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 have woken up to many different scenarios in my life. Some of them weren't that great. Senior year of college? I woke up butt naked with my face in the sand with a cop waiting nearby to write me a ticket. My father got me out of that little jam with quite a bit of money and never told my mother, which I need to thank him for again. My first year as an intern? I woke up when a fellow intern vomited in my hair because someone had vomited on her and she didn't quite make it to the shower. In Vegas, I woke up to George trying to develop a foot fetish because he felt that sucking his *wife's* toe was someone more sanitary than a random girl (which ended badly for him because I'm so ticklish). And by far and away ... the worst time I woke up was in the recovery room alone after the surgery to repair my hip and leg after the boating accident. I had no idea where I was or what had happened, but I was too weak to scream.
I am one hundred percent sure that I went to sleep in Erica's arms.
But I am alone in our bed and she is nowhere to be seen.
This? This may top them all as bad awakenings.
I am on my feet so fast that I tangle up in the cover and make quite a racket hitting the ground. Because it's only one of the most important days in my (and Emma Foster's) life, I also whack my head on the roll top desk that's against the wall and see stars for about twenty seconds. Ruma and Feo, who had been sleeping with me immediately take cover under the bed and I'm tempted to try to follow when the door is flung open and Erica flips the light on.
I hear the patter of her slippers as she hurries around the bed. "Oh my god, baby! What happened?"
"Where were you?"
She pulls the cover from under my legs and extends her hand. "Well, you have to be at the hospital early so I thought I'd cook something. You know ... it's a big day for you and ... what did you hit your head on? You're bleeding."
"Great." I let her help me to my feet and squeeze my eyes closed, hoping the fuzziness fades. "Do me a favor?"
She nods at me, picking up a box of tissue and pressing one against my eyebrow. "What do you need?"
"I need for you to be here when I wake up."
I watch her jaw clench a little and her eyes narrow. This is not a good sign. Really. "How on earth did you manage when you *chose* to sleep in the guest room and on the sofa?"
"You know, it amazes me that what *you* need always comes before what *I* need." She puts a little too much pressure on the tissue and I hiss, flinching away. She removes it and eyes the damage. "Are pancakes fine?"
"I don't want anything."
"You are going to be in surgery for hours. You need to go into with a full stomach and -"
"You obviously don't remember much about *my* needs or you'd remember that I skip breakfast on big surgery days. I'm too nervous to eat. I've only told you that a million times." Reaching up, I prod the small gash on my head and grit my teeth. This really is not how I want to start the morning. It will inevitably set the tone for the entire day and that's the last thing I need when I'm going to be holding someone else's life in my hands. Hell, how am I supposed to give a six year old the ability to laugh when I can't even laugh anymore. "I'm going to take a shower."
She walks out and slams the door behind her. I listen to Ruma and Feo hiss and meow their aggravation at how their day has started as I pull fresh underwear from the drawer. Erica's are folded neatly next to mine. I always do the laundry. It's something domestic that I really can't fuck up ... and I always fold her underthings, but toss mine in all wadded up. Where a majority of hers are lacy, thanks to my shopping spree online where I bought every color of her famous blue panties, most of mine are cotton boy shorts, childish looking because of the prints, and boasting everything from Smurfs to the Muppets to Spiderman. I choose a pair of Cookie Monster ones because they're comfortable and usually pretty lucky, then stand under cold water and try to scrub the tension out of my body. It doesn't work, but I give myself an A for effort.
I dress in my scrubs at home because I really don't know if I'll be in any frame of mind to do it at the hospital. I'm not a first year intern, but I still get nervous when I have an elective surgery. I can breeze through traumas because I don't have time to sit and dwell on them. I don't get to know the patient because a majority of the time ... they're unconscious or so souped up on pain medication that they can't string sentences together. But when you have an elective surgery, one where you sit down and discuss why a certain procedure is the best thing for the patient, you have to interact for a while. I held Emma Foster in my arms. I felt the weight of her, I smelled her hair, I felt her breath on my neck and I gazed into her one brown eye and saw that she trusted me. When I said rib, she happily pulled up her shirt and let me see hers.
This is not a trauma.
This is a little girl who can live without me cutting her open.
And could die because I do.
My hands are shaking when I brush my teeth and I splash mouthwash all over my scrub shirt which makes me shout in frustration. It takes me five minutes to locate a clean one and another ten to remember that my lucky undershirt is still at work. I've basically emptied all the dresser drawers and can't get anything to fit properly. I finally give up and throw everything into the corner. I'll have to get to it later because the clock on the end table assures me that I took too long in the shower. I go back into the bathroom to braid my hair and put a Band Aid over my eyebrow before I scour the closet for my most comfortable Crocs ... and then take a pair of Erica's socks because I want her there. Anyway I can get her.
When I'm presentable, I go downstairs and head into the kitchen. Erica has her reading glasses on and I swear to GOD that there is nothing in the world sexier than watching her do a crossword puzzle and nibble on the tip of her pen while wearing THOSE glasses. They're perfect for her face, slightly square and not too big. She only ever wears them in the morning and I usually sit across the table and think of every perverted thing I have ever done or would like to do to her. She's wearing them to push me over the edge. I just know she is. Dirty fighter. Such a dirty fighter.
"I'm sorry that I snapped at you," I tell her, filling the coffee cup she set out for me. We painted cups for each other at a pottery place before we ever slept together. She claimed it was National Friendship Day so we spent hours together. We were bored and went into a pottery shop after eating too much dessert at a local seafood place. I painted sunflowers on her cup ... never realizing how much significance it would have one day and she painted Superhero logos on mine. Also significant. I opt to sit next to her now instead of across from her. "I think it's nerves. I've never been more nervous in my life. This little girl ... she's ... special."
Erica writes something on her crossword puzzle, not acknowledging that I spoke. Damn. She's evil.
"Anything good in the paper?" I ask.
She hands me the part she has already thumbed through without looking up.
And she doesn't speak either.
I try again. "Do you want to ride into work with me? I know it's early, but -"
"No. I don't."
"It would be nice if you -"
"Let me guess ... you *need* me?"
"Well, that's a given," I say, reaching across the table to cover her hand with mine. She doesn't pull away and that makes me feel infinitely better. "I really screwed things up last night when I tried to apologize to you. I really ... I meant it when I said I was sorry."
She slams her free hand, the one holding the pen, down on the table. She doesn't drop it ... she slaps it against the table so hard that the lid flies off. "You didn't apologize! You actually went out of your way to point out that you should not be apologizing at all! The bottom line is ... you got horny and decided to have sex instead of talking to me about the problems we're having! And you have made it very clear that you think I'm a whore ... but I'm a whore with her dignity still intact! I've given you everything else I have ... you're not taking that, too."
I nearly drop my cup and because it's so valuable to me I overcompensate and splash coffee over my hand. It's not scalding, but it is uncomfortable. I don't say anything as I get to my feet and pick up the paper towels. I clean the mess and put my cup in the sink while her words dance around in my head. It's all I can hear. It's all I can think about. I'd much rather cry on the way to work instead of in front of her because I don't want her to accuse me of trying to use my tears to win ... so I push my chair under the table and head out. She calls my name before I take more than a few steps and I stop walking.
I hear her chair scrape back and hold my breath, waiting for the next round. She puts her hand on my shoulder and I reach up, resting mine over hers. It's such a small, simple, casual gesture, but I never want to let go. I have to though, because she tugs free and wraps both arms around my waist and rests her chin on my shoulder instead. "I'd wish you good luck today, Callie, but you don't need it. You're going to do just fine."
"Thank you." My voice is trembling so much that I can barely understand myself, but she seems to have no problem.
We stand that way for as long as I can spare because even though I feel like time is standing still in her arms ... it's really not. The clock on the DVD player confirms this sad fact and I sigh, but it comes out like a shudder because the lump in my throat is refusing to let much air through. "I have to go."
She unwinds her arms, but catches my hand, turning me around. I can see on her face that she understands exactly how tenuous the grasp on my emotions really is and she cups my cheek. Wordlessly, she leans in and kisses the bandage on my head, then presses her lips against mine. "Drive safe."
"I love you."
"I love you," I tell her and the battle is lost. I start to cry and it's the loud, ugly, horrible way that always makes my chest ache for days afterward. It's the same way I always cry when she's involved and as much as I hate it that it has to happen in front of her, I'm powerless to stop it. All I can do ... when she tries to pull me into her arms ... is shake my head no and sob out, "I'll see you at work."
She doesn't try to stop me.
But I can hear her own battle being lost behind me.
We really are in tune. Her sobs are just as loud as mine.
For fifteen miles I can barely see the road.
I make it to work on a wing and a prayer.
"What happened to your head?"
"Good morning to you too, Dr. Cole," I say, lifting the thick crude oil that the cafeteria claims is coffee to my mouth. I grimace at the bitterness that still remains after four sugars and add four more. He pulls out a chair and joins me, his eyes on mine. "Shouldn't you be scouring the supply closet for a scrub cap that won't ruin your hair?" I ask, uncomfortable with his scrutiny. "Take a picture. It'll last longer."
He crosses his arms over his chest. "You've been crying. Are you one of those women who fall apart before surgeries because I have to tell you ... I don't do women freak outs, listen to crying, or tolerate prayer in my operating room so if you've gotten that out of the way already ... thank you."
"You really love to listen to yourself talk, don't you?"
"Yes. I was blessed with quite a voice."
"That's a matter of opinion. Some people claim that Miley Cyrus has a voice, too. And she sounds like two cats fighting over a tuna flavored rat."
He grins now and lowers his arms. I watch the tension drain from his shoulders as he picks up his own cup. "The things you say," he tells me. "I don't know if it's amusing or if I should be concerned for your sanity."
"I never had a problem with my sanity until you showed up."
"Simmons disagreed with that assessment." He kicks out the chair beside mine and props his feet on it. "He said you lived in a world of confusion and made impulse decisions on a regular basis."
"Well, considering that he lived in a world of body odor and wouldn't know a decision if it bit him on the ass ... I'm not too insulted." I take another sip of coffee and give up. Nothing will help it and I can't force myself to drink it. Four tiny sips and my lips are trying to pucker up like I've had a mouthful of unsweetened lemonade. "Why don't you forget anything Simmons told you and draw your own conclusions."
"Oh, I am."
"I think you live in a world of confusion and make impulse decisions. Did you really elope in Vegas with that little ... half grown man who looks like he could be an original Muppet?"
"My personal life, regardless of how intriguing it may be to someone who doesn't have one ... like yourself ... is off limits. I mean it."
He crosses his ankles and once again ... he's wearing Crocs, lime green now, with no socks. I stare at his ankles for a second and when I look back at him, he's grinning. "I just can't see it," he tells me.
"The kid's name is O'Malley, right? Your ex-husband?"
"What did I just tell you? Off limits!"
"I've only seen Dr. Hahn from afar, but her picture is always in the magazines with her articles. She's been published more times than me which I can commend. She's pretty, she's accomplished, she's driven and busts her ass to make a difference in medicine. I can see why you'd be attracted to *her*. But O'Malley? Hell, I guess he'd turn Elizabeth Taylor gay and she's proven repeatedly that she likes men."
I massage my forehead because he's giving me a migraine. "Gavin, people like you are the reason that people like me go to jail for assault and battery."
"Ahh, you called me Gavin. We're making strides in our friendship." He takes my coffee and sips it. He doesn't grimace at all. "Now, do you want to go a step further and tell me what's wrong? Let me guess ... you stumbled across photos of yourself in Vegas with Beaker and took a humiliating walk down memory lane?"
Why did he have to take my coffee? I don't think anything in the world would lift my spirits more than splashing it in his face, but he's got an iron fisted grip on it as if he can read my thoughts. I wish we had real cutlery in the cafeteria instead of plastic ones ... because I'd cut off the top of his spiky hair and poke his eyes out with the damn ends. "Ryan Seacrest called, he wants his flat iron back."
He drains the coffee flavored mud and crumples the cup. I'd like to shove *that* up his ass when he belches. He starts talking like he didn't just sound like a gunshot in a quiet room. "If we're not going to talk about you then we'll concentrate on the Foster case. I got the molds back for Emma's bottom jaw. I haven't shaped the wiring down yet ... I figured you could do after you take her ribs. I also got a call from her mother earlier. Emma apparently doesn't do well when separated from her parents and I don't want her facial muscles to tense up before we put her under. So ... do something to get her to listen to you. I suppose that what you lack in adult skills ... you make up for with children. They liked the way you interacted with her."
"Well, since you have no bedside manner to speak of ... I figured I'd have to step my game up a notch."
"I enjoy this back and forth exchange of insults we have going on, but I know that you have a deep rooted admiration for me. I know that you're thrilled to work with me and you appreciate my contributions to orthopedics."
"And what, pray tell, would give you such a false sense of -"
"Professor Rosenberg sent me your dissertation. I had ... was it ... seventeen footnotes? It read like a fucking fangirl gushing over my many accomplishments." The smile that spreads across his face is smarmy. There's no other word for it. "I think you called me the 'quintessential practitioner of surgery who will revolutionize the face of orthopedics in ways that people only dreamed of'."
Fucker. He must have read it a million times to stroke his own over bloated ego. "You must have misread it. I called you the 'quintessential practitioner of dumbass who will revolutionize grunge in ways people hoped would die with Kurt Cobain'."
"If that's the best verbal sparring you have then I'll let you get back to ... worshipping me in silence."
"In your dreams."
"In yours." He gets to his feet and stretches. "I'll see you in the O.R. in an hour an a half. I hope you're ready to impress me, Calliope."
"Oh, I do impressive without even trying, Elvis. Should I wear my 'Blue Suede Shoes' just for you?"
He drops the wadded cup in the floor. "What did I tell you about using my middle name!?"
"The same thing I told you about using my first."
"We're going to have a very interesting day, *Calliope*."
"Oh, 'Don't Be Cruel' just because you're 'All Shook Up', 'Hound Dog'." I tell him in a goading, sing song voice.
"I'm leaving now!"
"Awww, 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry'," I call after him. "I better book a room at the 'Heartbreak Hotel'."
He flips me a bird over his shoulder and I laugh.
Gavin Elvis Cole has met his match.
And *I* will be the one to revolutionize the face of orthopedics.
Starting with Emma Foster's.
No matter how much training a doctor receives or how much they witness, we start to circle like buzzards when anything new and exciting comes into the hospital. It's human nature to want to see people at their worst and Emma Foster is definitely the worst case of Treacher Collins that has ever been treated. She's one for the medical books and every doctor, nurse, intern and orderly has found a reason to stand outside her doorway. I have to clear my throat and physically move Cristina out of the way as I try to get through the throng of people. I'm shocked and a little horrified to see that the *attendings* and Chief Webber have also decided to converge in the hopes of glimpsing my patient. I try to make as much eye contact as I can to convey the fact that I'm about to run through the crowd like an angry bull when Erica appears and tells everyone to go to work. She uses a tone that makes people look guilty, especially Webber.
I'm almost trampled to death in the melee when people scatter like roaches and I want to offer Erica a thank you, but I can't look at her. I know that she'll have the same reddish colored rings around her eyes that I spent twenty minutes trying to cover with concealer under mine and the waterworks may start again. For both of us. I really don't know how in the hell we got to this place when everything seemed to be perfect in Italy and Nebraska. We spent hours talking about our relationship and going over what motivated us to handle things the way we did along the way. Instead of being at each other's throats and trying to choke each other with cruelty ... we should be happy as hell that we weathered the storm that took us to that point.
I'm frustrated when I see that Erica has decided to lean against the nurse's station with Mark, Addison, Derek, and Webber. Apparently *they* don't have work to do at all. I'm saved from biting their heads off by the arrival of Elvis. He's carrying Emma's chart and my eyes widen when I see that Yang is trailing behind him with her head down. She has the audacity to attempt a look of shame when she meets my eyes. "You have got to be kidding me," I say. "Yang!"
"We need another set of hands and hers are excellent," Gavin says, engrossed in the chart. He flips it shut a second later and nods at me. "We're ready. And you remember what I said. Keep her calm. I don't want her to be upset leading to the surgery. I mean it."
"No pressure or anything," I snap.
"If you're feeling performance anxiety tell me now so I can replace you." He raises a brow.
"The only thing I feel is bile rising in the back of my throat, but that's my body's natural reaction to you so I must be fine." I hear Mark and Derek laugh and Webber clear his throat, but I don't acknowledge it. Instead, I take a deep breath and turn to walk into Emma's room. The door opens as I reach for it and the little girl appears, gazing out into the hallway with her head tilted so her good eye can see everyone.
In my periphery, I see Mark's hand go to his chin the way it always does when he's at a loss. Shepherd looks away like he can't bare to look at Emma and Erica's mouth drops open a little. Just enough. Doctors are drawn to anything challenging but we all react like human beings. It hurts to look at Emma. It's disorienting and painful and *hard* to do. I turn my attention back to her and she waves at me. Her swollen tongue moves like she's trying to say something and she holds up a stuffed elephant that I recognize as Dumbo from the Disney movie. I squat down so that I'm eye level with her and say, "Did you bring a friend for your big day?"
She nods and rushes forward, holding out the elephant so I can take it. I make a great show of examining every detail, commenting about his ears, his trunk, even the yellow hat on his head. She makes the same wheezing, gasping sound of tragic non laughter from before when I hold the elephant up to my nose, facing her, and make an elephant sound. She holds out her arms to me and hugs me when I pick her up. Clinging to me, she rests her head on my shoulder and I feel her tongue against my neck as she ignores the looks that everyone is giving her. I pat her on the back and she pats mine. "Emma?" I ask softly. "Are you going to let me listen to your heart again?"
She leans back, nodding at me. There's a rope of saliva sliding down her chin and I brush it away with her shirt and tweak her nose which causes her to wheeze again. She grabs mine, still 'laughing'. Her slender shoulders shake as she pulls up her pajama shirt and points at her chest. With her free hand, she takes the end of Gavin's stethoscope and tugs, resting it against her skin. He takes advantage of the invitation and listens to her heart, then her lungs. She lets him check the pulse in her wrist with no fuss and leans her head against my shoulder again.
I can feel how warm she is through her princess pajamas. She's vibrant, full of life, and doesn't understand that I'm about to take her away from her parents. Her hair smells like baby powder and her breath is a little sour, but it's not unpleasant. She rubs a hand over my braid and points at her own hair, tugging at it. "You want braids?" I ask her.
She nods her head and another stream of saliva falls from her mouth. I wipe it away again and say, "Are you a big girl?"
Emma holds up six fingers and her brown eye is accusing now. How dare I ask such an obvious question? I pretend to bite her finger and she she wheezes again. "Big girls get to see a special room at the hospital," I say. "Do you want to see that room?"
She nods again and slowly lowers her hands.
"If you come and see that room with me, I promise I'll braid your hair later. Can you do that for me?"
The accusation leaves her eye and she glances behind us at her parents, motioning for them to follow us. Her mother shakes her head and says, "Mommy and Daddy aren't allowed, honey. You can go with Dr. Torres, though. You want to go see it with her?"
Emma takes her time as she ponders the question. She scratches the side of her head and searches her father's face while he smiles encouragingly at her. I feel her grip tighten on the back of my neck and watch her tuck her stuffed animal up under her arm like it can protect her or give her the answer. "Emma?"
She looks back at me, tongue lolling, eye wide. She's on the verge of tears and I know it.
"Will you please come with me?" I pat her on the belly, swaying a little to comfort her. "I won't leave you. I'll stay right with you and as soon as we're finished, your mom and dad can come. We'll have fun. I promise."
Her hand moves back to her hair and she worries it the same way Jasper does. She twirls it around her bony fingers as she weighs her options. I wonder if part of her knows what we're trying to do. She's had numerous surgeries already. I wonder if she's remembering the pain of recovery. I lift her elephant and say, "I'll make you a deal ... Dumbo can come with us and I happen to be friends with him so I bet I can make him talk to you."
She shakes her head and makes that choking, sputtering sound of glee.
"Oh, yes I can! But he's bashful. He won't talk to you out here. He has to talk to you in the other room."
Emma rubs the elephant's tightly stitched line that is supposed to be Dumbo's mouth, digging her fingernail into it to see if it will open. I think she understands that it is sewn too tightly ... the same way that her own mouth has been loosely stitched ... but she still nods at me and waves at her parents. Her mother bites her bottom lip, eyes moist with tears. She quickly gives her daughter a kiss and assures her that she'll see her soon ... then disappears into their private room. Her father does the same, lingering over her, breathing her in, then he pats me on the arm.
"She'll go to ... b.e.d ... easier if someone sings to her. We ... we always do." His voice breaks like waves in a hurricane and he kisses her again. "I'll see you later, Emmy Bug."
When he goes into the room after his wife, she leans out a little, looking after them. The door shuts and she points at it, then at herself. I take a deep breath and tuck her hair behind her ear. I ignore the question she just asked me and smile at her. "Do you want two braids or one?" I ask, trying to keep her calm.
Her back stiffens and she pushes at my chest, reaching for the door. Erica appears all of the sudden and holds up a colorful sticker. "Hi, Emma, look what I found. It's an elephant just like yours."
Emma stops thrashing and gazes at Erica with interest. She watches as Erica peels the large, round sticker off the white paper and points at the front of her shirt. Erica sticks it against her pajamas and smoothes it down, then smiles at her. "Well, you look beautiful now."
Holding up her elephant, Emma points at her new sticker, then at the elephant.
"You want one for Dumbo?" Erica asks.
Emma nods and then Mark descends upon us like a hero, unrolling an endless ream of stickers until Emma finds a clown and points at it. He sticks it to the elephant's back and she carefully presses her hand against it, rubbing out the wrinkles. She uses sign language to say thank you and then her head goes back to my shoulder and she hugs her elephant against her chest. It's time to go.
I give Erica a small, grateful smile and she returns it.
The crowd that was waiting outside Emma's room has taken up all the available space around the elevator. Emma squirms uncomfortably in my arms and hides her face against my neck, clutching at me. No one likes to be stared at. These people are forgetting that she's not in a cage, she's not on display, she's got a heart and feelings and doesn't understand why there's so much interest in her. Emma doesn't KNOW that she's different until people force her to feel that way. I hear Erica's voice again, telling everyone that she will personally blacklist them on surgeries as I step into the elevator. I don't turn around to watch the roaches scatter ... I close my eyes and pray the entire way to the surgical wing.
Getting Emma to let me have her pajamas proves to be almost impossible. Her parents made it clear that the arrival of a hospital gown would alert her to the fact that something major is about to go down. I finally play a game of hide and seek with her, where I hide my face behind every article of clothing I take from her and she's finally down to her underwear and shivering. She allows Cristina to hold her while I scrub in, but she keeps her eye on me as I cover my hair and scrubs in surgical wear. There's something in her eye when I look back at her and I know that she knows. The special room is actually an operating room and there's really no joy for her there. Cristina carries her into the O.R. and sets her on the bed while I get my gloves on. Emma tries to scramble off the second Cristina puts her down, but I catch her. I'll have to scrub in again because she latches onto me, ripping my gown, taking off my scrub cap in her haste. The wetness I feel against my neck this time is not her tongue. She's crying. She's crying and she can't make a sound with it.
Just like Jasper.
Her pain stays silent, but big, fat tears roll down her cheeks. Even her bad eye produces enough tears to break my heart. She leans back in my arms and points at the bed, shaking her head. The anesthesiologist catches my eye, holding up a syringe that I know contains medication that will calm her down. The second he gets near us, however, Emma starts to kick and wheeze and make sputtering sounds as she vehemently flails her arms to keep him at bay. I move to the corner, away from the chaos in the room and rub circles on her back, humming softly. I can see that the gallery is standing room only and it adds to the nervous tension that's beginning to spread from my neck to my back.
If anyone *ever* makes a comment about what I'm forced to do here ... I'll kill them a million times. And then go after their families.
Sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself on the altar of humiliation that is so severe that you'd welcome a blade to the gut. Sometimes ... you have to do things that you would rather slit your wrist to avoid because it's the right thing to do and there's nothing else that can save you.
When the humming turns to a song that I know she's familiar with ... she stops fighting altogether.
I've seen 'Dumbo' enough times to memorize every scene. I love that movie with the same passion that Jasper reserves for 'The Wizard of Oz'. And I sing 'Baby Mine' just loud enough for her to hear it, but the acoustics in the gallery are top notch and I cringe when all activity stops behind us. Everyone is listening.
I fucking hate the world.
"Baby mine, don't you cry. Baby mine, dry your eyes. Rest your head close to my heart ... never to part, baby of mine," I sing. "Little one when you play don't you mind what you say, let those eyes sparkle and shine, never a tear, baby of mine. If they knew sweet little you they'd end up loving you too."
The anesthesiologist never made a sound when he injected the medicine into her IV after the second line.
And she's asleep in my arms before I have to finish.
Thank God for little miracles.
At the four hour mark, I have carefully extracted two ribs. Talking has been minimal. Dr. Cole asks me several questions about the procedure as we go along, quizzing me, but never stumping me. When I take the two ribs to a nearby table to whittle them down to size, Cole begins to question Cristina. She has ready answers as well and I tune them all out as I carefully sand and measure every curve, every plane, and every edge of the ribs, comparing them to the mold that was created based on Emma's impression and x-rays. It takes me three hours to get them precise and insert the wiring that will be screwed into the base of what little there is of Emma's zygomatic bone. I also painstakingly sculpt the flat, mesh covered rib fragments that will become her ramus on either side.
At the nine hour mark, I have successfully removed the mold from the fake Emma head and put my own in place. I test it from every angle to make sure I'm not missing anything and then I submerge her new bottom jaw in sterile solution to let it set. I take a much needed break to suck down a cup of water, which my gurgling stomach is grateful for, and then I roll my head around to work out the kinks. When I return to the operating room, I'm pleased to hear music blaring and pop my knuckles in anticipation. Dr. Cole sees that I have returned and nods for me to join him a the operating table.
When I get there, I can tell that he has made all the necessary incisions and has carefully maintained the integrity of the many vital nerves and muscles. I stand to his left and watch him make one final incision, then he motions for the jaw I worked so hard on. I eagerly await his accolades for my fine job, but instead, he says, "Dr. Torres, why did you deviate from the plan?"
"The front of the mandible was supposed to be wire."
"A dentist can't screw teeth into *wire*, Dr. Cole," I reply. "Our goal today is to give her the ability to *eat* real food. You can't eat pizza with no bottom teeth."
"Hmm." He holds the jaw up, gazing at it under the stark, overhead lights. "That's ... well ... that's ingenious is what that is."
"Thank you." I tell him and I'm smiling so hard behind my mask that it hurts.
He keeps the jaw under the light for just a second longer, examining it from every angle, then holds it out to me. "Go ahead."
"What?" I ask, smile fading.
"You built it, Callie," he say, stepping back so that I can take his spot. "Now ... finish it."
I hear a low murmur from my co-workers and my eyes meet Cristina's over the operating table. She nods at me and I step to the left, into the driver's seat. Dr. Cole moves behind me and I'm aware that he's watching over my shoulder as I gently work the jaw into place. I painstakingly settle it into the correct position and wiggle it around slightly. "Cristina, please remove the clamps."
She takes out the many clamps and I push Emma's jaw up and down, making sure it looks right, that it feels right, before I begin securing it. I can already see a major difference in the angle of her face. Pleased with my handiwork, I open her mouth again and feel around, making sure I will have enough skin to cover the thickness of the front mandible bone that Cole had not planned for. I'm in luck. It will be a tight fit and one that we will have to carefully monitor, but I am able to pull the flaps of skin into place. Satisfied, I begin the slow, tedious process of drilling her face together. For her, it will probably feel like something foreign has been attached to her head and she will likely try to pull it out, but for me ... if all goes well ... it will feel like something native that God accidentally forgot to give her.
I don't know how much time passes, but I am aware that handling tool after tool is causing a steady ache in my arm. I'm aware that the equipment is making the room so unbearably hot that sweat is sliding down my back, between by breasts, and into the creases of my legs. The nurse keeps bathing my forehead and offering me water, but I'm in the zone. Using the tiniest screws imaginable takes something akin to fitting a camel through the eye of a needle and even though I'm shaking inside, my hands never falter once. I drown out the blaring music. I don't hear Emma's heart monitor. I don't even notice that I'm breathing at all as I eventually put the last stitch into what will become her bottom lip and tie it off.
She doesn't look like the same little girl.
Even though her tongue still protrudes slightly, she's got a face.
She's definitely got a face.
Cristina starts clapping first and it brings me out of the zone. Actually, it scares the shit out of me and I feel my heart thunder in response. I set aside my suturing kit and take a deep breath. All around me people are giving high fives and singing a chorus of 'good job' and 'we did it'. I turn around and look at Dr. Cole and he nods at me. I offer my hand because a hand shake seems to be in order, but the only thing he shakes is his head. When he pulls me into his arms and lifts me off my feet ... I'm too tired to punch him. I let him hug me and I hug him back.
"Good job, *Calliope*."
"I'd tell you to call me 'The King', but this is really your moment."
"You're right. It is."
He sets me on my feet and pats me on the shoulder. "You did warn me that you were amazing."
"I never lie."
Elvis and I speak to the Fosters together. I guess he realizes that I'm dead on my feet because he does most of the talking and I'm grateful for that. I accept the hugs and the outpouring of gratitude, then tell them I want to be with Emma when she wakes up. The little girl is still in recovery when I go in and Cristina is sitting beside her, smoothing her hand through her hair. When she realizes that I'm watching, she quickly drops her hand and says, "What? It was matted."
"Mmm hmmm." I move to the other side of the stretcher and watch the little girl wake up slowly. She's dazed and out of sorts, reaching aimlessly into the air the same way that Jasper does when he chases dolphins on the ceiling. "Hi, Emma."
I have to stop her when she tries to sit up, but I don't stop her from groping over her new face. She's been bandaged enough to hold her new jaw firmly in place, not letting her move it. She can't do any damage to herself and she's not trying to. She's carefully exploring the gauze, letting her fingers dance over it gracefully. She signs with her hand and I don't know what she's saying. Jasper was learning sign language for a while, before he was injured, and I learned a few basics with him, but I have no clue what she wants now.
Cristina clears her throat. "She's asking what happened." I must look startled because Yang qualifies her knowledge by saying, "My step father was deaf. My mother and I learned to sign for him."
Emma signs again and I say, "Emma, you're okay. You had an operation. You know what that is, right?"
She nods and points at her blinded eye.
"No," Cristina tells her. "We didn't operate on your eye."
Emma's arms cross over her chest and her brow furrows. She's pouting. She *wanted* us to fix her eye. She wanted to *see* out of her eye. I don't know if there is anything more heartbreaking in the world than failing to fix everything. I rub her arm and point at my face. "We operated on your jaw."
She reaches out and touches my jaw, then touches her own. It's wrapped so tightly she probably doesn't notice a difference yet. She spells out 'hurt' with her hand, which I *can* read. I pick up the syringe and give her a little pain medication and watch her eye flutter shut. It opens again a moment later and she points at me. The frown line is back on her face and she signs quickly.
"Oh, man." Cristina shakes her head, rising to her feet. "I'm out."
"What is she saying?" I ask. I didn't realize that she was so ... fluent ... with her hands. She didn't do that when I met her the first time.
"Nothing," Cristina assures me.
Emma hits the bed, hard, with her fist.
"YANG! TELL ME!" I demand.
Cristina looks at the little girl, then back at me. "She said that you're a liar. She said that there was no special room and," she glances back at Emma, who is tugging at her hair. "and you didn't braid her hair so you're not her friend."
So, I only *thought* that I had a broken heart before this moment.
Erica? Apparently she's cracked it a couple of times, but Emma Foster snaps it down the middle.
"I'm sorry." I let the rail down on Emma's bed and sit beside her. Her Dumbo has been wrapped in plastic and is sitting on the table so I quickly tear into it and hold it out to her. She takes it, letting it rest on her chest. "I didn't mean to lie to you. But I didn't want you to be upset. And I will braid your hair just as soon as you feel better."
Her little hand flies again and I look at Cristina, who grits her teeth. "She said that when you promise someone something you have to tell the truth."
Even though Cole would probably shoot me for moving her, I lift Emma into my arms. She comes willingly and puts her head on my shoulder. The back of her hair is tangled so I have to rake through it with my fingers to separate it into three parts, but I put a braid there. It's messy and not tight, but I take the elastic band out of my own hair to hold it in place. She's sound asleep when I put her back in the bed and Cristina helps me cover her up.
"That was pretty nice, Callie," Yang says. "Almost as nice as your singing and -"
"I will snap your neck like a twig, Cristina. Never mention that again."
"Who knew my one time roommate was a rock star?"
"I'm not even kidding. Death. Death will come knocking if you don't shut up."
"Awww, you even have the temperament of a singer. You diva."
"Why did you braid her hair?" Cristina asks. "It's not going to stay and it's probably not comfortable."
"Because she's right. When you promise someone something ... you have to tell the truth."
And I was also right when I thought that Emma Foster would probably teach me a lesson.
She has also screwed a light bulb over my head and it's a megawatt dawning of realization on my part.
I have to find Erica.
Even though every form of communication is available to me, I still make an ass of myself by running all over the hospital. I ask a million people if they've seen Erica and it never crosses my mind to just *call* her. It's almost ten p.m. and the twelve hour surgery we anticipated was really closer to thirteen, but I don't think Erica went home. She wouldn't leave me to drive myself because she's the kind of person who thinks about things like that. I know she's somewhere in the hospital and I waste thirty minutes riding elevators up and down as I search for her. In desperation, I head up to the roof because she once told me that the view at night was spectacular and sure enough, she's standing at the railing with Addison.
They are dressed in their street clothes and I'm still in my scrubs, but none of that matters. It also doesn't matter that my braid has come completely undone and the cool September wind is whipping it around my head like tentacles. All that matters is that I *get* it. I completely *understand*. Addison sees me coming and meets me halfway, hugging me. I listen to her congratulate me, but my eyes never leave Erica. The wind is also doing something with her hair and it takes my breath away. I feel like I'm seeing her for the first time, but this time ... I know exactly what role I want her to play in my life. Sure, she's always going to be my best friend, but I want her to be everything else, too. I want her in the good times, the bad times, and for *all* time.
"You should get some rest," Addison tells me. She steps around me, blocking Erica from my view and making me look at her instead. "She's not in a very good mood. Don't push her buttons tonight, Callie, because she's not going to deal with that very well."
"What happened?" I ask.
"She'll tell you. Just ... proceed with caution." Addison gives me a stern look. "Do you get what I'm saying?"
"Yeah. I get it."
Addy gives me a quick hug and adds, "You were incredible in that surgery. I was proud of you."
I give her a smile. "Thanks."
Addison leaves us alone and I attempt to run my hands through my hair to tame it, but only succeed in getting my engagement ring stuck. I can't free it. I'm scalping myself by trying. So, when I join Erica at the railing, I look like a complete idiot, but try to pretend that I don't notice that my elbow is right beside my left eye. "Hey," I say casually. "I'm glad you're still here."
"You did a good job today," she tells me, staring out at the Space Needle. "That was smart, using the bone at the front of the mandible that way. It never would have crossed my mind."
"You're a heart doctor. I wouldn't be able to do a running whip stitch if my life depended on it."
She smiles now and glances at me. Then she frowns. "What the hell are you doing?"
"I'm stuck," I tell her, mortified. "My ring is not coming out of my hair."
"Oh for heaven's sake." She attempts to help me out, but the forces of nature are against us. The wind is practically howling now and a light drizzling of rain starts to fall. "Let's go inside."
She leads me toward the door with a hand on my back and the presence of it against me acts like a pain pill. I'm calm and the aching in my body is effectively dulled. I wish everyone in the world could have that one person whose mere presence, whose touch ... is all you ever need to survive. Inside the stairwell, she tells me to sit down and stands behind me, carefully coaxing my hair out of the diamond. When it's finally loose, I examine my ring, making sure it's not damaged. I'm pleased to note that the prongs that hold the diamond in place are just fine, though enough hair is caught underneath to make a wig. She sits down beside me as I attempt to pluck the hairball free.
I'm still working on it when she puts her arm around me and rests her head on my shoulder. "Callie ... I need to talk to you."
I think I lose control of my body in that moment. She makes it sound like the end of the world. My brain moves fast. She was on the roof with Addison. She's having a bad day. She's in a bad mood. How does that fit. "Oh my god! You don't - Addison didn't tell you that you have breast cancer, did she? You're not -"
"What? No!" She sits up and looks at me in shock. "Where do you come up with this stuff?"
"I don't know. You were talking to Addison and -"
"I got a phone call today."
"From a man who claims to be my father." Her blue eyes are so big in her pale face that I feel like I'm drowning in them. "He - he found that note you left at the cemetery and he knew my birthday. He wants to come to Seattle for that."
"Oh my god!" I clasp her hand in mine and she's shaking. "This ... this is .. great! This is amazing. Right?"
"I don't know," she replies. "I ... I just don't know."
"Erica, if he is your father then -"
"Then he left me with my aunt and uncle and never tried to find me. He ... left me."
It's my turn to put my arm around her and I hold her as close as I possibly can without pulling her into my lap. I'd like for her to be in my lap, but I'd probably drop her because my body is starting to howl in pain again. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry that he left and ... well, I'm sorry that I did, too."
"All your clothes are in the floor at home," she says. "Are you planning on going somewhere?"
"What? No! I ... I was looking for a clean shirt and I was too lazy to put it all back." I watch her profile. She doesn't believe me. "I know this is probably the worst timing possible because you've got your mind on your dad and -"
"My mind is on you. It's always on you." She rubs her finger over a loose thread in the seam of her pants. "I want us to be the way we were and it doesn't feel like we ever -"
"Look at me," I tell her and wait patiently for her to comply. "I need - no - *you* need to hear me out. I did a lot of thinking when I was standing there in surgery today and I finally caught up with you, I think. I've been so wrapped up in *my* point of view that I haven't really taken time to see yours. I see it now, Yellow."
"Yeah." I nod at her. "I do. You and me ... we have our own special issues. My biggest issue is that I'm insecure as hell. I never feel good enough or pretty enough or thin enough. I think about your life with Rachel and how she was your first in so much. And I think about Helen and how she's everything I'm not and I don't think I can ever measure up so -"
"I never -"
"I know," I cut her off. "Listen to me. The only time I ever feel perfect is when I'm in your arms and you chase away any doubt that I have. I trust you and you go out of your way to make me believe in you and us. You have never, *ever*, given me any reason to doubt myself or what we have. You love me and I know that every second of the day."
I reach out and touch her hair, her cheek. "But I don't do that for you. Your biggest issue is fear of abandonment and you earned the right to have it because I keep failing. I promised you something in Miami and then left you. I cut you out of my life after you gave it to me to begin with. I wasn't alive at all until you ... and I repaid you by leaving you. And you let me back in, Erica ... and I did it again. That day in the cab, when we were fighting, I left you. I stayed gone overnight and -"
"I pushed you and -"
"Let me finish. Please?" I turn a little on the stair so I can face her. "I promised you I would always come home after that, but at the first sign of trouble ... I ran again. I abandoned you. It doesn't matter that I came back ... all that matters is that I left to begin with and made you doubt me. Again."
"I asked you to marry me. And like always ... when I ask you for something ... you say yes." I rub a tear off my cheek and take both of her hands in mine. "And I want to give you as much as you give me. I've given you my heart, my body, my soul ... but ... every time I give you my word ... I snatch it back. I never really understood how important it is to give your word and mean it. I do now. So ... I'm telling you, I'm promising you, I swear to God ... I will *never* leave again unless you tell me to."
"That will never -"
"Or ... keep interrupting me." I smile because he does. "Erica, we're getting married. I don't know when or where ... but we're going to stand up in front of people and speak vows. I want you to be able to believe everything I say to you then ... and now. I'm sorry. I'm apologizing with my clothes on and with everything I have. I don't have a right to ask because -"
"Yes, Callie, I forgive you." She inches a little closer to me, kissing me softly. "And I believe you."
Hugging her is probably the only thing that feels better than kissing her. Or making love with her. Or ... well, it's in the top five things to do with her. We fit together like puzzle pieces. Sitting, standing, leaning, lying side by side ... we fit. It's a comfortable and *comforting* kind of match that takes you home ... wherever you are. She feels good and even though she's holding me so tightly that I can barely breathe, she's more soothing than constraining. I could sit on these cold, hard steps for hours if it meant we were together this way.
"I'll let you sleep in our bed on three conditions," she tells me.
"Yep." She sits back, still holding my hands. "Number one, you have to take a shower because you smell like you've been operating for hours."
"That bad, huh?"
"You also smell a little like men's aftershave which brings me to number two. The next time Gavin Cole hugs you ... if you don't donkey kick his balls ... I'm kicking your ass."
"Ouch. What's number three?"
"That song you sang to Emma," she says and I swear she gives me a look that I've never seen before. "You have to sing it to our kids. All the time."
I grin so big my face hurts. "I'm pretty sure I can do all of the above."
She gets to her feet and pulls me to mine. "Eat something. I don't care if it's got so much trans fat that I can hear your arteries clogging ... just eat."
"You want to buy me dinner?"
I beam at her. "I know this great place that's open twenty four hours. And I'm pretty sure you get clogged arteries just walking in because there's so much grease everywhere. There's a loud jukebox, an even louder waitress whose dentures flop around, and the cook looks like he may be an escaped murderer. There's ambiance like you have never experienced before."
"I can't wait."
Something amazing happens when we walk into the diner. Mark and Addison have arrived not long before us by the looks of things. They're just placing their order and Mark sees us, waving us over. The waitress, the one with the floppy dentures, gives me a hug and tells me how good it is to see me. She frets over weight loss that I really didn't notice in myself and greets Erica warmly, like an old friend even though they've never met. All the tables are full and I start to suggest that we sit at the bar when Mark clears his throat and gestures at the empty half of the booth. It's as close to an invitation as we're going to get and I glance at Erica, who nods and slides in, sitting across from Addison.
I sit across from Mark and we lock eyes. This was our place. This was our special place and our special food and now we're sharing it with someone else. He looks away when the waitress brings our drinks and slides his arm around Addison's shoulders. She leans into him, giving him a tender smile before she pores over the menu again. She's just like Erica. They're both gazing at the one page of choices like it's written in French. They talk back and forth to each other, speculating on what the 'secret sauce' could be or what exactly a 'Road Kill Sandwich' is.
Mark and I both order Sunrise Waffles and share a secretive smile.
Really ... it's not sad that there are two new people at the table or that we've moved so far beyond who we were as a couple. As I slide my fingers through Erica's and Mark threads his own through Addison's red hair I realize that moving on doesn't mean you can never go back.
Mark is my friend again.
And maybe there's a part of him that can be Erica's friend, too.
After the day that I've had ... it's nice to be surrounded by the people I love.
It's even nicer that Addison has Excedrin and happily forks over four. The pain in my back from bending over Emma all day has stopped throbbing and gone straight into stabbing. I quickly take them and chase them down with Sprite when she gasps. "Oh my god! Callie!"
"What?" I ask, eyes wide.
"I gave you the Excedrin PM!"
So much for my sex life.
I was definitely looking forward to makeup sex.
I fall asleep in the car on the way home and I'm vaguely aware of Erica coaxing me up the stairs.
I'm also vaguely aware of her undressing me and me trying and failing to undress her.
I eventually become aware of my surroundings, but I have no idea what time it is. The sun is shining and the room is bright, my mouth feels like it has been stuffed with cotton, a dog begins to bark incessantly ... and Jasper flies through the air and lands on the bed next to me.
"Hi, Lee, hi!!" he bellows, slicing through my head. "Hairpanes! We fly hairpanes! Booty did it!"
Buddha leaps onto the bed and growls at me, then realizes that I'm not Erica and attacks my face, trying to lick me to death. I eventually pry him off me and sit up, ruffling Jasper's much longer hair. He leans into my hand, massaging against it like our cats do. "Nice hair, Buddy."
"Mama say they cut it off. Gonna fix my head. Doctor is." He pats his head softly, lost in thought. "Grow back. Grow back real long."
"Yeah, it'll grow back." I tilt his face and look at him. He's tan. He's so much darker than me. "Been swimming alot, Jazz?"
"I swim long time! You want go?"
"This isn't Miami. It's too cold here."
"Cold here," he parrots. "Mama get me jacket. Red jacket. Pretty." I watch Buddha crawl into his lap settle happily against him. Jazz runs his fingers through the dog's reddish fur. "Doctor gonna fix my head," he repeats. "Right, Lee?"
"Yeah, it'll hurt."
"S'okay. I be good."
"I know you will."
He always is.
Please, God, let him be good one more time and come back to me ... whole.
Well, it looks like chapter 30 will be the big surgery. You ready for it? :)
Thank you for the continued support! :)