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!
Ange, your art continues to make my world! And so do you!
You know how you can tell you’re going to have a bad day?
If the coffee you ordered at Starbucks goes into your lap because a certain redhead can’t drive for shit and you tear your shirt because her convertible is the size of a fucking clown car and you get stuck getting out and *then* the dark sunglasses you’re wearing do not prevent people from yelling ... that’s how you know you’re going to have a bad day. Hell, you already are. Addison is clearly as hung over as I am because she didn’t bother with high fashion today. She’s wearing sweat pants and a salmon colored scrub top that I would rib her about if a high school marching band wasn’t playing ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ with entirely too much bass in my head. We take one look at the elevator, then at each other, and make a beeline for the stairs. By the time we make it to the fourth floor, we’re both moving like we’ve been beaten about the limbs with a crowbar and I duck into the resident’s lounge while she heads down the hallway to the attending’s. Changing into my scrubs is a trial of hit or miss. I actually put my shirt on backwards twice before George of all people takes pity on me and turns it around. When Stevens slams her locker ... it goes straight into my skull, bounces around, and then blows my ears off. I actually feel to see if they’re still there.
When blessed silence descends and the last of the residents scurry off to cut an unsuspecting victim open ... I flop onto my stomach on the bench and try not to breathe too hard. Cognac is nasty, nasty Devil water and should be banned from shelves nationwide. If I had puked my guts up ... I’d feel better. I open one eye something brushes against my hand. Addison is standing in front of me holding a toothbrush and toothpaste. She’s got her lab coat on and has combed the tangles out of her hair. Sorta. She kneels down beside me and says, "I brushed, flossed, *and* gargled with Listerine before work and someone still told me that I smell like a brewery."
"Is my head swollen?"
"No more than usual. Sit up. I brought you Tylenol."
It takes me about two minutes to urge my ailing carcass upright and I accept the pills and the cup of water. Popping them gags me and the water feels like a rope of bile in my throat, but I thank her anyway and go brush my teeth. When I finish, she’s still sitting on the bench and she’s got her head in her hands. I drop down beside her like I’m boneless and say, "Think we could call in sick?"
"I need to call in dead."
"We could claim post traumatic shock disorder."
"Or ... death. I’m knocking on heaven’s door, Cal."
I pat her on the back. "Do you have surgery this morning?"
"No. I’m gonna go stake a claim on a death bed in the on call room. Wanna come with?"
"Can’t." Standing up, I grab my white coat and slip it on. "I need to go do the rounds I haven’t done in two days."
We walk into the hallway and she turns my collar down, shaking her head. "I’m never drinking again."
She makes a face. "I’m probably lying."
"I’m definitely lying. Want to get a drink after work?" I laugh when she impulsively hugs me. "Alcohol makes you weird and touchy feely. I don't approve."
Squeezing my hand, she gives me a lopsided grin and heads toward the on call room.
Naturally ... when I turn around ... Erica is about five feet behind me looking like I just slapped her across the face. She opens the door to the conference room and nods inside. If I were on death row and about to be executed ... this would be the long walk. Those five feet that it takes to get to her feel like two miles of desert with a blazing sun ripping over the pus filled sunburn that I probably got the day before. Or possibly jabbing it with hot needles. She stands in the doorway and lets me enter first and I know that the toothbrush did nothing to remedy the stale scent of excessive cognac on my breath. To her credit, she doesn’t slam the door, but she doesn’t lightly close it either. It ricochets through me all the same and I groan, putting a hand to my head. I still have on my sunglasses and it’s not helping. At all. Bright light! Call me Gizmo.
She puts her hands on her hips and paces the length of the room. This is her way of not saying something she will regret. She usually opens her mouth and lets whatever is stuck in her craw fly, but when she does the strut and the pause ... she’s reigning in the tidal wave as best she can. I know this strut well ... I’ve just seldom been the cause. That I know of. I don’t know which part is pissing her off. She could know that I moved out of Cristina’s and didn’t come to her place. Or ... she could know that *and* where I spent the night. I brace myself for either. Maybe she just has something against cognac.
When she finally does speak, her tone is eerily controlled. "I got called into Webber’s office this morning to talk about your *roommate*."
Hello, left field. "Why would Addison -"
"Apparently she - wait - what?"
"Oh! Cristina!" My eyes widen and I push my glasses up on top of my head. "Is this about teaching her? Because she crawled my ass yesterday about it. Not about me and you ... but about you giving her a hard time. You know ... she’s not so bad and Cardio is her thing so -"
"Back up ... why are you talking about Addison? And while we’re on the subject of her ... why do the two of you look and smell like you’ve been licking the floor at Joe’s?"
Hmmm ... to tell the truth or not to tell the truth?
"We had drinks last night."
"Obviously. Where were you when you had these infamous drinks?"
"At the Archfield."
"Did you drink and drive!?" Her voice rises. "Callie!"
Her head tilts. Oh god ... I know the head tilt. That’s the outer bands of Hurricane Hahn hitting land. "You took a cab then?"
Fucking hell. "Uh ... no. You know how I just mentioned that Cristina crawled my ass? Well ... I moved out."
Her mouth drops open. "And went to the Archfield?!"
Jesus, when she says it like that I feel dirty. "It was really late and I didn’t want to -"
"Don’t." She holds up her hand. "You really don’t want to move in with me do you? Hell, I don’t know which is worse ... that you picked a couch over my bed ... or that you’d rather pay two thousand bucks a *week* than be with me."
"That’s not true." I reach for her and my heart breaks when she pushes my hands away. "I told you I’m not ready."
"You know what I’m not ready for?"
Now my heart stops. "Erica, don’t -"
"Nevermind," she snaps. "You’re right. I’m not going to say anything else. You’ve said it all!"
I block the door when she starts to walk out. "Wait. Please?"
"For nearly a *year* ... I have waited! You have pushed and pulled me in every direction and if either one of us should not be ready for this, Callie, it’s me. You have hurt me repeatedly and I’m still the one who keeps begging for more! When is it enough for you!?" She rakes her hands through her hair when I don’t reply. "Move out of the way."
"It’s not that I don’t want to live with you. I do. I just think -"
"Move out of the way," she repeats. "Before this entire hospital hears me tell you what *I* think."
"Can you please -"
Her voice causes my brain to actually explode. Any second now I’ll feel it dribbling out my ears. I grit my teeth and press my hands to my head while I wait for unconsciousness. It doesn’t come. The only thing that does come is the finality of a slamming door and the fact that the conference room witnesses a truly magnificent breakdown on my part. I don’t cry, but I do knock a chair over and kick the wall. Maybe that’s not really magnificent when it comes to breakdowns ... but when your brain is mush and your body won’t cooperate and chase after the woman you love ... it’s the best you can do.
It just doesn’t make me feel any better.
I finally throw up everything I have ever eaten after Addison pages me to the lunchroom. Neither one of us buy more than stiff coffee and we sit indoors as close to the air conditioner vent as possible. When Alex Karev decides to sit down at our table and show us the chewed up hot dog in his mouth and then tell us that it’s made out of ears, asses, and eyeballs ... Addy and I nearly trample each other getting to the bathroom. I feel slightly better after my body turns itself inside out, but I still look like shit ... only redder for my efforts. Erica won’t return my texts and her phone is going straight to voice mail so I stop calling after I leave four messages. I don’t want to look desperate or anything. The fact that I left long enough messages to be cut off on each one couldn’t possibly be considered desperate, right? I’m standing beside Addison brushing my teeth again when my pager goes off. Hers vibrates a moment later and we exchange looks.
Being paged to the Chief’s office with your partner in crime is only comforting in that you’re not alone.
The second we enter, Webber glares at us and says, "Sit down."
I don’t look at Addison.
She doesn’t look at me.
"I can see that the complaints about you were not unwarranted." He sits down in his leather chair and I feel like a wilting flower under his scrutiny. "What time did you two menaces lay off the bottle?"
"Early," Addison replies at the same time I say, "Late."
I watch her flinch out of the corner of my eye and involuntarily do the same. I better let her do the talking ... Richard likes her.
"Before or after midnight?"
I see her look at me and suddenly Webber’s bookcase is the most engrossing thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t stare at it hard enough and I try to count the books on the top shelf while I wait for her to say something. She finally clears her throat and says, "After."
"And what time did you have to report to work?"
Addison must be as absorbed in the bookcase as me because neither one of us can utter a sound.
Richard slams a heavy paperweight down on his desk and I nearly leap out of my skin. Actually, I’m pretty sure that I have a near death, out of body experience, and the light coming through the window is the white light of Heaven. I’m tempted to run into it, but I blurt out, "I was scheduled for six, but I didn’t get here until eight," instead.
"So, you were late."
His nostrils flare slightly. "Addison?"
"I was late, too."
"I see." He looks back at me. "Dr. Torres, are you going to make me regret going to bat for you over the Ambien fiasco?"
"You show up here smelling like alcohol one more time ... and you won’t work in Washington again. Hell, you won’t work again period. Not if I can help it."
I’m going to faint. Any minute now. "Yes, sir."
"Addison," he continues. "I didn’t hold your job and beg you to come back here every week for *this*. Clean up your act or go back to California because I won’t have it. Understand?"
"Neither one of you are to get near a patient today. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want you near charts. There’s a mess in the hallway on the second floor where they’re working on the freight elevator. Go get brooms and clean it up. When you finish that ... get out of my hospital and when you come back tomorrow, you better be bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to save some damn lives ... starting with your own ... because I’ll wring both of your necks if you give me another reason."
Okay, he didn’t even yell ... but his words are echoing in my head the entire time I walk toward the freight elevator of evil.
Addison and I draw up short when we see the mess. There are ceiling tiles, sheet rock pieces, dust and all around hideous-ness waiting for us at the end of the the hallway. She reaches into her pocket and withdraws a hair scrunchie, pulling her hair up in a messy knot. "The one patient a day thing at the Oceanside Wellness Clinic looks pretty great right about now," she tells me.
I twist my hair into a knot and secure it with a pencil. We dive into the mess without mentioning how much it sucks ... we’re living it ... we know.
It must be a jock thing. Mark and Karev seem to sense that we’re being humiliated so they show up and mock us mercilessly. They stand outside the yellow caution tape that Addison and I crawled under and talk about us like we’re not there. They do a running commentary like we’re zoo animals in a fucking documentary and it gets to me. Just like the jocks were capable of doing in high school ... they get under my skin and make me cry.
I pretend it’s the dust.
Addison knows better. She finally hears me sniffle one too many times and gets to her feet. I guess what they say about redheads and their temper is true.
She sends a piece of ceiling tile flying like a frisbee and I watch with awe and wonder as it bounces off Alex’s head and pops Mark in the mouth.
They don’t say another word.
There’s a little superhero in all of us.
Erica didn’t have to work very hard to become my best friend. I knew the first night that we hung out and she knocked my darts off the board with her own that I was going to like her. We laughed the whole night and nearly every night after that. The only thing more fun than talking to her ... was listening to her talk. Before we ever became lovers, she was my goto person for a bad day and she would listen to me rant and then sum it all up with a colorful expletive. The only real fight we had while we were platonic friends ... was during a camping trip. She yelled at me while we were setting up the tent and I was hot, hungry, and cranky so I yelled right back and it was ON. We weren’t hurtful, but we picked apart every aspect of the other person’s camping ability and when I told her that she didn’t even know how to pack her damn supplies and she told me that the only reason I *could* pack mine was because I lived out of my backpack ... we stopped, looked at one another, and apologized before a line could be crossed. Ten minutes later, it was the fight hadn’t happened at all and we were laughing over the fact that the directions for the tent had been written in French only.
I want my best friend right now.
I want to track her down and tell her all about the meeting with Chief Webber and listen to her sarcastically tell me what he should do with himself.
And I need her to tell me what happened with Cristina so that I can help her.
Addison is a great friend, but she’s not my *best* friend and I’m not hers. Naomi is hers and when I listen to her call Naomi in the car after work ... it drives home that fact. She talks with her in that open, comfortable way that I talk to Erica about life’s smallest details. Before Addison can park at the Archfield ... I ask her to drop me off at my car. She gives me a knowing smile and the second key to her room, but I’m really hoping that I won’t need it. I drive all over town and can’t find a single florist that is open past five. I settle for stopping at Wal-Mart and I buy the least tacky bouquet of wildflowers that they have. I also spend way too much time prowling through the ‘I’m Sorry’ cards and by the time I find the right one it’s already dark outside. There’s also a thunderstorm brewing and the sky looks like a strobe light as I pour my heart out on the front inside flap of the card. I want to say much more than what will fit there, but I had a burning desire to see her more.
By the time I get to Erica’s the bottom has dropped out of the sky and there are buckets of water splashing on my windshield. I park right next to the wrap around porch on the front of her house and dart across the stepping stones. It doesn’t matter how fast you are when God is throwing water balloons at you. I’m drenched to the skin by the time I ring the bell and when I pull the card from under my shirt, which I thought would protect it, the baby pink envelope is fuchsia in spots. I try to shake it off as I ring the bell again, but it’s no use. I make the spots become streaks and have to hope that it’s the thought that counts. When ten minutes pass ... I resign myself to the fact that she’s not home and leave the flowers and the card resting against the front door and brave the monsoon to get back in my car. I call her two more times before I drive away and I feel like my heart is being grinded under the tires.
I stop to eat comfort food (Burger King) and call the hospital to see if she’s still at work. They tell me she left an hour ago and I head back to her place after I’ve stuffed myself with a Whopper and fries. Wrong thing to do, by the way. My stomach hates me. Guess she was right about the diet thing. When I pull into the driveway again the rain is still falling, but I can see that the flowers and the card are gone. My shoes squish from all the water and I know that my hair is plastered to my face when I ring the bell again, but I happily stand there and wait. A long time. Almost long enough to make me change my mind and leave, but I finally see a light turn on inside and she moves the curtain to the left and looks at me. She’s wearing a white button down shirt and her hair is pulled back in a ponytail when she opens the door and I’ve never seen it like that, but I love it. I don’t move as she glares at me through the storm door. It could be the crack of thunder or the bolt of lightning that streaks through the sky that makes her let me in ... or it could be my face. Either way ... she unlocks it and holds it open. I leave my wet shoes outside on the porch and step past her.
She smells so good and I can tell by the fact that her collar is wet that she was showering. Or maybe she got hit by a few water balloons, too.
"I would have thought that you could take a hint. If I don’t answer the phone then I don’t want to talk to you in person, either," she tells me. "I’m not in a very good mood so -"
"Neither am I. And you not answering the phone didn’t help."
I push my hair off my forehead. "This sucks."
Looking down at my bare feet, she sees the puddle that is rapidly forming on the throw rug. "I’ll go get a towel."
"Wait." Grabbing her arm is the wrong thing to do because the second she tugs it from my grip and pulls away ... I want the floor to open up and swallow me. If she’s ever pulled away from me before, I’ve obviously repressed it because it hurts. Really, really bad. I can’t do it. I can’t be here with her and not touch her so I turn around and go back onto the porch. Bending down, I pick up my shoes and am in the process of slipping them back on when she follows me and says, "You tell me to wait so that I can watch you leave?"
"What do you want me to do!?"
The thunder seems to shake the foundation of her house and it pierces through my head like an ice pick. "I’m sorry."
Her eyes are blurred with tears now. "Hallmark already said that for you. Do you want to say anything else?"
"I don’t know, Erica! Are you going to listen!?"
I’m exhausted. I’m beyond exhausted and my entire body is aching from the physical labor that Webber forced me to perform. I’ve heard elderly patients say that they were bone tired and soul weary, but I never understood that until now. "What do you need me to say to you? What!?"
"If you need to ask me that then I’m sure I don’t want to hear it."
I tighten my grip on my purse to keep from shaking her. "How can you be pissed at me for trying to have more with you than ... this, Erica?"
"This? What does that mean?"
"THIS! RIGHT HERE! WE DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS!"
"I DESERVE MORE THAN YOU COMING AND GOING LIKE I’VE GOT A REVOLVING DOOR, CALLIE!"
"I HAVE NEVER TREATED YOU LIKE THAT!"
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU DO WHEN YOU COME HERE AND FUCK ME THEN LEAVE!?!"
I start down the stairs and she darts out into the rain ahead of me, leaning against my car door to prevent me from opening it. The sky peals with light and I see a flash just beyond her driveway that is accompanied by a loud boom and I yell, "GO IN THE HOUSE BEFORE YOU GET STRUCK BY LIGHTNING!"
"YOU’RE THE ONE WHO GOT WASTED LAST NIGHT! IF ANYONE SHOULD BE WORRIED ... IT’S YOU!"
"GOD, YOU PISS ME OFF!"
"WELCOME TO MY WORLD!"
"GO INSIDE, ERICA!"
"YOU GO INSIDE!"
I shake my head and shove my hair out of my face. At the rate we’re going, we should just join the carousel of color in Jazz’s mural lamp because all we’re doing is running in circles. "Fuck. Why don’t we both go inside?"
"Go," I say.
"Give me your keys."
"Your keys. Give them to me so that you can’t run the second you want to."
Another bolt of lightning, this one so close that my eternal soul stands up to rebuke Satan, sends us both scrambling up the steps and nearly mauling one another as we try to fit through the door at once. The power is off in the house when we finally get inside and she slams the heavy wooden front door as if it can keep the wolf at bay. I think maybe she doesn’t understand that the wolf is under both of our skins, tearing us up inside. I hear her walk across the floor and bump into things, and then she lights a candle and looks at me over it. If she minds that I’m puddling on the hardwood she doesn’t mention it. What she does say is, "What can the Archfield give you that I can’t, Cal?"
My teeth are chattering because she had the air on in her house, but I don’t pay attention to it. "I want to enjoy the little things and spend the night with you *sometimes* so that I don’t take every time for granted. If we rush through the little things to get to the big things we won’t remember it, but if we do it slow then ... when I do move in with you, and I WILL, we’ll both value what it took to get there. If that pisses you off, Yellow, then be pissed off."
"It does and I am." She points down the hall. "But you can still borrow something of mine to wear."
"How generous of you. Can I spend the night, too, or is that asking too much?"
"Only because it’s raining, but you’re gonna sleep in the guest room. Which is where the *guests* stay."
I’ll show her! Oh, yes I will!
In her bedroom, she puts the candle on the end table and rifles around in her dresser. She tosses me a pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt that says Johns Hopkins University on the front. I feel like she’s sharing a part of herself with me because she told me once that the shirt is a favorite of hers ... one that she slept in for most of her college duration. She wore it one of the nights she dropped by the apartment I shared with Mark. It was after my surgery, after we had made love in Miami, and I kept watching her out of the corner of my eye. I kept imagining what it would feel like to run my hand under it and then show her just how much she meant to me. We had kept it friendly then. Almost too friendly. We were so sugary sweet and *friendly* that it almost killed me every time she said goodnight. I would invent reasons for her to stay another five minutes, another ten. I was wrong about breaking up with Mark before I cheated on him ... I cheated with her in my head every second of the day.
And I’d happily take that sugary sweet, molasses filled friendship that we forged after she cut me open because I’ve had a bad day and I need to talk to *her*. I take a deep breath, holding the shirt in my fist. "Erica, I really want to sit down and talk to you for a -"
"I’m tired. I’m going to bed," she tells me.
"You never did tell me what Chief Webber said about Cristina."
She shrugs. "He said I have to teach her."
"Are you okay with that?"
"Let’s see ... trying to teach a hot shot know it all who second guesses my every move in the OR ... should I be okay with it?"
"Maybe you should try with her. I mean, she wants to impress you and -"
"Well, she doesn’t."
"I know that -"
"I DO NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT YANG! GO TO BED!"
"DON’T DISMISS ME LIKE A CHILD!"
"DON’T ACT LIKE ONE!"
I swallow to keep from snapping. "You know what I miss? I miss talking to my *best* friend. I miss hearing about her horrible day and telling her about mine so if you see her ... could you tell her that!?"
I whirl on my heel and stalk across the hall to the guest bedroom. I guess I won’t be showing her after all. If the power wasn’t off and I could actually see ... I’d leave ... and I’m not wearing her stupid clothes either. I strip out of mine and fumble to the bed where I eventually figure out where the cover is and pull it down. Before I can crawl under it, though, I trip over my pants and stub my toe and that, along with the shit day I’ve had, causes me to cry. I try very hard to be quiet about it, but the guestroom is quite possibly the loneliest room I’ve ever been in and my head hurts, my foot hurts, my heart is aching even worse and Erica ... is opening the door.
I roll over, turning my back to her when she carries the candle in.
I hear her set it on the table and the bed shifts when she sits down, but she doesn’t touch me. "Okay ... fine ... as your best friend," she says, "I can tell you that your girlfriend really loves you and she will probably not be pissed very long. She’ll come around. I’m on her side in this little argument, but I believe that it will work out. So, don’t cry ... because that kills her."
When I don’t reply, she puts one arm over me and rests her chin on my arm. "I have your favorite ice cream in the freezer and it’s going to melt. Isn’t there a rule somewhere that says you have to eat it after you fight with the person you love?"
I sniffle. "Cookie dough?"
"Do I not know you?" Reaching down, she brushes a tear off my nose. "Want it? It’s gonna melt if you don’t eat it."
She leaves the candle and when she fumbles down the hallway, I pull her shirt over my head and lean against the headboard while I wait for her. I hear something clatter and a litany of curses fly from her mouth, then she’s back and she smiles at me as she hands me the Ben and Jerry’s. "Thank you for the flowers, by the way. And the card. It helped."
I push the ice cream around with the spoon, but I don't eat it. That should tell you how bad I'm feeling right now. I'd trample a kitten if I thought Cold Stone Creamery was about to close down. I hear her sigh and glance up at her. She’s still wearing the white button down shirt and it’s kinda see through because it’s wet and she's not wearing a bra. I think the worst part about dating your best friend is that you notice things you never noticed before and it's hard to concentrate on anything except what you feel like when you're not kissing them. I want to kiss her. I want to apologize for not being ready and for falling short of what she needs, but I'm exhausted. I've said all I can say.
I watch her eyes follow a tear down my cheek and look back at the ice cream. I don't want that either. She pulls the cover down beside me and sits with her back against the headboard the same way mine is. Reaching over, she takes the ice cream and eats a bite of it. "It's good. You know you want some."
I shake my head. "I thought you were going to bed."
"I want to tell you about my horrible day." She dips the spoon again and takes another bite. "Webber basically said that he hired me at Seattle Grace because he wanted the best teacher. He said that Burke of all people had recommended me when he resigned. Burke. BURKE recommended me. Do you wanna know why I hate Preston so much?"
"I’ll tell you if you eat some of this." She holds the container out again and I accept it. She doesn’t speak again until I comply, then I hand it back to her. "We went to college together. You knew that part. What you don’t know is that Burke struggled with his grades. He somehow got the scholarship I needed from the get-go, even though he didn’t really need it. First day of class and he showed up in his Mercedes with the top down and every girl in the vicinity went running to stroke his ego. I didn’t. I wouldn’t give him the time of day so naturally that piqued his interest and he started trying to turn on the charm with me. I tutored *him* for six months and yet -"
"Oh god ... if you say you slept with him I’m going to ... vomit."
"I didn’t sleep with him."
"But he slept with my favorite professor, a woman that I had more than one fantasy about, and I’m pretty sure that the two point lead he had over me when we graduated had a hell of a lot more to do with him hitting that than the books." She digs a chunk of cookie dough from the depths and holds it out to me.
I pluck it from the spoon and say, "How do you know he was sleeping with her?"
"I left my notes in her room and interrupted them. She was face down, ass up on the desk and he just smiled at me and kept right on going."
"And she made it clear that I’d never get a passing mark if I said a word. I didn’t. I just watched him get everything handed to him and I had to work twice as hard, particularly in her class, but I still came in second." She stabs the ice cream now and I take it from her to keep her from plowing through the bottom and making a mess. "And he told Webber that I’m the best *teacher*. Because I tutored him. And that’s a slap in my face that I KNOW he intended. It’s his way of saying that I taught him so much that maybe I can take his place ... but I was still the second choice. He knows that I’m living in his shadow here."
"Or maybe ... it’s his way of acknowledging that you earned it."
"I don’t like it when you’re optimistic. We’re supposed to be cynical, pessimistic, and rude together."’
"What you said today at work about me pushing and pulling you in every direction ... it’s true." My throat tightens up and I can’t stop the tears that fall. I don’t even try. "I never meant to hurt you."
She leans closer, her shoulder against mine. "What you said about rushing is also true. So let’s make a deal, okay? You don’t push or pull and I won’t mention you moving in with me again. You can just show up on the doorstep when you’re ready. I’ll be waiting. Does that sound fair?"
"As your best friend ... I’m telling you that you’re too generous and she doesn’t deserve you."
"Why don’t you reply as more than that?"
I rest my head against hers. "I love you. I have never felt this way in my entire life and it’s more than fair. I won’t make you wait long."
"I love you, too." She kisses my forehead. "But for God’s sake stop crying before I go in the other room. I’m the one with cramps and bleeding."
"Damn it! Seriously!?" I hand her the ice cream and cross my arms over my chest like a petulant toddler. "I was about to seduce you!"
"Oh, sweet irony. How I love that you have to WAIT."
"How long does it usually last?"
"Five very fun filled days."
"FIVE!? Shit! Counting mine ... that’s eight days out of the month that we’re going to be sexless. Eight. Days. Ninety six days out of the year. That’s two thousand three hundred and four hours that I will be thinking about sex, but not having it." I wipe my face with the sleeve of the t-shirt I’m wearing. "This does kind of explain your mood today, though."
"My ovaries did not cause my mood ... you did."
"Are you over it?"
I look at her. "If I ask you really, really nicely to massage my back ... would you do it?"
"Because I spent most of the day being a construction worker and I ache all over."
"I’m not giving you a happy ending."
"You already gave me that."
"Smooth, Torres. Very smooth." She gives me a quick kiss and frowns. "WHY DO YOU SMELL LIKE A HAMBURGER!?"
My eyes widen and I clap a hand over my mouth, shrugging.
"Roll onto your stomach."
Ahh, massage. I happily comply, but she slaps me hard on the ass before she straddles my legs. "Ow!"
"I hope you enjoyed it. That was your last artery clogging and stomach churning hurrah."
She’s probably wrong about that, but I don’t mention it.
I fall asleep with her hands working their magic on my back ... she chases the tension away and I sleep like a baby.
Makeup sex is overrated. I ride to work with Erica and she holds my hand over the gear shifter, rubbing it with her thumb. She smiles at me every chance she gets and I realize that I don’t have to have sex with her to feel absolutely and completely satisfied with her. We survived our first really bad fight as a couple and while I hope that we never press repeat on it, we made it out alive. We made it out together. As we ride in comfortable silence, I realize that there’s a shocking difference in the way we fight than what I’ve previously experienced in relationships. With George, he didn’t have the passion to really get into anything with me. He’d let me rant, listen to me yell, and very calmly state his opinion. It’s because his heart wasn’t in it. With Mark, he would be intentionally hurtful and say the cruelest things imaginable. I think that’s because he knew that my heart wasn’t in it. With Erica, both of our hearts are wrapped up in each other and I think that makes us hold back the insults and the put downs. We don’t fly off the cuff and say anything we’ll regret. At least not yet. Not while the couple thing is still so new.
I hope the grace period never wears off.
There are a couple of power outages along the way that turn former red light crossings into four way stops and she carefully navigates fallen tree limbs as we approach the city. The presence of two ambulances in the bay is a strong indication that the storm we endured is going to be felt for a while, but we’re early and there’s not rush to jump into the fray. She takes my hand as we walk across the parking lot and kisses me twice in the elevator before telling me to meet her in the cafeteria in fifteen minutes. I change into my scrubs and she’s waiting for me when I emerge in less than ten. I don’t complain when she hands me a bowl of oatmeal because that will give me leverage to make her not complain when I empty every available packet of Splenda into it, which I do, the moment we sit down. She watches me, but bites her tongue. Picking your battles in a relationship makes sense.
I’m stirring the lumpy mess when Shepherd walks up to our table carrying a bagel. "Mind if I join you?"
This is like a major infraction of the clique code. Mr. Popularity wants to sit with two people who are arguably the most awkward social outcasts in all of Seattle ... the storm must have done more damage than we know about. The earth if officially off its axis. "Uh, sure," I reply, bracing myself for the worst.
He pulls the chair out with his foot and sets his coffee on the table, taking a bite of his bagel. I swear on all that’s Holy ... his tooth actually sparkles like a toothpaste commercial and when he speaks with his mouth full, it’s not a flaw. It’s foreplay. He’s that damn suave, that damn perfectly coiffed, and dashing. I hate him on principal alone. "So, Addison talked to me about your brother last night. How old was he when the brain damage occurred."
Oh! That explains so much. "He was ten. That was fifteen years ago."
"Do you know which part of the brain is damaged?"
"The left side of his cerebrum and the hippocampus," I reply. "It’s minor. He can speak, he can walk, and swim, and convey things, but ... it’s not that minor. He can’t read, can’t write, can’t do math or understand a movie. His life has him ... he doesn’t have it."
Derek watches me as he chews his bagel. I squirm a little under the intensity of his look. I only thought I could stare him down. He swallows and says, "Have you looked at the mortality rates in the Fellman-Caputo? Beyond the ones from the forty people who were profiled in the medical journal? Because this isn’t a new technique, it’s not even a perfected technique. It’s something that Fellman has been toying with for years. It’s something that I assisted on as an intern and a resident quite a few times and we lost every patient. Caputo seems to think that he’s figured out the problem by reducing the size of the tools needed, but you’re still inserting something foreign into a brain and sending frequencies to it. Blood clots half the size of the Caputo transmitter have killed patients in an instant."
Erica clears her throat. "Would you say it’s better to perform this surgery on someone with more significant damage?"
"I’m saying that a person who can walk, swim, and convey things could lose that ability or his life if my hand slips." Derek keeps looking at me. "But I’m willing to look at his medical history and the scans of his head if you can get that to me. I’m not guaranteeing anything, but it would be a big deal for Seattle Grace to be approved for this trial. So, I’ll review it and let you know what I think."
"Thanks," I tell him.
"You’re welcome." He stands up and looks from me to Erica. I don’t know what he’s thinking or if it there’s something more he wants to say, but there’s a thoughtful expression on his face that he sums up with a nod before he goes to join Mark. I can tell by Sloan’s body language that he’s grilling his friend about why he would dare infiltrate the enemy camp, but I can’t be bothered to care about it. Mortality rates, brain damage, and transmitters are the only thoughts in my head. Jazz could survive the surgery, but be a vegetable. Or he could lose all ability to speak. Or see. Or swim. I’ve been concentrating on life or death as the only options, but now there’s a big gray area that he could fall into. Joel carries the weight of Jasper’s life as it is now ... I’d carry it if I hurt him any further. Whether I’m holding the scalpel or not.
Erica puts her hand on mine and squeezes. "Callie?"
"Do not say ‘I told you so’."
"I wasn’t going to. There’s a lot to think about and research and you’re lucky because those are two of my best assets. I think and research very, very well."
The thundercloud in my head breaks and I look down at her chest. "I can think of other things I would call your best assets."
She gooses me in the ribs. "Can you get your mind out of the gutter?"
"That’s the only part of me that can be in the gutter. For *five* days."
"I’m going to *die*."
She tugs me closer to her and gives me a kiss. It’s chaste, sweet, and not remotely sexual, but my body still tingles from it. "You’ll be just fine."
"Let me buy you dinner tonight," I suggest, not letting her pull away. "The restaurant on top of the Archfield is amazing and the view will take your breath."
"This view does that." She winks at me and I kiss her again. "But I’ll definitely meet you there. What time?"
"It’s a date." She sits back and starts to take a bite of her oatmeal, then stops. "Our *first* date, actually. As a couple I mean."
"How sad is it that we had our first fight already, but not our first date?"
"Not quite as sad as the fact that we’ve had a ton of sex already and can’t possibly do it tonight."
"Stop reminding me," I snap, but I’m smiling at her. "And I don’t have sex on the first date anyway."
"I’m sure I believe that." She gets to her feet and kisses my forehead, picking up her tray. "I have to go and check on a patient before surgery. Will you please eat?"
"Sure." I make a face as I press the spoon into the now cold oatmeal. "I’ll get right on that."
"I’m sure I believe that too, baby." She heads toward the door.
"Hey, Erica," I call after her.
She turns and I motion for her to come back. "What?"
"I like it when you call me baby."
"I like it when you call me Yellow."
I’m not nervous about going to dinner with Erica. I’m not.
Of course, I change clothes four times and wear a freakin’ *dress*, but I’m not nervous.
When I meet her in the lobby, she’s wearing a dressy looking short sleeved blazer thing and matching pants. I wonder if I went to her place after dinner ... would I find a pile of discarded clothing to rival the one I left in my room? Granted, she probably does laundry more often than I do and didn’t make two separate piles based on what smelled fresh and what didn’t, but that’s not really the point. Addison wasn’t around to help me out, either. I lived by her rule of thumb and chose a label instead of what was the most comfortable. I’m little black dress certified in the Donna Karan that my mother bought during our shopping trip in Miami. My tan still looks nice enough to pull off the spaghetti straps and the cheating that I have definitely been doing on my ‘diet’ has not hurt me. It’s actually a little looser than it was in Miami, but it still hugs in all the right places.
She watches me approach her and I feel the dress coming off as she strips me naked with her eyes. I don’t think another human being on the face of the earth could make me feel as sexy and wanted as she does. It’s not even big gestures on her part, either. It’s the way she knows my flaws and pushes past them to get to *me*. She has literally touched every inch of my body, even the crooked toe that I’ve broken twice because my bare foot can find anything deadly in a room in under ten seconds, and she doesn’t make me feel like anything is *wrong*. I’ve got scars, freckles, moles, and my stomach will never, ever be flat no matter how tight my Spanx are, and she doesn’t see anything except something beautiful. If my one major accomplishment in life is making her feel that way, too, then I’d say I did something great.
"Hey," I tell her, leaning in to give her a kiss.
She cups my face when our lips meet. That’s another thing she does and it’s nothing out of the ordinary, that makes my heart skip a couple of beats. "I like this dress. It’s very, very tight."
"And I can’t wear panties under it for that very reason."
"Evil." She threads her fingers through mine as we head upstairs, where I reserved the corner most table with the best view.
The table is round and the bench seat is shaped like a horseshoe. The open end is a view of the Space Needle and everything surrounding it. The best part, though, is the fact that the bench has a built in, circular wall that makes it impossible for nosy people to watch you try to enjoy your dinner. It’s secluded. You almost feel like you’re alone on top of the world for a while. At least ... while the wait staff isn’t bothering you. The maitre d’ seats us with a flourish of his hand and gives us each a leather bound menu while he warbles about the fresh catch of the day. His accent is French tonight. It was German, then Latino, while I was married to George. Before that ... it was so Manhattan that I had to lean into him to understand it. He tries on accents, he told me one night just before closing, because he’s trying to write a book about a motley crew of immigrants who converge on Seattle and try to open a restaurant that can reflect all of their cultures.
Hell, I would eat there. Anyplace that I could get a New York pizza, enchiladas, schnitzel, and crème brûlée would be my idea of gluttonous ecstasy.
She’s sitting close enough to me that I feel the heat from her thigh, but not her actual thigh. It’s tempting. Very, very tempting.
We order wine and eat salad with croutons the size of bricks.
By the time our steaks arrive, I’m obsessing over her hair the same way Jazz does. I can’t even stop myself ... I reach up and brush my fingers through the end. It’s straight. I only thought that I liked it curly more. She’s cutting into her filet mignon when I do it and she glances over at me. I push it over her shoulder and kiss her behind the ear. It’s going to be a very, very long night.
The only thing we have in common from our childhood ... is intense storms. I had hurricanes and tropical depressions and she had tornados and hail.
I’m fascinated when she tells me about a strange phenomenon of chickens losing their feathers, but not their lives. I can’t help but laugh when she describes her neighbors chicken coop being gutted and thousands of featherless, scrawny looking birds flapping their flightless wings against the ground and chirping their displeasure at being stripped. I’m pretty sure that chickens don’t chirp, but I’ve never really been around one so I don’t know that for sure. Our pasts are as different as they can possibly be. She tells me that she grew up in a trailer for the most part and not the kind that you put in a trailer park. The kind that actually rolls around and looks like a silver bullet. When her parents did eventually break and move into a house ... it was because the tires went flat on the trailer and not because they wanted to give her roots. She doesn’t have to describe the houses she lived in ... multiple houses ... because I can picture it in my head. It’s not pretty. There’s a row of houses called Shanty Heights in Miami. My mother didn’t want me to play with a girl who lived there, but she relented because the girl was the only person to ever invite me anywhere. I couldn’t spend the night. I didn’t want to after I saw roaches the size of rats and rats the size of cats. The plumbing would bang when you flushed the toilet and the floor sagged enough to make me think I’d fall through. I was so happy to leave that I could have cried the one and only time I was allowed to go.
My mother made me shower twice when she picked me up.
And then she combed my hair with a lice comb for two hours.
I don’t tell Erica any of that.
I tell her about my father’s refusal to leave his home when a hurricane approaches. Hell, we were vacationing in New York once and he took us HOME because a hurricane was brewing. Most people were fleeing Miami, but not my dad. He stayed and forced us to stay to batten down the hatches. I spent more than one night in the Panic Room he built, watching windows break and palm trees fall against the house on the security cameras inside the room. She doesn’t find much amusement in my story and asks me if that’s why I was shaking so bad during last night’s storm. Even in my sleep, she said, I would tremble when thunder rolled.
I tell her I don’t know. That I slept through it.
We move on to dessert. She orders fruit and ... proving once again that we’re not *that* much alike ... I opt for Death by Chocolate.
I take a bite and close my eyes to savor it. "This? Possibly better than sex. Or at the very least it helps me cope with lack of it."
That’s when I feel her hand on my thigh. She continues to eat her berries and melons and grapes as her left hand pushes my skirt up. When she encounters the fact that I did not lie about my lack of panties, she smiles and says, "Let’s test that theory."
I lick my spoon when she urges my legs apart. The white tablecloth hangs low, but I still drop my napkin over her hand as she slides it against me. If the waiter comes right now ... I will stab him. She is still eating, acting like she’s not doing things to me that are making me squirm and breathe funny. I watched her tongue dart out to lick a little bit of whip cream off a strawberry and my hand joins hers. I push her fingers against me, exactly where and how I need them to be, and she doesn’t disappoint. Her middle finger dips into me, then flicks over my clit until I moan. She looks to the right, which is where the table closest to us is, but we can’t see them and they can’t see us. Her middle finger moves into me again and she rubs the heel of her hand over my clit, massaging and grinding against it until my fork clatters to the table and I have to grip the edge of the table with everything I have to keep from screaming my release. It’s a good one. It’s the kind that makes your inner thighs quiver and your breathing come in hitches. I can feel my eyes glaze with relief and she doesn’t move her hand until I’m coming down.
When she runs her middle finger, THAT MIDDLE FINGER, through the cream on her plate and sucks it clean ... I. Could. Faint.
She clears her throat and eats a piece of watermelon before she speaks. "Your ice cream is melting."
I don’t even ask for a to go box for the cake.
My theory was *wrong*.
In the elevator ... she kisses me in a way that it all tongue, all passion, and all pleasure. I grip her hips and hold her against me as she messes up the curls that took me forty minutes to de-frizz. I don’t even care. And she makes me forget that elevators have become my new least favorite thing. By the time we get to the lobby, her pink lipgoss and my berry has mixed into something that’s actually very pretty on her and she’s breathing just as hard as I was at the dinner table. "It’s pretty late," she says. "You could invite me to spend the night with you and I’d say yes."
"I brought a bag, just in case." She grins at me and takes my hand as we walk out to her car to retrieve it.
Ten minutes of making out against the trunk later ... we walk down the hallway of the nineteenth floor toward room thirty seven. I’m thinking about lilacs and the things she did to me at the dinner table. I’m thinking about what I’ll be doing to *her* during the three days I have my period and how I can convince her to do them to me now. When her hand slides over my backside, I don’t think I’ll have to coax her much.
What I’m not thinking about ... is Addison.
It doesn’t even register with me that I’ve got a roommate or that Erica doesn’t know or that my foot slides over something as I open the door.
Light from the hallway spills over the darkened room and illuminates Addison, who is on top of Mark and moving her hips in a way that she never, ever moved on the dance floor. If she had moved like that ... El Diablo would have been a man undone. I register the look of outrage on Mark’s face the same time he yells, "You’re living with her!?"
Erica actually yells the same thing in perfect harmony.
"SOCK ON THE DOOR!" Addy screeches, pulling the cover over her head.
I look down and sure enough, there’s a sock lying in the floor. I hold up my hands in mock surrender and pull the door shut without saying a word.
Erica is halfway down the hall.
I yank my heels off to chase after her. "Erica!"
She stabs the elevator button and says, "How would you feel if the woman that was at my house the night you came started staying in my guestroom?"
"It's not the same. I never slept with Addison."
"Okay," she replies. "Do you remember telling me how you felt knowing that George's best friend was beautiful and funny and always around?"
"You're my best friend, Erica."
"Were you going to tell me that you're living with a very attractive woman in a hotel?"
"Well, I was going to leave out the 'very attractive' part, but I was going to tell you."
"Does everything that I do piss you off?"
"This wouldn't piss you off if the tables were turned?"
"I trust you," I reply.
"That's why you hid in my bathroom and played twenty questions with me about Helen, isn't it?"
"Helen? That's her name? Sounds like an old woman."
"She's younger than you, though quite a bit more mature. She has a *home* after all. She doesn’t lug her stuff around in a garbage bag."
"Ah, we're back to you calling me a child, huh?" I hear a door slam behind me and turn to see Mark stalking toward us. He shoves his arms into his jacket and I cringe when he stops beside us. "Great."
He pokes the elevator button several times, then glares down at me. "The truly pathetic part," he says, "is that I wasn’t thinking about *you*. I finally get you out of my fucking head and you show up in the flesh."
The doors slide open and Erica steps into the lift, not looking my way. "Erica -"
"Run while you can, Hahn," Mark says. "She’s a commitment phobe."
"Refrain from stating the obvious, Sloan," Erica replies. "Or you can wait for the next elevator."
He steps in beside her and I’m too shocked to follow.
The doors slide shut on him asking her if she has ever met anyone with more relationship hang-ups than me.
I don’t hear her reply.
I don’t think I want to hear her reply.
I trudge down the hall with the weight of the world settled somewhere near my shoulder blades.
Before I unlock the door of the hotel room for the second time ... I knock.
Addison yanks it open and looks out at me. "You? Sort of suck. You texted me earlier and said that you were having dinner with Erica and would be out late."
"It *is* late."
"Oh ... well ... sock on the door!"
I nudge the sock with my bare toe. "Not so much."
"Who’s the black cloud of doom now?" she asks, moving aside. "Jesus, Callie! This is the first night he’s been sober since I got here and you - you - damn it!"
I can smell his cologne now. Armani. I gave it to him for his birthday. That was actually the morning that he kissed me with shaving gel all over his face. He was happy then. Kind of. He’s miserable now, though. He’s lost weight and he doesn’t smile much that I’ve seen.
I’m a human wrecking ball. There are four of us circling around each other now, scenting blood. Addison is ready to be what Mark needed all along. He became what she needed with me. I’m trying to be who Erica needs and she’s always been what I need, and the mess we’re in is my doing. I toss my shoes into the corner of the room and sit down on the bed. She sits across from me on hers, pulling her robe tighter around her.
"Was dinner good?" she asks.
"I’m glad something was."
I wonder, as I sit there watching her worry her bottom lip between her teeth, if what I have with Erica will be past tense, too.
For my sake, I hope not.
Because nothing will kill me faster than that.
The wonderful queenemiwee made a video to Bleeding Love that is SO like this story. That's Erica's ringtone on Callie's phone. Thanks for letting me share it, queenemiwee!!