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. :)
I can’t think of anything better to wake up to than the smell of bacon frying. It takes me back to growing up in Miami. Mom never failed to cook a full breakfast every single day. She refused to let us go to school with a less than full stomach, but the best breakfast always came on Saturday. With no school looming over us, Mom would take her time and put together omelets and pancakes and canapés. And she’d let us eat in the living room with Saturday cartoons blaring. Jasper and I always flopped out on our stomachs with our chins propped in our hands while we waited for Mom to finish cooking and the smell of bacon would make both of our stomachs rumble with greedy anticipation. We’d gorge ourselves while the Smurfs ran from Gargamel and drink glasses of fresh squeezed juice while we laughed at Scooby Doo. Then we’d run our fingers through the syrup on the plates until we got every last drop. I never had to be an adult with Jasper. I never had to pretend that being ten years older than him mattered at all. He kept me young. He reminded me that there was magic in animation and laughter in a talking dog.
Lazy Saturdays ... I hope I can pass that down to my kids one day.
I hope they’ll let me join them on the floor and allow me see life through their eyes for a while.
I remember that it was a beautiful view.
Stretching, I attempt to pop my back and stifle a yawn at the same time. I fail on both counts and when I push myself into a sitting position I have to groan. Erica was right about the bed in the guest room. It’s not exactly comfortable and I’ve tangled myself in the cover in an attempt to get away from the torturous mattress. I’m in the process of unwrapping myself when the door opens and Erica walks in. She glances at the tray on the foot of the bed, where my untouched dinner is still resting, and a frown line appears on her forehead. I only look at her long enough to register that she obviously cried most of the night. Her nose is red. Her eyes are bloodshot.
"Did you eat dinner last night before you got home?" she asks softly and the roughness in her voice reinforces that my suspicions are correct. She definitely cried. "Callie -"
"No, I didn’t," I tell her, getting to my feet.
"I made breakfast."
Rubbing my hand over my face buys me a few seconds. I massage the back of my neck as I say, "I need to go in early and -"
"No, you don’t. I called Richard and told him we’d be a little late this morning. We *have* to talk."
"I can’t be late." I fumble for my cell phone and check the time. "Fuck! It’s after eight!"
"Richard was fine with it. Neither of us have surgeries and -"
"I have a meeting with Gavin at eleven, Erica! I’m supposed to have all this shit," I gesture at the notes that I brought home with me, "typed up and on his desk before that!"
"Gavin? You work with him one day and you’re already calling him Gavin and you’re apparently his personal secretary?" She crosses her arms over her chest. I see her out of the corner of my eye. I still can’t look at her full on ... because looking at her makes me relive what she was like on that fucking video. "I am asking you to TALK to me. I am BEGGING you to talk to me."
"And say what!?" I cry.
"How long are you going to sleep in here?!"
"Until I don’t want to anymore!"
"If we’re going to dredge up the past and be pissed at each other for it ... then maybe I should be pissed at you for calling me a whore that day in the hospital. Maybe I should be infuriated that you fucked me in Miami and then didn’t speak to me after that. Maybe I should bring up Mark Sloan and the fact that you had the best sex *ever* with him the night you found Helen here with me."
I stalk past her and go into our bedroom, where I rummage through the closet for something to wear.
She follows me and continues her tirade. "Do you not see how stupid this is? You’re pissed at me for *nothing*. I did not know that Helen was filming us. I stopped by her house that morning to pick up earrings that I had left there and one thing led to another -"
"Oh, spare me the fucking details!"
"I didn’t KNOW that she was filming it until after the fact! She thought it was funny! She had bought the camera for me and had it on the mantle. I was furious when I saw what she had done and I told her to erase it! I took the camera with me and I told her then that I never wanted to -"
"I really don’t care."
"WELL, I DO!" Erica shouts and her voice vibrates around the closet like a gong. It makes me jump and drop the pants I just pulled off the hanger. She reaches down to retrieve them, shaking her head. "I’m sorry. I don’t mean to yell ... but I’m scared. I’m terrified, okay? It’s never been like this between us and I don’t know what to do. I just - you won’t even look at me and I can’t stand that."
Her voice cracks and so does my resolve. I don’t snatch the pants from her. Instead, I take them gently and meet her eyes for the first time in what feels like forever. "I’m looking."
"I’m sorry," she says and I doubt that she can see me at all because she’s swimming in an ocean of tears. "I *never* wanted to hurt you and I did. I can’t even imagine what seeing that must have felt like for you and I wish I could change it. I’m *sorry*. I swear to God, though, Cal ... being without you these past two nights has nearly killed me. I need you. I don’t know how to not need you."
My jeans suddenly feel like a fully loaded barbell in my hands. I let them fall to the ground when she sobs and I walk across the small space, pulling her into my arms. She sags against me, clutching at the back of my shirt as she tells me again and again how much she loves me, how much she needs me, and how much she wants to fix what’s broken. I don’t bother telling her that what’s broken inside me has splintered into so many pieces that it would take an eternity to find them all. She’s hanging onto me like we’re fine and I don’t have the heart to tell her that we’re anything but fine. I don’t think I have a heart at all right now. It was effectively silenced by the fact that she could touch Helen ... and then touch me in the span of *hours*. I feel dirty. I feel *wronged*.
"Take the day off." She takes a step back, kissing my forehead, then my cheek. "I’ll call Richard and tell him that we both have food poisoning or -"
"I can’t." I pick up my jeans again and tug a shirt off the hanger. "I’m working on a big case and -"
"We need this."
"We’re both off in a couple of days. We took off for Jasper’s pre-op, remember?"
"I don’t have a couple of days in me, Callie!" she cries. "We can’t live this way! You can’t sleep in the other room or -"
"- stay out late at night to avoid me. This isn’t what we do. You talk to me and I talk to you and we work through it! You ... you’re giving up! Don’t do that to us! Don’t do that to me! Please!?"
I close my eyes and count to ten. When I open them she’s rubbing her own and her shoulders are hitching under the weight of her mostly silent sobs. It’s such a simple, pedestrian thing to do, but I feel it like a sucker punch in my gut when she grinds the heel of her hand against her eye and the dark smudge underneath stands out under the stark light in the closet. It slams me back to the cemetery, when we kneeled at her parent’s grave and I clung to her to dull the pain. *I* am causing it now and no matter how pissed she makes me ... knowing that she is shedding one tear over me is enough to buckle my knees. I rub a tear off her cheek and say, "Why don’t you take the day off and get some rest? I’ll try to be home early tonight."
"And we’ll talk then?"
She takes my hand in hers, clinging to it. "Are we okay?"
"I don’t know. I really ... I just don’t know." I squeeze her fingers and try to give her what hopefully passes for a decent smile. "But if we can be ... I want to be."
"I hope so."
She lets me walk past her and I get dressed in the bathroom. When I come out, hair piled on my head because there’s really no help for it, she’s lying on her back in the bed. I pull the cover up over her chest and kiss her forehead. "I’ll see you later."
"I love you." There’s a hopelessness in her voice when she says it; the same hopelessness that a doctor feels when they tell someone that they ‘believe’ they got all the cancer. It almost sounds like a prayer.
I rub my thumb over her cheek and the lump in my throat makes it difficult to speak at all. "I love you, too."
There’s nothing hopeful or hopeless in my tone.
I accept that I don’t know if I can forgive her.
The same way that I accept that I’ll never *not* love her.
Neither makes me feel very good at the moment.
I was wrong when I said that Simmons was long winded. I make it to the hospital by nine thirty and Gavin Cole is still reading me the riot act at fifteen minutes after ten. Forty five horrible, slow, and exasperating minutes pass and I can’t get a word in edgewise. He decides to tell me his life story and even though I pointedly yawn and pretend to doze off in the middle of it ... he won’t SHUT THE FUCK UP. He paces back and forth, slapping the hand written notes I brought in against the palm of his hand like they’re worthless. They are NOT worthless. I happen to have excellent penmanship and what would he do if computers had never been invented anyway. Fuck him. I’d like to shove the notes up his ass and yank them out his mouth and then punch him with them clutched in my fist.
"When I asked you if you could give me one hundred percent, Calliope, that was my way of subtly demanding one hundred and fifty percent at all times." He puts his hands on his hips, glaring at me. "Well?"
"Oh! You mean I get to speak now?" I lean forward and snatch the notes out of his hand. I snap the wadded up mess open and smooth it out against the arm of the chair. "In the forty five minutes that you have been charging back and forth in here like a maniac ... I could have gotten this typed up, so you have no one to blame but yourself. And the fact that I was still here at ten o’clock last night proves that I am at one hundred and *sixty* percent committed to this case. If you think you can find another *resident* who is willing to work late doing research so YOU won’t sound stupid when you start talking to the family ... then go ahead. "
He tilts his head to one side and I swear the ghost of a smile moves over his features for a split second. "You’re obviously in a bad mood."
"No shit, Sherlock."
"I would advise you not to bring your personal problems into my office."
"My personal problem is IN this office. And since you don’t know what subtlety is ... I’ll point out that I’m talking about *you*," I growl, trying to smooth out a particularly bad wrinkle on an important page of statistics. I overestimate my strength and rip the paper down the middle. "Now look what you made me do."
He picks up his tape dispenser and pulls off a piece, holding it out to me. "Please tell me you don’t have PMS."
I narrow my eyes into such tiny slits that I can barely see. "Please tell me you didn’t just go there."
"Look, you need to be the same upbeat and peppy cheerleader you were yesterday if we want to get the Foster family to -"
"I have never been nor will I ever be an upbeat and peppy cheerleader. The mere suggestion of something that ... grotesque ... will get you drawn and quartered." I pluck the tape dispenser out of his hand and repair the damage to the paper without his help. "Maybe the Foster family wouldn’t be so leery if you could prove that you’ve mastered the simple things ... you know ... like a comb and an iron."
Apparently my insult hits the mark because Cole stands up and opens the closet, staring at his reflection in the long mirror. "I suppose my scrubs are wrinkled."
"You look like you’ve dressed yourself in elephant skin."
"I didn’t know elephants came in navy blue."
"Apparently jackasses do."
"Ow. I’m wounded. Really." His eyes meet mine in the mirror. "While you were here sacrificing yourself on the Altar of Research and Righteous Indignation ... I was on a conference call with a doctor in Russia. He’s emailing us the links to video of a similar procedure on a boy with Treacher Collins Syndrome. If you think trolling the internet for information was hard ... you should attempt to carry on a conversation with Vlad Dracula."
"Dracula was from Romania. Not Russia."
"Who the hell cares?" he asks, pulling a can of Static Guard from his backpack. "I needed a translator to translate my OWN thoughts after we hung up. He kept saying ‘Ve vant to vork vith you even zo you are ze ebil Vesterners’."
"That was a pathetic accent."
"Lost a lot of brain cells on the phone with him."
I watch him spray himself from shoulder to heel and cough when the scent reaches me. "Great. You look like an elephant ass, but you smell like a rain forest."
"You’re obviously running out of material. I’m glad." He drops the can into the trash and pats his hair. "You ready for this?"
"Sure," I mumble dryly.
"Try not to sound so excited, Calliope, really. I can’t handle such enthusiasm for our craft."
"People who are repeatedly called ‘Calliope’ can’t show enthusiasm because they’re too busy plotting death."
"I can’t wait to meet your husband," he says, pointing at my left hand. "I need to ask him if he put that big rock on your finger before or *after* he got to know you."
"I’m not married," I tell him. "I’m *engaged* and *she* knows me better than anyone on earth ever could."
His eyes widen and he does a double take on the ring, then absently pops his knuckles. If I had known that my sexual orientation would render him speechless ... I would have announced it when I walked into his office this morning. Or at the very least ... I would have worn my ‘I love chicks, not dicks’ button. It lights up and everything. He picks up Emma’s chart and glances at the clock. "We should get a move on. Our first priority is getting those consent forms signed. I’m going to let you walk them through the actual procedure itself." He grins. "You know, because your notes are so top notch. And I don’t have a set of my own."
"You’re right. My notes are amazing. And you seem to know *everything* so you don’t need them." I follow him down the hallway and step into the elevator with my nose buried in said amazing notes so that *I* don’t make a fool of myself.
I glance behind me and smile when I see Mark. He’s leaning carelessly against the back of the elevator and he’s wearing the cocky smirk that usually comes directly before or directly after mind blowing sex. Judging by the raspberry colored hickey on his neck, I’ll go with the latter. "Hey, you." I rub my neck and wink at him. "Are you having a ... productive ... morning?"
Mark’s smile widens. "Perhaps you should ask Dr. Montgomery about that."
"Ohhhh yeah," he drawls, wiggling his eyebrows enough to make me giggle like a ... cheerleader. God, I need help.
I give him a thumbs up, letting him know that I’m happy for him, letting him know that I approve, and he nods. I’m pretty sure that the tattoo I left on his heart has been covered up beautifully. Addison wrote her name over mine and I doubt that you can see that I was ever there at all. I’m relieved. And sort of nostalgic all the same. Maybe I was only ever meant to be a speed bump on his path back to Addison.
"Excuse me," Gavin says, turning to look at Mark. "I’m sure whatever you did with this Dr. Montgomery was titillating, but *I* don’t want to hear about it and I’m pretty sure that my resident needs to focus on her job."
Mark pushes away from the wall, spreading his feet out shoulder width. "Is Webber paying you extra to be the thought police?"
"What you pay by the hour for the use of the on call room more than covers my fee," Cole replies nonchalantly.
Mark’s face turns eleven shades of red as the doors slide open. He takes a step forward and I move between him and Cole, shaking my head emphatically. I’m saved by the arrival of Derek, who magically appears in the doorway as if he sensed a disturbance in the elevator force field. He puts a hand on the door to prevent it from closing and says, "Mark, you’re needed in the ER."
"Someone may have popped a tit. Or maaaaybe someone’s ass implant is coming out sideways," Gavin says dramatically. "Go be productive as a *doctor* since you’ve proven your mettle as a stud today."
Turning his attention to me, Mark says, "I don’t like him."
"Me either," I assure him, patting his arm. "Walk away."
Mark walks between us, brushing against Cole on the way out. Cole chuckles and hits the button for one more floor. "Plastic surgeons are all the same," he says before the doors close. "They build the perfect woman and sleep with as many as they can to compensate for their own little -"
An arm shoots between the doors and I shove it back out. I finally breathe when the elevator begins to ascend once more. "When he kicks your ass," I say, "I’m not setting your bones! You have it coming!"
"You should be more concerned about his bones. And his lack of professionalism on the job."
"Like you’ve been the model of -"
"Watch and learn, Calliope. Watch and learn."
If there’s a lesson in working with Emma Foster ... *she* teaches it, not Gavin Cole. I fall in love with the little girl at first sight. Even though she is partially blind, she walks right up to me and holds her arms up, waiting for me to lift her. She’s light as a feather as I pick her up and she pats me on the shoulder as if she’s reassuring me that she’s happy to see me. Both of her eyes protrude and turn downward at the corners. Her left eye is milky and no use to her, but her right eye is dark brown and so expressive I can barely look into it enough. It’s like a brown crystal ball into her soul. There are tubes running out of her nose that aid her in breathing and a band around her throat that holds in her tracheotomy tube. The most shocking thing about her appearance, however, is the absence of her lower jaw. It makes her bottom lip and tongue flap helplessly with no support at all. And the constant air exposure has left her tongue swollen and dried out. This is what we hope to correct by taking two of her ribs and shaping them perfectly to recreate what she was not given in the womb. If we can build her a jawbone and teach her how to use it ... her life will change.
If this is carpentry ... then we’re really just God’s architects and builders all rolled into one.
I hold Emma in my lap, where she happily plays with the round end of my stethoscope as I walk her parents through the procedure. Derek has loaned us one of his gel filled heads and Emma holds it for me in her strong, perfect hands while I point to a few key places on the face to show where the incisions will be and what will take place once we’re inside. When I mention Emma’s ribs, she lifts her shirt and points at her side. She’s listening intently to me, hanging on every word I say, and for reasons unknown to me ... I’m oddly touched by that. There is nothing at all wrong with her brain, but her face doesn’t match.
Just like Jasper’s face is too handsome and flawless for his broken brain.
God has a strange sense of humor.
I tickle Emma’s ribs and I think she laughs. It’s more of a snorting, sucking sound that makes her mother use a syringe to clear her airway. Emma tolerates this and doesn’t move, doesn’t flinch, and doesn’t take her one good eye off me. If I don’t do anything else with my career ... I want to give this little girl the ability to laugh out loud. I don’t care if her jaw is never strong enough to chew or if we can’t align it perfectly to keep her tongue inside. As long as she can *laugh* and I can hear it one time ... it’ll be enough for me. Emma Foster could be the highlight of my career even without surgery. When she touches my face and makes that snorting sound again ... I goose her once and smile down at her, rubbing a champagne blond curl off her forehead.
She does the same for me, pushing my bangs aside.
I touch her nose.
She touches mine.
I tug her ear.
She tugs mine right back and snorts again.
I don’t even realize that the Fosters have signed the consent forms until Emma dozes in my arms and Gavin taps me on the shoulder. My back is killing me from sitting upright with no support and I ease the little girl into her father’s outstretched arms, pausing to give her a kiss. The second I mention consent, Gavin holds up the papers and tells me that everything’s covered. In two days ... I will be assisting on a surgery that will not only put my name in the books ... I’ll be giving a faceless little girl a jaw that I hope she can clench in exasperation. I walk the family to their car and head back inside, famished.
Cafeteria food is really nothing to write home about, but I don’t feel like going to Joe’s today. I want to sit and read my notes again and make sure that I can help Dr. Douchebag perform the perfect surgery on the perfect little girl. I have my notes tucked under my arm as I weave through the lunch crowd in search of an empty seat. I want to be alone so I shake my head at Lexie, who frantically waves at me and points at the chair beside George. I also decline an offer from Cristina, who invites me by kicking an empty chair into my path which I almost trip over. Luckily for me, Sloan’s reflexes are as quick as ever because he catches me before I can face plant.
"You know what," he says, "thank me by filing some kind of complaint against Dr. McAss and get him the hell out of here."
"Dr. McAss is the best McOrtho that ever lived."
He scoffs, waving a hand to dismiss the idea. "Carpenters are a dime a dozen. You could go out on the street corner and find a construction worker who could do the same thing that he does. And they’d probably have a better attitude because the pay is so much fucking better."
I grit my teeth hard enough to break them and point at my badge, which proudly announces that I belong to the Department of Orthopedics. Mark’s eyes widen and he backtracks beautifully. "Uh ... I didn’t mean you, Cal. You are not a carpenter. Well, I mean, you are, but well ... you’re a better carpenter than *Jesus*."
I have to laugh at that. "One day ... Jesus is going to hit you with a bolt of lightning and I’m going to belly laugh."
He picks up the chair and kicks it back toward Yang. "I pity you having to work with that son of a bitch."
"Trust me, I’ve been drowning myself in a pity pool of my own." I pluck a French fry off my tray and chew it. "I feel a good old fashioned round of hazing coming on. I need to make him suffer."
"Oh, I’m the king of torment. Leave it to me." Mark helps himself to half of my sandwich. "I’m finished. Take my seat. Addison should be here soon."
"You’re not going to eat with her?"
"Can’t. Surgery. McAss was right about the popped tit. Some stripper got punched and now she’s carrying around a breast so full of saline that it’s sagging to her belly."
"No, nice imagery would be telling you that she’s left it like that so long that I’ll never be able to repair the stretch marks." He eats another fry. "See you later."
I watch him go and pick up what’s left of my turkey on wheat. I’m a couple of bites into it when my pager goes off. Food will have to wait. Trauma, thy name is me.
What awaits me in the Emergency Room is nothing short of jarring. Jerry O’Malley has the worst case of road rash I’ve ever seen and I’m pretty sure that the dirt bike I’ve been hearing through the woods the past few days is to blame. His left shoulder is obviously dislocated and his right wrist is swollen out like a softball has been implanted under the skin. George meets me with his brother’s x-rays before I can do little more than greet the O’Malley family. Louise is crying while she gives her son a tongue lashing that would rival anything my mother has ever said to me. I put the films up and confirm the dislocation and the wrist fracture. Neither will need surgery and I’m personally so grateful for that I could cry. I do NOT want to operate on my ex brother in law. It’s just ... strange.
"So, Jerry," I say, lifting his left hand while I prod his shoulder. "Tell me what you were doing today."
"That asshat," Jerry replies, pointing at Ronnie, "bet me a hundred dollars that I couldn’t jump a ramp he built."
"You couldn’t!" Ronnie snaps. "Obviously!"
"It was shoddy workmanship!" Jerry growls, looking up at me. "The damn thing fell apart and I went over the ... HANDLEBAAAAAAARS!!!!!!! AHHHH! OH MY GOD!!!!!!"
His shoulder goes back into place without much prodding from me and you can hear a pin drop in the room because of the silence that descends. I don’t think anyone is breathing. I take the sling that George holds out and fit it around Jerry’s neck. He won’t look at me and I chuckle a little. "It hurts less if you don’t know it’s coming."
Jerry exhales and I can smell sour cream and onion chips on his breath. "Are you going to do that same thing to my wrist?"
"Nope," I pat him on the shoulder and he hisses. "I’m going to rely on gravity to do it for me."
"Oh god," Ronnie cries. "What’s that!?"
"Gravity?" I ask, brows up high.
"Yeah!" Ronnie says. "It sounds bad."
Louise meets my eyes and says, "Don’t look at me. I merely brought them into the world."
By the time Jerry is connected to the proper equipment, I’m ready to go home. My back still hurts from holding Emma for over two hours and even though I don’t know what’s going to happen when I talk to Erica ... I want nothing more than to put my head in her lap and let her rake her fingers through my hair until I can effectively put this day and our fight behind us. I change in record time and actually have the exit sign in sight when Dr. Cole calls my name from the breezeway. Like an asshole, I stumble when he says ‘Calliope’ a second time. If I hadn’t stumbled, I could pretend that I didn’t hear him. Or, you know, tell him tomorrow that hearing that name causes instant deafness, but I can’t do that now.
I make it too obvious that I heard him.
"Yes, evil overlord?" I snap, turning and looking up at him. He’s dressed in his jeans and another logo t-shirt and if it’s possible ... his hair is standing up even more. If I had a slingshot, I’d aim something at his forehead because he looks that damn smug. "What!?"
"You weren’t thinking of leaving were you?"
"You came in late," he tells me and his voice is carrying all over the lobby. People are *looking*. "And we need to review the surgery that Vlad sent us."
"Can we do that tomorrow?"
"If I wanted to do it tomorrow ... I wouldn’t bring it up today." He points back toward the elevator I just exited. "I’ll meet you in my office."
"Fuck," I mutter under my breath.
Cristina enters the elevator with me and she’s got a sardonic smile on her face. "You know," she says, "I think I’m glad that Hahn has a hands off approach with me. She doesn’t want me around enough to make me jump through flaming hoops."
Yang laughs and pats my arm. "On the plus side ... he’s hot in that Cobain meets Captain Jack meets Brad Pitt way."
"No, he’s ugly in that Satan meets a Chia Pet meets a slapped ass way. I mean, who wears their hair that way!?"
"I like him." Cristina shrugs. "Egotistical doctors are so much better than the modest ones."
"Who’s a better surgeon ... Bambi or me?"
"*Bambi* was the heart in the elevator guy."
"And *I* was the first year intern who single handily salvaged Preston Burke’s career by performing most of his surgeries solo. I win."
The doors open and Gavin is waiting. He looks me over, gazing a little too long at my Ramones shirt, then he turns his attention to Cristina. "Hello, Dr. Yang."
"Dr. Cole," she replies and her voice oozes the kind of professionalism that I have never been able to muster.
"I’m Dr. Torres, yay, we’re all introduced. Can we get on with it?" I adjust my purse strap and tap my watch. "I have things to do."
"Is she always so ..." Gavin begins.
"Bitchy?" Yang offers. "Always, sir. And ... I overheard that you have a video of a bone graft from Russia and I was wondering if -"
"You want to watch?" Gavin offers, acting like he just took the moon and stars out of the sky and has offered her first choice of what she wants for herself. "Absolutely. Incidentally, Dr. Yang, I watched you assisting Dr. Hahn yesterday on the heart transplant. Your technique is to be commended."
"Thank you, Dr. Cole," Cristina nods her head and because I know her ... I know that she’ll go into the bathroom at the first chance to jump around and dance with glee over the complement. She’ll shimmy, shake, and goose step while she sings a song of her own creation that makes it clear she’s the best doctor who ever graced the face of the earth. "Cardio is my calling, but I’ve always been fascinated with orthopedics."
I have a tendency to tune out bullshit. Actually, I have a bullshit meter built right into my psyche and it’s currently beeping loud enough to drown out the conversation so I trail after the liar and McAss with blessed deafness. He leaves handling the laptop and getting the video to play on the big screen on the wall up to me. It takes me nearly thirty minutes and by then ... I’ve tried and failed to tune them out any further.
They don’t talk about anything except medicine, but by the time the video starts ... I feel like I’ve been spying on someone’s foreplay and I can’t wait to go home and take a hot shower to drown the mental image.
Yang apparently has a crush.
And McAss apparently enjoys being crushed.
I want to hit the both with a sledgehammer and call it a night.
Russian surgeons are incredibly long winded. McAss apparently agrees because he shuts off the video after he nods off and I elbow him in the ribs. When he tells me we’ll pick it back up the following day, I get that same sense of happy elation that a child gets on the last day of school when the final bell rings. I’M FREE. I practically run to my car and I can’t even pretend to be shocked when I see that it’s almost ten. I’m not only famished, I’m exhausted. I’m so tired that I actually worry about dozing off on the drive home so I turn the radio up full blast and roll the windows down so the cool September air can keep me awake. And I don’t think about work. What I think about is the fact that Erica’s birthday is coming up next month and she has already threatened me. She does not want a party. She does not want me to acknowledge it at work or make a big deal about it. She wants me to take her to the restaurant on top of the Archfield and not do anything out of the ordinary.
She obviously knows me better than that, but I let her get her threats out of the way all the same.
All the lights are off in the house when I pull in and I hate that the garage door is so noisy. If Erica is sleeping, I don’t want to wake her up.
I don’t want to wake her up because I’m terrified of ‘the talk’ that she keeps saying we need to have.
I sit in the garage for five minutes before I go inside and Erica’s been cooking again. Something smells amazing and I make a beeline for the kitchen. It’s a shock to my system to realize that all I’ve had in a couple of days is a few bites of a sandwich and a couple of French fries. My stomach gurgles to life as I try to find the source of the smell. I locate it on the dining room table and my appetite goes out the window.
Erica cooked lasagna and set the table beautifully. There’s a bottle of wine that would have been chilling in ice a few hours ago, but now it’s submerged in water, the condensation pooling on the table. Two large, unlit candles sit next to the lasagna and the plates that she set the table with are the fancy ones she keeps in the China cabinet. Two empty wine glasses remind me of how empty I feel inside and I hate myself for missing dinner with her. I hate myself for not calling her to tell her I’d be late. I hate myself for being pissed at her for being *human* and *flawed*. And most of all ... I hate myself for the pride that refuses to let me suck it up and go crawl in bed with her.
I put the lid on the lasagna and put it in the fridge, then I put away the dishes and mop up the water that soaked the table. When I finally go upstairs ... I linger in the hallway, torn between two doors. I could go into the guest room and fall into bed ... or I can go into the master bedroom and see if she’s still awake. I worry my bottom lip between my teeth as I try valiantly to push the nagging voice out of my head that keeps telling me that she betrayed me. That voice comes complete with a play by play of Erica’s acting debut with Helen and I can’t ... I just ... can’t do it.
I also can’t face another night in the guest room.
I go back to the living room and sit down on the sofa.
I guess I’m so exhausted that I don’t need to stretch out because I’m still sitting up when Erica shakes me awake the following morning. She doesn’t speak to me as she puts my clean scrubs on the coffee table and tucks her own navy blue ones into her bag. I reach out to touch her hand, but she pulls back before I can make contact and slings her purse over her shoulder. Her eyes never meet mine as she takes her keys off the hook beside the door and she leaves before I can think of a single thing to say. I get to my feet when the door closes and it’s like standing up in an endless, silent cavern and realizing that you’re completely alone and no one is there to hear you cry.
That’s exactly what I do in the shower.
And I’m still doing it when I park my Infiniti next to her Lexus in the deck at the hospital.
At least our cars can be close.
We’re certainly not.
Maybe it’s the full moon.
Maybe it’s the full moon or I’m having a nightmare.
I walk into the cafeteria after watching hours of poorly filmed video and find Addison sitting with Erica. They both look at me when they see me staring, they both scowl like I’ve slapped them, and then they turn back to one another and start talking. I’m sure they’re talking about me because my ears start ringing incessantly and I do the brave, grown up thing ... I turn around and leave the cafeteria in favor of the vending machine in the resident’s lounge. Let them be pissed at me if they want ... I’ll love myself enough to eat two packs of Twinkies and chase it with a Dr. Pepper. Or two. Possibly three. Take that.
I’m finishing off the first pack of sugary goodness when the door opens and Addison walks in. She nods at a couple of people before she joins me at the small table I’ve taken refuge at. Not waiting for an invitation, she pulls out the chair next to mine and helps herself to my unopened pack of snack cakes. She takes a bite, licking the creamy filling off her top lip while she glares at me. I slump back in my chair, trying to show her that I don’t want to fight with her, but she doesn’t read body language very well. She never has.
"You’re fucking up," she tells me in a low voice, glancing behind her as the two doctors that were watching television leave the room. Now that we’re alone, she speaks in a normal tone. "Callie, I’m your friend and I pretty much adore you so I’m going to tell you like it is."
"If you adore me ... keep it to yourself."
"No." She shakes her head and takes another bite. "You’re punishing her for doing the same thing you did."
"I did *not* sleep with Helen!"
Addison shoots me a look that shows her exasperation. "You were broken up with Mark when you slept with Erica ... the same way that Erica was broken up with you when she slept with Helen. And I know that you don’t want me to inject logic into this little tantrum of yours, but you’ve told me *everything* that transpired between you and Mark and Erica so I want to remind you that you left Mark here at the hospital the night he tried to make love with you after your surgery and you went to her ... where you would have slept with her if Helen had not been there ... and then you went home and had sex with Mark. So, how exactly are you in a position to judge *her* when you would have done the same thing?
"I know that it hurt to see that video. I know it did. I know that it shocked you and pissed you off beyond words and you feel like she wronged you but she didn’t. You *destroyed* her ... repeatedly ... and if you blame her for trying to find comfort anywhere she could get it after that ... then you pretty much suck." Addison takes my Dr. Pepper out of my hand and takes a sip. "She loves you. You love her. And yeah ... there were other people involved, but it’s not like she slept with her after the two of you got back together. And you know what? She never would have slept with her at *all* if you had not acted like an idiot after Miami. She was ready to commit to you then. She knew she loved you and *you* pushed her away. You moved in with Mark and for all she knew you were sleeping with him. So don’t you *dare* act like you have a right to play the victim in all of this. You’re not."
I accept the can when she holds it back out to me, but I don’t drink it.
Why in the hell does Addison Forbes Montgomery Shepherd Montgomery *always* have to be fucking *right*?!
I keep holding Erica up to a ridiculously high standard that she can’t possibly live up to. I spent months imagining how perfect my life would be with her and lamenting the fact that I couldn’t have her. I spent hours praying for some kind of miracle that would bring us full circle so we could find our way back together and I never once acknowledged that I visited every form of torture on HER that I could possibly visit. I made her fly in an airplane back to Seattle from Miami with a million and one unanswered questions that I wouldn’t acknowledge. Then I forced her to watch me leave with Mark and then move in with him. And I invited her over as her ‘friend’ to let her see our picture over the mantle and our perfect storybook life ... but I expected her to not go forward with *hers*.
And somehow, for reasons I don’t understand at all, God did let us come full circle and here we are.
We’re happy. We’re together. We’re getting *married*.
So why in the blue blazes of HELL am I pissed at her for chasing happiness? I wouldn’t let her chase *me* ... what else was she supposed to do?
"Fuck." I say, pushing my chair back. "I need to go find her."
"She just went into surgery," Addison tells me, shrugging her shoulders. "So, you’ll have to suffer the way you’ve made her suffer."
I sit down again. "When did you and Erica become such good friends?"
"When I made the effort to get to know her. You’d be surprised at how much we bonded over that lump in her breast. I genuinely like her, Callie. And I love the way she loves you. As bad as you have it for her ... she’s even worse over you. That day that I examined the lump ... she wasn’t worried about herself. She sat there and cried because she was afraid she’d let you down by getting sick. She couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing you."
If Addison is trying to make me cry ... it’s working. She seems to realize that I’m falling apart because she hugs me, rubbing my back as I cling to her. "I hate being so damn stubborn," I admit. "And I hate my pride."
"Then fix it." She sits back and hands me a napkin. "Go home early and cook her dinner and ... fix it."
I nod at her, but before I can thank her for the advice, my pager goes off. Unfortunately, it’s not a trauma. I’m being summoned to Gavin’s office. He’s got his feet propped on the desk and is thumbing through a motorcycle magazine when I pause in the doorway to glare at him. What self respecting man wears yellow Crocs with no socks? I really don’t want to have to see his hairy ankles and I can’t imagine that it’s very sanitary, either. He doesn’t acknowledge me other than to point at the chair across from his desk. "I’d rather stand," I tell him. "I’m leaving early, by the way. I have -"
"I was about to tell you that you definitely need to head out early to get some rest. Tomorrow is going to be a big day, Calliope. We will make or break a little girl and we have to keep that in mind. Everything we do during that surgery will impact Emma for the rest of her life." He flips a page in his magazine and glances up at me. "You’re going to give me one hundred and sixty percent, right?"
"I think I can muster two hundred percent for this surgery." I give him a smile, but really ... it’s not because of him. It’s because I’m ready to repair my love life and when I wake up tomorrow ... I’ll be in Erica’s arms and that’s always a great way to start the day. "So, I’m gonna go and -"
"Is it true that your ... fiancé ... is Erica Hahn?" He eyeballs me in a way that I’m not very fond of.
"Yes, it is."
His brows go up about two inches. "Wow. Everything I’ve always heard about Hahn ... none of it ever included her making time for a personal life."
"She manages just fine," I assure him. "Are we done now? I have some things I need to do and -"
"Yeah, sure." He pushes himself back and stands up, motioning toward the door.
I don’t actually need an escort, but he seems intent on following me. He starts to ramble about taking a motorcycle ride to clear his head and I pause in front of the nurse’s station to make sure that there are no cases that I need to work on before I leave. He keeps talking, babbling now, and I have no idea if there’s a point he’s trying to make. I cross my arms over my chest and lean back against the counter. "Do you always do this before a big surgery?" I ask.
"Do what?" he replies.
"Oh." He chuckles and rubs the back of his neck. "Yeah, I do."
"Great. I’ll make sure that I keep my iPod handy tomorrow because your voice is like nails on a chalkboard."
"Speaking of tomorrow," he says, ignoring my barb, "I heard this rumor that you like to jam out in the operating room."
"Yeah and I’m not changing that for you. If you have a problem with music then I suggest you bring your own iPod."
"God, you really are quick to jump to conclusions aren’t you, Calliope?"
"What’s your middle name?" I ask. When he doesn’t answer right away, I reach into his pocket and take his wallet, flipping it open and laughing at his driver’s license photo. "Well, well, well. Apparently your mother was a music fan as well."
"Don’t put your hand in my pocket unless it’s an invitation," he growls, snatching his wallet from me. "And if you value your life at all ... do not call me that!"
"Say my name, bitch," I politely tell him. "Now."
"Callie. Okay? You’re Callie. And if *anyone* here calls me by my middle name ... I’ll ... I’ll ... you don’t want to know what I’ll do. Because it will keep you up all night worrying." He turns on his heel and stalks away, hands on his hips.
"I’m shakin’!" I call after him. "Anyone with *that* name can’t be scary, dude!"
"It’s a good thing you’re pretty, Torres, because you’re diabolical," he says over his shoulder, still walking. "Now go away!"
I’m still laughing at him and his middle name when someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn around and the smile fades off my face instantly. Erica has obviously been sitting behind the desk at the nurse’s station and I didn’t see her. I recover fast and prop my elbows on the counter. "What time are you getting off, Yellow?"
Erica glances left, then right, leaning closer to me. "What the hell was that just now?"
"What was what?"
"Is this why you’re so late every night? You need to hang around and flirt with him?"
"Flirt!?" I laugh at the absurdity of it. "Didn’t you get the memo? We hate each other."
"Right." She takes a step back and snatches her chart off the desk. "Of course you do. I have work to do."
She doesn’t listen to me so I jog the length of the station and catch up with her in the hallway. When I put my hand on her arm, she stops walking and whirls around to face me. "What, Callie!?"
"I thought you were in surgery. Addison said -"
"I got bumped until tomorrow. There was a trauma downstairs." Her eyes move over my face. "Anything else?"
"What time is your shift over today?"
"Because you’re right. We need to talk."
She swallows and I watch the muscles in her throat constrict. To my shock and horror, her chin trembles as she purses her lips together. "Fine," she finally says. "I’ll be done here in a couple of hours."
The tightness in her voice is a dead giveaway that she’s barely keeping her emotions in check, but before I can reassure her or tell her that I’m sorry for everything, she stalks into a patient’s room. I wait ten minutes and finally give up. I’ll just cook something fantastic and try to recreate the beautiful atmosphere she had going on last night.
We’ll be fine.
I don’t light the candles on the table until the security alarm beeps to let me know she’s entered the code in at the gate. I’m sure there are more romantic meals than spaghetti, but I’m seriously handicapped in the kitchen and I do want her to be able to actually eat it. I pick up the sunflower bouquet I bought at the florist and walk into the living room, waiting for the door to open. She takes her sweet ass time and when she finally comes in she’s looking at the floor. She’s pulled her hair up into a messy ponytail and when she sniffles, I know that she’s crying. I put the vase on the coffee table and reach out, taking her purse.
"So, I have this huge problem," I tell her, keeping it light. "I really need to talk to my best friend so can you be that person and let me talk to you?"
Erica smoothes her palms over her cheeks and nods at me. "You can talk to me about anything."
I point at the sofa and she sits down. I sit a few inches away from her and take a deep breath. "I have the biggest surgery of my career tomorrow and I can’t concentrate on it."
"I heard about it today. I’ll be in the gallery watching. It should be fascinating." She glances at me, then looks away fast. "Why can’t you concentrate?"
"Because I’m pretty sure that I screwed up with my fiancé." I watch her face, but it remains impassive. "I knew that she had this insanely pretty ex-girlfriend, but I saw a video of them and ... well, it drove home that this other woman is everything I’m not. She’s got a perfect body and she’s young and ... beautiful. So, my insecurities came out and I started a huge fight because ... I’m terrified that my fiancé is going to compare me to her and see that I’m nothing like that and maybe she’ll regret that she chose me. But I’m not mad anymore and I really don’t know what to say to her to make her understand that."
Erica ponders my words for a while before she speaks. "I’m pretty sure that your fiancé thinks that you’re the most beautiful woman she’s ever seen. And ... she probably slept with that other woman because she was so different from you, but I’d be willing to bet she still saw you and wanted you the entire time she was with her. I’d be willing to bet she cried every time it was over because ... she couldn’t make her be you ... no matter how she tried.
"And, Callie, I also think that seeing your reaction to that video hurt her as much as it hurt you. Because she has a tendency to feel everything right along with you because she loves you that much. As for regretting her choice ... how could a person regret the best decision of their life. I know your fiancé and I think she’d tell you that you’re the only thing in the world that she loves more than her career. You’re her *life* and anything that happened before you ... she doesn’t care about and neither should you."
I reach out and squeeze her hand. "You’re the best friend I’ve ever had."
"Well, I - I need to talk to you, too. About *my* love life."
"I’m all ears," I tell her.
"I’m in love with this amazing woman and I still have to pinch myself sometimes to believe that it’s real," Erica says and she keeps a grip on my hand. "But I think maybe I’m failing when it comes to making sure she knows what she means to me. She is, without a doubt, the sexiest and most desirable woman I’ve ever seen. When I touch her I feel blessed and so lucky that she’s given me that right. I’m doing something wrong, though, because she obviously doesn’t know that I feel that way. I need to do something to make her realize what I feel for her so that she never doubts it again. What would you suggest?"
"You’ve put me in a very difficult position." I scoot to the edge of the sofa and pull my boots off, setting them aside. I slowly take out my earrings and then move my hands to the buttons on my shirt. "I mean, I am your best friend so I should just ... show you what I suggest and if you do this to her ... I’m pretty sure that it will erase all doubt that she has."
Erica watches me unbutton my shirt and licks her lips. "No ... I’m very faithful to her. You can’t tempt me."
I slide my shirt off and reach for the clasp on the front of my bra. "Not even a little?"
Her lips part when I flip open the clasp and my breasts fall free. "Maybe a little."
I stand up and unbutton my pants and she doesn’t move ... she simply watches every move I make. I take my panties down with my jeans and kick them aside. When I straddle her legs, she runs her hands over mine and rests them against my hips. I think she’s going to tease my nipple, but she doesn’t. Instead, she rests her forehead against my chest and I feel her shoulders shake as she starts to cry. "Erica -"
"I really am sorry," she tells me. "I never wanted to -"
"I know." I kiss the top of her head, then cup her face, forcing her to look up at me. "It’s okay."
When I kiss her mouth, she moves her arms around my waist and pulls me flush against her, holding so tightly that it’s almost uncomfortable. Almost, but not entirely. Our tongues touch, our lips move slowly and thoroughly, and my body starts to ache in all the places that hurt so good. I wedge my arm between us and start inching her shirt up, teasing patches of her skin as I pull the fabric upward.
"Wait," she whispers, her mouth against mine. "We really should talk about -"
"I’m *not* fine," she snaps. "We need to establish a few things here."
I rest my hands on her shoulders, playing with the curly hairs on her neck. "I’ll establish anything you want AFTER we make up for lost time."
I have to admit ... I’m stunned when she turns to the side and pushes me off her lap. I fall back on the sofa and sit up, watching her stumble to her feet and pace the length of the living room once. "What is your problem now!?" I demand.
"You!" she cries. "Sex is not the answer here!!"
"Then what is!?!"
"Do you understand that you *left* me? You blew out of here and left me wondering if you were coming back! You slept in the other room, you refused to speak to me, you treated me like shit, and that’s not acceptable!" She stops pacing and points her finger at me. "When you’re in a relationship ... you can’t do that! We’ve had this conversation before and you told me you wouldn’t leave!"
"No, I told you I’d always come home ... which I did."
"Home ... is with me. In our bed. You may have been in the house, but you weren’t home!" She puts her hands on her hips and I don’t know why I do it ... but I roll my eyes. Wrong. Thing. To. Do. "Did you just - you know what? Fuck it! You don’t want to take this seriously so neither do I. I’m going to take a shower and you can sleep in the god damned guest room again!"
"I don’t want to sleep in there!"
"Fine! I’ll sleep in there!"
"Erica, I am trying like HELL to apologize when I’m not even the one who should be apologizing and -"
She picks up her purse and leaves me standing there naked and stunned.
This certainly didn’t go the way that I planned.
I go to the basement and find a clean pair of pajamas, then shower in the hallway bathroom. It has no water pressure to speak of so I rush through it and yank a brush through my wet hair before I head into the guest room. The unmade bed looks like a torture chamber to me. I sit down on the edge of it to towel the ends of my hair and I know that it’s going to be a sleepless night for me. And I can’t afford a sleepless night. I’m going to be holding a little girl’s life in my hands tomorrow and I need to be rested when I do that.
My pride attempts to kick my ass as I stand up and walk across the hallway. I can’t believe I knock on the door like a well trained child ... like a visitor. Erica calls out a terse, "What?!"
I push it open and step into *our* bedroom. She’s eating a bowl of cereal as she sits propped against the headboard with the remote control in her lap. I glance at the television before I look back at her. "This surgery that I’m doing tomorrow will probably last well over twelve hours."
"So ... the only time I sleep well is when I’m with you. Can I please stay in here?"
She holds her spoon in her mouth, glaring at me for a while before she answers. "Did you eat anything for dinner?"
"What did you have for lunch?"
"Do you want some cereal? We have the chocolate kind you like and -"
"I just want to go to sleep. Please?"
She nods at me and moves a book off my side of the bed. I walk into the bathroom and brush my teeth, trying to will myself not to cry. When I return to the bedroom she’s not there and my heart sinks, but she comes back in before I can go and look for her. I pull the cover back and climb in, turning my back to her. I hear her sigh and feel the bed shift under her weight. She flips a few channels on the television and settles on the nightly news which is always enough to put us both to sleep. I listen to the weather report and try to unwind, but I feel like my insides are knotted in untidy little bows so I fail miserably.
She turns the television off after the news and I hear her put the remote on her bedside table. She checks the alarm on her phone and tugs at the cover, causing me to lift my arm so she can take what she needs. Apparently she views it as an invitation because she spoons against my back and slides her arm under mine, resting her palm between my breasts.
"You’re going to do just fine tomorrow, Callie."
Her breath tickles my ear and I cover her hand with mine, lacing our fingers together. Her faith in me is like a deep tissue massage and the warmth of her body against my cold one feels like a lullaby. My eyes are sliding closed when she kisses my neck and whispers, "Welcome home, baby."
I roll over then and she opens her arms for me.
We don’t make love.
But she makes the fear that is seizing my gut vanish.
And I sleep like a baby with my head on her shoulder and my arm holding her close.
Thank you all for the feedback on the last chapter. I have to confess ... that's why this chapter happened so quickly. I was inspired by YOU. :)
Please drop me a line. I love to interact with you all. :)