BurningEden (burningeden) wrote in ga_fanfic,
BurningEden
burningeden
ga_fanfic

Title: Kissing Chaos (22/??)
Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Rating: PG
Summary: Making amends can be the hardest thing in the world. But sometimes the chaos is worth it.
Pairings: Alex/Addison George/Callie Mark/Izzie





One
Two
Three
Four
Five
Six
Seven
Eight
Nine
Ten
Eleven
Twelve
Thirteen
Fourteen
Fifteen
Sixteen
Seventeen
Eighteen
Nineteen
Twenty
Twenty-One


*~*~*~*~*~

Mark checked his watch and smiled when the elevator opened. Izzie was standing next to the nurse’s station looking completely exhausted and out of sorts. Her hair, which was usually secured in a loose bun, flowed freely down her back and she shot him a dirty look when he waved at her. For as much as she protested about their breakfast date ... she had still shown up. And she was wearing pretty peach lipstick that proved she had taken enough interest to look presentable. Mark carried the bag of food toward her, stopping briefly to greet Chief Webber.

When he finally made it to where Izzie stood waiting for him, she put her hands on her hips. "You’re one of those annoying morning people, aren’t you?"

"What do you mean?" he asked, handing her a hot chocolate.

"You’re bright eyed and bushy tailed. I hate it. My ass is dragging."

"I assure you that your ass is still firmly on your shoulder. Right next to the chip." He nodded at the elevator. "And it’s my day off. That’s rare so I plan on enjoying it."

She started to follow him, but stopped short. "Why are you here on your day off?"

"Because *you’re* here and you said you’d meet me for breakfast." Mark smiled. "And if you make good on any one of the numerous threats I heard last night ... I'm in the best place."

Izzie followed him into the elevator. She could have offered to help him carry the bag or his coffee, but she wasn’t interested in making his life any easier. She crossed her arms, watching as he almost dropped the coffee in his attempt to press the button for the top floor. It wasn’t until some of the hot liquid splashed onto his hand that she begrudgingly stepped around him and hit the button.

"Why are we eating breakfast in the psych ward?"

"Because you need to be committed?"

"Which is clearly evident by my choice of breakfast partners."

"Touché. The psych ward has the easiest roof access in the hospital." He frowned. "And now that I think about it, that’s not really smart. Put the suicidal people at the very top of the building."

"Maybe you should be committed." Izzie shrugged. "You’re going to the *roof* with someone who actually fantasizes about throwing your ass off it."

"That’s so kinky."

"Shut up."

Mark led her to the electronically locked doors that led to the roof. He quickly punched in his ID number and the doors unlocked. He pushed one open and motioned her through. It was hard not to enjoy the view as she walked up the steps in front of him. She was wearing tight jeans and a navy blue turtleneck sweater that hugged her in all the right places. Her jacket was laid over her arm and before they stepped outside, he said, "It’s cold outside. You may want to put your coat on."

She was already freezing, but she refused to do anything he suggested. She simply looked at him and then stepped out into the chilly morning air. "Let’s get this over with."

Mark was a master at playing the game, but his ire was rankled by two straight days of her steadfast rejection. He followed her and set the bag down on the ledge. Wordlessly, he took the coat from her and held it open. "Just put the damn jacket on, Stevens."

"I’m not cold," she replied, but her chattering teeth suggested otherwise. She had to laugh at how ridiculous it was. With a grin, she let him help her put it on and quickly zipped it. "Satisfied?"

"I’m not going to go there. It’s too easy." He opened the bag. "I didn’t know what you liked. I have bagels, biscuits, and cold cereal."

"Cold cereal?"

"And milk." He pulled out a small container of whole milk. "Just in case."

"What kind of cereal?"

"Lucky Charms."

"You could eat twelve boxes and you’re still not getting lucky with me."

"What makes you think I want to?"

"What else could you possibly be doing?"

"Getting to know you in the non biblical sense."

"How many women do you know like that, Mark?"

"None. You’re the first one who ever piqued my curiosity." He swore under his breath, then slapped himself on the forehead. "I forgot bowls! And spoons!"

"I wasn’t going to eat cereal anyway."

"Well, it’s nice that you’re not disappointed."

"I have low expectations of you. You can't disappoint me." Izzie watched as he rummaged through the bag again. He pulled out four biscuits and three bagels, lining them up on the ledge. "Do I look like I need that much food?" she asked.

"You forget that I saw you eat last night. It was impressive," Mark replied. "Now, pick your poison."

Izzie selected a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit and unwrapped it. "Mmm. Still warm."

"Microwaved the hell out of it in the lounge." Mark chose a cream cheese bagel for himself and leaned back against the wall, watching her. "What are you doing for lunch?"

Izzie choked a little. "What?"

"Lunch. That thing you do in about five hours where you sit down, eat, and think about your entire lack of work for the day."

"I guess I’ll be doing just that. I’ll be in the cafeteria, eating, and thinking about all the cases that I can’t really scrub in on because you’re the only doctor who lets me help. Your ass will be in trouble if people find out."

"I guess you should thank me by eating greasy pizza with me."

"Is that all you think about? Food?"

"No. I’m thinking about ways to see you."

She chewed her biscuit, looking appalled. "You’re wasting your time. I’m never, ever, ever going to sleep with you."

"Maybe I never, ever, ever want you to," he replied. "Maybe I want to be your *friend*."

"I have enough of those."

"I don’t."

"Is that supposed to make me feel sorry for you? Because you made your bed so you can sleep in it. Alone."

"I see a lot of myself in you."

"None of yourself is going anywhere in me." Izzie frowned. "God, that sounded dumb."

"I got what you were saying. It was pretty weak."

"I’m saying it again, then. I don’t see any of you anywhere near me, in me, or on me."

"Why do you always turn things into a sexual conversation? If you want me to do you ... I could be persuaded. It would take a lot of work on your part, but it would be possible. Maybe. Eventually."

"Do you always go after the weak ones? The broken ones?"

"Come on! You’re on probation, Stevens. If that breaks you then you deserve to be there until you can toughen up. You got what you deserved for what you did."

"You don’t know shit about what I did."

"In case you failed to notice, there are no secrets in this place." He reached out, flicking a piece of bread from her chin. "I was put on probation my first year, too. I got involved with a patient the same way you did."

Izzie’s eyes widened. "What happened?

"She was unhappily married and she was dying. She asked me if I could give her one night to remember. So, I did." He finished off his bagel and stared out over the city. "Her husband and the chief of staff came in when she was having her very enjoyable second --- moment --- and I was banned from her case. I liked her, though, so I found ways to sneak in and see her."

"How many --- moments --- did you give her, Sloan?"

"We had sex that one time, but she became very important to me. I liked talking to her."

"She died?"

"Yeah." He sipped his coffee, replaying the memories in his head. "She suffered really bad toward the end. The cancer was eating her alive and she asked *someone* to help her overdose and *someone*, after a while, *accidentally* left two syringes of potassium chloride in her room."

Izzie gasped. "You-"

"*Someone* held her hand while she injected it herself. She had taken the monitors off so no one realized that she had flatlined for a while. *Someone* cried like a baby beside her for almost an hour." Mark swallowed hard, looking back at Izzie. "They could never prove that *anyone* had *anything* to do with it, but I was kept off the surgical board for the rest of the year. People were betting that I’d drop out or transfer, but I didn’t."

"You killed her?"

"She killed herself and *no one* could really fault her for it. She was married and I can count the times her husband visited her on one hand. She was lonely. She refused chemotherapy, refused radiation. She wanted the cancer to kill her fast, but she didn’t realize how much it would hurt. You could sometimes hear her screaming from the lobby and she was on the fourth floor. She was on a morphine drip, the whole nine yards, but her pain was uncontrollable." Mark put his cup down and absently popped his knuckles. It was a nervous habit that he had developed in elementary school. "Sometimes I think she screamed because she just wanted someone to listen to her, to understand."

"And you did?"

"I did." Mark nodded. "More than you can imagine. I had been screaming all my life and everyone around me was deaf."

"Why did you scream?"

"Because I was alone. I had Derek and his family, but none of my own," he replied. "Do you have family?"

"None that I claim."

"We’re alike in a lot of ways."

"Not because of this." Izzie felt tears blur her vision. "I didn’t kill Denny. I - I thought I was saving him. He needed a heart transplant and I had to make him sicker than the guy who was supposed to get the heart ahead of him. I cut his LVAD wire so the tests would be all over the place, so they’d believe he deserved it. He did deserve it. He was such a good man, so kind and generous.

"I thought I was saving him and I did - for a while. He came through surgery and for the first time since I had known him... there was color in his cheeks and his voice was strong and so beautiful." Tears spilled down her face and she ignored them. "He asked me to marry him and I - I didn’t answer him right away. Sometimes I think of that. I think of the time I wasted in between him asking me and me finally saying yes. What if - what if I had said it right then? Would it have made a difference?

"I didn’t kill Denny, but losing him is killing me. Sometimes I think that he didn’t just take the new heart with him ... he took mine ... and I hate the person I’ve become. Seeing people happy around me feels dirty, vulgar. Like they should know better, like they have no business smiling or *living*." She drew her sleeve over her eyes and sniffled. "George is living the life I was supposed to have. Meredith is living the life I was supposed to have. Christina is living the life I was supposed to have. Hell, even Alex is happy and all I can think --- all I can think is how dare God give me that little space of time with Denny and then rip it away. I wish I could scream. I wish I could scream the pain away."

"Do it."

"What?"

Mark tilted his head back and yelled, flinging his arms open wide as he did it. Izzie watched as several birds were startled into flight and then glanced back at him when he nudged her. "Do it."

"I- that’s crazy."

"DO IT!" He gripped her upper arms, shaking her a little. "Scream that you loved him, scream that you miss him, scream that you want to operate again. Scream *something*."

"But-"

"People die, Izzie. And you’ve been walking around here like a corpse, not touching, not healing, not being a doctor. You blame God for taking away the man you loved while you gladly give up on yourself. Scream! Tell me what you want!"

"I want Denny to come back."

"That’s not going to happen."

"THEN I WANT MY LIFE BACK! I WANT TO SMILE AGAIN! I WANT TO FEEL ALIVE AGAIN!"

"THEN DO IT!"

"HOW?"

"SCREAM!"

"But-"

"SCREAM, GODDAMMIT!"

Izzie screamed. She screamed until her throat was raw, until she was struggling for air, until her legs buckled and Mark sank to the ground beside her. While she said no words, the scream itself was wrenched from the cavernous holes inside her heart, the hole that had been left by the daughter she had given up for adoption, the hole that Denny had left, that almost losing her medical career had left. She screamed until she couldn’t scream again and when she finally quieted, she realized that the tears had dried on her face and she was leaning into Mark Sloan’s arms as if she belonged there.

Quickly sitting up, she gazed at him. His expression was unreadable and she started to stand. He caught her arm and pulled her back against him. "Izzie, I know that I’m not Denny. I know that you look at me and you see someone who is not worth your time and you couldn’t care less about me, but I’m here. I’m here and I’m asking you to let me in. Actually, I’m asking you to just open the door enough to let me see you and to talk to you sometimes. I want to get to know you. I - I want you to know me."

"Why? Why me? I’m damaged goods and I’m not ready for or interested in anything that could potentially happen between us. It’s actually so nauseating that I could hurl."

"While I don’t actually have that extreme reaction --- I’m not ready either."

"Then what do you want, Mark?"

"In case you failed to notice, I’m pretty friendless out here. And all of your friends have paired off so that puts you in the same boat as me. While we’re floating around ... can’t we just talk? See a movie? Have dinner and - and *try* to get along?"

"Why *me*?"

"I like you."

"Because I’m pretty?"

"You’re not my type. I like your spunk, but not your ego. I like your ability to call me every name in the book and even a few that I haven’t heard before."

"I’ve been a total bitch to you."

"I have thick skin." Mark shrugged. "And you’re right. Losing Denny is killing you. I can hear you screaming just like that woman I told you about even when you don’t make a sound. I don’t like it. Your pals don’t see it, they don’t listen, but I do."

"Riiiight."

"You tried to save Denny and you didn’t really know him when you did it. You just knew that someone had to. Maybe you’re *my* Denny and instead of saving your heart ... I’m going to save your medical career."

"Did someone sell you a book when you were young and impressionable and it promised that women would respond if you said shit like this to them?"

"No."

"Then why are you saying it?"

"My heart won’t shut up."

"Projectile vomit is working its way out of me."

"Pizza for lunch? I’ll meet you in the cafeteria."

"Stalker."

Mark stood and helped her to her feet. "You’re saying yes, aren’t you?"

"I don’t like black olives or anchovies."

"You *are* saying yes."

"I am saying yes to *lunch* and not whatever unholy alliance you’re trying to have with me."

"Are you trying to convince me or yourself, gorgeous."

"Rule number one." She held up her finger. "Calling me anything other than Izzie or Dr. Stevens will get you kicked in the crotch regardless of where we are."

"Kinky."

"Rule number two." She held up two fingers. "We are never, ever going to have sex. You’re not remotely attractive. As a matter of fact, I think you look like a slapped ass and I’m not into asses."

"Riiiiight," he replied, mimicking the way she had said it earlier.

"Yes, that *is* right."

"Anything else?" he asked, trying to look serious for her benefit.

"Rule number three." She held up three fingers. "I make the rules as we go along."

"You’re just saying that so you can edit rule number two when you fall for me."

"Rule number four." She held up four fingers. "There will be no falling of any kind unless you decide to oblige me and fall down a flight of stairs."

"Fine. No falling needed. I’ll just sweep you off your feet instead."

"Your broom could never do it."

"It’s got a great wooden handle." He wiggled his eyebrows at her. "Wanna see?"

"Jackass."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie called Jake and told him about the letter, but he had court to deal with that morning. He suggested that they meet during his lunch hour and Callie agreed, secretly happy to postpone the inevitable opening of the box. It freed up the morning so they tackled Times Square first, stopping at a street vendor for salty junk that would pass for breakfast. Alex and George were both captivated by the colors and the chaos. They kept stopping and randomly staring at the billboards and exotic sights.

"It’s not even eight o’clock in the morning and there are people everywhere." George said, stepping out of the way as a businessman threatened to power walk over him.

"They don’t call it the city that never sleeps for nothing," Callie replied, glancing at a display of magazines. She drew up short, wide eyed, when she saw her mother on the cover of People. Below Olivia’s beautiful face were the words, ‘The Daughter That I Gave Up’. "Holy shit. Tell me she didn’t. Not after she was so fucking sincere yesterday."

Addison peered over her shoulder and gasped. "Oh my god."

Callie pulled cash from her pocket and paid the man for the magazine, then stepped to one side of the street to skim through it. The article was brief, but thankfully Olivia didn’t mention names. She merely stated her desire to build a relationship with her child and stated that giving her daughter up was the worst mistake she had ever made. Naturally, Olivia made it seem like Callie had been put up for adoption and made no mention of Miguel Torres or Philip Archfield stepping in and assuming responsibility. It made Olivia seem like a young, broken girl who had been forced to make a radical decision. It was clever and would generate just the right amount of sympathy and curiosity to book Olivia on every major talk show and keep her at the forefront of people's mind during award nominations.

"Why would she do that?" George asked, scanning the article with her.

Callie closed the magazine and dumped it in the nearest trash can. "Because she’s Olivia Archfield and everything in the world is about her."

"But she seemed so sincere yesterday," Alex said, scratching the side of his head.

"My mother is an *actress*." Callie shrugged. "I'm sure she'll call me later to make sure I read it and to remind me that I somehow owe her something for not exposing me."

"Are you okay?" Addison asked.

"I’m in New York City with my friends. I’m *fine*." Callie smiled at her, surprised that it wasn’t a lie. She looped her arm through George’s and said, "Broadway or Ground Zero? The Statue of Liberty won’t open until nine thirty."

"Let’s go see Ground Zero," Alex replied. "If I want to see Broadway I’ll rent Chicago."

"I have much to teach him," Addison told Callie, but she grinned and led the way toward Ground Zero.

They spent over an hour talking about the horrors and the devastation of 9/11. Addison recalled witnessing it firsthand from the hospital where she worked and the way she described it brought it home for everyone. When they made their way back through the square to hail a taxi, the entire group was silent, lost in thought. They arrived at the docks just in time to catch the ferry out to the harbor. Luckily, there weren’t many people on board the ferry and it held the promise of leaving the crowds behind in New York City. It was a beautiful day and the sun reflected off the water, warming the air enough to take the chill off.

When the magnificent statue came into view, Alex’s palms began to sweat. "I’m not going up her," he said.

"Relax, Casanova," Callie told him. "Since 9/11 you can’t ‘go up her’, though you do get points for being crass as hell."

"Then why did we come out here? If we can’t go to the top?" George asked, clearly disappointed. "I've always wanted to see the crown and stuff."

"Because it’s still the best place to view the city," Callie and Addison answered together, then laughed.

"Plus," Addison added, still chuckling. "You can’t visit New York and not see The Lady and Her Light."

"I see it on television," Alex replied. "In magazines. Big deal."

"Not the same," Callie told him, pointing out at the statue as they approached. "There’s something breathtaking about standing at her feet and knowing what she stands for. She inspired Emma Lazarus to capture the true essence of the American spirit in the most moving poem I’ve ever read."

"Give me your tired, your poor," Addison recited somberly, lifting her arm as if she held a torch. "Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

"I never really *got* Poetry 101," Alex replied with a shrug.

"I didn't get it either." George gazed up in wonder at the Statue of Liberty as the ferry docked. "Until right now."

Callie saw the moisture in George’s eyes and squeezed his hands. She knew that he understood and since her own eyes were fairly wet, she could sympathize. There was just something about New York, a city that had been knocked down, but had resolutely climbed back to its feet. The Lady stood, ever watchful, over her harbor and still held her light up to welcome the ships and new people. Callie felt a new kinship with The Lady ... she felt like Molly was keeping a lookout for her through the darkest times, keeping a light on for her in the darkness so that Callie never lost her way. Yes, Callie got it loud and clear.

It took a forty-five minute tour and staring down at the original torch for Alex to get it. He celebrated his epiphany by buying them all cookies shaped like the statue. When Addison raised her eyebrow in question, Alex shrugged and said, "I couldn’t go up her, but I can eat her."

"You are horrible!" she told him, smacking his shin with her crutch.

They laughed for a while, content to people watch and gaze back at the city. Both men had to admit that the view was more than worth the ferry ride. Callie pointed out the empty spaces in the skyline where the World Trade Center used to tower above the surrounding skyscrapers and they all talked about the new building plans until it was time to head back into Manhattan and Gotham Bank.

Jake was waiting on the sidewalk in front of the bank and to Callie’s shock, the detective in charge of the case fifteen years ago, a rotund, jovial man named Doug Fraser, was waiting next to him. Doug hugged her, immediately calming Callie’s nerves. Two police officers were waiting nearby, carrying their crime scene bags. It unnerved Callie to see the nondescript bags and she felt a flutter of apprehension in her stomach, wondering what they would find. After she introduced her friends to Detective Fraser, they walked together into the bank.

Alex and Addison made themselves scarce the moment they entered the impressive building. George, however, took Callie’s hand in his. At the front desk, Callie requested the deposit box and showed her ID and her key. The woman, who looked frazzled by the presence of the officers, quickly retrieved the second key and led them through a door to the right. It took a while for the box to arrive and when it finally did, Callie raised her eyebrow at the impressive size of it. It certainly wasn’t big enough to hold a dead body, but it wasn’t small by any stretch of the imagination. The clerk inserted her own key and waited for Callie, who shook a little as she fumbled with hers.

When the locks clicked open, Detective Fraser pulled on a pair of gloves and stepped beside Callie, who was watching the clerk flee the room as if she were terrified. "I’ll need to take it from here, Callie. If there’s anything in there that could be dangerous or -"

"That’s fine." Callie took a step back and reached for George’s hand again. Her eyes met his and held when they heard the lid creak open. What passed between them, unspoken, was enough to give her the strength to face whatever happened next. It grounded her, gave her something tangible to hang onto it. The sincerity in his green eyes was breathtaking and she knew, she just knew, that it would be okay. She took a deep breath and glanced back at the box.

The two police officers stepped forward, both wearing latex gloves and reached inside, pulling out a deeply scratched cigar box. Callie felt weak in the knees and quickly leaned back against the wall, shutting her eyes. She had forgotten. Roy had carried that old box with him everywhere, all the time. During their vocal classes, he would hold it in his lap while she sang for him. He would keep time by tapping his thumb against it and the sound had been somehow comforting to her back then. She had asked him once what was inside and he replied that it contained luck. It had been next to her head when he raped her. When the pain had gotten unbearable, when she could no longer tolerate the look on his face, she had concentrated on the box and softly sang to herself, imagining that it contained *her* luck and could rescue her somehow.

Nausea washed over her and she put a hand over her mouth. Reliving the nightmare by speaking at the trial wasn’t quite the same as being slapped in the face by a very real, very cruel artifact of her demolished childhood. Seeing it held in the officer’s hand threw her back fifteen years and she struggled to control the urge to flee from the room.

"Callie?" George reached for her but she shook her head.

"What’s inside it?" she asked, her voice suddenly hoarse.

One of the officers lifted the lid and Callie stepped forward again. At once, she wanted to vomit, to faint, to knock the box and its contents into the trash. There were hundreds of Polaroid's and the one on the very top was a shot of her lying next to Molly, both of them naked, their arms cruelly bent behind them. They were sleeping and crimson blood stained their skinny thighs. The hairs on the back of her neck danced upward as she recalled the chill in the shed, the way her naked body had trembled from the cold, the way she drew whatever warmth she could from Molly's own shivering frame. That had been the first day, when their virginity had been cruelly yanked from their tender flesh, when Molly believed she had urinated on herself.

Callie's palms began to sweat.

Detective Fraser cleared his throat and the officer quickly flipped the photograph upside down and picked up another. He silently sorted the pictures, each one depicting Roy’s numerous victims. He was in some of the shots, smiling at the camera as he tormented the woman at his feet. Mack Porter was in just as many, smiling happily at the camera as if he held up a prize buck and not a terrified woman. Again and again, the women, no matter their physical differences, had the same haunted expression on their face. Every picture had a name and date scribbled on it. Most of them were first names, but a few contained the first and last name.

Thoroughly revolted, Callie had to work at keeping the bile down. This was what Molly had kept to herself. This was the reason she had killed herself. Not because of the hearing, but because she knew about the countless victims and had never said a word. Some part of Molly, the part that had loved the father that sang at her school, had protected him until she could no longer handle the lies. "Put it away," she finally said. "You've seen enough. We all have."

Jake nodded at Detective Fraser and watched as the officers meticulously begin bagging the photographs and the cigar box. Detective Fraser reached back into the safe deposit and pulled out a dog-eared, tattered journal. He flipped it open and read through a couple of pages. "We’ll have to verify this against handwriting samples, but this would appear to be Roy Porter’s personal account of every rape, torture, and murder."

Callie glanced at Jake, who was gazing at the journal with enough longing to practically salivate. Callie knew what it could mean ... Roy’s own story of his deeds could sway a jury toward the death penalty faster than just about anything. "Is there anything else?" she asked. If Fraser began to read from the journal she would probably jump out the window.

Detective Fraser reached into the box again and pulled out a photo album. The brown stains on the front of it looked very much like dried blood. The pages made a sucking sound when he pulled them apart. Inside, pressed against the sticky backing and glossy sheets, were locks and locks of hair. Every color imaginable. Underneath the hair were more Polaroids. Some of the hair was matted with blood, some of it looked freshly shampooed, and many of the pages had dried fluid that looked suspiciously like semen.

Callie was ready to bolt from the room, but when she looked back down at the deposit box, her eyes landed on a pristine white package that had an artful red ribbon around it. Wordlessly, she slipped on a pair of gloves and reached for it. She was aware that Detective Fraser began to stop her and she was just as aware that Jake had intervened on her behalf. She pulled the package from the box and stared down at it. "You can have everything else. This is mine."

"Callie, that should be treated as evidence," Detective Fraser said. "You need to open that here and let us inventory the contents."

"You got what you came for and so did I." Callie glanced down at the package, then back up at the detective. "This won’t help your case, I’m not even sure it’ll help me, but it’s private. Okay? Molly made it very clear that she intended this for me and only me. If it’s something you need to see, I’ll let you know."

"But-"

"No. I’ve played by your rules for years. I testified, I did all the right things, but I’m done. You’re not getting this," Callie replied firmly. She glanced at Jake and he smiled at her. It took effort on her part, but she returned the smile and nodded at him. "I’ll see you around, Jake."

Jake beamed at her. "Keep in touch, Cal."

Without another word, Callie left the room. She knew what a panic attack felt like and she knew that she was on the verge of having one. When she spotted the sign for the women’s restroom, she thrust the package into George’s hands and ran toward it. By the time she entered, she was sobbing. Leaning over the sink, she splashed cold water in her face and tried to control her breathing. It was a losing battle, however. She barely made it into the stall before she vomited out everything she had eaten that day. She regretted every pretzel, every bite of cookie, and every sip of coffee.

Addison, who had taken one look at George and *knew* that it was bad, quickly wet a handful of towels and stepped into the stall behind her. Holding her friend’s hair away from her face, Addison laid the cool cloth on her neck and rubbed her back. Callie continued to heave until her chest ached from the power of it and then she stood, taking the towels from her neck and wiping her mouth with them.

Addison stepped back, letting her pass. She watched as Callie rinsed her mouth at the sink and felt her own throat tighten when Callie’s sobs began anew. The dark haired woman looked so fragile as her shoulders shook and the pitiful sounds of her distress were heart breaking.

Gripping either side of the sink, Callie gazed down at the drain, trying to pull herself together. The pain she felt was intense and knowing what Molly had dealt with, what she had known to be true all along, was as infuriating as it was earth shattering Part of her despised Molly in that moment ... because the hearing could have been avoided entirely if Molly had only spoken up, but another part of her was understanding to the woman’s dilemma. As much as Callie’s mother had hurt her over the years, Callie still loved her and was willing to give her another chance. It was the horrific truth of abused children. They still loved, without reason, the people who caused them to tremble with fear. It was the same way a kicked dog would return to its master when called - again and again.

Addison wet more towels and handed them to Callie, feeling helpless. "Can you - do you want to talk about it?"

Callie shook her head, wiping her face. Bending down, she retrieved her purse and rummaged through it. She located the pill bottle that contained the Xanax that Dr. Bailey had insisted on prescribing for her. Callie was suddenly very happy that she had taken the plunge and gotten it filled. Still crying noisily, she downed one, then another for good measure and washed it down with a handful of water.

Addison took the bottle from her and checked the label, raising an eyebrow. "This is not a small dosage, Callie, and you took *two*. You’re going to-"

"I’m going to die if I don’t," Callie cried, wrapping her arms around herself. "He took pictures of it. Of me and Molly on the ground. Bloody. Destroyed. And there were others. Other women. So many other women, Addison. They - they were terrified in the pictures. Their faces. Oh god, their faces. I just want to forget their faces and I- I can’t! I can’t!"

"It’s okay."

"It’s not okay. Those women are dead now. And Molly is dead and I don’t know why I’m not. Why do I have to be the one left behind ... the one who lived? What am I supposed to do? I should be the one who-"

"Stop! It’s over now. It’s over and Roy Porter will never be able to hurt you or anyone else again. His fate is sealed. All you have to do now is be strong. That’s what you’re supposed to do."

"I can’t be strong anymore. I want to curl up and die."

Addison had been around enough distraught people in her life to know the warning signs. Callie was on the verge of a very real nervous breakdown. She couldn’t blame her and was actually a little shocked that she hadn’t had one thus far, but the bathroom of a very busy bank in New York City wasn’t the best place for it. She wanted to keep her talking, give the pills time to work. "Listen to me," she said, shaking Callie lightly. "You’re going to be just fine. I promise this is not going to beat you. I know you. You're too stubborn to let it."

"I just want to go home, Addy."

"Our flight leaves in just a few hours and you can stretch out on that bed that looked so inviting and go to sleep. We'll be home before you know it and there won't be any guards to remind you of all this. It's a new beginning, okay?"

Callie was trembling all over and sweat dotted her hairline and upper lip. She wanted to vomit again, felt her stomach begging to empty whatever remained inside, but couldn’t let herself do it. The Xanax would work. It had to work. Her mouth was suddenly too dry and she leaned over the sink again, taking several sips of water. She stayed that way, leaned over the sink, listening to Addison attempt to reassure her. Squeezing her eyes closed, Callie conjured the image of Apollo, her horse, into her head and imagined that she was riding him. It was cool, the wind in her hair, and they galloped together, outrunning the ghosts of her past once and for all. Her tears eventually began to subside and she splashed her face again before she stood, accepting the towels that Addison held out to her.

"You know," Callie said, her voice still heavy with emotion. "If the doctor thing doesn’t work out you could always be a bathroom attendant."

Addison hugged her close, relieved that a little spark of her best friend remained despite everything. Finally, one of the female security guards entered on George’s behalf and Addison stepped away from Callie. She assured the woman that they were fine and that Callie just needed a while to collect herself. The guard nodded and held out a can of Sprite, saying that the gentlemen outside thought it may help Callie's stomach. Callie gratefully accepted it and took a few sips.

"I can't go out there yet," Callie said apologetically when the guard left them alone.

A bench sat against the back wall and Addison motioned toward it. "Let’s sit down."

Callie sat down heavily and leaned her head against the wall. "I feel like - like there’s a crack in me and if I breathe too deep I’m going to shatter. It’s like there’s a fault line in my soul and everything just builds up there, putting too much pressure on the weakest part of me ... causing it to shift and tremor and now it wants to explode."

"You’ve earned the right to explode," Addison replied. "Noone would blame you for it, Callie. What you’ve been through is horrifying and most people probably would have blown apart years ago."

"It’s almost like I’m always on the verge of drowning and every time I get tired of swimming and feel like giving in then you or George or my grandpa gives me a life jacket. And you let me float instead of tread water."

"Miranda gave you the treading water speech, didn’t she?"

Callie rolled her eyes. "I knew that it was too good to be a spur of the moment thing. She was too well rehearsed when she said it all."

"I got it, too, and she’s right. I know you feel like you’re alone now because Molly’s gone and none of those women in the photographs can come back and tell their story. I know that none of us can understand, fully, what happened to you, but we’re here. And we’re not going anywhere."

"Thank you."

Addison saw the way Callie’s eyelids drooped and heard the slur in her voice. "You’re pretty much high as a kite right now, aren’t you?"

"I never take medication. I have like, no tolerance for it."

"I can see that."

"Do you believe in heaven?"

"I believe in something. I don’t think that death is the final chapter."

"Do you think that if someone commits suicide they go to hell?"

Addison shook her head. "No. Because most people who commit suicide have already done their time in hell."

"Okay."

"Okay?"

"We can go now."

"Are you sure?"

"No, but I’m seeing two of you and it’s freaking me out enough to have another meltdown."

*~*~*~*~*~
Tags: author: burningeden, shipper: alex/addison, shipper: george/callie, shipper: mark/izzie
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