BurningEden (burningeden) wrote in ga_fanfic,
BurningEden
burningeden
ga_fanfic

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Title: One Heart Too Many (4/?)
Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Mark/Callie Callie/Hahn
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!



Previous chapters:
One
Two
Three



Ange, I have no words. You are loved.


*~*~*~*~*~

When you’re really, truly depressed ... the walls close in on you. You see things in techni-color and the effort that it takes to move from lying on the sofa to sitting on the sofa feels like the effort behind rowing a boat against the tide with just your hands. I don’t get off the sofa for over forty-eight hours except to pee and I use that time to see if my mother has written back. There are no messages. Nothing. Cristina takes Buddha to Erica’s house after I scratch her address on a piece of paper and comes back to tell me that Erica is so drunk that she invited her in and insisted that she drink a beer with her. Maybe that is Erica’s way of checking her own messages ... she wanted Cristina to give her something real from me for a moment ... just to prove that she’s not tumbling through life without anchors. She doesn’t have anyone to call her. Erica’s phone was silent the entire time we were in Miami. She’s invisible.

I want to be invisible with her.

Mark sits in the hard backed chair that Cristina found at a yard sale and he studies me with his fingers steepled and a line on his forehead for every one of those forty eight hours. I don’t speak. I don’t move. I try not to breathe too hard because that may encourage him. I doze off an on and when I wake up ... he’s still there, still watching me. Cristina eventually goes to work and I notice that she lingers over telling me she’ll see me later. It’s like a question ... will I really be here when she gets back? Am I going to kill myself? I don’t say anything and when she squeezes my shoulder I know that it’s just as well. She sees what I can’t vocalize. And touching me confirms that I’m tangible and failing miserably at my attempt to hide.

When she leaves, Mark clears his throat and I press myself on the couch again, turning my back to him in the hopes that it will swallow me whole. For two days I’ve been waiting for it to. I hear him shift, hear the chair creak and groan, and then he’s wrenching me off the sofa and I’m too shocked to say anything. He stalks with me to the bathroom, turns the cold water on in the shower and steps under it with me. I try to fight it. I try to fight him. I push at him even as he shoves my head back under the water and it chokes me. When I start using every four letter word I’ve ever heard and invent a few of my own, he hugs me. I stop fighting. He hangs onto me as I lose it and cry again. I didn’t think I had anything left in me and my throat is so raw from it that all that the sounds I make are bitter, like a tiger that growls at people from behind bars because there’s nothing in the world it can do beyond that except pace its iron prison.

But it’s not me who’s making the majority of those sounds.

It’s him.

"I didn’t cheat on you," he says, actually crying. "I swear on my grandmother’s grave ... I didn’t. Callie, if this is about what you think I did to you then I’m sorry and you don’t have to believe me right now because you’re still pissed, but I’ll prove it. I will."

Mark Sloan has tear ducts.

He has the ability to not just cry, but to join me in my own hysterics so convincingly that it shocks me silent. I don’t believe him. He knows that because he drops to his knees, his arms still locked around me and buries his face in my stomach. He’s got chills of his own making his shoulders tremble and I don’t know if it’s the water or me that has frozen him through completely, but I can’t deny it. He clutches me, his face still pushed against my sodden shirt and I hear what he’s mumbling. It’s a medley of missing me, needing me, and not living without me. And then he looks up and says, "I love you."

Wow.

Just ... wow.

A few weeks ago that would have felt really fucking great to hear. He could have told me over Sunrise Waffles or while we chose furniture for his apartment. He could have mentioned it in Canada or any of the numerous times we met in the on call room, but he didn’t. I ‘dated’ him officially for nearly five months and the most I got was ‘I love your ass in a thong’ which was flattering, but not exactly the way to my heart. Story of my life in a nutshell, folks, too little too late. "Don’t."

I push at his shoulders, but he doesn’t let me go.

"Mark ... don’t."

The cold water beats a steady rhythm on my back as he keeps gazing up at me. He needs to shave. And the water has slicked his hair back, making him look manlier, more rugged. The tears in his eyes make him look believable and I close my own to keep from seeing it.

"Callie --- I can’t do this anymore. I can’t - I miss you. You can’t keep punishing me for something I didn’t do and I can’t stand it. Look at me. You know me better than anyone and you know I’m telling you the truth. I - gave you a drawer at the apartment. I gave you a closet of your own, but kept your things hanging beside mine because it was nice to see it there ... and I keep buying Dr. Pepper even though I hate it because you like it and now I have like eight cases and - shit - I swear to God you’d think that English wasn’t my first language. I’m sorry. And ... I miss you."

I miss the warmth in my body. I struggle with him until he lets me turn and add a little hot water to this conversation. My teeth are chattering when I say, "Get up."

He does. He gets to his feet, jaw tense, eyes wide. "I didn’t cheat."

"I heard you."

"Do you believe me?"

"No."

He flinches as if I’ve punched him and I feel even smaller than I thought possible. I don’t apologize. I can’t. "You will," he says. "You will believe me."

It won’t be the last time he makes that promise or professes his love. I can almost believe the love part. I fell in love with George after two dates and told him after four. Five months is a lot longer than that and for the three months before that ... Mark and I were inseparable friends. I miss my friend. I miss the jokes and the laughter and the harmless flirting that he probably meant and would have taken me up on, but didn’t until I asked him to. I told myself the night that we danced out of Joe’s in front of everyone that he was pretending I was Addison and I was pretending that I wasn’t thinking about whether or not he could fuck me hard enough to rattle Addison’s assumption that I was gay. Maybe I was wrong all along.

I turn off the water when we’ve thawed and say, "I’m not sleeping with you."

"Ever?"

"Not now."

"Okay."

"Maybe not ever."

"I’ll risk it."

He’s seen me naked more times than I’ve seen me naked, but I still go into Cristina’s bedroom to change into my pajamas. They were a joke from Joel and despite the fact that it’s hot out, I bundle myself in the flannel, snowmen laden depths and hide. Mark asks me if he can dry his clothes in the dryer and I shrug. I don’t watch him strip and I don’t care that he’s wrapped a towel around himself and not much else. When he tries to sit beside me on the couch I shake my head. He goes back to the chair and I glance at his hairy legs. They’re different than hers. He’s different than her.

I’m really punishing him for not being her.

"You’re scaring me," he finally tells me. "What happened in Miami?"

That question will hang like a storm cloud over me for a long time.

I won’t tell him.

I won’t tell myself either.

******

A week later and I can count the calories I’ve consumed on one hand and I’m weak as a newborn kitten as I stare at the surgical board. It’s my first day back at work and I actually wonder if I can lift a scalpel because it’s agony to just lift my toothbrush, but Cristina threatened to hold me down and do it herself after I yawned in her presence. I go about the motions of the day, but that’s all I do. I haven’t called home since four days ago, when my brother’s wife Hope answered the phone and said my dad was home and hung up on me. My mother must have told them. I won’t call again for a while after that. I feel too dirty to dial the numbers and imagine the phone ringing inside our family house ... the one that I lost myself in. So, I stand in front of the surgical board now and I’m so happy to not see my name and that nothing is expected of me that day that I can almost relax. Almost. My stomach has been aching and burning since the night Mark told me he loved me. It’s an ache that will not go away. Antacids have become my best friend in Erica’s absence. Stress, I tell myself. Nothing but stress.

When I get a familiar whiff of lilac soap, I turn around and see her standing at the nurse’s station. Her hair is pulled into a tight bun under her scrub cab and I want to take the pins from it and rake through it with my fingers the same way Jasper did with his toy comb. My hair is a mess. I’ve pulled it up, clipped it, and can’t remember the last time I washed it so just imagine how bad that must look. I have no idea or I’d tell you. I take the bottle of Tums that I’ve been nursing from my pocket and pop two in my mouth. I’ve been eating them like candy and my stomach hasn’t stopped hurting yet.

Neither has the rest of me.

Erica hears the tablets in the bottle roll around together and glances up. Her eyes widen and I see the shock on her face when she gets a good look at me. I know it’s bad. I’ve stopped looking at myself in the mirror because I want to cut my face off and flush it. That’s how bad it looked the one and only time that I studied my reflection and I only did it then to see if I was really there. Joe once told me to look at my reflection and see the truth. I need to slap him. I stand there like a freak until the hallway clears a little and then I make up my mind to speak to her. I can’t square my shoulders anymore because I’ve forgotten how and I need her to help me remember.

I need her.

"Hey," I hear myself say, walking toward her like my spine has been removed.

"Dr. Torres, perhaps you’d like to take a shower and try to look presentable *before* you get here tomorrow?" She closes her chart and glares at me. "You stink."

Okay. I’ll let her have that one. "I’d like to talk to you if you -"

"Would you? Hmm." She tucks her chart under her arm. "Is it for a consult?"

"No."

"Well, like I told you in Miami ... I keep my professional and private lives very separate. How is your father, by the way? He was a nice *patient*."

"I don’t know. My family won’t talk to me except to say that he’s home."

"Nice. I’m sure he’s fine." She puts her pen back in her front pocket. "Well, you have a *wonderful* day."

"Erica -"

She freezes in mid spin and I see that she has no problem squaring HER shoulders. When she looks back at me it’s a dead in the eyes, nostrils flaring kind of look, and there’s nothing nice about it. "I spent a lot of years at school so that I could be addressed as Dr. Hahn. I’m an attending so show me a little respect and keep it formal. And find some perfume and a brush."

The Callie of a few months ago would have gotten toe to toe with her and said something just as cutting. The Callie that I’ve become just looks at her, nods, and walks away. I make it to the bathroom before the pain in my stomach causes me to double over and I throw up the Tums. They've become a colorful powder of rainbow and I stare at those colors the same way I stared at the rainbow sunrise in Miami the morning after I slept with Erica. She told me then that I didn’t have to wear the rainbow pin or buy the gay pride bumper sticker, but that doesn’t matter. It looks like I’m wearing both inside me and I’m puking up pieces of it because I can’t keep it down.

I’ll go home early because my stomach ache won’t quit.

It will become a big theme with me.

*~*~*~*~

Three days back at work and I head into my first surgery. My team has the radio blaring when I walk in ... just like old times. The patient is under and this is the part where I usually dance to the table for their amusement and bump hips with the scrub nurse as I say, "Let’s rock" and she choruses with "And Roll". It’s a stupid, weird, not exactly professional form of JuJu that has yet to fail me. I do it before every surgery, but when I hear the steady beat of music and watch everyone bouncing their heads in unison like we’re at a concert and not about to give a guy the ability to walk without a limp, I hate them all. I turn the radio off and hear my scrub nurse gasp. "I have a headache so keep it down," I mumble.

That’s a lie.

My head isn’t hurting.

My head feels insanely full and mostly jumbled, but it doesn’t hurt.

My stomach hurts. I forgot to buy Tums and I’ve eaten my way through two big bottles already. I glance at one of the interns and say, "Can you go to the clinic and find me some antacid?"

The guy nods at me and looks as if I’m depriving him of something much more amazing that watching me put a leg back together. He comes back within the hour and I step into the scrub room to take the medication. I didn’t realize that Mark was standing there to watch me through the glass. I pull off my gloves, wash my hands, then kick back the antacid. It’s purple. Prescription. Nexium from the looks of it. I scoop water into my palm and take a couple of sips.

"If you would eat," he says, "the acids in your stomach would settle on their own."

I don’t say anything.

"You can’t keep going like this, Cal. You can’t. You’re going to kill yourself if you don’t snap out of it." He touches my hand. It’s brief. "Will you just talk to me? Please? I need to hear your voice again."

I crumple the white paper cup that the pill was given to me in and toss it into the trash. I take off my surgical scrubs and wave my hand over the sensor at the sink to scrub in again. My surgery hasn’t even gotten good yet and I’m well on my way contaminating the patient. I don’t say anything to Mark as he helps me cover my blue scrubs with yellow surgical ones and I let him tie me into them and adjust my mask because I don’t have the energy to ask anyone else to do it and he seems to believe that being near me and breathing my air will make us like we were. But it doesn’t.

He has spent the last couple of weeks on a pallet right next to the sofa I claim as a bed. He wakes up every single time I wake up. He attempts to cook for only once and when the smell of it makes the both of us sick, he starts ordering takeout. He tempts me with Chinese, Pizza, Italian, but I don’t touch it. I can’t touch it. Eating proves that I’m alive and I don’t need any reminders.

I don’t speak to him as I head back into the OR and let someone slide my gloves into place.

I fix the patient’s leg. Even without my juju.

He should heal beautifully.

If I could insert a pin in my heart and drill it into place ... I’d be just fine, too.

*~

I’m in the Resident’s lounge after surgery so that I can avoid the mad dash to the cafeteria. There’s a sofa in the corner and I push back my chair and flop back on it. I can hear random voices on the intercom as I rest on my back and close my eyes. This is how it felt after Jasper’s accident. When I came out of surgery on that day ... I woke up alone. I was twenty years old, but I was terrified and a nearby doctor had come and consoled me, patting me on the arm with his gnarled hand. He told a nurse to find my parents, but they didn’t arrive until I was already out of recovery and in a private room. The silence made me want to claw my ears out to see if they were still working and I was comforted after a while by the pages I heard. I wasn’t deaf, after all.

When my parents came and told me that Joel was still in surgery and that Jasper ... was here, but gone ... I wanted to be deaf.

My mother didn’t cry that day. She didn’t cry when I did and she didn’t cry when I begged for pain medication that was late in arriving. She didn’t do anything but hold my face in her palms and tell me that we would survive it. We would survive Jazz never coming back the way he was and we’d be thankful for what we had, she’d said. We would survive the inevitable lawsuit from the owner’s of the other boat that took years in court and we lost anyway. We would survive. Because that’s what Torres people do. They survive.

God damn that survival trait is all I can say.

Fuck survival.

I want a reason to live that isn’t instinct.

"Dr. Torres?"

I think I’m imagining the silky sweetness of her voice. There’s no bite, no bark right now. I open my eyes when she says it again and today ... today her hair is down and she looks just like she did in Miami when the sunlight showed every different shade of blond she possesses. "Dr. Hahn."

The serene look that I swear I saw on her face is replaced by a tightening of her lips. It causes a dimple in her chin and I want to touch that dimple so badly that I fist my hands. She looks at me like I’m a roach she needs to step on. "If you can pull yourself together long enough to work today ... I need a consult. I paged Dr. Simmons, but he hasn’t responded."

Dr. Simmons is the Ortho attending and he is so old and so mean that he’s probably hanging upside down in a broom closet somewhere with a still beating heart between his fangs. He tolerates me because he has to. He tolerates life because he has to. Fucker. "What do you have?"

"Forty eight year old female, unrestrained driver in a one vehicle collision with a tree. Open fractures in both wrists and she suffered a massive heart attack en route. I figure Ortho can repair the wrists while I repair the heart."

"Any internal damage?"

She cocks her head a little. "Minor."

I think she’s talking about herself then. Minor damage inside while I’m mortally wounded. I push myself to my feet and grimace, a hand to my stomach. "What room is she in?"

"Trauma two." Her eyes move to my hand and her brow wrinkles. "What’s wrong with you?"

"Are you asking as a doctor or a friend?"

The wrinkle fades and she narrows her eyes to slits. "I’m asking as someone who will be in the operating room with you and if you’re unable to perform properly then I need to know."

"I’ll perform just fine!"

"See that you do."

I watch her stalk out of the room, her hair blowing, her jacket billowing. Lilac has become my favorite scent and I breathe so deep that my lungs hurt. I can’t blame her for being cruel to me. I didn’t call her, I didn’t speak to her after everything that we shared, I didn’t let her help me. I should have leaned on her during the flight back and if I had it to do again ... I would have. If I had it to do again ... I’d tell my mother that I’m in love Erica Hahn and that there’s nothing perverted about love. But there are three things in life that are guaranteed: you will die, you will pay taxes, and you will not be able to go back in time no matter how much you fuck up the big moments in your life need revision. You don’t get do-overs. Life rolls from this to that and some minutes feel like hours and some feel like seconds and in the blink of an eye ... you detonate yourself.

We all self destruct sometimes.

I certainly did.

I do the consult and scrub in less than an hour after Erica found me in the Resident’s lounge. It’s Erica’s OR and her juju is the heart tattoo on her back. I asked her about it as I let my fingers trail over her skin the first night we made love and she said that she got it after Rachel died. It was a heart that Rachel had drawn at the bottom of a letter for her that was included in her will. Erica read it two days after they buried her and she took that heart and had it put on her back and filled with red. She got it, she said, for luck. As I watched her make the incision on the woman’s chest, I knew that what she didn’t tell me that night is that she got that heart so that Rachel would always be with her and I swear to God, I can see the other woman clearly in my head peering over Erica’s shoulder and steadying her scalpel hand with her own.

My own scalpel clatters to the floor after that visual and I wonder if I’m going crazy as the nurse hands me a fresh on and set to work. I don’t do anything to call attention to myself until I finish the right wrist and move to the left. I have to stand shoulder to shoulder with Erica now. She’s working on the woman’s heart and I’m working on her hand and our elbows touch more often than I can count. Finally, after I nudge her a little harder than I realize, she steps back, rolls her head around to relieve tension, and says, "Do you see what I’m doing here, Dr. Torres? I’m working on a *heart*. One slip of the scalpel and I’ve killed her. You almost made me kill her just now. Could you possibly stop invading my space before you piss me off?"

There are several snickers and I feel all eyes on me. My temper suddenly roars to life like that pacing tiger just got out of jail free. "I realize that your overblown ego makes you think that cardio trumps any other medical procedure that can be performed, but I’ve got nerves exposed, a shattered ulna, and very thin patience so forgive me if I don’t give a good god damn whether or not I ‘invade your space’. It’s not my fault that your head is so big you need an OR of your own just to give it breathing room."

If I dropped the pin in my hand ... it would have sounded like a gunshot when it hit the floor.

Erica is staring at me.

Actually, everyone is staring at me.

I hold my ground and insert the pin and to my absolute shock ... I’m steady and precise.

I pick up a screw and meet her eyes, clearly challenging her.

When she starts to say something ... I turn the drill on and that’s the only sound in the room.

It’s loud, it’s overbearing, and I glare at her the entire time it’s on. It’s brief, but she looks away first and goes back to her precious heart.

I don’t nudge her again, though.

And she finishes before me so I don’t see her for the rest of the day.

*~*~*~*~

Something about losing my temper and feeling fire race in my blood gives me enough of a glimpse at my former self to want it back. Another week goes by, then two, then three. I don’t talk to Erica. She doesn’t talk to me. I also don’t talk to Cristina beyond pleasantries and most of my interaction with Mark is a series of grunts, nods, and shrugs despite the fact that I’m *trying* here. I call my dad’s cell a few times, but it goes straight to voice mail and I wind up talking to Jasper’s nurse on the house phone. She says my dad is sleeping. He doesn’t call back. My phone is so silent that I find myself checking it every day to see if the battery has died and yes, I’m that asshole who calls the local movie theater to hear showtimes and am oddly comforted by the computerized voice on the other end of the line. That voice doesn’t expect anything from me so I sit in my car and pretend that I’m talking to someone just to see what it feels like. I don’t say anything important ... I just want to hear my own voice.

I’m still here.

I may not matter, but I’m here.

I finally call Jasper’s Firefly phone five weeks after I returned from Miami. I’m over being excommunicated and I’m ready to fly back to Miami and pitch a tantrum worthy of my mother’s. Jasper knows how to answer the phone, but the only number he can remember is 911 and Daddy almost took the phone from him after the cops kept randomly appearing to ask if there was a problem. After three rings, I can hear my brother breathing into the phone and say, "Jasper?"

"Hi ... Lee."

"Hi, buddy."

"Buddy ... too."

"Where’s Daddy?"

"Where Yellow?"

I didn’t expect him to ask about Erica. I didn’t expect him to even remember her at all. "Yellow isn’t here," I say. "Take the phone to Daddy."

"‘Kay."

Five minutes of grunting and the shuffle, toe, heel of his clunky shoes on the hardwood and I can tell that he’s nearing my parent’s room. I have to smile when he opens the door and screeches in that loud, manly, but child-like voice and announces, ‘Lee call home’. I don’t hear my mother in the background, but I do hear my father coaxing Jasper to surrender his Firefly and he promises that he’ll give it right back. Jasper protests, but just a little.

"Hello?"

"Daddy?"

"Hi, baby. I’m sorry I haven’t called you. Your mother took the phone when I tried to take a business call and hasn’t given it back to me. I miss you."

It could be the words. It could be the sound of his deep, rugged voice, but whichever it is ... I start to cry. He’s silent on the other end and I hate myself for making him listen to me fall apart. "I miss you, too," I finally manage to gasp between sobs. "So much."

"I’m not going anywhere."

"Promise?"

"Of course I do. I feel just fine so stop that crying, mija. That wonderful friend of yours has magic hands."

No shit.

"Are you getting enough to eat?" I ask, but I don’t need to. I need to change the subject and I already know that my mother has probably cooked enough to feed a fleet of starving boar hogs. I feel about as useful as tits on a boar hog now that I think about it. "Are you in any pain?"

"Your mother is feeding me enough rabbit food to make my front teeth grow and I’ve got plenty of pain medicine, but I don’t need it. It’s not that bad."

"Are you getting any exercise? Walking?"

"Honey?"

"Yeah?"

"Stop being a doctor and be my little girl."

"Okay, but that means I’ll probably cry for the rest of this call."

"Something happened between you and your mother ... didn’t it?"

"Why do you think that?"

"Because *she* cries every time I mention you and thinks that I don’t notice. Which one of you do I need to be mad at?"

"Me."

"I see. Would you like to tell me what happened?"

"Not really. But - but if maybe you could tell her I’m sorry and I didn’t mean to hurt her - that would help. She won’t talk to me, Dad."

He’s silent on the other line. When he finally speaks, he says, "Can I ask you something?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you’ll tell me the truth?"

"Of course."

There’s another long pause. "Are you involved with Erica? Romantically?"

I swallow hard and I know that he can hear it. My dad has a way of knowing me. It’s more than just the fact that I look like his mother or that he gave me her name. He *knows* me. I would stand in front of him as a kid and spill my guts about anything bad I had done after he told me one time to tell him the truth. Sometimes ... I even made shit up so that I was more interesting for him. "Yes ... I was."

"I thought so. I may have been flat on my back and hooked up to enough wires to start a car, but I’m not blind. She was looking at you the way that I look at your mother. And speaking of your mother ... she has been dropping enough hints to make me question my *own* sexuality and *hers*. There were gay and lesbian fliers on the dining room table." I hear him laugh, but I don’t.

He coughs on the other end of the line and groans a little. Before I can ask if he’s okay, he adds, "I’m not going to judge you. I’m not. I believe that when God tells us that something is bad for us that he doesn’t take it lightly. The Bible says that homosexuality is wrong and I try very hard to live by the Word and I want my children to do the same, but my Bible also tells me not to judge you and I won’t. I love you. What I will say, Callie, is that I loved seeing you happy."

I’m crying so hard that I can barely breathe now. "I’m not happy now."

"Yes, I can hear that. Hold on one second."

"Okay."

One second becomes three and three becomes a full minute, then two. I don’t know if a Firefly phone has a mute button, but I think it must because I don’t hear anything but dead air. When four minutes go by, I get worried and I’m tempted to hang up and call again, but before I can make the decision to do that .. my mother is on the phone.

"Calliope?"

"Yeah?"

Silence. Again that fucking deep, dark silence that pulls you in and rips your guts apart.

"If you need to call again ... then you can call my cell phone or the house phone. I’ll answer it."

"Thank you."

"And ... I’m sorry for the things I said to you even thought I really meant it when I said that I don’t want you to bring her back here. This - this is your home and it always will be."

"Dad’s forcing you to say this, huh?"

"Pretty much, but I was ready to say it. You’ve scarred me for life. I can’t open your bedroom door without seeing things that I don’t want to see, and I may never like blond hair on anyone again, but I - I’m here. I’m just not okay with this."

"I know."

"I’m not going to be okay with it."

"I know that, too."

"But ... I’m also not going to pretend that your ... choice ... changes the fact that you’re my daughter. I love you."

"I love you, too."

"Here’s your father."

I close my eyes and see her thrusting that stupid alien green kid’s phone back at him with a look of pure contempt on her face. I can see her putting her hands on her ample hips, her lips puckering angrily like someone slipped a lemon into mouth without her permission, and I can see her whirl on the spot and stalk out the door so that my dad won’t think he won the war. She’s still walking. She’s not wounded. She can leave *him* on the battlefield.

"Callie?"

"Yeah, dad?"

"Is that better?"

"It’s getting there."

*****

Mark wakes me up before dawn the next day. I open my eyes when something tickles my nose and can hear Cristina grumbling about the ungodly hour of morning for visits. I glance at him and he holds up the ugliest stuffed bear I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s holding a blackboard in its dingy looking paws and Mark has written ‘waffles?’ on it. He hasn’t tried to convince me to sleep with him. All he does is incessantly tell me that he loves me and that he didn’t cheat on me. It’s become as common to hear him say that as it is to hear him say my name. He sleeps over a lot, stretched out on the floor and I’ve felt his fingers on my face more than once while he thinks I’m out of it. That’s really the only time he touches me. He thinks he hurt me like George did and he saw first hand that one strong wind, or a touch, could shatter me. So, he stays just close enough for me if I need him, but far enough away that I don’t.

I look from the bear to his face and he has finally shaved properly. He has that perfect, sexy stubble that makes him look purposefully and meticulously well groomed, but just shaggy enough not to be anal about it. When he first moved into his swanky apartment ... I sat on the sink to watch him shave and he kissed me, getting cream all over my face. We had sex right there, his razor forgotten, with one of my legs over his shoulder. It took both of us to clean all the shaving cream up. I still don’t know how it got all over the toilet.

I ignore the bear in favor of touching his face. He looks like Mark again. It dawns on me that I’ve hurt two people more than I ever thought possible. I hurt them both in different ways, but the fact that I abandoned them both ties them together. That bow that unites them is just as ugly as the one around the bear’s neck. "You missed a spot," I lie, scratching his cheek.

"I was in a hurry." He grins at me and his eyes twinkle in the glow from dim light in the kitchen. "So, waffles?"

"Okay."

"Yeah?" He’s shocked.

"Sure."

Mark Sloan looks at me with the wide eyed joy that Jasper reserves for the dolphins that dance on his ceiling every night. He hands me the bear and touches my hair. It’s clean and curly and I wonder if maybe Cristina told him that I actually joked with her last night after I soaked in the tub for an hour. Because she looked hopeful then. And he looks hopeful now. I smooth the garish bow that has been tied around the bear’s neck and smile down at it. "Did you really think this was cute, Sloan?"

"Well, no, but it was either the ugly bear or a singing telegram and Yang would have kicked my ass for that."

I lean forward and impulsively hug him. He’s big. He’s very, very big. His shoulders are broad, his muscles ripple under his skin, and he holds me so tight that it makes me wonder if maybe he has lost something in his life that makes him hang on too long like Erica does. We stay that way until he sits back and studies my face. "You’ve lost weight, Cal."

I don’t mention that the pain in my stomach has become the one thing I depend on. It burns. It rumbles. It makes me feel like I swallowed flame, but forgot to chase it with water. It feels like hell, to put it mildly, and it wakes me up at night. I don’t mention that the depression I’ve felt didn’t really have anything to do with whether he did or did not have sex with some random nurse ... hey, at least he bought her dinner ... and I don’t mention that I’m comparing him to a woman. Because that’s not fair. He’s trying to turn over a new leaf for me and I don’t need to pull out the leaf blower just yet.

I get dressed, but I don’t bother with makeup. I don’t bother with trying to conceal that my eyes looked bruised or care that my cheekbones are accented without blush now. Since the day that my dad went into the hospital ... I’ve lost thirty pounds. I’m not counting. I don’t really care.

When we walk to the car, he puts his arm around my shoulders and I have to keep myself from brushing it off. This is what he does. I know that. This is affection for him. This is holding my hand, Sloan style. He opens the car door for me and I nearly groan from the cheesiness of it all. I bet if I could ... I’d find out that he has rented every pathetic romantic movie he could find to try and woo me ... and took notes. When he starts the engine and turns the radio on, I see him look at me out of the corner of his eye when he presses play.

I brace myself.

‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ by Michael Bolton fills the interior of the car.

I look straight ahead. He starts to hum along and I have to pull both of my lips inward to keep from laughing. I finally can’t take it another second and hit the forward button. God, it’s even worse. I skip over ‘Hello’, by Lionel Ritchie after the first few notes, then skip over Air Supply, Foreigner, and Journey in quick succession. When Olivia Newton John starts to warble that she honestly loves me ... I. Could. Die. I laugh. I laugh so hard that I have to clutch my sides and come very close to peeing in my pants when I realize what he’s done. The fool has burned a CD of love songs and when I inspect a little further and hear Dolly Parton, in her twang, talk about ‘Islands in The Stream’ .. there are tears of undiluted mirth streaming down my face. I can barely breathe. I’m laughing so hard that I could swallow my tongue and not even notice.

This is Mark Sloan! Mark! Sloan! And he’s trying to woo me! I feel like we’re in an old fashioned courtship.

Complete with a soundtrack that would make Baby Jesus cry.

"I’m so glad that my efforts amused you," he tells me, smiling my way at a red light.

I take off my seatbelt, lean across the console, and kiss him on the cheek.

I don’t even notice that his beard is rough against my face.

Maybe I’m getting over her. Maybe. Maybe this is God’s way of telling me that he knows I dabbled, but now he’s sending a man my way to prove that dabble is all I did. Maybe Mark and I are meant to have a Trevor, a house, a life. I don’t know what it means, but I enjoy his company the way I did before Erica came into the picture. He changes the words of ‘Islands in the Stream’ to make it perverted and I don’t even roll my eyes when he tells me to let him open my car door. When he extends his hand and I step out, he hugs me in the open door and kisses the top of my head. I feel his gratitude that I’ve let him in this far and the silent wish that I’d let him in all the way.

I can only do so much, though.

I hug him back and ask him to change the words to ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’.

He doesn’t disappoint.

He keeps me laughing while we order.

My laughter and mood quickly go south when I’ve eaten half of my waffle. It feels like someone has punched me in the stomach with all that they had ... no ... no that’s an understatement. It feels like someone has fired a cannon from two feet away and the ball hit me there. I’m doubled up in pain and when I try to stand, I vomit blood. I would lay my hand on a stack of Bibles and swear that there’s a pitchfork rammed down my throat. It scares me, but it freaks Mark out so badly that he yanks the table out of the way and attempts to be a doctor and not a man when he yells at someone to call 911. I roll onto my side on the uncomfortable bench seat and throw up again and again ... I can see blood. Red blood, brown blood, blood that looks like coffee grinds, and the pitchfork continues to assault me. He’s spackled with it, but if he notices, he doesn’t say a thing.

He leaves his car at the diner in favor of riding in the ambulance with me. When the EMT can’t find my vein, Mark takes over and expertly inserts the IV into the back of my hand. He takes it upon himself to give me something for the pain and I’m crying too hard to say thank you. It’s not enough. It’s not nearly enough and as the ambulance streaks for Seattle Grace with the sirens blaring, I’m clutching at my stomach and trying to draw my knees upward to no avail. Mark unstraps me from the stretcher and helps me sit up, he pulls my legs upward himself and I can hear him telling the EMT to shut the fuck up, to not talk to him about policy, and I lean my head against his shoulder.

I think about his cheddar romantic gestures and his dance to ‘It’s Raining Men’ months before. I think of him telling me to leave my clothes in his closet and trying to physically restrain me from taking four pairs of jeans back to Cristina’s. I think about how he rolled them up, put them under his pillow, then flopped down on the bed to keep me from getting them. He never asked me to move in with him ... but now ... I think it was his way of inviting me. He’s not a wordsmith. He could never be accused of being in touch with his feminine side. He’s not a lot of things.

But he’s here.

And if I have to die ... his arms around me could very well be the last thing I ever feel.

It suits me just fine.

The medication he gives me in the ambulance eventually goes to my head. By the time we reach Seattle Grace (and again Mark has mastered the sweeping gesture because he freaking CARRIES ME IN) I’m not crying nearly as bad and the pain has been dulled enough to feel like a handle and not a blade. I’m still covered in blood and the taste of it is enough to inspire my gag reflex to stand up and dance the hula, but I keep it together. I keep it together even when I hear him bellow for someone to page Webber, stat. I keep it together when I feel someone cut away my shirt, and I’m still keeping it together until I smell lilacs and I know that she’s there. I know that it’s her hand on my forehead, brushing back my hair. I know that it’s her fingers taking my pulse and her stethoscope between my breasts. I hear her asking what happened and I feel her fingers against my stomach, pressing, prodding, and I want to not hurt anymore so that I can enjoy it.

But I don’t.

I come up screaming when she hits a particularly sensitive spot and she moves her hands away ... which hurts more.

I try to flinch away from the people who are taking off my shoes and I can’t not move, even though Mark tells me to, as someone cuts my pants off. The pain comes back with a renewed effort and more blood comes spewing out my mouth and nose. Someone says my blood pressure is low, which, big shock, Sherlock ... do I even have any left?

I hate interns.

I’m vaguely aware that Webber has arrived because his booming, authoritative voice is actually louder than the pain I’m in. I hear him bark out orders and tell someone to bring Morphine. I can’t be examined in the state I’m in and I can’t not be in this state. I can’t stop begging for someone, anyone, to kill me. I can’t suck it up. The medication burns when it goes into my vein. I haven’t opened my eyes.

That will burn worse.

Because Erica’s going to be looking at me like she looked at the little girl who screamed the entire time she was in the trauma room with a broken bone. She’s going to be looking at me like I need a muzzle, like I’m a big baby, like she doesn’t know what she was thinking when she messed around with me. I’m not the strong woman she thought I was. I don’t have any super powers. I’m human. I am the human who hurt her.

I don’t look at anything except the back of my eyelids and eventually ... eventually the darkness pulls me deeper.

*~*~*~*~*~

I know ... I know ... don't KILL me. :)

Tell me about it! :)
Tags: author: burningeden, shipper: mark/callie
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