the ass because I’m pretty much due for some karmic kicking for what I did to Mark, but I take a *little* delight in the fact that Mrs. O’Malley thinks that Izzie is a few eggs short of a dozen. I down my third shot and decline more because I didn’t eat anything except junk for dinner and Tequila is notoriously intoxicating for me. I move to where Ronnie and Jerry are tossing darts. Jerry tells me that he’s losing and hands me his final dart. I get a bulls eye and he hugs me ... then buys me a shot of whiskey. I don’t linger with them long because they’re looking for reasons to buy shots and I seem to give them a million reasons by standing there. I wind up talking to Miranda, who tells me she can’t stay late, but wants me to know that she’s happy for me. I don’t have to ask what that means. Mark and Addison are arguing over another dartboard so I skirt past them and draw up short when I see that Derek and my father are sitting at a booth in the corner in deep conversation. Dad has his thinking face on and I’m sure that Derek is explaining the Fellman-Caputo. My suspicions are confirmed when Derek sees me watching, smiles, and motions for me to join them.
My dad is giving me the evil eye he usually reserves for singers like Ashley Simpson or Miley Cyrus... singers who make the sound come out their nose and not their mouth. I slide into the booth next to him and say, "What’s up?"
"Dr. Shepherd was just telling me about the extensive vandalism to your car. Is there a reason why you didn’t mention this to me?"
I glare at Derek and his eyes register shock, then apprehension. He mouths that he’s sorry and I take a deep, calming breath that makes my head spin a little. Damn ... I should have eaten something more substantial than cake and chips. "It’s not a big deal. Besides, I needed a new car."
"It would be nice if you could talk to me about things like this, honey," Dad says.
Derek, in a fit of hysteria or possibly suffering from the biggest brain fart known to hit mankind ever, blurts out, "You know what? I was just about to tell your father about the Fellman-Caputo and how Jasper could benefit from it. Santos, Callie has given me all of his medical records and I really think he’s a prime candidate. I’ve been doing a lot of research with her help and -"
"No." Dad clears his throat and shakes his head. I watch him rub his forehead the same way he did when he saw George for the first time. It’s agitation mixed with annoyance and a dash of STFU. "I tried to get him in the clinical trial for the Fellman-Caputo at Miami General nine years ago. They said that he would probably die because putting anything into the areas of the brain that have been damaged on him is life threatening."
"You did?" I ask, stunned.
"Yes. And when I heard the statistics, I didn’t go through with it."
"Nine years ago the procedure was new and the equipment was large and the technique was too invasive. That’s not the case anymore." I put my hand on his and squeeze reassuringly. "They took the size down to the tip of a ballpoint pen and the area of Jasper’s brain that needs the stimulation is easier to access thanks to breakthroughs in cadaver dissection. We wouldn’t have to go through the important parts to get to where the transmitter needs to be placed. We can go around it."
"Oooh, you did your homework." Derek lifts his beer bottle and takes a sip. "She’s right. The Fellman-Caputo is as close to perfect as it will ever be and if we can get approval for the clinical trial -"
"Why is it still a clinical trial if it’s been perfected?" My dad can mince words with the best of them. "You are suggesting that I hand my son over to you for a *trial* that could kill him. You’re going to use him to test hypothesis and whether he lives or dies ... you’re still going to submit your findings to the national regulatory advisory in the hopes that your data on my *son* will somehow get your name on the procedure, too. I don’t support animal testing and I damn sure don’t support using my kids for research or *trials*."
"But ... you did." I take a deep breath when my father’s eyes find mine. He’s very volatile when he’s like this. "Nine years ago. You were going to do it then. Why not now?"
"Your mother filed for divorce after I insisted that I take him for the evaluation. You didn’t know that because I didn’t want to upset you, but she was going to cut me out of his life. Out of her life. I was devastated when I got home and their things were packed. She was gone for three weeks and during those three weeks I accepted that trying to change Jazz wasn’t worth killing him." He gives me a little smile. "But if you want to brave your mother ... then by all means talk to her about it. If she doesn’t kill you for the suggestion then the weeks of silent treatment she gives you will make you wish she had."
I glance toward my mother. She’s easy to spot in a crowd and I easily land on her talking to Adele and the Chief. Her hands flutter about animatedly as she engages them in something that is making them both throw their heads back and laugh. If she is telling about me biting a woman’s ass at the zoo ... I will DIE. I lift my head a little and say, "I’ll talk to her."
"Hmm," Dad chuckles. "Let me know what music you want at your funeral, kitten, because I’ll be too distraught to pick anything after she kills you."
I can’t reply to that because George hurries into the crowd, looks around, and then spots me. Despite the fact that I’m sitting with my Dad, a man who would clearly kill George at the drop of a hat, O’Malley rushes forward and says, "Callie, can I talk to you? It’s about Lexie."
"Oh! Okay." I get to my feet, excusing myself, and George puts his arm under my elbow, tugging me toward the restrooms. "What is it?"
"She’s locked herself in there and won’t come out."
I shake my head. "Great."
"She *likes* you," George tells me. "And she doesn’t like me very much right now."
"Well, no, George. Of course she doesn’t. You will be hard pressed to find *any* woman who likes you after you let your ‘best friend’ and ‘fuck buddy’ plow over them like a steamroller every time she gets a chance. As long as Izzie Stevens gets invited into all your relationships ... you’re not gonna have one."
"I don’t get it!" he snaps. "Why can’t everyone just get along!?"
I don’t feel bad for him. And I really don’t know what I ever saw in him because he’s not the heart in the elevator guy. He’s the ‘hearts get trampled under my feet’ guy. "You watched me go through the exact same thing that Lexie is going through and you didn’t do anything about it. I get that you love Stevens. I get that she’s your little pal and you have some weird bond thing with her, but if you’re not going to be WITH Stevens romantically, then draw a line, George, and tell Stevens not to cross it. Unless you like watching two women regress to petty little kids while they argue over what’s best for you."
"No, I don’t want them to fight! I don’t want anyone to fight."
"Then do something about it!" I want to laugh at how pathetically brain dead he really is, but I don’t. "You know what the problem is. You *know*."
He looks at me, his green eyes haunted. "Izzie. She doesn’t play well with others."
"Ding ding ding. Give the boy a prize." I pat him on the shoulder because he looks nauseated. "If you like this girl ... then *fight* for her. Because she will get exhausted trying to fight for the both of you. I know I did." I reach for the door handle and try it, but it’s locked. "Go ask Joe for the key."
I’m not closer to getting Lexie to unlock the door when George returns with it. I slide it into the knob and let myself in, then close the door behind me. The bathroom has four stalls and it’s kept impeccably clean. The tiles are always polished and the sinks are always as pristine as the mirrors. "Lexie?"
I look up and sure enough ... she’s ‘up here’. Her thong covered ass and legs are dangling out the window on the inside, but her torso and arms are on the other side of the narrow passage. I climb onto the table and fight with the second window, finally pushing it open. She turns a little to look at me. She’s not wearing her shirt either, just her bra. I shake my head. Interns are so fucking strange. "What are you doing, Lexie?"
"And your escape plan requires partial nudity?"
"I was afraid that my clothes would get snagged on something."
I let my gaze move over her legs, then ease out the window a little to look at her upper body. "So, what’s snagged now?"
"My ass. It won’t go through. And I can’t get back in."
"Are you in any pain?"
"My pride is definitely killing me. Oh, and some homeless woman grabbed my clothes and took off with them." She groans. "I threw them out the window first."
Interns are definitely fucking strange, but this one is moderately endearing and kind of amusing. "We have a couple of options, Grey. I can try to pull you in or we can call the fire department and look at hot men in uniforms. What’s it gonna be?"
"Can’t you push me *out*?"
I move back into the window and look at her ass. There’s no way in hell her meaty backside is going through the window. "I don’t think so. And even if I could ... I wouldn’t suggest running around Seattle at night in your underwear."
"Oh jeez. Pull me back in. Don’t call anyone, though. God, this is mortifying."
I move behind her. My face is eye level with her ass as I put my hand on the front of her thighs and gently tug. She doesn’t budge an inch. I kick off my heels and brace my foot against the wall for leverage as I pull harder. She starts to wiggle and I see her fingers slide against the mouth of the window as she helps me out. It takes some work and a ton of grunting on both of our parts, but she eventually snakes back through the window. Her face is red and her sides are bleeding from the intense scraping when she’s finally freed. I hop off the table and help her down and she quickly covers her breasts with her bra ... it had slid upward, exposing her. Wetting a few paper towels, I squat down to examine a deep scrape on her hip, then rest the cool compress on her side. I repeat the process on her other side, carefully testing her ribs to make sure none are broken.
When the door opens, we both jump in shock. She whirls around and I stand up fast like we were doing something wrong. Erica and my *mother* are framed in the doorway. Lexie squeals and runs into one of the stalls, causing a wad of bloody towels to drop into the floor. I gesture at it like a demented Vanna White, like it’s proof positive that I am completely innocent ... which I am, but it still looked bad. "She, uh, is having a bad night so she tried to go out the window. She got hurt when I pulled her back in."
"I’m sorry," Lexie calls from behind the stall. "I should never be invited to a party. I have a tendency of falling into the cake or passing out drunk in the punch bowl. It’s a long standing problem for me."
"Why is she naked?" My mother demands, her hands going to her wide hips. "Calliope?"
The stall opens again and I try hard not to laugh. They’ll let anyone be a doctor nowadays. Lexie has covered herself with a box of seat liners, but it wasn’t big enough, so she has balanced two rolls of toilet paper over the box to cover her bra. "I threw my clothes out the window like an idiot because I didn’t want them to be torn on the way out. My shirt is new."
My mother turns on her heel and stalks out of the room. Erica walks in, glances at me with a look that I can’t interpret, and goes into the stall. Lexie groans and leans back against the wall. "I hate my life."
"Why were you escaping?" I ask. "Really?"
"Izzie’s pregnant. She was puking at work today. Bailey ordered a set of labs and I got the results." She meets my eyes. "I think ... I think maybe George is the father."
"Did you tell him?" I refuse to think about the fact that *I* thought I would be having a baby with George over a year ago. I refuse to think about the fact that those test could have been mine. Or that I could be a new mother right now with a newborn to look after.
"It’s not my place to tell him," she replies. "He slept with me a couple of days ago. And he said that he’d like to try, but -"
My mother bustles into the bathroom carrying a large shirt. I recognize it immediately as the button down that Mark had been wearing. I raise my brows, intrigued. "Mom?"
"He’s the only man ought there who out to be shirtless all the time." She holds the shirt out and smiles at Lexie. "There you go, honey. George is ready to take you home. Just between you and me ... you can do much better than that little shit. You’re a lovely girl."
Lexie grins at my mother.
Lori Anne Torres has another fan member.
Erica doesn’t talk much in the car. She holds my hand and listens to me ramble about how shocked I was for fifteen of the thirty minutes and we fill the rest with a silence that I’d like to call comfortable, but it’s not quite. She’s too ... withdrawn. I drop my heels in the living room and start to thank her for the party, but when I turn to speak to her, she’s picking up my shoes. I watch her carry them toward the bedroom and follow her. She puts them neatly on the shoe rack on my side of the closet and puts her own heels on hers. She doesn’t look at me when she turns around. "Uh ... Erica? Are you mad at me?"
Still standing in the closet, she crosses her arms over her chest. "Hmm. Let’s see. You got pretty tipsy despite me asking you not to drink. I don’t know what that was you were doing with Mark. And then I find you in the bathroom with a naked chick. What do you think?"
I’ve really never been so stunned.
Or ... shocked ... which is really close to being stunned, but I’m both.
I turn around and sit down on the foot of the bed because I can’t believe what she just said and a feather could pretty much obliterate me. Leaning forward, I rest my head in my hands, trying to figure out how every single day leads to an inevitable argument and what I can do to avert this particularly gruesome aspect of our otherwise flawless romance.
I sniffle and nearly jump out of my skin because she speaks from right in front of me and I didn’t realize she was right there. "Callie, are you *crying*?"
"Awww, baby!" She wraps her arms around me and hangs on tight. "I’m just playing with you! I expected you to ask me if something was wrong in the car so that I could freak you out the way you freaked me out last night when you went off on me. I didn’t mean it."
I pull back and glare at her. "What!?"
She looks so apologetic when she smudges the wetness under my eyes that I believe her. "It was funny in my head."
"How much did YOU drink, Erica?"
"Nothing. I was driving." She gives me a kiss and smiles at me. "Wanna take a bath? With me?"
"You’re *bathing* me after that! God, I hate it when you’re mad at me."
She more than makes up for it in the bathtub and then two more times in the bed. We’re lying face to face and her eyes are closed when I say, "Erica?"
"Thank you for party. I had a good time."
"You’re welcome." Our fingers are already laced, but she readjusts her hand to hold mine tighter. "Goodnight, Cal."
"I need you to do something for me."
"Well, I know you don’t approve of Jasper’s surgery, but I’m gonna be talking to my mother about it tomorrow during lunch. And I’m not asking you to lie and say you think he should get it done ... but if you could maybe not say that he SHOULDN’T get it done ... that wouldn’t suck. I really need you to support me because it’s gonna be hell and ... I need you."
I feel her thumb against my wrist, rubbing lightly. "I can do that."
Grinning, I lean forward and kiss her. "I love you."
"I love you too. I’d love you more if you’d stop talking, however."
She tries to sound harsh, but she fails. I can hear her smile even though I can’t see it. "Can I ask you something pretty serious?"
"Will you let me sleep after that?"
"Do you ever think about kids? Like ... wanting them?"
There’s far too much silence and I’m tempted to turn the light on to see her face, but I don’t. She either senses my growing tension or sorts through her response, because she finally says, "Yeah, I do. Rachel was actually a foster parent when I met her. She had this great kid named Jacob who could salvage the worst day with just a smile and a kiss. We dated for a year while she had him and we jumped through a ton of red tape so that I could be considered her roommate and have it not affect her parenting status, but in the end it did. They said that his mother was rehabilitated, but I don’t think that’s the case. His mother drank so much while she was pregnant with him that at four years old he still couldn’t walk or say much. I think they just ... knew. About us. They took him during Christmas and he cried all the way down the block."
"Oh my God."
"Yeah, it was pretty unpleasant." She sighs and I move a little closer to her. Her free hand rests on my hip as she speaks again, "We found Rachel’s leukemia after she had a complete physical. They did every test under the sun to qualify her for artificial insemination. We had chosen a donor ... a stranger who had a great file ... and we waiting for the green light to proceed. Before she started she had several of her eggs harvested in case the treatments made her infertile ... or in case I wanted to carry a part of her in me. She left me those eggs in her will ... in case I wanted them ... because she didn’t want me to NOT have kids."
"You - you can’t -"
"No, I can. I just ... don’t want to. I’ve never wanted to incubate and then push a large, squirmy brat through my fun spot."
I chuckle a little, but it’s forced. Erica and Rachel had been poised on the edge of forever. They were ready to make the ultimate commitment, ready to culminate their love in the most real way you possibly can and it breaks my heart. And it makes me understand so many things. Erica was uncomfortable with Trevor in Miami because he was a painful reminder of what could have been. I’m not the only one that should have been a mother right now. "I do. Want to push a large, squirmy brat through my fun spot. And ... I would happily use her eggs, Erica. Because she should live on and ... she really had a great smile and maybe our kid would get that. If ... we have one ... one day."
There’s another silence and when Erica speaks again, her voice is thick with emotion. "You really are the most amazing human being I’ve ever known in my life."
"Takes one to know one, Yellow."
"When we have kids, Callie, I want them to be *you*. I want your hair, your smile, your eyes ... all of that in a little package." Leaning forward, she kisses me. It’s slow and sweet and makes my stomach bounce around. Just when it gets good, though, she pulls back and says, "Goodnight, baby."
She said when.
She didn’t say IF.
Oh my god.
I’m going to DIE.
I let the reality of it wash over me for a good two minutes before I say, "Erica?"
"I do have a scalpel in my closet and I can cut your tongue out."
"You like my tongue too damn much to do that."
"You have one of those rubber balls that go in a person’s mouth in your box of sin over there. I could just use that."
"You’ve got me there," I tell her, running my hand up her arm and down her breast. "Erica ..."
"I’m kinda horny now."
"Box. Of. Sin." She takes my hand and moves it from her breast, depositing it near my crotch. "Or do it the old fashioned way."
"If you insist." I don’t touch myself at all, but I certainly sound like I do. When it doesn’t have the desired effect, I sit up and start to throw the cover back.
She’s on me before I do little more than touch the comforter.
And she’s more fun than anything in the box.
We eventually fall into an exhausted, sated sleep, but it doesn’t last long.
Something bangs against the front of the house just after two in the morning and we both sit up fast. The glow of brake lights flash against the lace curtains on the window and Erica darts out of the bed, racing for the window. "Someone was out there," she tells me.
I’m already up and have my robe on. She flips on the lamp and kneels down, pulling a box from under the bed. I’m stunned when she pulls out a pistol and expertly slides the clip in place. "Stay in the house," she tells me in passing.
She looks agitated when she turns and grabs my hand, but she doesn’t say anything. My heart is pounding hard enough to make my ears ring and I realize that I’m shaking when she opens the door. I’d like to think that I’m the opposite of the big chested women in horror movies who can’t do anything except scream and trip, but scream is exactly what I do when I see the deer that has been gutted and hung on the porch. Actually ... I think maybe it was gutted ON the porch. Its entrails have spilled all over the steps and I put a hand over my mouth to repress the urge to scream again when she flips the porch light on and I can see the entire gory scene in something more than shadow.
Instead of going outside, she pushes me back inside and shuts the door behind her.
I listen to her call the police and sit down on the sofa as she rustles things in the kitchen. When she puts a cup of tea in front of me I take it, but set it on the table. Ruma and Feo, who came running into the living room after I screamed, don’t feel the need to comfort me at all. They sit together in the recliner and regard me like someone who needs to be thoroughly scratched for rousing them from sleep. Erica sits next to me and puts an arm around me. "Something hit the house. I really should go out and see what it -"
"NO! The police are coming. Let them figure out what it was."
The police arrive in under five minutes and even though I am expecting the flash of headlights through the bay window ... I’m actually terrified that whoever hung the deer is back. Erica opens the door before they can knock and I listen to her explain what happened. One of the officers looks at me, then back at her. "Ma’am, have you had a chance to look at your garage?"
"No." Erica shakes her head and I join her, my hand on her back as more of a comfort to myself that her.
"Someone has spray painted a derogatory term there. They’ve written ‘dyke’ on your garage in black paint."
It’s my car all over again and once again ... that helpless, angry, desolate feeling washes over me.
This is what I feared the day I jumped in the ocean to keep from looking at her the first morning after we made love. When images of Matthew Shepherd and Brandon Teena flashed through my head ... I was thinking of this right here. There are monsters out there who hate people who are ‘different’ enough to trash their car and vandalize their homes ... and kill them. There are people out there who would want to see me dead because of my lifestyle and because of who I love. They don’t care that I’m happy or that I don’t want to hurt anyone by loving a woman. All they care about it the fact that I’m not conforming to what they perceive as the right way to be. They care about themselves and believe that I’m somehow a threat to them when I’m not.
And this right here ... would shake me out the door with the police when they finally leave if I didn’t know that I was meant to be here.
I hug Erica when the police drive away and she hangs onto me. "This is because of me," I tell her. "Because I insisted that we not stay in the closet and -"
"Callie, they could burn my house down and I wouldn’t change a thing."
We hang onto one another for a long time.
The sun eventually rises, but neither of us rush to see the painted hate and rate its artistic merit.
I wait until eight thirty to call Ronnie and Jerry. I tell them what happened and ask if they can dispose of the deer for me. They’re hunters and Ronnie doesn’t hesitate to say yes. When they arrive in a pickup truck, Louise is with them and she hugs Erica and me at the same time, then takes over in the kitchen. I mostly pick at the pancakes she puts in front of me and Erica does the same thing, but it’s nice to have someone there all the same. When they leave ... that’s when we decide to go and see the garage door. The cop didn’t lie. ‘Dyke’ has been scrawled over both doors the same way it was written on my car, two letters on each space.
I don’t cry until she does and I mostly cry because seeing her fall apart is like someone branding the word on my heart. It hurts.
It promises to be a sunny day in Seattle and it spotlights the cruelty of it beautifully. Birds sing, bees hum as they swoop over the flowers that I helped Erica plant on our last off day, and makes the tears on her cheeks sparkle with anger and rage. She runs her finger over the dent in the siding where the paint can hit the house. That’s what we heard and the officers put on gloves and loaded the can into a large zippable bag for fingerprints.
"You’re not thinking of moving out are you?"
Even though her voice is timid and shaky, I hear her loud and clear. I walk to where she’s standing and wrap my arms around her from behind. My chin rests on her shoulder as we both look at the garage. "The only way I’m moving out is if they burn the house down ... and I’m taking you and our ugly cats with me."
She leans her head against mine and we stand there for a while.
Expect smut next chapter. I didn't realize I had written so much for this chapter. It wouldn't let me post it all! GARRR!!!
Y'all, I'm very sick with multiple kidney stones and a bleeding ulcer so if you're the praying kind or the good vibes kind ... I'll take it. Thank you! :)