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. :)
There is a first time for everything. Your first breath, your first step, your first love. Life wouldn't be life at all without the anticipation of something new, unexpected, and unchartered. On our first day back at work, Erica and I are pulled our separate ways, but are paged to report to ER at the same time. I have seen many, many things in my day, but a woman with a butcher knife embedded in her heart and the bones in her arm exposed is really new for me. The sight of it paralyzes me and I'm captivated by the knife's handle twitching in time with her heart. It freezes me in my tracks for just a split second ... long enough for Erica to yell, "Move your ass, Torres!" like I'm a first year intern.
Excuse ME if I needed a little time to regroup.
*I* am not as immune as SOME people.
Now I'm pissed.
I note that Dr. Simmons, the head or Ortho and not a fan of mine, is watching me closely and I spring into gear. Lexie Grey pretty much steps up to play for Team Bone while Cristina jockeys with George and Meredith for Team Heart. Erica tags Cristina and I watch Yang do a little wiggly dance move before she makes a face at the two losers. Luckily for them, but not the woman on the stretcher, there is enough mayhem to go around. With Lexie's help, I stabilize the woman's arm and wrap it securely before cardio can even order chest films. I shoot Erica a 'take that' look and walk out to prep for surgery.
Dr. Simmons follows me. I hear him clear his throat behind me, sounding like a frog that has been swallowed by a geriatric crow. "Dr. Torres, a moment please."
A moment for this old bastard is usually an hour and a half of him building up to his point and then another hour of him trying to make it. And almost always, his point is that I have done something wrong. I turn around and try to smile. "Yes, sir?"
He gestures toward the conference room and I shuffle inside like I'm going to the gas chamber. To further solidify that he's in partnership with the Devil, he shuts the door and walks past me smelling like an herbal remedy gone wrong. Cinnamon, sage, and something rancid greet my nose and I'm tempted to wash my face in hand sanitizer just to cut the stench. He sits down across from me and says, "Nice vacation?"
"It was fine."
"Are you settling back in okay?"
"Yes, I am."
His beady, gauzy eyes find mine. "I wanted to speak with you about a couple of things. I think it is in the best interest of the orthopedics department that I address the situation first, before it escalates into something more. Chief Webber does not need to be involved as far as I'm concerned. He has proven himself to be fairly partial of late.
"Dr. Torres, as you know, there are certain policies and procedures in place here at Seattle Grace-"
"With all due respect, Dr. Simmons, I am well versed in our policies and procedures. I have a shiny handbook of my very own, so if you are going to speak to me about fraternization, I would like to remind you that-"
"I wanted to speak with you about harassment." He holds up his hands. I should be grateful to train with a man so skilled, but I'm not. His big hands have pioneered innovative treatments, but they don't impress me. Maybe it's because his finger has wagged in my face too often. "May I be so bold as to call you Callie?"
"Callie," he says, vibrating my name in the lowest octave I've ever heard it spoken. "Orthopedics has never been as respected as, say, neurology. Or cardio. We're the carpenters. Most of our cases are only life and death to *us* and never to our colleagues. It's hard for us to earn respect or keep our surgical times because we're the first to be bumped if something more ... interesting ... comes along.
"Because of that, orthopedic surgeons have to rise to a different level. We have to excel in even the most mundane procedures to be recognized. Our field of medicine is, in short, an afterthought." He clasps his hands together. "I have watched you make several choices in your personal life that affected your-"
"My personal life is not open for discussion."
"- performance and I was very lenient because I have been through a divorce as well and I know how difficult it can be. And the reason I am bringing up your personal life right now is because something happened to your property on hospital grounds and the culprit behind the damage is back at work. I don't agree with that decision. I feel that if the victim had been someone from ... say ... neurology ... the vandal would have been terminated. I feel, that because you are a 'carpenter' ... it made your plight less ... important. When you throw in your gender and sexual preference ... I believe that it influenced Webber's decision to allow Stevens to return to work. I don't approve of this"
Really ... he could have compacted his entire statement down to 'Izzie is a be-yotch and I am mad as hell that she's here’. I mull his words before I speak, because I don't want to say anything but the truth. "I really don't think that the Chief cares about my gender, sexuality, or that I'm a 'carpenter'. I think that Stevens won points by exposing the truth and Chief Webber believed her apology."
"I respectfully disagree and because of that ... I have tendered my resignation."
"Why would YOU resign over something that happened to ME?"
"You're in my department. You are my responsibility. It is my job to teach you, to train you, and to guide you. I don't feel that the working environment that has been created by allowing Stevens to remain is conducive to learning. If you become distracted or resort to physical violence with her again-"
"I'm not. I don't care that she's here."
"I won't have my reputation sullied. I'm close to retirement anyway." He gives a shrug of his narrow shoulders like we're not talking about something as important as his career. "You only have a few months left before you complete your residency. I haven't always seen eye to eye with you, but I will be happy to leave you a ... somewhat glowing letter of recommendation."
"Thank you," I tell him. As an afterthought, and not because I mean it, I add, "I'm sorry to see you go."
"We both know better than that." He smiles at me and his entire face changes. He could be sort of human if he really wanted to be. "Good luck to you."
"Same to you." He gets to his feet and shuffles toward the door. I hold my breath to avoid the smell. Then I realize that I have an important question. "Who will be taking your place?"
"I saw Gavin Cole speaking with the Chief this morning."
My eyes widen.
I stop breathing.
Gavin Cole graduated medical school by the time I started, but I'd already heard all about him. His orthopedic research is what lured me away from pediatrics and I wrote my dissertation to include several footnotes in his honor. He's a *genius* and I could learn more in three weeks under his tutelage than Simmons taught me in six years. I'm still thinking of Cole when Simmons leaves the room and it takes a page summoning me to the ER to remind me that I was on my way to scrub in.
Erica has already opened the patient's chest by the time I get there. She glances up at me as Lexie ties my scrubs and says, "Nice of you to join us."
I know she's joking.
But her words feel like a slap.
I don't reply because my tongue could easily crack against her like a whip. Instead, I set to work and lose myself in the simplicity of medical carpentry and the familiarity of the tools in my hand. I wear the drill like an extension of me and the steady whir drowns out my thoughts.
For a while.
Doctors have to be two people. You can’t bring a bad day into the operating room any more than you can take a sick patient home with you. You learn to readjust your thoughts and concentrate as much as you possibly can, but there are times that it’s nearly impossible. This? It’s one of those times. This drill sounds like the saw that will cut the top of Jasper’s head off. Literally. And the smell of the operating room, the glare of the overhead lights, the voice of the anesthesiologist --- that could be the last thing that Jasper ever experiences. Because he could die. He could go to sleep and never wake up. I’ve purposely tried to NOT think of Jasper because thinking about him inevitably leads to tears blurring my vision, but it’s not possible. He keeps invading every aspect of my life.
Just last night ... Erica and I had spaghetti and I wound up crying halfway through because it’s Jasper’s favorite.
The drill stops and the sound of the flat lined monitor assaults me.
There's no comfort in the noise. It's final and ugly and brutalizing. I stare at the monitor like I'm unconvinced by the level, undisturbed tone.
The patient has died.
I will never know if I repaired her ligaments and tendons enough for her to grip anything.
And she will never know that I tried.
Really ... not the best way to begin the day.
I put the drill down on the cart and pick up the suturing kit, holding it out toward Lexie. "You want to do it?"
I surrender the reigns and leave the OR. Working on dead people? Not my idea of fun. It's bad enough to pull bones out of cadavers, but touching someone who just died and feeling their warmth inevitably flee is really so depressing that I've considered waitressing more than once.
I'm taking off my surgical gown when Erica comes in behind me. "Are you okay?" she asks. "What did Simmons want?"
"To yell at me some more since you didn't do it enough," I lie.
She stops untying her own gown. "What?"
"Don't yell at me in front of anyone else. Or ... you know, at all."
She looks confused for a split second and then her mouth parts as comprehension dawns. "Ohhh. I'm sorry. I - I couldn't get around you."
I toss my scrubs and pull my cap off. "I’ll let it slide ... this time. Next time, though, I’m cutting you off."
She has knotted the ties on her gown so I help her with it and she smiles at me, making that phantom dimple appear in her chin. "Cutting me off? Liar. All I have to do is tell you that I’m wearing blue panties today and -"
She grabs the finger that I point into her face and tugs me forward, giving me a quick kiss. "I fight dirty."
It's funny how anger can disappear in the blink of an eye if you'll let it. I nuzzle the side of her face and breathe her in, amazed at how quickly the tension leaves my body. "Simmons didn’t really want to yell at me. He’s resigning."
"It's so weird. He's pissed that Stevens was allowed to come back and he thinks it's because Chief Webber doesn't respect ortho. We're lowly carpenters, apparently, and if Stevens had trashed your car ... she would have been fired."
"My car did get trashed. Not as bad as yours, but enough."
I consider that for a few seconds. "Maybe Simmons is just looking for a reason to go. But I can't really complain because Gavin Cole is in the running for -"
"Oh my god! He's ... a big deal."
"Yes. He is." I smile at her. "All the best ortho cases would follow him here. This could be huge."
She's wearing the ocean themed scrub cap I gave her and I watch her attempt to straighten it, then do it for her. "Thanks," she says. "I've got another surgery in half an hour, but I'd let you buy me a cup of coffee ... if you wanted to."
"I'd let you see me naked in the on call room ... if you wanted to."
The grin on her face fades slowly. "Do not tease me when I'm about to do a triple bypass. I will not be able to concentrate."
"You make me break every ethical code I have. What did I tell you about on call rooms?"
"That was BEFORE you went down on me in the one on the third floor."
"Hmm." She purses her mouth into a thin line. "Let's try the the fifth floor today."
"Any particular reason?"
"It's pretty soundproof. And I don't really want everyone to hear you scream."
Why do people always say that they could never work with their lovers?
She grabs my hand, staring at the rock on it. "Holy CRAP!"
"I know, right?"
"*I* want to date Erica Hahn."
"And then enjoy traction." I let her turn my hand left and right, watching the diamond catch the light. "Miranda called it vulgar and Yang told me to pawn it and buy a motorcycle."
"It's very vulgar, but also beautiful." With a wry smile, she adds, "How did she do it?"
"Put it on my finger while I was sleeping."
"Ugh!" Addison wrinkles her nose. "Why in the HELL would she ask me how to do it and let me make a million suggestions if she was going to IGNORE them all!?"
"She talked to you about it?!"
"Yes! I cannot believe she didn't ask you on the vintage car ride through the country or at the Leaning Tower! I even researched whether or not you could go to the top for such a special occasion! I'm gonna kick her ass!"
I suddenly *get* Erica's mood swings the day we went to Pisa. She wasn't pissed that I paid the mortgage ... she was having a nervous breakdown. I have to wonder why she didn't go through with it then. In retrospect, I think maybe she was *going* to do it ... because she kept lingering in the tower, nervously glancing around us. Maybe she didn't do it because I was in a bad mood. Or she was.
Now my thoughts are going to kick my ass all day.
"So, what did she say?" Addy asks. "Please tell me she took my advice on *that* at least?"
"She asked if I was going to look down at my finger at some point."
"You wait until I talk to her. Just you WAIT!"
"I proposed to her first."
"AND YOU DIDN'T TELL ME!?"
"I don't need romantic advice from the psychotic lunatic who beats the shit out of the person who brings them flowers." I put the chart I'm working on in the decreasing pile and lean back in the chair. "I pulled off what may have been the single most wonderful popping of the question in the history of civilization."
"Picture this. Rooftop restaurant overlooking a theater where Erica's favorite opera is going on. We've sailed in a gondola, spent the day at the spa, have on the most beautiful dresses ever made-"
"Oooh, by who?"
"Addison, the designer doesn't matter."
"Not to you!"
"Shut up if you want to hear this."
"What color were they?"
"Mine was yellow and hers was red. Now be quiet." I glare at her until she zips her lips. "So, we have this amazing dinner while people sing underneath us and then the waiter brings out a silver platter. I tell her that all I want out of my life is more time with her."
"So, I gave her a watch and asked her."
"You gave her a - CALLIE! A watch?"
"A *Rolex* watch. And don't even try to act like that's not original. It made her cry *and* say yes ... so I win!" I have to smile at the memory. "And then we made out in the limo and it was earth shattering."
Addison has an open chart in front of her that isn't holding her attention at all. She is looking at me the same way people look at cute, fuzzy puppies. "You have is *so* bad."
"Yes, I do."
"And she encourages it."
"Yes, she does."
"And I'm insanely fucking jealous"
"Yes, you are."
"Well, Callie, *I* got laid in the on call room earlier."
"Fancy that," I tell her. "So did I."
She laughs, swatting me with a wad of papers. "Slut."
I watch her jot something down in her chart, then ask, "So ... you guys are officially back together?"
"We pretty much sealed that in the hot tub at your place." She has to laugh at the expression on my face. "No, we didn’t have sex, freak. I tried to drown him."
"You really need therapy."
"I know." She bites the lid on her pen and scowls. "But I really think it was a wake up call for both of us."
"Attempted murder usually is."
She gives me her patented crooked smile and says, "I redeemed myself beautifully."
Maybe it’s wrong ... but I feel like a cement truck has been lifted off my chest.
Mark is happy.
Addison is happy.
Hell, even with Jasper’s surgery looming on the horizon ... *I* am happy.
I am definitely happy.
Dear God ... this is where it all falls apart, huh?
Erica and I somehow manage to make time for one another at work even though the crazies arrive in full force. One trauma after another rolls into the emergency room over the next few days and we’re both bombarded with surgeries. Most of our intimate moments take place in the on call room because it’s so late when we arrive home that the most we can do is shower and fall into bed. You know that Erica Hahn is exhausted when she suggests take out for dinner six straight days. We both have Sunday and Monday off and neither of us budge off the sofa to do more than feed the cats on Sunday. Monday finds me the unwilling victim of a shopping trip to the arts and crafts store. Erica buys scrapbooking material while I ponder whether or not I could shove an artificial flower far enough into my aorta to lose consciousness. Shopping? Hate it. And Erica takes her sweet time which I don’t mind ... because we *are* waiting for our vacation photos to be developed ... but I’d still rather bleed out than pretend to be interested in picture borders.
Our day is salvaged by our trip photos, though. We go through them in the car and then immediately return to the photo lab to have quite a few of them enlarged. The shot of us in our fancy dresses the night we got engaged becomes the largest and our next stop is finding a frame big enough to house it. I had almost forgotten how damn beautiful she looks in red. Almost, but not quite. While she shops for frames at the mall, I scour apparel shops and don’t stop looking until I find a few red shirts for her. Her wardrobe needs a splash of color and it’s like an aphrodisiac to me, which she never complains about. When I meet her in the food court, her arms are laden down with frames and I can only shake my head.
I thought that *I* was the sentimental one.
Monday night finds us picking and choosing which photos to frame and when I get out of the shower ... I can hear her swearing in the hallway.
I walk out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, and I’m stunned at what I see. There’s a large box on the floor beside her and all the photographs of Rachel are neatly packed away in newspaper. I know that they’re Rachel’s photos because the walls are bare. I recover from my shock and realize that Erica has wrapped her hand in the bottom of her shirt "What did you do?"
"Dropped one. Cut my thumb. Right under the nail, too."
"Let me see?" I take her hand and hiss when I see the blood under her fingernail. "Yeah, you did, Yellow."
"I was packing the ---"
"Why?" I put pressure on her thumb to stop the bleeding and she grimaces. "Erica?"
"I’m ready. To let go. And we have so many pictures to hang that -"
"There’s room for her." I raise a brow so that Erica understands that I’m not just talking about Rachel’s photo. There’s room in Erica’s heart to love us both. I would never begrudge her the memory of her first love. I *want* her to never forget. I want her to see that I am *grateful* to Rachel for teaching Erica to love herself. "It’s okay."
She glances down at the box at her feet. "There is one that -"
"Put it back on the wall."
"Are you -"
I take a step forward and kiss her forehead then lean mine against hers. "I’m positive."
Erica takes the top photo out of the box and brushes a little dust off the glass. It’s the shot of Rachel looking happy and healthy while Buddha chews on her hair and Erica sits beside them, watching. Instead of putting it back where it came from, Erica hangs it a little higher and a little further down. When she gestures behind me ... I see that she has brought up the newly framed trip photos. I pick up a stack of them and hold one out. Meticulously and with far too much thought to placement, she eventually covers the wall with our pictures. As I reach the bottom of the pile, my eyes widen. She has framed the photos we took from her grandfather’s house as well. They’re old and worn, but she has painstakingly added them. I watch her put them in place and point at the blank space that has been left. "What about -"
"I left room for the photographs that Lori Anne is bringing. She said that she has plenty of them."
Her profile is so beautiful as she surveys her handiwork. She straightens a few of the frames and takes a step back, nodding. It’s almost like she’s convincing herself of something. When she notices my eyes on her, she gives me a small grin. "Do you like it?"
I glance at the wall and nod. Something tells me that even my worst days will improve just walking past so much happiness. We’re *happy* in every photo. "I love it."
She takes my hand in hers and squeezes. "Now ... now it really is our *home*."
"It wasn’t before?"
"It was," she tells me. "But now ... it reflects us both. Not just me. It’s prettier now."
I’ve never been a fan of photographs. My mother has a ton of school pictures where I was making faces or crude hand gestures. One year ... she sent out Christmas cards with our family portrait on it and didn’t realize that I was looking as cross eyed as I possibly could. The next year, she was looking at me in the family portrait and I was making a fish face. After that she bought generic Christmas cards and refused to let me sign any of them. The difference in me back then and me now is amazing. While there are a few pictures of me looking furious in Italy because the camera was always in my face ... a majority of them find me laughing or gazing into the lens with such adoration that it’s close to repulsive. If I didn’t know me and I walked down this hallway ... I’d be incredibly jealous of the black haired woman whose grin seems so genuine that you’d never doubt it. I’d wonder what it felt like to be that content ... but I don’t have to wonder. I know.
"Cal?" Erica brushes my hair over my shoulder and kisses my ear. "Think you can play doctor?"
"Oooh." I rub my hands together in eager anticipation. "I call dibs on the strawberry -"
"Actual doctor, baby." She holds up her finger, which is still bleeding slightly. "And then we can break out the ‘Love Doctor’ kit and you can have the strawberry massage oil."
"It tastes really, really good."
"Yes, I know. I did stay between your legs close to an hour last time."
I bandage her finger in record time.
And I am oh so glad that she didn’t hurt her right hand.
Because she uses it very, very well.
I have no complaints.
It’s close to ten thirty and we’re watching the final moments of some mind numbing sitcom when she sits up in the bed suddenly. I sit up beside her and rub her back. "You okay, Yellow?"
"We’re missing a ton of photos!" She shoves the cover back and gets to her feet, pulling the suitcase from under the bed. She pats down the side pockets, looking for a film container. "We took photos with Claudine and Angie. Remember? And you took a ton of me trying to ride that damn horse. I think the clicking of the camera is what made that animal psychotic."
"I used the digital for that. We ran out of film, remember?" I head into the closet and pull the camera down from the shelf, opening the case. I pick up her laptop and connect the two, scrolling through a ton of files. "Good lord! When we do have a baby ... we need to pace ourselves. Otherwise we’ll be holding a camera more than we hold the kid."
She grins and climbs back into the bed, fluffing her pillows against the headboard. I slide into the spot beside her and we view a few thumbnails. It feels like we never left. Angie and Claudine are as vibrant in photographs as they are in person. Angie, specifically, resonates from the monitor, her deep, brown eyes crinkled with laughter. Who knew I was such a talented photographer? I somehow managed to capture her in just the right light to make you feel like she’s right in front of you. There are two specific photos of just her face, with her halo of white hair, that seem almost angelic, almost ethereal.
"She’s beautiful," Erica says, leaning her head against my shoulder. "I wish we could have packed them up and brought them home with us."
"Screw that. I wish we could have packed OURSELVES up and stayed there," I tell her, flipping through a few more files.
There are so many excellent shots of us and our new friends that I’m tempted to send the entire folder to the photo lab, but I refrain. When we’re not exhausted we can go through and carefully pick and choose what we want. I stifle a yawn with the back of my hand and scroll to the top of the files, trying to locate Erica on the horse. I definitely want to enlarge a couple of those. As I scan through the file names, which are really just dates and numbers, I notice something out of place. There’s a folder with a date a few months earlier ... just a few days after Jasper’s birthday. I double click it and see that there is a movie file inside. "What is this?"
"I don’t know," Erica replies. "Probably something about how to use the camera. I didn’t watch all the videos about it when Hel - uhm - when I got it."
I double click the file and wait patiently for the media viewer to fire up.
And then I wish that I hadn’t.
Because what I see is enough to make me want to go blind.
The date on the bottom of the video is the only thing worse than the content.
The day that we got back together ... the Thursday that Erica danced for me in her underwear in Yang’s living room ... she fucked Helen.
And filmed it.
I don’t even try to stop her as she wrenches the laptop away from me and pounds the keyboard in an attempt to stop the show.
It’s not enough. Whatever she’s doing ... it’s not enough.
I can hear it. I can hear Helen saying that it feels so fucking good. And she keeps saying ‘baby’ in a breathless, sated way.
And I can hear Erica laughing and telling her that she has the most beautiful breasts she has ever seen ... that she *tastes* better than anyone should.
Erica slams the laptop closed and grabs my arm. "Callie - Callie, listen to me -"
I don’t ... I can’t ... make a sound. Or move. Or think. Or breathe.
"Helen gave me the camera and ... well ... I thought she erased everything. She said that she erased everything."
It takes Erica’s fingers in my hair to snap me back to the present. I shove her hand away from me and stagger out of the bed. "Don’t touch me."
"I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was there."
"I’m not stupid!"
"I know that. I didn’t -"
"Shut up! Just - shut up!"
"This is not -"
"Look at the fucking date, Erica! Look at it! That was the Thursday that we met for drinks at Warren’s! That’s the Thursday that you accused me of sleeping with Addison and then-" I turn slowly and I can tell that the expression on my face looks as bad as it feels because she covers her mouth with her hands. "mauled me in that dirty, run down motel. Did you fuck her before or after you fucked me?"
"BEFORE OR AFTER!?!"
"Before!" She gets to her knees, reaching for me, but I step away. "I didn’t know that you and I were going to get back together. I - I thought you invited me for drinks so you could tell me that you were moving back to Miami or that you wanted nothing to do with me. I never, ever imagined that we would -"
"I have to ... leave."
"No! No, you don’t!"
She’s on me before I can lift my jeans out of the floor. We play a sixty second tug of war with my pants and I finally let them go. She’s pulling so hard that she falls back into the floor, but I don’t help her up. I can’t help her up. I can’t help *me* up. I may be standing, but most of me is writhing on the floor. I stomp past her and grab a pair of sweats from the laundry hamper and tug them on. I’m already wearing a t-shirt and I don’t care that it’s ill fitting or has several tears in the sleeve. All I care about is getting far enough away from her that I don’t give into the urge to strangle her. Because I’m *that* pissed. I shove my feet into flip flops and turn toward the door, but she’s blocking it. "Move."
"Get out of the way!"
"YOU CANNOT RUN EVERY TIME YOU GET PISSED AT ME, CALLIE!"
"I AM NOT PISSED, ERICA! I AM SO FAR BEYOND PISSED THAT I CAN’T STAND IT!"
"YOU DON’T GET TO BE MAD! WE WERE NOT TOGETHER AT THE TIME!"
I can feel my nostrils flaring. I can feel the color washing up into my face. And I don’t even consider my words before I blurt them out. "It doesn’t matter! What matters ... is that you’re the kind of person who could have sex with two people in one day! You’re disgusting! You’re just like George!"
She recoils like I’ve slapped her.
I seize the opportunity and rush past her.
When I pull out of the garage, gravel flies all over the place because I hit the gas so hard.
I don’t know where I’m going, but I can’t get there fast enough.
I watch every one of those forty minutes tick past on the alien green display of the car radio.
My cell phone has only stopped ringing for about five of those minutes. Leona Lewis keeps telling me that her heart was crippled by the vein that she kept on closing. It’s Erica’s ringtone. I ignore it until Addison calls. Her ringtone is ‘Love in an Elevator’, which is the only song I could think of to pay homage to nearly dying with her when we were trapped in the freight elevator at Seattle Grace. I pick it up before it can go to voice mail. "Hello?"
"Where are you?"
"Did she call you?"
"Yes," Addison replies. "Now tell me where you are and I’ll come."
"I only got to the end of the driveway," I confess and the fact that I’m pathetic isn’t lost on me. I know that I am. I could have gone to Joe’s. I could have gone to the Archfield. Hell, I could even go sleep in the on call room at the hospital, but this is as far as I can go. It’s like I’m on a chain and the collar around my neck starts choking me when I try to pull too far. I fucking hate it. "Did she tell you what she did?"
"It makes me sick."
"You two weren’t together and -"
"Okay, Addison, can you please pretend to be on MY side."
"I’d be upset, too." She exhales on the other end of the line. "I can only imagine how much it must have hurt to see that."
"Falling in boiling water would hurt less."
"Go home, Callie. Just ... go home and go to sleep. It’s late and if Gavin Cole’s attitude today was any indication of what’s to come ... you’ll need your rest."
"He was hired?" I ask.
"He started today. You’ll meet him tomorrow."
"He has a bad attitude?"
"He’s more cocky, confident, and smarmy than Mark Sloan ever thought about being. I hate the guy."
"Are you going home?"
"It’s not like I have anywhere else to go."
"You can come and stay with me. You know that. You’re always welcome. Mi hotel room es su hotel room."
I have to smile a little. "You’re a good friend."
"With great advice. Don’t make her worry, Cal. What she did before you -"
"Just a few hours before me!"
"- shouldn’t matter so much. It’s what she does with you that counts."
I toss the cell phone into the passenger seat and start the engine. I have to do a three point turn before I can put the code in the security fence and I know that it will chime inside the house, alerting her that I’m home.
It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth just thinking about it. Was it really just a couple of hours ago that we were hanging our pictures and rehashing the highlights of our vacation? Italy feels like a million years ago and the happiness that has been blanketing me for weeks feels like it never really happened. All I feel right now is the hollow, haunting weight of the truth. Erica knew that she was meeting me the day that she slept with Helen. She came to me afterwards and regardless of what she expected to happen ... what DID happen was her touching me with the same hands that she had *just* touched another woman with. God ... I wonder if she even washed them. I wonder if she took a shower before she came to me and - no - I’ll go crazy if I keep riding this train of thought. I have to stop.
The gravel crunches under the wheels as I head down the driveway and I can see Erica in the window, silhouetted against the light from the living room. She’s watching for me. I open the garage and pull inside, then cut the engine. I grab my phone and my purse before I climb the stairs and she’s waiting right in front of the door when I open it. I don’t look at her. I *can’t* look at her.
"I’m going to bed."
"I’m sleeping in the guest room."
"I - I’ll sleep in there. That bed isn’t comfortable and -"
"It’s fine." I walk around her, sidestepping the hand she holds out. It’s harder than I thought it would be ... to not touch her. To not let her touch me. I stop walking when she clasps my arm. "Erica ... you really don’t -"
"Look at me." Her voice breaks over the words and I know that complying with her request will kill me ... but I do it anyway.
I turn slightly and let my gaze move over her face. She’s been crying. Her cheeks are still wet and her blue eyes are puffy, swollen, and slightly bloodshot. Her chin trembles pitifully under my scrutiny so I focus on her eyes and say, "I’m looking."
"Yeah. You are."
Her entire face crumbles before my eyes as she begins to sob. Everything in me wants to pull her into my arms and hold on for dear life, but my pride is stronger. My pride ... is what makes me leave her standing there ... choking on her own pain ... while I go to the guest room to deal with mine.
I haven’t cried yet.
It’s enough to listen to her for what feels like an eternity before I finally fall asleep.
I wake up before Erica and leave before I have to endure anything uncomfortable.
I pretty much break the sound barrier getting to work and have dressed out in my scrubs before the shift change actually happens. I embrace the fact that I’m almost an hour early for my duties and head out to get a jump start on rounds. I’ll either be greeted enthusiastically by the patients or they’ll yell at me for waking them up before dawn. Either way, I need a distraction. My dreams last night were intense and full of Erica and Helen ... with her perfect body and perfect *tits*. I didn’t see a lot of the video, but I saw enough to know that Helen’s body is even better when it’s naked than when she’s got it wrapped up in absurd little skirts and tight shirts. She’s perfect. And Erica obviously thinks so, too, because her face was buried between her legs.
You know, I made peace with the whole ex-girlfriend thing in Italy. I put it behind me and I was never going to delve into it again, but that’s easier said than done. It’s absolutely impossible to do when the image of it has been burned into your brain so much that it keeps playing in your head on loop. I just ... I can’t believe that she would fuck her and then fuck *me* on the same day. That’s what she did to me in the motel room. She fucked me. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t get off. It wasn’t pretty ... but later on ... that same night at Cristina’s ... she made LOVE to me.
What kind of person starts their day screwing one woman and then ends their night screwing another.
Okay ... Mark Sloan ... would do that.
But that’s not the point. The point is ... Erica Hahn was supposed to *love* me ... even then. The way that I loved her. I kept Mark at arm’s length and never let him get close to me until the night I found out that Helen was in the picture, but Erica didn’t do the same for me. No ... she had Helen all along. Even after she saw how much it devastated me ... she continued to *have* Helen. Literally.
"Dr. Calliope Torres?"
I look up from the chart in my hands and nod at the man standing in front of me. I can’t imagine why someone so ... grungy ... would be looking for me, but I roll with it. All I register are his dirty pants and the large tattoo on his arm. "Yes. Can I help you?"
He steps a little closer and extends his hand. "I’m Gavin Cole."
I know that my bottom jaw has hit the floor, but I can’t reel it back in. I put my hand in his and clasp it firmly while I do a double take on his ripped jeans, the short, but spiky hair, and the faded ACDC shirt he’s wearing. His boots are scuffed and dirty and the guitar case he’s carrying has definitely seen better days. I realize that I’m still staring when he smiles at me. "Uh, it’s nice to meet you," I finally stammer, but that’s not exactly true. The mental image I had of Gavin Cole has effectively been squashed to bits. I guess I imagined him as someone dapper and debonair. Or, you know ... clean.
"You’ll have to forgive my appearance," he says, gesturing at his attire. "I had a gig last night in Oregon and had to ride like the wind to get back here."
"Like the wind, huh?" I grin at him. "You a singer?"
"I pretend to be and I do it well enough that people let me get by with it." He adjusts his guitar strap and nods at the charts in my hand. "Anything good this morning?"
"Not really. Just doing some rounds."
"Unfortunately ... no."
"Let someone else do it," he tells me. When I open my mouth to protest, he adds, "Cal, it’s like this ... you’re an *orthopedic* surgeon. And if you want to be a good orthopedic surgeon ... then by all means ... do rounds on stomach aches and pneumonia. But if you want to be a fucking *amazing* orthopedic surgeon, then leave rounds up to the less competent doctors here and come with me."
"Good or amazing? Which is it?"
"I’m already AMAZING!"
"Then prove it."
He brushes past me and actually shoulder checks me. It’s nice to be enraged at someone who isn’t Erica. I drop my charts back where I got them and stalk after him. He’s chuckling when I join him in the elevator and I want to punch him in the face when he assures me that I chose wisely. We exit the elevator on the second floor, where the Department of Orthopedics is set up. I follow him into his office and draw up short. It’s completely different than it was when Simmons occupied the space. One wall has been painted black and the numerous recognitions, awards, and certificates that Dr. Gavin Cole has earned over the years stand out against it in gold frames. He’s rearranged the black desk and replaced the raggedy cloth chairs with leather ones. The futon that Simmons kept pushed against the far wall has been replaced with a black suede couch that looks comfortable as hell. I walk to the bookshelf, where tons of medical volumes (that I actually consulted) *used* to be. Instead, there are photographs of Cole with all sorts of bands and singers. His collection of famous people is as impressive as my dad’s.
"Check this out," he says, causing me to jump at the sound of his voice.
I turn around in time to see him attaching several x-rays to the light panel behind his desk. Even from across the room ... I have to gasp in shock. It’s clearly a person’s head, but half of the bones are missing from the face and skull. I’m drawn forward, into the light. I barely even breathe as I stare at the films. I’ve never, in my entire life, seen anything like it.
"Diagnosis?" he asks softly, calmly. "Take a stab at it."
"I don’t need to ‘take a stab at it’. This may be the most severe case of Treacher Collins Syndrome ever documented," I say, tracing the patient’s deformed mandible with my fingernail. "How old is this person?"
"Six," Cole replies, holding out a file folder. "Her name is Emma Foster. She’s already undergone several surgeries, but none of them have focused on reconstructing the bone mass in her face. I think that we can do enough to enable her to eat, to breathe on her own, hell ... to speak. I’ve been trying to get a consult with her parents for two years and they’ve finally agreed to meet with me."
"Today." He taps the folder that I’m holding and says, "And if you want to tag along then I suggest that you learn everything there is to know about Emma and Treacher Collins before lunch."
"Jeez!" I cry. "That’s not a lot of time, Dr. Cole."
"If you call me Gavin ... I’ll overlook the fact that you just whined about time like it’s something that matters." He hefts an overnight bag from the closet and winks at me. "I’m going to shower. I’ll see you reading that file when I come back. Right?"
"And don’t call me ‘sir’, either."
"How about asshole?" I mumble when he leaves the room.
"I’ll only answer to that ... if I deserve it." he calls from the hallway.
I hate him already.
Submersing myself in Emma Foster’s file and researching Treacher Collins on the internet gives me much needed distraction. While I would much rather being breaking bones and laughing at the screams ... I’m just as grateful for the abundance of information that I’ve found and filled almost an entire notebook with. My pager slices through my thoughts and I glance at the clock, stunned to see that it’s nearly noon. Just as I suspected, Dr. Cole has paged me to the cafeteria and I gather up the information and practically run. I feel very much like Cristina must have felt when she would jump to do Erica’s bidding. I can’t deny it ... I want in on this case. I want in and I want my name associated with the procedure. It could be groundbreaking and even more than that ... I stand to learn something complex and dangerous which is always a plus in my book.
Cole is sitting with his back to the entrance so I straighten my spine and casually join him. I have to work hard to control my breathing so he won’t know that I took the stairs two at a time as I sit down beside him. In his dark blue scrubs and white jacket ... he’s not quite as gross, but his spiky hair that sticks straight up in front needs to be tamed with water. Stat. "I’ve reviewed Emma’s case and -"
"What did you learn?"
"Uh ... she’s six and -"
"God, save me from residents." He rolls his eyes and crosses his arms over his chest. "What *is* Treacher Collins Syndrome, Cal?"
"I didn’t tell you that you could call me ‘Cal’."
"I didn’t ask. What I asked ... was for you to tell me what Treacher Collins Syndrome is. And that’s all I want to hear."
If I wouldn’t go to prison for it ... I’d implant his fork into his eye. "It’s a genetic, craniofacial birth defect. It’s caused by mutated genes that are passed down by one or both parents."
"And how often does it occur?"
"Approximately one in ten thousand."
"And how is it diagnosed?" he counters.
"Visual assessment is usually the first indicator. Depressed cheekbones, absent ears, downward slanting eyes, and a receding chin are some of the more obvious symptoms, but hearing loss, obstruction of the airway, and certain composites in blood work can also help diagnose the patient."
"Hmm." He stabs half of a strawberry with his fork, his eyes on mine. "Impressive."
That’s right, asshole. I *am* impressive. And you’d be wise not to cross me.
That’s what I think.
What I say is, "So, can I help out with the case?"
And I want to implant his fork in MY eye.
He grins, spearing another slice of strawberry. "Why should I let you?"
"Why shouldn’t you?"
"You’d be committed to the research?"
"Why wouldn’t I be?"
"And would you give me one hundred percent?"
"Is there a reason why you feel compelled to ask that?"
He chews a grape before he replies. "Would you stop answering every question with a question? Because that’s annoying and I don’t like to be annoyed."
"Well, I don’t like to be grilled like a first year intern. Maybe you should check my employee file and see what it says about my commitment and integrity. That was you could save your breath in the future."
Gavin Cole throws his head back and laughs out loud now. Several faces turn in our direction and I realize how easy it would be to karate chop him in the jugular. I’ve never disliked anyone so much after one meeting. I guess it’s true what they say about first impressions. He has yet to impress me and if he was anyone other than the Premiere Orthopedics God ... I’d tell him exactly what I’m thinking. But I can’t. Because he *is* the Premiere Orthopedics God and there’s a strong chance I could work with him. I could LEARN from him. I could put it on my resume and pretty much walk into any hospital in the country and get a job offer. And I have to think about things like that.
Because I only have a year and a half left of my residency at Seattle Grace.
And there’s no guarantee that Chief Webber will offer me a position.
"You are exactly what Simmons said you were," Gavin finally wheezes. "You’re willful, opinionated, and aggravating as HELL."
"That old bastard -"
"But he also said that you were the best, the brightest, and the one I should bring on board for Emma Foster’s case. So here we are." He takes a bite of his sandwich, still grinning. "Yes, Cal, you can work with me on the case. And if you continue to amuse me ... I’ll even let you hold the scalpel."
"Hold the - screw that! I help operate or I’m not interested."
He sips his drink and shrugs. "We’ll see."
"Yeah, I guess we will."
"You should eat lunch," he says. "If we can get Emma’s parents to sign on for this surgery ... it’ll be a long day. Research, you know."
I pick up my notes and stuff them under my arm. I nod at him once and head back the way I came, stopping at the vending machine to buy chips and a candy bar. It’s not the most nutritious lunch, but I need a sugar rush. After I buy a can of Coke, I head into the resident’s lounge and spread my notes out, carefully pouring over everything. I’m attempting to write a rough outline about the procedure itself when the door opens and all of my papers go flying. Erica stands in the doorway for just a second before she sweeps into the room and starts picking up my notes.
"Sorry, sorry," she mumbles and gathers everything before I can push my chair back and help. She holds them out to me and I watch her swallow before she speaks again. "We should talk about what happened last night."
I haven’t looked at her face. I can’t do it. Anytime she’s upset or hurt ... my first instinct is to comfort her. My first instinct is to chase it away. My own hurt, however, prevents me from being overly concerned about hers. "I’m really busy, Erica. I’ve got this huge case and -"
"And we have this huge problem between us, Callie. We have to address it."
"I’m going to take a page out of your book ... and keep my private life and my professional life separate. If you want to talk at home ... we can do that later. Right now, I’m working." I flip through the papers, trying to put them back in order. "So -"
"You’re going to hear me out." She doesn’t give me a chance to object. She plows ahead, speaking faster than I’ve ever heard. "I was with Helen that morning because I knew you were coming back and I needed someone to take my mind off you. I know that’s a piss poor excuse because even on her best day ... Helen could never chase you away, but I wanted her to try. I was terrified about what you would be saying to me that afternoon. I had this mental list of things you could be meeting me for. I thought you’d tell me that you were going to give it another try with Mark. I thought that maybe you found a job in Miami. Part of me was convinced that you were going to say that I had no place in your life anymore ... as a friend or anything else. I was scared. So ... I did sleep with her, but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart never left you. Callie ... can you please talk to me? Please?"
I put the papers down on the table and entwine my fingers, resting them on top of the notes. I still don’t look at her. I focus on a mole at the base of my thumb and say, "If I talk to you right now ... I’m going to say a lot of things that I’ll never be able to take back and -"
"You called me George! You can NEVER take that back!"
"- I don’t want to fight with you. So-"
"You have no reason to fight with me! We were not together! I was *single* and what I did while I was *single* is none of your business!"
Okay, that’s it. "NONE OF MY BUSINESS!? NONE OF MY - FUCK, ERICA! OF COURSE IT’S MY BUSINESS! YOU SLEPT WITH BOTH OF US ON THE SAME GOD DAMNED DAY!"
She holds her hands up like she’s surrendering, but it’s too late for that. "I just -"
"I DON’T CARE! DON’T SAY ANOTHER WORD!"
"STOP YELLING AT ME!"
"I TOLD YOU I DIDN’T WANT TO TALK!"
"YOU’RE NOT TALKING! YOU’RE YELLING!"
I snatch my notes up, shoving them into Emma Foster’s case file. She continues talking, telling me all about how she’s not to blame and how she had every right to sleep with anyone she wanted to, but the ringing in my ears eventually drowns her out.
There’s a small audience outside the lounge and I blow past them without seeing their faces.
Erica doesn’t follow.
I don’t know how I do it, but I somehow manage to put my best foot forward and convince the Foster family that bone reconstruction on Emma is necessary. Jonathan and Denise Foster have a laundry list of reasons why their little girl should NOT be subjected to more surgeries and I find the right words to reassure them. Dr. Cole is surprisingly silent for the most part, letting me do all the talking. He sits in front of his black wall with his accomplishments glaring out at the Fosters like they speak for themselves. Even when I look at him and implore him to say *something*, he just watches me and gives me a slight nod. I want to pick up his keyboard and bash him across the head with it.
When the Fosters agree to bring Emma in the following day for x-rays, I know that I have them in the bag. I don’t pull out any consent forms, but I do step up my game a notch, assuring them that our staff will go out of the way to ensure Emma’s safety during the surgery. They don’t shoot me down at all and when I shake their hands, I make sure to hold on a little longer and stare them in the eye. Part of being a doctor ... is being as persuasive as you can possibly be on elective surgery. Especially surgery that can and will alter a child’s appearance for better or worse. When the Foster’s leave the office, Gavin gives me a shit eating grin. "Nicely done, Calliope."
"Do not call me Calliope."
He points at me. "That’s what your jacket says."
"I can deal with Cal, though I’d prefer Dr. Torres."
"*Calliope*, you did a great job today."
I grit my teeth. "You didn’t. You just sat there and -"
"I have found that the best teachers are the ones who let their students test their wings before trying to tell them how to fly." He shrugs, unapologetic. "I don’t think you needed my help with them so I didn’t give it."
"So your teaching technique is to throw someone in the water and see if they can swim before you show them how."
"Yep. You got a problem with that?"
"No. I can swim just fine."
"I see that." He gets to his feet and picks up a long, leather jacket. "I’ll see you tomorrow. I trust you’ll have the consent forms signed by the time I review Emma’s x-rays."
"Just for future reference ... I don’t listen to any comment that starts with if, and, or but. Keep that in mind. Excuses are weak and a defeatist attitude makes me physically ill. So ... be a big girl and do your job." He gives me a cocky, lopsided grin. "Any questions? No? I didn’t think so."
The first time I met Simmons, he spent close to two hours thumbing through my letters of recommendation and school transcripts while I squirmed in the chair across from him. He was thorough, asking me about the surgery on my hip and why my grades fell slightly after that. He was unemotional and unaffected when I explained about Jasper.
I miss the geriatric asshole already.
It’s after ten when I finally make it home. My entire body is aching from hours spent in front of the computer and my right hand needs traction from all the notes I took. I still have to type them all and turn it into something cohesive to present to Chief Webber. I debated spending the night in the hospital to do just that, but the prospect of attempting to sleep in one of the bunk beds is just too much to even consider. I want to take a few Tylenol, soak in a hot bath, and then fall asleep under the ceiling fan. The house is dark when I make my way inside. I can smell something incredible in the kitchen, but I’m too tired to go and forage for food. I find Tylenol PM in the medicine cabinet and take two, then fill the guest bathtub with scalding water. It’s not as nice as the garden tub in the master bath, but it’ll do. I groan when I recline and the muscles in my neck scream to life.
There is a reason I don’t have a desk job.
I’m pruned and nowhere near eased off when I bathe and drain the tub a while later.
With another groan, I push myself upright and pad back down the hall to the guest room.
There’s a lap tray on the foot of the bed with a plate full of pasta and a single yellow rose in a small vase. I lift the rose, smelling it, then notice the book that is sitting next to the food. I pick it up and run my fingers over the front ... where the painting that the artist gave us in Italy ... has been copied onto the cover. Apparently Erica took a photo of the painting. Underneath that, it says Italy. I ignore the food in favor of thumbing through the scrapbook. Erica obviously worked hard on it and even though I’m still devastated by what she did ... I can’t help but smile at some of the captions she has written. And now I understand why she saved so many things that I was carelessly throwing away. Ticket stubs, maps, coasters, even the napkin that I wrote on ... it’s all here ... all in the pages of our book.
I finally cry.
It’s a silent outpouring of grief that I keep to myself.
And the Tylenol PM kicks in before I can go and tell her that it’s beautiful.
I fall asleep with it open on my chest ... dreaming about a time when I would have sworn we were invincible, but now ... I just don’t know.
Scrapbook! Ange is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!!
Poor Callie. Poor Erica.
Whose side are YOU on?