Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Rating: This part PG with implied NC17
Summary: Making amends can be the hardest thing in the world. But sometimes the chaos is worth it.
Pairings: Alex/Addison George/Callie Meredith/Derek implied
The dining room was chaotic. It was organized chaos, but chaos nonetheless. Callie introduced George to six muscled men who took off their hats and greeted him with firm handshakes. Each of them spent a few minutes tugging on Callie’s hair, playfully poking her in the ribs, and nudging one another when she took George’s hand in hers and led him to the table. The table itself was extremely long, but plain. Scrubbed plank boards with an unpolished finish covered the top and Callie explained that the table had, at one time, been the walls of her great grandfather’s shack.
The men all hurried to the kitchen and when they returned, they were carrying platters full of food. Chloe pulled up the rear, pushing a cart with several bottles of wine on it. Two young women, both wearing uniforms, began arranging the food on the table. Callie made small talk with each, inquiring about their families after she had introduced George. Pop arrived as the lids were being removed and took a spot at the head of the table. Chloe sat on the other end and George was surprised when everyone, even the two young ‘maids’, sat down at the table to enjoy the meal.
"I’d like to take a moment to give thanks," Chloe said, clasping her hands beneath her chin. Every head bowed and she said, "Thank you to our Heavenly Father for bringing Callie and George to our table tonight. We thank you for this food, our health, and say a special prayer for Harold O’Malley, whose spirit has not only touched Callie, but touched those of us who have heard her speak of him. We pray that the next time we sit down for dinner, Harold can be here with us. With the purest of hearts we pray. Amen."
George was genuinely touched. He had been raised in a devout Catholic church, but stopped pursuing religion after high school. He swallowed hard and nodded at Chloe. "Thank you, ma’am."
"Call me Chloe." She winked at him as the platters began to circulate around the table. Her eagle eyes focused on Callie and she shouted, "Calliope Torres!"
"What?" Callie almost jumped out her skin and promptly dropped her fork. "Damn it!"
"Don’t you swear at the table! I just turned thanks!" Chloe chided. "I see you not putting hardly anything on your plate! I made all your favorites! Fried chicken, cole slaw, potatoes. There’s even peach cobbler warming in the oven and you’ll not leave this table until you’ve had some of all of it."
"I had a big lunch," Callie lied. She had actually watched George eat a sandwich while she drank five cups of coffee.
"She did not." George ladled cole slaw onto her plate, then his own. "She hasn’t eaten enough to keep a bird alive for at least three days."
"Traitor." Callie narrowed her eyes at him and accepted the platter of chicken. She chose a very small breast and plopped it onto her plate. "Satisfied?"
"No," Chloe and George replied together. George added a chicken leg to her plate and a breast to his own, then gave her an innocent smile.
When everyone had full plates (Callie’s the fullest), they dug in. A ton of questions were asked of the couple: how did they meet, how long had they been together, what had happened to his father. George was charming, extremely conversational and well spoken. Callie enjoyed listening to him, enjoyed his easy laughter and the way he playfully bantered back and forth with her. She told the story of how she had set his dislocated shoulder and he told about her penchant for not warning people that she was about to set a bone. Callie then explained the stitches on her cheek and the big, burly man who had found this approach offensive. Each of the hired hands detailed what they would like to do to the guy and Callie was impressed with their imaginative homicide techniques
The mood was light, the wine flowed freely, and Callie enjoyed herself immensely, but she picked at her food. She had taken a couple of bites and it was more than enough. Her anxiety levels were through the roof, no matter how pleasant the dinner was. Her stomach was in knots and, while the wine helped calm her down some, it filled her stomach too much to even consider the peach cobbler when it was brought to the table. The staff took theirs in paper bowls, saying that they had overstayed their dinner hour. They said their goodbyes and left the room.
George set a bowl of cobbler in front of Callie, then glanced at her barely touched dinner. "You’re going to hurt Chloe’s feelings."
"Then put some of it on your plate."
"No," Pop said, putting his hand on Callie’s when she lifted her plate and tried to scrape the contents onto George’s. "Honey, you can’t do this to yourself. You’re not eating, you’re pale, you have bags under your eyes. I don’t feel like this is just about Roy Porter."
Chloe moved down the table and sat across from Callie, next to Pop. Callie could feel the first kernels of apprehension sneaking up on her and she tried to shrug it off. "When you’re a doctor you have to put other people’s health before your own. We’ve been keeping some crazy hours."
"You told me they cut back on hours at the hospital," Pop reminded her. "And when you were an intern you worked twice as many hours as you are now so try again."
"I lost a patient. First one I’ve ever lost on my own."
"When?" Chloe asked softly.
"A couple of days ago."
"Okay, that could explain the lack of appetite right *now*, but every single time I’ve spoken to you for the past few weeks, you sound like your best friend just ran away to join the circus," Pop said.
Callie wrinkled her nose, thinking of Addison and Alex. "She practically has."
Chloe glanced at George. "Since Callie doesn’t feel like sharing why don’t you tell us what’s wrong with her."
George pushed his cobbler aside and reached under the table, taking Callie’s hand in his. He cleared his throat and said, "It’s, uh, it’s a lot of things, but it’s mostly me. We - we broke up for a while and -"
"George," Callie began, a note of warning in her voice. "This is about Roy Porter. You and me? We’re fine!"
"We are fine, but your family is worried about you," George replied. "And frankly, so am I."
Her temper had almost reached the breaking point. She concentrated on taking a couple of deep, calming breaths. "I really don’t want to discuss this now or ... well, ever. So -"
Pop leaned toward her, cutting her off. "You need to honestly weigh your options and think about the big picture because what you choose to do is not only going to affect you it’s going to affect the decision that the parole board makes. You have the power to influence them and the *right* to look Porter in the eye."
Callie swallowed hard. "I look him in the eye almost every night when I fall asleep and dream. When he invades my nightmares the same way he invaded my body. I have a right to NOT look at him."
"No! No one understands how I feel!"
George could feel her hand beginning to sweat in his, but he tightened his grip. "Then tell us."
"I told you!" she snapped. "I’ve talked about it until I’m sick! I got raped and it was terrifying and brutal and even after all this time I’m still not okay. I’m not going to *be* okay until you people leave me the hell alone about it and let me try to forget it for a while! *I* am the one has to do this! *I* am the one who has to live with it! You can’t help me!"
"We can try," George replied. "If you don’t do this then he could-"
"Goddammit!" Callie yanked her hand from his and stood. "I know what is at stake here! I know! I am completely aware that if I choose not to go then he wins again. Even if he doesn’t get out, he beats me because I was too scared to face him. But I am also completely aware of the fact that the mere thought of being in the room with him, hearing him breathe, seeing his face, makes me want to curl up and die. This isn’t about whether or not I *should* go. I know I *should* go. This is about whether or not I *can*. I have never been so afraid of anything in my life. So you have to let me work that out. And I have to do it alone!"
Her words were heavy in the room long after she had stalked away. George clasped his hands in his lap, staring down at his entwined fingers as he attempted to process what had happened. Tears blurred his vision and he tried to blink them away to no avail. Using his napkin, he blotted his eyes and saw that Pop was doing the same thing. Taking a deep breath, George said, "I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have kept on at her like that."
Pop gave the younger man what he hoped would pass for a reassuring smile. "It’s not you, son. She’s just always been so damned independent. She never asks for help. Never."
George shook his head. "Well, I hate it for her. She’s not alone in this and whether she likes it or not I’m going to be there every step of the way."
Chloe chuckled. "I think our Callie may have met her match, Philip."
"I think you may be right, darlin’." Pop rested his elbows on the table, his gaze still on George. "It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position, George. This is the part where I have to ask you what your intentions are toward my granddaughter."
Without missing a beat, George said, "I’m going to marry her. She just doesn’t know it yet."
Pop’s grin was enormous. "I suspected as much. You love her."
"Yes, sir. I love her very much."
"The problems that you mentioned the two of you having ... all of that is in the past?"
"Absolutely. We’ve come a long way and I can’t imagine my life without her in it."
"I don’t mean to pry, George, but have you purchased a ring yet?"
Feeling inadequate and small, George shook his head. "No, sir. With my dad being sick and well, if I can be blunt, with my checking account reflecting that I’m still very much an intern, I just haven’t been able to. But I will. I’ll do it right."
"May I be just as blunt?" Pop asked.
George braced himself, expecting to be told that he was too poor, too unworthy for the Archfield family. "Please feel free."
"My wife died before she could meet Callie, but she was excited by the prospect of having a grandchild and left very specific instructions about certain things. She wanted her first born grandchild to be given the engagement ring that I gave her on Valentine’s Day a very long time ago. Callie has never seen it because I’ve been waiting rather impatiently for this moment to arrive. If you would consider taking that ring and giving it to her when you’re ready, when you know the time is right, I would be honored."
"Are - are you sure?"
"She doesn’t have to know that it belonged to her grandmother if you’re uncomfortable with that."
"No! I think she would love that! I just - I can pay you or -"
"Your word that you will take care of my little girl is all the payment I need."
George looked him in the eye. "You have my word, Pop. She’s my life. It took me a while to get it, but I know that she’s the other half of me. I love her. I love everything about her and I feel blessed just to know her."
Chloe burst into tears and Pop reached for her hand, saying, "Aww, stop that, honey."
Seeing women cry always left George with an uncomfortable ache in his stomach. He got to his feet and said, "I’m going to go find Callie. Thank you for dinner, Chloe. It was incredible."
"You’re welcome, son," Chloe replied, dabbing at her eyes.
"She’ll probably be out at the stables," Pop told him. "If you don’t see her messing with the horses then head up to the hayloft and follow the bridge to nowhere."
"Uh, okay." George wanted to ask the old man to elaborate, but thought better of it. "Thank you."
The wind had picked up a little when George stepped onto the porch and scanned the yard. He didn’t see a sign of Callie or anyone else for that matter. With a purposeful stride, he crossed the driveway and opened the gate, making sure that it was securely latched behind him. A chestnut mare trotted toward him and he paused long enough to give her a few quick pats. The animal and turned and headed into the stable, pausing once to glance back at him. It gave George an eerie feeling, like the animal wanted him to follow.
Several horses were in stalls and poked their heads out as George walked down the middle aisle. He spotted Apollo and hurried forward, expecting to see Callie grooming him. Except for the large horse, however, the stall was empty. Spotting a set of stairs at the back of the stable, he quietly climbed up into the hayloft and gave a low whistle. It was more than a hayloft. There was a tire swing dangling in the middle of the room and several climbing surfaces along the walls. Hay was stacked to the ceiling on one side and the other was full of exercise equipment and punching bags. The double doors were open and he could see what appeared to be a walkway extending outward.
Curious, he stepped to the edge of the loft and smiled, shaking his head. A swinging bridge was attached to the side of the stable and extended roughly twenty feet, into the oddest treehouse he had ever seen. It looked like a pirate ship had fallen from the sky and wedged itself into the tree. With careful steps, he crossed the bridge, and opened the hatch.
Callie was sitting with her back against the tree trunk, her knees drawn against her chest. She jumped a little when the door opened and scooted to one side so George could enter. She hadn’t expected him to find her so fast and she was still an emotional wreck. Drawing her hand over her tears, she sniffled and said, "Welcome to my *real* home."
George moved to sit next to her, glancing around the treehouse. It wasn’t small by any stretch of the imagination, but compared to the rest of the grounds, it was Spartan. It clearly had electricity, given the television and game console that rested in the corner, but that was where the creature comforts ended. There was no plush furniture, only a purple sleeping bag against the wall and a game recliner that sat in front of the television. He spotted a laptop on one of the shelves that held movies and games and noted a ton of photos on the walls and smiled at her. "It reminds me of how you decorated the basement of the hospital."
"Yeah," she replied with a nod. "Dark. A good place to hide."
"You have no reason to hide anymore." He turned a little so he could face her. "And you don’t belong in the dark, Callie. Not when you’re so full of light."
"I’m sorry about dinner. I just - I come out swinging if I feel like I’m not being heard."
He studied her profile. "Say that again."
"What you just said."
"I’m sorry about dinner?"
"No, the other."
"Oh. I come out swinging if I feel like no one is listening to me. If I feel like what I have to say doesn’t matter."
"Are you listening to yourself?"
She looked at him, confusion written on her face. "I guess."
"You said that you come out swinging if you feel like you’re not being heard. And I know this is the last thing you want to hear right now, but you have the chance for your voice to be heard loud and clear and you aren’t even picking up the bat *to* swing."
She leaned her head back against the trunk, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. All the fight in her had fled the second she climbed into the safe haven of her childhood hideout. Instead of rankling her ire again, his words prompted her to share the thoughts that had plagued her since rushing from the dining room. "I keep thinking about what I would say. Do I address him or do I address the parole people? If I talk about how much I’ve accomplished with my life does that make me seem less affected by it? Or does it make me seem determined despite it all? Do I give them a play by play of what happened or do I gloss over the details and skip right to why it’s bad for him to be released? Do I tell them that Roy didn’t just rob me of my childhood, he made it impossible for me to have normal relationships or trust people or to fall in love?"
"Hey! What am I?"
"You know what I mean! I’m almost thirty years old, George, and you’re the only man I’ve ever loved. That’s not normal. I should have had a first love and a second love and you should be somewhere further down the list. I never even had crushes in high school!"
"Given my tendency to be jealous I won’t complain that I’m the only one."
She smiled a little through her tears and glanced at him. "I’m not really complaining either. As far as first loves go I’d say you’re pretty good."
"Pretty good? Please! I’m excellent. I’m outstanding. I’m so far beyond amazing that you can barely stand it." He took her hand when she chuckled and kissed it. "Plus, I’m head over heels in love with you so you’re safe with me. I’ll never hurt you, Callie, and you can trust me."
Fresh tears blurred her eyes. "I do trust you."
"Then trust me when I tell you that I’m going to be there with you at the hearing. You’re not alone anymore. I’m here. I can’t tell you what to say because I wasn’t there and you deserve the chance to say what *you* feel, not what I tell you sounds good. But you have to say *something* because it’s important. Because you *can* do this. Because you *need* to do this." He caught a tear that slipped down her cheek and wrapped his arm around her. "And that’s all I’m saying about it. We don’t have to mention it again. Okay?"
Callie leaned her head against his shoulder. "Thank you."
He kissed the top of her head, unsure of what she was thanking him for, and said, "Didn’t you offer me a horseback ride to see the sunset? I made friends with a cute brown horse a while ago. It’s smaller than the other ones so I don’t have to worry about my life flashing before my eyes. And it’s friendly. It escorted me into the barn."
"That sounds like Siren. She’s a good one and she led you in here hoping you’d feed her." Callie glanced at her watch. "We have a while before sunset, though. Maybe we can sit here a little longer."
"That’s fine with me." George pulled her closer, his cheek against her hair. "I like your family. Well, not your mother. I pretty much hate her."
"Did you really escort her from the hospital?"
"I did. Mostly I was keeping Bailey off her. She was like a rabid little dog snapping at your mom the entire way out. I thought she was going to slug her."
Callie tried to imagine how comical it must have been, but the reality of the situation was weighing heavily on her. "The entire hospital now knows who my mother is. It’s only a matter of time before the media find out."
"Maybe the news will be busy with the K-Fed divorce scandal or Nicole Richie’s eating habits or Lindsay Lohan’s rehab and they won’t give you the time of day."
"I never would have pegged you for a gossip hound! I’m appalled. And kinda impressed, too."
"Izzie and Meredith have a ton of stupid tabloids around the house! I can read!"
"OH MY GOD!" Callie cried suddenly, sitting up. "Izzie asked us to dinner tonight! We blew her off!"
"I left a note. Remember?"
"She’s gonna be pissed."
"She’ll understand." George pushed her hair back, nuzzling her neck. "How much time do we have? And does this door lock? Because I can think of a sure fire way to take both our minds off everything that’s wrong in the world."
Callie let him pull her back into his arms and let the sweetness of his touch push away the worries that had plagued her for far too long.
After a full day of surgeries, Derek and Mark stood side by side in the elevator. It was late and the exhaustion they both felt could be seen on their faces. Mark leaned his head back against the wall, closing his eyes. He quickly opened them again when a cringe worthy image invaded the peaceful darkness. He stood up a little straighter and glanced at Derek. "Addison and Karev. Alex *Karev*."
"Pardon?" Derek asked, not bothering to look Mark’s way.
"Pardon?" Mark mimicked and rolled his eyes. "You pissed on me when we were both eight. When we were ten you shaved my head. I’ve seen you vomit. I’ve heard you fart. You don’t get to say ‘pardon’ to me, Derek."
"You don’t get to say anything about Addison to me."
"Dude! She was *kissing* Alex *Karev*! Right in public. Right in broad daylight."
"I know who *Karev* is. Stop saying his whole name like that. And it’s not my business."
"If it’s not your business then why, pray tell, did you dump your untouched food in the trash right after you saw it?"
Derek finally looked at his ex-best friend. "You want to know why? Because I wasn’t seeing her kissing Karev. I was seeing her kissing you. I was seeing the two of you in my bed, in my house. And it’s nauseating. Even after all this time it’s nauseating."
The doors opened and Derek stepped out, quickly heading for the front doors and the freedom of the night. Mark followed, hot on his heels. "I’ve said I’m sorry a hundred times."
"Saying it a hundred and one won’t help."
"I made a mistake! And guess what? Now I’m feeling exactly the way that you felt."
Derek drew up short and turned, glaring at the taller man. "No. You’re not feeling anything that could possibly resemble what I felt. Addison was my *wife* when you slept with her. We had vows. We had a commitment. We had the white picket fence, Mark, and you destroyed it. And that’s okay because I’ve got Meredith and I’ve moved on, but you are feeling nothing like what I felt."
"You’ve moved on and she’s moved on so where does that leave me?"
"In the bed that you made." Derek absently adjusted the collar of his coat and shrugged. "You might want to change the sheets occasionally."
Mark opened his mouth to reply, but Derek was looking past him with a huge smile on his face. Meredith was walking toward him, furiously typing on her Blackberry and Derek rushed forward and picked her up. She let out a squeal when he spun her around. Laughing gaily, she let her head fall back and he nipped at her neck. Izzie stood a few feet away and Mark glanced at her, expecting to see her laughing. Instead, she was watching the couple with apparent sadness. He walked to where she stood and nudged her with his shoulder. "Pretty sickening, huh?"
She glanced up at him and the sadness was replaced with a scowl. "Not until you touched me."
"Come on, Stevens. You gotta admit that the public displays of affection around here are ridiculous. Meredith and Derek. Callie and O’Malley. Alex and Addison."
Izzie’s bottom jaw dropped a little. "What?"
"What what?" He looked down at her.
"Did you say Alex and Addison? Alex *Karev*?"
"That’s how I said his name, too! Finally! Someone gets it!" He threw his hands in the air. "Yes! Addison and *Karev* are apparently together. He was practically sucking her face off at lunch. It was ... grotesque."
Izzie was stunned, but she managed to blurt out the first thing on her mind. "Addison kissed *you*. I’d call Alex at least a few steps back from the dark side."
"Ouch. Are you always so bitter?"
"Only when it comes to you!" she snapped. "In case I haven’t been obvious enough ... I don’t like you!"
"Well, that truly wounds me right in the heart."
"You don’t have a heart to wound."
"What I don’t have is the desire to engage you in a battle of wits. You’d just feel worse about yourself if I did." Mark reached out and patted her on the arm. "Goodnight, Stevens."
She tilted her head to one side. "There is no battle of wits here, Sloan. You’re unarmed and I’m too bored to engage. Besides, I’m cooking a large dinner tonight and, oh, would you look at that? You’re not invited!"
"Touché," he called, smiling as she flipped him the finger and followed Derek and Meredith into the parking lot. He was still smiling when he sat down on the stool in Joe’s bar and ordered a double.
"You look like you had a good day," Joe told him, setting the drink in front of him.
Mark lifted the glass. "A toast. To witty blondes who make you forget that you’ve had a bad day."
Addison knocked on Alex’s door and burst out laughing when he opened it. He was wearing an apron that was covered in lobsters and martini glasses. "Let me guess. The man who sold you the tie also assured you that this was the very latest in cook fashion?"
"Oh, I’m sorry, Miss Fashion Police. You’ll have to leave because I’m expecting a date with a really hot doctor and she may not like having you here."
She batted her eyelashes at him. "You think I’m hot?"
"Scorching." He stepped out onto the porch and kissed her. "And if you’re really good you can take the apron off me later."
"Oooh, I’ll be good."
"Never doubted it." He held the door open for her as she hopped into the living room. "How’s your leg?"
"Fine." Addison glanced around the room. It was not overly spacious, but it was decorated in warm, masculine earth tones."This is nothing like what I pictured your place looking like."
Alex smiled at her. "Is that good or bad?"
"Good. I had you pegged for a swimsuit calendar on every wall, a couple of empty kegs in the corner, and a rickety futon full of crumbs." She struggled to remove her jacket and finally tossed it onto the brown leather sectional. A colorful piece of abstract art caught her eye and she nodded her approval. "I love the art, by the way. Where did you get it?"
"That would be an Alex original."
"Shut up!" she cried, examining the painting a little closer. "It’s amazing! Stop shocking me! My heart can’t take any more."
"I have layers, Addison."
"I can see that. You’re full of secrets." She turned back towards him and grinned. "I think I’m going to enjoy peeling those layers away. I could get started right now. You know, start with the apron and work my way down."
A buzzer sounded in the kitchen and he made a face. "Damn it. Dinner’s ready, but you better hold that thought, Addison, because my heart can’t take any more either."
She followed him into the kitchen. It was compact, but neat as a pin and she resigned herself to the fact that she couldn’t really help him. There wasn’t enough room and she was not that great with her crutches yet. She sat at the table and watched as he moved around the room with a casual ease that spoke of much cooking experience. When he set a plate of lasagna in front of her she inhaled deeply and groaned with joy. "The only thing better than sex is Italian food," she told him.
"The only thing better than Italian food is sex after you’ve eaten a ton of it." He opened the fridge and said, "I’ve got beer, vodka and water. Sorry, I didn’t think to get wine."
"Beer’s fine," she replied, waiting for him to join her.
"You drink beer?" He handed her a Budweiser and watched as she unscrewed the lid. "Now I’m shocked."
"We have so much to learn about each other."
He opened his own beer and took a sip. "If the rest of you is nearly as interesting as your body I think I’m in for the ride of a lifetime. As a matter of fact, I could ride all day."
She almost dropped her fork full of lasagna. Swallowing hard, she shifted in her chair as renewed lust surged through her core. "I can’t possibly eat if you say things like that to me."
He leaned forward, his thumb lightly tracing her jaw. "You better eat now because once we get started I’m not stopping until we’re dead, or unconscious, or I’m late for work."
"Eat fast!" Addison took a bite of the food and rolled her eyes heavenward. "Alex, this is incredible!"
Alex watched as she dug into her dinner and smiled. He could watch her for hours and never bat an eyelash. Everything she did was mesmerizing. The looks she gave him, the way she spoke, the candid way she joked about the most trivial things. All of it sent a rush of longing through his body and a dagger of hope through his heart. He had never imagined that he could feel the things he felt for her. His entire existence had consisted of moving from one woman to the next, changing lovers the way most people changed their shoes.
But Addison Montgomery made him want to linger, to know every detail of her life and what she desired. It was unnerving and exhilarating. It was scary and comforting. It was ... real.
He listened to her talk about eating lasagna in Italy with her grandparents. He had never left the States and doubted he ever would given his aversion to heights, but he listened intently, his eyes never leaving hers.
Addison felt like she was under a microscope because of the intensity of his gaze and put her fork down. "Do I have food all over my face?"
"Am I boring you?"
"Am I talking too much? I’m a compulsive talker when I’m nervous. It’s something that I’ve never been able to control and -"
"No." He blinked a couple of times, interrupting her. "Why are you nervous?"
"The way you’re looking at me. You look like you can see into me."
"No," he repeated once more. "I’m looking at you like I’m seeing forever, Addison. And it’s an incredible view."