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. If I did, this would happen on ABC. :)
Dedicated: To the readers. Thank you!
All my love, Ange, you rock. :)
Jasper is going to have surgery.
It doesn’t really, truly sink in until Derek shows up for dinner and my parents sign all the paperwork after dessert. As much as I pushed and fought for the surgery ... I’m tempted to reach across the table and rip the papers to shreds. Now it’s *real*. Derek Shepherd will shave my brother completely bald and cut him from ear to ear, then front to back. He will peel the four folds down like a banana and expose Jasper’s cranium, then he will take a saw and literally cut the top of his head off. That piece of bone will be submerged in a sterile wash until it’s ready to be reattached and while my brother is in pieces ... Derek will slowly inject the transmitters into place. If Jasper doesn’t have a stroke and die on the operating table it will be a miracle. And if there is no infection, no paralysis, no blindness or seizures ... that will also be a miracle. And if there are no miracles and my baby brother dies ... it was my idea. I fought everyone to make this happen. I yelled at Erica, I put a guilt trip on my mother, and if Jazz dies ... I’ll never be able to wash his blood off my hands. He will stain me for an eternity and I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.
Derek promised Mark that he would take a look at the blisters on my shoulders. Erica peels the bandages off in our bedroom so he can see the damage for himself and I listen to them make small talk and try to laugh in all the right places, but my heart isn’t in it. I think Derek knows, because he assures me that he’s going to take care of Jasper and do everything in his power to bring him back to me, I have to struggle not to cry. I’ve already got the world’s best brother and that should have been enough for me, but it wasn’t. Maybe God is making Erica sick because I keep pushing for more, more, more instead of being happy with what IS. I manage to thank Derek and sound sincere before I ask that the bandages be left off so that I can take a bath.
I run the tub full and submerge myself while Erica says goodnight to Derek and when she comes back in and looks down at me ... she knows that I’m falling apart. She doesn’t have to ask me if I need an anchor. She simply takes her clothes off and joins me, sitting behind me so I can lean against her. Her long legs give me plenty of distraction and I’m content to rub her soft skin as she tells me that Jazz is in good hands and if he *has* to have the surgery, she’s confident that Derek is the best man for the job. Her arms around my waist act as a buffer and slowly chase away the nagging thoughts. I ask her to tell me about the place she found in Italy and the picture she paints of it has me longing to be there right now, prowling through the olive groves and vineyards that surround the one bedroom stone cottage. We bathe because our skin is pruning and the water chills, not because we have any desire to leave the tub. In the bedroom, she smoothes fresh bandages over my shoulder and seals the tape with a kiss. Even though I’m sore all over ... I seduce her and *that* is enough to make me forget everything and fall into a peaceful sleep with one leg thrown over hers.
I don’t even care that I haven’t really spoken to my mother since she blasted me.
That’s what wakes me up. I sit up in bed and glance out the window, shocked to see that the sun hasn’t risen yet. Erica’s not in the bed with me and I slip my robe on, heading into the kitchen to locate her ... and the source of the delicious, strawberry goodness. I find her sitting at the island eating *my* favorite food and lean over her, taking a bite of it. "You are eating *this*?" I ask. "Are pigs flying outside? Did the cows come home?"
She grins at me and gives me a kiss. "I’m *hungry* and I didn’t think your parents would appreciate me banging pots and pans around at five in the morning." She takes a bite and shrugs. "It’s not that bad, really. I can feel my teeth rotting as I chew, but it’s not disgusting."
Her hair is in a ponytail and she’s wearing a white shirt over a tank top and yoga pants. It shocks me sometimes ... how young she can look. How much she makes me like white cotton. I usually prefer her in blue, but the white does things to me. Serious things. Dirty things. "You didn’t get called in ... did you?"
"No, I’m taking a few personal days. I - I can’t concentrate at work right now. I explained to Richard about the biopsy yesterday and he agreed that I needed to be here. With you. How are you feeling?"
"I’m perfectly fine," I reply, which isn’t the total truth, but it’s not a complete lie. My skin feels like it’s drawn too tightly over my bones, but that takes a backseat to how much my insides are hurting for her. I can completely understand now why she wanted to spare me the wait for the results. The agony is endless. "How are *you* feeling?"
"Great," she tells me, flipping a page in a magazine, but she’s not reading it. It’s upside down. "What you said to me yesterday ... about your life being mine ... that was kinda beautiful."
"Kinda? Damn. I was aiming for breathtakingly beautiful."
"Well, you don’t have to say anything to be that." Her eyes lock on mine and she puts the pastry down on the plate. "Callie?"
"I’m not going to let this beat me. I swear to God ... I’m not."
I’m not a crier. I’m really, truly not, but she can break me in an instant. I cry with her, because of her, for her and sometimes just thinking about her. That’s the kind of power she has over me. She makes me become someone that I never thought I’d be. I *feel* more with her than I’ve ever felt. All my senses are on ten all the time and it should be exhausting, but it never is. It makes me feel alive. I’m awake because of her and I know what my heart is capable of with her. I know what *I* am capable of and live every second with a different perspective because I see things through her eyes, too. I sit down on the stool next to hers and take her hand in mine as the tears start to fall. I don’t want to cry because she looks like she wants to and I should be strong enough for the both of us, but my tears clumsily dance over my face as I fumble for the right words. "It - it will be okay."
"I’m scared," she admits and that’s enough to kill me. Erica Hahn is brave as hell. She doesn’t do fear. Fear runs from *her*. I think sometimes when I watch her walk with her back ramrod straight that God must have given her two spines. She’s STRONG and nothing breaks her back. Nothing would dare. "I don’t want to have cancer. I don’t want to be sick. I don’t want to be poked and prodded and wake up every day with a little more hair on my pillow. It’s only hair, but it’s proof that you can lose. It’s an every day reminder that you can *lose* the fight. That the war is taking something from you. I don’t want to do this, Callie. I don’t want to die."
I reach up and touch a curl that is lying on her forehead. I’ve clocked hours and hours running my fingers through her hair and I’m pretty attached to it, but it’s a small price to pay to keep her here. Hell, I’d shave it right now if I thought it would save her life. "You won’t."
"Are you sure?"
"I’m positive. I’ve got you," I tell her, the same way Jasper said it to me the day before. I cradle her face in my hands and kiss her forehead, then her mouth. "I’ll take care of you."
"I don’t want you to have to. I-I just hate this." Her voice, usually so full of bass and gravel, sounds like a little girl’s. "I’m selfish. I know what it will be like for you. I know that you’ll hold my hand every step of the way and I should tell you no. I should tell you to leave so you don’t have to suffer or -"
"Shut up." I shake my head. "Let me tell you something, Hahn, you wanted me to move in here so badly that you fought with me about it ALL THE TIME. Well, here I am. You got me. And the only thing that’s going to make me leave is if you eat all the damn Pop Tarts because I can’t forgive that. I just ... I can’t."
She sniffles and smiles at me. "Well, I’m never getting rid of you then. I don’t like them that much."
"So, it’s settled." I trail my thumb over her face. It’s soft. Most of my life ... I’ve been attracted to rugged, manly men. George was something altogether different and I’d beg him to not shave, but after he finally caved and I saw the uneven growth on his face I bought him fresh razors and told him to have at it. Erica is not rugged or manly. She’s so soft that I’m afraid I’ll break her sometimes. She’s *not* who I pictured myself spending forever with. It’s like someone changed the movie that I was watching while I was buying popcorn and when I sat down and saw her on the screen ... I was too engrossed to figure out what the hell happened. You don’t pick who you love. Who you love picks you and if you’re lucky enough to get something in return ... the shock of it all is worth it. If she does have cancer ... it’s just a curve in our road. Our love doesn’t have cancer ... it won’t have to die. "You’re stuck with me so don’t piss me off. We haven’t had a fight in a while and I’d like to keep it that way."
"I really do love you."
"I know. That’s why I’m not worried, Erica. You’d never hurt me so you’re not going anywhere either."
When she kisses me, there’s a desperation in her touch that I’ve never experienced before. Her mouth against mine is whispering promises like the determination of her words can somehow chase away the lump in her breast. Her hands are gentle, but urgent when she leans into me and slides them under my robe. I’m nude underneath it and when she parts my legs with her knees ... I moan and scoot to the edge of the stool to give her access. I feel her smile through her tears as her long, nimble fingers part my flesh and her thumb finds my clit. She’s careful with me, careful to steer clear of my shoulders when she kisses down my neck, but she’s hell-bent on chasing away the vestiges of our heavy conversation all the same. Her free hand pulls the belt on my robe and she takes my nipple into her mouth, laving it with her tongue, scraping with her teeth.
My body hums to life under her ministrations. There’s never a requirement for preamble with her. The slightest touch, a whisper against my ear, even something as mundane as brushing against me when she reaches past me for something will jump start the desire I always feel for her. I can quiet it for work and keep it under control for the most part, but there’s never an instant that I won’t rise to the challenge if she issues it. If she invites me ... I’ll come. Again and again and again. When she kisses my stomach and moves to her knees ... I’m gone. She urges my legs to rest over her shoulder and covers me with her mouth. It never fails to amaze me how every time feels like the first time all over again. There’s a magic in what she does to me, something new, something extraordinary. I’ve had amazing sex before, but I was right in what I said to my mother ... Erica makes love to me. She puts everything she feels for me into her touch and it’s more than what she does to my body ... it’s what she does to my heart. It’s real. It’s so fucking real that I can’t stand it.
"Oh ... God ..." My hand moves to her hair, gripping her ponytail as she does something with her tongue that curls my toes. "Erica ... ooooh ... don’t stop."
Two fingers slide into me and I’m done. My skin burns hotter than it did in the sun with Jasper as I surrender and let her push me over the edge that she keeps me poised at all the time. It amazes me how she can let me fall without ever letting go completely. My brain bull rushes me with a million and one sweet nothings to say to her as her mouth moves to my belly button ... but the unthinkable happens before I can tell her what I’m thinking.
The overhead light comes on and my mother is standing there in her embroidered lounger, her hair mussed. The empty coffee cup she’s carrying clatters to the floor and Erica leaps to her feet, trying to pull my robe over my nude body. Because I’m trying to do the same thing we make it worse and she finally steps in front of me to shield me from my mother’s view. To say that I’m mortified is putting it mildly. I am so utterly *undone* that I can barely breathe. It was bad when my mother found the two of us naked in bed. I vacillated between wanting to die and needing her to forgive me. This time ... she saw Erica with her head between my thighs and that pretty much answers the burning question she’s had about what Erica and I do in bed. I finally get my robe secured and the silence in the room makes the stool scraping as I push it back sound like a gunshot. I feel like a bullet has gone straight through me. I feel like I’m sixteen and I’ve just been busted doing something horrific. Like heroin. Or slaughtering an animal for ritual sacrifice ... because Mom acts that way. She puts a hand over her mouth and bursts into tears that sound absolutely gut wrenching. And those sobs give way to a rant that makes the hairs on the back of my neck dance upward.
I can only understand a few of the words she’s sputtering.
And ... whore.
I think it’s whore more than anything else that gets under Erica’s skin. While I stand there with mortification turning my blood to ice water in my veins, Erica puts her hands on her hips and says, "What did you just call her? Or were you talking to me?"
Mom shakes her head and closes her eyes, but she quickly reopens them like the image of what she just witnessed has been burned into the back of her eyelids. "Callie, this cannot possibly be what you want out of your life. It’s ... you’re sick. You need help. Honey, you need -"
"Don’t! Don’t you dare say anything else!" I snap and the mortification is rapidly becoming anger. "You are the one who needs help! I am fine!"
"Why are you doing this?" she asks, running a hand through her hair. Her color has faded to mostly gray and so help me God ... I feel guilty for contributing to that. "This is not what I want for you. This is not the life that I suffered through eighteen hours of labor to give you. I had plans for you. I had dreams and -- you had a bride doll when you were seven and you begged me to have a dress made for you that matched hers. You took your Holy Communion in that dress, Calliope! You did! You walked down that aisle and you gave your life to God so why are you doing this!? Why!?"
"My life is *mine*! And stop acting like you understand Holy Communion. You’re Baptist, for God’s sake!"
"And I had you baptized too! To cover all the bases! Because as your mother, it’s my job to raise you right. I had such hopes for you!"
"Don’t pin your hopes and dreams on someone else, Mother, because then you deserve to be disappointed. I’m not living for YOU."
"THANK GOD! IF YOU WERE I’D BE SUICIDAL! ELOPING, DIVORCING, BEING *GAY*! WHAT OTHER WAY CAN YOU DISAPPOINT ME!?"
"You should be happy that I am happy! That should be enough for you!"
"YOU ARE NOT HAPPY!" she yells. "YOUR CAR WAS DESTROYED! THIS HOUSE WAS SPRAY PAINTED! AND -"
"I AM STILL WITH THE PERSON I LOVE SO I’M ECSTATIC!"
"BULLSHIT!" Mom screams. "THIS IS ALL HER DOING, CALLIOPE! DON’T YOU SEE THAT!? SHE IS WRONG FOR YOU! MARK WAS -"
"STOP IT! NOW!" Erica shouts and her voice is back to that strong, powerful silken vibrato that makes you listen. "Not another word from either one of you."
"Don’t you tell me -" Mom begins.
"THIS IS MY HOUSE!" Erica bellows. "MY RULES!"
"Erica -" I begin softly.
"No! No, Callie! This is ridiculous!" When she looks at me, her blue eyes are swimming in tears. "I won’t apologize for not being Mark Sloan because frankly ... I’m sure I’m a better person. I won’t apologize for falling in love with you or let her act like it’s the worst thing to ever happen to someone." She turns back to my mother and I can see that her nostrils are flaring. That’s a very, very bad sign. "Lori Anne, I have invited you into my home and welcomed you after you refused to extend that same courtesy to me in Miami. I have shown you nothing but respect and tried to include you in our life so you can see for yourself that we’re in love and we’re happy. No, it’s not easy and because you know that, because you’ve witnessed what attitudes like *yours* do to us ... to *her* ... you should know better. So don’t you say another word unless it’s an apology to her because someone may have destroyed her car, but you just destroyed *her*. And you’re her MOTHER."
Mom, whose tiny slippered foot could fit easily in my hand, kicks her coffee cup across the floor. I listen to it shatter against the wall as she turns on her heel and stalks from the room. It’s the breaking more than the vanishing that hurts ... it’s the sound of something being irreparably damaged. I hear every piece fall apart and glance down at the mess. It’s near my bare foot and I think stepping on it would hurt less than seeing it ... or at the very least it would put the focus off my love life and onto my wounds. Before I can step toward it, Erica takes my hand and pulls me into her arms. I realize it then ... I don’t have to have any open sores for her to see that I’m bleeding out.
"I’m sorry," she whispers against my hair. "I am so sorry."
"It’s not your fault." I hang onto her and realize that she’s trembling. I think maybe my mother destroyed Erica just as much as she destroyed me ... but Erica isn’t the type of person to let that show. "I need some air. Let’s take a walk."
Neither of us have shoes on and I’m wearing nothing but my robe, but we still head into the backyard. The sun hasn’t shown its face and I glance up, wrinkling my nose at the clouds in the sky. At least Mother Nature matched the weather with my mood. Halfway to the gazebo, Erica lets my hand go, drawing up short. "Do you want me to go apologize to her, Cal?"
"Only if you want me to kick your ass."
"I never want you to think you have to choose between -"
"I’m not. She’s the one who has a choice to make, Yellow. Not me. I’m not changing who I am for her. She can take it or leave it."
"She’s your *mother*. You love her."
"You’re right. I do. I love her even though she’s not perfect and she has to decide if she can do the same for me."
"This is so god damned unbelievable!" She shakes her head. "You know ... when you told me that Lori Anne was a little bit crazy and that she preached a sermon when you got divorced ... I kinda thought you were kidding."
A drop of rain hits me on the nose and I hold my hand out to her, nodding toward the gazebo. We make it under the canopy before the bottom drops out and I wait for her to sit down before I join her. She studies my face and I try to keep the agony I am feeling off my features, but something in hers tells me that I’d doing a piss poor job. Her eyes are full of the same desperation that I felt in her kiss earlier. I don’t know what to say to make it better, to ease her mind. I’ve saved from having to say anything by the back door slamming and my father stalking toward us. "Oh god."
There’s something about seeing my father in boxer shorts and a wife beater that makes me want to kill myself. Or at the very least ... dig a hole under the gazebo and stay there until he goes back inside and gives up ... or gets dressed. His boxer shorts are black and white and the black socks he’s wearing should come up to his knees, but they look like ankle socks. I’m sure they’re soaked when he climbs the steps of the gazebo and glares at me. This is what we’ve been reduced to. This. It’s a hard dose of reality. "Are you okay, Mija?"
"Erica, I am very, very sorry for my wife’s behavior. I’ve made it excessively clear that this is the only time I will be apologizing for her."
"It’s okay, Santos."
"No, it not," he replies, flopping down on the bench across from us. He looks back and forth between us and I have little doubt that my mother told him exactly what she walked in on earlier. "I don’t understand how she can treat the two of you the same way her family treated us. Even after I married her ... I was never good enough. It was my skin color, my heritage. Now she’s holding Erica’s gender against her and it makes me sick. I just ... I won’t abide it. She will not win this round."
"Dad, in case you failed to notice ... she’s chased you out of the house in your *underwear*."
He seems to realize for the first time that this is the case. Looking down at himself, he swears beautifully, pulling his socks up. He does it like covering his calves makes ups for the fact that he’s practically indecent. "Yes, well, that was my doing. Not hers. I wanted to make sure you were okay. Both of you."
I’m touched and I can tell that Erica is as well because she’s watching him with a sweet grin on her face. I clear my throat and say, "We are. Okay, I mean. Although, I’m really beginning to understand why the gay and lesbian community has such a high suicide rate. It sucks."
He shakes his head. "I’m sorry, kitten. If I could change her ... I would."
"No, you wouldn’t. You love her. You don’t try to change the people you love," I reply. "Although, there is nothing wrong with educating her."
"It’s like teaching a brick wall to dance the Salsa," he says.
"Hey, I taught Addison to Salsa. Stranger things have happened." I laugh, but it isn’t genuine. "I really don’t think I can fight with her anymore. I’m close to saying things that I’ll regret and I don’t want to do that."
He gets to his feet and gives me a kiss on the head, then does to the same to Erica. "I’m going to take her back to the Archfield. Jasper has to do a few tests at the hospital today anyway. The two of you need some time alone and frankly, I’m certain that your mother will have a heart attack if she stays here and sees anything else ... untoward."
"Untoward, Dad? Step into this century."
Wagging his finger at me, he winks and heads back across the yard.
I lean my head against Erica’s shoulder.
We must stay that way for a while because when we go inside ... my parents are gone and they’ve taken my brother with them.
Going back to bed is the only thing that makes any sense so I take my medication and do just that.
The phone rings, cutting through the Vicodin that sent me for a loop. Erica stirs beside me and sits up, fumbling for the source of the noise. I listen to her speak in clipped tones and then she gives someone our address. I fall asleep again, even though I’m curious what visitor is on the way. The answer comes in no time. I hear the chime that indicates that someone is trying to penetrate the fortress by pressing the call button on the newly installed fence and sit up. Once again, Erica’s not in the bed and I pull on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, running my hand through my tangled hair before I go in search of her. I’m halfway down the hall when I hear Addison and she’s crying.
Surely the results haven’t come back.
She’s not here to ...
... kill me.
I step into the living room and watch Erica relieve Addison of her purse and lead her to the sofa. Addy falls over her own feet and cackles through her tears, tumbling face down. I rush forward and help her sit up and the smell of liquor takes my breath away, causing me to wrinkle my nose. "Jeez, Addison."
"I can’t do it anymore," she sobs, reaching up and grabbing hold of me. Her eyes are hooded and dark under the wide brim of the baseball cap she’s wearing. "Look at what’s happened to me!"
I pry her fingers off before she rips my favorite Miami Dolphins shirt. "Addy, what the hell are you doing?"
"JOE WOULD NOT LET ME GET ALCOHOL POISONING AND I TRIED," she wails. "I REALLY FREAKIN’ TRIED! HE CUT ME OFF! BASTARD CUT ME OFF! Do you have any tequila? I’ll take vodka, too. Even beer. Any beer?"
I meet Erica’s eyes and she shrugs, shaking her head slightly to tell me that she doesn’t have any more of a clue than I do. The clock says that it’s only two thirty in the afternoon and from the looks of Addison, she must have started drinking at the same time of the morning that my mother probably wished for something stiff to drink. "We need to feed her," I say, patting Addison on the cheek. "Are you hungry?"
"No," Addison snaps, pushing my hand away. "You’re my friend, right?"
"Always," I assure her.
"Then help me kill him, Callie. You know how to break bones. Just ... break his neck and I’ll dig the hole. No ... no ... I won’t dig a hole. I can do real labor like that. We can put him in the incinerator. The Archfield has a big one." Her blue eyes widen. "Wait, don’t break his neck. I - I’d rather beat him to death with forceps and *you* can dig the hole because you owe me that much."
"What did he do?" I ask.
"He’s *Mark*." Addison throws her hands in the air. "That good for nothing, lying, crappy ass ... why the hell does he have to be what I want? WHY!? And if he has to be the one ... why couldn’t I have realized it before I ever left Seattle?"
Taking her hand, I say, "You know now. That’s what counts."
"BUT I HATE HIM!" she yells, then jumps to her feet. The baseball cap that she’s wearing low over her head falls off and reveals her hair. It’s ... horrible. There’s no other word for it. It’s no longer dark brown. I’m not sure what she’s done to it exactly but the color is definitely not on God’s color wheel. Actually ... it’s not even one color. It’s solid white with a few green stripes. She catches me looking and says, "I tried to make it red again. He liked the red."
"Uh ... were you already drinking when you did it?" Erica asks, picking up a strand of Addison’s hair that would probably glow in the dark. Possibly ... it could be seen from outer space as well. It may be radioactive. It’s *that* bad.
"A little," Addy replies, then belches."Oh shit. I think I’m gonna puke."
"I got it," Erica picks up the trash can that we usually keep in the spare bathroom. The garbage bag has already been stripped and I watch her hold it up and catch the steady stream of liquor that pours from our drunken friend. As Addison heaves, Erica addresses me, "Joe called and said that she came in at lunchtime and was already three sheets to the wind. He didn’t know who else to call."
I sigh when I see the state of Addison’s clothing. Dried vomit is covering the thin beige linen and I wrinkle my nose. "You want to make her a sandwich? I’ll put her in the shower."
Erica bites her bottom lip, staring from me to her. "I don’t mind doing shower duty."
If I didn’t know better ... I’d say that Erica was very, very uneasy about me seeing Addison naked. I bite back the smile that threatens to break across my features and say, "I’ve got her."
Handing me the garbage can, Erica nods and eases Addison back onto the sofa. She gives me a kiss and heads into the kitchen, where the clatter of pots and pans promises something much nicer than a sandwich. I wait until Addison is dry heaving only and say, "You know you can’t hold alcohol for shit."
"I know. God, it sucks to be me."
"What did Mark do?"
"It’s what he WON’T do."
"What won’t he do?"
"Me." She sobs the answer and I rub the back of her head. "I hope the next hard on he gets is terminal. I hope the fucker stiffens up and falls off. Like a damn rotten tree branch. I hope he goes to whack it and forgets that he’s got a scalpel in his hand. Fucker."
"You really shouldn’t drink again. Ever. Has the nausea passed?"
"I think so."
"You need a shower. Don’t even ask me to wash your pants."
"MY PANTS!" she shoots to her feet, nearly knocking me on my ass. "These are Gucci!"
"Now they’re pukey. Come on, wino."
I half drag her to the bathroom because she has lost the concept of walking. My shoulders pay the price and I have to grit my teeth because she digs her nails into my arm as she stumbles over the throw rug. It’s work, but I manage to get her heels off (one is broken) and help her into the shower. Erica has nothing to worry about. I pay about as much attention to Addison’s nudity as I do Jasper’s when I bathe him. The only difference between the two is the fact that Addison drenches me in an attempt to add more hot water to the cold that is assaulting her. I block her, spray her off and watch as she does a piss poor job of washing herself. It’s enough, however, and Erica arrives with a Tweety Bird gown just in time to see the big finale, where Addison misses stepping on the fluffy bath mat and takes me to the ground with her.
Erica eventually pulls her off me and we get her dressed in the gown. Addison refuses to eat any lunch and burrows into the bed. I take a moment to notice that Erica has changed the linens. She’s always efficient in everything that she does. Whether it’s operating on someone or running the house, she’s on top of things all the time. I wish I had the same abilities, but I don’t. I didn’t even remember to bring a change of clothing into the bathroom.
"She’ll be okay," Erica says, taking my hand. "Let her sleep it off."
"The only thing worse than the hangover ... is going to be her reaction when she sees that head of hair." I push Addison’s foot under the cover and follow Erica into the hallway. I can already smell something amazing and my stomach rumbles appreciatively. "God, I’m starving."
"We slept through breakfast and lunch."
We sit down at the island to enjoy a lunch of warmed up roast and pasta salad. If I can manage to not gain three thousand pounds living with her ... I’ll call it an accomplishment. I’m working on my second helping of roast when she clears her throat and says, "Callie, you said something today that I didn’t like."
Considering that I didn’t say much of anything in the wake of Hurricane Lori Anne, I’m baffled. I chew a carrot as long as I can, swallow, and take a sip of water. "I did?"
"You told Santos that you understand why the suicide rate is so high with gays and lesbians. That scared me."
"Uh ... I’m sorry?"
"Don’t be sorry. If this is too much for you ... if you’re thinking something like that ... then -"
"I’m not." I put my hand over hers and squeeze. "The only time I ever seriously thought about killing myself was after Jasper’s accident ... and after Miami. Being without you is more horrible than anything that can happen with you."
She tilts her head to one side, studying my face. When she looks at me that way, I feel like an open book that she’s read so many times that the pages are dog eared and the spine is creased. I feel like she could recite the words that constitute my being without even trying. There’s something wonderful and horrible about being with someone who knows you that way. There are no secrets, no hidden places. She’s mapped me and could travel the expanse of me in an instant. "You’re right," she tells me. "It was bad after Miami."
"We really shouldn’t talk about that because when I think about that ... I’m visited with the urge to frail the Hell out of you with an iron skillet."
"I’m visited with the urge to let you." I put my fingers through hers and hang onto her. "I won’t bother blaming it on my mother because I’m an adult, but -"
"We’re not talking about that." She gives me her ‘case closed’ look. "Because *that* is the closest *I’ve* ever come to suicide."
I’m not hungry at all anymore. As a matter of fact, the lunch that I ate is weighing like a lead ball in my stomach and I’d like nothing more than to pull an Addison and puke it back up. I knew I hurt her ... but never like that. Erica and I have carefully avoided rehashing that horrible expanse of time after Miami. We haven’t talked about the fact that I slept with her and then ignored her or that I went to live with Mark. Unless I’m mistaken, my mother’s outburst has brought that fateful morning in Florida back to the forefront of her mind. It was that moment, when my mother scared me ‘straight’, that set the tone for months of fighting what we knew was true. "Can I apologize for *that*?"
"No." She lifts my hand to her mouth and kisses it. "Just don’t do it again."
"Do you actually listen to anything I say to you? I’ve made it very clear ... many, many times ... that I’m here to stay. We’re making plans, Erica. We’re talking about kids and commitment and forever. We have the rings, the house, the ... everything. If you’re pissed at my mother then be pissed at my mother, but don’t be pissed at me. In case you failed to notice ... I stood up for us this time."
She stops me when I push my stool back. "I know you did, baby. I just ... family is important to you. I don’t want to be a wedge between you and Lori Anne. You will resent me for that one day and -"
"No, I won’t. I know who’s at fault and it’s not you. She’s the wedge."
We leave it at that.
If she’s unconvinced, she does a great job convincing me otherwise. We play online Jeopardy, where she doesn’t even give me a pity win, then settle in front of Pay Per View with popcorn.
My mother doesn’t call me and when I call my Dad, he tells me that she’s sticking to her guns, but he’s working on it.
Addison sleeps like the dead.
And we pass yet another day in the wait for the final verdict on the lump in Erica’s breast.
All I can say is ... at least it’s been eventful. It kept our minds off the wait.
I just want sleep. One full night of not tossing, not turning, and not waking up before the ass crack of dawn would be fine with me. The clock tells me that it’s five thirty in the morning and the scream rattles through me as I fight clumsily to free myself from the cover. My attempts are in vain and I fall out of the bed in my haste to rise. Erica is already half out the door by the time I’m on my feet all the way. I chase after her and when she darts into the guest bathroom, I remember that Addison has spent the night. Addy woke up briefly, gorged herself on spaghetti, and went straight back to sleep. Now, she’s wide awake and she’s witnessing her hair in all its chemical catastrophe glory. I bite my lip when she whirls and looks at me.
"I didn’t do it."
"I wanna be drunk again!" she cries. "Oh my GOD!"
Erica pats her on the back. "I have a friend who owns a salon in town and she’s opening up early. Hang in there a couple of more hours."
"MY HAIR!" Addison screeches, pointing at her reflection. "WHAT HAPPENED!?"
"Never, ever drink and dye," I tell her. "Just say no. On the plus side ... Erica washed your clothes."
Addison impulsively hugs Erica then self consciously rubs her hair the same way Jasper does. "Do you have a paper bag I could use as well?"
In the end, Addy employs her baseball cap again. Erica tries hard to get me stay home and ‘rest’, but I assure her that I’m fine. My nose has started to peel and I can’t wear any makeup because of it, but the prospect of getting out of the house is just too inviting. I tell Erica that we’re going to Pike Place for chocolate as I get dressed. I pull my hair into a ponytail, tame my bangs, and smooth lip gloss over my lips before I join Addison in the living room. We talk about my mother’s latest outburst while we wait for Erica and when she comes into the room, my eyes move over her in open appreciation. She’s the only person I know who can make jeans and flip flops look *that* good and the fact that she’s wearing one of my shirts makes me smile with satisfaction. I feel sorely underdressed in my shorts and boy beater, but I’m comfortable all the same.
As we drive into town, Addison tells us the story of what transpired with Mark the previous day. After working together on a pregnant patient who fell through sliding glass doors, Mark invited Addison back to his apartment where he made a pallet for himself on the sofa and told her to sleep in his bed. Even though she walked naked to the kitchen for a bottle of water, he didn’t take her up on the unspoken offer. Instead, he barely looked away from the movie he was watching and asked if she needed anything. She told him that she needed *him* and he simply shook his head. When he went to take a shower, presumably a cold one, she got dressed and left. I reach into the backseat and take her hand when she starts to cry.
"I just don’t get it," she tells me, sniffling. "I mean, we were having sex the night you came back to the Archfield and interrupted us. And we ... almost had sex in California when he went back with me. He made it clear he didn’t want me to move back there and said we could *try*, but this doesn’t feel like trying. This feels like humiliating me as often as he possibly can and I don’t understand why."
"It’s not your fault," I assure her. "He’s been hurt, you know? So he’s going slow."
"This isn’t slow. This is a dead stop." She pulls a tissue out of her purse and dabs at her eyes. "I wish I had never left at all. Hell, I wish we had both stayed in New York. If I had done things differently ... we’d have a kid now and could have been married. Whoever said hindsight is twenty twenty needs a gold medal in stating the obvious."
I rub my thumb over her hand. There’s something about watching a close friend suffer that makes you forget all of your own problems. "Here’s the thing," I say, almost tentatively. "Mark’s not the same man you cheated on Derek with. Hell, he’s not even the same man you left behind when you moved to California. He grew up, Addison. He’s funny, patient and insanely loyal. He became *that* guy who understands monogamy and didn’t bat an eyelash when I refused to have sex with him for *months*. He made it clear that he’d wait and when we finally did ... it was about me and not about -"
"This conversation? Sucks." Erica shoots me a warning look as she stops at a red light. "Get to the G-rated point, Calliope."
Addison grins at me and I chuckle a little before I continue. "The point is ... he’s a good guy. He’s a *different* guy. And maybe he’s trying to show you that there are more important things than sex."
"This is your advice? Hang in there and be horny?"
"Hang in there and buy a vibrator," I offer, shrugging apologetically for the lack of real wisdom. "Don’t you see what’s happening? If Mark isn’t having sex with *you* then odds are he’s not having sex with anyone. Mark *Sloan* is not having *sex*. That means that the only thing he’s getting out of this thing with you ... is you. He’ll get your groin later."
"At least it’s a natural color. I’m the original firecrotch," she replies, picking up a lock of hair that fell out from under her cap. "What if they have to shave my head?"
"They won’t." Erica pulls to a stop in front of a small brick building. "Eleanor is great at what she does. I once watched her save a girl whose hair was falling out in clumps."
We pull to a stop in front of a brick building and I look at the sign on the door.
Helen’s Hair Design.
Where have I ...
Surely it’s not the infamous ...
... yes it is.
I watch as Erica’s ex-girlfriend walks around the side of the building. Her head is down and she’s digging through her purse for something, but I’d still know her anywhere. She’s not wearing a blue robe now. She’s wearing a short, girly pink skirt and a midriff baring shirt that showcases her flat stomach which comes complete with a diamond in her belly button. She’s not tall, but the high heels she’s wearing makes her look like she belongs on a runway somewhere. Thighs like her ... are usually the final result in a magazine after hours of airbrushing and her calves are perfect. She drops something out of her bag and retrieves it and I can see that she’s not wearing a bra ... she doesn’t *need* a bra.
In the backseat, Addison says, "Please tell me that I’m not getting my hair done by the eighteen year old beauty queen. I don’t need to feel any worse about myself."
"Fuck," Erica mumbles, but she doesn’t look at me. She seems as paralyzed as I am.
Helen stands up, spots Erica and bounces up and down with excitement. Her breasts don’t move an inch and I suddenly hate that gravity exists for me at all. I watch her wrench Erica’s door open and hug her. She openly appraises me over Erica’s shoulder and there’s something defiant in her face that I’d love to slap off. She’s beautiful. Her eyes are catlike, even without the heavy eyeliner on her top lid, and she smells like baby powder, making me feel like I should smell like something geriatric. I suddenly feel like a fat, frumpy, old *nothing* in my shorts and tank top. When she pulls back, she beams at Erica and says, "Mom isn’t feeling well this morning. I told her I’d come in and take care of your friend." Her eyes move to me again. "What did you do to your hair?"
"Uh," Erica points her thumb into the backseat. "Actually -"
"It’s me." Addison leans forward, between the bucket seats. She’s taken her hat off and she points at her white/green hair apologetically. "Help me."
"Oh ... wow." Helen scrunches her perfect button nose and twirls a lock of her own chestnut hair around her manicured finger as if she has to make sure it’s still there, still perfect. "Looks like we have our work cut out for us, honey, come on in. Erica, you need make a coffee run. You know what I like."
I realize that my mouth is slightly ajar when Addison hops out of the backseat and follows Helen to the front door. I watch them go, barely breathing. Helen doesn’t even come up to Addison’s shoulder, but she seems larger than life. The wind picks up the ends of her long hair, causing the waves to ripple like a fucking Pantene commercial and I’m still staring after them when they disappear into the building. If it’s possible to survive a steamroller mowing you down ... that’s what I’m currently doing. My lungs feel ruptured when I try to use them and I swallow hard, watching as Helen opens the blinds in the front window and sashays prettily, her eyes on mine. She lifts one foot, resting it on the window ledge as she adjusts the strap on her heel. When she winks at me ... I want to drive through the front glass and mow her down.
"I am *so* sorry," Erica tells me softly. "I - I called Eleanor ... that’s her mother ... she owns this place. I - never dreamed that Helen would show up."
There are no words. Really. None. Somehow, I still find a way to say, " That ... that’s the kind of girl you like?"
"I mean ... she’s ... a kid."
"She’s twenty eight."
"And you said that you hate a lot of makeup."
"We’ve been through this already. She was con-"
"Convenient. Right. You told me." I unbuckle my seatbelt and grab my purse from the floorboard. "Go fetch her coffee, Erica. Maybe she’ll say thanks by letting you fuck her in the back room. I’m sure she’s just as easy as she looks."
Erica hits a button on her door, locking mine. She puts the car in reverse and we pull away. I glance at front window again and Helen is smirking. She waggles her fingers at me and turns back to Addison, who is flipping through a book of some kind. The bitch is trying to get under my skin. And it’s fucking working like a charm. I cross my arms over my chest when Erica tries to take my hand again and glare out the windshield.
"Put your seatbelt on," she tells me.
My shorts are solid white and when I look down at my thighs, I think that two years on a stair climber wouldn’t be enough. I cross my legs and it doesn’t make me feel any better. All I can feel now is a roll of fat under my crossed arms, where the band of my shorts have pushed my stomach upward. I attempt to suck it in, but it only makes the wire of my bra more pronounced. Perky was something I stopped being in the eighth grade. There’s no diamond on my stomach either, just a long scar and few stretch marks from my weight yo-yoing for years. And there’s obviously something wrong with my hair because Helen asked me what I did to it. I’m surprised she noticed it at all over my peeling nose and chipmunk cheeks. I don’t say anything when Erica pulls to a stop in front of Starbucks. Of COURSE she’s going to do Helen’s bidding and take her coffee.
"Listen to me," Erica begins.
"I didn’t know that she would be there."
"Since when are you friends with her mother!?"
Erica massages her forehead and it’s a silent warning that I’m close to pissing her off. "This is where I remind you that you are friends with O’Malley’s mother, with O’Malley himself, and you spent ten minutes this morning singing Mark’s praises. I’m not friends with Helen. Her mother, however, has been coloring my hair for a while and I genuinely like her. I don’t have many friends, Cal, so the ones that I have ... I tend to keep."
She shuts the engine off and takes the keys from the ignition. "Are you going to come inside and have coffee with me?"
"We wouldn’t want to keep her waiting."
"Fuck her, Callie! I don’t give a damn! Just yesterday you were reminding me all about how we have plans and rings and now you’re acting like none of it matters. She exists. I can’t change the fact that she exists or that I was with her for a while. Who the fuck cares, though!? I don’t! And you shouldn’t!"
"I’m not going back there."
"I’m not asking you to. I’m asking you to come inside and have coffee with me and then we’ll go to Pike Place when it opens at nine. When Addison’s finished, she can call us."
"Right and then your little girlfriend will think that she scared me away!"
"So which is it!? You want to go back or you don’t want to go back?"
"Hell if I know."
"What do you want to do!?"
"I don’t know that either!"
In a completely shocking turn of events, Erica starts laughing. She doesn’t just chuckle, it’s a full fledged belly laugh that stops just shy of a cackle. I watch in astounded silence as she leans her head back against the seat and closes her eyes. Instead of pissing me off, instead of making me scream in anger, the sound of it chases my aggravation away. I listen to her howl with unadulterated glee and shake my head. "I’m so glad I can amuse you."
"Baby, even on your worst day ... you amuse me, amaze me ... all of it." Leaning forward, she gives me a kiss, still smiling when she pulls back. "There are so many other things that we’re inevitably going to fight about. This shouldn’t be one of them."
"I didn’t realize that she was so ... beautiful. I mean ... why would you want to be with me when -"
"Okay, to borrow your words ... shut up. YOU are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen." She reaches up and touches my nose. "Even when your skin is falling off ... you take my breath away. I love you. I want to be with you because I’ve been without you and I hated it. Even when she was there ... I hated it and I hated her ... because she wasn’t you."
"Fine. I hate when you make me feel like a child."
"Well, I hate that you make it so easy sometimes. We all have our crosses to bear, huh?"
"Are we finished now?"
"I guess, but if she fucks up Addison’s hair ... you’re not jumping in when I help Addy kick her ass."
"I’m sorry," I tell her, rubbing her cheek. "I’m a bitch. I’m also ... sort of the jealous type."
"We’re in the same boat. The thought of you helping Addison in the shower yesterday nearly drove me insane."
"Is that why you showed up when you did?"
"I don’t mind."
"Me either, baby." She winks at me and gets out of the car.
After spending nearly an hour at Starbucks, I text Addison and tell her to call me when she’s finished. Erica and I opt for walking to Pike Place and even though it’s overcast and muggy, she grumbles the entire way about my lack of sunscreen. I have to remind her that Mark prescribed something different for my stomach that doesn’t react to the sun, but it doesn’t help. She threatens to buy Coppertone at every store we past. The walk to the market takes forty five minutes because we stop a couple of times to window shop and by the time we arrive, Pike Place is already bustling with activity. Erica fawns over the fruits while I gravitate toward the candies, picking up a couple of boxes of suckers for Jasper. As a peace offering, I also buy a box of white truffles, which are my mother’s favorite. When we drop Addison off at the Archfield, I’m going to give them to her. Maybe it’ll work. I find my dad some gummy crap that he keeps on his desk at home and a T-shirt that says ‘I bench press. Do you?’ He’s so proud of himself for embracing the gym.
I’m enjoying the fresh air, even if the smell of fish is overpowering at times, when I see Mark and Derek. He notices me at the same time and throws a hand up, walking toward me. We meet in the middle of the crowd and he smiles down at me, lifting my arm as he examines the burn. "Did I not tell you to keep this covered?"
He plucks a couple of pieces of lint from the worst of it and I watch his face. You can usually gauge how Mark’s mood is by his grooming. Right now, he’s got that carefree stubble that is expertly shaped and maintained. He’s in a good mood. "So," I say, "Addison spent the night with us last night. She was pretty much drunk off her ass."
Mark drops my arm like it’s burned him and clears his throat. "Oh yeah?"
"I know it’s none of my business, but she did come back to Seattle to be with you. I think she’s getting a little ... frustrated. And Naomi is holding her job in California. Just. In. Case."
"Look, all I’m saying is she could leave and if you want her to stay ... you should give her a reason."
He puts his hands in his pockets until I shift my bag of sugary sweetness from one hip to the other. When I do that, he reaches out and takes it from me. "I don’t really think I should take relationship advice from someone who fucked me over."
The smile on his face lessens the sting from the venom and I nod at a bench a few feet away. We sit down and I turn a little so I can face him. It’s so easy to remember how it used to be ... when we were friends. I’m reminded of the way we’d spend lazy hours doing a whole lot of nothing except this right here ... sitting, talking. We could pass an entire day people watching and making up stories about the more colorful characters we’d see. As if reading my mind, Mark leans forward and says, "Like old times, huh?"
"It’s kinda sad that we have old times. We’re still here. We still work together and see each other almost daily." I bite my bottom lip, keeping an eye on his jaw muscles. If I push too far, they’ll let me know before he does. "Look, I’m not asking you to wear a BFF necklace or anything ... I’m asking you to not let what I did to you hurt any longer than it has to. I want you to be okay. I want you to be happy. And I trust Addison when she tells me that she wants you, Mark. I think you guys could have something now."
"It’s not that easy."
"Nothing worth having is ever easy. My mom says that all the time and she’s right. About that, anyway."
"Is she giving you a hard time about Erica?" he asks.
"Ohhh yeah. I’m a perverted, disgusting whore."
His eyes widen and I can see that he’s gritting his teeth. "Jesus."
"Well, yeah." He reaches over and touches my arm. "I’ll talk to Addison."
I raise my brows. "I don’t think she wants to *talk*, Sloan."
He laughs now and a couple of people glance our way. I see them smile with him ... some people look for reasons to be happy ... even if they’re only borrowing someone else’s. "I’ll keep that in mind."
I get to my feet when Erica walks out of a specialty shop and glances around for me. She strikes up a conversation with Derek and I say, "He’s operating on Jasper. If he can get the approval for the trial."
"He’ll get it. And Jasper will be fine."
I nod at him, watching him retrieve my bag, which he carries for me. To the casual observer, we probably look like two couples. Erica’s standing near Derek, laughing at something he’s saying and Mark has his hand on the small of my back as we slice through the crowd. In another time, in another world, that could be the case. I reach out and take Erica's hand, however, shattering the illusion. Mark holds my bag out and I reach for it, but she takes it before I can, frowning when she sees the contents. She mumbles something about my sweet tooth and greets Mark with a nod. I listen as he asks her about a mutual patient and hold my breath as they make small talk about a memo Webber sent out about attending policy. Derek catches my eye and winks at me and I breathe a little easier.
When we part ways, Erica gives me a kiss. "Do you see what I did there?" she asks. "How I’m not freaking out or trying to start a fight?"
"Yes yes ... you should be canonized for your Saintlike behavior."
The walk back to the car takes less time because she teases me about my temper the entire way. My phone rings when we’re two blocks from the car and Addison tells me that she’s ready. She also says that she loves her hair, but something in her voice makes me think that may not be the case at all. She’s guarded. We load our loot into the car and make the drive back to the salon. Erica keeps it light, singing off key with the radio as she navigates traffic. My stomach starts to tingle as we pull into the parking lot. Addison is standing in front of the building and her hair is back to her signature red. It’s Absolutely Addison Auburn ... at least ... that’s what I’d call it if I named colors. She looks beautiful. She gives me her patented Addy grin as she strikes a pose. I have to laugh at her and beside me, Erica does the same. I don’t see hide nor hair of Helen as Addison climbs into the backseat and Erica doesn’t hang around long enough to see if the other woman will make an appearance.
"I love it," I tell Addison, smiling back at her.
"Yeah, well, I didn’t love Helen. She thinks you’re an illegal alien, Callie."
"Nice. I haven’t heard that in a while." If I ever get near the salon again ... I may have to stop in and beat that woman’s ass with my birth certificate.
"Don’t worry," Addy tells me. "I didn’t give her a great tip. She runs her mouth a little too damn much."
I watch Erica meet Addison’s eyes in the rearview mirror and make the decision that the less I know ... the better. I change the subject as we head to the Archfield and tell Erica that I think we should go up and see my parents. We’re walking across the parking deck when Addison’s phone rings. Erica and I walk a few steps ahead to wait for her. I’m kissing her neck when Addison rushes toward us. I can tell that something has happened by the look on her face and I brace myself for whatever she has to say.
She doesn’t disappoint.
"The results are back. Erica, I’ve got your results."
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