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 don't know how you see into my mind so well, but this is absolutely Erica's backyard and you are absolutely my pride and joy. :) Look, everyone, there's Buddha on the deck so you can see his hateful ass live and in color. :) :) :)
Lazy Sunday mornings are my new favorite thing. We take our breakfast onto the deck and watch Seattle come to life. It’s twenty miles away on the road, but as the crow flies .. it’s about ten. If that. It’s so beautiful and so surreal to see a concrete jungle amidst all the trees in Erica’s backyard that it’s hard to look away from it. After we flip through the Sunday paper and belly laugh over the comics, we locate a large rock and lug it to the fence where Buddha got loose. It would take something much larger than an egotistical Pomeranian to get around it. For good measure, though, Erica puts a potted plant in front of it and we walk the perimeter of the fence to make sure there are no other places that he can escape from. When we let him out ... he runs right to the boulder and looks back at us like we’re the biggest bitches he has ever seen in his life. He hikes his leg to show us what he thinks of it and it’s so cute that I have to take twenty photos with my Blackberry. If I become that person who treats a *dog* like a kid ... someone needs to shoot me. I leave that afternoon and head back to Cristina’s. There’s a note saying that she’s at Meredith’s for a few days. I need to have a talk with her about throwing Burke into Erica’s face so I write a note asking her to call me when she has a chance. I live with the woman and never see her.
This is the life of a doctor.
No wonder we’re all fucked up.
On Monday, I am in and out of surgery for nine straight hours and sleep in the on call room for two before I’m paged to surgery again. There is something in the water or God is hitting people left and right like a screen door in a hurricane ... either way ... their broken shit is my gain because I’m back in the zone. George winds up scrubbing in with me on my last surgery. Neither of us speak past me asking him a few questions about the procedure and he parrots textbook answers back to me like the book is open in front of him. I can tell that he impresses a couple of new interns who exchange looks as I hand him the reigns and let him put the finishing touches on the rod in the patient’s leg. He looks like he enjoys the procedure as much as I would enjoy receiving rectal surgery, but he thanks me all the same. I stitch the patient quickly and ask what the follow up care should consist of and he rattles off exactly what I would recommend. I tell him he did well and go to the scrub room to take off my surgical gown. A moment later, he enters behind me and pulls his own off.
"So, you’re gay now?"
I purse my lips together behind my mask. I haven’t taken it off yet and I’m oddly comforted by having it there. It can shield the fact that my lips will possibly tremble if he goes for the jugular. "If you’re asking me if I’m with Erica ... then the answer is yes."
"You weren’t gay when we were married. Uh ... were you?"
I tug the covers off my sneakers and pull off my cap. "No, George."
"But you are now?"
Labels. Story of my freakin’ life. I can’t outrun labels. I was ‘the little woman’ with him, even though I’ve got a couple of inches on him. I went from ‘newlywed’ to ‘jilted wife’ to ‘divorcee’ in a span of weeks. I don’t know if the jokes at my expense were as bad as the sympathetic looks from a handful of people. There’s no sympathy card for getting a divorce. If there is ... I didn’t get one. I didn’t get anything except a stack of papers with my signature and his and the truth that we had nothing to divide among us. It’s so bizarre that a marriage, which is supposed to last forever, takes one piece of paper ... but dissolving that marriage requires twenty two. I counted. Repeatedly. I flipped through them until they were dog eared and tear stained and I still couldn’t find any answers there. He asked for nothing ... I asked for his heart all along and he withheld it the entire time. It wasn’t his to give me. His heart was buried with his dad for a while and then it was with Izzie.
I lean against the sink and look at him. He’s still got his mask on, too, and his green eyes look the same way they did when he told me that his father’s death filled his stomach with asphalt. They’re dancing with something that I don’t quite know how to place. I can’t tell if he wants to laugh at me or if he’s trying to understand me because he knows what it’s like to hide something ‘forbidden’. What he has with Izzie, if they’re even together now, left the same bad taste in my mouth that I left in my mother’s the morning she found Erica in my bed. I told George it was a sin the same way my mom told me that I had sinned, but now I see that the edges can be blurred and the heart doesn’t recognize it as ‘sin’ at all. I don’t hate him anymore. I don’t even dislike him, really, because I’ve walked in his shoes and I know that denying yourself what you really want can be just as bad as giving in and being labeled.
"I’m with Erica," I finally repeat. "And that’s all I’m going to say."
"Then I’m happy." He takes off his mask and smiles at me. "Ronnie and Jerry, for the record, were also very happy. They already thought that you were the coolest human being alive because you could kick their ass at Mario Brothers and pick better cars, but now ... well, Ronnie’s exact words were ‘dude, it was hotter than being tied up with Wonder Woman’s lasso’. I was amused."
"Ronnie has been tied up with Wonder Woman’s lasso?"
"He thinks he has. He got drunk once on my dad’s stash of homemade beer and we tied him up with a jump rope. He passed out staring at a poster of Lynda Carter and that’s pretty much all he remembers." George laughs. It’s been a long time since I heard it. "I’m going to need you to update your ‘Date and Tell’ sheet. Dr. Hahn, too."
"Okay." I nod at him.
He starts to leave, then pauses at the door. "For what it’s worth ... I really like her. She’s a badass."
"Nah, that’s a front."
He looks at me for a little longer than I’m comfortable with and I squirm under his scrutiny. "I really am sorry ... for everything. You deserved better and I hope that she can be everything I wasn’t."
I don’t bother telling him that she’s already everything to me. That would hurt his feelings and I don’t want that on my conscious.
His acceptance, for some reason, makes me feel twenty pounds lighter.
The fact that I didn’t tell him to keep a secret increases that weight to fifty.
I make the decision to take her hand in the hallway.
My best laid plans are foiled repeatedly. I don’t see Erica at all on Monday because we’re both so busy. I wind up sleeping in the on call room because of a sunrise surgery that I didn’t plan on, but can’t back out of either. Being able to sit down and eat breakfast afterward is a luxury and I enjoy every second of it on Tuesday morning. I pick up a medical magazine and absently flip through it as I enjoy a sugary Pop Tart that would make Erica insane. She’s been on my ass about my diet hot and heavy. She left an apple, a banana, and a Spiderman lunchbox in my locker. I don’t know what’s in it yet, but I’m sure it’s healthy. She has taken it upon herself to be my personal food Yoda and I don’t even mind.
I don’t listen, really ... as showcased by the Pop Tart wasteland I also trudged through for dinner, but I love that she cares.
I scan through the magazine, looking at different articles and then my eyes fall on a full page feature about progressive treatment for patients with brain damage. That gets my attention. I read the article twice before I pick up my second Pop Tart and bite into it. I’m going to need progressive treatment to help my own brain now that so many facts and findings are bouncing around it. According to the article, clinical trials are underway at several hospitals across the country on a procedure called the Fellman-Caputo Technique. Small electrodes, tinier than the tip of a ball point pen, are inserted into the damaged area of the brain and stimulated with low dosage frequencies to promote healing. In other words ... the parts of Jazz’s brain that are silent ... can be forced to speak. At least that’s what the article says. Out of forty initial candidates, four died ... and over twenty responded positively. Three who could not previously make a sound ... were able to say their name within six months. The remainder had no change.
"I’ll take that."
I look up when Erica snatches the Pop Tart from my hand and puts a bowl of oatmeal in front of me. "Ew, gross. Are you trying to *kill* me?"
"It has been over twenty four hours since I saw you so I will refrain from kicking your ass for stuffing it with sodium and carbs."
"It’s been closer to thirty hours, Yellow, but who’s counting?"
She hands me a spoon. "Me."
"I’ll eat that if you read this." I hand her the magazine and she takes a bite of her own oatmeal. I watch her lick the spoon ... and can’t stop watching. Damn her ... she’s doing that shit on purpose. Nobody licks the spoon when they eat oatmeal. They *gag* on the spoon and possibly resent the spoon, but licking is out of the question. Oatmeal? Sucks. I take one bite and try not to cough up a lung for my efforts. I make it through a second bite before I push it away and she clears her throat, but doesn’t say anything. When she puts the magazine down beside her tray, I hold my breath. "Well?"
"Do you want to take him to one of the approved hospitals or bring the trial to Seattle Grace?"
"No one has better hands than Derek Shepherd." I watch her eyebrow go up and quickly add, "No *guy*. No brain *guy* has better hands than Shepherd. And if we could get approval and then *teach* that method to newcomers ... more people like Jazz could have a chance."
She isn’t eating now. "He could die."
"He always does what I tell him. If I tell him to come back ... he will."
Picking up the magazine, she skims the article again. "You’ll have to convince Shepherd and considering that he is Sloan’s best friend ... that could be a tough sell."
"Derek has ego and he’ll make the books if ... no ... when he pull this off."
She studies me the same way she studied the article. I don’t think she shares my optimism. "What will your parents say?"
"Shit. I didn’t think about them."
"It’ll take weeks to get this off the ground anyway. That will give you time to convince them, but I think you should research it more and get a lot more facts. I’ll help you."
"Thank you." My pager goes off suddenly and I want to throw it across the room. "By the way, George knows. He asked me about us."
"What did you tell him?"
"What’s the truth?"
"That I’m madly in love with you and can’t concentrate on anything I’m supposed to be doing because I’d rather be doing you."
She smiles at me, then looks around the crowded cafeteria. "Wanna give me another Starbucks kiss?"
Before I can take her up on the offer, Webber walks up and asks her about her next surgery. I hope he can feel my agitation when I say goodbye and head to the ER for an incoming trauma.
I can’t believe I was actually excited about coming back to work ... and working my ass off.
There are so many other ... things ... that I could be working on. For instance ... I’m fairly certain her bra strap needs attention ... and her panties.
It’s almost eleven when I finally get to shower and the splinter in my foot makes its presence known. The water makes the wood and my vocabulary swell impressively. I bathe fast and attempt to remove it to no avail. Donning fresh socks and leaving my shoe untied, I crab walk across the hallway into the supply closet and prowl around until I find tweezers. I should have taken care of it at Erica’s but that would have been too simple and I was in a little bit of shock after being caught with my tongue in her mouth by Ronnie and Jerry. I sit down on a crate and set to work on the splinter. A moment later, the door is shoved open and the handle pops me in the side of the head hard enough to addle my senses. Falling to one side, I squeeze my eyes shut to stop seeing stars. "Shit! Watch what you’re doing!"
"Oh my god!" Addison descends on me like the second coming and half drags me back onto the crate. "Are you okay?"
My left eye is watering from the blow and I’m pretty sure the splinter was shoved up to my knee after I put my sole flat on the floor to stabilize myself, but I nod at her. "First jail and now skull fractures. I’m so glad we’re friends."
"Well, stop hiding in the closet! Literally!"
"You can’t give me advice after you’ve given me a concussion because I won’t remember it."
"What are you doing?"
"Giving myself a pedicure. Obviously."
"Well, I don’t know where you get foot work done, but you’re not supposed to bleed."
"I wasn’t bleeding until the doorknob went through my head and out my ass."
"Such a child."
"Such a klutz."
I go back to work, painstakingly pulling at the the piece of wood that keeps breaking apart on me. Before I can protest, she kneels down beside me and runs her thumb over it. "It’s deep," she says, taking the tweezers from me.
I take them back fast. "I’ve got this."
"Don’t be a baby."
"If the splinter was in my vagina ... we’d be good to go."
"If you had a splinter in your vagina ... I’d be more interested in how it got there than taking it out." She snatches the tweezers again and I hold my breath. "Don’t move."
"Don’t hobble me."
The sliver of wood comes out without much coaxing on her part and she grins when she holds it up. "Magic Hands Montgomery. That’s what they called me in college."
"Thank you, Magic, I appreciate it."
She reaches behind her and finds a couple of alcohol swabs. "This may burn."
I try to pull my sock back on, but she doesn’t let me. She dabs at the spot with the pad ... then she squeezes it until alcohol rolls over it. It’s cold, then it stings like I just stepped in a beehive. Yes, the splinter was that big! Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I have no threshold for pain and I am not afraid to admit that. Pain is not fun or character building and the people who come up with slogans that tell you that it is are probably into bondage and like blades under their fingernails. If I stub my toe ... it will ruin my week and a paper cut has the ability to affect how well I will treat interns on any given day. Sue me. We all have our thing. "Addison ... OH MY GOD!"
"YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!"
"THERE ISN’T A RIGHT WAY, CALLIE! JUST ... STOP SQUIRMING!"
The door opens again and this time ... the knob hits her and she gets whacked in the head. She falls forward and I sprawl onto the floor with her on top of me, laughing my ass off when she grunts like a pig. "Your head is way more hollow than mine, Addy. I heard it."
"Ow! Shut up!" She massages her temple and sits up. "I didn’t hit you that hard."
"What are you two doing?" Mark demands, glaring down at us with his hands on his hips. "Did I miss the memo that all the women were going butch?"
"Don’t be an asshole. It’s not cute." Addison adjusts her jacket and reaches for Neosporin, which she holds out to me. "You need to put this on your foot and bandage it."
"Oh ... look at that," I say, pointing at my name on my jacket. "I’m a doctor, too."
"What happened?" Mark asks me. "Are you -"
"She’s fine," Addy snaps. "Help me up!"
Mark helps her to her feet, then holds his hand out to me, but I shake my head. "I gotta finish up."
As he goes out the door with her, I hear him say, in a very, very loud voice, "If you’re going to make out with Torres ... at least do it in the open. That was hot."
I close my eyes. I’m sure that Erica is in the hallway and he said it for her benefit.
I quickly pull my sock and shoe back on and stand up. My foot is tender and I make a mental note to tell Addison that her hands aren’t *that* magical as I brace myself for whatever’s on the other side of the door. Just as I suspected, Erica is at the nurse’s station with an open chart in front of her. She looks shocked to see me emerge from the closet after Mark’s announcement and I ignore Karev when he says that he would also like to see me and Addison throw down. I stand next to her and say, "I wasn’t -"
"I don’t need you to tell me that." She makes a note and flips a page. "Even if Sloan wasn’t a first class dickhead, I trust you. I also trust that you will be coming to my place after work."
She turns to face me, leaning her elbow against the counter a few inches away from me. "I should be off at five thirty. How about you?"
"Same." I make a fist because I’m dying to touch her hair. It’s curly again, like mine, and I wonder if it’s because she is no longer straightening any aspect of herself just to fit in. She told me once that she refused to date coworkers because it distracted her from doing her job. We put our heads together one day before I started messing around with Mark and made fun of Meredith and Derek, Izzie and George, and all the other little couples who went out of their way to be pathetic. Now ... we are an airbrushed shirt away from raising the bar on the couple clichés. She’s wearing a pair of my earrings that I left at her house and I’ve got a necklace tucked under my shirt with an ‘E’ dangling on the end. She said that it was the only nice thing her adoptive father ever gave her and it was in the pawn shop more often than out of it, but he somehow got it back every time. I’ve also got the bracelet on that she gave me and I’ve heard more than once that it’s beautiful. "You look pretty, Erica."
She looks down at my lips and I lean forward in anticipation.
She doesn’t kiss me.
She starts to, but Mark reaches between us and plucks a chart from the pile. The charts are technically behind me and he could have gone around me, but that’s not his style. He looks down at me, his back to Erica, and says, "O’Malley gave you a grace period before he started making out with Stevens all over the hospital. Do me the same favor and don’t parade your whore all over the place."
"Go away, Sloan," Erica says softly. "While I can still turn the other cheek."
"Don’t bother turning the other cheek, Hahn, it’s just as ugly."
"And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a completely justified inferiority complex," she says with a smile, gesturing at him like Vanna White. "I worship the ground that awaits your body, shit ass."
"You look like you’ve already been dead and buried for a ten years, zombie."
"Awww, that’s a low blow. And speaking of ... how’s your mother?" she fires back.
"Go back to Hell, Satan."
"Go lick your wounds, puppy."
"YOU NEED TO MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS!" Mark shouts, whirling to face her.
"CALLIE IS MY BUSINESS!" Erica yells back. "LEAVE HER ALONE!"
"DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO, BITCH!"
"HEY!" Addison suddenly arrives on the scene, drying her hands on tissue. She grabs Mark’s arm and says, "I thought we were having lunch."
"YOU’RE ON HER SIDE!" Mark accuses. "WHY DON’T YOU JUST ASK TO JOIN IN AND HAVE A THREESOME!?"
"YOU BEGGED FOR A THREESOME, YOU FUCK WIT!" Erica shoves his shoulder over Addison’s.
That’s enough for me. I leave as the conversation rises another octave.
I stalk down the hall and hit the elevator button. My ears are threatening to explode from the pressure in my head and I’m shaking hard enough to rattle my teeth, but I keep going. When I step into the elevator, Addison rushes in behind me. She doesn’t say anything and I’m almost relieved to have her company until she hits the stop button and the elevator grinds to a screeching, squealing, and bumpy halt. We stop so hard, that my knees buckle and I almost tumble forward, but catch myself at the last minute. The lift creaks and moans, then drops about three inches and stops again. That time ... I do fall. So does Addison. Sitting on the floor, we stare at one another as the elevator gives us a chorus of bangs and thumps. Then the light panel goes haywire ... darkness falls over us like midnight and a vicious metallic crunch rattles the floor beneath us.
It takes a second, but the emergency lights come on and I glare at her. "You really are a black cloud of doom."
"Apparently." Pushing herself to her knees, she opens the phone panel and presses numbers. "Hello? Hello? It’s dead."
"Of course it is." I cross my arms over my chest and lean back against the wall. "We’re on the second floor ... so ... if it falls ... we’ll probably break a few bones, but it won’t kill us."
"OH MY GOD!" she snaps, still pressing buttons. "If this is you trying to be positive then stop it!"
"Here’s a thought ... use your cell phone."
She makes a face. "Here’s a better thought ... use yours."
I sigh. "You don’t have yours, do you?"
She shakes her head. "You don’t either, huh?"
"Ten minutes. They’ll have us out in ten minutes." She sits down next to me at the wall. "Should we yell and make noise?"
"If it’s not ten minutes ... that’ll use up oxygen. In case you failed to notice ... there’s no air in this bitch." I don’t want to say what needs to be said because Addison is known for her freak outs and I could truly witness a monumental panic attack, but I have to tell her. "Addy?"
"We’re on a freight elevator. Tuesday? Not shipping day. Unless someone dies and needs to be sent to the funeral home via Fed-Ex ... we may be here for a while."
Just as I expected she would, she leaps to her feet and starts pounding on the door. "HELP!!!! HELPPPP!!!!!"
I count to ten. Then fifteen.
She gives up on thirty.
I watch her sit back down and put a hand over her mouth. It’s almost comical ... actually ... it is comical. Because this is just. my. luck.
"I swear to God ... if you start laughing ... there will be a hair tugging girl fight," she says.
I can’t help it. I roll on the floor for a second. "You know what I just thought?"
I snort. "Derek keeps up with his elevators. He’ll sense a disturbance in the force field any time now."
She flops down on her back and laughs with me.
True friends will laugh with you to keep you from crying.
Neither one of us is wearing a watch, but the temperature in the elevator heats up fast enough for me to think that time is passing a lot quicker than I think. It could be a half hour, possibly a full hour. When my shirt is soaked with sweat and rivulets are running down my temples, I look up at the ceiling. There’s a small utility door there and I wonder if it can be opened to let in some blessed cool air. Maybe if we can open it ... we can get out of it. My hopes are dashed when I realize that it’s padlocked from the inside, which may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Shouldn’t elevators be like car trunks? I should invent an escape hatch and mass market it to people who panic the way Addison does. I watch her roll off her stockings and wiggle her bare toes. That’s a good idea. I take off my shoes and socks and she smacks my arm when she sees that I didn’t bother with bandaging my foot. I pull off my outer scrub shirt and tug at the tank top I’m wearing under it. "Should it be this fucking hot in here?"
"This is the fifth dimension of Hell," she tells me.
"What’s actual Hell?"
"If this thing falls," she says. "That’s Hell."
"Let’s talk about something else."
"Okay," she replies. "Do you know what I did last night?"
"I spent hours listening to Mark stop just short of comparing you to a summer’s day. I listened to every detail of your life together while he drank himself into a stupor and then he blamed me for everything that went wrong."
"How did he arrive at that exactly?"
"Apparently he knows that I had sex with Alex before our sixty days were up and never told me. Then I left before I let him look at me like Derek looks at Meredith and it’s my fault that you are an evil cheater because if I had not left then he would have still loved me." She rubs her face with her jacket, mopping up sweat. "Where did you sleep last night? Because it doesn’t matter where you say ... you were all over that apartment."
"He’s a talkative drunk, huh?"
I cough uncomfortably. "So are you. In Miami ... you said some things. Not all of it was nice."
She meets my eyes and holds it for a second. "I vaguely remember invoking the friend rule and telling you that you broke it by being with him. I may also vaguely remember calling you a conniving bitch."
"Do you vaguely remember telling me that you never stopped loving him? That you’re *in* love with him and that the reason it can’t work with Pete is because he’s not Mark?" I fan my shirt again. I’m light headed now. "You did say that. And you know what? You’re all over Mark’s apartment, too. He called me Addison twice and he never even caught himself. Old ghosts ... they haunt you hard and you dogged my steps as much as you did his. Don’t be pissed at me for sleeping with him and don’t be pissed that I hurt him because you hold the record on doing both of things things the exact same way I did."
"What is that supposed to mean!?"
"You used him for sex! You told me you did! You told me that you were embracing the ‘hailstorm of misery and self loathing’ again because it was better than being alone. And you were kinda committed to him when you slept with Alex ... you were committed to sixty days anyway. I broke up with Mark before I slept with Erica. And I may have left him, but you left him a lot worse because you left TOWN."
"I don’t want to be stuck in an elevator with you." She crosses her arms over her chest. "Because now I’m mad as hell and I’m hot and you smell bad."
"You smell worse. At least I don’t have the lingering aroma of powdered baby asses and breast milk on me."
"I do not smell like breast milk!"
"But you do smell like a powdered ass."
"You look like a powdered ass."
"Lack of oxygen is making your comebacks very, very lame."
"No ... not meaning it does that." She reaches over and takes my hand. "I wish I could hate you."
"I know." I squeeze it, then lean my head against her shoulder. "We’re women, Addy. Hating each other over a man is dumb."
"I don’t see you singing ‘We Are The World’ with Stevens."
"Have you heard that song? That’s why."
She rests her cheek against the top of my head. "We could die in here."
"Think of it as a sauna."
"We’re losing a lot of fluid." She touches my head, then hands me her lab coat.
I mop sweat off me, but it’s no use. I keep pouring and she does, too. I’ll never cook a fucking turkey again and watch it boil in its own juices. "I’m glad we’re in this together, Addison."
"Me, too, Callie. If we get out of this alive ... I’m gonna apologize for calling you a conniving bitch."
"If we get out of this alive ... I’ll happily buy you drinks until you foam at the mouth again and I won’t even complain."
"There was foam?"
"I’m kinda gross."
"I want an ice cold Strawberry Daiquiri."
What I want ... is a huge bottle of water and a cool bath. Or ... to be riding the waves in Miami on a jet ski with the wind in my hair and the cool mist of the water keeping me from being overheated. What they say is true ... when you think you’re going to die ... your life flashes through your mind one image at a time like a slide show. Unfortunately, my brain also plays the theme song from ‘Dirty Dancing’ as the montage flashes in my head, but that’s not really worth mentioning. I had the time of my life, okay? What is worth mentioning ... is that I linger over moments with Jazz as a normal little boy, his dirty face gleaming after he got into Halloween candy. And I linger just as long over Jazz the way he is now ... the perfect, humble, easy going, and happy man that he has become. And finally ... I linger over Erica. She’s like the wind ... shit ... another ‘Dirty Dancing’ song ... I need to throw that movie away ... and ...
No ... no ... she IS the wind and she’s bringing a nice, stiff breeze with her when she appears in the open doorway of the elevator.
I hear her voice and feel something close around my face as cool oxygen filters through a mask.
Why are there paramedics in a hospital? We already have doctors, oooh, but there are firemen, too.
Pretty, pretty firemen with their pretty, pretty hats.
That’s how long we were in the elevator.
It turns out that at the precise moment that Addison hit the stop button, the brakes malfunctioned, cut the phone cord, and then the failsafe kicked in and halted us. The failsafe caused one wing of the hospital to lose power and the backup generator nearly ran itself to death to power up. The backup generator? Almost directly under the freight elevator which is why we came out of the ordeal well done and leathery. That thing can throw off some heat. According to the firemen ... we wouldn’t have made it another thirty minutes, but I think that firemen are genetically predisposed to lie. I mean, they work with a big hose all day ... I’m just saying.
The best part about being rescued from the fifth dimension of Hell is actually not the cool fluid going into my veins or the endless cups of icy water. It’s not the air conditioner blowing in my face or the wide open expanse of the ER. No ... the best part of being rescued ... is that Erica kisses me. In front of everyone. She plants one on me that would have made me breathless, you know, if I wasn’t already. There are no gasps and the world doesn’t tilt off its axis. I see Richard blink a couple of times and then he turns his attention to a crooked blind, but there are no angry outbursts or shouts of righteous indignation. I made more of a big just thinking about it than anyone else did. That makes me feel like a grade A horse’s ass. I don’t like people very much, but I really should stop underestimating everyone. I spent so long expecting the worst ... that I’m actually shocked at the best case scenario.
And grateful, too.
When I drink my third cup of water, I start having chills. It’s a combination of the temperature change and the fact that the fluids going into me are being rushed. I also have to pee and because Miranda thinks of everything ... she has a basin added to the toilet to measure my urine output. Erica is taking the nursemaid thing to extremes. I don’t say anything about her hovering because I feel guilty as hell since she spent a lot of time sitting beside Rachel’s bed. That’s the main reason I don’t object to her being my shadow in the bathroom either. She doesn’t just walk me to the door, she comes inside. I’m dizzy and a lethargic so I get why she’s here ... but I have to also wonder if she’s keeping me close enough to make sure she has beaten death away from me completely. She couldn’t beat it back from Rachel ... and Erica Hahn looks like she’s gone a few rounds with the Grim Reaper at the moment. Bailey told me she almost came through the doors with her scalpel when the firemen said that it would take a while longer.
I finish my business, wash my hands, and hug her. In nothing but my ugly baby blue hospital socks, she has about three inches on me in her sneakers. I like it. I’m not the tall one anymore. I need to ask her if kids at school called her an ‘Amazon woman’, too. "I’m okay."
"The only other time I’ve been this scared ... is when I had you open on my table and your heart stopped."
I feel her tremble and rub her back. "My heart didn’t stop this time."
"Mine did." She takes my hand and lays it between her breasts. "Feel it?"
"Always." I move my palm against her scrub shirt, then kiss her neck, feeling her pulse against my lips. "All I ever do is feel you, Erica."
"I wonder how much you’ll feel me when I tell you that I called your mother."
"Ooooh, use of the last name."
"I’m sure she’s waiting by the phone so you really should call her back and while I have your attention ... can you tell me why your phone was in your locker?"
Holding out my cell, she says, "Call her back."
"Why? She’s on her way!"
"Oh ... shit."
"Yay! You caught up!" I lean back against the sink and close my eyes. "God! This is the worst day of my life. Again!"
"I’m sorry. I just - I needed to talk to someone and - she loves you, too."
I run a hand through my hair. It feels like a matted dog so I stop while I’m ahead. "Was she nice to you?"
"Yeah, actually she was. She helped me yell at the firemen." She pushes the hair off my forehead. If she minds that it feels like a dirty Maltese, she doesn’t let it show. "They’re letting you go and I took the rest of the day off. Let’s go to my place and you can rest."
"I don’t -"
"My parents will probably be here soon."
"Well, I have a couple of spare rooms and they’re welcome to stay with me. With us."
"Think about what you’re saying. My *mother* ... she’s ... unpredictable. And a little crazy. And your house is big, but not big enough for both of our attitudes, much less hers."
"I happen to think that you and I do just fine there."
"Is that your way of asking me to move in again?"
"Yep. I’m going to keep asking, by the way."
Dr. Bailey interrupts our next kiss, but she doesn’t see it. She knocks on the door and checks my urine content before deciding that I’m good to go. Addison is being discharged at the same time that I am. Poor Chief Webber looks like a man who has been put through the wringer since he darted back and forth between our rooms like a man possessed. He gives me a hard pat on the back, telling me that he’ll make sure my charts for the day are completed. It’s his way of saying ‘I am very sorry you nearly died in my hospital and because of that you can operate and not write about it. Amen’. He also says that he better not see me or Addison over the next two days because we’re off. I protest for all of ten seconds because I have a surgery scheduled and I’m excited for it ... but he stares me down and says, "Not negotiable".
When he walks off, I narrow my eyes at Addison. "I *just* got back to work and found my groove and look what you did."
"What *I* did?" She pats her hair and wrinkles her nose at me. "Do I look as bad as you do?"
"Think long haired mutant meets tsunami of mange," I say.
"Jesus." With a sigh, she hugs me. "You okay?"
"I’m fine. You?"
In a low voice, she whispers, "Wouldn’t have nearly died with anybody else."
"Sorry about the bitch thing." She smiles at me, then at Erica. "Take care of her."
"Who’s taking care of you?" I ask, before Erica can reply.
The answer comes when Mark walks around the corner carrying a bright red Prada purse. He hands it to Addison, then looks at me as if it causes him physical pain to see me. He doesn’t ask if I’m okay. The fact that I’m standing there looking like a street urchin in my tank top screams that I’m okay. My shirt says ‘Taste the Rainbow’ which I actually bought months ago ... because I like Skittles and not because I was into any kind of rainbow except the kind in a bowl of Fruit Loops, but that’s not the point. It’s a slap in his face now and I cross my arms over my chest self consciously when he glances at the colors splashed on my boobs. He nods at me and says, "Hope you feel better."
When they walk away ... Mark throws his arm around Addison’s shoulder.
That’s the Sloan way of holding her hand.
She doesn’t seem to mind it the way I did. She actually leans her head against his shoulder and I really, really hope that there are no ghosts at his apartment tonight because she needs him. And he needs her.
I turn and look at Erica. She’s got my purse over her shoulder and my earrings on and my heart is in her teeth. She could hurt me if she wanted to, but I don’t think she would. I’m not stupid enough to think that she isn’t capable of destroying me ... she did a bang up job at Seattle Skyline Inn, but I trust her with me. I trust what I feel for her and I don’t know what will happen down the road, but I’m damn glad that she’s along for the ride. I’m not making any statements when I hold my hand out to her ... I reach because I have to and when our fingers lace together ... my heart isn’t in her teeth anymore ... it’s wrapped up in hers. I feel like Angela Chase in ‘My So Called Life’ when Jordan takes her hand in the hall after secretly making out with her in the boiler room. He was embarrassed because she wasn’t the prettiest or the coolest and he kept it a secret. He forced her to keep it a secret. I watched that scene a million and one times after I taped it off the television and I wanted to smile the way that she does at that moment ... because when people stared at her ... it was because they knew she was happy.
I’m smiling that way now.
I don’t even notice the people around me.
I’m in Erica’s world.
And she’s all I can see.
Despite my best efforts, I can’t get in touch with my parents. If I know them ... they’re halfway to Seattle and my mother is probably in the cockpit trying to fly the plane faster. She did that once before. She didn’t try to take over, but after the third unexpected layover during a family vacation to Colorado she marched up to the cockpit, knocked on the door, and made it very clear that if the pilot couldn’t stay in the air she would light a fire under his ass to make landing hurt. This was before September Eleventh and I’m sure she’ll get tackled and handcuffed if she tries that shit now, but that doesn’t mean she won’t create enough of a commotion to make the pilot hammer down and get her here so she will shut the hell up. That’s my mother ... she’s got all the gentle Southern breeding that a beauty queen from Valdosta, Georgia should have, but she’s also got all the bite of a Georgia bulldog. They have very big mouths.
The only thing that compares to the view from Erica’s backyard is the master bathroom. It’s big and airy, with neutral tiles and dark cherry cabinets. The shower is glass and has a long bench that makes shaving your legs ever so simple, but the best part is the bathtub. It’s flanked on either size by large floor to ceiling pillars that make me feel like a Greek Goddess as I step into the tub and lean back in the warm water. The difference between this house and the O’Malley house ... is the difference between night and day. It’s double the size of theirs and despite being in the same subdivision, it doesn’t have any of the distinctions of theirs. Erica told me a while back that the original house was gutted and remodeled by the previous owner, who scooped up the lots on either side of the house to make a grand total of six acres. It’s fancy in a way that isn’t overdone. I could live here and be happy. I SHOULD live here and be happy.
My eyes are closed when the water shifts. I feel her foot against my thigh and smile when she covers my body with hers. The tub almost spills over, but doesn’t. With her naked breasts against mine, she says, "Mind if I join you?"
I shake my head and kiss her. "I feel just fine so if you’re gonna join me ... you should make the most of it."
"You’re not on your -"
"Just for future reference ... it lasts for *three* days. I can bank on that like clockwork."
"So, I could have done this," she slips her hand between my legs, "yesterday."
"All day long." I hiss when her fingers find THAT spot and her mouth finds mine.
It’s over for me in a matter of minutes ... or possibly seconds.
When I return the favor ... she splashes water all over the place and nearly drowns both of us.
I only thought that I was the loud one.
My cell phone finally rings when I’m half asleep on Erica’s sofa. It’s Joel and he reads me the riot act before asking if I’m okay. How I can be blamed for an elevator clusterfuck is beyond me, but he finds a way to do it. He actually makes me feel guilty as hell for not taking the stairs like I’m somehow responsible for all the ills in the world by stepping into an elevator and pressing a button. He confirms that my parents are on the way with Jasper and that he only got the voice mail a few seconds before he called me. I need to tell my mother not to call him again unless I’m dead because he can’t possibly preach at me and make me feel sinful for dying. Wait ... Joel probably makes God feel guilty ... he’s *that* damn good. When we hang up, I call the airport and get the arrival time for my parent’s plane.
Less than an hour.
No naps here.
Erica knows me well. She drives my Range Rover to the airport, holding my hand on the gear shifter and says, "Stop worrying."
"We really should get them a hotel room."
"If we offer to let them stay with us and they say no ... we’ll take them to the Archfield, but we have to offer."
I take a deep, calming breath. "I apologize in advance for anything that my mother says or does. Assuming there is a Heaven ... when she gets there ... she’s gonna bitch about something."
"I can take it."
"And they’re gonna know that I don’t live with you because none of my things are there."
"Then I’ll make sure I mention that I’ve asked you repeatedly and you’d rather sleep on a dingy sofa and keep your things in packed up in storage."
"Do NOT tell them that I live with Cristina. That will make my mother’s head spin and she’ll think that I’m sleeping with her, too. When Addison visited me Florida, Mom acted like I was going to molest her. I think she slept standing sentry outside my door."
Erica pulls into a parking space and shuts the engine off. "Look at me."
"Maybe I should -"
"Look at me," she repeats and waits for me to meet her eyes. "The only thing I know about kids is that they’re gangly, rambunctious things that make a lot of noise and break stuff. I think that good parents, like yours, want to see their brats happy. So, we’re going to show your mother that we’re happy and we’re going to be just fine doing it, Callie, because this is a cakewalk compared to everything else we’ve been through."
"Did you just call me a brat?"
"Sounds about right." She lifts my hand to her mouth and presses her lips against it. "I love you."
I lean across the console and kiss her. "I love you, too."
When we get out of the car and head into the airport, I take her hand again. Her fingers are long and slender and they wrap around mine perfectly. I notice a couple of glances as we look at the arrival board, but that’s all they are. I glance back to let them register that yes, you did just see two tall, very different looking women holding hands and yes, pervert, we’ve done it. I yawn and rest my head on her shoulder as we wait for the board to update. She kisses my nose and points at a row of seats, but I hear someone say, "Hi, Yellow, hi!" and I’m not tired anymore. Jazz is walking toward us with his shoes on the wrong feet and his shorts pulled up high enough to give himself a wedgie. His shirt is tucked in and his baseball cap is crooked and I am so taking him shopping for t-shirts and shorts that are not khaki. He’s twenty-five. He shouldn’t look like he’s been raiding my father’s closet. Hell, even my father dresses better than that ... Hawaiian shirts notwithstanding.
Jasper gives me a kiss, but he does it in passing because the only thing he sees is the warmth of Erica’s smile and her open arms. He steps into her embrace and closes his eyes. He smiles the same way I do when she hugs me ... that’s what contentment looks like. I spot my parents and my mother starts crying as her short, chubby legs propel her toward me. I meet her and skip complaining as she fawns all over me. Sometimes ... a mother’s touch is like coming home ... no matter where you happen to be. My dad ... he hugs us both and that makes it even better. I assure them both that I’m fine and that no, the hospital isn’t defective or dangerous, then add, "Erica’s going to ask you to stay at her house. If you’re going to make it weird or hurtful, say no. But if you’d like to get to know the person I want to spend my life with, say yes."
Ah, there she is. Miss Valdosta pulls herself up to her full and miniscule height as she nods at me, then she looks at Erica. I watch her throat constrict and her double chin wobble a little as she slowly swallows down the bitter pill that says this is my life and my decision and the only choice here ... is hers. Handing me her luggage, Mom rubs her hands together and walks her delicate size sixes through the airport like a runway has been erected and she’s modeling ugly plaid wear with mismatched hats. "Erica, hello. How are you?"
"I’m fine, Mrs. Torres." Erica accepts the hand she holds out, then her eyes widen when Lori Anne pulls her down for a hug.
"I’ve told you, honey, to call me Lori Anne." Reaching up, she pats Erica on the cheek. "Thank you for calling me."
"Thank you for coming."
"Thank you ... for ... Yellow." Jazz runs his fingers through Erica’s hair and she gives him a kiss on the cheek. He stops moving, eyes wide as he rests his hand against the spot that she pecked.
My mother walks out with Erica, her arm through hers as my father follows, shooting me a look that says, ‘No, I didn’t have your mother cloned with someone nicer ... that’s really her. And getting her to this point has exhausted me.’
Jazz is still standing there, watching Erica with his mouth hanging open. I nudge him. "Jazz?"
"Yellow ... kiss."
"I know." I take his hand and pull him along with me. "You’re doomed, buddy. There’s no coming back from that."
"How are you?"
"Daw-phin!" He stops walking to take his backpack off. He kneels down and digs through it, not bothered in the least by causing a roadblock in the middle of a busy airport. I can’t say anything to him. I wait patiently for him to find what he’s looking for and he finally holds up a different mural lamp than the one he usually falls asleep watching. This one has every underwater animal imaginable on it. "Look, Lee! New! Whale! Daw-phin! Turtle!"
He points at every animal on the whimsical display. He gets the starfish confused with a stingray and scratches his head in confusion when he realizes that there are sharks there. One thing my mother has taught him ... is to fear sharks. "Bad!" he says, pointing at a great white. "Bad, bad fish."
My mother is obviously trying to give him nightmares with his new nightlight.
I can’t wait to chase the bad, bad fish on the ceiling with him later.
And I can’t wait to show my parents the article I stumbled across in the magazine.
If they agree to it ... he won’t have to chase anything.
He can catch up.
Woot! That was fun to write. Well, parts of it. I hope you enjoyed it.
I can't wait to show you what's coming and I'd love to hear your opinions on whether or not Jasper will have the surgery. Will he live? Will he die? Will Derek be able to operate at all after the sad death of one of his elevators? The questions are endless and so are the possibilities. :)
Talk to me! :)