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! And for Ange, I hope you know that I love you for a lot more than your art. You are outstanding and I'm blessed to know you.
Ange, I couldn't adore you more if I had to. You pretty much rock the center of the universe. :)
"I think Jasper would benefit from the Fellman-Caputo."
That's how Derek cuts to the chase a week later. And what a week it has been. I feel like I've been living with Erica my entire life and I don't know how I lived before now. I fall asleep in the cocoon of her arms every night and wake up the same way. It's funny ... when I was living with Mark, I didn't like to sleep facing him. Hot breath on my face all night and his stubble rubbing against my skin was uncomfortable. With Erica, more often than not ... I'm face to face with her, watching her, when I finally drift off. Our legs have a tendency to tangle and I've woken up a few times with her fingers threaded through mine. That's my favorite thing ... knowing that she reaches for my hand even when she's asleep may be the most beautiful feeling in the world.
We're comfortable together and just a few days into the latest leg of our journey has found us establishing routines. She likes to cook and I don't feel the need to ask if my crock pot disaster where I turned chicken into leather impacted that or if she truly enjoys it, but I am not complaining. I cover laundry and cat food while she makes dinner and then we clean together, stumbling over Feo and Ruma who enjoy watching us clean the kitchen. It’s probably because we amuse them by tripping over them repeatedly and swearing profusely. Feo may wind up thinking his name is ‘damn cat’ while Ruma constantly hears, ‘move it, puss’. Feo is also as fascinated by Erica’s hair as Jazz is because he will lie in wait, usually on the armoire, and snag his paw into her hair the second he gets the chance. This is particularly amusing if Erica is half asleep and stumbling toward the bathroom. She screams every single time.
I learn something new about my body every single day with her ... I never knew that making out on a sofa could be so ... flexible. Or that she would enjoy me taking full advantage of her dining room table for extracurricular activities. Twice. She was right ... there are things I can eat that rock her world. And mine.
When I told my mother that I was living with Erica, her voice trembled over the congratulations. She hid it well enough by telling me that the landscapers had used some kind of potting soil that she is allergic to, but I know my mother. My new beginning has opened a door for me, but it has shut another one for her. She won't be introducing my husband to her friends or buying ‘son in law’ cards like the one she sent George on a whim before I told her we had separated. It’s sad that my happiness can affect anyone else’s negatively. But it does. I can tell. As hard as she tries to accept it, Mom has to pin her dreams on Joel and Hope because Jasper and I aren't going to be winning any prizes in normalcy ... unless ...
I take a sip of my soda and look at Derek carefully before I speak. He is sitting across from me and he didn't bother with greetings or formalities. He simply said that Jazz *could* benefit from the procedure. "How much could it help him?" I ask.
Derek hands me two of the papers from Jasper's record. "This is your brother's hippocampus when he was ten. This is his hippocampus four years ago."
In the side by side comparison I can see that there have been changes ... for the better. The body is a miraculous thing. It will try to mend itself even when medicine says that there's no hope. It took months and months of rehabilitation to teach Jazz to speak, walk, eat, and use the bathroom again. Doctors didn't give my parents much hope that any of those things would be possible and viewing the initial scan makes me see why. The damage was significant and it's still significant now, but the brain rebounded from traumatic injury and rallied in many ways. Just not enough. Not nearly enough.
"This is the perfect area for a patient to have damage in order to qualify for the technique. Speech, motor functions, memory ... all of that can be stimulated enough to trick the brain into thinking. Literally." Derek says, pointing out a couple of areas like I'm not a doctor, too. It could offend me and probably would if I didn't know about his thoroughness. He’s not talking down to me ... he’s talking to me in the same careful manner that he talks to anyone who is considering surgery. "I think that he's young and healthy enough to meet the criteria he needs in order for us to move forward. Having said that," he hands me a manila envelope stuffed with neat papers, "I’ve got the real numbers to the Fellman-Caputo morbidity and mortality as well as the best and worst case scenarios. I also have all the paperwork completed on my end if you want to move forward. I need to know within two weeks."
I put the envelope in my lap. It's heavy and it should be. It's stuffed with lost souls who braved the knife ahead of Jasper and died in the name of medicine so that something could be learned at their expense. I wonder how many of them actually understood what was happening to them and that they could die. I wonder how many would have said no if they could have made that decision for themselves. I wonder if someone without a medical degree could understand the risk at all. "Thank you," I tell him. "I'll let you know something as soon as possible."
He nods and gets to his feet, then looks back at me. "Have you ... heard from Addison? Or Mark?"
"A friend of hers died in California so they went there for the funeral."
"A week long funeral? Must be a hell of a friend."
I don't mention that Addison and Mark have driven out to death valley to stay in a cabin so that they can work through their issues. Hmm, now that I think about it ... they could have driven to death valley so that no one could hear the screams when they killed each other. I did get a very angry voice mail from Mark and I could hear Addy in the background demanding her phone back. It wasn't pretty. People who argue as passionately as those two probably have great sex (it’s true about me and Erica). My ears have been ringing a lot so I’m sure that I’m a major topic of their conversation, though I don’t want to be. I don’t wish that I could erase the time that I shared with Mark in his apartment because it was fun and playful and eye opening for me, but if I thought that erasing *me* from his past could help him heal ... I’d trade the memories in. I never lied about loving him ... I just didn’t love him in the way he wanted. I want him to have love, though. Real love. And I want Addison to be on the receiving end of what he has to offer because it’s good stuff. He’s a good man and I wish that I could call him up and tell him so. I wish that I could fix our friendship.
I purposely avoid going over the information that Derek has given me until that night. While Erica is cooking some vegetable lasagna thing that she swears I won’t hate, I spread everything out on the coffee table and start my internal pro and con list. I’ve made that list several times now, but faced with the facts in black and white ... my con lists starts to become much longer than it previously was. The reason I can’t abandon the surgery completely, though, is that ten year old Jasper, before the accident, made me promise him that I’d never leave him. I had been at school for two years and the summers that I spent at home found us inseparable. We lived in the ocean, at the arcade, and I could spend hours watching him skateboard ... something I couldn’t do. And still can’t. I can’t even look at a skateboard and not see him on it. When I packed my things to return to college he helped me and started to cry. I would be catching my flight in two days and we didn’t know it then ... but the boating accident was less than twenty four hours away. I would miss my flight and go to school on crutches eight weeks late. Jasper would miss out on so much more.
I can remember our conversation as I realized that he was crying.
I sat down on the bed next to him and he said, "You’ll always come back, right?"
"Yep. Always," I assured him. "You’re my buddy."
"You’re my buddy, too," he replied. "My best buddy. You won’t ever leave me forever will you? You’ll always remember me?"
"When I become a doctor ... I’ll come and get you and we can live in a big house with video games in every room and we’ll eat Pop Tarts for dinner and cake for breakfast." I kissed his head. He smelled like the ocean and little boy sweat from racing the wind with me all day. "I promise."
"I hate it when you leave me behind." He put his small hand in mine and I saw that his knuckles were scratched and his thumb had a scar. It made me sad to not know how he got it. "Callie, I wanna be just like you when I grow up."
"You’re way cooler than me." I tickled him to make him stop crying.
I left him behind while he was still in the hospital hooked up to tubes and wires. I couldn’t look at him. I went into his room *once* and fainted.
I told myself he died in the water and didn’t know that I had stopped coming back for him.
It was a lie I believed for two years ... until he said my name on the phone and I realized that he hadn’t died at all.
I had died.
I had broken my promise.
And I can make up for that now.
I’m pulled from floating around in a pity pool by Erica sitting down beside me and holding out a glass of lemonade. I reach for it, but my hand is shaking enough for her to set it on the table instead. She covers my hand with hers and I lean my head against her shoulder, sighing. We lean back against the plush cushions and her presence eventually chases away the boulders that are rolling around in my head. They stay gone for all of two minutes, however, because she says, "I had hoped that you were giving this up."
"Giving what up?"
"Don’t play dumb." She gestures at the table, at the papers that outline everything so clearly that it’s impossible to view it as a blessing or a curse. "Jasper is just *fine* the way he is so stop making yourself crazy and come eat dinner."
Way to poke the caged animal. "Jasper is *not* fine."
"He is more fine than you give him credit for. He’s happy. I mean ... do you know how many people would trade places with him and not have to worry about bills or work or -"
I sit up and glare at her. "Bills and work? Is that really the best that you can reduce life to? What about being able to *think* and not have to rely on anyone else for basic things like making a sandwich or brushing your own teeth? What about being able to *drive* yourself where you want to go and *living* instead of existing?"
"What about being six feet under in a satin lined box and not existing at all? Because that’s what could happen and I’m pretty fond of your brother."
"You say that like I’m not! You say that like you’ve been around him more than a handful of times and you haven’t!" I should go find a shovel and start digging now because my temper is coming ... it’s coming *fast*. "You don’t really know him, Erica."
"I don’t have to see him every day to know that the world would lose someone amazing if he dies on Shepherd’s table!"
"YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO HAVE SOMEONE WHOLE AND THEN ONLY HAVE A PIECE OF THEM!"
"DON’T I!? WALK DOWN THE HALL AND TAKE A LOOK AT THE PICTURES! RACHEL WAS FINE ONE DAY AND NOT FINE THE NEXT!"
"LEUKEMIA IS NOT BRAIN DAMAGE!"
"IT TOOK HER FROM ME A PIECE AT A TIME, CALLIE! AND I’D STILL RATHER HAVE HER SICK AS HELL THAN NOT AT ALL!"
That couldn’t hurt worse if she had hit me. The rational part of my mind tells me that she’s just making a point. The irrational part hears one thing and one thing only. "You’d rather have her."
"Oh .... oh ... no, I didn’t -"
If you’ve ever been in a car accident ... you know that you’re happily driving along, possibly singing with the radio ... and it happens so fast that you have to sit there and take stock of yourself to see how badly you’re damaged. That’s why I do right. I look down at my chest to see if she left a hole when she ripped my heart out. I look down to see if I’m bleeding or if my shock electrified the wound enough to cauterize it. When you’re in a car accident, instinct eventually kicks in and you know what to do ... if you’re able. When my instinct kicks in ... I reach for my purse and shove my feet into my shoes. I’m going somewhere ... I just don’t know where yet.
"Callie, please." She puts her hand on my arm, then reaches down and gently, but firmly pulls my purse from my grasp. "You know I didn’t mean it that way."
Reason number 494839248 that I didn’t want to rush to move in with her ... when I get pissed I can’t go back to Cristina’s.
What I can do is go outside and try to shake off the feeling that a ghost just ran through me. I stalk to the end of the yard and pace back and forth before I finally go into the gazebo and sit down. I’m not technically thinking about Jasper or his surgery now. I’m thinking about the photos in the hall that I glance at out of the corner of my eye before I look into the mirror to make sure I’m measuring up. It’s an impossibly high standard. Rachel was to Erica what Erica is to me. She taught her how to be honest with herself and listen to what her heart was telling her and they had an epic love story that was *years* in the making. I’ve already hurt Erica more by living than Rachel possibly did by dying so of COURSE Erica would RATHER still have her here.
Hell, I need to go to bed and shut my mind down.
"You want to know what I think?" Erica asks, climbing the two steps of the gazebo and sitting down next to me. I don’t answer and she doesn’t wait for one. "I think that you would much rather be pissed at me than admit that I’m right this time. I think ... that you’re intentionally trying to fight with me so you can stop fighting with yourself about whether or not this surgery is worth it. It’s not, by the way."
"That’s your opinion."
"My opinion doesn’t count?"
"Not this time."
"Your opinion always matters to me, Callie."
"If I told you that I’d still give anything to be married to George ... what would you say? What would your opinion be then?"
"I’d say I’m sorry. I wouldn’t wish that little shit on anyone."
"Right." I look at her, but I can’t keep looking. Looking leads to kissing and kissing leads to me forgetting what she said. "I’m tired. I’m gonna go to bed."
"Dinner’s ready. It smells good. I think you’ll like it and -"
"I’m not hungry."
She sighs. "Can you please not be like this?"
"I can apologize for saying what I did until I’m blue in the face, Cal, but I’m not sorry that I loved her."
"I’m also not sorry that after she died ... I was able to love someone just as much. It would be a pretty sad life for me if my heart had been buried with her. I’m much happier that you have it. And you do. All the way."
She moves a little closer to me and I stand up, gazing out over the trees. It’s quiet. Peaceful. We can see the city, but we can’t hear it. It’s like looking at a still photo of Seattle in the middle of the woods. Crickets chirp, katydids sings, and tree frogs call back and forth to one another in a symphony of sound that I like just as much as listening to the waves crash against the beach in Miami. On the rare occasion that I opened a window at Cristina’s place ... we heard engines, horns, and the metallic bass of street sweepers clanging against things. Listening to the smooth styling's of the animal kingdom lets me possibly admit that Erica could be twenty percent correct about Jazz’s surgery. No ... ten.
She could possibly be fifty percent right about why I’d rather be pissed and argue with her than myself. Maybe ... sixty.
Fuck ... life was so much easier when no one existed who knows me better than I know myself.
I’m beginning to see that everything I thought I knew about relationships has been wrong all along. When I would get pissed at George for something ... he’d usually leave and let me cool off. Or ignore me. Or fuck his best friend. With Mark, he would rise to the challenge and fire back at me with both barrels until we were either too exhausted or too bored with the fight to keep going. Erica’s different, though. She’s great at reasoning and meeting me halfway and extending the olive branch. She’s also excellent at makeup sex, groveling, and apologizing. I don’t doubt where I stand with her and if she’s mad at me ... I know she still loves me. If I’m mad at her ... I know that I’ll love her through the anger and make it to the other side with nothing about that love sacrificed in the least.
I’m about to apologize to *her* when something hits one of the poles on the gazebo. I spin and look at her. "What was that?"
She’s frowning and when she gets to her feet to join me at the gazebo railing something flaps against the roof.
You know what is chirping right now? Not crickets. Not tree frogs. Not katydids.
The sound that a bat makes is very distinct.
Incredibly distinct in that it’s unmistakable.
I scream when one flies past my cheek and I envision a face full of fang and waking up as Bela Lugosi.
It’s sheer terror mixed with panic and the threat of my bladder erupting ... also a very distinct sound.
I’m pretty sure that I sprout wings as I race for the house. I’m equally certain that I would have the power to part seas, walk on water, and heal the blind because my prayers are that loud and passionate. God doesn’t just listen ... he possibly considers canonizing me for the sheer conviction and volume of my faith in that moment. I’m babbling something about Moses when I charge up the back stairs and when my hand is on the doorknob, I can hear Erica laughing at me. "Get in the house!" I yell. "Bats!"
I’m shaking so badly when she does come inside that a tranquilizer gun shot straight at my ass with enough medication to take down an elephant would probably not phase me. She’s still laughing when she comes in and locks the back door. "You can paint pink lips on a fucking *snake*, but a bat freaks you out?"
"I may be a little afraid of birds," I confess. "All birds. Any birds. Parakeets, chickens, parrots, gulls, roosters ... they freak me out. They’re for eating and ... feather pillows."
She puts a hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter.
"Do not laugh! It’s crippling! My mother threatened electroshock therapy when I was thirteen because Jazz had a talking Big Bird thing that scared me so much I beat it to death with my Dad’s golf club."
I don’t see Feo approaching and when he rubs against my leg, I nearly jump out of my skin. I think I levitate for a full minute and Feo takes offense to this outward display of demonic possession and hisses at me. That sound is far more soothing than the flapping, chirping, and tittering of bats so I bend down and scoop him up. Erica watches me, still smiling, and says, "You do realize that you’re a little weird right?" she asks.
"Don’t change." She walks to where I’m holding the cat and kisses me. "Life with you is not boring."
"Is that a good thing?"
"It’s a very good thing."
Ruma arrives, obviously dejected that he is not also being held, and sinks his teeth into Erica’s bare foot to get her attention. She gasps and grabs him before he can do it again. She holds the beige cat up, scowling as she addresses him. "Listen, buddy, the only reason Buddha lived to do that more than once is because he was semi-cute. You ain’t got nothing going for you at all."
"Liar," I say, stroking Ruma’s whip of a tail. Erica reaches up and takes my hand in hers, kissing the back of it. I start to shake again, but it has nothing to do with fear. It has everything to do with how much I love her and how much I fear losing even a second with her when I’m mad. "We survived our first sorta fight as a cohabitating couple, Yellow."
"Yes, we did."
"I guess maybe we should ... make it official or something ... that I’m not pissed anymore."
She glances down at the sphynx she’s holding, rubbing his ear. One side of her mouth quirks as she fights to keep the relief off her face. "What did you have in mind?"
"You hurt my feelings really, really bad," I reply. Her big, blue eyes meet mine and she opens her mouth to speak, but I don’t let her. "Making up isn’t official until you keep very, very quiet about the fact that I’ll be skipping vegetable lasagna in favor of a buttery grilled cheese and potato chips."
"Is that right?" She sets Ruma on the ground and Feo scrambles from my arms to join him. Hooking her thumbs into the belt loops on my jeans, she pulls me against her. "Baby, I’ll even *cook* it for you if that means I’m forgiven."
"Deal." I hug her ... because that’s how fast I can be okay with her.
I am okay with her.
I put the research about the Fellman-Caputo technique on the dresser and leave it there. Erica doesn’t mention it again. Neither do I. By the time we go to sleep ... I’m not actively thinking about anything except the fact that my toes may never uncurl again. She must have read every single book available on how to make love to a woman because that’s what she does. Even when we’re downright kinky ... her heart is in it. Her heart is all over me. That may be why I get off so fast every time. She starts in my chest and works her way down. Actually ... she starts in my head and works her way down which is even better. I’ve had good sex before. Hell, I’ve had great sex that bordered on marathon and macabre at the same time, but this is a whole new realm for me. Her house rule about giving instead of receiving is something she takes very, very seriously because she wants me to come first. Repeatedly. When she finally does let me reciprocate ... *my* heart is in it. I hope that she can feel that as much as I do because I *need* her to know what I can’t put into words. I need her to know without me attempting to say it that, while I technically could live without her, I wouldn’t want to.
We wind up working together the next day. A construction worker ignored his clogged arteries, let it catch up to him, and fell off a scaffold. The fall wasn’t far, but the fact that he landed in front of a bulldozer and got his hand mangled all to hell and back nearly cost him his life. I have to amputate his left arm below the elbow and I do my level best to salvage as much of his wedding band from the carnage as I possibly can. After the amputation is finished, I spend close to an hour digging out pieces of gold and depositing the shards into a plastic container. Maybe he can have it melted and wear it around his neck. I’m jaded as hell when it comes to marriage, but he told me before surgery that his twenty third anniversary is approaching and he ‘sure did hate to lose’ his ring. He wasn’t concerned about his hand ... just his ring. I’d be the same way about the yellow diamond bracelet that Erica gave me. It didn’t come with vows, but I don’t need vows to know that we’ve got them between us. When she finishes the angioplasty ... she joins me where I’m working on the severed arm and helps me fish around for gold like we’re playing Operation and we’re on a search for the funny bone.
When your lover helps you dissect amputated limbs ... that’s as good as it gets. That’s the ink completely dried on everything you need to say.
I’m at the sink scrubbing out, joking with Erica about ‘digging for gold’, when there are shouts in the hallway. We exchange curious glances because drama at the hospital usually involves me in some form or fashion, but I’m definitely not at the root of this.
Yeah, I’m wrong.
Lexie Grey is standing toe to toe with Izzie Stevens just outside the scrub room. The contrast between the two of them is night and day. Lexie is a pretty girl, but she’s plain in comparison ... with her newly bobbed brown hair hanging limp around her flushed cheeks. Stevens’ hair is long and flowing, shampoo commercial ready and even though her anger is apparent ... God apparently decided that making her pretty wasn’t enough. She’s not scarlet or *ugly* ... even when a hateful sneer creases her features and she says, "George *invited* me to come last night."
"Oh, wake up!" Lexie snaps, her hands on her narrow hips. Even though she’s three inches shorter than Stevens ... her confidence and conviction make Izzie seem much smaller in comparison. I’m damn impressed. "He did not invite you! I specifically heard him tell you that we had plans and he would see you later!"
"It’s not like drinks at Joe’s is a date, you desperate idiot!" Izzie growls. "Just so you know ... you’re not his type."
"You’re not his type, you knock kneed freak!" Lexie cries. "And just so you know ... when you went to the bathroom ... George told me that you’re bad in bed! He said that you do things with your gangly legs that should never, ever be done and it was like having sex with Gumby."
I can’t help it.
That makes me laugh.
The previous night ... Erica told me that a certain thing I do with *my* legs could make her faint.
Izzie whirls around and looks at me. I try not to be obvious about the fact that I’m enjoying Lexie’s throat cutting abilities, but it’s a tough sell. Stevens narrows her eyes into slits and says, "Why are you laughing? Did you pass a mirror just now?"
"Oooh," I reply, pretending to be scandalized. "Is that the best you got, killer?"
Now there’s something ugly on her face. "DO NOT CALL ME KILLER!"
"Why not? Truth hurt?" I ask sweetly. "Killer."
"That’s enough," Erica says and I feel her hand on the small of my back, propelling me to walk.
Naturally, I would much rather hang around and see if Lexie is going to spill any other truths, but I comply and take a few steps forward. I pat Lexie on the shoulder as I start past her and obviously that is the match it takes to blaze Izzie’s temper into an inferno. Two things happen at once ... I see a flash of her blond hair out of the corner of my eye and I realize that the braid under my scrub cap lets her dig her fingernails under the rope of hair and pull ... hard. Stevens doesn’t pull me off my feet, but she does nearly scalp me, causing me to feel like there’s a flamethrower pointed at the back of my head. Classic. It’s absolutely classic that the bitch would attack me from behind. It’s also absolutely wonderful that my Dad invested big bucks in teaching me how to handle this very thing. I sink my elbow into her stomach to get her off me and am rewarded by the ‘oooomph’ of air leaving her. Her breath smells like coffee and cigarettes and I briefly wonder when she took up smoking.
She comes charging at me, still doubled at the waist, and I simply lift my knee so that her face plants against it. The key to winning a fight is to stay calm. The second you get all invested and pissy and shit ... that’s when you’re going to lose. That’s when you’re going to overreact instead of just simply react. For the record, Meredith Grey would have kicked my ass in the locker room that day because I was too emotional.
I really, really want Izzie to hit me one good time though ... so she can at least say she tried. I’ll even let her get one lick in before ...
Shit ... there it is. She hooks me in the jaw, rattling my teeth and I throw calm out the window. I hit her with everything I have in me to hit someone with and when my fist connects with her mouth, that perfect, pouty, pathetic mouth that ran for months at my expense ... I feel like a million bucks. I’m vaguely aware that her crooked tooth has split my knuckle and even less aware that people are now yelling ... because all I can concentrate on ... is ‘The Eye of the Tiger’ which is playing in my head as this little fight montage flickers on the big screen of my mind. I’m channeling Rocky and I’m going to *win*.
Much to my absolute dismay, Karev is suddenly there pushing Izzie against the wall and Erica, who is way stronger than I ever realized, pins me back against the other. I hear Izzie yelling something about kicking my fat ass and I push against Erica to get at the bitch because I’m nowhere close to finished. Only ... I am. Erica grabs my face with one hand and holds tight, forcing me to look at her. "Stop. Now."
Alex takes Izzie into the stairwell and when her voice dies out and stops stroking my rage, I stop struggling to get at her. There’s an on call room around the corner and I find myself being yanked into it. Erica slams the door behind us and takes my hand in hers, examining the small puncture wound from Stevens’ fang. Next, she looks at my jaw and then she says, "Are you trying to get yourself fired!?"
"She started it!"
"Oh that’s the perfect response, Cal! Are you four?" She rifles through a nearby cupboard until she finds a box of tissue, which she presses against my hand. "You have got to stop letting her get a rise out of you. That’s what she wants and you give it to her every single damn time you get the chance."
There’s a knock at the door and Erica pulls it open. Cristina doesn’t wait for an invitation. She carries in a small first aid kit and pulls the tissue off my hand, looking up at me when she sees it. "Webber asked me what happened to Izzie," she says, blotting up the blood on my hand and tearing open an alcohol swab, which she presses against the cut for maximum stinging capacity. "Lexie and I told him that she got hit in the face by the stairwell door and Alex was taking her to the clinic."
"Is that the best you could come up with?" I ask, cringing when she opens a suturing kit. I don’t even think I need stitches, but Yang would stitch a vagina closed for the practice. Possibly her own.
"I can do that," Erica says, reaching for the needle.
"Yeah, but I’ve got it," replies Cristina, not looking at her.
"So, what did Webber say," I prod, hoping to avoid an argument over who gets to poke me like a pincushion. "Did he believe you?"
"He didn’t say anything. Camille was admitted for pain management. If she makes it through the night ... it’ll be a miracle." She doesn’t look up as she places one solitary stitch on my knuckle and expertly knots it. "I think he would believe in the tooth fairy if he thought it would help right now."
"Who’s Camille?" Erica asks, her eyes on Cristina’s hands. I have a strong suspicion that she’s seeing just how skilled they are right now, how they move with the artistry and precision of someone much further into the surgical program.
I nudge Cristina with my foot so that she can be the one to answer. She clears her throat and says, "Chief Webber’s niece. She has terminal ovarian cancer. It went into remission once, but came back."
"Damn," Erica says, crossing her arms over her chest. "How old is she?"
"She’ll be twenty in two days. I fucking hate cancer," Cristina replies, securing a bandage over my knuckle. She breaks the spine in an instant ice pack and holds it out, pointing at my jaw. "And, Callie, this is the last time I’m covering for you. If you’re going to let someone like Stevens get to you then you deserve your pink slip. And you know it."
Erica’s looking at her like she just realizes that she exists. "Nicely said, Yang."
"Thank you, Dr. Hahn." With a nod, Cristina walks out of the room and I watch Erica stare at the door for a few seconds.
"Burke used her too, you know?" I say softly. "That Harper Avery he won? She performed the majority of the Humpty Dumpty that was mentioned in the article. Every scrub nurse in this place was talking about the way he handed the reins to her and let her work by herself. I can only imagine how it must feel to be summarily ignored by *everyone* when it comes to what you can do with a scalpel. She knows that she is good is at cardio, but no one wants to acknowledge that. No one that counts, I mean."
Erica cuts her eyes over at me. "You really are transparent."
"And you really are mean to her." I snap. "You preach at me about letting people get under my skin, but Burke is so far under yours that Cristina is too ... just by association alone. That’s not really fair to her."
"She slept with Burke to get ahead!"
I shake my head at her. "She fell in love with him and for Cristina Yang to agree to marry someone and then try to go through with it with painted on eyebrows and no vows and no real desire to have that piece of paper ... that proves she meant it. You can’t help who you love. You know that."
"How is this a conversation about Yang all of the sudden?" she demands. "And why did she have painted on eyebrows?"
"It’s a long story for another time," I reply, getting to my feet. I slink toward her and flip the lock on the door. "Erica -"
"Absolutely not. I have very, very strict rules about on call rooms and you know it. I told you a long ago that I didn’t plan on meeting you in any. And I'm not going to -" Her voice dies out as I pull my shirt over my head and toss it onto a nearby table. She’s silent as I toe off my Crocs and slide my pants and underwear down. When I’m in nothing but my bra, I turn and say, "Can you unfasten this? My hand hurts."
"Your ass is about to hurt." She whacks me on the backside and kisses my neck as she opens the clasp. "You are a dirty, rotten person."
"I’m about to show you how right you are."
I definitely show her. I spend our lunch hour showing her and make her late for her next surgery, but she doesn’t complain. What she does do is shoot me a dirty look when we step into the hallway together and find a sign taped to the door. It simply says "hot" and I wad it up, tossing it into the trash. It’s better than what it could have said, I guess. We could have gotten labeled as something a lot colder than ‘hot’. She winks at me and heads toward the scrub room and I stand there like a lovesick dog to watch her until she rounds the corner.
I set a dislocated shoulder, which is the highlight of my afternoon. It’s that boring. I’m so glad when my shift ends that I can’t wait to leave. I shower, change, and loiter outside the attending’s locker room until she emerges. Her hair is curling around her face from her own shower and the smell of lilacs is overwhelming when she takes my hand in hers. "I just realized who else is getting a year older in two days."
"You *just* realized? My birthday is your locker combination," I tell her. "And I despise birthdays so we can pretend that it’s not."
"I *love* birthdays," she replies, putting her arm around my waist.
I lean into her and inhale her fresh, clean scent as we head into the parking deck. As a rule, I don’t love parking decks. If I were going to write a murder mystery it would be about a serial killer who lurks in parking decks because that’s the perfect place to stalk someone without them knowing it. Especially the deck that we use. Instead of sinking money into a fancy security system ... the best that Seattle Grace can do is add a little lighting. I don’t mind the lack of security, though, because I wouldn’t want anyone to see the fact that I grope and kiss her senseless in the elevator the second the doors slide shut. I also would hate for anyone to see that she exposes my breast and sucks my nipple into her mouth all in a matter of seconds. When we finally arrive on the fourth level ... I’m tempted to let the seat down in my SUV and fog the windows up before anyone can figure out what we’re doing inside. I tell her exactly what I want to do to her as we walk, my mouth against her ear.
"Oh my god," she says, drawing up short. Her hand on my stomach stops me and I look at her, then follow her line of vision.
"Oh my god," I echo, staring at my car.
My Range Rover has witnessed some truly impressive dings, scratches, and dents in its fourteen years of life. I’ve only had it four of those years and when I bought it ... I thought the beating that the previous owner had given it made it have character. Right now, any character it had has died a tragic death. The back glass is completely broken out and the word ‘DYKE’ takes up the back and front glass on the passenger side. I can see that the tire is flat and glass crunches under my shoe as I step closer. Someone took a key to the side of my car with enough ferocity to expose the metal and peel the red paint away so that it curls like a ribbon in spots and when I peer through the window, I can see that the front seat has suffered a thorough gutting. My radio is gone and a Bible has been left on the passenger seat, its leather cover spotted with debris as if this destruction is what God would have wanted.
I’ve been targeted for hate too many times to count. I was too rich, too ethnic, too fat, too clumsy, too weird ... to fit my square shoulders into a round world, but this is beyond that. This is beyond words or labels or ... reproach.
I don’t care too much for material things, but I bought my ‘Red Rover’ myself, with the money from my salary. It was my first major purchase in life that I didn’t have to dip into my family’s funds or ask their opinion about. I saw it sitting in someone’s yard and rang the bell. Writing the check had felt surprisingly liberating and when the radiator malfunctioned a few days later ... I felt a moment of separation anxiety when I left the Rover at the shop and climbed into a cab. Right now ... I feel like someone broke *her* to break *me* and it pretty much works.
I realize that I’m crying when Erica speaks behind me. She’s on the phone with 911 and she’s asking me if the car was locked. I nod at her and she falters when she sees the tears on my face. "Callie, come here. Don’t touch anything, baby."
I comply, but I move in a daze, staring at the damage like I’ve never seen anything like it before. She pulls my head against her shoulder while she tells the dispatcher where we’re located and gives them the physician’s code to enter the restricted area. We walk toward the entrance ... or rather she leads me and I shamble along beside her, my head still against her. She hangs up the phone when we round the corner and it’s a relief to know that I won’t have to see my vehicle for a few minutes at least. Her phone goes back into her purse and she hugs me, rubbing my back. We could say a million things. I could ask why someone would do that and she could tell me that people are ignorant assholes, but we don’t have to speak at all. She’s hurting with me because we’re in this thing together and she already knows and has answered everything I could ask at this point just by hanging onto me.
She has calmed me sufficiently when the police arrive and one of their first questions is if we’re involved, like our joined hands don’t give it away. I want to ask why that matters, but as the officer talks about ‘hate speech’ and ‘vandalism’ and ‘hate crimes’ ... I concede that he has every right to ask if the word is ... relevant. Dyke. A dike is a levee or a damn. It keeps water from overflowing. If I’m a Dyke ... I should be able to keep myself from overflowing, but I can’t. I start crying again when several co-workers come out and stop to watch the officer snap photos. The wrecker is on the way and at Erica’s insistence, they will be fingerprinting and going over my car with a fine tooth comb. I bet the Blue Book value on the Range Rover is less than five thousand bucks, but it’s not the money. It’s the fact that someone would *dare* do that to me. To us.
I wipe my tears away and glance to my left when someone holds out a handful of tissue. Derek gives me a sad smile and puts his arm around my shoulders, squeezing lightly. "You okay?"
"Yeah," I reply, while I shake my head no.
He stands with me while the officer puts on gloves and retrieves a few valuables, handing them to Erica.
He’s still standing with us when the young policeman tells us that we should go home.
Derek volunteers to drive us and we invite him in when we get there, but he declines. Erica goes to unlock the front door and Derek puts his hand on mine. "Callie?"
"My sister took a girl to Prom and someone threw a brick through the window the next night. They had painted the word ‘homo’ on it with white paint. Mark just happened to be riding his bike at the time. He was about fifteen and he tried to kick the asses of the two guys who had done it. He played football with them and even though they were seniors and they graduated and left ... he dealt with being called ‘gay’ from everyone else who heard the story. I’ve thought a few times that the reason he goes through women like he does is because he felt like he had something to prove." He gives me that patented McDreamy smile. "Don’t let this get to you. Don’t let it change who you are."
"Did your sister change? After that?"
I give him a small grin. "It won’t change me either."
"Good." He glances out the windshield, then back at me. "By the way, Mark and Addison are back. She dropped by the hospital while you were, er, napping in the on call room."
My face turns bright red and I nod. If he isn’t Chief of Surgery one day ... he will truly have missed his calling. He’s got the subtle thing that Webber does where you feel condemned without condemnation in spades. "I’ll call her."
"Have you talked to your parents about the surgery for Jasper yet?"
"You’ll let me know?"
"Absolutely." I climb out of the car and smile in at him through the open window. "Thanks for the ride."
"Anytime. Have a good night."
As I head up the stairs toward the front door, it dawns on me that who you were in high school couldn’t matter less. I always thought that Mark had the perfect high school experience with his movie star charm and megawatt smile. I guess that proves what I know.
Things aren’t perfect for anyone ... no matter what you mistakenly think.
Erica isn’t in the kitchen or the living room when I head inside. I stop to play with Feo and Ruma, who dart underneath my legs in attempted murder, then head upstairs to search for her. I can hear water running in the bathroom and I don’t knock ... I simply go in. She’s bending over the sink washing her face and I can tell that she’s crying. I pick up the towel when she shuts the water off and blot her skin dry myself. She looks at me and I feel slightly uncomfortable because she searches my face like she never has before. Finally, she says, "I’m sorry."
I push her hair behind her ear. "Why are you sorry? Did you destroy my car?"
"Inadvertently, yes." Her eyes swim with fresh tears and it just about kills me. "It’s because you’re with me. It’s because -"
"It’s because people are jealous," I tell her. "That’s all. They know we’re happy and -"
"Did anyone ever destroy your property when you were with Mark? Did they ever write ‘hetero’ on your car?"
"Then it’s because of me. And you’re not used to this kind of thing, Callie. No one should have to be used to it. So if you want to go or -"
"Whoa." I drop the towel on the counter and put my hands on her hips. "Do you want me to go?"
"It would take a lot more than someone trashing my car to make me leave you. Hell, it would take four acts of Congress and about fifty acts of God to make me budge." I hug her. "I needed a new car anyway. And I can just imagine how thrilled my Dad will be when I call him up and tell him he can buy me one for my birthday. He’s been emailing me pictures of BMWs and Jaguars since he got back home. He did not like my Rover."
She leans back a little and rests her hand on my face. "You don’t have to pretend that this isn’t killing you. You don’t cry easily and you fell apart."
"Obviously you don’t know me like you think you do, Yellow, because I have cried so much just trying to be with you ... that it’s second nature to do it by now. I once thought that I’d never have to take you back to the beach because I’ve cried enough to give you the ocean." I sigh when the tears she’s fighting with win the battle and spill over her cheek. I kiss them away as much as I can. "You’re the one who crawled my ass about letting people get to me so stop it."
"They’re not getting to me," she replies softly. "You are. I just - I’m grateful to love you, Callie. I’m grateful that you love me, too."
"Nothing says ‘grateful’ like greasy pizza and chocolate chip cookies ... which I happen to know you bought the other day."
Laughing, she hugs me again. "Nothing says ‘whipped’ like the fact that I’m going to go cook those while you call the pizza place."
I hang onto her when she starts to step away. "Erica?"
"I love you, too. So much that I probably would have eaten that warmed up vegetable lasagna thing. Just sayin’."
"I love you too much to make you. It was pretty bad."
"You failed in the kitchen!?"
"But I rocked in the bedroom after that."
We rock in the bathroom for close to an hour before I pull myself together enough to order pizza.
I hope whoever demolished my car didn’t think it would affect my sex life.
I call my Dad while we wait for the pizza. Leaving out many of the more shocking details, I ask his advice on which car he thinks would be the best. He takes the news that my car was vandalized in the same manner he would accept me telling him that I had won the lottery. He sounds like *he* won the lottery and if the actual crime had not been so hurtful in nature ... I would consider him the prime suspect. He rambles for twenty minutes about the merits of a Mercedes and then tells me all about how the Jaguar performed in safety. No part of me wants to drive a flashy, showy car into work and park it where Red Rover was murdered ... that’s like begging for a serial killing ... so I mention the Infiniti FX, which is middle of the road. It’s not a Honda, but it’s also not a BMW and they have it in a gorgeous orange-y color that keeps catching my eye. He tells me that he’ll look into the safety and performance and makes me promise I won’t go to the Infiniti dealer and buy one immediately. I promise that I won’t and then dive into the cookie batter when Erica goes to pay for the pizza.
I practically inhale a spoonful of goodness before she can return. When she walks back into the kitchen, I act like I didn’t just ingest half of the batter. She glares at me, runs her thumb over my bottom lip, and shows me the melted chocolate. I come very close to dropping the phone when she licks it from her thumb. She doesn’t just lick ... she strokes. My heart rolls around in my chest a few times.
"Can I speak to Erica?" Dad asks.
"Uh ... why?"
"Why wouldn’t I?"
I glance at her and point at the phone, mouthing that my Dad wants to talk to her. She takes the phone with far more confidence than I feel and says, "Hey, Santos." There’s a pause. "Yes. Yes, I’m great. How are you?"
This is a very stressful situation.
I don’t know what they’re talking about, but Erica’s laughter doesn’t comfort me nearly as much as it should because I can’t hear what they’re saying and who knows what my Dad *could* say. Or God forbid ... if my mother gets on the phone. I reach for the cookie batter again because nothing is as calming as chocolate chips and raw eggs, but Erica pops my hand, pointing at the pizza box. When she holds up the wooden spoon to threaten me further ... I turn and point at my backside in clear invitation. She gets choked on her red wine and it’s nice to know that I can affect her as much as she affects me.
She hands me the phone just as I open the pizza box and my Dad says goodnight.
"What was that about?" I ask, when I hang up the phone.
Plucking a slice of pizza from the box, she shrugs at me. "He wanted me to promise that I would stop you from buying any old junker. I told him I would."
Something horrific suddenly dawns on me as I take a bite of my own slice. "Erica Marie Hahn! If you are helping my father plan *anything* that involves my birthday I will not have sex with you until my *next* birthday rolls around. I mean it."
"Would I do that, Iphigenia?"
I narrow my eyes. "You actually just called me that. You would do *anything*."
"I don’t like birthdays."
"Aww ... then you won’t like the ‘Birthday Love’ kit that I bought you that comes complete with illustrated Kama Sutra cards and a feather tickler."
I stop chewing and swallow. "Birthdays are my most favorite day of the year."
"I’m not giving it to you early.
We burn the cookies and set off the fire alarm, but it’s well worth it.
I thought that I would have trouble falling asleep, but I was wrong. After we soak in the bathtub and she cleans my hand again, I curl into her arms and close my eyes from exhaustion. We weren’t defeated today. We weren’t even slightly defeated. If anything ... we came out of it stronger. We’re holding on in the middle of a No Man’s Land. Literally.
If someone has a problem with that it’s *their* problem.
I refuse to let it be mine.
"Yang did a fine job stitching your hand."
"She cares about you."
"In her own taciturn, unaffected, and remote way ... she does."
"I’ll try harder. To be nice to her. And to Addison."
I smile. "Good."
"You wanna meet a couple of my friends from Presbyterian."
She had friends at Presbyterian? I’ve been hanging out with her religiously for almost a year and she’s just *now* mentioning friends at Presbyterian? "Uh ... sure."
People are surprising.
Gah, that chapter took a while. Sorry about that. Real life is whuppppping my ass. ;)
Comments are great motivational tools. :)