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. And special thanks to queenemiwee!
All my love, Ange, you rock. :)
I don't ask for my rings again because I know that the line I crossed is one that I can't just apologize for. That line is always going to be there, leaving visible marks on the both of us. Erica doesn't mention the pills again as we get ready for bed and when I settle into her arms, I'm shaking. I was *that* terrified that I'd never be in this spot again. And I know that I don't have a right to be here with her after everything I've put her through. She's far kinder to me than I deserve. What I did ... there's really no way to apologize enough and there's no amount of forgiveness in the world that could wash it away. It's dark in our bedroom, pitch black and just cool enough to make her body feel like a respite in a raging ice storm. I shiver a little and Erica puts her leg over mine. It gives me something to do ... it gives me something to hang on to as I trace lazy patterns over her knee.
"You're not sleepy at all, are you?" She doesn't wait for me to answer her. "I don't see how you could be since you've slept like the dead for two days."
"Am I ever going to be able to live this down?"
"The shelf life on something like this is infinite. I may bring it up when we're ninety if you piss me off good enough."
"When I'm ninety, you'll be ninety seven and probably forgetful so I'm not too concerned."
"I'll never be forgetful, Cal."
"You'll want to be," I tell her. "There are some things you spend your whole life wishing you could forget."
I keep sliding my fingers over her skin and she pulls me a little closer. I think maybe Erica has gone to sleep, but she says, "Tell me about that day with Jasper. Tell me about the crash." She puts her hand on mine, stilling it. "Or tell me something else ... something that I don't know about him. Tell me about what he was like when he was younger."
It feels like someone with a heavy boot steps down on my chest and closes off my airway. Speaking about Jasper is not the same as thinking about him. Every day that passes conjures a new memory in my head of him. I can remember his first haircut and the way Mom scooped up his brown curls and cried. I know that his favorite toy for the longest time was a stuffed horse that he called 'Hoey because he couldn't say horsey. He used to curl up with a nonexistent stomachache when Mom would suggest taking him to bible school. If my dad whipped up his famous Key Lime Pie ... it would vanish and we'd find the empty pie pan weeks later buried in the sand or folded into the gutter of the house. I know that he asked me to pull out his front tooth when it was loose and then gave me the money that the tooth fairy left him because I did all the work. And I can remember finger painting with him when he was four and I was fourteen and listening to him laugh made up for the fact that he was all that there was of my social life.
How do I describe a perfect, beautiful soul like that? Can I choke out the words at all? What if I mess up and mention him in the past tense? Will that make it so? If I paint the picture of him wrong ... will he come back wrong? At all? "I don't - I think we should talk about something else."
She pulls me just a little closer with her leg. "Then tell me about you. Tell me what it was like for you after it happened."
I don't have to close my eyes because the room is dark enough to let me envision it so clearly in my head that it's like watching a movie. Taking a deep breath, I say, "I'd rather tell you what it was like *before*."
"I'm all ears."
I don't know how long I talk, but I tell her everything that has ever haunted me, everything that I've ever felt piercing my heart. I tell her about the Walk Man Jasper broke and the way I shoved him down. I tell her about losing him once at the mall and how he said it was okay because he knew I'd always find him. Every story, every tale, every laugh and heartache becomes something that I give to her. She listens without interrupting as I talk about Saturday morning cartoons and building forts in our backyard. I laugh my way through the Bill Clinton bumper stickers that we wallpapered my mother's bathroom with and cry my way through my prom night. I go on and on until I finally reach the end ... I've exhausted my mental memory bank and the smiling, ten year old baby face of my brother is extinguished like a candle. I even hear it hiss as it fades away. As much as I miss the image ... what I see now is Jasper as a man.
I think maybe ... maybe I've let go of the child.
Erica is silent for a while, but I know I haven't bored her to sleep because her fingers have not stopped threading through my hair once. "I understand it now," she finally says. "I get it, baby."
"Why you'd do anything in the world to bring him back. All those memories and that spark he had as a child was beautiful. You miss that. And this stranger that wears his face isn't the same." She rubs my neck now. "I'm sorry if my opinion on his surgery added to any of the guilt you feel. I never knew ... I just didn't think that you were so close. The age difference made me think that -"
"He was my first best friend. My *only* friend. He was never just my kid brother, Erica. He was my world." I don't want to cry anymore, but the dam bursts under the pressure of my agony and I feel hot tears spill over my face and onto her shoulder. "He shouldn't have been on the boat that day."
"You didn't *force* him to go with you. He could have stayed home, Cal. He wanted to be with you because ... well, you were his best friend, too. No matter what else happened that day on the boat, the two of you were there together and that's where you were happiest. That's where HE was happiest."
"I just want him to come back. I just want him back," I sob. "I want him to be who he was so that he can understand me when I tell him I'm sorry. He loved me. He loved me with all of his heart and I wasn't worth it. I'm still not worth it."
Erica catches me as I start to climb out of the bed and pulls me back against her. She waits for me to regain some semblance of control over myself and says, "You're wrong. You are worth it. Why do you think I keep holding on with both hands even when you do your best to kill me? It's because that part of you that Jasper believed in so much is still there, Callie, and I'm the believer now. You didn't change that day in the water and what happened was NOT your fault. You have to let that go so that you can love yourself as much as he does ... and as much I do."
"How? I don't know how!"
"Let me show you."
When she gently moves around me and pushes me back against the bed ... I know that she's going to love my tears away.
And I open my arms, believing with everything inside me that she can thaw the guilt with her warmth and keep me afloat in the massive ocean of doubt I've frozen in for fifteen years.
I'm dreaming of Italy again.
Angie and Claudine are so young and beautiful that they run circles around me as I try to catch them in the sunflower field. Erica is holding my hand as we scour every inch and we can hear the other two women laughing gaily as we fumble along. It's exhilarating. It's enchanting. And then Jasper pops up in front of us and says, "I found them, Callie! Hey, Yellow, look behind you!"
And when we turn to look, Alex Karev is wearing a smirk on his face as he waves to us and slowly vanishes. Here and gone in an instant.
We're all just here and gone in an instant.
The phone rings, slicing the dream to tatters and I reach for it, stretching across Erica. She's got her pillow over her head and is flat on her back. Even though it's an ungodly hour and the news could be devastating, I still take a moment to relish the way her breasts feel against mine. Hey, she did tell me to live life to the fullest and forgive myself. Her flesh against mine feels like redemption if you ask me.
"I wanted to call and prepare you -"
"What happened?!" I sit up fast, yanking the cover with me and Erica pops up behind me, her hand moving protectively around my waist. "Is Jasper -"
"He's fine," Mom replies. "But Joel is on a flight out here and he's even angrier at you than your daddy so you better get ready to hear a sermon. He wants to ship you off to Betty Ford or drown you in a toilet, which I'd prefer since it's cheaper."
"Oh fuuuuuck," I whine, rubbing my forehead. I just know I'll have a migraine before the day is over. And Erica will break my arm and beat me with it if I take so much as a Tylenol. "Why is he coming?"
"Unlike you, precious, he actually wants to be a part of the family during this troubling time. And if you say that word to me again I'll smack your mouth like Erica did."
"His flight will arrive at eleven this morning. Can you pick him up at the airport and bring him to the hospital?"
This is my mother's way of making sure that I'm coming. "Yeah, okay. What time are they waking Jazz up?"
"Derek said after lunch. There's a viewing at the funeral home for that handsome young doctor who passed away and several of the staff will be there for that." Mom clears her throat. "Are you and Erica -"
"You swear to me that she's not violent with you?"
"Only when I ask her to be."
"Is that a sexual reference?"
"That's not funny, Callie. You swear to me that she's -"
"I swear she's not a wife beater."
"You're not her wife."
She sighs and gives me Joel's flight information. I hang up and look at Erica, who has her chin propped on her fist. "Good morning, Yellow."
"Your mother thinks I'm a wife beater," Erica says, looking miserable. "I shouldn't have ... well, no ... I should have slapped you, but maybe not in front of everyone. Are you okay? It doesn't hurt does it?"
"You slap like a girl."
Her eyes meet mine and she smiles. "You like that I'm a girl."
"No ... I like that you're a woman." I scoot a little closer to her and kiss her neck. "And that you're the kind of woman who has no problem slapping me in front of everyone when I'm so far out of my head that I need it."
"So, what did Lori Anne want?"
I let her change the subject. I'm pretty sure that the slap that isn't still hurting me is *killing* her. "Joel's coming. We have to pick him up at eleven. He's mad at me because of the pain pills so it's probably a good thing that you took my rings away from me because he'll freak out when he -"
"Are you going to look down at your hand at some point?"
I gasp and do just that. My rings are firmly back in place. Just like she did in Italy, she slipped them on while I was sleeping. I run my thumb over the yellow diamond that makes me feel so proud and blessed to be loved by her, then burst into tears. It came too close this time. We almost went our separate ways and that's not a way that I'd ever willingly go. There's some chemical in my body that puts me on whatever path she's on and I can't really exist off it.
Erica puts her arms around me, kissing my shoulder, then my cheek. "Aww, baby, don't cry. You knew I'd give them back."
"No. No, I didn't."
"Well, now you do."
"I don't deserve it," I tell her, rubbing my aching eyes. I can't cry anymore ... my eyes literally feel like they'll never NOT throb. "I spent months dreaming of what it would be like to finally have you. What we have together is everything I've ever wanted. It's better than I ever dreamed it could be and I can't stop making a mess out of us. And I don't know HOW you keep forgiving me because I never make it easy for you."
"I have faith that you're going to GET it one day."
"How relationships work. You can't expect me to keep trying to teach you, Callie. There has to come a point where your first instinct is to run TO me instead of AWAY from me." She kisses my shoulder again. "And I know that when that time comes ... we will be perfectly fine from there on out."
"From *here* on out," I correct her. "I've never been in a relationship that lasted this long and you have. So you do have a lot to teach me, but I learn fast. And I want to learn, Yellow. I want to learn how to make you feel the way you always make me feel because ... it's amazing."
"The only thing you need to learn is that everything you do affects me. So keep that in mind. You could have overdosed and I could have found you lying here ... gone. So the next time you want to do something so completely fucking stupid, you think about how it would affect *me* and if you love me like you say you do ... then you won't hesitate to change your mind." She reaches up and touches my face, then trails her thumb over my bottom lip. "And I have to learn that it's okay to hurt your feelings sometimes, even though it kills me, because there are times that you need to hear the truth. I'm not going to bite my tongue anymore. I asked you in Italy to stand up to me and to not let me walk all over you and I'm going to take my own advice. I love you. I love you more than anything in this world, but I'm not going to lie down and let you walk on me either."
"I don't want you to let me. I want you to stand up to me." I give her a small grin. "Because you're pretty sexy when you're all badass and in my face."
"You're pretty sexy when your mouth falls open in shock, too."
"Thank you. I think."
"We should get up and get dressed. I'd like to stop by the florist and pick up some flowers for Dr. Karev. We need to go to the funeral home, too. He'll only be in Seattle for a couple of days and then his family is taking him back to Iowa."
"I still can't believe that he's dead."
"It happens when you least expect it, Lee. It happens in the blink of an eye and that's why I want you to never take your life for granted again. Deal?" She looks at me in confusion. "Why are you grinning ear to ear? I'm serious!"
"You called me 'Lee'. That's what Jazz calls me."
"You call me Yellow. And that's what Jazz calls me."
"I love you."
She smiles just as big as I am. "I love you, too."
We both go into the closet and dig through our clothing until we find something suitable to wear. I choose a black dress with long sleeves and a rounded collar. It's modest and simple, but the way Erica looks at me in it makes me think it could be more. She dons a black suit and puts a red shirt under it ... one of the ones I picked out for her at the mall. I adjust her collar and kiss her before I tame my flyaway curls into a conservative twist and she does the same with her own hair, pinning it up so that a few tendrils curve around her face. I like it. It makes her neck look sinfully long.
It strikes me as I'm rooting around in the jewelry box for earrings that this could be Jasper's funeral we're dressing for.
And that somewhere in Iowa, Alex Karev's family is enduring the gut twisting pain that I've been fearing for weeks.
I didn't know Alex that well, but what I did know of him was nice enough. The day after George kicked me out of Meredith's house, Alex bought me coffee and encouraged me to call George every name in the book. Then he covered all the ones that I left out. I'll miss him. I'll miss seeing him swagger down the hallway with his cocky, confident air. I can tell that it's going to be one of those days where I cry at Hallmark commercials or because I see a stray dog begging for food so I don't bother with eye makeup. Actually, I don't bother with anything other than a little lip gloss and blush. Erica takes the same approach and I doubt she'll cry over Alex, but if I crumble for Jasper ... Erica will crumble right along with me.
At the florist, we choose a masculine looking standing spray that has plenty of blue flowers that matched Alex's scrubs and then we drive to the Gellar Memorial Center. Coworkers are everywhere. I sign the book for both Erica and myself (I've already faced the fact that her penmanship is horrific) and then she takes my hand as we speak softly to a few of our colleagues. The coffin at the front of the room is solid black with shiny silver handles. The large flower arrangement on top of it is red and white and as we gravitate closer to it ... I realize that the cloying smell of flowers makes me sick at my stomach. It reeks of death. It drives home the fact that nothing lasts forever. These flowers will die the same way that Alex Karev died and my heart aches for the people that he touched ... and the people that he will never touch again.
Izzie's face flashes through my head.
I see Cristina sitting between Meredith and George.
I've never seen Yang cry.
Until right now.
She's outright sobbing and no one is comforting her.
I think they're all as shocked as I am.
I pick up a box of fresh tissue and kneel down in front of her, my hand on her knee. Meredith takes a few sheets of Kleenex and gives me something she means as a smile, but it's really just a grimace of pain that shows a few of her teeth. Yang leans forward and hugs me and I cling to her, shocked at how small and fragile she feels. I'm used to Erica, who exudes strength in every embrace. Yang sniffles and says, "I worked on him. I - I tried everything I could."
"I'm sure you did," I tell her, rubbing her back. "You're the best, you know? I'm so sorry."
Meredith sobs beside us and I take her hand. She squeezes it tightly in her own. "He was a great man," Grey says. "And - and Izzie can't be here for it. She doesn't even know that he's gone yet. We haven't told her because she's already so devastated about the baby and about her --- God, she should have been here for this. Alex would have wanted her here."
I feel the center of my heart shatter.
Alex probably wanted so much.
Cristina lets me go and noisily blows her nose. "I hate this. I hate it. It's so stupid to sign a book and listen to the piano player keep playing the same dumb shit over and over again. It's barbaric and it's not *right*. We sit here looking at Alex in death and no one really saw him in life except for Izzie. And she's not here to see him on his way out. I - I need air."
She leaps to her feet and Meredith goes after her, leaving me alone with George. I sit down on the pew beside him and he takes my left hand, patting it. I don't need comfort. I'm not torn apart, but maybe he needs to think that he's helping me. "He was almost the heart in the elevator guy," he says, absently stroking my diamond ring. "Burke wanted him to do it ... not me. You - you always said that me being the heart in the elevator guy is the reason you wanted to date me at first. It was almost Alex."
I sit completely still as George tells me about Alex's lack of fishing skill and about the way Alex once hugged him for saving Joe's life. Then he stops talking and we spend a while gazing at the coffin the same way we did at his father's funeral. George held my hand so tightly then that it ached for two days and when he broke down and sobbed ... it was my shoulder that he leaned on and my name that he cried out as they shut Harold's coffin for the last time. He said it like a prayer, like a silent plea for me to make the pain go away. And I tried. God, how I tried. I glance up when Lexie appears and she's obviously been in the bathroom crying. The top of her hair is a little wet, probably from splashing water on her face. I pat George on the shoulder and stand up, hugging her.
Everyone feels so FRAGILE.
I'm so glad that Erica feels sturdy in my arms.
I can lean and she can hold me up. And I'd like to think that I'm just as strong for her when she needs me.
When Erica appears a second later ... we walk to the coffin together and gaze down at Alex Karev's body. I never noticed that he had a mole on his cheek. I never noticed that his lips were kind of perfect or that his right hand had a jagged scar. You can see someone everyday and never really *see* them, but looking at them the last time makes you soak up every detail. What a sad, sad realization. In life, Karev was cocky, charming, brazen and bold. In death, he looks like a little boy who grew up too fast. And lost too soon.
He's nothing but a bruised, broken, overly made up little boy.
I once told Addison that he was the type to settle down one day and teach his kids to play football.
His big hands will never hold a football again ... much less his own baby.
He deserved to do at least that much before he died.
Erica has her arm around me as we gaze down at what remains of a doctor who had all the potential in the world. She leans close to me and says, "When I realized what you had done ... with the pills ... this is the image that went through my head. I saw you like this. You could have been like this."
"I can't keep apologizing, Erica. Please just stop."
"Do you see Jasper when you look at him?"
"Does it hurt?"
"Yes, it does."
"Please ... never make me see you like this again."
"I won't. I promise ... I won't."
I hold myself together until someone steps up to my right and Addison says, "It doesn't even look like him. He's *orange*. Why would they make him orange?"
It's because the damage was extensive, but I don't need to tell her that. And she only asked it because asking *why* he's dead makes even less sense. We all do a tango with death every single time we step into the operating room. Death stands right behind us, breathing down our necks, waiting for us to make a mistake. "I don't know. Addison, I just don't know."
We turn toward each other at the same time and her anger at me over the pills is pushed aside because she readily comes into my arms and her slender shoulders tremble as she breaks down. Alex was not just a one night stand for Addison Montgomery. She confided to me just before she moved to California that if he had wanted more from her ... she would have freely given it. To mourn for what *might* have been is devastating when you know that it absolutely will *never* be. I stand back a little as Erica and Addison embrace and I don't cry until Addison reaches into the coffin and adjusts Alex's tie, then runs her hand over his short hair. She rests her chin on the mouth of the coffin, gazing down at him like she's willing him to wake up, to see her, to hear her. Her tears fall on his jacket, leaving it spotted as she leans forward, kisses his head, and says, "You were the best god damned intern I ever had, Alex Karev."
I learn something as I watch Addison.
I learn that there's no room for what *might* have been in a person's life.
If you want it ... go after it.
Because dying with regrets ... or even being left to live with them ... is a sad, sad way to be.
I invite Addison to go to the airport with us because she's in no shape to drive and she eventually relents. If I'm being honest, I invite her because I think her presence will keep Joel off my ass, but I also want to be there for her. I start to rethink that decision when Erica pulls onto the main road and Addison collects herself enough to yell at me. Her tirade lasts until we're at the airport and continues until we walk inside. It's vicious. She doesn't pull any punches as she tells me exactly what she thinks of my 'stunt' and the fact that I bailed on my family. The only reason she stops brow beating me is because she drops an f-bomb near a toddler who loudly repeats it and the kid's mother looks fit to be tied.
When we sit down to wait for the plane, Addison says, "I can't believe you did that, Callie. You took the coward's way out and you're not a coward. At least I didn't think you were."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"I don't care if you come to me with your womb dangling out your ass ... I will *never* write you a prescription for anything again. Even if *I* cause it."
"If my womb comes out my ass ... you can rake in the millions of dollars from the publicity and own the right for the made for television movie that would undoubtedly happen."
"This is not funny. You could have *died*." Addison's voice falters over that last word and she frantically digs through her purse for tissue. Erica comes to the rescue and Addy dabs at her eyes before she speaks again. "Mark broke up with me."
"I heard," I tell her, putting my arm around her. "I can talk to him if you want me to."
She shreds the tissue in her hand and says, "I need to tell you something and I swear to God you better not say one word to anyone."
"Erica?" Addison asks.
"I won't say a thing," Erica agrees.
"I think I'm pregnant. And so help me God ... if I am ... I'm flying to California to kick Naomi's ass because she told me that it couldn't happen. My period is late and I'm sick as hell every morning and I can't keep telling myself that it's stress."
"Does Mark know?" I push her hair back. "Addy?"
"Mark doesn't know. And if I tell him and we get back together I'll always wonder if he only took me back because of the baby."
"On the other hand," I say, "you will start to show and he will figure it out. Do you really want to piss him off even more?"
"I could go back to California."
Any desire I have to comfort her flies out of me like it's been summoned by God himself. "You're kidding right?"
"Naomi said I could."
"Addison!" I angrily jump to my feet. "You cannot do this to him again! Not after what you did in New York! To this day ... whenever he buys a new calendar he circles three dates. The day you told him, the baby's due date, and the day you ended it. Don't you *dare* think about taking his child to California ... HIS CHILD, ADDY, and not tell him!"
"Don't you judge me, Torres!" Addison snaps, mopping at her face with another tissue. "You're not a fucking saint!"
"I wouldn't keep a baby from its father!"
"I'm not *sure* that it's Mark's baby, Callie." She is crying so hard now that people are starting to look. "Alex and I ... we had sex."
My bottom jaw drops and I know that my eyes look like saucers. "You told me you didn't sleep with Alex that night!"
"I didn't ... that night. It just ... it happened and I won't know for sure until I get a good look at the fetus and can figure out a due date."
"OH MY GOD! How could you - what were you thinking?! You came to Miami and told me you were in love with Mark! You came back HERE to have a chance with him and you did THIS?!"
"YOU DID THE SAME THING!" Addison yells.
"NO! I DID NOT!"
"Callie," Erica snaps, shaking her head at me. "Now is really not the time for this! Leave her alone!"
Addison is hysterical now and Erica moves into the seat that I vacated to comfort her. I leave them there and stalk through the throng of travelers while my mind spins out of control. Addison slept with Alex. Mark has no clue. The thought of him being hurt all over again grips my soul in a vise. There are times that I can actually live with what I did to him because I know he's better off without me than having half of me ... but I can't handle knowing something THIS HUGE when he doesn't. I'm ready to send Joel a text message telling him to take a cab when I hear, "AUNT COW-LIE!"
I turn just in time to catch my nephew who is running toward me at breakneck speed. I lift him up and he wraps his skinny arms around me so tightly that he damn near crushes my larynx. I tickle him to make him back off a little and he retaliates by planting a wet kiss on my cheek. "Hey, Trevor. I didn't know you were coming, too."
"Mommy and Savvy stay home," he tells me, stroking my hoop earring. "Savvy gots school, but I wanna see Jazzy. Where Jazzy?"
"Jazz is in the hospital. We'll see him soon, okay?"
"Okay. You carry me? I tired." To prove his point, he yawns and puts his head on my shoulder. There's something that feels just *right* about a little kid in my arms. I felt it with Jazz when he was younger. I felt it with Emma Foster. And I feel it now with Trevor. Something happens in my gut when I cradle a tiny life against me and I don't think I'll ever be able to explain it. Or get enough of it.
Joel arrives a second later looking haggard and wrinkled. He kisses my forehead and says, "Me and you? We're going to have a huge f.i.g.h.t. and you will wear the b.r.u.i.s.e.s. for a month. What in the h.e.l.l. were you thinking?"
"S.h.u.t. up," I reply. "Or I will b.r.e.a.k. your face."
"I'm gonna learn to spell real soon!" Trevor announces sleepily. "Then you can't do that no more."
I grin and Joel grins back, then takes my left hand and looks at my ring. "You are c.r.a.z.y. and still a p.e.r.v.e.r.t., Callie."
"And you are still a pain in the a.s.s., Joel. So we're even." I make a face at him and carry Trevor back toward Erica and Addison. "Try to be on your best behavior. Addison is with us and she lost a friend of hers yesterday in a car accident. He was a coworker of ours. A surgical resident."
"I'm sorry to hear that." His hand goes to my back, where he pats it in an uncharacteristic attempt to console me. "And I'll be good. I'll even speak to your partner in s.i.n. and refrain from reminding either of you that the Bible is pretty cut and dried on what you're doing."
"If you value your l.i.f.e then keep it that way. I mean it."
Erica spots us first and is as shocked as I am to see that Trevor has come along for the trip. He won't be allowed in the intensive care unit until I plead with Webber, but I really don't know if I want him to see Jasper. Not until we know for sure one way or the other. Trevor pretends to be bashful when Erica greets him and Joel pretends to be nice as he foregoes shaking her hand in favor of giving her a stiff, one armed hug. He does the same to Addison and apologizes for her loss, then we head out into what is shaping up to be an unseasonably cold day. My bare legs are covered with goose bumps as I lift Trevor into the backseat of my SUV and I watch Addison buckle him into the seat belt, making a mental note to buy him a car seat of some kind.
I have to smile a little at the thought of buying a car seat. And then the smile fades when I realize that there's a part of me that's more than a little jealous that Addison is pregnant. If I had never met Erica Hahn and if my heart didn't rest solely and firmly with her where it belongs and always will ... I would have probably been engaged to Mark right now. And I would have probably been carrying his child already because I buck convention at every turn. I glance in the backseat to check on Trevor and watch Addison play with him. She catches my eye and holds it for a second and I know in my soul that she's terrified. She could be carrying a dead man's child ... and the living guy that she's in love with could reject her for good. I can't be mad at her. I can't even pretend to be mad at her.
Addison's life is making mine look perfect.
We have to run the heat on the way to the hospital and I fear that the cold is a bad omen.
Maybe God is already chilling me to the bone so that I'll be prepared for what's coming.
There's a wreath of black roses in the lobby of the hospital and a blown up photo of Alex is in the middle of it. Addison puts a hand over her mouth and rushes into the bathroom. There's a guestbook here as well and page after page has been filled with well wishes. I see that there's a collection of money being taken in a large glass jar so I open my wallet and put all the cash I have on me inside. I have the distinct impression that Alex didn't come from money and his funeral fees will not be cheap. Erica follows suit, dropping in a few twenties and little Trevor digs in his pockets, holding up two quarters. I pick him up so he can drop it inside and explain to him that they money will help a nice doctor go home and rest in peace.
Hospitals deal in death as much as they deal in life. It's a roll of the dice and outcomes can go either way, but when one of your own has been taken so abruptly it causes a pall to descend over everyone. There's no hustle and bustle now. All the doctors, nurses, interns, and orderlies that I see are trudging back and forth, dragging their feet as they go about their duties. I hope that wherever Alex is ... he can see that his life, however short it was, has left an impact here at Seattle Grace. I know that I'll remember him for the rest of my days.
Addison comes back and I hug her, whispering that it's okay. I also tell her that I love her and I'm here, I'm not going anywhere. She gives me a watery smile and kisses my cheek. I begin to sweat as we board the elevator and pull my coat off. Erica takes it from me and lets it rest over her arm. As we descend higher and higher and closer and closer to Jazz ... I start to cry. It scares Trevor and Joel picks him up, giving me a sympathetic look as he rubs his baby on the back and tells him that it's okay. Erica hugs me and promises that it will be okay and I want to believe her; I want to believe that she can work whatever magic she has worked on me a million times, but I'm not convinced.
"Honey," she says softly, when my breathing hitches, "you need to calm down. It's going to upset everyone ... especially Jasper when he wakes up if they see you like this."
The doors open and I stumble in my heels. "I want to change clothes. I'm not comfortable."
Erica glances at Joel. "They're in room five seventeen. Can you tell them we'll be there in a few minutes?"
"Sure," Joel adjusts Trevor on his shoulder and pats my cheek. "Have a little faith, kiddo. For me?"
"I can watch him if you want," Addison tells Joel, holding out her arms for Trevor. "I don't think they'll let him go back and well ... I happen to know where they hide the candy in this place."
Trevor is sold on 'candy' and practically jumps into Addison's arms. I can hear her talking to him as she walks down the hall with him. He waves back at us the same way that Jasper waved over the back of the stretcher that took him to surgery.
In the locker room I find a pair of scrubs and pull them on. I choose them over the jeans and sweatshirt that I keep for emergencies. I feel stronger in my scrubs, like I can pull from some untapped physician reserve now that I'm in the costume. I want to be strong. I want to feel invincible. Erica puts both of our purses in my locker and starts to close it, but I stop her and pluck a photo of Jasper from his last birthday party off the inside of the door. He's smiling so beautifully, so innocently and handsomely that I have to sit down because I may never see that smile again. Erica straddles the bench and pulls me against her, not speaking. She doesn't have to speak for me to hear her loud and clear.
We're in this together and she's going to stick by my side for as long as I need her.
That will be for the rest of my life.
It takes more than a few minutes for my tears to eventually subside. The longer I look at the photo of Jazz, standing in the sunlight with his hand on the horse he enjoyed so much, the more I remember how *strong* he is. This was the same day that he barged into the living room and threw a tantrum because we were all yelling at one another. Jasper Torres is strong as HELL, I think. And he will unleash that temper again to come back to us. I have to believe that. I sniffle and lift my head off Erica chest and nod. "I'm ready."
"So am I."
Derek is standing outside Jasper's door when we walk down the hallway. He smiles at me, but it's fake. I know it's fake and I know that his 'cautious optimism' is about to be tested in front of all of us. "How are you, Callie?" he asks.
"I don't know," I reply honestly. "Ask me again when Jazz wakes up."
He squeezes my shoulder. "I stopped the medication about an hour ago. He should be coming around any time now. Why don't you go ahead inside?"
I've gone in and out of rooms all over the hospital, but I've never felt like walking into one could kill me. This one does. It takes Erica's persistent hand on my back to make me take a step forward, but I only take one step. She finally moves around me, opens the door, and pulls me along in her wake. My mother stands up and greets me, pulling me into a hug. I purposely avoid looking at Jasper and focus on my father, who turns his back to me and looks out the window instead. Joel is giving me the same look he used to give me when we were younger and I was about to be yelled at for something *he* probably caused. He's smug.
"Jazz has been making a few sounds now," Mom says, patting my cheek. "I like your hair, honey."
I nod at her and glance at Erica, who moves around me and goes to the bed where Jasper is lying. I still haven't looked at him. I watch her take a stethoscope and put it on, but that's the best I can do. She's doing an exam for my benefit ... or maybe for hers and I can't watch. Because if there's something wrong then I'll see it in her face and I'd rather be oblivious for as long as I can be. There's nothing but silence as Erica rustles around behind me and Mom finally asks, "What do you think, Erica?"
"Everything looks great and he definitely doesn't care for a sternum rub."
"Don't do that!" I say, turning around to look at her. "It'll hurt him and -"
There he is.
His head has been shaved and his face is pale, but he's still Jasper. He's still *my* Jazz. There is an oxygen tube up his nose and I can see the wiring from the heart monitor, but I can also see his full lips that are so much like mine. I can see the strong angle of his jaw and the eyelashes that I have always envied. I can see the faint trace of a closed up hole in his ear that I put there and then got a spanking for even though he asked me for it. His features may have matured, but he's still my baby brother.
He's not dead. He's just sleeping.
And I want him to wake up.
It feels like Saturday morning and he's missing our cartoons.
He's missing our LIVES.
I don't realize that I'm gripping the bed rail until his hand moves. It's just the briefest fluttering of his index finger and it could be nothing more than a muscle spasm, but it could also be him attempting to claw his way out of the darkness. I let the rail down and grip that hand, squeezing it tightly in my own, ready to pull him out or dive into the darkness with him. He said he wanted to be my big brother one day and that's what he is now ... his hand is large and soft and wonderful in mine. "Jazz? Jasper, wake up, buddy."
A wrinkle appears between his eyes and disappears just as quickly, making me wonder if I really saw it ... or I wanted to see it. I listen to the steady beat of his heart telling me that he's hanging on and I reach out, touching his cheek. He's warm and full of life. I can feel it. Jasper is NOT in a coffin. Jasper is NOT orange from too much makeup covering any injury. The scar on his head ... that will fade one day and all I want to see ... the only thing that would make this moment perfect ... would be to gaze into his eyes and have him recognize me.
His finger flutters again and my heart stops in my chest. Oh my god ... did he just squeeze my hand? Yes ... yes. He definitely did. Everything falls away around me and it's just me and Jasper and we're winning a tug of war that we didn't even know we were playing. We're chasing dolphins and racing the wind and he's laughing as I splash him with water. I see him as a baby, I see him taking his first steps, I hear him say my name for the first time and remember the way his small fingers clasped mine as we waited for the school bus together for the first time. I think maybe he feels it too ... he feels how much I need him right now. His breathing changes a little and I lean down, my mouth against his ear. What I say is for him only as I whisper, "I'm really sorry I pushed you down when you broke my Walk Man. And prom night is still the best night of my life. And ... I should have taken you to the skate park instead of out of the boat. You're still my best friend, buddy. Please come back to me. There's so much that we still have to do, Jazz. Wake up. Please wake up and talk to me."
Someone is crying behind me and I can't turn around to see who it is. I whisper promise after promise, telling my brother that I'll find a way to rip the moon out of the sky if he will just open his eyes. My tears drop against his cheek, bathing him in my pain, and I'm ready to shake him when his fingers grip my hand so tight it hurts. His eyelashes flutter and his lips part as I move a few inches away to get a good look at him.
And he's trying to look at me. He's trying to do what I'm asking.
His eyes are glassy when they open and they roll backwards a few times as he smacks his lips from the dryness ... from thirst. I hold my breath when he raises his empty hand, the one I'm not clinging to, and rubs his head. That's Jasper! He's rubbing his head to feel his hair like he always did! Please ... let him come out of this completely unscathed. Just ... let him come back. "Jazz?"
It takes him a second to turn toward the sound of my voice and if he's blind ... if he can't locate me ... I don't know what I will do. I don't have to worry too long, though, because his brown eyes find mine and slowly, so slowly that I almost fear he's building up to cry, a smile breaks across his face. It is absolutely, hands down, and beyond a shadow of a doubt ... the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
"Hi, Lee, hi!"
His voice, spread through with gravel and husky from lack of use, sounds like a symphony of angels and when I laugh ... it comes out with a sob of relief. My mom and dad are on the other side of the bed and I didn't even realize it. My dad is rubbing Jasper's leg and my mother has her head down, sobbing on Jazz's chest. Jasper puts a hand on her head and his smile fades, "They done hurt your head too, mama?"
"She's okay, kid," Joel tells him. He's standing next to me and he's got a hand on my back. "Do you hurt, Jasper?"
"Hurts." Jazz tugs his hand out of mine and points at the side of his head. For a second ... I think he's going to cry and then his eyes widen. "HI, YELLOW!!"
"Hi, buddy." Erica is on my right and she grins down at him, rubbing the spot on his head he touched. "Welcome back."
"I sleep! Long time!" Jazz says, grinning. His eyes find mine again. "I miss you. Not sleep no more!"
"I missed you, too." I don't think anyone in this room can possibly know how true those words are. I have missed him. Even like this ... with his brain not quite catching up to his body ... I've missed him. My flawed, slow, and gloriously naive brother ... is perfect.
I hear Derek clear his throat at the foot of the bed and we all look at him. He's smiling, but it's not the smile of someone who knows that he is a neurosurgeon god. It's the smile of someone who is genuinely pleased with Jasper and not with himself. I watch him lift the cover off Jasper's sock covered feet and squeeze his left one. "Do you feel that?" Derek asks. "Jasper, can you feel my hand?"
Jasper doesn't react.
"Can you kick me?" Derek asks.
Jasper's eyes widen, scandalized. "I not kick nobody!"
"It's okay," Derek assured him, holding his hand a few inches over Jasper's foot. "Kick my hand."
"Bad. Kicking bad!" Jazz shakes his head, then rubs the side of it. "Ow."
"Move over," Erica whispers, nudging me to the side. She grins down at Jazz and walks her fingers over his chest, then she tickles his ribs.
And he kicks Derek in a place that Meredith will probably kill him for later on.
Jasper can move his legs!
He can speak.
He can see.
And the sound of his laughter is the most amazing, the most wonderful and BEAUTIFUL thing in the world.
My brother is back.
I close my eyes and think of the bullet that we've dodged this time.
And the tear that slides down my cheek is for the Alex Karev ... because maybe he took it for us.
Over the next few hours, Jasper drinks so much that the nurse is constantly coming in to change his output bag. I once danced with George because of his father's urine output and seeing Jasper's makes me feel like I could fly. When he complains of pain ... he gets medication through his IV and then sleeps for a while, but he wakes up smiling. He always wakes up smiling.
He always wakes up.
And he laughs when he hears my stomach rumbling and I realize that Erica and I have both skipped breakfast and lunch. I'm usually pretty good at doing that and hold up remarkably well, but Erica will be a viper if she doesn't eat soon. I give Jasper a kiss, tucking the cover around him and watch Nurse Kate give him an injection of morphine. He's asleep before he can tell me goodnight and that's okay. The mere fact that he CAN tell me goodnight is enough for me. I give Mom a kiss and turn to speak to Dad, but he pointedly ignores me in favor of hugging Erica and telling HER to have a great night.
If Joel had not already taken Trevor and gone to the Archfield ... he would be gloating. I bet he's already trying to figure out how to spend my part of the inheritance since I'll probably be cut out of any will my father leaves behind. Mom gives me an 'I told you so' look and I walk out of Jasper's room with my head down. It's impossible to feel completely elated when my father is pretending that I don't exist. Erica follows me to the elevator and we wait in silence for it to arrive. Once we're inside, completely alone ... it's another story.
She grabs me, hugs me, and plants a kiss on me that leaves me breathless.
"He's OKAY!" She cups my face and kisses me again. "Callie! He's perfect!"
I laugh at her because she's incredibly animated for someone that my mother called Mike Tyson. Twice.
We're still hugging when we arrive on the third floor, where we left our purses in my locker. She waits for me while I put my dress and heels back on and then we head down the hall together, chattering animatedly about nothing. And everything. I draw up short when I see Bailey talking to Meredith, Cristina, and George. Alex was her intern and she's wearing the loss of him in the sunken bags under her eyes. She's a mess. Webber joins them and nods and the five of them go into one of the nearby rooms.
"Oh my God," I whisper. "Let's go."
I pull her along beside me, trying to run past the room that I know has to be Izzie Stevens'. The door is closed and I try not to think about the news she is about to receive. I press the button on the elevator and will it to arrive, but it doesn't come fast enough.
There are many sounds in this world that a person never forgets. You would know your mother's voice ... even if she's been dead for years. You know what it sounds like to gasp in pleasure and cry in regret. And I'm pretty sure that you know what your baby sounds like in a sea of a million when it starts to cry.
The sound that Izzie Stevens makes when they tell her that Alex died in her car is worse than anything I've ever imagined. I watched her let go of Denny and Alex Karev lift her into his arms and sit with her while she sobbed. It was quiet pain, it was breathless and gagging. I hope someone is there to lift her now because she's not sobbing ... she's not quiet. She's screaming and screaming and the hallway hangs onto it until it seems to come from every direction ... reverberating through my head.
I stare at my reflection in the steel elevator door and I know ... I know how easily that could have been me.
And I even know that there was a part of me, once upon a time, that would have relished the sound of the woman who authored so much of MY pain experiencing her own ... but I don't want to hear it now.
Or ever again.
The doors slide open to reveal Addison and she opens her mouth to say something, but nothing comes out because now Izzie's agony has invaded the elevator and Addy can hear it for herself. I watch my friend's face fall, I watch her eyes fill with tears and I step forward to hang onto her because that's all I can do. I'm still hanging onto her when I climb into the backseat of the car with her and Erica drives us home. It's not even a question. Addy needs to be with us tonight. Friends don't let friends downward spiral alone.
Addison goes straight to the guest room while Erica throws something together for dinner and I follow her, sitting down on the bed after she crawls under the cover. I take her hand in mine and say, "This will work out, Addison. It will."
She plumps the pillow under her cheek. "You remember when I hit Mark with the roses? I went to Joe's after I called you that night and Alex was there. Mark asked me what I did to my hair, but Alex said it was beautiful. He said that *I* was beautiful and ... god, he made me feel like I was. He said everything I needed to hear and we ... I had sex with him in the parking lot. And then I told him to stay away from me."
"It's okay." I put my hand over hers and she holds on tight. "Whatever happens ... I'll be here for you. You are *not* alone and you don't have to ever think about going back to California. You were not happy there and -"
"I'm not happy *here*, either." Addison makes a face. "Maybe I'm still being punished by the karma gods for what I did to Derek."
"The funny thing about karma is that it catches up to you wherever you go," I say. "And at least here ... you know you have someone who's willing to help you fight. That would be me in case you didn't get it."
She returns the smile I put on my face and says, "Jasper's okay? I can tell that he is because *you're* okay."
"He's amazing," I reply. "I don't think I've ever been that scared in my life. For fifteen years I have felt personal responsibility for everything that has happened in his life."
Her free hand moves to her belly and she leaves it there. "Personal responsibility is a scary thing."
"Did you take the test yet?"
"No." She shakes her head. "I'm not ready to know for sure because thinking I know for sure is already killing me. If I absolutely know for sure ... I may need a padded room for a while. Would you mind if I took a shower?"
"Not at all. I'll get you something comfortable to wear, too."
"Thanks, Cal. For everything."
I start to leave the room, but stop halfway. "I'm sorry about what I said to you at the airport. It's none of my business and I had no right to -"
"I'm sorry that I called you a drug addicted asshole who needed to be bitch slapped into next week."
I frown. "You didn't call me that."
"Not to your face. Let's just say that we were both wrong and call it even. Okay?"
I move around the bed and hug her. "I do love you, you know?"
"I do know. Too bad they didn't teach me 'Vagina Whispering' in college when I was learning everything else about them. I'd be giving Hahn a run for her money right about now."
"I can't handle being the object of everyone's affection," I tell her, holding up my hand. "I know that I'm hot and insanely desirable, but damn. Go take a *cold* shower and eat dinner with us, Addison. And no playing footsies with me under the table."
"You're onto me."
I find her a pair of Erica's yoga pants and a long sleeve thermal before I join Erica in the kitchen. In the small amount of time that I've been speaking to Addison, Yellow has whipped up a large salad and has cut leftover fried chicken into cubes. My stomach practically bellows its appreciation as I steal a few cucumber slices and pop them in my mouth. Erica gives me a look of horror. "You actually went for cucumber when there's something greasy right *there*?"
"I figured I'd start trying to seduce you early. Is it working?"
She takes a pan of yeast rolls out of the oven and makes sure they're nicely browned before she takes off her oven mitts. When she tosses them aside and pins me back against the sink I know that it's definitely working. "If we didn't have a houseguest, we'd be celebrating Jasper's recovery in the hot tub right now."
"Addison's in the shower. I could go club her on the head just hard enough to make her sleep all night."
"You're horrible." She kisses me despite her assessment of me and I pull her so close I can barely take it. "Callie?"
"You know how I told you I wasn't going to bite my tongue anymore?"
"Oh god ... what did I do now?"
"Don't be a hypocrite. It doesn't suit you."
"Okay, I'm officially lost."
Erica kisses my neck, then my jaw. "Don't judge Addison for wanting to leave, Callie, because you do that, too. She wants to run at the first sign of trouble and correct me if I'm wrong, but so do you. So save your righteous indignation for someone else. Not her. And especially not now."
Okay. I admit it. That stung. And I think maybe it's because the truth does hurt. Especially when it's coming from the only human being on the planet who makes you feel sixteen again. "I apologized to her."
"See? You don't need me to *teach* you anything." She winks at me and walks to the wine rack where she carefully chooses a bottle. "We should open something special, don't you think?"
When the time comes ... when Addison is smiling (and drinking milk in her wineglass ... oh how I will laugh at her if this is a false alarm) and Erica says that she'd like to make a toast, I put my hand on hers and say, "Let me?"
"Okay," she replies, smiling. "Knock yourself out."
I lift the glass in my hand and look at it. The wine inside is red and I think about the blood clot that Derek thinned in my brother's brain. I think about the blood that's pumping Jasper's heart and keeping his brain healthy and I know that Addison and Erica would both toast Jasper and his recovery, but I don't go there. "To Alex Karev ... whose life ended way too soon."
"And to Izzie Stevens," Addison adds. "Whose life will never be the same again."
As I click my glass to theirs ... I'm thinking about life and how fleeting our hold is.
Jasper's life was spared and I nearly squandered mine away.
Life has a lesson for us every day if we only pay attention.
I'm all ears now.
Bet you didn't see THAT coming. ;)