Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
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!
To Miss _nigella_, who is a Mallie shipper, but still made this for me with love. Thank you! Love you!
Things that are cheesy:
Mark’s taste in music.
George and Izzie being in lurrrve.
Derek Shepherd’s hair.
And Jasper’s favorite food ... Cheetos.
That’s what I smell when dark turns to light and I blink a couple of times. My brother’s face is about five inches from mine and he’s crunching on Cheetos as he stares at me intently. When he sees my eyes open he stops crunching, swallows the mouth full of goo, and grins at me. His teeth are orange. Erica was right ... he’s beautiful. I reach up and brush crumbs off his chin and then touch his nose.
"Hi ... buddy," he says, his voice slicing through my head because it’s so loud and he’s so close.
"Buddy, too," I reply, patting him on the chest. He gives me an Eskimo kiss, but misses my nose and rubs his on my forehead instead.
That’s my mom.
This is the fourth time I’ll make her cry. I hope it’s the last. She tells Jasper to move out of the way and practically lifts him out of the chair. Then she swoops down on me smelling vaguely of Vera Wang and my dad’s aftershave and I know that she’s had her head on his shoulder a lot. She kisses every inch of my face and then kisses it some more, cooing at me like I’m an ugly infant in a stroller than you go ga-ga over because it’s so repulsive you feel like no one else will ... so you overcompensate for other people. Yeah, like that. While she’s tucking my hair behind my ears and rubbing my cheeks ... I feel the bandage on my stomach. I hear the steady beeping of a heart monitor and I notice that my IV has been moved to the other hand. I glance at the one it had been in ... it’s bruised to high hell ... despite Mark’s talent. I start to say something, but my voice sounds like I swallowed a frog and my dad appears, looking thinner, but wonderful, and he holds a cup and straw up to my mouth.
I take a sip and whisper, "What happened?"
"Mark?" My mom looks behind her and steps out of the way.
Mark takes her place and the bags are back under his eyes and his beard is completely gone. He’s totally smooth and I think two things at once: he’s got a baby face under that scruff and I must have worried him so much that he said to hell with maintenance and got rid of it. Maybe he did it to spend more time with me. It’s different. Cute. I prefer him the other way. He leans down and kisses my forehead, then my mouth. Jasper snickers in the corner and says, "Naughty naughty!"
It sounds like ‘Naw-ty’.
Chuckling, Mark kisses my head again. "How do you feel?"
"How do I look?"
He makes a face. "You don’t want to know."
"That’s how I feel, too." I cringe when the blood pressure cuff tightens on my arm and glance to the right, where the equipment is. Heart monitor? Check. Fluid? Check. Oxygen in my nose? Check. Pain pump? Check. Panic attack? On the way. "What’s wrong with me?"
"You had what is quite possibly the largest perforated ulcer Seattle Grace has ever seen. You’re on antibiotics because you spilled a lot of food and digestive juices into your abdominal cavity. Dr. Hahn had to open you up pretty impressively to get all that out of you and you’re still running a fever. You also wound up getting a blood transfusion because you lost so much. By the time I got you here ... you’re abdominal cavity was swollen out like a woman with triplets." He looks down at me, showing his perfect white teeth. "They wouldn’t let me help, but Hahn had you on the table for about four hours longer than they thought because she wanted to get every piece of the infection out."
"Why would a heart surgeon-"
"She was on call and she insisted. Thank God she did," he tells me. "I’ve seen the photos of the thing and you were in good hands with her. You a little piece of your stomach, but that’s okay, because you’re here."
I shift a little and groan, looking under the gown I’m wearing. My chest is on fire. Hmmm. "Is there a reason someone used paddles on me?"
Mark’s no longer smiling. "Your heart stopped twice because your were bleeding out so fast. They wouldn’t give up on you though. Neither did I."
I’d like to add to the list of cheesy things: nearly dying and only losing part of your STOMACH. Fuck. I can hear it now ... ‘Hey, Callie? Heard you almost died!’ ‘Yep. My stomach ate a hole in itself. Woo. Aren’t I impressive?’ I can’t even almost die from something amazing.
Everyone is silent.
When you're a doctor and you find yourself in the bed instead of beside it, when you're in the gown instead of handing it to someone ... you get a different perspective. You get the look on your face that every patient gets just before they ask if there's something the doctors are not telling them. I got that look and asked it while I held my breath for the answer. "Anything else?"
Mark nods and for the first time since I've known him ... he takes my hand. I never realized that my hand could completely disappear in someone else's. His hand is HUGE. If he tells me I have cancer ... I’m gonna *die*. No pun intended. "Just the fact that we are going to take turns kicking your ass when you get out of this bed. You ignored this, Callie. You were in a lot of pain and didn't tell us."
"Oooh!" Jasper puts a hand over his mouth and points at Mark. "Ass! Ass! Ass!"
"That's right, Jasper," I say, smiling with relief. "Mark's an ass."
Jasper continues to chant the word as Mark leans down and kisses me again. He runs his thumb along my cheek and agrees, "I am an ass. But I'm in love so I'm allowed to be."
I swear ... my mother swoons.
I laugh when she ruffles Mark's hair then cringe as pain flames through the incision. How weird, I think, that Erica silently explored and tasted each of my scars ... and then gave me one herself.
Would it ever fade?
Recovering from major surgery is a bitch and I never want to cut a person open again. It *hurts*. I'm frustrated by the second day and bordering on channeling Sybil on the third. I need help getting out of bed and then back in. Every step I take makes me feel like I was put together using scraps and those scraps are being pulled apart one stitch at a time. Webber says that I have to walk in the hallway and my dad is there for that, pulling my IV beside him while he supports my weight. Which, incidentally, my weight loss became the fifth time I have made my mother cry. She helped me into a fresh cotton gown, saw my ribs, and broke down.
She thinks she caused it. Then she channeled Sybil herself and blamed me, Erica, and my job in quick succession. When she ran out of fingers to point, she told Richard she was cooking for me and he didn't say no. I know my mother ... I'm sure she already has the entire hospital staff jumping through her hoops.
On my fourth day, Mark sat down on the bed with me and says, "I know about you and Erica."
This is how my reaction sounds in my head: ZOMGWTFBBQSTFU!!!!
This is what came out of my mouth, "Oh?"
I'm obviously a wordsmith too.
Mark nods. "Your mom-"
OH, NO SHE DI-ENT!!!!
"- she told me about the argument you had with Erica about your father's treatment in Florida. Hahn comes across strong and I know you love your dad, but I'm sure she had his best interest at heart so ... maybe you should talk to her again. She stands out there in the hallway so much that Richard threatened to put a chair there for her."
What. The. Fuck.
Clearly my mother is a wordsmith and compulsive liar.
"Also," Mark continues and I’m glad because it means he doesn’t notice the confusion on my face. "Don't freak out, but-"
"Okay, rule number one ... don't preface anything with 'don't freak out' because that means freaking out is my FIRST instinct."
"What's rule number two?"
"If you say something that freaks me out ... I'll kick your ass. With or without the disclaimer."
He has a nice laugh and I realize that it sounds foreign to me. He took the dark road with me for a while. My voice nearly died from lack of use and his laugh did the same.
"Well," he says. "Yang told your parents that you live with me and she got Meredith to help her take your things to my place and unpacked it all because-"
"I'm evicted!?" I cry. "What kind of ass-hattery is that?!"
"I don't think she evicted you ... I just think the mental image of Lori Anne flaying the skin off her for the mess in the apartment and the couch you've been sleeping on kicked her sense of self preservation into overdrive." He wrinkles his nose. "I got the wraith instead. I don't think I've heard the end of your mother’s tirade about empty cabinets and nothing but beer in the fridge. She actually pulled my ear so hard that I got Derek to examine it."
This is my mother's wet dream. Me, living with a guy ... even if it's sin. She probably looks at Mark like he's the guardian of my vagina's heterosexuality and if she only knew just how dirty I get with him ... she would pull way more than his ear. I broke my mother in Miami so I make the decision here and now to let her dream. I make the decision to LIVE her dream.
Hell, I may as well. I can't live mine.
"I'm still not gonna sleep with you," I eventually tell him. "Whether I go home with you or go to a hotel. I'm just ... not sleeping with you."
His jaw tightens for the briefest moment, then he nods once. "I don't make it a habit of taking advantage of invalids."
"I am not an invalid!"
"Prove it, baby. Walk with me in the hall because the stronger you get the faster we can go home."
He called me 'baby'. He said 'home'.
And my heart does a gymnastics routine in my chest that would have won the gold, bronze, *and* silver because it was that damn impressive. I let him put slippers on my feet and maneuver the IV into the corridor. That's how I wind up seeing Erica ... and that's when my heart stood still. She is standing at the surgical board with her arms crossed over her chest. Her skin is flawless and if she is having trouble with not being in my life ... I can't tell. I see her smile at something Webber says to her and I want to run the other way, but my body is saying 'fuck you'. My body wants me to move closer. My nose wants me to breathe her in. My hands want to touch her. My mouth wants to taste her. And I want her to be the one walking with me. I want her to proclaim to everyone in the world that she loves me, that I'm hers.
I hesitate when Mark leads me provocatively close to her and I stumble because I’ve tried to stand still and he keeps going.
It's Erica who steadies me. She grips my arm, hanging onto me and I clutch at her white jacket. Ahh, there it is. The dimple in her chin from pursing her lips. The line between her eyes that tells me she's worried. The lilac garden that I want to run through for the rest of my life. There it is. There she is. It's the span of seconds, but it feels like an eternity as I look at her. I see us in Florida. I see us on the jet ski. I see her sitting next to me on a piece of driftwood while she told me about her life. I see us walking on the beach and her thumb rubbing a seashell with a look of awe. I see her pale legs turning pink and her laughing that I should call her Casper. I see her shutting my bedroom door and breathing life into me with every touch, every word, every gasp of pleasure.
I took her to the beach for the first time ... she took me home.
"You okay?" she asks, still clutching me.
I nod. "Yeah ... it's just hard to get around ... after you've been gutted."
I mean that literally. She gutted me in surgery, but she GUTS me every day. I watch her glance at Mark and what she says next is shocking. "I've got her. Why don't you take a hike and let me help her?"
"Because *I* am helping her, you freakin’ vulture."
She smiles at him. "Better to be a vulture than the shit it leaves behind."
"Ha ha," he snaps, but he’s smiling.
"It's fine," I tell him. "I need to talk to her."
Mark kisses me on the mouth, shoots her a bird, and heads back down the hall. I stiffen, but he doesn't notice. She does and gives me a little smile Erica takes his spot, looping her arm through mine and pushing the IV. Her thumb rubs the underside of my arm and I come even closer to death than I did a few days ago. I don’t want her to stop. At all. I purposely stumble to make her tighten her grip and she changes her angle, clasping my hand for added support. We make two rounds in the hallway before we say another word. On our third lap ... she guides me into a deserted Quiet Room where we take people after their loved one has died. There's no television, but there are plush, comfortable chairs as if the comfort of your ass can somehow impact the hole in your heart. When she closes the door behind her, I watch her with a sense of hopelessness. And hope. I watch her struggle with awkwardness and want to wrap myself in up in that awkwardness and tell her we're kindred spirits that way.
"You almost died on me." Her voice is as shaky as my legs. She regards me from head to toe ... as if she’s afraid she’ll see through me and realize she left me lying dead on the operating table. "Don't do it again."
I don't even fight the urge to move forward and hug her. I can't. I have to. I have to feel her, smell her, hold onto her. She hugs me back and I start to cry. I whisper, "I miss you," against her hair.
"Oh, Callie -"
"I really, really miss you." I hang on to her tighter. I've seen videos of people who cling to trees to avoid being carried downstream in a flood. That's how I hold her ... like she can save me from the storm. Like she already did. "I'm so sorry. I'm sorry. I handled everything wrong and-"
"Shhh." She puts her hand on the back of my head and strokes my hair. I feel her shake. She's in the same flood I am. "I miss you, too."
"I can't stand it when you're mad at me."
"I'm mad at the circumstances. Not you." She backs away and rubs a tear off my face. "Never you."
"You told me I stink!"
"Well, you did." She gives me a lopsided grin. "And you told me I have an overblown ego."
"Well, you do." I smile back at her. "I don't want to fight with you any more."
"Me either." She looks all over my face before she speaks again. "You're moving in with Mark, huh? I - I get it. I get that your mother is somewhere over the moon about him. And you. I - I watched them have lunch together today. For just a second. Your mom loves him."
"I don't know." That's the honest to God truth in three little words. I don't know. I love the idea of him. I love that my family loves him. I love that he called me baby and made a stupid ass CD to try to fix what he didn't break, but thought he had. I love that he loves me ... or thinks he does.
"Here's the thing," she tells me, tucking her hair behind her ear. She crosses her arms over her chest and I can see her pick her words carefully. "I'm a big girl. I can handle this. I can handle watching him be the person I want to be. I can be kind enough to bite my tongue and not tell you to pick me because I know that your family won't accept that and you love them. What I can't do ... is give up my best friend so I'm begging you to let me be THAT person again. I'm asking you to let me back in, Callie. I won’t ask for anything more than that."
"You never stopped being in." My chin trembles and I can feel the tightening of my lips as I fight to not cry. I lose that fight. "And what you didn't ask me ... is if I love you. Because if you had asked me ... I'd tell you that I am IN love with you and you're all I think about and you're all I want, but I can't ... do that ... because you were wrong in Miami ... I have to buy the bumper sticker and wear the pin because I can't do it halfway, Erica. I can't live in a closet and I can't live out of it ..." I sob now. "So ... I have to live without you as my lover and accept you as my friend because the alternative is nothing at all ... and I'm only happy when I'm with you."
She's crying too. We circle each other without moving at all and she is so pretty with tears staining her resolve and her lips trembling that I can't stand it. I lean forward and kiss her. I hang onto her face with my hands and put so much into it that I'll need oxygen when I get back to my room, but that's not important. What's important is the fact that this is like our first kiss ... our cheeks were wet with rain then and now they're wet with sadness and confusion and want and maybe a little regret because this should be a make up kiss, but it tastes like goodbye. My tongue is against hers, our breasts are pushed together, and she's so gentle with me, so undemanding, that I sob against her lips and pull away. I only stay gone long enough to let her dry my tears and then she kisses me and that kiss ... that one ends with a whispered 'I'm sorry' from both of us at the same time.
It won't be goodbye.
But we don't know it right now.
What we know is that we are stealing pieces of each other in that moment that we will never return. We're taking enough of what might have been to dull the razor sharp edges of what really is and we're telling ourselves that we can live like this because something has to be better than nothing and something is all we can share. We'll tell ourselves and each other a lot of things eventually. We don't know that either, though. So the finality of this moment is the choking kind. It's a coffin of hope that we dug the grave for with our bare hands. It's a coffin that we've already wasted our bodies in and we hide it together ... but we can't throw the dirt in yet. We can’t cover it completely because we both see it. We both know it was real.
I let my fingers trail through the ends of her hair and meet her eyes. I mouth the words 'I love you' because it can't be said out loud. It can't be spoken again and while it was a silent admission ... my heart is all the way in it. My heart is singing it.
Her eyes fill with tears again when she mouths it back to me ... 'I love you' ... her lips form the words slowly, looking pouty and perfect and I can see her crooked bottom tooth and I love her for it. I love her for not being the prettiest on the outside because it made her insides so gorgeous that it blinds me.
I watch her take a deep, steadying breath and I do the same. She stops crying after a while and extends her hand. "Hi, I'm Dr. Hahn, but you call me Erica."
I put my hand in hers. "Callie."
"Callie," she replies, gripping it in a firm handshake. "You don't know it yet ... but you just met your best friend and I am going to value that for the rest of my life."
We hold on longer than a best friend should, but it's not long enough. It can never be long enough. It can never *be*.
I look at our hands ... white against caramel ... and I know that I will go through the rest of my life searching for what I found right here. It makes me not want to live at all.
When we walk into the hallway and see Mark talking to my parents ... she doesn't say anything else. They look down the hall at us and when I turn my head ... she's gone.
My mother looks furious and stalks down the corridor to meet me. She grabs the IV and says, "What did she want?"
"She's my doctor. She wanted to hear how I'm doing."
"Mmhmm. And you’re feeling so bad that you need to cry, huh?" Mom grips my arm so tightly that I hiss. She doesn't let up. "You were hysterical when you called and told me that your husband cheated on you. Do not do that to Mark. He shouldn't have to pay for George's mistakes and you should know better than to make him."
"Mark and I were broken up when I ... slept with Erica."
"Well, you're not broken up now so unless you want me to go to jail ... leave that woman alone."
"Well, hot damn. Slap my ass and call me happy," she replies. "You don't need a friend with benefits when you've got a *man* like Mark Sloan."
"I mean it, Calliope. Do not look at what's behind you ... look what lies ahead."
Mark is now talking to Jasper and he's letting him play with his stethoscope. That stethoscope is Mark's prized possession. His grandmother gave it to him for graduation. He won't leave it at the hospital overnight. He always tucks it back into the monogrammed case it came in and puts it on the table beside his bed. Jasper handles the steth like he handles everything else ... clumsily. I take it from my brother and quickly snatch an ace bandage from a nearby cart before he howls in protest. The ends of the bandage have Velcro on it and that will amuse him for hours. He looks at the shiny stethoscope and back at the bandage and I can tell he wants to protest, but I say his name like a warning and he doesn't. He face falls only briefly and then he smiles at me.
"He'll break this," I tell Mark, handing the stethoscope back to him. "He doesn't know that it's valuable."
"That's okay," Mark replies. "I've got something now to take its place if it gets broken."
That does it.
I shit you not ... if I find out who gave him the Handbook to a Woman's Heart ... I will kill that person for days.
Days are what I spend in the hospital. Ten to be exact. I develop a minor infection that prevents anyone from visiting too long at a time. At night, when my family goes to their hotel room ... Erica comes to see me and she doesn't put a time limit on her visits. She's Best Friend Erica v2, new and improved. We play checkers and Battleship and she always lets me win. We play online Jeopardy on her laptop with her sitting next to me, her shoulder against mine. I don't win that one. She's smart as HELL and while I can hold my own ... her brain has so much information in it that I can't keep up. She know things ... so much trivia and interesting factoids that we talk about random shit until sunrise a lot of the time and then she leaves before visitors are technically allowed to arrive.
We laugh so much that she takes my stitches out before I can pop them. I watch her work. Her hands flutter like butterflies over my skin and I think, as I watch her move, that those hands were the butterflies in my stomach, too. The scar that has been left behind is straight and the stitches were done with care. I'll wear that scar for the rest of my life and I think it's beautiful. Long, precise, and *her* handiwork. This is why she is at the top of her game, why she's demanded by people. Only she can mark a body with a scalpel and make you want to own her mark.
On the tenth day, she signs my release before my parents arrive and squeezes my hand. "If anything starts to feel odd ... you tell me."
"Call me? Even to not tell me."
She doesn't kiss me.
I hear our hearts touch without our lips touching at all.
Mark's apartment gets a thorough makeover courtesy of Lori Anne Torres. When I get to his place (I can't call it home yet), there are flowers and plants all over the place and oversized art on the walls. Oriental rugs cover blocks of hardwood and a photo of Mark and me at Joe's has been blown up and is hanging over the fireplace. I feel like I have amnesia and the strangers around me are trying to cut new shapes in their world so that the square peg that is me will fit. I feel like I'm walking into a life that I don't remember or really want, but I need people right now so I accept these as my own. I don't wear my skin well, however. I want to be in someone else's.
My mother takes over the kitchen and I don't join them for dinner even though I feel up to it. I let Mark pick me up and ease me onto the sleigh bed he bought for me when we shopped. It's not his taste. Maybe he doesn't fit in his skin, too. My dad brings me a tray of food. I see that there are two plates on it and he sits down on the foot of the bed, tray between us. He takes my hands in his and lowers his head to pray.
He blesses the food, he blesses me, and he thanks God that I lived. He also asks God to give me wisdom and strength and *happiness*.
I don't say 'amen'.
God is aware of what makes me happy.
He gave it to me and His word pulled it away.
I am mad. Pissed as hell.
That night, when my parents leave, Mark helps me bathe. I tell him that I'm fine on my own but he refuses to leave me alone. He sets the temperature in the shower and helps me take off my clothes. He bathes me the same way I bathe Jasper. He goes through the motions and looks without seeing me. I can't decide if I'm insulted or grateful. He washes my hair and finally smiles down at me. "How you holding up?"
He takes the shower head down and rinses my hair. When the water runs clean he returns it to the hook and cradles my head in his hands. Now he is REALLY looking at me. I squirm under his scrutiny. "Mark?"
"I want to sleep in the bed with you. I'll go to the sofa if you insist, but I *want* to hang onto you. I ... I almost lost you twice ... once for something I didn't do and once for something I did."
"What do you mean?"
"I did not cheat on you and I did not help you when you were sick, baby. I added to it."
"No, you didn't."
His face says that he doesn’t believe me and he keeps staring at me. I never realized how deep his eyes are. "I need to feel you tonight. No pressure. You're not up to anything else and I want to be with you in case you need me."
I quickly learn in that moment that I can go either way with Mark. I can go from not wanting him to touch me to begging him to. I can go from resenting him for being there to counting my lucky stars that he is. I can love him and hate him at the same time. Right now? I love him. When he dries my skin and slips a gown over my head that I want to strangle my mother for (pale yellow with pink flowers! Ack!), I lean my head against his chest and listen to his heartbeat.
I let him hold me that night.
We don't touch sexually. We don't even joke about sex like we usually do. He pulls me against his chest and I wait to see if he will take the hand that is resting on his muscular stomach. He doesn't. My hand lies there like a fish out of water that struggled to breathe for as long as it could ... then said goodbye. There’s something so final about it lying there alone that makes me want to cry. Here I am ... with a man who swears he loves me ... and all I feel is lost. And alone. And not grateful to have him like I should be.
He puts on hand behind his head and rubs my waist with his thumb. He doesn't sigh with contentment and I wonder if hanging on to me isn't what he thought it would be. I wonder is he knows that to truly hang onto me ... he would have to put his leg through mine, roll into me, hold one of my hands while the other massages my back, and his blue eyes won't look away until my brown ones close ... because THAT is hanging onto me. This one armed hug that he has perfected is devoid of real emotion.
At least to me.
"I'll move back to Cristina's when my parents leave."
Now ... now he rolls into me. He faces me, his head on the pillow a few inches from mine. "I'd rather you didn't."
"I like who I am with you. I like your family the same way I like Derek's, I like to hear you laugh, I like the thought of going to bed and waking up with you ... and I love you. If you tell me what else you want from me ... I'll do it."
"I think you're confusing comfortable with love. I think you like me and you're in love with the idea of love but -"
He stiffens, uncoils from me, and sits up. I watch him swing his legs over the edge of the bed and push myself up behind him. When I touch his shoulder ... he moves it a little. Without looking at me, he says, "You want to know who that woman was that I met in the on call room, Callie? She's a nurse who had breast cancer two years ago. They took off one breast and left one. And she was embarrassed by her body so she didn't want anyone to know that she was seeing a plastic surgeon. I examined her in the on call room and I had dinner with her and her husband and her son to discuss her options. And I wanted you there the whole time because what I had to tell her is that I felt a lump in her remaining breast during her exam. And the day you broke up with me ... I had to go tell her that the cancer was back. So, if you want to hold that against me ... if you want to not believe me and think that I'm nothing ... then fuck you. I'm not apologizing for it any more."
He grabs his pillow and storms out of the room.
I keep sitting there until I can't take it.
When I go into the living room he's sitting on the couch and his head is in his hands. I sit down on the coffee table and my knees go between his. "You should have told me," I whisper.
"I tried. You don't listen to me."
"I'm listening now."
He raises his head and looks at me. "When I tell you that I love you ... it's because I do. Why won’t you let me?"
"Can you try a little harder?"
I feel myself nod and he slips off the sofa and pulls my knees apart, moving between them. He doesn't do it sexually ... he does to hold me as close as he can while he kisses me. It's a kiss that brutalizes me with promise and relief and love. All his feelings ... not really mine.
When I look at him and tell him not to hurt me ... I'm really telling him that I'm hurt enough and the smallest possible infraction on his part will cut me wide ... but he doesn't hear that. He hears my surrender and takes me back to bed. This time he spoons against my back and I feel him breathing on my neck for hours.
It won't be the last sleepless night I spend in his arms.
My parents go home two weeks later. Jasper doesn't understand why I keep hugging him and it becomes a game of who can cling the longest. I take him to the windows and watch him press his palms and nose against the glass while he babbles about 'hairpanes'. My parents are talking to Mark near the baggage claim. I watch them, knowing they're talking about me, and Jasper looks back at them with me. We both see a woman walk through the airport with hair like Erica's. I gasp and come undone ... but he says, "Hi, Yellow! Hi!!"
"That's not her," I tell him. I'm relieved that it's not. If she flew out of my life ... I wouldn't have one.
He frowns and points at the woman, then takes my hand and holds it up like I just knocked someone out in the rink "Yellow!! Come hold Lee!"
God ... he remembers that night on the beach when I held her hand and he came ashore for us to hold his. We stood there like The Three Stooges ... or maybe The Three Musketeers ... hands clasped in an unholy trinity against the world. One lesbian, one little boy, and one confused woman who loved them both beyond the telling of it.
A woman who still does.
"Wrong?" Jasper asks me, his fingers touch my eyelash before the tears fall. For someone so unaware of so much, he sees all of me. He always has. The night before I left for college ... he was eight years old, unhurt, and he climbed in my bed to ask me if I was going to ever come back. I was eighteen and he was my favorite person alive. I assured him that I’d not only be back ... I’d be back all the time and find a way to let him come see me. He never did get to visit me. I wish that I had broken rules and let him stay in the dorm with me for a weekend. Because that would have been as close as he would have come to college with a clear head. And I would have shared a little bit of the world with him that I can’t share now. He wouldn't remember it .. but oh ... I would. For the rest of my life. I watch him touch his own eye now and he says, "Why cry?"
I could tell him anything. I could tell him a million and one anythings that he wouldn’t know or understand, but he’ll care. Because I’m still his big sister and he’s still not embarrassed to adore me. I look at his large, brown eyes and say, "I love Yellow."
"I love Yellow," he repeats and I know it's his truth as much as mine. Jasper has had the same nurse for fourteen years and he remembers her only occasionally. It took Erica just a few days to impact him. She's a sledgehammer. In a good way. "Love good."
"Love is good," I agree.
Only it's not.
There are enough stories written about star-crossed, forbidden lovers to fill up the Congressional Library. There are endless pieces of literature about the subject that have existed since men could chisel on stone. I think. I wasn't actually there for that and like I said ... Yellow is the one with all the trivia rolling around in her head. All I know is that loving her is *wrong* to so many people that it shouldn't feel right ... but it does. And I'm pretty sure that country songs have been written about *that*. I shudder to think.
"Yellow lost?" Jasper points toward where the woman vanished into the crowd.
"Just to me. And ... maybe herself."
"Tag! You it!" He gooses me. "You find Yellow."
He hurts my stomach, but I don't let on. I goose him back and say, "No, you're it."
He covers his eyes and counts to one.
He's still doing it when they board the plane.
I'm counting to one, too.
On the nights that Mark works late or all night ... I invite Erica over. She tells me the first time she visits that the apartment doesn't suit me. What she means is that my life doesn't suit me and I don't disagree. We rent movies, eat popcorn, and drink wine until she realizes that I'm still taking pain meds. She pours the wine out, asks me if I'm still hurting, and offers to examine me. I confess that I'm not and that the pills just help me sleep. When I tell her that ... she flushes them down the toilet and tells me to read a boring story before bed. I know why she does it. She doesn't want to see her mother in me.
We don't talk about Mark and she purses her lips, but doesn't comment on the photo of us above the mantle. It was taken before she came into my life and I've only ever smiled that way again with her and she knows it. We talk about deep, meaningful things and things as trivial as whether or not Spiderman could beat up Superman. We agree to disagree on all things comic related and she cooks so often that I eventually gain ten of the thirty pounds I lost. She doesn't ask me if I'm sleeping with Mark and when she does my six week post surgery exam ... she makes it clear that I can return to ALL normal activity. She doesn't meet my eyes when she says it and I'm glad.
For the six weeks since surgery ... Mark has been the perfect boyfriend. He tells me about his day, bitches about Derek and Meredith's relationship and the impact it has on Derek, and he convinces me to tell him all about what happened to Jasper. When he asks me about Joel ... I tell him we're not close and that's true. My mother told my big brother about Erica and he still won't talk to me. I don’t mention that. I let Mark think that the boating accident ruined our relationship.
Mark tells me about his absentee workaholic parents who loved money more than they loved him. He shows me photos of himself in high school and he's so gorgeous in that movie star way that some teenagers have that I know I would have hated him back then. He wore his football jersey with a cocky smirk and the girl he took to prom was Miss Perfection. They looked like poster people for All American Apple Pie. I can’t help but think that I don’t measure up ... that he settled for me because I’m more gullible than Addison was when he offered her his love.
I like being with Mark. Despite our differences ... we have a lot in common. He thinks Superman could kick Spiderman's ass like I do and after he watches Daredevil ... and when we get near the park ... he coaxes me to play fight with him on the see-saw like in the movie and we fall into the sand together because neither of us can balance for shit. It's fun. He's fun. I laugh a lot with him and when I get the go ahead to return to work ... he starts to flirt, but he doesn't press. I know he wants me ... I can feel it at night when he rubs against me.
On my first official day back at Seattle Grace there is a nine car pileup on the freeway that fills our trauma bay with so many patients that we have to divert several to Mercy West. I stay busy through lunch and well into the evening and then crash in the on call room. Mark wakes me up by slipping into the bed with me. He nuzzles my neck and hands me a red rose. I bring it to my nose and breathe deep as his hand goes under my shirt. He watched me climb on a table today and realign someone's hip so he knows that I am one hundred and twelve percent healthy.
My pulse quickens when he moves higher and strokes the top of my breasts. My bra fastens in the front and with a quick flick of his fingers ... he opens it and rubs my nipple. He takes the rose from my hand and trails it over that peak, then lets it drop to the floor behind him. He covers my body with his and kisses me so hungrily that it curls my toes and makes me wrap my legs around his waist so that I can feel the hard length of him against my center. He grinds into me ... a brutal assault of dry humping that rivals the real thing. He continues to do that and to kiss me until he's crazy with it, then he pushes himself to his knees and pulls his shirt off.
He is a beautiful man. So beautiful in fact that I sit up to get a better look at as much of his chest as he'll let me before ripping my shirt off. It's not much. He tears it up and over my head ... scrub shirt, undershirt, and bra and I hear it rustle against the ground and settle. I'm reminded of cotton sheets and feminine skin against mine.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I gather the bedspread in my fists and arch my back as he sucks my nipple into his mouth. It’s more to keep myself grounded and firmly here with *him* and not really about how good he feels. I have to force myself to think of what he’s doing to me. I shouldn’t have to ... but I do. He moves to my neck, my ear, my forehead, peppering me with tenderness. It's slow now ... and he explores my upper torso like he's never tasted it before. When he nips my ribs. I laugh and smack his arm. He lowers the front of my pants just enough to find my belly button and licks it in response. His fingers move over the scar from my surgery and I freeze.
That belongs to her.
She put it there and she should be the one to touch it.
When he slides his mouth against it ... I stiffen and push at his shoulders. "Don't."
"You're beautiful," he assures me, still trailing his fingers over the reddish brown line. "Don't be self conscious. It doesn't suit you."
His mouth goes back to the scar and I remember the crown of *her* head as she kneeled before me in my bedroom and used her tongue to erase all my scars from memory. It's the crown of his head that I see now and it's his tongue undulating against the brand she gave me and I push at him again, trying to slide away from him. "I said don't! Mark, stop!"
He looks shocked when I wriggle from under him and stand up. "What's wrong with you?"
I wrench my shirt over my head ... and I'm shaking. I hear him shift and his feet hit the floor, then his arms are around me and they feel like a vise. "Mark-"
"It’s normal to feel different after you've gone under the knife. I see it all the time, but you’re not different and you're still so pretty that you're killing me."
"Just ... give me some damn breathing room!" I twist uncomfortably.
He keeps clinging. "If it bothers you this much ... I can make the scar disappear. I can go in and -"
"I don't have body issues! And you're not touching it again!" I pull out of his arms and run my hands through my hair, sucking in lungfuls of air. "I have to go."
"No, you don't." He moves in front of the door, blocking it. He holds his hands up like he’s surrendering ... like his surrender can make me surrender. "Callie, just -"
"Get out of my way!"
"If you don't have body issues then what is your god damn problem?!"
"I don't have a problem." My teeth are gritted but the lie crawls through easily. It slithers from me like a snake that has been coiled in me too long. "Move out of the way."
"I can't live like a fucking monk, Callie! I can't! It has been so long since I had sex that I forgot when and that was fine because I was waiting for you ... but I can't keep waiting! So - so suck it up because you're about to get on my last nerve and I can't take it another damn minute!"
My bottom jaw drops open and my blood pressure goes up ... I can actually hear the blood rushing through my veins. "Suck it up!? SUCK IT UP!?"
"Yeah! Suck it up! Snap out of it!"
"Oooooh! I hate you!"
"Well, I don't like you a whole hell of a lot either!"
"GET OUT OF MY WAY!"
He closes his eyes. "Wait ... I didn't - just talk to me and -"
"We're finished talking!" I yell. "Now move out of my fucking way before I kick your ass."
I mean the threat. I will hit him if he doesn't move. He wrenches the door open and gestures for me to leave. I mutter a terse, "Fuck you."
And he responds with, "Go to HELL!"
"I'm already there."
I was most assuredly not in Hell just yet, but it was coming.
I whip out my cell phone and call a cab, then wait in front of the hospital for it to arrive. I give the driver Erica's address and sit gazing at the city from the backseat. I can see her everywhere. I see her at the corner of Main and Poplar where we waited for the crossing light and got drenched by a car that hit a mud puddle. I can see her on Benson street after I talked her into a pair of shoes that hurt her feet. She hated them, but she wore them because she knew I liked them. I can see her at McDonald's after I said that I needed a Big Mac and she ate half of it so I wouldn't feel guilty about the calories. I see her everywhere I look and when I drive past the building where I share an apartment with Mark ... I see her, and not him, waiting there for me.
I've made a decision. I've taken a step. I'm going to be with her and I don't care what anyone says ... even God. I'll risk Hell for an eternity for whatever time I have here on earth as long as we don't waste another second. I tell the driver to leave when he drops me off at the mailbox. I hurry. I do a happy skip, hop, jog thing down her winding driveway and practically bounce up the steps like a kid on Halloween. I didn't bring her anything to give her except myself and that will be enough. I know it will.
She answers the door after I ring the bell for the third time. She's wearing a cream colored robe and its satin, but she looks softer than the fabric. I feel like I’m seeing her for the first time and I’m falling in love in that moment all over again. I see her brow crease in obvious confusion and I open the storm door before she can. I touch her hair, her cheek. "I need to talk to you."
Her eyes are very, very wide. "Uh ... I have a phone."
I try to pout in that girly cute way that I probably can't pull off but I feel girly. For the first time in my life ... I’m doing what makes ME happy. I’m doing what I was made for. "It's not a phone call kind of talk."
When I touch the tie on her robe and playfully tug ... she sniffs the air. "Are - Callie, are you drunk?"
"Nope." I smile so big it hurts. "Invite me in, Yellow."
When she glances into her living room nervously ... my smile fades and I know. I just ... know. When I hear a woman's voice sleepily ask, "Baby? Who is it?" ... I take a step back as if I've been sucker punched.
"Just a second," Erica calls. She steps out onto the porch and bites her bottom lip. "Callie-"
My voice sounds like a four year olds when I finally find it. "Sh - she calls you 'baby'?"
Erica ignores my question. "Why are you here?"
I stare at the door of her house and I want to rush through it to see who's replacing me. I want to rip out her hair, her eyes, her *everything*.
Erica clears her throat. "You can't be mad. You can't. You're across town living the cliché with Sloan and I'm not gonna be lonely for you. I'm not going to sit here night after night thinking of what you're doing with him ... so you can't be mad."
"Is she pretty?"
It's the same thing I said to Mark earlier and I wonder if I'm suffocating her like he suffocated me. I hope so. We stare at each other for at least thirty seconds. I finally turn and walk down the stairs. She comes after me and catches me in the driveway. She grabs my arm and I pull hard, trying to yank away. She holds firm and I can't shake her. I'll never shake her. God ... I don’t want to be me.
"Please what?!" I yell. "What am I supposed to say!?"
"Tell me why you're here."
"Does it matter!?"
"You matter! Everything you do matters to me, Callie!"
"How much did I matter fifteen minutes ago?"
The porch light comes on behind her before she can reply and I see a flash of brown hair as the door creaks open. I'm too far away to see her face, but she's nothing like me. She's petite, young, and so thin she practically vanishes into the crack of the door. She gazes toward us and while I can’t make out her features ... I know she’s pretty. She’s pretty enough to have everything I’ll ever want and that makes her beautiful. I can’t take it. I can’t breathe. I can’t think beyond the here and now and wonder how I’ll live at all without a heart. "I'll see you later."
"She’s convenient. That’s all, Cal. She’s convenient."
I walk away ... then I run.
Erica doesn't follow me.
But she's still haunting me.
The O'Malley house is three doors down and it's darkened. I knock anyway and when Louise peers out the window with wide eyes and sees me ... I can hear her fingernails scramble against the door as she unlocks it. She pulls me in and hugs me ... whether its because she misses me or because the damn breaks at that precise moment doesn't matter. She plies me with tea and cookies and wakes up Jerry to drive me home. He tries to make me pick a car on the drive but I tell him not right now. He offers to drown George if I want him to, but I don't reply.
When I walk into the apartment building ... the doorman greets me and escorts me to the elevator. I trudge down the hall ... unlock the door and look at Mark. He gets to his feet slowly, like the threat of going another round with me makes it hard to rise. I stare at him. He glares at me. I'm still dressed in my scrubs and I pull off both my shirts ... just the way he did. My bra is still at the hospital.
He watches me shimmy out of my pants and kick them aside. When I take a step toward him ... he sets the beer bottle he's holding down and stands upright just in time to catch me.
We don't apologize to each other right then.
Our bodies say it loud and clear.
He brushes everything off the coffee table and eases me down onto it. It's frigid against my back, but I don't care. I don't show it. He wastes no time burying his face between my legs and I come very close to yanking him bald as he gives me multiple orgasms. Then ... I suck him off, kneeling between his legs and he doesn't pull my hair, but he doesn't let it go either. It’s the first time I’ve let him go all the way there ... it’s my way of telling him I trust him and I swallow everything he gives me.
We go through four of the twelve condoms in his dresser drawer and I come more than I ever knew I could. When he carries me to bed still buried inside me with my legs around his waist, he says, "I didn't mean anything I said earlier."
He eases me against the bed and looks down at me. "I love you."
I give in. I give up. He's earned the right to hear it and I've made him wait long enough. "I love you, too."
Two more condoms vanish from the box and he fucks me hard enough to clear my head. He fucks me hard enough that when I go to sleep ... I don't dream. He fucks me hard enough ... that I tell myself I meant the words and that he can love enough for the both of us if I didn't.
I tell myself that I'm over her now and hope that she's happy with the brown haired harpy who says "baby" like she has a forked tongue. Fuck both of them ... I tell myself. Be happy with Mark!
But the funny thing about telling ... is that it's not showing ... and you can only talk for so long.