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!
aclairec, I love you. 'Nuff said. ;)
Relationships are not my strongest suit.
They’re just ... not.
Before I met George ... I plowed through men like a steamroller and the one or two that were decent enough to hang onto for more than a couple of dates wound up running the second they found out I had money. For the record ... money isn’t that amazing. Case in point, I could spend ten thousand dollars on something to give Erica and the check would clear, but I choose to spend thirty bucks on a new scrub cap instead. The one she wears has polka dots and it’s not remotely cute. She’s not the polka dot kind and even though she wears it well ... I want her to wear *me*. The cap has a beach theme. And seashells. It’s a little bit busy and a whole lot cheerful and I know that she’ll get it the second she sees it. The beach is our thing. I didn’t set out for it to become our thing, but that’s what it is. I taught her the ins and outs of the ocean and she taught me that it’s perfectly fine to love her and be myself by doing it.
When I arrive at the hospital for lunch, I stop by the attending’s lounge to hang the cap in her locker. I love that I know the combination to the lock the same way I know her. I quickly open it and hang the cap on the hook. She’ll know it’s from me and hopefully it will make her smile. Her locker is obscenely neat and orderly. If you open mine ... you may get a severed foot from so much dropping out of it. There are two shelves inside hers. Her battered purse sits on the bottom one while her briefcase is wedged onto the top one. Next to her purse ... is a bottle of lotion and I pick it up, twisting the lid. There it is ... lilacs. I commit the manufacturer to memory so that I can buy stock in it.
I quickly slam the door when someone comes into the room. It’s Derek and he stops walking, looks from me to Erica’s locker, then shakes his head a little. I’m pretty sure that I can add him to the list of people who know the truth about what happened with Mark. He has a great stare and I start to feel like I’m under a microscope so I leave before he can say anything. I need to keep my head relatively clear for the meeting with Webber that may or may not end my career. In the hallway there are whispers and I don’t know if it’s because of everything that happened with Mark or if it’s the fact that I clean up very, very well. Webber reminds me of my Dad so I pulled a dress out for the occasion. I’m hoping that it’ll work wonders on the Chief, too. It’s feminine, but not girlish. It definitely states that I am woman through and through, but it’s also white and if I’m going to be burned at the stake for clipping an artery and causing a death ... I should look as virginal as possible.
Chief Webber is waiting with his door open and he looks up over his glasses when I knock. He smiles at me, gets to his feet and I see his eyes move over me. This is one of those moments where you don’t know whether to hug someone or shake their hand. He solves the dilemma by giving me a one armed squeeze, then scooting the chair in front of his desk back and handing me into it. I listen as he shuts the door and have a small panic attack fearing that he showed me affection to soften the blow of firing me, but when he smiles after he sits down ... I breathe easier.
"How are you, Dr. Torres?"
"I heard you had a nice time in Miami."
How the hell did he know that? "Uh, yes ... sir."
"Addison. We talk a lot." He clears his throat and reaches for a file and I find myself waiting for a pink slip. "We were able to get John Cooper’s family to settle out of court and protect our reputation in the process. The fact that you had Ambien in your system never saw the light of day. I’ve scheduled you for a hip replacement Monday and a rotator cuff on Tuesday. As a personal favor to me ... you’ll also stay on Dr. Simmons good side and stop making me get daily complaints about your attitude."
Whoosh. That’s what I sound like ... an uncorked bottle with a genie inside who can finally be free. I’m going to make Dr. Simmons regret the day he took over as Head of Orthopedics. Oh ... yes I am. "Absolutely."
Richard extends a hand. "Welcome back."
"And the next time Dr. Hahn lies to me for you ... I’m writing you both up." He sees me fumble for a quick excuse and chuckles, still shaking my hand. "Have a good day, Dr. Torres."
As far as dismissals go ... that one is pretty tame. I get to my feet, wish him well, and head out into the hallway. When I shut his door behind me I have to lean against it as my brain starts to process it all. The Cooper family settled out of court. They got money for their son’s life and I didn’t even get a stiff warning. Losing a patient ... any patient ... is horrible, but when it’s a kid ... you feel it to the core. I used to be able to count the lives I had lost on one hand. Now I have to use two. John was the sixth one. I’ve assisted on more than that who have died ... but I’ve lost six now on my own. Three of those had adverse reactions to anesthesia. One died after the fact, when infection took over. One died from cardiac arrest. And John Cooper died because I clipped his artery. That’s on me. That’s on MY hands.
I have a while before lunch so I go into the chapel and light a candle for him. This is the worst part about being a doctor. It’s not the puke on your clothes or the oozing, smelly wounds ... it’s knowing that when the bases are loaded ... you can save or lose. It’s remembering the hour, minute, and second that you called a life as being done. I didn’t call Johnny ... but I caused it. I think that’s worse.
I was wrong in believing that nothing could impact my happiness today.
I should have been punished.
My phone vibrates as I sit down on a pew and I have to smile when I see that it’s Addison. "You’re interrupting my time with God. This better be good."
"Well, pray for me, too. You owe me. I pretty much sold my soul to Richard to make sure you wouldn’t even get a slap on the wrist. Say you love me, freak."
"I love you, freak. I miss you more, though. I hope you get sand in your crack from the beach. And thank you for selling your soul. I wonder if Webber knows that it’s slightly demented."
"I prefer ‘slighty distracted’. Was Richard mean to you?"
"Not at all. What did you do?"
"I’ll never tellll."
"If it involves naked video calls and you dancing ... thank you for not telling me."
"CALLIOPE! You need to talk to God really, really hard for that."
"I’m trying. Hang on." I light another candle and say a quick prayer before I head toward the breezeway, where I lean my elbows against the rail and watch storm clouds move into the city. "So, what’s new? Broken any shower heads lately?"
"I shouldn’t have told you that," she replies. "And no I have not. What about you? Been gay lately?"
She laughs. "Would not."
"How’s the weather in California?"
"Nice attempt at changing the subject, Ellen. I’m not talking about the weather with you. I’m talking about *you*. How’s Erica?"
"Stop living vicariously through my sex life."
"So there is a sex life?"
"Come on! Tell me! I did go all the way to Miami to console you and -"
"Almost got me arrested."
"There is that."
I laugh. I feel about a million pounds lighter. "So, what are you up to?"
"Well, I’m currently sitting in a gallery watching a very skilled cardiothoracic surgeon perform surgery. She’s impressive, Callie. I can see why you like her."
"OH MY GOD!"
Even if I sprouted wings ... I couldn’t get to the gallery fast enough. I don’t run, but I do a strange power walk while I hurry to the gallery. When I climb the stairs and open the door, Addison stands up and smiles at me, opening her arms. "Told you I sold my soul," she says, squeezing me tight. "I’m baaaack. And damn, you look good. Is that an Azria dress?"
"Hell if I know."
"I like it."
"I pretty much decided to come back while I was here last time. You don’t know how much you miss something until you see it again." Reaching over, she puts her hand on mine. "I had an agenda when I went to Miami. I wanted to make up my mind once and for all about California. And with your help ... I did. I love working with Naomi and Sam, but it’s not like here and I’d rather have the drama of this place ... than the one patient a day monotony and sunshine of California. I mean ... I miss you. I miss Mark. I miss Derek and God help me ... I even miss Meredith Grey!"
Someone behind us swears suddenly and I look down at the surgery in progress.
Erica is charging paddles and I cringe as I watch her attempt to resuscitate her patient to no avail.
It hits her hard and when she throws the paddles across the room and snatches her scrub cap off ... I feel her pain.
"Damn," Addison says. "That sucks."
I give Erica a sad smile when she glances up at me, but she looks away before I can mouth that I’m sorry. "I’m gonna go see if -"
"Go. I’m having lunch with Richard to officially accept my old position back." She nods down at the OR. "Does anyone know about -"
"No! And we’re keeping it that way, Addy. Got it?"
"Got it." She winks at me and I squeeze her hand before I leave her.
Erica is not in the scrub room. I check the women’s bathroom, then the stairwell, and finally head to the attending’s locker room again. I find her sitting on the bench in front of the lockers with her head in her hands. Her polka dotted cap is dangling from her fingertips and when I sit down beside her I can see that her face is just as red as it is when she gets off. She’s not crying, but the look on her face is one that I know very well. She has to go and tell a family that .. despite her efforts ... she couldn’t beat back death. This is the part where you tell yourself to disconnect because if you walk into the waiting room and tell someone that their loved one has died and you are NOT disconnected ... you will shatter with them. Doctors are not without feeling, but we have to shut it down, close our mind, dig deep and articulate loss with careful precision. Sometimes ... the cuts you give someone in the waiting room are deeper than the ones you give with your scalpel.
I don’t ask if she’s okay. I already know that she’s on the freeway and she’s about twenty miles past the exit marked okay. "Can I do anything?"
"What is she doing here?"
"Addison." Erica glances my way and then back down at her cap. She worries the frayed edges between her fingertips and I want to reach out and stop her, but I don’t. It’s so fantastically ridiculous that I can hold Addison’s hand in a gallery full of people, but I can’t touch Erica in an empty locker room when she needs me to. "You’re even dressing like her. Are you trying to take the lipstick lesbian thing to extremes?"
What do you say to *that*? Right. "Ouch."
"Look, I just spent the morning letting Yang do most of my surgery and listening to her talk about the way that *Burke* operates and how *Burke* has a technique that is far superior to mine. *Burke* was featured in JAMA and *Burke* has the Harper Avery and *Burke* is the best damn heart surgeon in Seattle Grace history. I had to bite my tongue and I’m not used to that because I keep my personal life and my professional life very separate and now it’s not and she’s abusing that." She rubs a hand over her face and I suddenly feel very guilty for waking her up at three a.m. to go another round with her. I feel guilty that I’m not brave enough to let everyone know that I’m in love with her so that Cristina has no leverage. Before I can say anything, she continues. "I’m sorry. It’s not a good day. You look very pretty, by the way."
"Are you a little bit bipolar? Maybe?"
She laughs. "Lately? Yes."
"You know what?" I nudge her with my shoulder. "Burke may have the Harper Avery and he may be in JAMA, but you know what he doesn’t have?"
"Gross emotional problems?"
"Uhhh ... he dated *Cristina*." I raise a brow playfully. "What he doesn’t have, smart ass, is the here and now. You own it. It’s yours. And your technique is flawless. I happen to be a fan."
"Only you can make a pep talk dirty."
The door opens behind us and I pretend that I’m engrossed in the strap of my high heel. I hear a locker open and shut behind me and then I clear my throat when the coast is clear. Erica holds up her cap, pointing at a torn spot. "I thought this thing would make me lucky, but that man in there-"
"Make your own luck."
She gets to her feet and twists the dial on her lock. I know the numbers by heart and as I watch her fingers move back and forth, I see it in my head. It’s my birthday. She opens the door and starts to hang her cap on the hook, but something is already there. She puts the old one on the shelf next to her purse instead and takes the new one down. I watch her trace a seashell with her thumb and I know that I chose wisely when she smiles. "Callie -"
Someone bustles into the room behind me and I grit my teeth.
She takes her phone out and types something.
My phone is silent but I feel it vibrate in my purse and pull it out.
The text is from her. ‘I couldn’t love you more if I tried. You really are the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. Are you mad at me?’
‘Not really. You will be groveling later for the lipstick lesbian comment, but for what it’s worth I’m going to get over it really, really fast.’
‘Not too fast. I should grovel really, really slow to make sure you know how much I mean it.’
‘We’ll see how slow you are when you find out that my panties are crotchless.’
The phone drops out of her hand and I fight hard not to laugh as Dr. Savoy, the blond asshole who harassed Bailey during the Duquette M&M, glances at her. She picks the Blackberry up and I swear to God she tries to look up my skirt. And I swear to God ... I kinda let her. She ties her shoes twice without looking at them and when Savoy FINALLY leaves, she touches my knee. "Are you trying to kill me?"
"Not before you grovel."
"Come to my place tonight. I’ll order a pizza for you. I’ll even ... eat it."
"Yeah," I reply. "You will."
The phone drops from her hand again and she shoots me another look.
I get to my feet when she slips the new cap onto her head. She tucks stray hair under it and stares in the mirror, but she’s not looking at it. She’s not seeing how the blue in it matches her eyes or how the seashells have the same color as her skin. She’s looking at me. I reach up and touch the curls at the nape of her neck and tie it for her, then I rest my chin on her shoulder. "You still want to have lunch?"
"I wish I could, but I have another surgery in about twenty minutes. I have to ... go break the news to the family that’s waiting on me."
"It’ll be okay. Call me later if it’s not." I breathe against her ear. "I get to come back Monday. Webber let me off the hook."
She turns suddenly and her face falls. "I am so sorry ... I didn’t even ask! How did it go? Are you okay? What’s going to -"
"Shhh." I put my finger against her lips, the same way she did to me that morning. "Everything’s perfect. I’ll see you at seven?"
"If you stand me up again -"
"Then *I* will grovel."
There’s a commotion outside the door and we jump apart again before I can kiss her. I’m a coward. It would be so easy to just grab the hospital .phone, press the intercom button, and announce that I’m in love with her. Or, you know, I could tell Joe and that would cause it to spread through Seattle Grace faster than any announcement I could make. I pick up my purse and dig around until I find my keys as two attendings that I’ve seen in passing come in. They look at me like I’m a lowly *resident* who is invading their space and I am tempted to moon both of them, but I fight the urge and nod at Erica. "Dr. Hahn, it’s been a pleasure."
"Likewise, Dr. Torres. The ... information was incredibly useful. I’m very grateful for your ... generosity."
I glance up at her cap. It’s at home on her head and I think it’s full of a lot more than luck. I’m gonna be with her when she breaks the news to the family that is waiting for word and I’ll be with her in her next surgery, too. I’d like to think that love is better than luck because love is guaranteed. "You’re very welcome. Any time that I can ... help ... let me know."
When I get into the hallway ... people are looking at me again, but they’re not whispering. I think it’s because they see that my back is straight, my shoulders are squared, and nothing they say can erase the smile on my face. My heels click with a renewed sense of purpose and for the first time in my life ... I can see past tomorrow. I stopped imagining the future after Jasper went away. I didn’t let myself face the fact that he wanted to be a fireman, an astronaut, a guitarist in a famous band, or a skateboarder. I didn’t let myself think about the fact that his dreams were drowned out of him, but were still alive in me. Every year that passes and I see him grow into his body ... I tell myself that he doesn’t know that he’s not ... anything he wanted to be. I watch him live in the shadow of his mind, but never unravel the mess that boats and water and crashes left him with.
I’ve unraveled my mind.
If it’s possible to live enough for two people ... then that’s what I’m doing for me and for Jazz.
Because he loves Yellow, too.
Before I started this thing with Erica, music really was background noise and I’d wrinkle my nose at anything that didn’t have a loud guitar or overzealous drummer. I like Hip Hop because it’s easy to dance to, Rock makes you feel less angry (or possibly more depending), and the few female singers that I enjoy are Alanis Morrisette-like in their lyrical attitude. Because of falling so hard for someone ... I now have Sarah McLachlan’s entire collection and as I drive down the street Erica lives on for dinner, I actually find the song that she danced to. I have to tighten my hands on the steering wheel and nearly take out her neighbor’s mailbox. I have to come to a complete stop before I turn in the driveway because the pizza delivery guy is on his way out. He throws up a friendly hand and I wave back. She didn’t ask me what kind of pizza I wanted ... for some reason that makes me smile. I wouldn’t have to ask what kind of wine she wants. I just *know*.
Just like I *know*, as I make the turn onto her wooded drive, that my period has arrived.
I’ve had minor cramps all day.
And I’ve been looking forward to being with her again since I woke up.
God has a very warped sense of humor.
Luckily, I’ve retired the white dress and opted for jeans and a nice shirt. When she opens the door, I give her a kiss and make small talk for ten seconds before I point down the hall and tell her I’ll be right back. Sure enough ... I’ve started. It’s not horrible yet, but for some reason it’s more embarrassing to ask her for a tampon than it was to call Mark and tell him to buy a whole box. She chuckles when she returns with one and she also brings me a couple of Tylenol and a cup of water. See? This is why she rocks. I take care of business and wash my hands, then freeze. Something is breathing hard right outside the door. Buddha growls, then scratches, then I see his nose under the door as he sniffs loudly. When I open it, he spins on the spot then dances on his back legs while he waits for me to pick him up.
"Hi, puppy!" I bend down and he leaps into my arms, trying to lick my face. He whines and shivers and claws at my shirt as I hug him. "I missed you too."
"That damn dog." Erica comes down the hallway and sneers at the fuzzy bundle of fur in my arms. "He would walk twenty miles out of the way to keep me from touching him. And he’d walk through hot coals for the chance to bite me."
I laugh when the damn dog in question plants a wet kiss on my chin. "I think you’re exaggerating."
She shoots me a look and reaches out to touch Buddha. He goes from cuddly to Cujo in less than a second. He lunges at her and wriggles so much that I have to put him down. She lifts her foot before he can bite it and he settles for latching onto her pants and shaking his head back and forth. She snaps his name and he drops off her and rushes to the bedroom.
"Don’t yell at him." I cross my arms over my chest. "You’re mean to him."
"*I* am mean to *him*? Have you seen my ankles? I look like a cutter." She holds out her hand. "You hungry?"
In the living room, she shows me two movies: Spiderman 1 & 2. It’s going to be a good night after all. I flop onto the sofa beside her and she opens the pizza box. One half of the pie is smothered in jalapeños, sausage, and black olives ... and I only ever told her *once* that it was my favorite. Her half is covered with every vegetable imaginable as if that could could make it more than a nutritional wasteland.
We chatter our way through my first slice and before I can pick up my second ... I start to wonder about *her*, the nameless girl who keeps preventing me from being as happy as I should be. Did she sit where I’m sitting? Did she watch movies and laugh at everything Erica said the way I do? I don’t bother with the second piece. I want to ask if she’s out of the picture all the way. I want to ask what Erica told her about me and about how serious they really were. Most of all ... I want to ask if making me feel this way was worth it, because it pisses me off and destroys me in equal measures. I shouldn’t be thinking about it. I should be happy that I’m the one here and that I’m the one who belongs here ... but I can’t be.
"You okay?" Erica asks.
"Cramps," I lie. Well, it’s not really a lie. I do have cramps, but it’s more or less my heart that is aching and not my ovaries.
I shouldn’t be jealous. Not really. I know where I stand.
My eyes dance around the living room like I’m going to stumble onto something that *she* left behind. Everything still looks the same. The walls are still a soothing taupe and the fringe-edged throw pillows (the ones I once called ugly once and got a face full of) are tossed onto the loveseat. The first time I saw this room I was struck by how homey and lived in it is. There aren’t that many personal effects in it, but the furniture is comfortable and the art is pretty and it’s the kind of room you can kick your shoes off in and not worry about being told to keep your feet off the sofa. The house I grew up in is immaculate and everything is always new because my mother changes decor the way I change shoes. Everything changes before you can plant a memory there, but here ... you can plant something and it will take roots and grow. This isn’t a house. It’s a home.
And someone other than me got to kick their shoes off in it for a while.
"I’ll be right back."
I go to the bathroom again and shut the door. A moment later, Buddha scratches and I let him in. He’s a yippy little bastard and as I sit down on the edge of the bathtub, he plants his paws on my chest and barks at me. He could be telling me, in his own way, that he didn’t want *her* here either. He could be saying that he’s glad to see me because Erica is happier and maybe she gives him dog treats when she’s with me. Maybe.
The only thing worse than being haunted by someone you don’t know ... is knowing that someone you don’t know can haunt you at all.
Erica knocks on the door. "Are you okay?"
"Did you tell her yet?"
She wiggles the knob, but it’s locked. "Open the door."
"Yes, Callie, I told her." She sighs and I can imagine her leaning her head against the wall. "I’ve already made it very clear to you that she didn’t matter. At all."
"You said she was amazing."
"I wanted to piss you off."
"Are we going to talk through the door all night? Because I gotta tell you ... between this and texting ... I’m starting to feel disenchanted with our lines of communication."
"Did she spend the night here all the time?"
Buddha still has his front paws on my chest and he’s looking at me like he’s trying to plead Erica’s case. I scratch his ear and he leans into my hand. It strikes me that like his owner ... he’s starved for affection. And like his owner ... he’s looking to me for it. I suddenly have a horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I tuck him under my arm and yank the door open. "Was she a hooker!?"
"What!? Oh my god! No!"
"Then who was she?"
"Can you please let this go?!"
"No, I can’t."
Erica looks at me for a while before she speaks. "I treated her sister before I transferred to Seattle Grace. A few weeks after I operated on you, she called to tell me that her sister had died and when I went to the funeral ... well, we were both hurting. I told her upfront that I was in love with you and that all she was ... was a warm body. That’s all she wanted, too. You nearly killed me, Cal, and I needed to remember that I was alive. It didn’t mean anything to me." She reaches up and touches my hair while her eyes do that thing where they travel all over my face. "How could it when my heart was with you all along?"
I believe her.
I believe every syllable of it and I know that I’m just as guilty of doing the same thing with Mark ... only he didn’t know it. At least she didn’t use someone who wasn’t aware. Buddha wiggles in my arms and I change his position, holding him against my heart. I lean down and rub my nose against his fur and he nips it, then grabs my earring and yanks it out. "Ow!"
"Devil dog," she replies, reaching for him. "I’ll put him in his crate."
He attempts to crawl up my shirt to get away from her and he needs a good nail clipping. I feel like I’ve been attacked by a cat by the time I set him on the floor. He bites her ankle, causing her to jump and then he bites the other which makes her yell. When he vanishes around the corner and into the bedroom again ... she’s cussing up a storm. I laugh at her until my sides ache and she starts to say something, but doesn’t. She reaches into my hair, where the earring is tangled, then looks at my ear. I stop laughing when she rubs against the lobe, then leans forward and kisses it. She doesn’t just kiss it ... she sucks it into her mouth and I hiss. "You have to stop that."
"Spend the night with me?"
"Uh ... you do remember that I got my period, right? And as you can see ... cramps make me cranky."
"Stay," she says, her hands on my hips. "As much as I want you ... I need you more."
Her lips on mine make up my mind for me. "Okay."
She kisses me again and I forget that there was ever anyone else here. When she rubs her noses against mine, she says, "I got you something today."
I follow her into her bedroom and draw up short. I’ve only been in there a couple of times and I’m stunned to see that the painting over her bed that a patient did for her is gone. In its place is a photo of the view from the balcony in Miami. She bought a disposable camera the day that we shopped for bathing suits, one of the panoramic kinds, and the size of the photo alone makes me think that she spent a fortune to develop it. I don’t even know who she would pay to make it that big. It’s almost like standing where she stood and seeing what she saw. I gasp when I realize that Jazz and I are silhouetted against the water. "Oh my god," I whisper, reaching out to touch my brother. "This is ... unbelievable."
"Oh, that," she says, smiling sheepishly. "I really did like that balcony. And ... you."
She points to her nightstand, where there’s a photo of me resting on her nightstand. It’s also from Florida and I remember the moment she snapped it. It was before we had sex and I was laughing at the fact that she didn’t want to get on the jet ski with me.
In that moment ... I know that I hurt her more than she hurt me by moving on with that *woman*. I hurt her in a way that meant she would rather have reminders of me all over the place than be pissed enough to remove me from her life completely. That’s the kind of hurt that doesn’t ever go away completely. That’s the kind of hurt that settles into your bones and makes you wonder if you can breathe again without aching.
I kiss her until we’re both breathless and I have never wanted someone more in my life ... so much that I offer to do dirty things to her, but she tells me that if I can't, she can't. My heart feels like it’s straining against my chest and when I step away and smile at her, she holds up a narrow box. It’s covered in burgundy velvet and when I take it, I can tell that she’s holding her breath. I thought that the photo over her bed was ... the something she had gotten for me.
"Open it before the suspense kills me!" she says. "I’m not good at this kind of thing."
The bracelet inside is beautiful.
The diamonds are white and canary yellow.
She’s watching me when I gasp and look up at her. Wordlessly, she takes it from the box and fastens it around my wrist. "I was going to get you a ring, but I figure that since I’m already wound around your little finger so tight ... it would be hard to move."
"This ... oh my God. Erica, I love it." I trace one of the yellow diamonds with my fingertip. "It’s you. Yellow."
She touches one of the regular diamonds. "And you. You're clear. I see everything clearly with you."
"Damn it. I bought you a *scrub cap*. I suck."
"That thing’s priceless," she assures me with a kiss. "Now, why don’t you show me Spiderman and if it’s better than Daredevil ... I’ll cook you French Toast in the morning."
I fall asleep with my head on her lap halfway through the movie. Her fingers raking through my hair works like a sleeping pill.
I don’t have to make love with her to feel sated.
We spend the following day at Pike Place Market. We don’t hold hands as we prowl through the shops and stop to watch people toss and catch fish. That makes me sad. Having dual identities like a superhero ... that’s way overrated. I don’t even get the snazzy costume and yet .. I have to hide in the Bat Cave. Well, Bat Closet. As we walk towards Starbucks, the back of my hand brushes hers and she moves away. To say that I hate it is putting is mildly. In the coffee shop, we sit down and she pulls out a map of the market and spreads it down on the table. She takes out a notepad and jots down a few things, telling me that she’s cooking us something decent for dinner. I only half listen as I watch people come and go. I'm not rude, okay, but I care as much for food shopping as I care for Stevens.
People watching is interesting.
There are two men sitting near us and the way they look at one another makes me think that they’re together. I keep glancing their way, watching the way that they lean toward one another with a little more familiarity than two friends would. They laugh, they keep eye contact, and they’re not sitting across from one another. They’re sitting next to each other and their knees are touching. Nothing else is. Most people wouldn’t notice, but I do. Their knees can touch, but not their hands. I think maybe their hearts touch, too, because I can see it in the way they interact with each other.
A rowdy group of teenagers come in and wrestle their way into line. One of the boys, a walking American Eagle ad, snorts when his curly haired pal orders a Chai Latte. He mocks him, repeating the order like it’s something dirty. Then the American Eagle ad nudges another friend and speaks in a loud voice. "Why doesn’t he just advertise that he’s a faggot with faggot taste? Chai Latte ... translation ... I’m a homo!"
Erica has stopped scribbling her grocery list.
The two men with touching knees are suddenly not smiling. They’re still looking at one another, but the laughter is gone. I can see their silent apology as they exchange gazes ... like they’re sorry, like it hurts to hide, and I don’t even know if they realize that they each move their chairs apart a fraction of an inch. They would have to reach to touch now and neither of them looks like they want to exert the effort it would take to climb across a couple of words. They look *tired*. When I was growing up I heard labels all the time. I was the tallest in class by sixth grade and my black hair, braces, glasses, and size twelve designer jeans mattered a little too much. I heard that I was a ‘half breed’, that I was a ‘mixed nut’. I heard that I was a ‘fat Cuban’ and an ‘ugly nerd’. ‘Rich bitch’, ‘Amazon woman’, ‘big Bertha’, ‘beached whale’, ‘illegal alien’, ‘lard ass’, ‘brace face’, ‘four eyes’ and my full lips were compared to Mick Jagger’s on more than one occasion. I heard it all. I lived it all.
I couldn’t wait to become an adult and not live under the banner of any label except what I was going to become ... a doctor. A female bone surgeon who kicks ass, takes names, and doesn't worry about minor things like extra baggage around my middle.
I'm not defined by anything except ME.
What I refuse be now ... is a ‘coward’.
I scrape my chair back with enough force to make noise. Several heads turn my way, specifically the American Eagle asshole, and when I slowly lean over the table and kiss Erica, it’s a long, slow, tongue brushing kiss that involves me tangling my fingers in her hair. When I pull back, she has my lip gloss smeared on her mouth but I don’t comment on it. I make eye contact with the guy who was taunting his friends and give him a look that I think my mother would be proud of. He quickly turns around and looks at the menu. Wordlessly, I pull out the chair beside hers instead of across from it and take her hand. She gives me an amused look and returns to her list like nothing out of the ordinary has happened, but she rubs the back of my hand with her thumb and when she chews the lid of her pen, she still hasn't wiped off my lipgloss.
When I look back at the table where the two men are sitting ... one of them lifts his coffee cup in a silent toast.
Apparently there’s a kinship among people like ... us. They’re me. I’m them. I’m in love with someone of the same sex.
Big fucking deal.
That’s the funniest thing to me, though. I don’t look at her and think ‘Wow, I’m with a woman’ ... I look at her and think ... ‘Wow, I’m with someone I love’. It doesn’t matter to me that she has the same equipment as me. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t smell like aftershave or get a five o’clock shadow. Nothing that is the *same* as me matters at all. As much as I like penis ... her lack of one has yet to matter. I don’t look at her and think that we’re doing anything out of the ordinary because everything we do feels right. We’re no different than anyone else who is experiencing something new with someone and if people have to label it then they should call it what it is: happiness.
We’re two people who found each other out of millions.
That’s more shocking than anything we can do to each other.
When we leave Starbucks, my hand brushes hers again. She doesn’t pull away this time. She loops her pinky through mine. I hate shopping. I hate shopping for clothing. I hate shopping for a new phone or a computer. I specifically hate shopping for food because that usually means someone has died and I’m going to cook something. I don’t hate shopping for food with Erica, though. It’s a careful process with her. She chooses vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables and painstakingly sorts through fresh herbs. By the time we head to my Range Rover, we’re laden with bags and I finally understand why she wanted me to drive it instead of her Lexus. When we climb into the car, she stops me before I can turn the key.
"That little statement you made at Starbucks?"
I hold my breath because her tone says that she’s going to take me to the mat over it.
"I liked it," she says, leaning her elbow against the console. "Wanna do it again?"
I don’t hesitate.
Kissing her has replaced my Wii as the best way to spend a day.
What doesn’t rate as enjoyable is swinging by Cristina’s apartment for a fresh change of clothing. Apparently Cristina has talked Meredith into loaning her all kinds of videos of Ellis Grey performing surgery and invited friends to watch. George and Izzie are sitting on *my* bed while Karev lounges in the chair with his scruffy boots all over my leather jacket. As soon as Cristina sees that Hahn is there ... her demeanor changes and she offers her a beer. I hear Erica suggest something with the beer bottle that makes me cringe, but I don’t say anything. I kneel down at my suitcase and pull out jeans and a shirt, stuffing it into my overnight bag. I also stuff in underwear and head into the bathroom for my toothbrush. When I go back into the living room, Cristina crosses her arms and glares at me, making it very clear what she thinks of Erica.
"I’ll see you tomorrow," I tell her.
"Oh?" she asks innocently. "Where are you going?"
"Uh." I can see that I’m suddenly very interesting to the others. I adjust the strap of my bag and shrug. "We’re going to the, uh, spa. The one we went to before. It’s a long drive so we’re heading out tonight."
Izzie says something to George and they both laugh, their heads together. If *she* makes a gay comment ... I will murder her.
Cristina shoots me a knowing look and I purse my lips together, daring her to speak. She turns back to the video and doesn’t say anything else at all.
I wrestle my coat from under Karev’s boots and head out into the hallway. Erica follows and says, "Why do you live there? It’s like Chinese Water Torture to even visit the place."
"It’s close to the hospital."
"It’s not like you’re a poor intern who has no money for rent, Callie."
"I know ... it’s just a place to sleep. I’m rarely even here."
We ride the elevator to the parking deck in silence.
We took two steps forward at Starbucks.
Then ten steps back in front of our coworkers.
Back at Erica’s, the dog is barking like crazy and after we bring in the groceries, I go and check on him. He’s in his kennel and he stops barking when he sees me and rams his nose through the bars. It breaks my heart to see him caged so I let him out and laugh at his antics. His nails click on the hardwood as he leaps up and down on me and when he hears a bag rustle downstairs, he nearly breaks his neck getting to the source.. He rushes to one of the cabinets, not bothering to acknowledge Erica, and claws at the door. I kneel down and open it and sure enough ... Erica has dog treats in every shape and size. When I clear my throat, she says that it’s habit to buy him things, but I have to wonder. I think maybe she has love, unrequited love, but love for the hateful little shit. Buddha roots around in the cabinet, pawing left and right, and I pick up the bag that holds his interest. He accepts the Greenie from me and rushes to a small rug in front of the fireplace to eat it, his tail thumping the floor just as hard as his nails did.
Erica has pulled her hair up in a clip and sets about meticulously chopping bell pepper at the island. I take a sip of her wine and say, "I could be more helpful if I knew what you were cooking."
She continues to expertly dice the peppers. "I don’t get it."
"You’d rather live with Yang and sleep on a sofa ... than move in here."
My eyes widen. "Did I sleep through you inviting me to move in here?"
"You don’t need an invitation!"
Great. A conversation that I didn’t want to have. I turn to the sink and wash my hands, then pick up an onion. "Want me slice, dice, or -"
"I want you to answer me."
I pick up a knife and cut the ends off the onion. "How do you want me to cut this?"
"Dice it and answer me."
"I would love to move in here, but it’s too soon." I don’t look at her as I set to work on the onion. "I rushed with George. I sort of rushed with Mark because I put sex before anything else with us, but I’m not going to rush with you. I love you. I want to be with you, but the time that I spend on Cristina’s sofa will make us appreciate the time that I spend here a whole lot more."
"I already appreciate it."
"I already waited while you’ve slept on Cristina’s sofa and in Mark’s bed. So, I don’t think it’s rushing ... I think it’s about damn time."
Buddha rushes into the kitchen, green flecks on his muzzle. He yaps a few times and charges to the sliding glass door, scratching at it. "Does he want to go for a walk?"
"Just open the door. The back yard is fenced and he will let us know when he wants to come back in."
I nod and dry my hands on a dishtowel before I open the door and step outside. I’ve never paid attention to the backyard before. The deck is oversized and has two levels. There’s a hot tub on the bottom level that looks like it hasn’t been used in years, but it only holds my attention for a second. From George’s bedroom in the O’Malley house, you can sort of see the Space Needle. From the deck of Erica’s house ... you can see it all. The Space Needle, Mount Rainier, and so much more. It’s breathtaking. She told me once before that she bought the house for the view, but I thought she meant the woods that surround her house, but that's only part of it. All along the privacy fence there are flowerbeds, explosions of colors are everywhere. In the distance, toward the end of the rolling, well clipped grass and nested between two shade trees near the thickest of the forest, there’s a white gazebo. A trickling of water catches my attention to the left and my eyes widen when I see a pond there. It’s small and I can’t tell if it’s stocked with goldfish, but there are lily pads floating on the surface.
"You like it?" she asks suddenly, wrapping her arms around my waist.
I love the way I fit against her, my back against her chest. It's like the last puzzle piece I've been looking for is finally in place. "It’s beautiful."
She rests her cheek against mine as we watch Buddha chase a bird out of the yard. "I’m not going to pressure you to move in with me, but the invitation is out there. Officially."
"I love you too, by the way. And waiting for you sucked ... but we’re here now and that’s all that matters."
The door is still open and the smells coming from the kitchen cause my stomach to rumble. "What *are* you cooking?"
"It’s *not* pizza."
"Damn. That’s the perfect food."
"Oh, Callie, I have so much to teach you."
"You’re doing fine so far."
The only thing better than Erica’s roast ... is her Hawaiian Chicken and white rice with sautéed onions. My stomach, which hasn’t given me any problems since surgery, feels like it’s stretching out of proportion when I finally push my plate away. We don’t talk about me moving in with her again. We talk about Jazz’s birthday party and my sister in law’s reaction to me getting near my niece. We also talk about Addison’s stiff salsa dancing and the fact that she nearly got me tazored to death by Deputy Dog after I insulted New York. And then I tell her about the walk I took on the beach with my mother and while I’m telling her about it, I notice that she’s worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. "Hey," I say, touching her face. "What’s wrong?"
"I’m sorry that you had to go through that with your niece. And that it was tense with your mom."
"It’s okay. If my mother can come around then Mount Rainier can move. Hope will eventually realize that this is who I am and you’re who I want."
I look out the glass doors toward the city, toward Rainier. The view is even prettier at night. Erica seems to know what I’m thinking because she shuts the lights off and holds out her hand, leading me back onto the deck. I sit beside her in an old fashioned glider that she tells me is a relic from her childhood home. This is life at its simplest. This is life where nothing else matters and contentment can make you feel just as full as too much dinner. I can forget *everything* that has happened over the past few months when she puts her arm around me and pulls me against her. The smell of the roses and daffodils and daisies are mixing with her lilacs and it’s enough to make me more lightheaded than the two glasses of wine I indulged in. This is why I don’t drink wine. I can have ten shots of whiskey and walk a straight line, but two glasses of wine and I’m seriously contemplating asking her to help me move the next day. And I told her the truth ... I'm just not *ready* for that yet.
I don't know why. The world won't stop spinning if I hang my clothes next to hers or put my toothbrush in the same cup she keeps hers in, but you know what ... it stopped spinning when I did it with Mark. It felt like I put my life on hold and time marched on, but I didn't get anywhere. I felt like I stopped living. I'm a little jaded ... I can admit that. Things change when you live with someone.
I suddenly have a startling realization. "Where’s Buddha?"
We both sit up and call his name at the same time. She whistles and we wait patiently for the sound of him scrambling up the stairs of the deck. After two full minutes pass with both of us whistling and calling for him ... she starts to swear and I start to panic. We go inside and she leaves the door open as she rifles through the drawer for a flashlight. It doesn’t take us long to scour the fence’s perimeter and find a place where a wooden board has rotted away. It looks like Buddha took advantage of that and chewed his way through. There’s a little red fur caught in the jagged edges to let us know that we’re right in assuming that he clawed to freedom. I’m barefoot and as we scramble up the stairs to go inside again I can feel a splinter wedge itself in the pad of my foot, but I don’t say anything. I grab my shoes and we hurry into the front yard, where we call for him again. We walk all the way to the end of the driveway. When there’s no answering bark, she says, "Neither one of us can drive through the neighborhood, Callie. I’m a little tipsy and, well, he has tags on. My address is on there."
"What if he gets hit by a car?" There’s a lump in my throat that won’t go away. I’m pretty fond of the fur ball. The previous night, he took a running leap onto the bed and nuzzled my face until I let him under the cover. He slept against my belly and bit Erica twice on the hand when she tried to pull me closer. She told me that he had never jumped on the bed and she didn’t think his short legs would do it anyway, but he not only jumped, he stayed right beside me. He was still snuggled against me when she woke me up for French Toast and if she minded that I kept sneaking slivers of bacon to him under the table... she never said a word. As a car with a too loud radio rumbles past, the tears that are threatening to fall do just that. "He’s so little."
"He’s fine." She hugs me. "He’s a dog. Dogs have a build in GPS when it comes to finding their way home."
"It’s okay, baby. He’s not *that* ugly. Someone will take him in for the night." With her thumbs, she wipes the moisture from my cheeks and then kisses me.
We’re still kissing when a car eases to a stop beside us. It’s got a quiet enough engine that what gives it away are the squeaky brakes.
That ... and my name.
Jerry O’Malley is sitting in his mother’s station wagon and he’s looking at me like I just grew two heads and bit him with one of them. I watch his eyes move to Erica and then Buddha appears, popping up from his lap. "I - I was just -" he stammers over the words. "Dr. Hahn, your dog was digging up my mother’s tomato plants. She fed him some ham and ... well ... here he is."
Erica reaches for the dog, but Buddha growls at her. Apparently freedom didn't make him like her. I take him instead, reaching into the window. I notice that Ronnie is in the passenger seat and he’s staring at me like I’m a body on the side of the road about to be zipped into a bag. "Hey, Ronnie, Jerry."
Ronnie simply nods.
Jerry looks at my mouth and says, "Whoa."
I stand up with Buddha in my arms and clear my throat. Erica thanks them for bringing the dog back and offers to pay to replace the tomato plants, but I don't hear their reply. My ears are ringing too much. When they drive off, neither of them have spoken to me, but I see Ronnie turn around in the seat to watch me and I swear that the only thing bigger than his eyes ... is his mouth. The dog whimpers and I wrinkle my nose because he’s sticky and smells like tomato vines. "You’re in trouble, mister," I tell him. "And you're getting a bath."
What I don’t say ... is that the cat is most definitely out of the bag. Ronnie and Jerry are gossip kings. If either one of them had a handle on technology ... they would give Perez Hilton a run for his money. When George and I went to tell them all that we had eloped, Ronnie was able to rattle off a five minute list of celebrities that had tied the knot in Vegas. Jerry could pretty much tell you how long their marriages lasted. The stack of celebrity magazines in boxes in their garage would rival Jazz’s comic book collection and I’d bet my ass that his collection is worth a ton of money.
I’d like to see the humor in it all. I’d like to point out that we survived Starbucks and semi-making out in the parking lot outside Pike Place, but I don’t.
Something tells me that Monday at work will be very, very interesting.
I hope we’re ready for it.
Sorry this chapter took so long.
I rewrote it about ten times to make it less cute, but hell .. Callica is just CUTE. I love them together and they needed to enjoy themselves for a while ... you know ... before it gets complicated. ;)
I'd love to hear from you. :)