DISCLAIMER: Don't own them, but considering Shondaland disowned Erica, we have no qualms in claiming her. If in the collateral, we also claim everyone else on Grey's Anatomy, then oops
AUTHORS' NOTES: Sharon: I blame Kate. Completely utterly and totally. I had never in my life seen a single episode, scene, moment in time from Grey's Anatomy until she said, "There's this really great storyline going to happen and we can expand on our ER thesis about discourses of competitive sexuality. Okay, she didn't actually say "discourses of competitive sexuality" because I'm the theory wonk in this friendship and that's my line But I digress. She sucked me in. And I fell in love with Erica Hahn. The same way I fell in love with Kim Legaspi. I hope they're together somewhere in San Francisco.
Kate: She always blames me. But in this case she might be right. Grey's Anatomy lured me in, just like ER did a long time ago. At least in our world, Erica gets the leaves and the girl.
SPOILERS: Seasons 1-4 of Grey's Anatomy. Picks up about two weeks after the final scene in "Freedom Part 2." This is the first installment of how we wished Season 5 had gone.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
CHALLENGE: Written for Epic Proportions 2009.
The Bigger Picture: First Exposure
By Kate Monteiro and Sharon Bowers
Miranda Bailey was an observant woman. She had to be, given that she was the Chief Resident of Seattle Grace Hospital, a place where the interns were apt to steal cadavers and the residents were doing everything but sleeping in the on-call room.
Damn, she hated that there were locks on those particular doors.
On-call rooms, residents and interns asidethat wasn't what she was observing right now. What she was observing was what wasn't happening. Things in Seattle Grace didn't just not happen. But it was not happening now.
Callie Torres and Erica Hahn were not looking at each other.
She didn't like Erica Hahn. Faith Healer aside, Erica Hahn had saved her son's life. Kicked her out of the OR, yes, but saved her son's life. She still didn't like Erica Hahn. Nobody liked Erica Hahn. Nobody except Callie Torres.
If she had been a woman who swore, she would have said, "What the fuck?"
But she wasn't, and she didn't, and so she just observed. There was a bigger picture. And she was missing it.
Routine call, MVA with blunt force trauma, two patients and both doctors were dancing around the injuries in curtains which, in haste, hadn't been drawn. Hahn cleared the heart and chest on hers, muttering something about "Isn't this what residents are for?" her tone more acerbic than usual. And that was saying something.
Considering this was, after all, Erica Hahn.
"I'm due in OR1 in twenty minutes, O'Malley. If by some chance in two hundred million something happens with her that involves me, page me. Otherwise, you don't exist. I've got more important things on my plate."
The brief rise of Torres' head coinciding with the dip of O'Malley's collided in Miranda's vision.
There was a reason that the two women were not looking at each other. She slotted this piece of the picture into place and considered what the bigger picture might just look like.
In the scrub room, Erica exhaled in spite of herself. Dammit. She hated this. Hated feeling like this. Weary, exhausted, run over she could deal with all of that. But dammit she hated feeling like this.
This morning, with half an ear and in spite of herself, she had listened to the run of the trauma on her driver's unlucky passenger, who would have a pin in her femur probably permanently. But Torres was the bone crusher and it was her job to deliver the bad . Torres Callie.
Erica was a woman who swore. "Fuck me."
She bowed her head.
There was someone waiting in the pre-op room that needed her. Someone who was married to one of the few people who populated her landscape. She would not let Natalie down. Karev had asked to scrub in on the surgery this morning, but she had bluntly told him to go buy a cappuccino and suck up to someone who was interested. Stevens was her resident for the day. Aside from added benefit of driving Yang off her nut, she liked Stevens, liked that she seemed to care about the people she treateda trait that was rare among surgeons. She counted herself guilty of that on more than a few occasions herself, and so she didn't dismiss such consideration out of hand. Stevens cared. It was why she chose her for this surgery.
"Dr Hahn " the scrub nurseErica was pretty sure her name was Roseinterrupted anything else she might have thought, and had it been in her to be grateful she would have been. "He's ready."
Another deep breath. And Erica closed her eyes. This was the place she knew best, the place where she belonged. This is where she found peace.
A routine pacemaker for the husband of an old friend, that's all.
It was going to be a quiet day.
Quiet was the operative word. And Bailey needed a quiet place to chart. Charting was an unpleasant chore but a necessary one. One that she rode herd over her surgical junkies more than once. She didn't like it anymore than they did, but still, it needed to be done; and she was not the kind of doctor to leave things that needed to be done undone.
Which was why she was in the gallery of Dr. Torres' ortho procedure. Ortho wasn't sexydespite what Torres thought-- and so she had no worry that she would be interrupted and in no doubt that the pitch and catch pacemaker procedure in OR1 would have a full boat of passengers because it involved an open heart.
She thought about hearts and turned on the speakers sending the audible from the OR.
"More. I need more" Callie's voice carried over the boom of the operating room's sound system and into the tinny speakers of the gallery. The sound rose hard driving and rhythmic as she pressed the drill into the shattered femur. "Six long months I spent in Quincy, six long months doing nothing
." Dropkick Murphys. One of the vestiges of her months as an O'Malley. Perfect for ortho. Perfect for losing yourself and your thoughts. Perfect for covering the half sickening sound of metal and bone.
"Thank god for Title IX, huh Grey? Best thing that ever happened to ortho. Double the athletes, double my fun." Meredith said nothing-- probably because she was still wondering why she wasn't on neuro or damn, even cardio. She and Torres had scrubbed in together this morning on a simple enough procedure. The young woman on the table had been pretty lucky. She'd been pinned to the garage door when her friend with the newly minted driver's license forgot to pop the car into reverse before hitting the gas. But the girl was tall enough that it was her leg that caught the brunt of the damage. A shorter girl might be lying here having her spleen or kidney removed. But this Amazon just needed a few pins, a cast and months of physical therapy.
"You know, if this girl is as good as her mother says she is, I could be saving the career of a future star. Not that going to the WBNA would make anyone a star. But there are other sports. I'm thinking beach volleyball, you know? More importantly think of all the ACLs Maybe I should specialize in women's sports injuries?" She was babbling again. But she couldn't help it. The music, the drill they were her refuge. Combined they made her happy to be alive, strong and sure no second or third thoughts, no dwelling. It was Monday morning and she was doing what she loved best. Making the lame walk again. "I'm a sailor peg. And I've lost my leg " the music pounded, the drill whined, and for the moment all was right in her world.
"Damn. Damn Turn it down now. Now." The music abruptly cut out and the sound of monitors, beeping, pulsing, blared in the silence. She'd sensed the change before a half second before the monitors had flashed. Numbers dropping. Heart rate faltering. She'd sensed it and here it was. Damn. "She's thrown a clot. Damn. Damn. Damn." This wasn't supposed to happen. Not today. Not when she was feeling good. Not in her surgery. No way, no how. But here it was. Less than a one percent chance, and her healthy, lucky basketball player's body had just decided to change up the game. "Where is it, Grey?" But she didn't need to ask. She knew. It was bad, and she needed help.
"Page Dr. Hahn. NOW. "
The rattle of a metal surgical tray broke the quiet steady rhythm of monitors and sutures. Damn. Everything had been going so smoothly
Quiet, peaceful and now spoiled. The pager rattling on the tray was hers. She knew it before Rose even leaned over to pick it up. Her hospital issued pager had a large red circle with a line through it painted on the back, and she always made sure it was placed on the tray just so. She hated those seconds in the OR when a pager went off and everyone froze waiting to see whose it was. She needed those seconds; her patients needed those seconds. She needed to plan her next move, figure out if she could leave then or how long she'd need to get her patient in a position to be handed off. That was her time, and she damn well wasn't going to wait to find out who was being summoned. But this time as it usually was it was her.
"Stevens, you can finish closing up. But I want a report as soon as you're done." She stripped off her surgical gloves. "I want you to accompany Mr. Henderson to the CCU yourself. I mean it." Her voice trailed off only slightly as she read the readout on the pager held before her.
OR2. Damn. Torres was in OR2. She'd seen the name on the board before she headed into her own surgery. Felt a momentary lift and then a pang. Force of habit. She couldn't stop noticing. It had to happen though. Odds were at some point Dr. Torres would need her whether Callie did or not. A deep breath as she scrubbed one patient off and prepared for the other one. She backed through the swinging doors and into the room.
"What do we have?" she barked as she turned to see Dr. Grey prepping a young woman's chest and Dr. Torres wrist deep in thigh patching up an open surgical site. She locked her eyes on Grey.
She heard Grey's tentative voice, "Dr. Torres' patient has a pulmonary embolism -- during reconstructive surgery on the femur of an otherwise healthy teenaged female so it's probably fat not blood. Heart rate at " But Hahn was only half listening as she scanned the monitors herself heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, oxygenation this one was massive and the only way she was going to know exactly where it was at this point was to open her up and look.
"Lucky I was next door, ladies. Or your patient wouldn't have had a chance. Ten Blade." This was the moment. The time when everyone, including her, held their breaths. The bright red line formed delicately behind the incision. She felt their eyes on her and fought the urge to look up, to make eye contact with the one pair she couldn't stop imagining. Damn. There went her quiet morning.
"Dr. Hahn, should I .?" Knowing that Callie wasn't looking at her any more than she was looking at Callie.
"Keep doing what you're doing, Dr. Torres. Repair the damage to her leg. The longer we keep her on the table, the more the chance of her turning south." Slicing through the subcutaneous layer, she accepted the sternal saw that was placed in her hand and began her work in earnest. Muttering, "You're too young, dammit. This will not happen You're too young This will not happen "
From above, Bailey watched the dance for a second timethis time in concert to save a single girl's life. And still they didn't look at each other.
"We need "
"Don't just give me a minute."
"Don't have a minute, Torres. Her chest is open."
"It's in "
"Then close her up. Grey make yourself useful. Start sewing. Torres, get over here and help me. We've arrested the clot "
"You want me to "
The perfect dance.
Miranda Bailey knew body language and knew that these women knew something about each other, though she wasn't sure what. Her pager bleated, and she glanced at the read-out with exasperation. This was another piece somehow, but Damn, she hadn't got any charting done.
Erica had been on her feet for over fourteen hours. Sutured hearts, flesh and skin, muscle torn and battered by a mishap of circumstance. Sometimes she preferred it when they had been idiots. When it had been their fault. It hadn't been this girl's fault, while yes her friend had been the idiot, this particular girl was not. This particular girl was going to be okay, but damn she wanted to be angry.
She was angry. And she knew the exact reason why.
Erica hesitated only a moment as the elevator doors opened to a car empty save one person. The last person in the world she wanted to see. Her back hurt, her thigh muscles ached from the tension, her eyes had been shedding tears that had nothing to do with sorrow but of only the sheer pain of staring through the microscopic lens attached to her safety glasses. God, she wanted to take her contacts out.
Mentally squaring her shoulders and physically avoiding Callie's eyes, she stepped into the car and prayed that the ride would be mercifully short.
"You were great in there, Erica."
Startled by the sound of Callie's voice, even though she heard it in her thoughts countless times a day, she turned cold at the sound of her name. Thinking to herself that she was the attending and Callie was the resident, and the resident had no right to be giving an "attaboy" to the head of Cardio-Thoracic surgery, and that nothing about who they were in the hospital had anything to do with what she was feeling. Sometimes she really hated being in therapy. Refusing to look at her. She wasn't that evolved yet. "You don't get to call me Erica anymore."
Both women were unnerved by the quiet ding of the elevator doors opening, depositing them at the long corridor that led to the employee's entrance.
Shaking her head briskly, she left Callie where she was standing.
She was not NOT NOT turning around. She was not going to do this. She was so absolutely not going to do this. She had never done this. She had watched enough EPSN to know that turning around was not in her playbook. Whatever that meant. She was not turning around.
"Erica " A rapid squeak of soles behind her, and Callie was at her side.
In spite of herself, cursing herself as she did so-- she stopped. Fuck the fucking playbook. She had never understood sports metaphors. She just knew that the sound of her name in that voice she just couldn't . Met the eyes that had been avoiding hers for the last two weeks. Saw the dazed confusion and desire reflecting everything that she was feeling. She saw it all, remembered it all-- the softness of those lips, the tentativeness as they touched hers, the shudder in her spine as the kiss deepened. As they pulled each other closer. Her reluctance to let go.
She wanted it to be an angry shout, but it emerged as a hoarse whisper. "You just left."
She didn't want to see the entreaty in Callie's eyes. She didn't want to see Callie at all. Dr. Torres, she could handle, but this was out of bounds. Fuck ESPN one more time, and still she couldn't help herself. "You kissed me. And then you left."
"You didn't return my phone calls. You didn't answer my emails. You. Just. Left." She hated herself for feeling this way. For acting this way. When it came to things like this, she had never called anyone in her life. She had never wanted to.
"You never said anything at work "
"What am I supposed to do? Walk up to you at the admit desk and say 'Hey, great kiss in the middle of the parking lot. Why won't you talk to me anymore?' This staff may operate on the 'everyone knows everything about everyone' premise, but I don't. I don't," she repeated. Shaking her head because that was exactly what she was doing with this conversation. Exactly what she didn't want to do. "I don't know what the hell is going on between us, but I want ." Frustration bled through her voice. "You just kissed me and then you left." She was beyond exhausted, and all Erica wanted to do was to go home and lie down. The image of her lying in Callie's armsimpossible though it wasflashed through her mind; and everything that had been simmering for the last two weeks surged to the surface so rapidly that she almost missed Callie's words.
"I've never " Callie stammered, voice dying, dark eyes fixing on hers again. "I've never ." A rushed intake of breath. "Done that."
The words fell without thought. "Did it ever occur to you that I've never either?"
Not even needing to say what that was.
A stunned burst of laughter leapt from Callie's throat. "You haven't? Cause "
Though the imperious arch of a pale brow was her response, the surgeon in her could not deny the sudden pounding in her chest. She knew, intimately, the way blood filled the cavities of her heart and was responsible for the adrenaline surge that was happening now. She thought she closed her eyes, but she might have been mistaken because Callie was still speaking as though that moment in time had never happened.
"In the elevator, and well that night "
A second brow joined the first as the surge passed, and she exhaled-- willing her heart to do what it was supposed to and not what it was currently doing. Dammit. She couldn't say anything. Anything at all. Because she wanted so much. And that was more terrifying than not wanting at all.
Callie dropped her head, her next words so soft that Erica had to lean closer to hear them. "I liked it."
Thank god they weren't in the hospital proper right now because if anyone had taken her heart rate at this point, she would be in a wheelchair on her way to the ER diagnosed in a-fib. She wanted but instead she stuffed her hands into her pockets. Those eyes aligned with hers once again. Finding it somewhere inside to say, just as softly. "So did I."
"I really liked it." It was an admission of sorts. A clue to a mystery neither one of them had an idea of how to unravel.
"You want to get a drink at Joe's?" Erica asked abruptly. Abrupt had been an apt description of everything that had happened between them, and damnshe needed to take it slow because if she took it the way she wanted to well, that was a train wreck waiting to happen. Callie's eyes were still hers, but she could see the trepidation there. "There doesn't have to be kissing involved."
In a moment of absurdity her mind sang the chorus, "I kissed a girl "
Callie blinked and asked tentatively, "You don't want any more kissing?"
She searched the eyes that were meeting hers with directness now. "You do?"
The smile that spread across Erica Hahn's face was so slow and so rare that the staff members of Seattle Gracehad they known it existedwould have considered it a medical mystery worth at least 80 points. Maybe more. She took the measure of the woman across from her. A woman who could carve through bone to make it stronger. A woman who could ask for help when she needed it. A woman could nearly be drunk under the table, lose at darts and still be able to make her think. It wasn't even a close call. "Yes." A blink and a pause, and as she was about to say more, say anything, say everything, Cristina Yang burst out of the elevator and down the hall.
"Hey Callie " She stuttered to a halt seeing Erica. "Dr. Hahn," she added, with that deferential incline of her head that she didn't know so completely annoyed both Erica and Dr. Hahn. Her gaze quickly darted to Callie. "You up for Joe's? Karev lost the pool, and I'm pretty sure there's tequila involved." She flicked a glance again at Erica, which ended almost as soon as it started.
Callie's eyes rounded. "Actually Erica and I were "
"Just finishing up reviewing the stats from Ms. Robertson's recovery." Dr Hahn finished dryly, glancing at Callie and finding no satisfaction in the dismay she saw in her face. Damn. She wanted so much more from this this answer, Erica this woman. Damn. Conscious once more of the bleary pain in her eyes, she focused on that. At least when she got home she could take her contacts out. Maybe have a glass of the pino noir she had been saving. If she opened it when she got home, by the time she finished the odds and ends of her day and climbed in the tub, it would have breathed. Taking a deep one of her own, "You did good work today too, Dr. Torres." She forced the best impersonal smile she could muster. "I'll see you tomorrow." Without a backward glance, she turned and finished the walk down the endless corridor, aware of Callie's eyes on her departing figure.
Erica wasn't aware of the other pair of eyes upon her, and that they hadn't missed a thing. Especially not the slow smile spreading across her face once more. Car in the shop and waiting on Tucker to pick her up, Bailey hadn't been exactly a willing witness to the pantomime exchange through the glass door, and she didn't know what either woman had said. The one thing she knew, however, was they were looking at each other again.
Yet another piece of the bigger picture.
Callie approached the table, an El Presidente in one hand and a large Redhook Long Hammer in the other and held them both out to her companions at a table by the dart board. Karev had disappeared with some nurse or maybe it was Baby Grey, but at least he had the decency to leave the bottle of tequila he'd forfeited by losing the pool on the table for the others. For some reason tonight, however, shots weren't what she wanted. "I couldn't decide, so I ordered both and figured one of you could choose for me."
"You have that problem a lot lately, Dr. Torres, don't you? You surely can't expect me to make all your choices for you." Mark Sloan twinkled. He always twinkled when he was teasing. And lately teasing her had apparently become his primary pastime.
Wordlessly, she turned to Cristina and handed her the Redhook. No way Cristina was going to take the Cuban cocktail.
"How can you bear to drink that looks like half the cathbags in recovery."
"Says the woman who claims to have a cast iron stomach when it comes to liquor." She avoided Mark's eyes in the faint hope that he would be merciful, but somehow she just knew that wasn't going to happen. Her troubles were compounded when Joe's rather haphazard sound system decided to reappear. "Oh god, not that song again " Was it possible to slump any deeper in her chair?
At least Cristina seemed to be enjoying the Redhook. She was sucking back enough of it. "Why do you hate that song so much? You whine about it every time we come here, and you know they're not going to not play it after last Saturday. I figured you would like it all that bouncing drum beat and sexual naughtiness what better soundtrack for a hip replacement? And I know it's not cause of the Bambi thing. Because that was just freakin' hilarious."
Yang was right. Watching a drunken George O'Malley karaoke the previous Saturday had almost just almost won her over. Falsetto, hand to his cheek, sashaying around I kissed a girl and I liked it. She'd laughed so hard she'd almost passed out. And then it all landed on her like the anvil of doom, so she'd downed three quick shots of tequila and made Mark sing Born to Run just to clear her head.
"Okay so it's not the best song about kissing a woman," Yang was considering. "I like 'Stockings' better, but you don't do Suzanne Vega. And I won't admit that I do in a court of law. Or anywhere else for that matter." She squinted, contemplating the song that was blaring unbearably loud in Callie's ears. "But this one-- you know it's got a beat and it's catchy." Yang was still rambling. For a woman who claimed not to speak girl, she certainly talked a lot.
Callie found it hard to begrudge Grey and Shepherd their kind of creepy happiness and alone time, but god she was getting tired of being Yang's temporary Meredith. Sharing the apartment was one thing a great thing actually even if sleeping on the couch was a little less than private. At least that was changing soon. The bonding, however, was getting tiresome.
"Yeah, it's not like you haven't ever done it yourself, Dr. Torres." Mark's voice snapped her out of wherever, exactly, it was she had gone. "In fact," he was saying, "I believe you were trying to convince Dr Hahn to do it a couple weeks ago."
Kissing and girls and well everything that might imply danced in front of her eyes. "Wha shh shut-up. " She sputtered, whined, kicked under the table, finding and connecting with his shin. He obviously didn't get the message because he continued, undeterred.
"Karaoke, Torres, karaoke. I can't imagine why you wouldn't want Yang here to know you tried to get her mentor to loosen up a bit. I mean it's not like getting Hahn to let her hair down wouldn't make Yang's life that much easier." Mark looked her directly in the eye with that seductive twinkle and the sex in his voice that made half of Seattle Grace melt. Not long ago she'd have melted a little herself.
"Genghis Hahn with her hair down," Yang snorted. "Now that's a picture."
"Don't call her that," she snapped reflexively.
"Yeah, well I'm trying to break the habit anyway." Cristina said blithely, unaware of the on-going torment at Sloan's hands. "Yesterday she overheard Lexie and George whispering about it and instead of barking at them, she turned on me! Looked me in the eye and says Burke's mentor at Johns Hopkins used to call her that and she thought of it as a badge of honor. Took all the fun out of it. Now I have to come up with something new and I just don't have the time to be all creative, you know." She paused to consider for a moment. "Do you like Attila the Hahn? How about Hahn the Merciless?"
Mark waved the suggestions away dismissively. "I say stick with the classic."
"McBitchy," they said in unison.
"Why do you have to call her anything?" Knowing that she was only digging her own grave, but she still couldn't help herself. Even before the whole kissing thing, even remembering Erica had once told her, "Being hated is half my job," she just couldn't slap the duct tape on her mouth in time. "Can't you just stick with Erica or Dr. Hahn?" she helped herself to a liberal swallow of her drink and stared defiantly at the pair. "She's the head of cardio," she said to one. "She's your boss," she said to the other. "Why can't you just accept it and move on?"
Cristina shrugged the very idea off. "Just cuz I have to accept it doesn't mean I have to accept it. Besides, you wouldn't understand. You're not hardcore."
"Am too," she shot back. Her spine didn't need strengthening in this regard.
"Yeah, yeah." Knocking back the last of the drink Callie had bought. "Ortho hardcore."
"Carpenter," Mark chimed in.
"That's not hardcore hardcore." Some of the burgeoning rage in Callie's expression must have begun to bleed through because Yang's tone shifted subtly. "Look, insubordination is a cardio thing. You just wouldn't understand."
Oh God. Cardio-gods. All the same. "It's a cardio thing " That's exactly what Erica had said one night when they were sitting at Joe's talking about residencies and whether or not it collapsing in exhaustion after 12-hour surgery was an acceptable practice. Erica had maintained resolutely that it was not. For some reason, it seemed the goal of a cardiologist was to have a heart attack by the time they were 45. She'd taken it as a personal mission that night to get Erica to loosen up and relax. Sunrise yoga; dancing all night; even better, nights shared over a bottle of wine and nothing else but the sound of each other's voice.
Just look where that had led her.
God-damn this song. And would it ever end?
"And besides, speaking of things-- I thought you were over this Hahn-thing."
Her mind was so far into the Hahn-thing that she nearly choked on the next swallow of her drink. She also refused once again to meet to meet Mark's eyes which she was sure were nearly hip-hopping with joy. Gasping and hoping that the burn in her lungs wouldn't corrode anything she needed to-- oh breathe. Owie. In with the good. Out with the bad. Her lungs. Somewhere compressed in her ribcage. Could she operate on herself and take them out? Cause, damn "What are you talking about?" she finally wheezed.
"You and Hahn. You haven't been hanging around with her lately. Thought you had finally come to your senses."
"Yes, Callie, what senses would those be?" Pouncing was one of Mark's specialties, and he didn't disappoint now.
On the other hand, stare-down glares were one of Callie's. When her eyes were watering enough to soak the tissues of someone watching a Joan Crawford movie, however, they weren't particularly effective. Threats of bodily violence were more her offensive style-- and she wholeheartedly wanted to make them and follow through with them-- but Yang was sitting there and Mark was not too proud a man to let a smaller woman be his shield. Especially when the reason for said violence would invariably become clear. Throwing back the rest of her drink, she rose from the table. "The senses that tell me I have much better things to be doing than sitting here with the two of you."
She left before Mark could make a crack about whom she might be doing.
Her phone didn't ring after nine. Her pager screamed occasionally, yesthat meant someone was dying and she had to go save them. Maybe she should show up at the hospital sometime wearing tights and a cape That would put a new spin on Dr. McBitchy but her phone ringing no. Patients tanked at all hours, but the solicitors stopped at seven; therefore she didn't understand why her phone was ringing now. Caller ID was not something she felt she had a need in which to invest.
She knew that voice and kicked herself. There were any number of things she should be kicking herself for, but right now she was kicking herself because the one voice in the world she wanted to hear was talking to her, and she didn't know what to say. She begged gods she only sort of knew to not let her turn into Meredith Grey.
"Hey I know it's that is I was wondering "
She heard background noise, figured it was Joe's. Joe's meant drinks. Joe's meant Sloan. Joe's meant everything but what she wanted. She hated wanting anything at all. Friendship. Anything else. Most of all anything else that might lead to the breaking of what she was supposed to fix every day of her life.
Callie's voice interrupted the path that led to nowhere. "You still want that drink?"
Hated herself for the hitch in her voice "It's late " Was going to hate herself even more if Callie had heard it. "I'm not..."
"Open the door, Erica."
It took her a moment to parse the statement. "What?"
"Open your door."
She got it. At least she thought she did.
Her bare feet crossed the hardwood floor soundlessly. And then there was Callie. Erica ignored the damp and the drizzle that fell between them because there was Callie. She didn't feel the chill through her t-shirt or through the hole in the knee of her jeans. All she felt was Callie.
God, it hurt and felt so fucking good at the same time. "Why are you here?" Out of her mouth and into the atmosphere. Into Callie's register. Waiting, wanting, afraid of what would happen next.
"I know I should have called before actually coming over." Callie ducked her head then glanced up. "I called you after I got here because I was afraid I might You might " Another duck and glance, finally closing the phone that had been on line since Erica had opened the door. "Cristina was being Yang and Mark was And I wanted "
"Don't talk to me about Sloan," she snapped and thought about not just shutting the phone but also the door as well on all of this. And then she thought about the woman standing in front of her. What the hell was she doing? She stepped back a pace. "Just ."
"I want to be here," Callie interrupted. "You I I just want to be here." She glanced around helplessly. "With you. Is that okay?"
A deep breath escaped Erica's lungs as she realized this was the most stupid thing she had ever done. And did it anyway.
The first thing that registered with her was that she had never been inside Erica's house. In the equation of their unlikely friendship, it had never been a variable. The second thing was the color. Spare furnishing and pale hardwood floor with color strewn about it in the form of rugs. Pale walls, but decorated with prints she didn't know art not at all but the centerpiece Vibrant colors arrested her eyes. Deep blues and violent yellows, and a woman with a cape riding a horse somewhere up. Somewhere away from the pale blue thing the bore down on them. She turned to Erica, the question in her eyes.
"Kandinsky." She seemed almost embarrassed, but continued nonetheless. "It's an original, but it's just a study and looks nothing like the finished piece-- for an almanac called 'The Blue Rider ' The colors were I was in New York There was an auction I liked it." Erica was the shy one now, and Callie watched the shift in her muscles, the faint blush rising on her cheekssaw yet another Erica emerging. "I paid off my student loans a few years ago, and when I got the Seattle Grace job "
"First and only time."
"It's beautiful." It was on her tongue to tell Erica how beautiful she was. Disheveled hair, black "Swim for Life" breast cancer t-shirt, baggy jeans, and eyeglasses she was beautiful. Instead she studied the painting and tried to think of things that wouldn't compromise either of them.
She was so not ready for this in so many ways.
"You want a glass of wine?" Erica's eyes were friendly and open as she gestured with her head. "I opened a bottle when I got home, and it should be about worth drinking now." The lopsided grin that was a close to a smile as most people saw from her crossed her face. Callie wanted the other smile back. The one from the corridor. "We can sit on the couch and talk a while."
She found she was able to breathe once more. "I'd like that."
Erica nodded to the couch and single armchair separated by a Frank Lloyd Wright knockoff coffee table that inhabited her living space. "Make yourself comfortable. I'll get the wine."
It gave her a moment to take in the rest of her surroundings. Erica liked metal and glass. She liked color. And she used them all to create something that, even as close as they had gotten, Callie had never seen. A banging on her frontal lobe told her she had no idea of what she was doing, much less how she could be doing it with this woman. Nothing, however, seemed to be stopping her.
"You have any music?" She found herself calling.
"You can look..." Erica called from the kitchen. "I have only about ten CDs."
Callie's head reared in disbelief. "Nobody has only ten CDs."
"You look and then you tell me. Seriously."
Callie couldn't see Erica, but she could hear the laughter in her voice.
"Everything's over there against the wall. Apparently, however, I have acquired every cable channel known to man whether I like it or not. Lots of them of them are digital music. Pick whatever you like. I warn you " She emerged from what Callie guessed was the kitchen. There was an open bottle of wine and two empty glasses in Erica's hands-- held in such a way that said Erica hadn't been absolved from a student's side life of food staff service. "Don't pick ska."
"I want to see these infamous ten CDs first," she replied, liking very much this woman who poured them two glasses of wine and then settled back on the couch, tucking her bare feet underneath her legs.
"Go right ahead," Erica replied. "Then go running screaming out the door. I know nothing about music. Even less about movies."
Callie frowned and gestured to the bookcase that was completely filled with black DVD cases. There was some kind of indecipherable numerical labeling system, which seemed pretty typical Erica. When she had first noticed it, Callie figured it was some sort of Library of Hahn cataloging and hadn't thought anything else about it.
"Surgeries." She answered the unasked question and laughed at the surprised expression on Callie's face. "Top two shelves are ones I've performed. Third shelf is Walter Tapply, and the fourth is various and sundry. I think there's even a Burke in there. Guy's an asshole, but he was brilliant."
"You collect surgical DVDs?" Callie hesitated, "And you watch them?"
Now it was Erica's turn to duck her head. "Sounds stupid, huh?" Shrugging lightly. "It teaches me technique, teaches me what I did wrong. Teaches me what I can do better." Her expression shifted and softened as she laughed self-deprecatingly. "And it makes me a total dork, I realize." Taking a healthy sip of her wine. "And if my lack of CD collection doesn't send you running out the door, I'm sure this will."
"I don't want to run anywhere, Erica."
The words were a surprise to them both.
From her seat on the couch, Erica offered a hand. "Then come here and sit down."
Callie grinned, clasping Erica's fingers briefly. God she had great hands. Strong fingers, delicately jointed, long as anything, nails trimmed down to nothing. Fingers that could sew a heart. Hands that could . She stopped herself before she could even go there. "I gotta snag these ten CDs of yours first." She retrieved said items and settled herself on the couch, aware that she was doing so far closer to Erica than decorum suggested. The other woman didn't seem to mind, however, and merely handed her a glass and watched her shuffle through the small array.
Oh, Dear Lord
"Barry Manilow?" She couldn't stop herself, and the laughter in Erica's voice was almost worth the bewilderment in hers.
"From a boyfriend. Was a Fellow in Neuro at Mercy "
"I hope it ended as soon as he gave you this."
"Notice it's still in the wrapper." Callie's expression demanded deeper explanation, and Erica rolled her eyes. "He was a nice guy. He liked me. Took me to dinner frequently. We had mildly satisfying sex on a number of occasions."
A sudden flash of Erica naked in someone's arms ripped through Callie with alarming urgency. She swallowed hard over the drink she had just taken. "Was it serious?"
Erica contemplatively studied her wineglass. "I was Senior Resident at Pres," she said diffidently. "There was always more work to do. And when his Fellowship ended at Mercy " That look, the one that Callie was coming to know as Erica and not Hahn, was in her eyes. "The work was still there." Callie could feel the tremor in Erica's body and wanted it to have nothing to do with the past, but everything to do with right now. "It didn't bother me too much."
Out of her mouth without a single thought, "Has there ever been anyone who has?"
"Bothered me?" She considered the question, eyes flickering over the color on her walls, on the rugs of her floor. Wineglass in her right hand, she offered her left to Callie. "I'm beginning to think so."
Callie could see the flash of "What the fuck made me say that" panic across Erica's face even as the words echoed in the room. Impulse winning, as usual, over logic and conscious of little but the increasing thrum in her blood, she took Erica's hand and then placed first her glass and then Erica's on the table beside her.
"I told you there wouldn't have to be kissing involved " Erica murmured just before Callie pulled her close and effortlessly melded their mouths together, tipping the balance of their weight. Her body had just enough time to register just how good this felt, and she fell forward with a breathless laugh. Her hands slid beneath Erica's t-shirt, and a shock ran through her.
Badass Dr. McBitchy had the softest skin she had ever touched.
Callie's lips weren't hesitant meeting Erica's again. Reminding her of their first kiss their first kisses, they both reached for this embrace. One hand wound its way through Callie's hair, the other slid beneath Callie's shirt. As Erica held her, she could feel the tension in the other woman's muscles, unconsciously measured the length and heft of the bones beneath. Realized, even though she had known it all along, just how incredibly strong Erica was.
Their kisses were getting increasingly deeper, and somehow her thigh had slipped between Erica's legs. There was a low noise in the other woman's throat as she arched against the pressure. Her tongue was in Callie's mouth now. Slow strokes of kisses, lips and teeth and tongue. No doubt, Erica wanted her. Callie knew that. Did she ever know that. Mouth, hands and body why were there so many clothes between them? Gasping as Erica bunched up her shirt and ran her hands over Callie's stomach and she thought she heard someone saying, "Touch me " The words could have been hers because that was exactly what she was thinking. Didn't know, didn't care. Fair turns Bare skin against bare skin started a slow burn about what the rest of Erica might feel like. What all of Erica would feel like.
Their lips parted and their eyes locked together in an endless moment. Erica was the first to blink.
"You can either stay the night or you have to go," she murmured softly. "Now."
Callie's body tensed, grinding her thigh into Erica, pleased at the immediate gasp that exhaled from her lips. "There's no Door Number 3?" Because, dear Lord, she could spend hours just kissing this woman. Forgot that it was a woman because it was Erica, and she was kissing Ericathat was all that mattered. Her eyes focused briefly, remembered who she was talking to, and didn't even wait for her answer. "You won't do this halfway."
"No, I won't."
Erica's eyes were some of the palest blue she had ever seen, but they were darker now, pulsing and hungry. Other things were also written all over her face. It took her less than an instant. Without a doubt, Callie knew the last thing that the woman holding her wanted was a fuck buddy.
She heard the faint sound of disappointment in the back of Erica's throat as she eased away. Shivered at the coolness of the air on her bare stomach when those slender hands left her skin.
Everything in her trembled to stay, but she had been wrong so many times. She didn't want to be wrong again, and she sure as hell wasn't certain. Maybe they could still salvage their friendship. "I'm not ready to stay the night."
Erica's reply wasn't what she had expected.
"Then we'll wait."
"Please tell me you didn't." Yang glanced up, one hand holding a cup of coffee and the other a well-thumbed copy of Mastery of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Beside her on the locker room bench was what Callie guessed might have once been a sausage, egg and cheese croissant.
"Geez, how can you read that stuff and eat at the same time?"
"Don't change the subject. Just tell me you didn't. That way I can actually keep my breakfast down. This?" She held up the book. "This is nothing compared to the idea that you did it."
Even if her head hadn't already been spinning with things she didn't do but was thinking about doing, she still didn't think she would have a clue as to what the fuck Cristina was talking about. "Didn't what?" she finally asked, exasperated. "What in the world are you talking about?"
"Didn't have sex."
"What?" How the hell She knew there was some kind of sexdar that clocked the naked comings and goings at Seattle Grace, but as far as she knew it didn't work outside of the hospital. Besides, they hadn't even been naked.
Well, much. Bunched up shirts did not count as naked.
"What are you talking about?" she managed to choke out the question.
"Have sex with him."
This conversation was getting increasingly surreal, but at least she was reassured about her sexdar theory.
"O'Malley." Yang shuddered for effect. "Just tell me you're not having sex with Bambi again."
Callie stared at her roommate-- torn between sighing with relief, laughing hysterically, and smacking some sense upside Cristina's head. She should know that sloppy seconds were not her style. "Why on earth would you think I was sleeping with George?"
The question seemed to stump Yang for a moment before she answered. "Because you were married to him."
"Yeah, were. As in past tense. That trough went dry a long time ago and unlike some people, I don't do break-up sex. Trust me." She was gaining confidence nowthe softness of Erica's skin was still her secret. "There's no way I'm sleeping with George. Now or ever again." She tossed her things in her locker and began to change into her scrubs, hoping this conversation was over.
Apparently it wasn't.
"Look, you lit out of Joe's last night like a bat out of hell, and I know it wasn't to be with Sloan becausehello, he was sitting there with me. And he was twinkling. You like the twinkle, but you sure as shit weren't liking it last night. And I know you didn't go to the apartment because you weren't there when I got back. Do you know how long it takes to down four of those Redhammer Long Jack thingies? Those fuckers are big." She tossed her book disgustedly on the bench in front of her. "What am I supposed to think?"
This conversation was becoming redundant, and quite frankly she had things to obsess over. Things that involved a tall, blond cardio-god. Things that involved spending the night. "I don't care what you think, as long as it's not that I'm sleeping with George."
"Neither am I," Grey said, walking in and sitting down beside Cristina. She warily poked at Yang's breakfast remains and scooted them just a little farther away. "Do we get points now for not sleeping with George?"
Stevens was right behind her. "Who's not sleeping with George?"
Christ, this just kept getting better and better.
She was really trying to put the past behind herher 30-second insti-marriage and the infidelity that had ended it. Even though a part of her had always known that she and George really wouldn't have lasted, her skin still crawled a little bit when she looked at Izzie. At least the desire to punch her had vanished. Mostly.
"Callie's not sleeping with George, Meredith's not sleeping with George, and I'm assuming you're not either and if you are, please lie to me."
"I think we can all safely say that we're all done with that whole 'sleeping with George' thing," Izzie replied.
"Says the woman who sees dead people," Yang dead-panned.
"Meredith did too! And it was just that once! And what does this have to do with George?"
"We're eliminating suspects."
Really, were they doctors or ADAs? Guess Erica wasn't the only one who marathoned Law & Order. She rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips. "Yangdo you really care where I sleep as long as I pay my share of the rent?"
Yang paused thoughtfully, tilting her head as if the idea was new to her. "Well Not really, but sort of."
"Then sort of lay off."
Stevens squinted, eyes narrowing in that way they did when she was getting suspicious. Sometimes of interns. Usually of women who might be having sex with George. "You're sleeping somewhere else?"
She wasn't, but she was damn sure thinking about it. Blue eyes, insanely long legs, and graceful hands certainly had her thinking about things she had never thought about before. She was thinking about them right now in spite of the three pairs of curious gazes fixed on her. "Yang, in her Redhook Long Hammer-induced haze didn't hear me come in last night," she covered. "So, no, Stevens, I'm not sleeping somewhere else." She tugged her scrub top on over her sleeves, trying to channel Bailey's authoritative glare. "And no, Yang, I'm not having sex! Okay? So can we go save some lives now?"
She slammed her way out of the locker room, but not before she heard Stevens muse thoughtfully. "There's something she's not telling us."
It was the first time they had seen each other all day.
"Hey there," Callie winced at the slightly breathless tone in her voice, but then again she had felt slightly breathless ever since she left Erica's house the night before. This morning hadn't helped. All she had been able to think about was Erica's skin and the flex and roil of her muscles underneath. She remembered how she had run her hands along Erica's shoulders, marveling at their breadth and power. Swim for Life indeed. She wasn't sure when the last time she had felt so secure in someone's arms. Even more astonishing was the tenderness in that mouth, in the soft exploration of her lips and tongue
Then she noticed that Erica was waving a chart in front of her face, a quizzical expression in her pale eyes. "Lost there you there for a minute."
"Heh," an unsettled laugh burbled in her throat, and she knew she was on the verge of babbling. She pressed her lips together, figuring that Dr. Hahn wouldn't want her rhapsodizing about how soft Erica's lips were.
A lazy smile drifted over Erica's face as she leaned slightly closer while still obeying the rules of professional protocol. "It's all I thought about last night after you left, too." She straightened and clasped her chart to her chest.
Callie shifted uncomfortably, thinking about what she was about to do and was still not convinced that it wasn't a bad idea. "Yeah, well about that " She didn't miss the flash of apprehension in the other woman's face nor the stiffening in her spine. "I mean while we're waiting And I do want to wait... Not really, cause it I You " Full on babble mode. She sighed, exasperated with herself. "Listen, I was thinking You remember Yang and I are moving into the new apartment this weekend, right? Thank god I'll actually have a bed of my own " Trailing off because she was talking about beds and she was talking to Erica
Who rescued her. "The one that's only a couple of blocks from the hospital with the great view that you guys stole from Stevens?"
"We did not steal it! We didn't know she wanted to move in too. And there are only two bedrooms and I'm not sleeping on the couch anymore. Meredith and Yang may have no trouble doubling up, but I'm not sharing " Christ she had to stop talking about bedrooms in front of this woman
Erica's reply was a chuckle and an amused arch of a brow. "Anyway " A gesture with her hand was a not-so-subtle prompt. "You and Yang are moving in this weekend "
"Yeah. And well I thought maybe you might wanna help." She quickly continued, "I know it would mean an afternoon with the terrible twosome, but we could use all the help we can get. And by we I mean me. Quite frankly Grey and Yang don't look like they're up for much heavy lifting." She was not thinking about Erica's shoulders. She was not thinking about Erica's arms or legs or how they might look straining with effort... She was so busy not thinking about all those things that she almost missed Erica's reply.
"I'd love to."
She blinked and double-taked. "You would?"
"The chance to spend an afternoon with you while we're " That arched brow again. "Waiting?" Callie could have sworn she lingered over the word, but Erica's smile was soft. "Even if it's with the terrible twosome, it's a no-brainer." That smile, however, faded just as quickly as it emerged. "You might want to run it past them first."
Something was there and gone again in Erica's eyes so swiftly that Callie didn't have a chance to identify it, and it made her sad and not a little angry. "Whatever else is " Stumbling slightly over the words because there was so much more left to say on that subject. This one, however, she knew well. "You're my friend, Erica. We've been friends for months, and unlike most of the people in this cliquey little residency program, I don't need to seek approval for the people I want to spend time with." She was building a full head of steam now. "I like spending time with you, and for the last two weeks I haven't been able to spend time with you. That, quite frankly, has sucked. And now that I've got the chance to spend time with you again, I'm gonna." Her hands landed on her hips. "Got it?"
The startled look on Erica's face was absolutely worth the rant, and neither woman stopped the laughter escaping their throats. Erica slowly shook her head, smiling again, and backed down for once. "Got it."
"Okay," Callie took another deep breath. "Now that that's settled, meet us at Yang's apartment at nine and we'll caravan from there."
"Yes sir," she replied, with a teasing expression that Callie had never seen before. "I'll bring beer and tequila. Might give them incentive to work harder."
Neither of them adding, "Or at least hate me less."
Their eyes locked, held, and Callie wanted to shake herself for just standing here, staring like a complete imbecile at Erica. "I've gotta "
"Go crush bones. I have to rescue hearts. Have fun." As Callie turned to leave, Erica murmured just within her hearing. "The last two weeks have sucked for me, too."
The more Bailey watched Hahn and Torres, the more convinced she was than ever that there was, indeed, a Bigger Picture; and it was slowly coming into focus. It wasn't just that Torres and Hahn were friendsalthough that was distinctly weirdor even that Dr. McBitchy completely disappeared when she talked to Torres. No, it was something else entirely. She just wasn't sure what.
Spending time together Waiting Not doing things halfway Erica kept half an ear on Karev's recitation, not really needing even that much because she already knew the answers. This recitation was for his benefit and that of the other residents and their interns. Prompting him, "Prognosis "
"Guardedly optimistic, but we have to watch for clots
Spending time together Waiting
"And what is the protocol?"
"Excellent, Dr. Karev. Very good attention to detail. Please note, everyone, how Dr. Karev explored all the options for treating Mr. Answar's potential for clot and stroke and chose the least invasive course of treatment. After such a difficult surgery, the less we do that compounds the body's trauma, the better the patient's opportunity for a good outcome. Now moving on "
As Dr. Hahn was leading her residents down the hall for rounds, Erica was busy trying to figure out how to ask Callie out on a date.
The opportunity arrived sooner than expected.
"You've discovered the service elevator too," Erica managed when she saw the car's only other occupant. It was becoming a habit with them. Finding each other in unexpected places.
"I'm in no hurry."
"Don't mind occasionally sharing the car with a corpse?"
"Wouldn't be the first time."
A glance. A look.
And Erica knew that she needed to find something, anything, make that anything else, to talk about. What fell out of her mouthhad she planned anythingwasn't well, what she had planned. "Do you want to go out with me?" She really had to work on that smooth thing. Maybe McDreamy had some tips.
"We go out all the time." The reply was offhand, but Callie paused a moment-- as if taking in the question again. Her eyes rounded, then softened. "I thought we were waiting."
"I know you're moving in this weekend "
"And you're helping." The tone of her voice was a warning. "You promised."
"Yes, I am." Erica smiled. "But maybe next weekend " Here she faltered. "We could have dinner. You know "
"Like on a date date?"
She hated the dubious tone in the other woman's voice, not to mention having to point out the obvious. "Callie, we were making out on my couch last night." Still Callie was deer-in-the-headlights. "Yes," she blurted, exasperated. "Like on a date date." Callie's expression still hadn't changed, and Erica shook her head briskly. What the hell had she been thinking? "Nevermind."
The word hit Erica harder than she expected. Though she had expected that answer-- of course Callie didn't want to go out to dinner with her. Like on a date date. Making out aside, who in their right mind would? She was grateful for the ding of the elevator doors, but was surprised when Callie hit the Stop button to keep the doors closed.
"Let me clarify. Yes, I mind." Dark eyes pinned hers. "And no, I've never had another woman ask me out on a date, but you are and yes, I want to. Okay?" She hit the Stop button again and the elevator doors obligingly opened.
If both women were trembling, neither acknowledged it.
"I cannot believe she asked McBitchy to help us move."
Meredith shrugged, not particularly happy about the fact, but definitely not teetering on the Thelma and Louise precipice that Yang seemed to be. Hahn was an issue with Cristina. Always had been, always would be unless both of them pulled their heads out of their asses and realized that they had more in common than they did differently. Try telling Cristina that and well she liked her eardrums intact. "You said they were friends."
"Well she needs to find another one and damn fast," Yang snapped. "I don't want Hahn knowing what's in my underwear drawer."
"And especially what's in the drawer in the nightstand to the right of your bed."
Diet Coke bubbles sputtered in Cristina's straw, but her tone of righteous indignation sounded weak. "Burke's been gone for months. What else am I supposed to do?"
"Oh please. You had all that before Burke."
"Not exactly all of it."
The one thing Meredith Grey envied Erica Hahn was her ability to raise one eyebrow. She wished to the heavens she could do it now. Didn't seem to matter that she couldn't because obviously her message was conveyed.
"I expanded a little." Cristina's voice tried for defiant but bled to whine.
"In that case the Blowfishies should give you a bulk discount."
"One: don't impugn my toys. Or their quantity. And two: we're getting off point here."
"What's the point?" Karev and Izzie echoed together, and Meredith bit back a sigh of exasperation. Now she was going to have to hear the whole thing. All. Over. Again.
She tried to be brief, vainly hoping that it would encourage Yang to do the same. "Cristina's freaking because Callie asked Hahn to help them move in this weekend, and she doesn't know how to both suck up and actively hate Hahn at the same time."
Alex snorted in laughter. "McBitchy might not have been living up to her name this morning, but she's always gonna know what's in your underwear drawer. Dude, you are so dead."
Meredith correctly interpreted Yang's look as one intended to wither whatever balls Alex Karev may or may not have had, but was confused by Cristina's question. "What are you talking about?"
"Your underwear drawer."
"No," she interrupted with a frantic wave of her hands. "About Hahn."
"Beats me," he shrugged. "Only tore new assholes into two interns. Might have smiled at a patient."
Cristina and Meredith exchanged glances. "See?" Meredith offered wanly. "Maybe it won't be so bad."
"What won't be so bad?" George asked, sitting down.
Meredith braced herself for another round of Yang, but Izzie explained succinctly and saved her the trouble. "Hahn is helping Callie move into the apartment they stole from me."
"We. Did. Not. Steal It." Yang shot back.
Meredith was beginning to get a headache.
"Whatever. I'm not bitter."
"No, not you," Alex muttered under his breath.
"I would have helped," George mused, as ever on a vaguely different page.
"But she didn't ask you. Or Sloanwho she's been fucking so much they're gonna name an on-call room in their honor. No. She asked Hahn." The wildness in Yang's eyes clearly indicated that this was a disaster of epic proportions in the making. She slapped Meredithnot lightlyon the shoulder. "And you didn't ask McDreamy."
"Because it's not my apartment you're moving into," she retorted. "And besides," she couldn't stop a smug grin of satisfaction from spreading over his face. "He's got some packing of his own to do."
"Yeah. Can't wait."
Not even turning around to look at him. "Shut up, Alex, or you'll have some packing of your own to do." She pinned Cristina with a dirty glare. "I'm not looking forward to spending the afternoon with McBitchy or Attila or Genghis or what ever it is that you're calling her this week anymore than you are, but the fact of the matter is that we're going to," she said pointedly. "Besides," she continued, thinking that just the other day she had seen Hahn heave a two hundred pound man from the entrance of the ER to a gurney by sheer will alone. "She looks pretty strong, and that couch of yours is kinda heavy."
Just a few tables away Bailey looked up from her lunch in alarm when Torres slid into the chair beside her. She had a tray holding a salad and a drink that vaguely looked healthy. Juice, of some kind, perhaps. Even more alarming was the fact that she seemed to have every intention of sharing Bailey's table.
"Bailey " Torres began, hesitated, stuttered to a stop and started again. "Miranda "
Oh, this wasn't going to be good.
"Can I ask you a question?"
Not good at all.
Before she could hastily decline, Torres began. "When someone asks you out on a date and you say yes, what exactly does that mean?"
It was the very last question she had expected to hear. "Torres, you were married." She stated the obvious, hoping that would clear her of further inquiry, but she could see from the fold and set of the other woman's shoulders this wasn't the case. "You were married," she repeated. "I'm assuming you've been out on a date."
"My dates usually start on a dance floor and end with me stuffing my underwear in my pocket the next morning or running off to the Chapel of Elvis," she confessed, glancing at Miranda hesitantly before returning to the croutons that had previously been fascinating her. "I'm not exactly well-versed in dinner, candles, wine and waiting."
Guess that meant she wasn't going out with Sloan.
Miranda considered the bigger picture and who might be in it. "Okay, so you're going out with someone who is well-versed in dinner, candles, wine and " she hesitated "Waiting. And you're thinking " She prompted. Anything to make Torres talk instead of her.
It worked. Sort of.
"I'm not sure. The... I mean yes about the wine and the waiting." Something flickered in Torres' eyes-- the source of which Bailey absolutely didn't want to consider because considering looks in other people's eyes only led to disaster. Much like this conversation. "The other I don't know."
The helpless expression on Callie's face made her take pity on the other woman even as she hated that she was always the one to have these kind of chats. "Look " she said finally, "It's like surgery." She seized upon the idea. "That's it. You know surgery, Torres. A date is not that different. Well except for the blood and the broken bones. That comes later. When you get married. But dating It's like surgery. You make plans. Which room that's like which restaurant. What time. That's your reservation. Then you take some time before hand. You think about the procedure, what the person's like, what would a good outcome look like, what might be the wrong thing to do. Then the dressing. That's like the scrub room -- thorough. Intentional. A ritual. You put on the right outfit. Something that makes you feel strong, vital. Hell, why do you think the attendings all have their lucky caps? And then, when the moment's right, you just ... you glide. Yeah." She nodded authoritatively. "That's what you do. You glide into surgery and the magic happens."
Torres just had to point out the obvious.
"Miranda. When I glide into surgery, I crush things."
"Yeah, well, don't crush anything." When Callie still didn't say anything, Bailey shook her head and threw up her hands, figuratively if not literally. The image of two women looking at each other prodded her, and though she didn't know why, she said it anyway. "Ask Hahn. She's a heart surgeon. Let her show you how not to crush things."
Torres reacted like some sort of switch set to "Manic" had been flipped.
"Hahn? Hahn? You want me to ask Hahn about dating?" A vaguely hysterical sound vibrated from Torres' body to Bailey's hearing, and her eyes looked distinctly frightened as she shook her head rapidly. "What on earth could Erica possibly teach me about dating?" Another vibrating sound, and she rose. "I I I have surgery. I have to go crush things."
She was gone from the table as swiftly as she had arrived, and Bailey watched her departing figure with a thoughtful expression.
The Bigger Picture was getting more interesting.
The professional smile that Derek Shepherd offered to everyone who stepped into an elevator with him altered only slightly when he saw that it was Erica Hahn. While he didn't exactly like the woman, he didn't have the problem with her that most people seemed to have. The smile warmed briefly as he nodded, "Dr. Hahn."
Was it his imagination or was she actually watching him out of the corner of her eye?
Now he regarded her uneasily.
With a strange sense of fascination, he watched her cross and uncross and then re-cross her arms.
His curiosity was piqued by the obvious something on her mind, and though he doubted it had anything to do with medicine, he asked nonetheless, "Do you need a consult?"
He thought the elevator would reach their floor before she spoke again, but she surprised him. Being surprised by Erica Hahn was not unusual. This was, after all, a woman who performed awake open-heart surgery.
"Of a sort," she finally said. "Hypothetically speaking "
"Hypothetically speaking " he echoed, acknowledging the disclaimer.
"Say I asked someone out to dinner "
His jaw dropped. "You're asking me for hypothetical dating advice?" Even as he said it he knew he shouldn't have.
The look he received was the one that sent residents running screaming for their mommies. His inside voice suggested that it wouldn't be a bad idea now, but well, they were in an elevator so he couldn't. He had no choice but to stand his ground.
"I'm asking you for hypothetical restaurant advice," she said.
He could almost see the thought bubble over her head: "You idiot."
Hahn sighed, shaking her head and running her hands through her hair before stuffing them in her pockets as the elevator slowed to a stop. "Nevermind."
That word again.
"Is it a first date?" he asked suddenly, following her out. "Hypothetically speaking."
She stopped, and he watched her chew her lip for a moment. He had heard her crack about Richard only hiring ridiculously attractive attendings and wondered if she knew she fit into that category as well. Since she was asking for "restaurant" advice, he doubted it.
"Yes," she said after a beat. "But hypothetically we've known each other for a while."
Her hand ran though her hair again, and he started recognizing it as habitual. Started recognizing the Erica Hahn he had only glimpsed on the first Gentlemen's Evening. "So you want to impress?"
"I always impress, Shepherd," she sling shot back.
He inclined his head. "That you do. But we're speaking in a hypothetically different way." He started meandering their way towards the attendings' lounge, and since she didn't seem to mind, he continued. "I'm assuming price is no object."
"Did you miss the memo that named me head of Cardio?"
He laughed as he opened the door to the lounge. She brushed by him, and he noticed the faint scent of sandalwood on her skin. It was nice.
She turned as he shut the door on the unoccupied lounge. Her hands were back in her lab coat pockets, and she was regarding him with a skeptical expression.
"Okay," he began, deciding to list the possibilities in the way that he would list a patient's. "The way I see it, you have a number of options. There's Mondebut they get all snooty if you don't order from the menu in French. There's Delgatto'sbut it's Italian and since you're a heart surgeon I don't know how many arteries you want to clog. Maxine's is nicebut you need reservations a couple of weeks beforehand." He was about to continue enumerating her choices, when he saw the thoughtful look crossing her face. "Or did you have something in mind?" Her gaze met his, and he prompted gently, "Hypothetically speaking?"
She hesitated, and his brows rose. "There's this little tapas place I know. You don't have to speak French and you certainly don't have to make reservations " She shrugged lightly. "But I like it."
Shepherd smiled and said softly, "Then why are you asking me for advice?"
The sound of her name over the intercom system prevented any answer she might have offered. Cursing softly, she turned on her heel to leave, but stopped at the door. "Thanks, Derek."
As he watched her retreating figure, it occurred to him that maybe reviving the Gentlemen's Evening wouldn't be a bad idea.
Why the fuck did she have to look for her resident? There were a lot of things that Hahn hated about Seattle Grace, but probably this was the most recurrent. People weren't where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be. They didn't answer their pagers. And most importantly, they fucked up her day. Like today which was already pretty much fucked up for reasons that had nothing to do with medicine. Another thing she hated about Seattle Grace.
She found her at the clinic. Of course.
"Stevens, you want to put band-aids on today or do you want to be on my service?" she snapped.
"Dr. Hahn "
"Check the board once in a while, Stevens." Erica's tone was nowhere near softening. "Bailey assigned you to me, but I'm sure Yang would be happy to cover the incoming GSW." She saw the flicker in Stevens' eyes from her to the young girl's arm that she was currently wrapping.
The pause was momentary, but Erica noticed it nonetheless.
"Good choice. Now get a move on."
Seattle didn't have a lot of gang-bangers, but apparently the ones it did havewell, they didn't like each other very much. The boy lying on the table was a mess.
"GSW to the chest," Bailey reported as the two women rushed into the room. "We've hung O-neg on the rapid infuser, but he's pumping it out just as fast as it goes in."
"Stevens!" Erica barked. "How do we stabilize him enough to move him to surgery?"
"You need to answer now or he'll bleed out " Christ, she hated residents. Almost as much as she hated interns, but it all had to start somewhere. Them knowing something about something so maybe they could save lives. "STEVENS!"
Miraculously Stevens began to talk, answering her questions, assisting her stabilize the boy and not realizing that gradually Hahn was letting her do most of the work.
"Call the OR," she told Bailey. "Tell them to bump whatever T-and-A Sloan had scheduled. We need to get this guy in or all this is gonna be for nothing."
"Why do you keep looking at the door? Sloan is over there by the bar." Cristina's tone was the one that said, "I've had a shit day and haven't had enough tequila, but I'll be better later
Still, tonight, it irritated the fuck out of Callie. "Erica said she was dropping by. But then I heard she had something emergent." They had played the Seattle Grace On Call Phone Tag for the last few days and well, Callie wasn't happy about it. Not for the first time, she glanced at the clock over Joe's head. "I guess it's running late."
"Oh god, not her," Cristina whined. "It's bad enough that she blocked me from whatever it is that's running late. Whatever it is that I "
"Shut. Up." She interrupted. "Last I heard, Bailey was the one making the assignments and guess what? Bailey assigned Stevens. So bitch about Bailey, not Erica." She bounced a glare between Meredith and Cristina. "And not only is she dropping by, you two are buying her drinks tonight."
Grey knew enough to keep her mouth shut because she had experienced Callie's temper in Technicolor. Yang, however
"No fucking way."
"Are you forgetting she helped us move in?"
"She helped you move in. She just barked at me."
"Right. And she wasn't the one who took apart your bed and put it back together again after she helped move it? The bed that youwith your degrees from Smith, Stanford, and Berkleycouldn't figure out. I don't remember you saying thank you, but I do remember you drinking her tequila after she left."
"She has a point," Meredith interjected.
"She has no point because it's Hahn!"
"Yes, it is," Erica said dryly, hesitating before sitting down beside Callie and offering her a tiny fraction of the corridor smile. She greeted the other two women with a brief nod, rubbing the back of her neck the way she did when she was exhausted. "Sorry I'm late."
Callie shook off the impulse to rub the soreness away herself and asked instead, "It go south?"
"Briefly, but we managed to turn it around. Stevens was really good in there."
"I'll go get the drinks!" Yang shot up as if there were a cannon beneath her chair and stared at Meredith. Whether they were psychically communicating or not, Callie did not know.
"Right." Grey scrambled to her feet. "Drinks."
Both women made a move to exit stage right until Callie called out. "Don't you want to know what Erica's drinking?"
The imperial arch of inquisition lifted as Callie watched Erica consider them and what might be afoot. She chewed her lip for a moment, obviously thinking about saying something other than what she said. "Absolut and tonic." She waited until the terrible twosome were out of hearing rangesomething that was helped considerably by the sound system kicking in againand regarded Callie. The real corridor smile crossed her features, warming Callie in incredibly delicious places. "You've been terrorizing them in my name, haven't you?"
"I just pointed out the obvious."
Erica's hand brushed against hers only briefly, but the shock of the touch was enough to send Callie's nerve-endings into overdrive. "Doesn't matter. I can't stay long. I have an off-bypass open heart first thing in the morning."
"I know," Callie replied. "I've heard Yang whinging about it for the last two days, wondering who was going to get it."
"Ask Bailey. I've stopped rearranging the board."
"I noticed. You're taking that teaching thing seriously, aren't you?"
"The being dressed down in front of a resident thing aside " She shrugged lightly. "Richard reminded me of the time when I needed to be taught."
"Is here!" Meredith said overly brightly, holding two shots of tequila in her hands. Yang was slightly behind Grey, an El Presidente and an Absolut-and-tonic in the other.
"Here." She pushed the drinks towards Callie, who intercepted them before they could spill. "Karev is holding the dart board for you." Her eyes flickered between Callie and Erica. "If you want it."
It was as much of a peace offering as Yang knew how to give. Either that or Grey told her how afraid she was that Callie was going to kick their asses. Whatever. It worked.
Erica dipped her head in acknowledgment and took the drink Callie offered her. "Thanks, Yang." She turned to Callie, gesturing to the dart board. "You wanna?"
She started to say, "Like you wouldn't believe " but her eyes caught Sloan watching them, a tiny smirk slinking over his lips. "Yeah," she said instead, rising and fighting the instinct to offer her hand to Erica. "I wanna."
She knew that Erica was aware of the speculative looksespecially from Sloanthat were being cast their way as they crossed the crowded floor, but neither of them commented upon it because there was a far more pressing matter at hand.
After losing five games in a row, Callie decided that Erica really was taking this teaching thing way too seriously.
"Darts is a matter of technique," Erica said matter-of-factly, taking said objects from Callie's hand and bullseyeing every single one.
"My technique is flawless," she shot back.
"Then why are you 0-for-how-many-hundreds of games we've played?"
Erica's eyes were a pale blue tease, and Callie suddenly thought of all sorts of things and ways they might play. Not much to her surprise, darts didn't head up that particular list. Some of the other things that occurred to her did. Surprise her, that is.
She blinked back into awareness in time to hear Erica saying, "Heel-toe-heel-toe. Come on Torres, you're the dancer."
"You wanna dance with me?" she blurted, because that was one of the things that had occurred to her.
A curling brow lifted, its laziness matching the smile Erica gave her. She leaned oh-so-closer. "You really think this place is ready for that? Besides," she eased out of Callie's personal space. "You know very well I don't dance."
It was true. Their all-night dancing escapades had usually consisted of the two of them drinking and talking until someone asked Callie to dance. Which meant that there wasn't a lot of talking and drinking sometimes. Their first night out, when Callie had noticed that Erica had declined all the not so inconsiderable offers sent her way, she had tried to do the same. Erica, however, had placed her hand lightly on Callie's wrist and said softly, "Go. I like watching." From that moment on, she had danced like she never had before.
Only now was she beginning to realize why.
"So," Erica asked. "Do you want to learn the secret or not?"
"Save it, Sloan. She's not dancing with you," Erica said before Callie could. Then they both noticed the drinks Mark was holding.
He looked genuinely frightened for a moment at the vehemence in Erica's tone. "I'm just the messenger," he said by way of explanation and offering the drinks. "Grey bought these for you but was too afraid to bring them over." He regarded Erica. "I can see why."
Erica shot him a scathing look and turned to Callie. "I'm going to the ladies room." Blue eyes filled with evil intent returned to Mark. "You better not be here when I get back."
Callie watched her smoothly navigate the increasingly drunken crowd and down the hallway before becoming aware of Mark's gaze upon her.
"My, my. Times do change."
"Yang and Grey have been telling everyone about your Hahnian adventures."
Panic flooded her. "What?!"
The laughter wasn't in his voice, but was very much evident in his eyes and smile. "Hahn helping you move in. Damn, I wish I had a video of that."
"Again with the Shut. Up."
He must have seen something of her confusionor maybe her potential for physical violencebut the teasing stopped. "It's starting, isn't it?"
"She asked me out on a date," she blurted. "And I said yes. And Bailey said I should just glide, but I don't have a lucky cap and this is a procedure I've never done."
Mark looked at her blankly.
"Dinner, Mark. Dinner. With candles and wine and waiting," she said exasperatedly.
"What are you waiting for?"
Callie sighed. "Me to be ready to spend the night." His look prompted more, but panic arose again as she saw a familiar blonde heading their way. "Go. Go now. Unless you want an order of Erica with an extra helping of Hahn. She doesn't like you very much."
"Yeah, what's up with that?" Mark asked, but still hastily relinquished the drinks in his hands.
"I'm not sure, but I'm beginning to think it might have something to do with the fact that you've seen me naked."
Turned out the heel-toe-heel-toe had nothing to do with dancing and everything to do with the slight rocking of the body as it prepared to throw the perfect strike at the dartboard.
As enjoyable as it was to watch Erica's body in motion, Callie realized she'd rather be dancing.
A grin that was less lopsided and slightly more corridor creased Erica's features as they toyed with their round of drinksthis one bought by Mark and sent over by Karev. "Much as I hate to say itI've gotta get going."
"It's early." Her objection was immediate, and Callie knew now that it had nothing to do with wanting to have another drink or another round of darts. It had everything to do with wanting to spend more time with Erica.
"And that's the whole point."
More time and more Erica and
"My patient wouldn't appreciate a sleep-deprived surgeon." Her face softened and the corridor smile fully emerged. "As much as I would love to stay with you and become sleep-deprived."
Callie could literally feel something inside her shifting. Something that was bringing them closer and closer to what, she still wasn't certain. Unconsciously, her eyes flickered to Erica's mouth, watching her finish the drink. The memory of that mouththose lipsagainst hers stampeded its way through her brain. "Can I walk you out?" she asked, her voice very nearly failing her.
Dark eyes and pale ones merged glances. "I'd like that."
Callie stopped by the gang's table only long enough to tell Cristina she would be back in a moment.
The urge to touch Erica, any way she could, was almost overwhelming. Waiting she told herself sucked. But they were and she wasn't certain and they were walking and Where the fuck had she parked? Then she heard the chirp of a car alarm and saw the familiar silver glint of Erica's car in the dimness.
"Want me to drive you back to the entrance?" Erica offered diffidently. "Even though it's not late, the crazies have never been known to keep to a particular time clock."
She couldn't read Erica's expression, which troubled her, but she found herself replying, "I'd like that."
They both got into the car, but Erica didn't start the ignition.
"Callie " she began, turning.
"Does waiting mean no kissing?" Impulse control evaded the psychic airbag, crashed into the windshield and was DOA. She figured she wasn't going to miss it much. Wasn't ever her strong suite anyway. Refusing to meet the other woman's eyes, she focused instead on the immaculate interior of the car. Even though she knew the car was two years old, it looked like it had just rolled off the showroom floor. "I mean I mean I liked the kissing. Remember?" She marshaled up her resolve and lifted her head to find Erica looking at her. "You liked it too, right? At least I think you did I mean you seemed to "
Elegant fingers stroked through Callie's hair, and she felt it in places that had nothing to do with root ends. "Callie " she said softly. "Why do you think I parked hell and gone from the door?"
They reached for each other at the same time.
The minute she stepped foot back into the bar, she felt Sloan's eyes lock on her like he had some sort of internal GPS. She knew that he knew. Knew that she still felt Erica's lips on hers, and that her central nervous system was trembling from the feel of Erica's arms around her and the touch of long fingers threading through her hair. Knew things that senses whoa overload and now she had to sit down with her friends and pretend like nothing had ever happened.
She was vaguely relieved when he didn't immediately saunter over to join them, although she braced herself for the inevitable.
"Took you long enough to get back."
Yang's comment was innocuous enough, but Callie was on a hair-trigger. All she really wanted was to go back to Erica's car and well keep doing what they had been doing, preferably on some flat horizontal surface. The backseat would work for her. Or quite possibly the hood of the car. But when Erica's hands had instinctively found Callie's breasts, Erica hadafter they both had stopped gaspingtold her that she needed to go and driven her posthaste to the entrance of Joe's.
Early surgeries sucked.
So did that whole waiting thing.
Not like that was the first time she had that thought tonight. And maybe, she realized now, that Erica had thought it once or twice too.
"Did you have to walk her all the way back to the fucking hospital?"
Yang was still talking and Callie wasn't exactly alert enough to be inventive. What with the kissing and the touching and the
Yeah, the that.
"Um she was having trouble with with the ignition. We I mean she had a hard time getting it started."
"Difficult to believe." That voice behind her, and Callie knew the inevitable had arrived. "Mercedes are usually very reliable cars." With a long leg, Mark slid an unused chair to the gang's table and settled himself beside and slightly behind Callie. Although she knew that sweet nothings were not what he was going to be whispering in her ear, everyone else would think the contrary.
"It must have been cold," she stuttered.
He draped an arm around her chair. "Can't imagine that."
She turned her head close to his ear so that the others couldn't overhear. "Do not forget that I know how to crush bones."
He nestled his face next to hers. To all the world it looked like they were the happy couple. He muttered, "I can't believe she didn't take you home. I would have in a hot minute."
"That's why she's Erica Hahn and not Mark Sloan."
"If you add a thank Christ, I might have to out you."
"There's nothing to out." She ground her teeth together because frustration was not something she did well. "I'm not in yet."
"No wonder you're so cranky."
"Mark " She didn't want to whine and she didn't want to be tortured anymore. At least not tonight. That would come later. More with the inevitable. "Buy me a drink."
"And make it a double," he finished her thought and kissed her temple. It was the absolutely least romantic thing he had ever done, and yet oddly the most comforting. "Right back."
"Somebody's getting lucky tonight." Karev's sotto voce managed to reach her, and she was torn between wanting to reduce Alex to pulp, hiding under the table, or going to Erica's.
Yeah, like that was going to happen.
Okay, well not tonight, but she was beginning to suspect that it might be on the horizon.
Because she was thinking about it, and that was the single most thing in the world she didn't want to think about, and the single one that she couldn't avoid.
Callie, too, was a woman who swore. "Fuck me," she said under her breath.
Callie had insisted on picking her up for their date, and she tried to tell herself it wasn't because she was afraid Yang would see them and think their going out was anything more than just drinks. She wondered for the hundredth time what Callie would be wearing.
Christ she had asked Callie Torres out on a date.
How fucking stupid could she be?
Except, the little voice in her head muttered, Callie had said yes.
And in the ensuing chaos, she had been reduced to asking Shepherd for advice.
She had chosen tapas over French; and it wasn't because she couldn't speak French or that she didn't have to make reservations. She could and she had but damn there just was something incredibly exciting about the potential for sharing food from the same plate with Callie.
It slammed into her. She had never asked anyone out in her entire life, and she was just now realizing she twenty something years behind.
She glanced at the clock. There was time for another glass of wine, she thought. And by glass of wine she meant picking up the bottle and not putting it down until it was empty.
Like that would solve anything.
Might be a nice diversion the ever-helpful little voice offered. Erica shook her head as if someone were actually speaking to her and listened instead to something else inside.
She wanted this. She wanted the candlelight and the wine and the fumbling of fingers caressing each other as they reached for the last bit of whatever the hell it was they were sharing. Most of all she wanted Callie beside her talking and laughing and making her just a little bit crazy without even meaning to.
She really had to stop watching Law & Order marathons because she negotiated with herself and came to the plea-bargain that another glass of shiraz would do more good than harm. After a half a glass, she was ready to consider herself in the large floor to ceiling window in her living room. Even on her best days, she hated mirrors; and this was all she could manage tonight. Though the reflection was a bit distorted, she thought she hadn't cleaned up too badly. Late night dancing aside, in her opinion she didn't do skirts well, so she stuck to the black tailored trousers that suited her. A dark blue linen blouse clung to her shoulders, making her feel like it tucked in all the right places and highlighted all the others even better. Her hair fell along her shoulders curling in some places and remaining straight in others, framing a face with a strong jaw, distinctive cheekbones, and startlingly pale eyes.
She looked at herself in the window and wondered.
Was this something someone could want?
The doorbell rang, and Erica thought maybe that question was about to be answered.
Karaoke at Joe's had come about somewhat inadvertentlythanks to the spit-and-rubberband nature of the sound system and Callie's tequila-infused frustration with it one night. She'd thrown back a shot, said "Fuck it," and launched into a raunchy version of "The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" that had most of the men paying attention in all the naughtiest ways and everyone else buying drinks at an alarming rate.
Joe must have sensed a money-machine in the making and instituted "The Emerald City Songathon" on every other Saturday, complete with a DJ who was armed with a state-of-the-art digital downloader, giving just about anyone the opportunity to massacre just about any song they wanted.
Oddly enoughthe sound system had never failed once on these nights.
And Callie had never failed to show up for one of them.
At least until this one.
It had them wondering.
"Stevens is one boilermaker away from singing 'Freebird' and she's gonna miss it? Dude, she's gonna be pissed."
"Not as pissed as she'll be when she hears she missed George doing 'She Bop.'"
"I don't get that song."
"It's a girl-thing, Derek."
"Does anybody know where Callie is?"
Everyone's eyes fell upon Yang.
"Do I look like my roommate's keeper? All I know is that she came home with a garment bag slung over her shoulder, used all the hot water, and spent an obscene amount of time on her hair. I didn't request an itinerary."
The next question was a given.
"Anybody seen Sloan?"
It wasn't what she expected.
That said, she didn't exactly know what she was expecting, but the waft of incredibly delicious smells would have enticed her inside. Even if the woman tempting her hadn't already.
Food aside, when she saw the art on the walls, she knew, at least in part, why they had come.
Erica saw her looking and acknowledged it with a smile. "They're all local."
"You and art " she began, but was interrupted by theshe couldn't call him a maitre d' because this wasn't the kind of place to have one, and he was clearly not the kind of man to be one. He was tall and unbelievably good-looking, but his manner lacked the swagger than a someone who looked like him should have. It occurred to her that McDreamy and McSteamy could take a few lessons.
"Dr. Hahn," he was saying as he took Erica's hand. "So good to see you again. It's been a while."
Erica was smiling easilydifferently than she had been in the car when Callie had thought they were both going to go through the roof with nerves. She felt those nerves evaporating now and heard Erica saying, "I meant to come by for Raphael's show, but "
"Saving lives comes before painting live," he replied lightly, releasing her hand. "But I'll show you the results later, if you'd care to see."
"We'd love to."
He blinked, eyes fixing on Callie as if noticing her presence for the very first time, and looked questioningly at Erica.
"Sorry." She glanced at Callie, the warm pleasure in her eyes was unmistakable and she lingered there before returning to the man in front of them. "Marcus, this is Dr. Callie Torres." Another glance, and Callie was beginning to think that she would be happy just having Erica look at her. Fuck dinner. "This is Marcus Sawyer, the owner of this fine establishment."
"Pleasure's mine, Dr. Torres. Have you ever visited us before?"
His hand was small for a man's but strong, and she shook it briefly. "I've never had the opportunity. I'm looking forward to it."
His eyes flickered between the two women before returning to Erica. "Would you prefer to be seated on the upper level this evening?"
Erica's brow arched slightly, and then she smiled. "That would be perfect."
They wound their way through the crowd to a long staircase that was covered, like the walls downstairs, with canvases. The entire restaurant had the open, casual feel of an artist's loftwhich Callie guessed was the intention. Once up the stairs, she realized that this floor overlooked the downstairs and was set up with scattered tables, unlike the crowded high tables and the banquette that lined the wall opposite the bar on the lower one.
When Marcus got them settled at a secluded table and told them their server would be with them shortly, Callie turned to Erica with a questioning expression. "If you come here so much that the owner greets you by name, why haven't we ever come here?"
"Because we've never been on a date before," Erica replied placidly.
She wasn't sure why she needed to ask the question, but she did so nonetheless. "So this is where you bring all your dates?"
"I've never brought anybody here."
While Callie's eyebrows were not the imperial arch of inquisition that Erica had perfected, they were enough to prompt more.
"I like this place. And I don't like people."
As far as elaboration went, it was less than satisfying, and Callie couldn't stop herself from pointing out. "This 'place' is filled with people."
"It's also filled with good food." She handed her a menu, and Callie knew the discussion was effectively closed. For the time being, she promised herself. "So take a look at this, and I'm telling you upfronteverything is perfect."
If the descriptions from the menu were any indication, Callie wholeheartedly agreed. She looked up in delighted surprise. "You don't strike me as the type to share."
"I'll make an exception in your case. Although, I warn youdon't order the lobster cigars."
"Lobster cigars and ska. Duly noted." She cocked her head. "Why not?"
"Ska? Because . Well, I hate it. The lobster cigars "
"Thought you said everything cooked here was perfect."
"You know they say sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but " Erica looked slightly shy. "Little too Freudian for this evening, you know?"
Laughter burbled in Callie's throat. "You don't strike me as a Freudian."
"I'm not. Nobody is these days. Except, well, we're doomed because the whole structure of Western Civilization is based on it. Personally, I blame Sophicles. Freud was just riding his coattails."
"Somebody took an advanced Feminist Studies class or twelve."
"I had to. I went to Oberlin."
That explained the sweatshirt from last weekend.
"I thought you went to Johns Hopkins."
"Only med school."
Further inquiry was interrupted by the arrival of their server. "Good evening, Dr. Hahn. It's nice to see you again. What looks good to you tonight?"
The slim young woman's eyes roved over Erica and her smile was genuine. Maybe Callie had imagined the double-entendre in her tone.
Erica's eyes widened slightly before resuming their normal shape.
Or maybe she hadn't.
"Um Callie what looks good to you?" Then her voice took on that warning note once more. "If you order one of everything trust me they will bring it."
Something inside of Callie settled-- she didn't know why. It felt right to be sitting here in this place with this woman. It was different now, she acknowledged, a tremor of apprehension running though her body. The game was undoubtedly changing, but she wouldn't stop it for a minute. The look she offered Erica was slow and gentle, and she could feel it spreading through more than just her eyes. She wanted to be here. They both did. "You're the driving wheel on this one, Hahn. Start us off."
The fuck dinner idea returned as Erica answered her gaze, eyes bluer than blue before she glanced back down at the menu. Her eyes flickered again to Callie's before returning to the server, whoif Callie wasn't mistakenhadn't missed a bit of their silent exchange. "Why don't we start with the steamed mussels, lobster ravioli, and curried scallops?"
"Excellent decision," the server beamed at Erica. "And the wine?"
Erica flicked through the menu. "Just a bottle of the Rosemont Chardonnay." She smiled at Callie. "Can you bring us two glasses before you put the order in?"
"Absolutely Dr. Hahn."
"I appreciate it." Erica gave her the lopsided grin, but the server seemed more than happy with it.
They both watched the server depart, and Callie couldn't help but wonder. "They like you here."
"Because I tip well."
Callie thought Erica underestimated herself, but she said instead. "You were talking about Oberlin?"
Erica rolled her eyes. "No, I don't play the cello and I can't recite Faulkner backwards," she said, referring to the two departments for which the university was most renowned. "When I applied," she continued, "They did, however, have the third best Biology department in the country." She sighed. "And they were the only school that offered me a full boat scholarship. And I had to go full boat or not at all."
Callie looked at her questioningly. Then wanted to scream in frustration when their apparently very efficient server placed not only two glasses of wine but also the full bottle.
"Would you like me to open this now, Dr. Hahn?"
Erica seemed distracted, but she offered the girl a faint nod. "Sounds good."
They waited in silence until the bottle was uncorked and placed in the chiller.
She left, and Callie was about to open her mouth, but Erica interrupted her. "Fastest way to get rid of her until the food arrives." Callie watched her watch her toy with the wineglass until she took a sip. It was good. Very good, and she wasn't much of a wine drinker.
She recognized the look in Erica's eyes. The one that meant that whatever conversation they were having was over.
"It's not expensive, but pretty much goes with everything. If you feel red-meat carnivorous later in the evening, we can change. They have some pretty nice shiraz. Merlot is a bit heavy for the menu here but there's a nice pino "
Except not this time.
"Tell me about full boat or not at all," she interrupted. They hadn't known each other long, but Callie was pretty sure that Erica had heard about every bad date, bad boyfriend, bad well, everything she had ever experienced. She had also heard about the good. And the indifferent. She hadn't been lying when she told Yang that Erica was a good listener. Maybe too good. She watched a minor skirmish of emotions flicker over Erica's face before she seemed to cede at least a part of the battle.
"My dad was a high school biology teacher. We had enough. There weren't a lot of extras. He didn't make enough to pay for school but just a little too much for me to qualify for financial aid. Ergo, scholarship."
"Your mom was stay-at-home?"
She shook her head briefly. "It was always just my dad and me."
"If I ever knew her, Callie, I have no memory of it," she said simply.
"But didn't your father "
"No. He never told. And I never asked. That was the way we were." She paused, thinking before she spoke. "He was a good teacher, a good father, a good man."
Callie reached out to brush her hand over Erica's, thinking there was so much more to learn about this woman. So much she didn't know. So much she wanted to know. Anything she might have wanted to say, however, was interrupted by the arrival of their first orders.
Damn this efficient service staff.
She saw Erica wordlessly note how quickly her hand had retreated, saw a slight refocus in her eyes that told her she was filing the information away for later. Neither of them said anything until the plates were settled, and theirall too happy, Callie decidedserver left them.
Erica lifted her glass. "To first dates." She paused. "And not this crappy conversation."
Callie matched her glass. "To first dates." She paused as well. "And to the perfect first date conversation." The women locked gazes for long moments before Callie added, "And by that, I mean this. You telling me. About you. I like that. I'll expect more later."
A slight incline of Erica's head was her answer, and she wasn't sure if any more information would be forthcoming tonightbut the insidiously delicious smells of their first orders were becoming overwhelming. For both of them, judging by the way Erica was staring at the curried scallops. Erica saw her watching and slowly poached a one from the serving plate onto her own. "I'll share. But I get the last one."
"We could always order seconds."
"A woman after my own heart."
It wasn't meant the way Callie heard it. She told herself that. She could see by Erica's face that she hadn't meant it that way either. The way both of them had heard it.
Something rippled through her spine, and she sat up straighter, found herself wanting Erica to notice the black dress she was wearing. The new black dress she had bought, the way it clung to her skin, outlined the shape of her body. She caught Erica's eyes roaming and knew that she had succeeded.
A surge of confidence rushed her. Its source wasn't the cocky strut of exiting with the handsomest man in the building, but rather the knowledge that someone was seeing all of hernot just the dress or the hair or the breasts or the hips. Someone who had known her on the inside first and was now seeing the outside.
And, apparently, enjoying the hell out of it.
"Plan on eating tonight, Hahn?" Her tone was teasing, and the unmistakable pleasure in the other woman's eyes told her that Erica didn't mind being busted in the least.
They exchanged smiles, glances, and eventually divvied up the food. And then ordered more.
On the drive home with Callie in the driver's seat, a stuttering hesitancy replaced the conversation that had flowed effortlessly throughout dinner. Erica kicked herself for talking so much, for revealing things she hadn't revealed in well ever. She didn't want to think about it. The way Callie's hand clasped hers as she kept the other on the wheel was only slightly reassuring. She told herself it was only a girl thing, although it wasn't something they had ever done. Unconsciously she exhaled deeply and was immediately aware of Callie's eyes glancing at her before quickly returning to the road.
"You tired?" Her firsttheir first wordssince they had left the restaurant.
Such an easy out, but Callie had been the one to observe she didn't do things halfway or, for that matter, the easy way. So she didn't take it.
"Nervous." Spoken flatly, but nonetheless she was grateful to feel the press of Callie's palm against hers. The slight squeeze that reminded her she wasn't alone in this uncharted territory.
Callie pulled into the curving drive of Erica's house, parking Erica noticed with the nose pointed toward the road. Looked like there wasn't going to be anything to be nervous about after all.
The dim neighborhood streetlight cast an unusual shadow across Callie's face, and Erica hated not being able to see into the other woman's eyes. Not for the first time she wondered how she had ended up in suburban hell and not in some downtown loft, where at least Callie would have the excuse of no parking.
"Want me to walk you in?" Callie's fingers flexed and twined with Erica's, and she shook her head knowing it wouldn't be seen in the dark.
Silence rested between them until she rallied.
"Not necessary. It's not like there are a lot of muggers and would-be marauders in my area. We pay extra for Neighborhood Watch, so I'm pretty sure my shrubbery is clear." She aimed for flippant but wasn't quite sure she had accomplished it. She reached for the door, but was surprised by the strength of Callie's hand holding her own.
"Erica " Forcing her to try and find Callie's eyes in the dark. "I'm saying I want to come in." She leaned in and kissed Erica softly, though her voice was hesitant. "I'm saying I want to stay the night."
They made it to the door and actually managed to get it shut behind them. In the six years she had lived in this house, she was certain she had never backed up the walkway, much less made it up the few stairs that way. However, in those same six years, she had never had someone who was so resolutely refusing to release her lips, to end their kiss. Karma allowed her to get the key into the door.
Thank god for oak she thought, shutting it and pressing Callie against the substantial barrier that protected them from everything else. Callie's hands were everywhere, roaming over the thin material that separated them. She was aware of her hands making their own exploration-- cupping Callie's cheeks, running her fingers through Callie's hair, holding their kiss and learning the sighs of pleasure that her mouth could evoke.
When she realized Callie was trying to pull her shirt out of her slacks, she broke the kiss. "Slow down "
A moan of frustration erupted. From whose throat she didn't know.
"Callie " Their eyes met, and each saw the mutual desire reflected there. "It's not like we have a curfew," Erica managed on unsteady breath, having never before been kissed senseless. She nuzzled the smooth curve between Callie's shoulder and neck. "And I don't want our first time to be up against a door." She pressed a gentle kiss at the hollow of the other woman's throat and smiled at the warmth she felt there. "There's plenty of time for that later." Glancing up to see a breathless smile on Callie's lips.
"Something to be said for hot and now," Callie teased.
"And that's why I didn't take you to Burger King for dinner." She leaned in, resting her entire weight against the other woman, absorbed the lurch in Callie's body that silently asked for more. Brushing her lips against an ear, "God did not have me in mind when She invented the Quickie." She paused a moment just to hear the catch in Callie's breath. "Or the #5 Special."
Erica eased away from Callie and clasped their hands. "Do you want your wine on the couch or in bed?" Her murmur implicitly said that this was not going to be a hurried process. They were getting there, and that was going to be half the fun.
She immediately saw that Callie understood her message but was staggered now that things were happening. Different paradigm, Erica realized, not just for her and that for Callie it might not be exactly the same. She raised their linked fingers and slowly kissed each of the other woman's knuckles. "You don't have to stay the night," she said quietly, wanting more than anything to preserve the intimacy that this night had bestowed on them with its conversation, with its laughter, with each deepening kiss they shared. In that moment of weakness, she would be willing to rush for the sake of slowing down.
Callie's eyes focused on her, and a slow smile spread over her features.
One that Erica recognized from that look Callie had given to Sloan on more than one occasion.
"You'd be willing to stop at second base?" The heat in her voice implying that no such thing would be possible but that she would be willing to let Erica try.
Erica tugged her away from the door, eyes fixing on a rug that was patterned in multi-colored jewel tones. It was one of her favorites, and she used it to focus her thoughts. She didn't want to play come-hither-go-away games. This was not something she wanted to say because a part of her feared that some kind of games was all that Callie knew. She thought for a moment. Said the last thing in the world she wanted to say. "Maybe it would be better if you left."
Erica released her hands, but the other woman immediately recaptured them and the Sloan look vanished. The Callie she knewthe one full of trepidation and desire-- returned. "It sounds ridiculous " That half-glance away that Erica was coming to know so well. "I don't With Until I met you I'd never even thought about and I'm still not thinking about it but I am and you " She closed her eyes, gathering something inside Erica wasn't privy to. "I want to be naked with you," she said in a voice Erica had never heard before. Her eyes opened and they found each other. "I'm not sure what happens after that."
Erica's organs lurched into her throat; and she thought she might pass out from lack of oxygen, had a fleeting hope that maybe Callie wouldn't notice. She swallowed rapidly several times, forcing herself to breathe through her nose. The tremor through Callie's body was perceptibleas was the answering one in her own. She gestured towards the couch. "I know it's 30 degrees out, but that throw there is a helluva warmer." She tried to put on a rakish smile. "And I'm an even better one." Doubtreal or imaginedseemed to cloud Callie's eyes, but nonetheless she seemed disinclined to argue with the idea. "I'll get the wine and you find something on those 800 channels for us to watch." She began the short walk to the kitchen before turning. "I expect you naked underneath that throw when I get back."
Stupid stupid stupid she mentally pounded herself as she jerked open the refrigerator and retrieved the pino grigio she had stashed there in the faint hope that what was actually happening would actually happen. Except it wasn't happening in the way she had imagined. The stupid mantra returned, and her surgeon's steady hands were trembling as they found the wine key and opened the bottle, miraculously not corking it. From the living room she could hear the sounds of the television coming to life and the rapid squeak and spit of channels changing. Erica nearly screamed in frustration when she couldn't locate the right stemware, and she was on the verge of just grabbing some juice glasses when she found what she was looking for. Trying desperately not to think about Callie in the next room, naked, waiting for her.
She returned from the kitchen, glasses in one hand, wine in the other and felt her heart stop when she saw Callie standing fully clothed with the remote control in her hand.
"I can't figure out what to watch," she said sheepishly, turning to her with a melting look that jump-started everything in her that had just stopped.
Erica settled the glasses and the wine on the coffee table and crossed the space that separated them. Standing behind Callie, she willed herself not to shiver as she placed her arms around the other woman and nuzzled the warm heat of her neck. "Just keep going," she murmured and was rewarded with a slow deep shudder. Together they scrolled through the channels until Erica said, "There. Stop."
"Tell me it's not the Discovery Channel."
She hadn't realized that Callie had closed her eyes as they embraced.
A low chuckle rumbled through Erica. "Hardly." The inquisitive arch of Callie's neck prompted her. "It's a movie about Frida Kahlo."
"Someday you're going to have to explain you and art," Callie mumbled.
Callie seemed more interested in the slow stroke of Erica's hands down her sides than anything else, so she replied, "Don't know art. Just like color."
"I don't believe you."
"Callie Shut. Up." She began kissing Callie's neck in earnest, lips and tongue teasing a line down the bared throat. Registered the clatter of the remote falling to the floor. Her hands roamed along the other woman's torso, shying away from the breasts she was aching to touch. Their bodies melded together seamlessly, and Erica had to stifle a gasp when she felt Callie press back against her in the effort to draw them even closer. They were almost exactly the same height, and when Erica brushed the hair away from the back of Callie's neck, her lips instinctively ghosted over the newly-exposed skin. She was gratified to feel a deep tremor run through Callie, so she repeated the motion, this time her tongue gently tasting skin. Her hands continued their exploration, and now Callie was reaching behind her.
"Erica " she whispered.
The stupid mantra was replaced by Please don't ask me to stop. My head will explode. Please don't ask me to stop. .
"Unzip my dress."
Everything in Erica stilled, and she wrapped her arms around Callie silently.
"And before you ask me, no I'm not certain. Except I'm as certain as I can be and if you don't get me out of this dress soon, I think my head will explode."
Laughter rumbled from Erica's throat, although the sudden sledgehammer against her heart threatened to topple her composure. Her hands and mouth resumed their gentle ministrations in a vain effort to help it. Her fingers unerringly located the zipper, and she didn't have time to think about the fact that she had never done this before because she was doing this with Callie and damn, if it didn't feel so right. Metal teeth parted, exposing a line of bra and rich, caramel skin to the small of an absolutely gorgeous back. Tremors of impatience ran along both of them, and Erica soothed them with slow kisses along Callie's shoulders and down her spine. "We're getting there," she murmured, herself getting lost in the incredible feel of this woman's skin beneath her lips. Her tongue counted each vertebra as her hands pushed the dress away and to let it slip to the floor-- her breath catching as she did so.
Callie had worn black silk underwear for their date.
Callie had worn it for her.
The realization slammed through her along with a surge of nearly uncontrollable arousal, and her steady surgeon's hands began trembling once more. "So beautiful," she murmured, her arms winding, her body unable to stop from slowly moving against the woman in her arms.
Callie rested her head against Erica's shoulder, tiny almost imperceptible shivers running through her as she lifted an arm behind her to stroke Erica's hair. "I'm beginning to think you're a tease." She turned her head and captured Erica's lips in a long, searing kiss that left them both dazed. "I'm also beginning to think that you have entirely too many clothes on."
Although she knew there was no way in hell she could ever be beautiful enough for Callie, soundless laughter escaped her in anticipation.
They kissed again, and Erica marveled at how incredibly right it felt to be kissed by this woman. "I'm turning around now, and then I'm undressing you." The certainty in Callie's voice brooked no argument-- not that Erica had any intention of disputing this particular intention.
As Callie shifted in their embrace, she couldn't stifle a gasp and was immediately confronted by a concerned expression. "Is this " she trailed off hesitantly.
"This is incredible," she rasped, rewarded by a breaking smile on the other woman's face. They kissed softly, tongues slowly dancing. Her hands roamed Callie's back the way they had roamed her stomach and her own tightened. God, she wanted this woman. Their breasts collided softly, and she desperately wanted to lose the thin barriers that still separated them. "Please," she murmured, her head arching back, exposing her neck to questing lips and tongue. "Hurry."
A dark chuckle echoed against her carotid, sending her pulse thundering. "Now who's the one ready for hot and now?"
Her fingers tangled in Callie's hair, shuddering at the gentle scrape of teeth along her skin. "Please," she repeated, bringing dark eyes back to pale ones and hands to the first button of her shirt. Callie placed a soft kiss down Erica's body with each button undone. She thought she was going to lose it when she felt the delicate kiss just above the front clasp of her bra.
There was a no mistaking the low sound of pleasure in Callie's voice as she glanced upwards, seemingly knowing that Erica's gaze would be riveted on her. "Ivory lace." Fingertips brushed over the edges of her bra, tracing the curve of her breasts. "I like it." She trembled violently at that fleeting touch, registered the pleased expression in Callie's eyes that turned into a slow smile. "But I have more work to do."
Erica ran her fingers through Callie's hair, answering that smile with one of her own and hoping that her legs didn't completely collapse before that work was done. Another button and Callie finished pulling the tails of her shirt from her slacks. Then the last button and the linen brushed from her shoulders, leaving it in a pile on the floor. The heat of Callie's gaze traveled over her shoulders, her breasts, her stomachmade the return journey over the same until it reached her eyes. She stepped back a pace, clasped Erica's hands and it all stopped.
A familiar mantra returned, Stupid stupid stupid She willed herself not to blink and look away.
"I'm the one who should be telling you how beautiful you are."
Words she had never heard before in her life.
Callie drew their hands together and kissed each of her palms, gently marking a claim with a slow stroke of tongue. She stepped forward, arms twining around her waist, and softly kissed her. "So amazingly beautiful." The conviction in those words lurched through to Erica's heart, spread through her veins, and she suddenly found herself kissing Callie with a ferocity that shocked them both. Her hands were in Callie's hair, and then they were both fumbling with the slim leather belt and buttons of her slacks. Yanking down the zipper, Callie impatiently pushed them over her hips, clasped bare skin and went very still.
When their kiss finally ended, Erica found Callie looking at her with a smile that was equal parts incredulity and delight. "You went commando for our date?"
Erica watched Callie peruse her with a speculative look and didn't think it was possible to blush any harder than she was at that moment.
"And you're more of a natural blonde than I thought," she added.
Erica was wrong.
"I think it's kind of hot," Callie continued, murmuring as she dusted kisses along her eyebrows and cheekbones. "Wish I had known about it during dinner."
"Why's that?" she asked, even though she was more interested the way Callie's nipples were hardening against hers as their hands began to rove over one another again.
A dirty sexy laugh. "Cause I would have tortured you."
"You seem to be doing a good job of that now," Erica mumbled between kisses, her arms draping naturally over Callie's shoulders, their bodies fitting together effortlessly. Hesitant fingers explored her belly, her back before gliding along her ribs and barely brushing the curve of her breasts. Callie fingered the front clasp of her bra, a sensual smile curling along her lips, and flicked it open.
"Since you didn't need the bottom, I don't guess you'll be needing the top either."
Their mouths met once more, and with each electric kiss the shock and pleasure of feeling Callie's skin against hers did not lessen, only increased exponentially. She began backing them towards the couch, convinced that her legslegs that could stand for a fourteen-hour surgery and swim 200 laps afterwardswere on the verge of imminent collapse. To her surprise, Callie stopped their progress and broke their kiss. Before apprehension could even make an appearance in her eyes, Callie placed a finger over Erica's lips. "I want my wine in bed."
The decision to shed her silk underwear was a hasty one, prompted by panic and the fact that she had stripped Erica nakedwhich might have been the most erotic thing she had ever experienced in her life. She could faintly hear the sound of the other woman shutting off the television that they had never watched and locking up the house, setting the alarm. The alarm Jesus .
Panic rising once more, she forced herself to survey her surroundings in a vain attempt to calm down. Color, it seemed, was a theme in the other woman's life. The walls of her bedroom were a curious bluenot a navy bluemore a pale blue gray that sometimes, she realized, matched Erica's eyes. There was a pattern in the paint, a cross hatch of sorts, and she wondered if Erica had done it. Not even half a glance later, her internal voice confirmed that those strokes belonged to a surgeon. Strong, precise and delicate all at once. Oh yes, Erica had painted this room herself.
She noted bookshelves, didn't trust herself to remember the titles on the covers, but did trust that she wouldn't find anything worthless among them. There was a comfortable-looking armchair in the corner, an ottoman at its foot, a metal magazine rack to one side and a small glass-top table on the other. She noted Erica's glasses and the face-down JAMA journal on its surface. The cool hardwood was interspersed with rugs as abundant in this room as in the last as she padded over them in her bare feet. She glanced at the bed, noted the wrought iron frame, the hunter green comforter turned down to expose deep blue colored sheets. Had she been expecting this? The question shot through her brain and was dismissed in just as equal an instant. No, this was Erica. Elegant, exacting, even in the privacy of her own home.
She noticed there were burgundy candles on the bookshelves and the nightstand on the left of the bed as well as the small table beside the armchair. Candles that looked like they were actually used and not just for show. Taking a chance, she opened the small drawer on the table and found a box of matches. Smiling to herself, she struck one and then two and then three and more, lighting every candle she found until the roomwhile not exactly ablaze with lightwas waiting for them.
"Ready for that wine?"
She heard the hitch in Erica's breath after her words as she stepped into the room, found her gaze fixed not on the candles but her body, a lingering glance and the desire that surged in her expression was unmistakable, even in the dimness. "I like candles," Callie said nonsensically.
The light in Erica's eyes was gentle. "So do I."
Laughter exhaled on unsteady breath. "We're really going to do this, aren't we?"
Erica placed the glasses and wine on the stand beside the bed. "Only if we want to." She hesitated, "And I really do. But if you're not "
"I am " she blurted, and Erica was erasing the distance between them, draping her arms over Callie's shoulders and running her fingers through thick black hair.
They kissed softly. "Why don't we have a glass of wine?"
She didn't want to. Because a glass of wine would mean talking about it. She didn't want to talk about it. Didn't want to think about it. She just wanted Then again she had wanted so much in the past and it had never turned out well.
"Stop," Erica said, as if she could hear Callie's thoughts, and though the sound was tender-- the command in it was unmistakable.
Only then did it occur to her that she was naked in another woman's arms and that it felt anything other than alien. Only then did it occur to her that Erica might see the struggle in her eyes.
The mouth stroked hers was tender and reassuring even as at the same time it was arousing and terrifying. She marveled at the slow exploration of their kiss, the gentle glide of their tongues together hinting at something much more intense. She wrapped Callie's arms around her waist, led them down to the smooth curve of her back.
Soft so unbelievably strong the juxtaposition echoed, not for the first time, in her mind; and she found herself tumbling towards the bed, wine and resistance the furthest things from her mind. Skin on skin. The softest sheets imaginable and that body against hers.
They weren't doing anything but kissing. But kissing like this The bone crusher in her ceded to the heart rescuer in Erica.
The continued dance of lips and tongues and Callie was on her back, Erica twining around her. She could hear faint music in the distance, but it must have been her imagination because the slow exploration of fingers running down Callie's torso made the sound of blood rushing to her head so overwhelming she couldn't identify anything else. Candlelight softened features that only to those who didn't know this woman were harsh. To Callie, they seemed unbearably open right now, and she knew beyond a doubt she wanted this so much.
This woman the amplification echoed through her only for a moment, before being conquered by the sensation of Erica's mouth on her breasts. Her hands were in long blond hair in an instant, the strands running through her fingers, and it felt so good it always felt so good when those lips were searching, her teeth teasing, her tongue exploring waiting patiently to coax a response from Callie.
And damn, if it all didn't succeed.
The woman in question lifted her head from its task briefly. "Tell me if you want me to stop."
Was she crazy? Gasping. "Last thing I want you to do."
"Then what's the first?"
Here she faltered, but the sheer openness in Erica's eyes reassured her. "Anything. Just don't stop."
She arched against the body over hers, knew that she wanted Erica just as much as Erica wanted her.
Until she woke up in the deepest part of the night in a blind panic.
She didn't know this room, this bed, this person. Except, the arms that wrapped around her were gentle in their embrace, the hips tucked against her were curved and soft, the legs entwined with hers were bare and smooth.
What the hell
Then the faint sandalwood scent of the person behind her brought it surging back But she wasn't she didn't and then she remembered the slow stroke of that tongue, the patient tease of those fingers, that expanse of back, the trim of that waist.
The things they had done.
The urge to escape rose, but the overwhelming contentment in her bones and muscles argued a different case. Her hand found the one clasped about her waist and twined their fingers. Felt the other Erica's response.
"Callie...?" A soft rasp from behind her.
A soft kiss to her shoulder was the initial reply. A tiny snug of their embrace was the second. "Was having the most amazing dream." Her voice was a low mumble in Callie's ear. "About making love to you."
Not sure of what possessed her, Callie took the hand that was clasped in hers and slid it between her legs. "This feel like a dream?"
The response was immediate. "Yes." A pause and those fingers began a slow circle that promised to take her to a place she very much wanted to go. "And I'm not awake yet."
She was not the kind of woman who liked to wake up instantaneously. The bleat of her pager could send her leaping to her feet and prepared for whatever catastrophe awaited her; but left to her preferences, Erica was a woman who liked to wake up slow. Sleep, like skin, was a matter of surfaces, and she had to slice through each layer with care. And when it came to sleep the best layer, without a doubt, was the long slow stretcharms and legs extended, back arched
Then she encountered the solid length of the body behind her.
It hadn't been a dream.
Not that she had thought it had been in the first place because she could feel the ache in her shoulders in her legs in her No, not a dream at all. But Callie
Callie was still here.
Her mind might have begun racing like a ferret on crack, but her body knew what it liked. And it liked to stretch first thing in the morning and did so without a second thought.
The voice that muttered behind her was heavy with sleep. "Going somewhere?"
The arch of her back eased into the curve of the other woman's body. "Wasn't planning on it," she murmured.
Callie's hands began to roam over her, and although the touch was sensual, it wasn't altogether sexual. Exploring her skin, her muscles, her bones. Most of all her bones. Measuring her. Absorbing what she was capable of. Taking pleasure from what she discovered. Lips brushed over her neck. Softly. "So very well made."
A low chuckle found its way out of her mouth. "Much like my Mercedes." She rested in those arms for a moment and then turned in their embrace, finding dark eyes once again. She had hated it when the candles had burned down to almost nothing because she loved the way Callie's body had glimmered in the soft light. Dawn, however, was now offering its own simmering grace, and Erica was not about to let that gift go to waste.
"Don't make it a joke." Callie's kiss was as soft as her words. Her hands resumed their slow exploration of Erica's body, stroking over the hip that was sprawled over hers. "This is my favorite place." She paused smoothing her fingers over flesh and bone. "The rise of the crest of ilium and the coxal articulation joining long leg to slender hip."
"In other words the hip bone that connects to the thigh bone?" A teasing smile drifted over Erica's face, and she was pleased to see the laughter instead of doubt in the other woman's eyes. "Such a carpenter." She matched one kiss with another of her own. "That's seriously your favorite place on my body?"
Callie's fingers wandered along her ribcage, found her breasts. "Maybe " she considered. "I haven't decided yet."
Dawn had left them behind and the day was well upon them when the sharp screech of Callie's pager intruded upon the lazy experiment nominally meant to determine which part, exactly, of Erica's body was her favorite. Erica's own experiments had derailed the process on more than one occasion, and both women were incredibly incensed that such a delicate procedure was interrupted at this very crucial point.
"Fuck," Callie gasped. "It's mine." Erica's tongue was slowly tracing her femoral artery, inching its way closer and closer to her center. Now the incredible sensations halted, and she wanted to hurl the offending pager against the wall in frustration. She glanced at the readout. "It's Cristina."
She wasn't sure, but she thought she heard Erica mumble, "Never see the inside of my OR "
"She's paging 911. It might be important."
The other woman sighed and lifted herself to rest her head on Callie's stomach. She absently kissed the skin she found there. "It's something in the morning on Sunday. And I know for a fact she's not on duty today. Little snot switched with Karev hoping to get in on my double valve replacements tomorrow. So what could be so important? And " she added, resuming her ministrations, slipping lower to drape Callie's legs over her shoulders. "Why isn't she paging Grey instead?"
She wanted Erica do to what she was about to do. God she wanted Erica to do what she was about to do cause Erica did it really really well who knew? but she also knew Cristina and knew that an unanswered page would lead to more questions than well she wanted to answer. "Two minutes," she gasped, feeling the heat of that mouth teasing over her sex, and grabbed a fistful of blond hair. "Two minutes and then you can do anything you want."
"Anything?" That smilethe one from the corridor, but now imbued with a knowing sensualityreturned to Callie.
"Dr. Hahn " Her fingers released the hair to brush over the curve of Erica's cheek.
A swift stroke of a tongue against a part of her body that was already almost unbearably sensitized nearly sent her shrieking. A low rumble. "Dr. Hahn is not in the building." That mouth bent to resume its task, halted only by the reattachment of Callie's hand in her hair.
"Phone," she gasped and absorbed a shudder that was both parts arousal and frustration as Erica slipped away, turning them on their sides and sliding behind her. "Please."
"Here," she murmured, reaching over Callie to retrieve the handset. "Call her," she murmured, kissing Callie's neck softly. "But don't think for a minute I'm letting you go."
Her fingers dialed the familiar number from an unfamiliar phone, and she tried to tell herself that was why she was shivering. She certainly wasn't cold, good lord not at all with all the those legs were so incredibly long and felt so incredibly good tangled with hers and those arms strong and gentle and
It was unmistakably Yang. "Hey, Cristina," she said, reasonably sure that her tone was Sunday morning casual. Especially a Sunday morning casual that did not involve her being naked in Erica Hahn's bed. "You paged me 911 " Letting her voice trail off and hoping that nothing of truly catastrophic significance had happened.
"In all these boxes of shit that we packed, do you know which one has my Stanford hoodie?"
Swallowing outrage, incredulity, and desirethe last because Erica's fingers had begun to slowly cup her breasts and her nipples were all too ready to end this conversation and start another one entirely. "Cristina," she fought a gasp when Erica's hips surged against her. "I didn't pack your shit " Frantically pushing Erica's hands downward, which wasn't a good idea exactly, because Erica took it as a sign to begin teasing the soft curls protecting her sex. She bit back a gasp as her legs involuntarily parted-- and not anger, but desire for this woman in this bed heated her words. "I didn't pack your shit, Cristina. Maybe if you had paid a bit more attention to the way you packed it, you'd be able to find your hoodie."
Erica's mouth was soft against the spine between her shoulder blades, and her hands never stopped their gentle torment.
"But I thought you had a manifest "
A manifest that Erica had suggested from the first when Callie had told her that she was moving. The manifest that Callie had of her belongings. Not Yang's. "Cristina " Erica was moving slowly down her back, her hands returning to Callie's breasts, reminding her of exactly how long the arms that held her were. She felt Erica's breasts against the small of her back, knew if she didn't get off the phone soon Cristina would hear things that none of them wanted her to hear.
"Cristina, find your own fucking hoodie," she nearly shouted and chucked the handset in the general vicinity of its holder.
The sound of shattering electronics resounded.
"You realize I'll have to buy a new phone?" Erica drawled closed to her ear, her tongue flicking over a particularly sensitive spot and causing Callie to swallow a moan of anticipation. They had only been lovers for one night and half a day, but after discovering it, Erica had returned to that spot so many times that whatever happened afterwards invariably led to
"Phone?" she gasped.
"The one you threw across the room." A low rumble of laughter rebounded from Erica's body to hers.
"New one," she mangled the words when Erica turned her on her stomach, knees parting legs, and that incredible mouth began the slow descent along her spine. "Buy " Reality slapped her cold when she heard the bleat of her pager once more.
Without hesitation Erica picked up the offending instrument and threw it so forcefully against the hardwood floor that recovery was impossible. "Payback. I'll buy you a new one." She kissed the small of Callie's back and resumed her work.
"Good morning Dr. Bailey." Hahn smiled pleasantly and nearly burst out laughing at the recoiled expression on Bailey's face. That woman really didn't like her; but nothing in the world and certainly not the bulldog look currently on Miranda Bailey's face-- could ruin her mood this morning. Out of the corner of her eye, the reason for her newly sunny disposition crossed by the admit desk heading towards the locker room. Callie had dashed to her apartment long enough to change clothes, but she still was wearing the shirt of Erica's she had laughingly stolen and looked glorious. Their eyes met briefly, a knowing smile flickering across Callie's face before she disappeared. Erica was sure the warmth and pleasure spreading through her body was visible to Baileynot to mention everyone in a hundred foot radius. Damn. If she got any happier, she would be glowing; so she didn't bother to fight it, let alone try and hide it. Pointless was nothing something Erica Hahn did. "Beautiful day, isn't it?"
"It's forty degrees and raining," Bailey replied flatly, her face shuttered.
Not much an opening there, but even so she considered her options for reply and decided to go for the fun one. She really didn't torture Bailey enoughmostly because she respected the Chief Residentbut a certain amount of hazing was to be expected on her part. She decided to indulge her undergraduate education here. "Still doesn't mean it couldn't be a beautiful day. Existentially. Philosophically. You know, beautiful on a higher plane."
If possible, Bailey's expression flattened even further.
Erica waited in silence for a moment, and then gave up, rolling her eyes. "Quit looking at me like 'Who are you and what have you done with Dr. Hahn?'" When nothing was forthcoming in response, she added, not necessarily knowing why, "I can be in a good mood every once in a while."
"Uh-huh." Bailey crossed her arms and looked skeptically at the woman standing in front of her.
In that instant, it occurred to Erica that she was a woman who had just spent the last thirty six hours naked in bed with another woman doing things that she had never imagined herself doing, letting alone actually doing them and actually being really good at them. She had always considered herself to be a quick study, but really
No wonder Bailey didn't recognize her.
Okay, maybe she should ask herself who she was and what she had done with Dr. Hahn, because she was beginning to think that not only was Dr. Hahn not in the building, but that she had fled also the county, the state, and quite possibly the country. "Never mind." With a wave of her hand, Erica dismissed any further investigation by anyone oneincluding herself-- of her mysteriously good mood. "Who are you giving me today? And it had better be anybody but O'Malley."
"What's wrong with O'Malley?"
He married Callie. He cheated on her. He's an idiot. Plus, he's seen her naked.
Outwardly, she answered matter-of-factly, "Do you really think that it will time well-spent for either one of us if he's on my service, given the fact that, at best, he will be a mediocre general surgeonprovided he actually becomes a surgeon? I've got back-to-back double valve replacements, and I don't have time to hold Bambi's paw." Mixing her metaphors. "Hoof, whatever. Give me anybody. Hell, I'll even take Grey."
Bailey regarded her archly. "Don't overwhelm me with your enthusiasm for Dr. Grey."
"Work with me here, Miranda. Please," she sighed. "I'm going to be in surgery for at least twelve hours, and I need a pair of hands that can actually help me. And a surgeon who might actually learn something from scrubbing in on these procedures."
Surprise arced itself across the smaller woman's features, whether from the use of her first name or a word not commonly found in Dr. Hahn's lexicon, Erica didn't know. Bailey narrowed her eyes a moment more and then, with a jerk of her head, called out to the resident who had been attempting to hover inconspicuously close by. "Whose service are you on today, Yang?"
Yang's eyes darted wildly from Bailey to Erica and back again. "Uh Dr. Sloan. I think. But if you need " she trailed off, hope combining with hangdog on her face.
Erica crossed her arms and muttered to herself derisively, "Plastics? Richard is really taking this switching things up too far. Jesus " Her mind was beginning to turn to the upcoming day ahead and away from the dawn she was leaving behind. "Dr. Bailey," she said finally, "If you have no objections, I'd like Dr. Yang on my service today."
"Morning Dr. Bailey," Callie said cheerfully, coming to stand beside Miranda at the board and unable to stop the slow smile that spread over her face when she spotted Erica's name. It was ridiculous, the feelings that just seeing the name "Hahn" stirred up inside her. Good feelings. Warm feelings. Dirty sexy feelings. Dirty sexy feelings about Erica Hahn whose hands were currently in someone's chest cavity when just hours earlier they had been in
That was a different way of looking at things.
Bailey's voice drew her back to the here and now and not the dirty sexy place she had been going. "You're smiley," she said, then harumphed under her breath. "Awful lot of that going around today."
"That's because it's a beautiful day, don't you think?" The dirty sexy place and her dirty sexy lover were tempting her back. Lover. Erica.
Bailey stared at her incredulously. "Is there some kinda Kool-aid going around here that I don't know about?"
Now it was Callie's turn to look confused as she reluctantly left the dirty sexy place once more. "I'm not sure I know what you're talking about."
Bailey's words rode right over hers, "Cause if there isn't any Kool-Aid, then four of the seven signs of the Apocalypse have just occurred and I need to get my spiritual house in order."
"Erica Hahn told me that this was a beautiful day. She also used my first name, said the word 'please,' and actually requested Yang to be on her service today."
Callie's eyes rounded with each item Bailey ticked off her fingers, then she grinned, thinking to herself that apparently she wasn't the only one visiting a dirty sexy place this morning.
"And you are not listening to me!"
Callie sighed, wanting the dirty sexy place back. "So Erica was in a good mood this morning. It happens."
"Erica may be in a good mood, but Dr. Hahn never is. And Dr. Hahn is who I deal with. And Dr. Hahn was in a good mood this morning."
"So what's the problem?"
"It is not the natural order of things around here, and I need things to be in their natural order so I can keep everything running the way they should. And the way they should be running is that all the residents and interns are afraid of Dr. Hahn, and a smiley Dr. Hahn is not someone to be afraid of."
"Sounds like she's got you pretty terrified."
"You are missing my point."
"And what point is that?" Sloan strolled up to the board. "Ladies."
"Dr. Hahn is in a good mood," Bailey said flatly.
A smirk twitched over Sloan's almost too pretty features, and his eyes slid over to Callie appraisingly. "Oh she was, was she?"
She had known telling Mark about the date was a bad idea to begin with, but she had. In spite of thatin spite of knowing that Mark was running through every perverted scenario he could conjure, especially the ones that might involve him-- the dirty sexy place in her head returned. Callie was thankful she wasn't the kind of person who blushed. At least she thought she wasn't, but given the look on Mark's face, she was beginning to have her doubts.
Callie was grateful when the shrill beep of Bailey's pager sounded. She already had known Mark was going to torture her over this, but at least Bailey wouldn't be around to hear it. Because Miranda Bailey was a very observant woman who was very good at seeing the Bigger Picture, and Callie wasn't sure she wanted Bailey to see a bigger picture that involved her and Erica and a very dirty sexy place.
"There's no way you're not doing this, is there?"
"Are you kidding me? I might rupture something." He smirked, keeping his eyes on the board, and Callie knew that he was locating Erica's name on it.
"That's what I thought," she replied dejectedly as he turned to face her, crossing his arms.
"So just how good a mood is Dr. Hahn in today?"
In spite of herself, a languid smile drifted across her face, the dirty sexy place firmly ensconced. She caught the startled light in Mark's eyes at her involuntary reaction and decided that maybe she wasn't going to be only one who was tortured by this conversation. "Couldn't possibly be any better than mine is right now."
"You must have taken my advice and visited those websites I gave you. Research is essential."
She rolled her eyes. "Dutch porn is not my thing, Mark."
"I'm more interested in what Erica's thing is. And how she managed to find your thing so quickly. Maybe Dutch porn is her thing or "
"I lost count of the number of times I came," she confessed before he could continue.
The statement lingered. Astonishment was plain on his face. "You never lose count."
"I know," she confirmed, remembering the whiteboard and set of markers Mark had bought and placed in the on-call room as a joke. "But I did."
His head reared a little in surprise, and he uncrossed then re-crossed his arms response. "I'll expect details at lunch," he managed to reply. "Filthy details. And you have to tell me if she's a screamer." Then he smiled so softly that Callie couldn't help but return it. They regarded each other for a long moment before Mark broke the tension. "Guess no more on-call room, huh?"
"At least not with me."
"I'm pretty sure Erica's not the on-call room type."
"Please tell me you're going to try though."
His eyes gentled, and she recognized the man she was coming to know as a friend. "Seriously "
Instinctively her eyes found Hahn's name on the board, and she slowly shook her head. "It was amazing, Mark," she murmured. "She was amazing. We were amazing." Her voice trailed off, only when Sloan prompted her with a look, did she continue. "She doesn't do things halfway. What happened this weekend meant something. Me staying meant something."
He took the measure of her words, searching her face. "Scares the hell out of you, doesn't it?"
"This whole thing scares the hell out of me." Callie sighed softly, "And I'm not sure I can do it."
Fate was in a funny kind of mood today and that was why he was kind of glad it was over. Of course, as the elevator doors began to close Erica Hahn would be the one to manage to step between them and wedge them open again. Mark was not a fan of irony, but it looked like he was going to go a few rounds with it. So with a tiny smirk slinking around his lips, he pressed the button for the first floor and waited for it to come.
No pun intended.
"Dr. Hahn," he said by way of greeting.
Her tone was casual enough, but the way she said his namethe way she always said his name-- made him feel like a second year resident. Visions of naughty Chief Resident Games danced in his head briefly before he recovered. He was almost disappointed when Hahn just stood there, a bland expression on her face as the elevator descended.
"Oh come on," he said finally.
One pale brow arced in his direction as she considered him out of the corner of her eye.
"Don't you want to do a little gloating?" he prompted. "Tell me how my boyfriend left me for a girl and my girlfriend left me for a woman? Something? Anything?"
"First-- I don't gloat. I'm not a gloater. Secondyour boyfriend did leave you for a girl." She looked at him pointedly. "ThirdCallie was never your girlfriend."
He had to concede that, and did so with an incline of his head. He resigned himself to not getting a rise out of Hahnwhich was not exactly unexpectedas the elevator slid to a stop. When the doors didn't open, he looked up in surprise to see Hahn's fingers on the stop button. He had always noticed her handsfirst when he watched her operate from the gallery, then when he watched her play darts, and then again when he watched her kissing Callie. It occurred to him that he had watched Erica Hahn a lot. When his eyes met hers, he couldn't resist. "You gonna make my day?"
Hahn sighed in exasperation, closing her eyes and reopening them before turning to face him fully. Long moments passed, and he didn't know whether or not she was struggling not to strangle him or to actually say something. "Look " she said at last. "As much as it disgusts me that you know anything about my personal life I know that you and Callie arefor lack of a better termfriends. And that sometimes she might " She shifted uncomfortably, one hand hovering over the Stop button the other running through her hair. The shock of knowing that Callie had run her fingers through that very same hair hit him. Made everything real in a way that it hadn't been before. "Talk to you. About us," she was saying. She snorted. "In fact I can tell from that look of yours that she already has."
"You're right." When she looked at him questioningly, he clarified. "She is my friend."
"And that's why I'm asking you to keep anything that Callie says to yourself."
Habit made him needle her.
"One weekend and you're already in the closet?"
"It's not about closets," she snapped, her temper visibly flaring, and shook her head again. "Mark " she said in a tone of voice he had never heard from her before. "Even we don't know what we are yet." She stared down at those hands he had studied so often. "I just " She waited so long to speak that he thought she wasn't going to say anything further, but she surprised him. Again. "I just want to give us a chance to figure that out first."
He knew immediately what she meant. The jackals would have a field day at Callie's expense, and it wouldn't be because she was involved with a woman. Hell, there was more polymorphous perversity around here than at Plato's Retreat in its heyday.
He made her wait a beat too long.
"Nevermind," she said softly, returning her hand to the stop button.
"I wasn't going to say anything anyway," he said, putting his hand on her arm before the elevator doors could open. Then his eyes narrowed because Mark Sloan was nothing but a pragmatist. This could still turn out fun. "But I'm making you buy my drinks at Joe's tonight."
A lazy smile spread over Erica's face, reaching her eyes and crinkling them at the corners. It was both slow and sensual, and he felt it all the way to his core. "The only thing I'm buying tonight, Sloan, is dinner for Callie. And then," that smile continued as she did, "If she's really lucky, Callie will get to have me for dessert."
He had no idea what his expression was, but judging from the one on hersit was priceless. Deep, rich laughter rumbled through her as she began walking away from him.
"Hey!" He called over her shoulder. "You said you didn't gloat."
She turned, a devilish light dancing in those pale blue eyes. "It isn't gloating if it's true. Well ." She considered. "Much."
Getting, as always with him, the last word.
Her car was still in the shop, even though the mechanic had promised it a two weeks ago, and she was still waiting for Tucker. Hahn was laughing as she passed Bailey, flipping her cell phone open. "Hey," Bailey overheard. "It's me. We're still on for dinner right?" A pause. "Yes," was the answer accompanied by more laughter. "You definitely can have that for dessert."
Bailey considered the back of the retreating woman and nodded to herself.
She finally had a grasp on the Bigger Picture.
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