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.
Disclaimer: I do not own Grey's or the characters. This is all for fun and not for profit.
Dedicated: To the readers. Thank you!
All my love, Ange, you rock. :)
When you’re truly scared, when you race toward the unknown, it’s easy to lose your way. I could walk the halls of Seattle Grace in my sleep, but I’m too terrified to remember where the clinic is. The same thing happened once when our house in Miami caught fire. Joel was smoking in his bedroom and even though my father was a drill sergeant who began installing escape routes and fire safety into our heads the moment we could walk ... I lost my way. I was seventeen and Jazz was seven. He found me standing in the hallway, watching fire lap at the wall, and pulled me to my knees, making me crawl with him to safety. And it’s Jazz who rescues me again. I see him boarding the elevator with Derek and my parents and I see the large sign to the clinic behind them. They don’t notice me since the doors slide closed over the worst of my squeaking tennis shoes as I race toward answers.
Why is she in the clinic? Did someone assault her? Is she sick? Does she have food poisoning? Could she have a migraine? I shove the doors open and skid to a halt, nearly tripping over a baby carrier. I can’t remember which room Mark said she was in. Lexie grabs my arm before I can start peeling back curtains and takes me to one of the three private rooms in the clinic. It’s where the worst of the cases are taken ... the ones that require more than a curtain to block out the world. It’s where you put people ... who need to hide their sickness behind thick walls and a windowless door. I don’t knock. I push the door open and see Erica sitting in a hospital gown on the bed. I do a quick inventory. No blood. No tears. No crash cart or EKG. She looks shocked to see me and I grab her shoulders, then her hands. "What’s wrong?"
She closes her eyes, unable or unwilling to look at me. I don’t know which. "I didn’t want to tell you until I knew for sure."
"Knew what for sure? Baby, what?"
Erica nods toward the right and I glance over my shoulder. Addison is standing at the X-ray panel looking at scans. Even from across the room, I can tell exactly what she’s looking at. It’s a mammogram. I gasp as comprehension washes over me. Erica rubs the back of my hand with her thumb and says, "I just found it last night in the shower. It’s not big, but it’s there."
My eyes move over the hospital gown she’s wearing. It conceals her breasts, but I can picture them in my head perfectly. "Which one?"
She doesn’t object when I unbutton the left shoulder of her gown. Instead, she takes my hand and guides it to the underside of her exposed breast, letting me feel the small mass for myself. I only touch it for a second, then I pull my hand away like she’s burned me. It’s absurd that something so tiny could open its ugly jaws and swallow us both whole, but it could. It could kill her ... and me. "Oh God."
"Don’t panic," Erica says softly. "Callie, it could be nothing. You know that."
"She’s right," Addison tells me, shutting off the light panel. I watch her slide her pen into her pocket and adjust the chart in her hands. "Erica, I’m going to need to biopsy it, which I can do immediately, but the wait is out of my control. I can put a stat on the results, but I’d rather be thorough than fast."
"It’s fine. Three to five days." Erica nods as she resnaps the buttons on her gown. "I know."
"I’ll go set everything up."
I can feel Addy’s eyes on me, but I don’t say anything. She puts her hand on my shoulder and squeezes reassuringly and it’s enough to make the tears that are threatening to spill actually fall. When she leaves the room, I cradle Erica’s face in my hands and look down at her. I knew the feeling of unease last night wasn’t all in my head. I knew that something was wrong. "You have to tell me things. When something happens to you ... it happens to me, too. We’re in this together."
"I’m sorry," she says softly, her bright eyes finding mine. "I don’t regret staying with Rachel while she was sick, but I wish I had been spared those long days that we waited to find out for sure. It’s hell and I didn’t want you to go through that, Callie. Every time the phone rings for the next few days ... you’re going to stop breathing, your heart is going to skip a few beats, and you’re gonna feel relieved and let down at the same time when it’s not the call we’re waiting for. And I don’t want to do that to you."
"I’m used to not breathing and my heart skipping a few beats, Erica. That’s what you do to me around the clock. And I’ll gladly take five days in hell with you because as long as I’m with you ... it doesn’t matter where we are."
She starts to cry so I pull her against me, rubbing her back. My own tears wet the top of her head as I rest my cheek against it, breathing her in. It’s so hard sometimes ... being a doctor. I know that hope is often futile, that prayers go unanswered, that medicine can hinder instead of heal, and that there’s a truth that doctors know, but don’t always share. We can’t fix everything. We can try, we can fight with every ounce of skill and determination we possess, but sometimes we fail. And when we become the patient, we don’t have to be told anything ... because we KNOW. Addison will try her hardest to be encouraging, but she will stop just shy of telling us that it will be okay, because we KNOW that what it could be is more terrifying than the million and one things it probably is. We stay that way until Addison comes back in and I find myself drawn to the scan as Addison preps her for the Fine Needle Aspiration ... there’s nothing fine about it.
I flip the light on and gaze at the images. The mass isn’t very deep and I wonder how I didn’t feel it any one of the million times that I’ve touched her. Is it because I wasn’t paying enough attention or is it because I never touched her like a doctor, but as a lover. I’m still staring at the mass, trying to wrap my head around how something smaller than a dime can weigh on me like the world when Addison reaches around me and turns the light off. She brushes the back of her hand against mine and softly says, "I’m ready to start. I’m going to let Dr. Grey assist me. If you want to stay in the room, that’s fine with me."
I nod at her and walk back to the stretcher like a zombie. Erica reclines on her back as Lexie comes into the room and gives me a sympathetic look. I watch her meticulously lay out the tools Addison will need and take a deep breath when she unbuttons Erica’s gown, exposing her breast. It makes it real now, it confirms that I wasn’t looking at just anyone’s mammogram ... I was looking at Erica’s mammogram and there is something there that’s not right. When Addison tells her to lift her left arm over her head, I move around to the top of the bed and hang onto her hand. She lifts her other hand and I take it as well, pressing a kiss to her forehead. I can tell by looking at her face that the numbing medication burns and when she bites her lip against the pain, I put my mouth against her ear and say, "We need to take a vacation. I don’t care where we go as long as it’s very, very far away. How about Hawaii?"
"That’s not far enough," she replies. "How about Italy?"
"Now that’s a vacation," I tell her. "I’ve always wanted to go to Tuscany."
"For the art?" she asks softly.
"Hell no! For the food! They *invented* pizza there. I’m sure it’s good."
The death grip she has on my hands loosens a little as she chuckles. "So, while I’m enjoying the art you’ll be -"
"Enjoying you. Like always." I kiss the side of her face and she turns her head a little so she can look at me. I’m sure that she can see how hard I’m fighting to not lose my mind. She knows me better than I know myself sometimes and I have no doubt that she’s reading me like a book and seeing my fear and worry, but she doesn’t comment on that. She simply looks into my eyes and I hope that she’s drawing the same kind of strength from me that I take from her.
"I love you," she says, barely above a whisper. "I’m glad you’re here."
"You’re stuck with me."
"Thank God." She winces and I stand back up, watching as Addison makes the first of several retrievals with the needle.
It’s the only one I can look at.
I don’t watch the rest.
I keep my eyes on Erica’s face and try to tell her without speaking that everything is going to be just fine.
It’s over in a matter of minutes and I secure the bandage, listening to Addison give us a rundown of what we can expect. I’ve given the speech myself so I already know it by heart, but I don’t stop her. I let her walk us through the possibilities and prepare us for the worst case scenario, forcing myself to keep a stiff upper lip. Neither of us have any questions for Addison and I watch her impulsively hug Erica, rubbing her arm. "No heavy lifting for a few days," she tells her. "And put an ice pack on it to reduce swelling. Callie’s got my cell number if you need anything. *Anything*."
"Thank you." Erica gives her a smile that I know is as genuine as she can muster under the circumstances and my heart twists in my chest.
Addy gives me a hug next. "I told Richard that Erica wasn’t feeling well and you’d be taking her home and staying with her. It’s fine. I’ll have Dr. Grey bring in a prescription for pain. And ... something to help her sleep."
"I really don’t need anything," Erica says with a shake of her head. "I feel fine."
"Just in case," Addison says, smiling sweetly at her. "You can get dressed and go when you’re ready."
When we’re alone, I retrieve Erica’s scrubs from the chair where she left them neatly folded and put them on the stretcher next to her. I unsnap her gown and ease it over her arms and ... I can’t *not* let my fingers graze over her skin because touching her is second nature to me now. I touch the side of her breast, careful not to put any pressure. "Does it hurt?"
"Would you tell me if it did?"
"You remember all those rules you were giving me about living together?" I ask, picking up her shirt. I unfold it and slide it over her head. "I have a few to add to it."
She slides her arms into the sleeves. "You’re about to lay down the law, aren’t you?"
"Yep. These aren’t house rules, though. These are *my* rules." I push the sheet off her legs and stand between them, resting my hands on her thighs. "Number one, you can’t keep things from me. I want to know the smallest details of your life because it’s *my* life, too. Number two, nothing in this world is going to make me leave you so if that’s why you hid this from me last night and said what you did about me leaving ... stop. It’s never going to happen. I love you. So don’t piss me off like this again because I can’t really yell at you right now and I want to."
"What? No third rule?"
"I’m relatively easy to get along with. That’s it."
"Next time ... I’ll tell you right away."
I shake my head vehemently. "Rule number three, there better not be a next time! This is your one crisis, lady. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be prematurely gray now."
Joking with her, playing around and making her smile ... I don’t think it makes either one of us feel any better. She knows that I’m laughing to keep from crying and I know that she’s being brave for my benefit. If we weren’t leaning on each other right now ... we’d both be curled in a fetal position sobbing our guts out. She could be very, very sick. She could be *my* Rachel, now. I could love her, pray that it’s enough to heal her, and then watch her leave me after fighting a losing battle.
She could have cancer.
Erica Hahn could have cancer.
But what she most definitely has ... is me.
I’m not going anywhere and even though I’m petrified ... I’m hers.
Despite her declarations that she’s not in any pain, Erica takes the medication Addison prescribed in the car. I don’t know if it’s because she wants to sleep and not think about the possibilities that I can’t stop thinking about or if she lied to me about the pain, but whatever it is ... I don’t blame her. She’s yawning by the time I change her clothes and get her into bed and I stay with her until she’s asleep and then I sit on the window seat and watch her until my parents get home with Jasper.
I’m happy for the diversion. I’m happy that Jasper is home and is trying to tell me that he had an accident in the car. His pants are soaked with his urine and I lead him down the hallway and dig in his suitcase for something clean. To my absolute shock, there are denim shorts inside and I pull those out, handing them to him. He hugs them to his chest and bounces into the bathroom where he waits quietly for me to come and help him. He takes his disadvantages well. When he was eight years old, he got poison oak on his groin after we went camping together. He refused to let my mother see it when I brought him home bow legged and miserable. He walked like he had been riding a horse for thirty days with no bathroom breaks and holed himself in the bathroom to wait for my father to get home. He simply could not face the humiliation of a *girl* seeing him naked.
Now? He has no clue. When I strip his shorts off and wipe him down with the baby wipes that my mother carries around just for his type of thing, he is absolutely unaffected by his nudity. He doesn’t care that I see him nude and has no reservations about letting me pull clean underwear over his sneakers and up his legs. He’s busy rubbing his thumb over his toothbrush and asking me if he can use it. If I tell him yes, I’ll wind up having to change his shirt because he’ll get soaked. If I tell him now, he could cry and as close as I am to falling apart ... I’d join him. I compromise and brush his teeth for him, then dry his face and rub his head. There are a couple of black marks on his scalp that I can see through his buzz cut. Derek must have shown my parents where the incision would be. Jazz sits down in the floor when his teeth are cleaned and pulls his socks and shoes off, wiggling his toes as he rubs them against the palm tree throw rug.
"No swim?" he says, pointing at the trees.
"No swim, Jazz. Not today."
He crosses his arms over his chest in petulance and scowls at me. "I swim!"
My mind races fast. Derek has a lake on his property, but I really don’t want to show up with Jazz and ask if he can dive in. Jasper hates pools because the chlorine hurts his eyes and the water in Seattle is notoriously colder than what he’s used to in Miami. Hell, I went in one time and that was more than enough for me. The sand doesn’t compare, either. Jasper doesn’t handle change well, either. But I think we could both benefit from getting out of the house. I rifle through his suitcase for his sandals and slip them on his feet, then hold my hand out. "Come on. We’ll go swim."
I tell my mother that Erica is sick and to please keep an eye on her and grab a couple of towels. I roll Jasper’s window down when Lake Washington comes into view and he bounces in his seat in anticipation as he points and tries to put his excitement into words. Magnuson Park is not crowded, but I find the most secluded picnic table to park in front of and take his hand as we walk down the pebbled path toward the water. I can’t make Erica’s results come back immediately, but I can make my brother smile and that’s exactly what he does when he sits down and rolls his shorts legs up. I don’t know why he always does that, but it’s amusing to watch. He shucks off his sandals and rushes into the water, then rushes right back out. "Cold!"
I take off my shoes and wade out to my knees, kicking some water in his direction. "Don’t you wanna swim?"
He doesn’t run this time. He takes tiny steps toward me and holds out his hand, shivering a little. "You go, Lee."
"You go!" I hold onto his hand, laughing when he shakes his head. "It will only be cold for a second. Go on."
Jazz gazes out at the water, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. When he looks my way again, he says, "This is not home."
For my brother to speak in a whole sentence is something so rare that I have to stop and let his words wash over me. He’s right. This is not home. This is as far from home as he can get, really. It was my decision to move that far, to take a job on the other side of the country ... to get away from him. I lace his large fingers with mine and smile at him. "Home is where the heart is, buddy. We’ll dive together. Wanna?"
"Dive!" He gestures at the water, then bounces a little. "Go under!"
"Ready?" I ask him, pulling him a little further out with me. "On three."
"Three!" Jazz yells, letting go of my hand and diving. He cuts the water like a knife, sailing into it with all the grace of an Olympic swimmer. When he comes up, he’s gasping for air and hugging himself. He takes one look at my dry hair and clothes and wags a finger at me. I screech when he picks me up and throws me. The water is freezing and it pricks at my skin like a thousand tiny needles when I splash into it. I feel him move against me and push me upward and we stand laughing in chest deep water. He looks out toward the horizon and says, "Where waves?"
"This is a lake," I tell him. "No waves."
"Hmm." He puts his arms straight out and fans them in the water, causing small ripples. "S’okay now."
He’s making waves for me and I splash him in the face, causing him to laugh so boisterously that I notice a couple of people on rafts look our way. I don’t care. I dive under the water and grab his legs and when I come up for air, he grips me around the waist and dunks me. We horseplay for hours. We splash until I’m exhausted and then I float carelessly on my back while Jazz swims in circles around me like a shark. I feel like there are real sharks circling me. Jazz could have the surgery and die. Erica could have cancer and die. And I’d be left bleeding out while I pray for sharks to take mercy on me and kill me once and for all. I wouldn’t be able to live without either one of them. I wouldn’t want to.
No ... it’s not about wanting to.
I physically could not live without them.
It would be like asking me to live without air, without a heart.
"Lee!" Jazz yells, suddenly, and his tone startles me senseless."UP!"
I splash in the water and go under for a second, then come back up fast. The jet-ski that is bearing down on me notices my splashing and changes course, barely missing me by a few inches. I swallow plenty of water and strangle, fighting to breathe. I’m grateful to the strong arms that wrap around me because it means I don’t have to try to breathe and swim at the same time since I’m failing at both. When I’m in waist deep water, the arms let me go and I pull in rasping gulps of air ... looking up to thank my savior.
Only Jazz is there. He pats me on the head and says, "I got you."
I wring water out of my tank top and stare at him in shock. Once again ... I’ve underestimated my brother. He just saved me. The jet-ski probably wouldn’t have killed me, but it would have hurt like a bitch. He was watching me the whole time. Sometimes it amazes me ... what he sees. When he takes my arm and pulls me to the small patch of sand that is technically more grass than sand, I happily flop down and he sits beside me, close enough that our legs touch. "Thanks, Jazz."
"Be careful. Pay ‘tention."
I should pay attention.
I didn’t feel the lump in Erica’s breast because I’m always eager to bypass the bases and go straight for the homerun.
I didn’t pay attention to the voice in my head that *knew* I was meant to be with Erica and wasted a ton of our time living with Mark and denying what I felt.
And Jasper could *die*. I read the mortality rates, but I didn’t pay attention because I refused to believe it could happen to him.
I go through life with my eyes half shut and it causes me to miss too much.
"Jasper," I say softly. "Do you want to have surgery? Do you want them to fix your brain?"
"Derek fix my brain," he replies, touching the exact spot on his head where the black line Derek drew there is fading. "He rub my brain. Like this."
I watch my brother massage his head and nod at him. "Derek wants to operate on you. It will hurt."
Jazz nods. "Band Aid?"
"Yeah, you’ll get a Band Aid."
He takes a deep breath. "I not cry."
"No scared." He massages his head again. "Derek nice."
My heart is hammering in my chest as he pulls his legs up and leans his head against his knees. I watch him close his eyes and it’s so easy to see the little boy there. He’s the same Jasper who blew up balloons for my high school graduation and stuck them on the walls outside my bedroom door. He brought me ice cream in bed after my appendix ruptured and then stayed with me, sleeping on a pallet in the floor, so he could hear me if I needed help. When I stumbled at three a.m. and popped a stitch, he made me get back in the bed before he’d go and get our mother. And he sat beside me in the car on the way back to the hospital after pitching a tantrum at the thought of being left behind for one second. I was *his* and he was *mine*. The ten year gap in our ages never mattered. For all intents and purposes ... he was my first best friend and I was his.
"Erica could have cancer," I tell him and I hear my voice tremble a little over the world. "She could die."
His eyes open, but his head stays down. He rolls it to one side and looks at me. "She not die."
"She could." A tear rolls down my cheek and I wipe it away. I don’t want to scare him. "I don’t know what to do."
Jasper lifts his head and takes my hand, kissing the back of it. He points up at the sky and says, "Look, Lee."
I glance up at nothing except the fluffy white clouds drifting lazily through the cerulean sky. "What?"
"God has us." He squeezes my hand, still gazing upward. "Be okay. See?"
The rainbow seems to appear from nowhere. The yellow bleeds into the red and the red to green and my breath catches in my throat as it seems to get bigger still. The display of color is so ferocious that the water picks it up and reflects it back, casting off prisms or hope that dry my tears. I glance down at the ring that Erica put on my finger and it shines beautifully, the yellow diamonds sparkling with clarity that it unmistakable. If I wasn’t experiencing it myself ... I’d never believe it in a million years. I’ve asked for signs before. I’ve prayed for answers about a surgery or for God to be with me when I cut someone open, but this is something else altogether. If the water in front of us parted ... I wouldn’t be remotely shocked.
The colors hang around until our clothes are dry and our teeth stop chattering.
I can still see it in my rearview mirror when I drive away from the lake. It’s brighter than the setting sun could ever be.
It convinces me that Jasper is right and that God wants nothing more than for us all to ‘be okay’.
And we will.
Erica is still sleeping when I get home. I leave Jasper to my mother’s care and take a shower before I climb into bed naked. The house is far too cold and I curl against her, shivering. She mumbles something about me feeling like ice, but wraps her arms around me anyway. I drift off to sleep and when I wake up, she’s rubbing my hair out of my eyes. "Cal?"
"Sleeping," I murmur and try to roll over to no avail. The pain in my arms hits me full throttle and I groan.
"Jesus Christ!" Erica cries, pulling the cover back.
Cold air hits my body and I cringe, crying out at the change of temperature. "Stop it!"
"What did you do!?" she demands. "You have *blisters*."
"Oh my God!" she says, peeling the cover all the way to my feet. "Did you go in the sun? You’re taking Isopropamide for your stomach, Callie. You are not supposed to be in the sun without sun block!"
Her hands are gentle on my shoulder, but not so gentle that the pain isn’t horrific. "Ow!"
"I’ll be right back," she says, covering me up once again.
I dance toward sleep, but then she’s back and pulling the cover off me again and it’s infuriating. I struggle to hang onto it because my entire body feels like it’s drenched in ice, but she gets me on my feet and walks with me into the bathroom. The nausea hits with the harsh lights in the bathroom and she hangs onto me as I heave over the toilet. Nothing comes out and it causes a headache that feels like a hangover to start pounding in my head. When the nausea eventually passes, Erica gives me a cup of water and I rinse, then let her ease me into the bathtub that she has filled with room temperature water. Before I can recline, she deftly twists my hair and secures it on top of my head, then she eases me back into the water. I’m still frozen and I’m tempted to sit up and turn the hot water on, but I don’t. Instead, I doze while she makes a phone call.
When she hangs up and drips water over my shoulders, I hiss and I say, "Is Jazz okay?"
"He’s a lot better than you right now. He’s got a mild sunburn, but he’s not complaining at all."
"I’m not complaining either."
"What does that mean?"
She shrugs, ignoring my question. "Do you think you can keep some water down? You need to take Aleve."
I nod at her and she hands me a bottle of water and two pills. "Erica?"
"I saw a rainbow today that was so big it nearly took up the sky. I think it means everything is going to be fine."
She makes a face at me. "You are anything but fine. These burns ... Callie, what were you thinking?"
"I was thinking that my brother wanted to go swimming." I take the pills and chase them with a sip of water. "He had fun."
"I know, he told me all about it. He said you nearly drowned."
"That was less fun." I let my eyes move over her face. She looks rested, beautiful. Her hair has been smoothed back into a pony tail and her face is scrubbed free of makeup. She doesn’t look like someone who found a lump in their breast. She looks far too peaceful for that. "I’m supposed to be taking care of you. Not the other way around."
"Well, I’m not the jackass who stayed in the sun for five hours during the worst hours of the day for sun exposure now am I?"
"We were there for five hours? God, time flew."
She lifts the wash cloth, squeezing water over my shoulders once more. When she wets it again, she blots at my face. "I had a really nice dream while I was sleeping."
"You did?" I ask, yawning a little. "Tell me about it."
"We were in Italy and you were wearing this yellow dress that was so gorgeous I couldn’t stop looking at you. Every picture I’ve ever seen of Tuscany ... that’s what it was, but I only saw you. And you were smiling and laughing and trying to speak broken Italian. I didn’t want to wake up at all. It was amazing."
"We should go," I tell her, smiling. "Let’s just do it."
"We will," she replies, taking my hand in hers. "Soak for a few minutes. I’ll be right back."
I think about Italy while she’s gone. Webber will give us the time off without question. I’ve got quite a bit of vacation and personal time saved up and I’m sure that Erica cut quite the deal with her compensation package when she signed onto Seattle Grace. We could spend a couple of weeks forgetting everything and everyone and just *be*. I’m going to make a few calls and see what I can do. I glance up when she walks back into the room. She’s carrying a spaghetti strap gown that I haven’t worn in years. It’s pale blue with little irises all over it. I can’t remember who bought it for me, but I didn’t do it. It’s like a little girl’s gown and I wrinkle my nose when I see it. "I’d rather be naked."
"Trust me, I don’t think so." She pulls the stopper and holds her hands out to me. "Come on, you."
I don’t let her help me. She shouldn’t be doing any straining and while it nearly kills me to push myself upright on my own, I manage. She slowly blots me dry and fills her hand with aloe vera, gently patting it over my skin. By the time she pulls my gown into place, I completely understand the severity of the situation. The pain is a strong indicator, but I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror and draw up short. I’ve never really sunburned. Never. My skin usually tans and I seldom, if ever, peel. Right now, however, I’m tomato red and the tops of my shoulders have large, water filled blisters on them. My cheeks are leathery, purplish with rash and my nose is crimson. I gasp and reach up to touch my face, but Erica won’t let me. "I’m hideous!"
"You’re not hideous. You’re stupid, idiotic, and discolored ... but you could never be hideous."
"Thanks," I tell her, still examining my reflection. I study the gown and wrinkle my nose as much as it will wrinkle with the swelling. "And I look like Laura Ingalls."
"I’ll give you that much." She takes my hand and leads me back to our bedroom. Instead of putting me under the cover, though, she tells me to sit on the bench that we made love on. It’s freezing in our room and I whine until she turns the ceiling fan off.
When my mother comes into the room and freaks out, I’m grateful that it takes my mind off the pain and how cold I am. My teeth are chattering as Erica rifles through the closet and eventually brings out a small space heater. She plugs it into the wall and points it at me, then kneels down beside me, explaining to my mother what a phototoxic reaction is. My mother hears the word toxic and wants to call 911, but Erica tells her that Mark Sloan is on the way to our house to judge for himself what I need. I want to protest, I want to put my foot down and make it clear that I don’t need any house calls, specifically from Mark, but Erica shoots me a look that makes me keep my thoughts to myself. When I hear a car pull into the driveway and two doors slam, I cringe, but say nothing.
My father, who hasn’t seen the sun damage, leads Mark and Addison into our room. My father loses it when he sees the state I’m in. Addison puts her arm around him and tells him it’s okay as Mark puts his black medical bag on the foot of the bed and lifts my chin. "What medication is she on?" he asks Erica, rubbing his thumb over my nose.
She rambles off the new stomach medications that I was prescribed a few weeks ago, adding that I’m also taking sinus medication. Mark lifts my arm and studies the blisters on my shoulder. "How long were you exposed?"
"Hours," I tell him.
"Why?" he asks, glancing at my back. "You didn’t wear any sun block at all?"
"It was a spur of the moment thing."
He shakes his head and pulls out a blood pressure cuff. It hurts when it squeezes my burned flesh, but I don’t say a word. I do protest when he pulls out two bags of saline and the IV kit. His face is set when he says, "I can treat you here or take you to the hospital and Bailey has been on duty for twenty hours. Do you really want to hear what she would say about this?"
"No." I sigh and hold out my arm.
He kneels down to start the IV, but Erica takes it instead. "Her veins suck. I’ll do it."
Nodding, he turns back to his and rifles through. "Addison, would you get the rest of the equipment out of the car?"
Erica gets my vein on the first try and flushes it. My father goes with Addison and they return wheeling an IV cart that Mark hooks the saline up to. "Webber is going to kick your ass," I tell him as he hands tape to Erica. "Did you steal this stuff from the clinic? Because Bailey will kill what’s left of you when he’s finished."
He grins at me. "You let me worry about that. Have you had any nausea? Headache?"
"Yes to both."
"Did you vomit?"
"Dry heaves," I tell him. "I haven’t eaten today."
"Oh, lovely," he replies. "It’s nice to know that you take such excellent care of yourself without m ... er ... have you felt dizzy at all? Lightheaded?."
"No," I say, narrowing my eyes a little. He was about to imply that Erica can’t take care of me the way that he did. If he had gone there ... I’d shove his scalpel up his ass. "I feel like I have the flu, that’s it."
Addison hands him the thermometer and he sticks it in my ear, then shakes his head when it beeps. "One oh two point five."
"We should take her to the hospital," Addy says, looking sympathetic. "It’s bad."
"No," I tell her, shaking my head. "I’m fine."
"You’re not fine, honey," my dad says, "Go to the hospital. Mark, should she go?"
"I don’t think so, Santos," Mark replies. "I’m going to treat her exactly how I’d do it there. She’ll be more comfortable here."
The treatment is a bag of antibiotics to stave off infection from the blisters, steroids, and pain medication that *does* make me lightheaded. I ask for something to drink and my parents both leave to retrieve something. While Erica slowly injects anti-nausea medication, Mark says, "I’ll wrap her arms, but you need to keep changing them as the blisters start to weep."
"Okay," she replies. "Thanks for coming, Sloan."
"You’re welcome, Hahn." He nods at her, reaching into his bag to retrieve the gauze. "And ... I really hope that your results ... are fine. I ... hope that you’re okay."
Erica glances at me, then at Addison. "Does everyone know?"
"No." Addy shakes her head. "I sort of had a breakdown when I went out to order your mammogram and he found me. I told him to get Callie for me and he did."
"You had a breakdown?" I ask, shocked. "Why?"
Addison’s blue eyes find mine. "Because you’re my best friend, Callie, and you’re happier than you have ever been. I knew that I was about to steal that happiness and make you miserable." She reaches out and puts her hand on Erica’s shoulder. "I’m rooting for you, Erica. With everything that I have in me ... I’m rooting for this to be nothing and for you to be just fine. I hope that you will be because ... Callie deserves to be happy and the two of you deserve time. A lot of happy, happy time. I’m a little bit tipsy, I think."
"That’s okay and thank you," Erica tells her, patting the hand on her shoulder. "I’ll be fine. I’ve never had such a big reason to live before."
I notice that Mark is watching her intently and when she looks up at him, he nods his head just a little. It’s his way of conceding defeat, I think. It’s him making peace with the person I left him for and accepting that she won. It’s his own way of saying that the war can stop now, that the name calling and cruel insults can end because he’s gotten past it. He can stand in our bedroom and put his bag on the bed where we make love without commenting on it or wanting to break it with his bare hands. Mark Sloan ... is finally bowing out gracefully and coming here tonight when she called him ... that’s his peace offering. When Erica starts to stand, he holds his hand out to her and she takes it, letting him help her to her feet. It’s as good as a handshake, I think. He hangs onto her even after she’s on her feet.
"Thank you for coming. I appreciate it," she tells him and I can hear the sincerity in her voice. "Mark."
"Thank you for calling me. I wasn’t on duty and I wouldn’t be comfortable with anyone else checking her out. Erica." The smile he gives her is not his patented McSteamy smile. It’s just a small, sad, tugging at one corner of his lip and for some reason, that breaks my heart. "So, truce?"
"Truce." She grins at him, a brilliant, beaming grin that takes *my* breath away.
I don’t know if it’s the pain or the medication or something else entirely different, but I burst into tears and that prompts my mother to join me when she rushes back into the room carrying a glass of lemonade. Addison puts an arm around her as Erica hugs me, whispering that everything will be okay. She helps Mark bandage my arms and turns the cover down for me, fluffing my pillow. Jasper comes in as she tucks the comforter around me and announces that he’s hungry. He stops thinking of his belly when he sees me and he shakes his head back and forth. "Lee! Wrong?"
"She’s okay, buddy," Erica tells him, motioning for him to join us.
Jasper trudges to the side of the bed and looks at my purple/red face. "Lee, sick?"
"I’m okay, Jazz."
His chin trembles and his brown eyes fill with tears. He does have a sunburn and I’m about to comment on it when he kneels beside the bed and clasps his hands under his chin. "Dear God, Lee get better now. Bless everybody. And Yellow no die, too. Amen."
We all echo ‘Amen’ because he looks at us expectantly. When Erica invites Addison and Mark to stay for dinner, telling them that my mother has cooked enough lasagna for a small army, they accept right away. Jasper climbs into bed beside me, being careful not to jar the bed and announces that he’s staying there. No one tells him otherwise. I fall asleep with my head on his shoulder as he pats my hand and says, "There, there" like a broken record.
He remembered what I told him about Erica dying.
And he included her in his prayers.
There is no way God didn’t listen to *that*.
When I wake up, my mother is fluttering around the room picking up laundry and raising the blinds. I’m shocked to see that the sun is out and the second I sit up ... I regret it. The blisters on my shoulders and upper arms howl in protest and I fall back against the pillows, rumbling a terse greeting. My mom puts the articles of clothing she has amassed into the hamper and rests a hand on my forehead, muttering about checking for fever. I take the bottle of water she holds out and drain half of it before I ask where Erica is. Much to my shock and aggravation, she’s at work. My mother sees the look on my face and says, "Relax, honey. She got called in for a consult, but she said she’d be back before lunch."
"What time is it?"
"Just after eight. You did a number on your brother yesterday. He was so wound up when he got home and was so excited to see Mark and Addison that I couldn’t get him to go to sleep until after one." She sits down on the edge of the bed and holds out a couple of pills. "Erica made it very clear that you needed to take these first thing."
I do as I’m instructed and settle back against the pillows again. "How was dinner?"
"It was lovely. I’m sorry you slept through it. The highlight was your brother telling us that a jet-ski nearly decapitated you."
"He said ‘decapitated’?"
"Well, no, but I’ve learned how to get the gist of what he’s saying. Call it a mother’s intuition." She reaches out and takes my hand. "Just like I know when you’ve got something on your mind. What’s wrong, Callie?"
I sigh, rubbing a hand over my face which is the wrong thing to do. My skin feels like leather and it causes me to hiss in pain. "Do I look as bad as I feel?"
"Do you feel like death warmed over? If the answer is yes ... then yes."
"Did you have a fight with Erica?"
"What? No." I sigh and push myself up again. It’s nearly impossible to have hard conversations when you’re lying flat on your back and feeling miserable. "Are you disappointed about that?"
"The way you blew out of her with Jasper yesterday ... I thought you were mad."
"I was mad. Just not at her. Mom ..."
"Is it the people who wrote that word on your garage?" My mother pulls my head against her shoulder when I start to cry. She’s careful with me, avoiding the blisters and bandages on my upper body and settling her hands on my waist instead. She pats my lower back and says, "I know it’s scary, angel. Have you prayed?"
"So have a little faith."
"I have a lot of faith." I sniffle and ease back, studying her face. "You don’t believe that, do you? You think I turned my back on God."
"If you want to have a life that the Bible speaks against then that’s your path to take and you will have to answer to God for it. Not me. I guess I can be peaceful with that because a part of me still thinks that you’re going to wake up and realize that you could have more with a man. I like Erica. I do. I think she’s great, but I’m your mother and I don’t want to drive up to your house and see graffiti on your walls or hear about animals being slaughtered on your porch."
"She’s worth all of that. I know that you don’t understand, but there is nothing that a man could give me that she can’t." I watch her open her mouth to reply, but I cut her off. "Mom, if you’re going to say that we can’t have kids, you’re wrong. We can and we’re going to. What if I was married and my husband had a problem? It’s the same thing. We’re going to use a sperm donor and have a family. A life. We already do. And yeah, it sucks that someone is taking offense to that and mangling our property, but that’s not going to make me change my mind."
My mother looks like she swallowed something that tastes very bitter. "If you have a child ... which one of you will assume the role of mother. I mean, you let her do the cooking and she’s always picking up the place so she’s ... motherly. You’re just ... not fatherly."
Really, she couldn’t have said anything more infuriating. "We’ve covered this already, but I’ll tell you again. One of us doesn’t have to be masculine and neither of us are. She isn’t taking over the role of the ‘wife’ any more than I’m trying to be the ‘husband’. We’re two women who both enjoy being women. I don’t want to be a guy. She doesn’t want to be a guy."
"Then why isn’t she just your ‘friend’? The same way that Addison is?"
"Why are we having this conversation, Mother!? You have been around us long enough to see that she is nothing like Addison to me. I don’t want to *be* with Addison. The difference is ... I was able to live without Addison just fine. She went off to California for *months* and I rarely spoke to her. If I go two hours without hearing Erica’s voice ... I start to go a little crazy. Erica is definitely a friend to me. She’s an amazing friend, but she’s also my lover and the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with."
"And sex with her -"
"MOM!" I shove the cover back and get to my feet. My heart is hammering, my blood pressure is rising, and I feel like pulling my hair out. "I don’t have sex with her! I have had sex with a lot of guys. Well, not really, but by your standards it would be a lot and that’s all it ever was. I had *sex*. I don’t have sex with Erica. I make love with her. I never knew there was a distinction until she showed me the difference. And that’s not the most important part of us, but it’s amazing. If you’re not going to support me and my decisions then don’t pretend that you do. It’s insulting!"
"I just want to understand!"
"Understand this!" I yell. There’s no turning back for me now. "Erica had a biopsy yesterday! She has lump in her breast and we don’t know what it is yet! She could have cancer! So all you need to understand is that I’m finally living the fairy tale I always wanted and she could *die*. Maybe that’s what you want!"
"No! No, Callie, I’d never-"
"Whatever!" I storm into the bathroom and slam the door.
The irony of it all is not lost on me. My mother locked herself in her bathroom when she found out that Erica and I were together. Then she kicked me out of her house. Now I’m locked in the bathroom and she’s pounding on the door begging me to let her in and I want nothing more than to kick her out of my house, but I can’t. I won’t do that. When you get into a cycle and press repeat ... it’s hard to stop. So, I don’t say or do *anything* except sit down on the toilet and try not to hyperventilate. My breath is coming so fast that I know I’m close to breaking apart completely and when I finally do ... it’s bad.
I’d just like to say that I’m not some wilting flower who buckles under pressure. I’m just ... not. I’m strong and I know that I’m not made of glass, but sometimes even a brick building can cave in on itself if you rattle its foundation enough. It’s a culmination of a million and one things hitting me full force that causes me to give in and just cry. I’m in pain, obviously, and my body feels like I’ve been deep fried in million degree oil, but that’s minor. I really, truly, genuinely from the bottom of my heart ... believed that my mother had come around. I really thought that watching me interact with Erica and seeing how happy she makes me would have been enough to convince her once and for all that I’ve made the right decision. How could ANYONE not see it? It’s undeniable. It’s there. She’s the other part of me that I need to be ... whole. I floundered until I finally found her and now ... even my own mother can’t believe in me enough to trust me.
This couldn’t hurt worse if I walked outside and found my mom spray painting ‘Dyke’ on the side of the house. It just couldn’t.
"Callie, open the door."
That’s my dad.
"Mija," he continues. "Come on out now. You’re hurt and you don’t need to ... whatever your mother said to upset you ... she WILL apologize. Hush, Lori Anne! Callie, if you don’t let me in then I’m going to break a window. You don’t want that."
He’s using the voice that he usually reserves for my mother after she’s had a temper tantrum. It’s gentle and coaxing, the kind of mediator voice that would calm a celebrity Diva who didn’t get the green M&Ms she wanted in her dressing room. It shouldn’t strike me as condescending, but I feel so patronized that I flush the toilet to drown out his voice and tell him to leave me alone.
If there was a magic button I could press to stop the tears ... I’d gladly hit it right now.
But that doesn’t exist.
So, I sit there until I’m all cried out.
And wait for Erica to come home.
I’m sitting in the floor in front of the bathtub, my head leaning back against it dozing a little, when I hear her. She wiggles the doorknob and I can hear my mother’s voice as I push myself to my feet. I feel one of the blisters on my shoulder pop and spew wetness under the bandages and wrinkle my nose. That’s just the topping to go with my very rancid cake. I pull the door open and glare at my mother, but before I can say *anything*, Erica’s hand is on my stomach and she’s pushing me back into the bathroom and shutting the door behind us. Instead of demanding answers, she hugs me and gives me a kiss.
"She is sooooo horrible," I cry, tears blurring my eyes again. "She acts like she gets us and then she doesn’t and then she -"
"She’s your mother," Erica tells me, dabbing at my face with a tissue. "She would stop being your mother if she didn’t push for what *she* thinks is best for you. If we have a kid who chooses to grow up and start dating Stevens then ... well, all hell will break loose."
I have to laugh at that. "Yeah, well you could be Jack the Ripper and still not be as bad as Stevens."
She presses her hand to my forehead. "Did you take your medicine?"
"Yes and can you please focus on the fact that I’m having a breakdown here?" I take the tissue from her and blow my nose, then toss it into the toilet. "Are you okay? How do you feel? Does it hurt? Can I -"
"We’re focusing on you," she tells me. "Now, what did Lori Anne say that was so bad?"
"She said I’m not *fatherly*!"
"Well, that’s actually true, sweetheart. You’re not."
"She said it in a way that means that we can’t both be mothers! And then she said that you’re not different than Addison and you clearly are because I’ve never wanted to have sex with Addison so I explained that you don’t have sex with me ... what you do to me is so much more than that and ... you have something in your breast that could kill you and I swear to GOD if you leave me I’m following right behind you and I’m bringing you back! I’ll fight God, Jesus, and the apostles until they let you go! Moses, too. Anyone who would let bats on the arc needs his ass handed to him. Shit, this room is spinning."
"How much medicine did you take?"
"I dunno. It’s lack of food that’s doing it."
"You haven’t eaten!? I let you skip dinner because you were exhausted!" She takes my hand and reaches for the bathroom door, but I stop her. "Cal-"
"I don’t want to go another round with her. I can’t."
She gives me a kiss when I start to cry again. "I’m here. It’ll be okay."
"You don’t know my mother."
"Your mother doesn’t know *me*." She opens the door and my heart starts to pound. This could potentially be very, very ugly.
My mom, who is sitting on our bed, leaps to her feet. "Are you okay? Callie? Your father was about to take the hinges off the door."
Erica takes a deep breath. "This isn’t a good time. She’s hungry and doesn’t feel well. So, you can talk about this later. Right now, we’re going to eat some lunch."
My mother blinks a couple of times, then tries to look impressive by pulling herself up to her full height. Instead of biting Erica, she ignores her. "I waited my entire life to have a daughter and this isn’t the life I wanted for you. You’re in harm’s way because of people who don’t approve of your lifestyle. And I do want you to be happy and if Erica makes you happy then I’m grateful to her for that ... but it doesn’t make me feel any better. If your happiness depended on you being a racecar driver ... I’d still break your legs to keep you out of the driver’s seat."
Erica takes a deep breath. "Lori Anne, I really don’t want to hurt your feelings or make you feel bad, but this is our house and I will *not* watch Callie lock herself behind a damn door to get away from anyone ... even you. We are going to the kitchen, where you will not be, and she’s going to eat in peace. If she wants to talk to you after that ... she’ll let you know."
I expect my mother to stomp her dainty size six against the ground and scream at her, but she doesn’t. What she does is nod and turn around, walking out of our bedroom. My mouth falls open so far that it quickly dries out. It’s still hanging open when Erica pulls me into the kitchen and pulls out a chair for me. The house is eerily quiet and I glance outside. My dad is in the backyard throwing a ball for Buddha and Jasper is lying on his stomach as he enjoys his dog’s antics. Erica puts a cold Sprite in front of me and hands me another dosage of medication, watching me take it. I’m impressed by how calm she is. When she puts a sandwich in front of me and sits beside me, I reach over and take her hand. "I love you."
She grins at me, lifting my hand and kissing the back of it. "I love you right back."
My eyes well with tears again and I hate that I’m this weak when I should be holding her up through the wait for her biopsy results. I’ve never been so weak in my life and it’s her fault that I’ve become someone who *needs* someone else so much. "Promise me something?"
"Anything," she replies.
"If you have to go through chemotherapy ... promise me that you will fight with everything you have. Promise me ... if it gets bad ... you’ll let me carry you through it and never push me away."
Her chin moves just a fraction, but she stops it before it can quiver. "I promise."
"And if it does get so bad that you have to give up ..."
"If you can’t beat it ... don’t you dare tell me to find someone else and move on because I won’t. The rest of my life is yours ... whether you’re here to live it with me or not. It’s yours. And I’ll just be biding my time until someone upstairs takes pity on me and lets me sleep beside you again." I reach over and cup her cheek, brushing away the tear that falls. "Even if you break my heart by leaving me ... remembering this right here ... will hold it together."
"I won’t have to fight too hard. My will to live with you is stronger than the best chemotherapy they can give me. As long as your heart is beating ... mine will be, too." She pushes my plate toward me. "Now eat this before I kick your ass."
She winks at me, sniffling. "Guess what I did today?"
I take a bite of my sandwich. "What?"
"I booked a cottage in Italy for three weeks. We leave in less than a month. Richard approved it and we’re all set."
"OH MY GOD!" I come very close to choking on the sandwich and quickly wash it down with Sprite. "But ... what if Mom agrees to let Jazz have the operation? I can’t miss that."
"It will take at least twelve weeks to get approval for the trial. You know it involves special funding and Jasper will need to be approved by a second neurologist. We’ll be back in time." She tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear. "I wanted to do it soon ... just in case I do have to start chemo. I’d rather not be sick when we go."
I swallow the mouth full of food and nod at her. "So, we’re going to Italy."
"We are. Three weeks of pure, unadulterated bliss."
"You give me that no matter where we are."
She leans over and kisses me. Her eyes wander over my burned face like it’s still the prettiest thing she’s ever seen. "Has your mother said anything about whether or not she’s going to agree to the surgery?"
"Not yet." I take another bite of my sandwich and chew slowly, my mind racing. "You know what kills me? She spends so much time worrying about my life that she doesn’t see how limited his is. She said she would break my legs to keep me out of a race car, but she’s keeping his back broken to prevent him from healing. That’s a worse sin than anything I’ve ever done. She’s crippling someone on purpose."
I glance toward the arched doorway, where my mother has suddenly appeared. She’s got tears streaming down her cheeks at an alarming rate and I say, "Mom -"
"Your father and I are signing the consent forms for Jasper’s surgery. It’s moving forward."
I don’t feel the rush of elation I expected to have.
I’m suddenly scared shitless.
Sorry this took so long. Lots of stuff had to happen in a 10,000 words or less. :)