Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Pairing: Mark/Callie Callie/Hahn Mark/Addison
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!
My mother is a great conversationalist, but she’s a nervous complimentor. When we get to Erica’s house, I’ve told the story about the elevator, stretching it to fill the minutes because awkward silences in a car have a tendency to suck. I know I'm babbling, but it's better than the alternative, which is counting mile markers while my mother glares at the back of my head. Erica parks in the garage next to her Lexus and my mother fawns over the car even though I distinctly remember her saying that she hated them. The fawning continues into the ‘mud room’ and then the living room and I don’t know if Mom is trying to apologize for her behavior in Miami by killing us with kindness or if she’s just afraid of the big, scary lovers and what we might say, but it’s overdone. Something smells amazing in the kitchen and Erica tells us that she threw some stuff in the crock pot earlier. Whatever it is ... it makes my stomach rumble like Buddha when she gets near him. My mother equates a rumbling stomach with nuclear winter and acts like I’ve sliced my throat in front of her when she hears it and I gladly let her give me the third degree so that she will not start complimenting throw rugs, placemats, or possibly the ugly sculpture Erica uses for an umbrella stand. If I do move in ... that fucking Dalmatian has GOT to go.
Jazz takes to new places pretty easily. He’s very well mannered and won’t touch anything unless he’s invited. Of course ... he’ll let you know he wants to touch something by standing in one spot and staring at it with his hands out like he’s trying to teleport whatever it is, but he doesn’t need a babysitter. Nothing holds his attention in the living room, however, and he follows Erica into the kitchen. I hear her talking to him and point down the hall, motioning for my parents to follow me. I show them their room and the one that Jazz will be staying in. I set up his new mural lamp and turn the cover down for him so it can feel a little like home to him. My mom sits on the foot of the bed and my dad stands beside her with his hand on her shoulder. Oh god ... here it comes.
"Is it okay if we -" my dad begins, then trails off. I see his fingers tighten on mom’s shoulder and she looks down at the hem of her shirt. "Are we allowed to ask things, Callie? About this -- about your life?"
"Yeah, sure. Doesn’t mean I’ll answer, but that’s not really new." I smile at him. "What do you want to know?"
"Are you living here, honey?" Mom asks softly.
"Not really. No. I - I’m staying with a friend a couple of blocks from the hospital, but ... well ... truthfully I’ve been here more than there. And Erica keeps asking me to move in, but I keep saying no." I sit down and pull the pillow into my lap, smoothing imaginary wrinkles from it. "I’m not rushing anything. I’m going to do this right."
"It’s a nice place. She’s ... nice." That’s the best my mother can do and about the best I could hope for. "Prettier than I remembered."
I watch as she pulls at a thread on her shirt and my heart breaks just a little. Her hair is gray at the roots and I think maybe she’s been spending more time worrying about me than she has about her appearance and that’s saying something. She may not care if she carries around too much weight, but her hair and face always take top priority over just about anything. "I know this is hard for you, Mom. I really appreciate that you’re trying. It means a lot to me and to her."
"I've been talking to people. A group, actually, of other mothers who have children ... like you."
"She's talking about PFLAG and what she means to say is that she has met several other mothers with gay or lesbian children." Dad rubs her back reassuringly. "She's doing a great job."
"You went to a PFLAG meeting?" I gasp. "Daaaamn."
She nods. "Your ... uhm ... how am I supposed to refer to her? Girlfriend? Partner?"
"Erica," I reply. "Just call her Erica."
"Right." Mom takes a deep breath. "Erica ... was frantic on the phone. I’ve threatened a lot of people in my day, but she really takes the cake. I’ve never heard anyone be so ... imaginative ... when telling a fireman what he could do with his axe."
For some reason, that warms me all over. And explains so much. No one really told me anything, but when the firemen came in to apologize to me for the wait ... they looked at her. Actually, at one point during their speech ... she got to her feet to refill my water and two of them backed up like she was going to run through them to get to the sink. "That’s actually kinda romantic."
My mom makes a face. "It was terrifying. Not romantic. She’s ... er ... creative. And possibly a big fan of horror films."
"She's actually not. She's a big chicken who doesn't like to watch anything scary. She has 'Fried Green Tomatoes' in her DVD player more often than not."
Dad grins at me. "The book was better. Ruth and Idgie were lovers in it."
Lori Anne Torres turns bright red. "That's,er, nice."
I laugh and my belly rumbles again. To keep from giving my mother a fit of apoplexy, I get to my feet and say, "Dinner should be ready soon. I’m gonna go see if I can help. The bathroom is the door at the end of the hall and -"
"What should we talk about at dinner?" Mom interrupts. "Where are her parents? Does she -"
"Don’t grill her. Her parents are dead and she doesn’t have fond memories of them."
"And don’t give her the third degree about anything else. Dad, I’m looking at you. You terrorized George like you were in the Mafia and he was about to be kneecapped. He was scared shitless."
"I didn’t like him," Dad replies. "I like her."
I leave them to their unpacking and head back down the hallway. When I get into the kitchen, I gasp and nearly freak out. Jazz is sitting at the island with an open container of butter and is smearing it all over the place. Erica has her back to him, stirring the contents of the crock pot intently. As I watch, Jasper dips a spoon into the Country Crock and lifts a roll, meticulously painting it with enough butter to deep fry it. "He, uh, doesn’t know how to do that."
Erica turns and looks at him, picking up a dishtowel. She takes his hand and wipes it clean, then rakes most of the butter off the roll and back onto his spoon before she holds it out to him. "Good job, buddy. Put this on another one."
"Lee!" Jasper says, holding up the spoon. "I cook!"
No one has ever offered to let him help in the kitchen as far as I know. My mother views it as such sacred territory that we all know to tread lightly. Jazz usually stops just inside the doorway to announce that he wants juice, but doesn’t go inside. I know the feeling because my mother will kick me out of the kitchen faster than I can ask to help her. Jasper has butter on his eye and the tip of his nose, but he’s so proud of himself that I can’t say a single thing except, "I see that."
"I help Yellow."
Erica uses the towel on his face and gives him a sweet smile. "You’re a big help and you can do anything. Anything."
"Big help," he parrots. "I cook. Anything."
I suddenly feel very, very small for saying that he didn’t know how to do something. My brother is, after all, a super hero. I give him a kiss on the head and watch him slowly turn the bread in his hand to make sure that the entire top is coated. People take so much for granted. The ability to butter a roll is usually a task that no one wants and they rush through it. As he works ... it's everything to him. I want to ask her how many times she showed him how to do it, but I don’t. Instead, I peer over her shoulder into the crock pot. Whatever it is looks really, really good and the smell is making my mouth water. "Erica?"
"Are you okay?"
"Did you talk to your parents about the clinical trial yet?"
"Are you going to?"
She looks from me to Jasper. "I think we should look into it more before you mention it to them. It’s just my opinion, but we don’t know the actual morbidity rate and when I see him sitting here in front of me ... I can see that he’s not broken and cracking his head open for a maybe doesn’t really make sense to me."
Before I can reply, my parents join us. When my mother starts to say something about the butter, I shake my head at her. Jazz proudly wields his spoon like a sword in front of him so that everyone can see that he’s doing something new and then painstakingly sets the last roll on the baking sheet. He has lined them up perfectly, three rows of drenched, but meticulously arranged rolls and I watch him get to his feet and put the spoon in the sink and run water over it. "Thank you, Jasper," Erica says.
He smiles at her and rubs his buttery hands on his shorts. "Eat now?"
"Not yet. Very soon. You hungry?" she asks.
"Hungry." He goes into the dining room and sits down. My father follows him and I can hear him telling Jazz that he’s a chef in the making.
The beef stew that Erica cooked is a huge success and the rolls turn out just fine. My nerves are a little on edge at first, but conversation is light and fun. My dad jokes about his manly scar from heart surgery and my mother tells us that she’s caught him doing body builder poses in the mirror on more than one occasion. By the time we enjoy fresh fruit cocktail, my mother has changed gears and rattled off several of my most embarrassing and mortifying adolescent maladies. Erica tries hard not to laugh, but she finally gives up when Mom paints a truly Oscar worthy mental picture of taking me to the zoo when I was four years old and me biting some random woman on the ass because I was a ‘crocodile’. My mother is an amazing storyteller and she adds to the tale every time she has an audience, but the end is still the same. The woman that I bit threw her hands in the air, prayed for Jesus, prayed for rain, prayed for deliverance, then yelled in tongues, and finally fainted. When she eventually came to ... she was convinced that one of the snakes from the reptile exhibit had gotten loose and sank its fiery fangs of death into her left butt cheek. To prove that she had indeed been attacked by a King Cobra and her rather large backside had indeed been necrotized by venom, she dropped her pants and pointed out the bruise. It’s not *my* fault. I was just a kid. When I bit her the second time ... I was pretending to be a ‘Snattle Rake’.
Erica has tears of joy rolling down her face when my mother says, "I was so mortified that I pretended I was her babysitter. To this day ... I tell everyone that she went into the zoo as a lovely little girl and came out as a jackass. Going around biting people, acting like she was raised by wolves. Honestly, Calliope, I could spank you for that right now! I tried to take you back four years later and they must have had your picture tacked in the security office because they gave us an escort."
Nearly howling with laughter now, Erica wheezes, "Did she - did she actually - call herself a ‘Snattle Rake’?"
"Yes." My mom shakes her head sadly. "She couldn’t say Rattle Snake. The Rattle Headed Copper Moccasin came later."
"The what?" Erica asks.
"Mother, don’t you DARE!" When she winks at me prettily, I lay my head on the table. "I’m sick. I should go to bed."
"If you’re sick my ass is a bouquet," Mom replies. "Now sit up and let me hear you NOT be able to defend this."
"This should be good." Erica takes my hand under the table. I don’t care what my mother says at this point. I think my Mom can see our hands because she fills her wine glass and looks straight ahead, lost in obvious thought.
"Calliope has always had a fondness for reptiles," my dad begins, when my mother doesn't.
"No, Dad! Come back from the dark side! Don’t help her humiliate me!" I plead with my eyes to no avail.
He plows straight ahead. "When she was about eight or nine, her science teacher had a green tree python in the classroom. It was huge ... about six feet of lime green ugly. Callie was fascinated with the thing and volunteered to bring it home with her during spring break. Now, we had a housekeeper at the time named Francesca and Franny, as we called her, was terrified of anything that crawled, slithered, flew, or just ... sat there. If it wasn’t human ... and she saw it ... all you would see was the back of her head and her elbows pumping like mad as she went running."
My mother chuckles, pulled from shock by the promise of humiliation, and nods. "And like any kid does when it scents fear ... my little hellions would put jars of spiders or whatever else they could find all over the place. One year, jellyfish washed up all over the beach and Joel took Callie down with nets and they scooped ‘em up and filled the bathtub with them. Franny had to get on Prozac after that and it’s a good thing she was still on it when Callie brought that damn snake home."
"Callie made the decision that she was keeping that snake," says Dad. "We have a nice big pond in the backyard which I’m sure you saw, Erica," he pauses and she nods at him. "Well, my beautiful daughter knew that anyone who saw a lime green snake in a pond would know that it was not poisonous so what did she do? She opened up her reptile book and painted that damn python to match the poisonous breeds. ALL the poisonous breeds. She put triangles and diamonds all over it and then rainbow colored rings around its tails and let it dry in the sun. Franny was out there feeding the damn goldfish a few days later and realized that most of them were missing. All she saw was a snake with mutated markings and she threw her hands in the air and nearly drowned herself in the ocean."
My mom picks up without a beat. "I heard her screaming and ran out on the terrace. She couldn’t speak much English. Franny was Italian and the only thing I understood was ‘snake’. I grabbed a shovel so that I could behead it and Callie came racing around me screaming that it was a ‘Rattle Headed Copper Mocassin’ and if I got close to it ... it would kill me by spitting venom all over me. She raced to the pond and tried to throw herself into the water, but at that point ... I had seen something up under the water that was huge. I had to hold her down as I screamed for Franny to call 911 and poor Franny believed Callie that it was a ‘Rattle Headed Copper Mocassin’ and tried to relay that to the dispatcher. When animal control got there ... that damn snake had its head poked up out of the water and it looked like a damn Sprite can that been dropped in the mud and they debated for ten minutes about what the hell it was before one of them went in to get it. I’ve never seen grown men laugh until one of them wets their pants, but that’s exactly what one of them did when they realized that Callie had tarted that snake up like a two bit whore to camouflage it. There was orange, brown, red, gold, and my favorite, hot pink. She had put hot pink lips on the thing thinking that would make it more menacing."
Erica looks like she wants to pee in her pants. She’s holding her stomach as she laughs and she’s still got a death grip on my hand. "So what happened next?" she wheezes.
"In a fit of absolute insanity," Mom says, "the child yanked her pants down and showed everyone her ass like the woman had done at the zoo. There wasn't a mark on it, but she was yelling for snake to 'run' while she mooned God and country."
"Oh my GOD!" cries Erica, fanning at her face. "What happened to the snake?"
"They took the damn thing back to my teacher." I work up a really good scowl. "And when it shed its skin finally ... she put it in a big glass case so that everyone could see that I was a Picasso in the making."
"And wrote a note in your file that you were a menace to society," Mom says. "Life was very interesting with you, pumpkin."
Jasper suddenly yawns. It’s loud and if it was anyone else ... it would be a not so subtle implication that it was time for the chatter to come to an end. With him ... he’s genuinely exhausted. I watch him rub his eyes and stretch, then he catches me looking and grins at me. That’s Jasper. Being tired doesn’t change how willing his smile is. He can be in obvious pain, but still smile through it because he loves us and seeing us is enough to make him forget that anything in the world is wrong. He doesn’t complain and even if he could ... I don’t believe he would. Locked in his world, small things matter. Maybe the confinement of his limitations makes what he can do, and he CAN smile, seem that much greater. So he puts those small accomplishments on repeat and doesn’t let them get turned off like so many other things. His smile is a guarantee.
Cracking into his head for a maybe is better than an absolutely not.
I don’t mention the clinical trial, though.
Mom says that she needs to put Jazz to bed and I offer to do it for her. I leave my parents helping Erica clear the table and take Jazz down the hall. He brushes his teeth just barely so I do it for him. We wash his face and then I help him into his pajamas and watch him kneel beside the bed. He looks at me curiously when I don’t join him. "You talk God, Lee."
I kneel down next to him, but I don’t clasp my hands together. "Jasper?"
His eyes are closed and his fingers are laced under his chin. "Dear God -"
"Jasper, look at me."
His eyes are lighter than mine. There are flecks of gold in the brown and they're wide when he focuses on me. "You pray, Lee?"
"Are you happy like this? Do you remember the things you used to do? Do you miss it?"
He’s not answering me. He can’t answer me. He’s mimicking the fragments of my words that he picks up on. "I wish you could tell me what you want to do."
"Daw-phin!" Unclasping his hands, he points at his lamp. "Sleep."
"What if I could make you catch up?"
"Ketchup. Hot dog. Fries!"
It’s no use. He can’t help me. I put my hands together and watch him follow suit. "Dear God."
"Thank you for family."
"Thank you for health."
"Thank you for love."
"And let me know what to do."
"Amen, Lee!" He squeezes me hard in a hug, then lunges under the cover and pulls them up to his chin, pointing with excitement at the ceiling.
I laugh and turn the new lamp on. It’s not just blue. There are greens and yellows and reds mixed with the dolphin blue and he sits up, staring at the prisms of color that float all over the ceiling and walls. He spots a dolphin and whispers something, then eases back against the pillow. I think the colors jarred him the same way that they jarred me when I started to walk in rainbows. It takes a second, but his hand comes up and he holds it, unmoving and palm up, like he’s waiting to be pulled into the carousel. Maybe, in his mind, he already is and they take him into a dream world where he’s whole. Those mural animals are just like him ... they’re forever doomed to ride in a circle, around and around ... until the bulb goes out or the lamp breaks.
What if ...
What if I could open the window and they could streak into the night and find the ocean.
What if ... I could open the window in Jazz’s brain?
Would he streak into the ocean or charge into tomorrow?
Would he thank me?
My parents say goodnight when I close Jasper’s door behind me. I can see that my mother is struggling with morbid curiosity. She wants to linger in the hallway and see if I go into Erica’s bedroom with her. I know she counted the doors as I showed them their rooms and I know that she probably wants to see it in order to believe it, but my dad asks her where she put his toothbrush and she disappears behind the door. He kisses me on the head and follows her without another word. Erica clears her throat and says, "There’s a pull out bed in the den. I could sleep there if you -"
"No." I go into her bedroom and wait for her to join me. It’s *her* house and she looks nervous, like she’s doing something wrong. Smiling, I pull my shirt off and kick my shoes across the room. I hit her in the chest with my bra and she’s on me before I can push my pants down. She does it herself, kissing my belly as she exposes it, exhaling against my flesh until it’s dotted with goose bumps. I wiggle my hips as my pants clear them and she nips at curviest part, whispering, "Snattle Rake."
"Pretty damn funny." She bites me again and throws my pants toward the hamper. Her palm runs up the inside of my thigh, causing me to bite my bottom lip. "You’re so beautiful, Cal. So damn beautiful."
I’ve never really been a fan of blond hair, but I’ve never seen anything prettier than her pale locks brushing against my caramel skin as she kisses her way up my stomach and closes her mouth around one of my nipples. I dig my fingers into that hair and pull her mouth to mine, kissing her the way I’ve wanted to for hours. I feel her hands on my ass, kneading, squeezing, and I say her name. It’s an invitation ... an invitation that stops just short of begging. She rubs my waist, then moves to my shoulders and says, "You’re tense."
"You do remember the day I’ve had, right?"
"Want a massage?"
"I’m already seduced, Yellow."
"Get on the bed, freak," she says, swatting my backside. "I can't believe you mooned animal control."
I stretch out on my stomach and watch over my shoulder as she takes her clothes off. The blue panties are back and as much as I love seeing her naked ... I tell her to leave them on and turn around so I can get the big picture. She has a really, really nice ass. There are two dimples at the base of her spine and I’ve kissed them several times and want to do that now, but she shakes her head and joins me on the bed, still in her panties, before I can. She straddles my thighs and massages my shoulders, digging her thumbs into my tight muscles until I jerk from the pain. "Ow!"
"We have to do this the quiet way, baby, because you’re mother saw the shovel in my garage and I don’t want her to get any ideas."
She hits another sore spot and I say, "Massage less and kiss more."
Eventually, she complies and shifts her weight off my legs to move between them. Her fingertips rake over my ass, causing me to lift up a little and she seizes the moment, sliding her hand against my center. She doesn’t touch my clit, she eases one long finger into me as she kisses the small of my back. This gentle teasing? It hurts worse than the deep tissue massage. I strain against her finger, pushing back against it to show that I want more, but she doesn’t give in. Her tongue tastes my back, her hair tickles my hip, but still ... she doesn’t *do* more. I’m going to have to give her a hand. I push myself to my knees and she says, "Touch yourself."
"I was planning on it." I’ve never been a self pleasure junkie, but I don’t mind helping out. One hand closes over my hip as she adds another finger. I get what she’s doing. Kneeling behind me, this is our very own doggie-style. I ease forward and slam back against her hand and thighs as we find a rhythm. I feel like I can’t breathe at all when the hand on my hip moves to my hair and she pulls me up, making my back arch like a bow. She kisses me over my shoulder as I get off and changes the angle of her fingers to thump against my g-spot. I want to scream as fresh tremors rock through me, but she keeps her mouth on mine so that she’s the only one who can hear my pleasure. When I pull away and slump down on my stomach again, she laughs and covers my body with hers. "Dirty masturbator."
"You helped!" I roll onto my back and she stays on top of me, leaning down to kiss me.
Those fucking blue panties are going to be the death of me. I grip her ass in both hands, feeling the lacy fabric as my tongue moves against hers. I have felt lacy panties on my own ass a million times and it has never, ever felt the way it does against hers. I trace the pattern as I move to her ear, sucking at her lobe, then the spot just behind it that makes her crazy. When I move to her neck, she sits up on me and says, "This slow thing ... Callie, it has to stop. I want -"
I cup her breasts in my palms and flick her nipples with my thumb. "What do you want, Erica?"
"You’ve got that. What else do you want?"
She leans down and I think she’s going to kiss me again, but she traces my lips with her tongue instead. "Shove me onto my back, take these panties off me and after you throw them across the room, I want you to put your very, very pretty mouth to good use. I want you to taste exactly what you do to me and when you make me come ... I want you to do it again only that time ... I’m gonna be doing the same thing to you."
Erica Hahn, for the record, gets what she wants.
Buddha has forsaken me.
It could possibly be the fact that I forgot about him until three in the morning. It’s not like he doesn’t have a dog house outside! When I open the back door, he sits there looking at me with unadulterated rage and then prances past me, his head high and his tail curved over his back. I follow him to the bedroom and pat the bed, hoping he will join me, but he goes to his cushion, tosses a toy off of it, and slumps down, glaring at me. I swear the little guy sighs with indignation. I snuggle back into Erica’s embrace and fall asleep listening to him snore. When I wake up, he’s whimpering and sniffing and scratching. I push myself up on my elbow and start to say his name, but Erica puts a hand over my mouth, then points. As I watch, a long finger moves under the door and Buddha licks it, pressing his head against it. I hear my brother laugh and feel Erica doing the same behind me.
"How long has he been out there?" I ask.
"I woke up about five minutes ago."
"If I open the door ... do you think Buddha will bite him?"
"That little fucker would bite the Virgin Mary, but he hasn’t even growled at him."
I push the cover off and reach for the knob, but she grabs me and pulls me back into the bed. "What are you -"
"Oh!" I give her a kiss and rub my nose against hers. "Wanna let me borrow you robe?"
"You can *have* my robe."
"Sweet!" I pluck it off the foot of the bed and slip my arms into it, then watch her pad into the bathroom in all her naked glory before I open the door and let Buddha greet Jazz.
Buddha has definitely forsaken me.
My brother has very minimal dealings with dogs. Mom thinks that they are worthless flea bags and my father is not signing up for PETA anytime soon so Jasper doesn’t quite know what to make of the red bundle of energy and ear splitting barks. For a second, he looks scared, then Buddha leaps into his lap and attacks his face with slobbery kisses and Jasper laughs harder than I’ve heard in my life. He practically screams with laughter and when he handles Buddha, it’s gentle and not clumsy in the least. He closes his arms around him and strokes his fur and that damn dog eats it up, burrowing against his chest like he isn’t a miniaturized version of Freddy Krueger at times. I can almost see a crooked and slightly bent halo dangling off his pointy ears. "You suck up," I tell the dog, scratching his head. He lets me ... but he only has eyes for my brother.
Jazz is still in his pajamas and the door to my parent’s room is still shut. "Wanna go outside, Jasper?"
I open the back door and Jazz steps out into the morning air. He blinks a few times, taking in the view of the city, then the manicured yard and flowers. "Pretty!"
"Pretty," I agree. I know if I try to take the dog ... Jasper will cry and Buddha will sever my arm so I say, "Put him down and watch him run."
"Nooooo. Not down."
"He has to go potty."
Jasper considers that, then points into the yard. "Out there?!"
It’s my turn to laugh because he says it the same way anyone who was faced with the prospect of pissing outside for the first time would. "Out there, buddy. Put him down. He’ll come right back."
Buddha races into the yard and waters a couple of plants before he darts behind the gazebo to do more sordid things. I can say this for him ... the dog has his pride. Jasper seems worried when he can’t see him anymore and slowly lumbers down the stairs. I watch as he walks barefoot through the grass, leaning down to run his fingers over it. Hey, to kids with a beach for a yard, grass is something else! This really is the kind of yard that would benefit from a swing set and the laughter of children echoing off the surrounding hills. Jasper’s laughter when Buddha races toward him, hopping through the grass as if the morning dew is hurting him, sounds like music. As Jazz chases after the dog and the dog chases Jazz ... I realize that I’ve never seen my brother run quite so well. There’s no limp that I can see and I wonder if Buddha chewed through a couple of Jazz’s chains when I wasn’t looking.
I’m still enjoying their antics when Erica joins me. I wrap my arms around her waist and lean my head against hers. We look out at Jazz together, laughing when he falls and Buddha rolls with him, flopping onto his back beside his new friend. I hear the door behind us slide open and Erica stiffens and starts to move away, but I don’t let her. There are few moments in life worth hanging onto ... I tighten my grip on this moment and when I tell my mother good morning, I keep my arm around my girlfriend’s waist and give her a kiss before I offer to cook breakfast. My mother unites with Erica is a chorus of ‘No, no, I can do it’ and they laugh at my expense. I never claimed to be a cook. My dad comes out in time for Buddha to latch onto his sock and tug playfully.
Whatever uncomfortable moment I was braced for doesn’t come.
Unless you count my dad’s glaring white legs blinding us in the morning sun.
My parents stay another night and Erica winds up calling into work both days. She doesn’t lie to Chief Webber, really, but she also doesn’t tell him that she’s not sick. She lets him assume that she is and we sleep in the day that my parents are flying home. When I wake up, she’s got one of Buddha’s toys in her hand and she’s staring at it. The dog has been sleeping with Jazz. The previous night, my brother didn’t ask for his dolphin light ... he asked for ‘Booty’ and curled up on his side with Buddha under the cover next to him. My mother has also shocked me to death by taking a liking to the Pomeranian. She baby talks at him and cooked, actually COOKED, two slices of bacon for him. As for my dad ... he tolerates the licking and the nuzzling well enough ... but doesn’t say much. I did catch him throwing a ball like a very well trained man the previous night, though.
"What are you doing?" I finally ask sleepily, watching her run her thumb over a rope knot.
"I hate that dog."
Something in her voice worries me and when I look at her face, I can see dried tears on her cheeks. "Erica, wha-"
"I wanted a cat. If we had to have and animal running around the house ... I wanted a cat. One of those ugly hairless kinds that can’t shed and look like a little old man so people understand why you don’t like it because it’s just too damn ugly to deserve affection. Rachel saw Buddha in the window of a pet shop and even though we said that we were going to go the rescue route ... she looked at his fat little belly and named his Buddha before she ever even held him. I begged her not to buy him, but she couldn’t say no to him. And I couldn’t say no to her."
I watch her eyes fill with tears again and kiss her cheek. "What's -"
"I kept him because she asked me to take care of him, but I don’t know how to do that. I look at him and I see her and maybe I even resent her because out of all the dogs in the world ... she chose an ugly, red, Devil-ass and expected me to love it. I don’t. I don’t love him at all, but ... he loves Jasper." She tosses the toy across the room and runs a hand through her hair. "I think - I think maybe Rachel would understand if I gave him to your brother. Seeing Jasper smile when that damn ball of fur acts like a fool would have made her day. So ... if your parents think it’s okay then we’ll get his crate ready and let him go ... home."
She sniffles and when she rolls into my arms it’s a little unexpected. I’m always the one in hers. I kiss the top of her head and rub her back. "You don’t hate the dog, Yellow."
"Yes, I do."
"No, you don’t."
"I despise him. I should buy a BB gun and shoot him once a day to make myself feel better."
"You’re so full of shit."
"I’d drop kick his ass for a dollar."
"And then you’d walk through fire to make sure he was okay."
She looks up at me, a frown line on her forehead. "Is it that obvious?"
"It is." I nod at her and rub a tear from under her eye. She looks like she’s been awake for hours worrying. "I never met Rachel ... but the way you love her tells me all I need to know about her. I think she was amazing and I think that whatever you want to do with the dog ... she’d be proud ... of ... well, your restraint if nothing else. You may secretly love the dog, Erica, but I don’t think he feels the same way. Your ankles will never be the same."
"You know what I think?" She reaches up and touches my chin, then my cheek. "I think that *you’re* amazing and you’re everything Rachel wanted for me. Before she died ... she made me promise her that I’d fall in love again, that I’d share my life with another woman and not hold back. I told her that when she got to Heaven she needed to send me somebody good and she reminded me that I didn’t believe in heaven. I guess ... now ... I ... have to."
I can’t grin big enough. "I love our morning chats."
"I love you."
"I love you more."
"No way." She laughs and rubs her face. "Think your parents will take the little bastard?"
"My mother mentioned getting Jasper a dog last night. I’ve never seen him so ... different. He talks more to that dog than he has ever talked to me." I tighten my grip on her. "It’s weird ... it’s like Buddha is speaking to a part of his brain that we can’t. I need to talk to my parents about that damn surgery. It could -"
"Yep. It could change everything. He could .... be better."
She shakes her head, but doesn’t say anything.
I don’t know if it’s because we can hear people moving around the house or because she’s disgusted by my need to repair something she thinks is perfect the way it is.
Asking her about it proves to be an impossibility. I mentioned The Fremont Troll the previous night and Jazz has not forgotten it. We spend the few hours leading up to my family's flight letting him climb all over the legendary work of art and then he points at the Space Needle and Erica can’t say no to us taking him to the top. My parents stay firmly on the ground and Jazz runs from window to window, looking out and pointing at what he can’t put into words. He’s full of wonder and excitement and still has that sense of magic about him that we’re all born with. You know the kind ... where you believe in Santa Claus and The Tooth Fairy and that the Easter Bunny hops through your house leaving eggs and baskets. Losing that sense of magic ... kills the last spark of childhood in everyone. If I steal that from Jazz with a scalpel ... I may regret it for the rest of my life.
But if I don’t try ... what will his life be like?
My parents won’t live forever and right now ... Joel is the one who will take guardianship of Jasper when they die.
Would I wish that on anyone?
What if Jazz could be his own man and not depend on anyone but himself?
We stop by Erica’s house before the airport. Buddha’s crate is on her bed and she’s packed all of his toys and dog treats into a blue carrying case that has a red Pomeranian on the side. She told me when she packed it that Rachel had spent hours quilting the bag and that Buddha was so small inside it that it was laughable. He never did grow into it and now his life is packed into it ... stuffing it to the gills. The presence of the traveling crate makes the little dog shiver and try to hide under the bed. Usually, when *that* crate is used ... it means the Vet. I catch him before he can hide and he starts to cry when I kiss him. He doesn’t go easy, but any dog that’s spent any time with Erica Hahn would learn a thing or two about putting up a good fight. He scratches the blood out of me by the time that I lock the door and Erica kneels down, looking at him.
"He doesn’t like being locked up in this one. The other crate doesn't bother him, but he hates this one," she says. "How long is the flight again?"
"He’ll be fine," I tell her. "My parents are going to try to get him in first class with them as a service animal for Jazz."
As I watch, Buddha whimpers again and puts his paw through the wire door.
Erica takes it in her hand and pets it.
He lets her.
They both tremble a little.
The hardest goodbyes are the ones with no words ... when you look at each other and accept that you weren’t the right fit and let your eyes say that there are no hard feelings. It’s even harder to let go and when she picks up the crate and walks into the hall with it, my dad takes it and makes kissy sounds at Buddha. There’s no more whining. He spins on the spot and yips playfully at my dad and I’m pretty sure that a certain man who makes muscle poses in the mirror is going to find himself throwing a ball on the beach and picking out chew toys like a good servant should. At the airport, my mother pitches a big enough tantrum that Buddha is not only allowed in first class ... he gets his own seat. Erica hands my mother the leash that she has hidden in her pocket, mumbling something about having a safe flight, and my mother takes her face in her hands. "Thank you for giving him to Jasper," Mom says.
"You’re welcome," Erica replies, looking shocked when my mother kisses both of her cheeks.
"I think we’re going to get along just fine, Erica," she tells her. For my mother ... that’s the equivalent of offering someone a lung. "You take care of my girl and I’ll take care of your dog,"
"I’m way more valuable than a *dog*!" I pretend to be outraged, but I’m actually pretty fucking touched by the exchange.
Erica is, too.
Until we’re walking across the parking lot hand in hand.
She stops suddenly, scaring me. "What’s wrong?"
"I’ve doomed Buddha to clogged arteries and table scraps!"
"Lucky bastard," I reply. "Speaking of clogged arteries ... wanna stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken?"
"No, I don’t and neither do you."
"I’m pretty sure I want Popcorn Chicken drenched in honey mustard with mac and cheese and cole slaw on the side. Oooooh, and a fluffy biscuit drenched in honey."
"Do you know how many calories that is? How much fat and ... badness?"
"With that many calories in my system ... I probably won’t want to sleep. I’ll be like the Energizer Bunny and keep going and going and going ..."
"Hmm, that’s a very good point. I’ll buy."
I don’t have a choice.
I’m out of clean clothing.
I have to go ‘home’ and it’s very, very hard to think of Cristina’s apartment as home after being so welcome in Erica’s, but I said I wasn’t moving in yet and I guess I need to stick to my guns. What Erica and I have right now is perfect and uncomplicated and wonderful. At least that’s what I tell myself. There’s no real reason for me not to move in. Unless you count my fear of everything changing. What if she notices that I have a tendency to shed all over the bathroom floor? What if she gets tired of stepping over my shoes because I kick them off all over the place and what if she gets tired of me leaving the cap off the toothpaste? Maybe she will hate the fact that I leave my laundry in a basket for the most part or get annoyed that I like to put books in the bathroom because I get bored easily just sitting there. What if she doesn’t want my Gameboy on the nightstand or my laptop charging on the sofa. Maybe she won’t appreciate the way I doodle all over the mail or hang my bras over the shower rail after I hand wash them.
Maybe my bad habits will turn her off.
I mean, it’s hard to romance someone when you pick their dirty underwear up off the floor a few times.
Izzie and Meredith are sitting on *my* bed when I open the door. Meredith throws up a hand to greet me. Izzie just looks pissed that I exist at all. I see her lip curl and I wonder briefly what it would feel like to punch her so hard that the only thing capable of curling is her toes. And not in a good, sexy way ... in an ‘oh my god I’m not going to be able to suck a straw for three weeks’ kind of way. That particular houseguest calls for beer and I drop my purse into the chair and grab one from the fridge. I twist the lid off, toss it into the trash and take several pulls from the bottle. There are empty take out containers all over the counter and enough empty bottles on the table to make me think I missed one hell of party. "Where’s Cristina?"
Meredith points toward the bedroom and I knock twice before I push the door open. Cristina is tying her running shoes and when she looks at me, I see something there that I can’t quite place. "Hey," I say.
"How’s your girlfriend?"
"She’s good. I need to talk to you." I shift from one foot to the other when she doesn’t say anything. Shutting the door behind me, I choose my words carefully. "I’m not trying to start anything and -"
"If you’re about to tell me that you don’t want Izzie here then save it. I don’t want Hahn here, either."
"Wh- no... it’s not that. I - I need you to stop throwing Burke in Erica’s face. She hates him and you know that it’s -"
"Okay, where have you been for the past few months? Because I’ve been on the receiving end of more abuse from her than -"
"As a favor to me ... can you please -"
"As a favor to you? Okay, I’m not trying to start anything, but this is where I tell you that you haven’t done me any favors lately. The only reason I got to scrub in with her the other day is because I blackmailed her. You didn’t help me. You didn’t say one word when she was putting me down or making me feel like I didn’t belong here ... in *my* apartment. You just sat there again and again so don’t come in here and tell me what I need to stop doing. Go tell her that she needs to start teaching!"
"I’m not doing that, Cristina! I’m not running interference or -"
"What the hell are you doing right now?" She puts her hands on her hips. "All I have done is kiss her ass and I don’t have anything to show for it except a few pity throws from my *friends* who give up their surgeries so that I can scrub in. I’m the one who wants Cardio and Stevens keeps getting it. *Stevens*!"
"I can’t make her teach you!"
"No, but you can tell her to stop treating me like shit! I let you live here! I came to the Archfield and stopped you from drinking yourself to death. I’ve even done the *girl* thing and let you cry on my shoulder. I’ve been a good friend to you and I’m still waiting for you to return the favor."
"I’m not her keeper!"
"Tell her to be professional, Torres!"
"Oh, like you were when you were blackmailing her!?"
I don’t speak at all when she brushes past me and yanks the door open. I watch out of the corner of my eye as she grabs her keys and Meredith and Izzie follow her out. Izzie doesn’t say a word, but Meredith gives me an uncomfortable, "See ya, Cal."
It takes me less than an hour to pack.
I leave a check for enough to cover my part of the rent for three months. That will give Cristina time to get a new roommate if that’s what she wants.
When I’ve got my SUV packed to the gills, I laugh at the irony of it all.
I could write a check for a house and not have to worry about being frequently homeless.
I could point my car in the direction of Erica’s house and she would welcome me with open arms, too.
What I do ... is drive to the Archfield and circle the parking deck three times before a space becomes available. I’ve never seen it so crowded and when the receptionist tells me that there are no available rooms ... I actually entertain the idea that Rachel, from her spot in Heaven, is trying to send me a message. If I spend all my time running from the domestic dream just because a couple of those dreams weren’t that great ... what will that leave me? Erica wants me to move in. I want to move in.
But ... I’m not ready.
And I don’t want to turn up on her doorstep just because I’m homeless. I did that with George and to an extent ... I did it with Mark.
"Hey, what are you doing here?"
I turn around and smile with relief when I see Addison. Sometimes it’s just a great feeling to see a familiar face when you least expect it. "Roommate issues."
"Erica or Cristina?"
"Cristina. And how in the hell is this place booked? I guess I’ll go see if the Econo Lodge has a vacancy."
Addison grins. "I’m in a double room and getting drunk alone again does nothing for me. Wanna?"
For what it’s worth ... I do falter. I do stop for a second and think about ramifications. I think about hurting Erica’s feelings by NOT going to her place and opting to stay in a hotel, but I’ve also made it crystal clear that moving in with her is not at the top of my ‘to do’ list right now. I want to enjoy dating her and spending *some* nights with her because I do believe that not rushing will make us stronger. What’s at the top of my ‘to do’ list right now ... is talking to another doctor about the clinical trial that Jasper could benefit from. Addison has met him. Addison sees his limitations and when I explain the procedure, she asks me plenty of questions. Being married to Derek has given her a firm grasp on neurology and she tells me about a few of the big cases that Derek worked on in New York. She assures me that he’s the right person for the job and promises me that she will start talking to him about it the following day.
We raid the wet bar in her, no ... our room and order a movie off pay per view, but we wind up talking more than watching it so she turns it off and curls up on her bed, facing me on mine. "Mark’s mad at me," she finally admits.
"I wouldn’t sleep with him." With a sigh, she rearranges the pillow under her head, punching it a couple of time. I bet she is seeing his face. "I’m not going to be the rebound."
"Can you be a rebound if you were there first?"
"He’s making me feel like one."
There have never really been uncomfortable silences with me and Addison. We can talk about anything and nothing and just enjoy each other’s company. It’s an unlikely friendship ... it always has been ... but it works. The silence that hangs between us, though, is shaped like Mark Sloan and it’s heavier than a wool coat in June. I didn’t just hurt him, I hurt her, too, by being who she couldn’t be. All I can say is, "I’m sorry."
"I’m going to eventually pick up his pieces. I’m going to make him see me again," she says. "Is that okay with you?"
"Addy, if anyone has a shot in Hell of picking up any part of him ... it’s you."
"If we’re going to be roommates, you have to promise me that I won’t walk in on hot lesbian loving. Hang a sock on the doorknob or something."
"Well, I don’t want to walk in on you and Mark making the two backed beast so you hang a sock, too."
"Two backed beast?" she snorts.
"Do you have a better name for it?"
"Bashing the beaver?"
"Ewww, that makes mine hurt. How about mattress dancing?"
"You’ve seen me dance, Callie. It’s not pretty. Bumpin’ uglies?"
"Wettin’ the wick."
"I got it," she says. "Hot dog in the jungle."
"Yuck! If you’ve got a jungle you need to wax!"
She laughs and pulls the cover over herself. "I think I’ve got a buzz."
"I do, too." I finish off the bottle of cognac and snuggle under my own comforter. "I’m glad you’re home."
"I’m glad you’re here," she replies. "I was gearing myself up for a night of crying, misery, and self flagellation."
"If that’s Addy-speak for shower head loving ... stop now."
"You really do love her, huh?"
"I really, really love her."
What I don’t love is the hangover I wake up with or the fact that I can’t find my toothbrush.
That will turn out to be the least of my worries, though.
So ... here it comes.
Any guesses what's gonna happen?
I'll give you a hint ... no ... Callie/Addison do not have sex. ;)