DISCLAIMER: I don't own any characters herein, and I will return them (mostly) unharmed once I'm done playing. I am making no money from writing these stories. As a non-profit interpretation of the original work, this constitutes fair use under USC 17.107.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To rachel.mercer[at]hotmail.com
SPOILERS: through "Rise Up" (5.07)
I Want To Come Over
As I sneak out of the house once more, I promise myself it's for the last time, and my heart immediately chastises me. It knows it's a lie. It's a sentiment that I feel often, but never strongly enough to keep my word. Though I hate myself for what I have allowed myself to become, though I detest that I am the reason she behaves in a way of which I most definitely do not approve, I'm addicted. No matter how much I try to stay away, Callie always draws me back in. I'm in love with her, and I believe she loves me too, but a dark part of my mind wonders if I believe her because it's the truth, or if I believe her because I so desperately want it to be the truth. When we're alone together, I feel like I truly am her whole world, but the one thing I'm sure of in this mess is that Mark feels the same.
She was already married when I started working at Seattle Grace, and it almost killed me to discover that. I had followed her with my eyes every chance I got, wondering what exactly it was about Mark Sloan that had her at his side every spare moment. I'd been at the hospital a few months before I built the nerve to ask the woman I had almost become obsessed with for drinks, but of course, Mark had been there too. I figured, what the Hell, I'd invite them both. At least then I wouldn't seem so desperate to spend time with her. I didn't know that that night would be the start of something that would burn so wildly out of control. To be honest, looking back, I'm not sure that if I had known they were married, I would have changed my decision. The moments of Heaven with Callie are more than worth the moments of torture. And that night at Joe's was the catalyst.
Now I'm stuck in a game that one of the players doesn't know he's playing. I don't know where the finish line is, or if there can even be any winners. I do know that the prize is Callie, and I'll fight for that to the end, whatever and wherever that may be.
For the first time since I started working at Seattle Grace, there's a genuine smile plastered across my face as I watch Callie rib Mark about his inability at darts. He's had three attempts so far, and every one of them has sailed wide of the board.
"Erica, tell me you're better at darts than he is." I didn't tell her she could call me Erica, she just did it, as naturally as if she'd been doing it for years. With most people, I'd have bristled, and when Mark tried, I did, but from Callie, I like it. I like listening to her voice almost caress the syllables of my name, and the first time she used my first name, somewhere in the back of my mind I thrilled at the thought of how her voice would sound screaming it, but I pushed the thought away. This is really the first time we've spoken, and I've heard rumors about her and one of the interns that definitely don't speak to her being prone to the Sapphic. I knew though that I'd explore the idea later, probably alone.
Her smile in my direction almost takes my breath away, and I take a sip of my drink before answering, giving me time to find composure. "With my eyes closed."
"Sloan, go buy me a drink."
"Excellent. I'm the grunt again. I swear, spending time with you is like being an intern again, Torres." There's a teasing note in Sloan's voice when he says her name, almost as though there's a secret or joke that I'm not in on, but I don't think about it any further when she slaps him lightly on the arm then holds her hand out to me to help me out of my seat. Sloan's grumbling about something as he heads to the bar, and Callie laughs at him, but I don't hear the words. I'm too wrapped up in the silken feel of her skin against mine, and the twinkle in her eyes when she looks back at me. She makes me feel like the most important person in the world as her attention settles on me, and I feel her eyes and smile almost as distinctly as a touch. She's having that much of an effect on me, and I groan internally as she hands me her darts and heads to the board to pull Sloan's out of the wall. My eyes fall to her ass as her hips sway, and I know that it would be far, far too easy to love her. I'm standing on a dangerous precipice, but I can't find it in me to care.
"Always." I watch her as she lines up her throw and releases the dart, cataloguing the line of her body and the ripple of the muscle in her arms. Her aim is almost perfect, and the dart lands millimeters from the bull's-eye. If she can keep that up, she'll give me a run for my money. It's been a long time since anyone could keep up with me at the dartboard. I ignore the voice in the back of my head that wonders where else she could keep up with me. I need to focus right now and the deliciously naughty speculation certainly won't help me with that. I'm glad in this moment that Dr. Hahn is always so close to the surface and I pull a little of her focus from the reserve tank and line up my own shot. My aim IS perfect, and Callie frowns as I turn nonchalantly back to my drink.
"Is there anything you can't do?" The slight complaint in her voice is tempered by her wide grin and the twinkle in her eyes. I drink her in, reveling at the thrill that runs through me when her attention is so definitely entirely on me. I smile in what I hope is a mysterious way as I watch Sloan make his way back to us, juggling three beers.
"Here you go, your Highness." He hands a beer to Callie and puts the other two on the table, one in front of me, and I thank him with a smile that doesn't come close to the beaming grin that Callie throws him as she threatens to slap him. His eyes wander over her and then behind her to the dartboard. "Ohh, she's beating you too, huh, Hahn?"
"I'm beating her, actually."
"Now this, I've gotta see, Torres humbled."
Callie pouts in his direction and I allow myself to entertain thoughts of capturing her all too tempting lower lip with my mouth for just a second before laughing at the playful glimmer in her eyes. I know I'm playing with fire and that this is probably not the cleverest thing I could be doing, but I also know that I don't care. From the little I've heard about her, and the brief time we've spent at the bar, I'm starting to see that Callie Torres could be worth every second of the pain that I'm sure she could all-too-easily cause me.
I bite the straw in my drink as Mark leans over to Callie, kissing her on the cheek. "It just doesn't happen that often beautiful. Forgive me for enjoying it while I can." Some part of my brain notes the pet name, but who wouldn't call Callie beautiful? It's suspicious, but I've seen no other evidence that they are more than friends, and I've heard no gossip at all. And let's be honest, if they're a couple, it would be a complete miracle if they're managing it without the gossip queens of Seattle Grace catching on. I couldn't give a damn about the love-lives of my colleagues, and I've still heard the most intimate details of the relationship between Grey and Shepherd, and just about every other person in the hospital. I've never worked anywhere that is ranked so highly and yet, I've never worked anywhere that the doctors seem more concerned with sex and gossip whilst they're at work than actually saving lives.
The sound of Callie's voice pulls me from my musing, and I look up at her. There's a strange expression on her face as she looks back at me: confusion mixed with guilt and a glimmer in her eyes that I can't quite read. I force myself to stand, knowing that we need to keep playing, and wondering if I should let her win so the pout doesn't make another appearance.
"Okay, Hahn, I'm going to kick your ass."
"In your dreams, Torres."
The pout can make another appearance. I don't take well to dares, and that's clearly what she's doing, trying to psyche me into making a mistake. I just flash her a cocky smile, the one that I know says 'I'm good and I know it' and move to stand slightly behind her at the dart board. This time, she goes one better than the last, and as the dart hits the center of the board, I reassess her ability. I thought she was good, but not as good as I am, but I might actually have my work cut out foe me. Especially if she continues the borderline-flirtatious grins and hair tosses.
I step up again, sliding my hand across the small of her back as I do. She stiffens slightly, but then relaxes into the touch, and the warmth of her skin through the thin cotton of her shirt threatens to derail my concentration. I take a second to compose myself, flashes of things I would much rather be doing than playing darts with her flying through my mind. I push them away, forcing myself to concentrate on the game at hand. She issued a challenge and I more than intend to step up. Even distracted, the dart hits home and Callie groans behind me.
"You beat it."
She trembles slightly as I whisper in her ear, and I can't read her. I wish I could more than anything right now. Rumors and speculation and the behavior I've witnessed contrast with the behavior I'm seeing right now and I just don't know if she's interested in something more. I would say more than friendship, but one evening of darts and drinking after work does not a friendship make, and I don't just want to be her friend. I'm not fooling myself, and from the speculative look Mark throws me as he cheers us on, I'm not sure that I'm fooling him, either.
Despite my best efforts, I can't stop my eyes from wandering every time she steps up. Mark's eyes are focused on her too, and we catch each other looking once or twice, neither one of us sure what to say to the other, but knowing that we both appreciate Callie's figure in more than an aesthetic way. His eyes seem to size me up and dismiss me as he catches me looking, and I'm not sure what that means. Is he just confident that Callie isn't interested in women, or does he actually know something that I don't? I can't be sure, and it makes me uncomfortable.
Not uncomfortable enough to lose the game though. Callie's a surprisingly good loser, given that she laughs and tells me that Mark is the only person ever willing to play her at darts, and I've seen how bad he is, so I doubt she ever loses. Despite the numerous distractions watching her has given me, I played a near perfect game, and, though under other circumstances the "near" would bother me, I have to congratulate myself for not giving in to the urge to lose on purpose, or the urge to lose myself in the myriad of naughty
thoughts that have been running through my mind all night.
"Nice try, Callie. Good game though."
She wraps me in her arms as I hold out a hand for a conciliatory handshake, and I breathe her in, enjoying the feel of her breasts against my own, the brush of her hair across my shoulder, the feel of her wrapped in my arms and I try and memorize the scent that I'm sure I could search for the world over and never find again. I hold her a little too long, but she doesn't seem to mind. A cough from Mark is what makes me let go of her and I spin to face him. I don't know if I should feel guilty or not, but I don't. I can't feel guilty for enjoying how she felt in my arms. I just can't.
He offers his hand and I take it, accepting his sentiment in the spirit in which it was intended. I flash him a small smile and let go, heading back to the table and downing the rest of my beer.
"Another drink, Erica?"
"I'll buy. What do you want?"
Her eyes twinkle as I look up for her answer. "Uh uh, you won, which means I buy your drinks. Another beer?"
I nod my thanks as Sloan walks back over to us, placing a hand on Callie's back that's almost possessive. "You're not going to ask what I want?"
She smiles up at him and I feel something in my chest clench, dangerously close to my heart. "I've told you before Mark. The day you beat me at darts is the day that I buy you drinks." She saunters off to the bar, completely unaware that Mark and I are both watching her go. We catch each other looking, and look away too quickly to make being left alone together a comfortable experience.
"What do you say? Wanna kick my ass too?" He gestures towards the dartboard and flashes me an all-American smile that probably gets him whatever he wants from most women. Not me though, I'm immune and I think we're both aware of it. I take the darts from the table where Callie left them and hold them out to him. He takes them and we move to the dartboard.
He's better than I thought he was. He's not quite as good as I am, but he could probably give Callie a run for her money if he wanted to.
He matches me almost point for point until the last few throws. I glance back over my shoulder and see Callie walking back towards us, and the reason that he suddenly doesn't seem to know which end of the dart is supposed to hit the board becomes clear to me. I give him a scathing look and he looks back at me almost pleadingly. "Don't tell her."
"She wouldn't think you were less of a man if you won every once in a while, Sloan."
"I just like to see her smile. Winning makes her smile."
I want to ask what their relationship is because the flashes of something more than friendship between them that I keep glimpsing aren't anywhere near conclusive, and they cover whatever else might simmer below the surface with friendship so well that I feel a little like I'm trying to walk across quicksand. Callie's standing beside us and holding out my beer before I can though, and as I throw the last dart of the game and wrap up what turned out to be a conclusive win after Mark's deliberately pathetic last few attempts, Callie sways back to the table, knowing that we'll both follow her.
There's something so confident about her, but as we talk, I realize that she's incredibly vulnerable. It's amazing to see someone who seems so strong let down the walls, and I know that we have that in common. It almost makes me want to let down my own walls, but with Sloan here, I know I can't do that. She tells me about George O'Malley, the totally inept intern that she was infatuated with and my heart sinks to my stomach. Every time she laughs though, I can't help but smile in response. She spends too much of her time flirting with Mark for my comfort, but she's flirting with me as well and she's making my head spin. It wouldn't be so bad if I could understand what it is she's doing, but even though I can't hate a beautiful woman - this beautiful woman - flirting with me, there's a lump in my throat every time she switches her attention back to the man we're with. He smirks lasciviously across the table at me every time she does it, and I know what he's thinking. I know what kind of dirty fantasies are swimming through his mind. Similar ones - minus him - have taken root in mine.
Three hours into the night, Callie is wasted out of her mind. She's smiling at nothing, sitting between me and Sloan and glancing between the two of us, a speculative gleam in her eye. I'm surprised she's still able to sit without falling, and I'm as impressed with her alcohol tolerance as I am by everything else about her. Six shots of tequila, five beers, and three gin and tonics is a lot of alcohol for anyone to hold and I'm thinking that she might be the most adorable drunk I've ever seen.
When she leans in my ear and whispers "I like you, Dr. Hahn." I decide that she definitely is the most adorable drunk ever, not just that I've ever seen. Normally, drunk people try my patience, but her... she's different. She drops a kiss on my cheek and I have to fight the urge to raise my hand to my cheek in wonder as she pulls away. She's back to grinning at nothing, and it doesn't take me long to lay the foundations of letting her know I want her. The next time Mark goes to retrieve more drinks at her bidding, I shift along the bench we're sitting on just a little, just close enough to feel the heat from her thigh against mine. We're not touching as I place on hand on the shoulder furthest away from me and sweep her hair back off her shoulder with the other. I take a second to marvel at the silky softness of her hair against my fingers, wondering what it would feel like tangled in my hands, before I lean in, making sure my breath sweeps across her neck before hitting her ear. I feel more than see her shiver, and I know I have her. I know I could have her. Whether she knows that right now is irrelevant. I know it, and it makes me feel ten feet tall. She might not know it, and I won't act on it, but the knowledge that she could be interested if she lets herself be rockets through me like nothing ever has before, giving me the confidence I need to take this that slight step further than I originally planned.
My lips just close enough to brush her ear, I whisper "I like you too, Callie." and then I pull back, missing the feel of her immediately. I watch as she sits next to me in stunned silence, running her fingers over her own neck. She's processing and I know it - what healthy lesbian doesn't know what processing looks like? - but I feel good, better than I have in months, as I watch her do it. I've planted a seed in her head and all I need to do is let it grow. If she's single, which I realize with a frisson of fear that I don't know despite the things she's shared tonight, if I can play this slow enough, being with Callie Torres could become reality for me. The thought gives me all the strength I need to put a little more space between us as Mark returns to the table.
He places drinks in front of us, a red wine for me, and a glass of something clear for Callie, and he winks at me conspiratorially as she lifts the glass to her lips.
"Fuck, Sloan" The expletive falls from my mouth before I can help it when Callie spits her drink straight in my face. He's doubled over laughing as he watches it happen, and Callie clumsily grabs napkins from the table, knocking Mark's beer into his lap as she does. I try
hard not to laugh as Callie sloppily tries to dry my face with the napkins whilst Mark splutters his outrage, but I don't quite manage.
"Oh my God, Erica, are you okay. I swear I'm not drunk, I'm not, I just- water, Mark! You got me water!"
"And when you spit out water, you know you're so drunk that it's time to go home. That's the rule. We established it months ago, Callie."
Mark is gamely dabbing at his pants with the bottom of his shirt. Callie doesn't even seem to have noticed that she knocked Mark's beer over, she's so focused on me. I know I shouldn't but I silently mark this moment off as a victory. I don't know it yet, but I won't get many of those in the coming months. Later, I'll wish I savored moments like these more. Now though, it just feels good that I come first in her world, even if it is because she just didn't notice her clumsiness.
Callie looks down and notices a drop of water that's sitting just above the neckline of my shirt. She tosses Mark the napkins and I faintly recognize that she did know she'd spilt beer all over him as she wipes the droplet of water away with her thumb. We're breathing the same air and my breath catches in my throat when she looks up into my eyes. "I'm so sorry. I can't believe I did that."
"It's okay. Happens to the best of us."
"You can't tell me you've ever spat water in a friend's face."
"Well no." I don't know whether to laugh or cry that she called me a friend.
"I'm the biggest loser on the planet."
"No, you're not. Maybe at this table," I glance at Mark to make it obvious who her competition is and she giggles "But not on the planet."
I feel the loss of her keenly when she pulls away. Mark gives up on the wet patch on his pants and stands from the bench, grabbing Callie's arm and pulling her out of the booth too. "Okay Drunkie McDrunk, it's time to get you home"
"But I was just having fun!"
"Home, Callie. Now."
She pouts, but she grabs her purse and jacket. I drink the wine in one gulp, wanting to leave with them for reasons I don't really understand and stand up too. Callie pulls me into a hug again, and I know I'm really in trouble when I don't want to let her go. I've never responded to someone like this before, never been so instantly or intently drawn in, but I'm drawn to her. I know practically nothing about her, but I like her more than I should. She glances back over her shoulder before pulling out of our embrace. The giggles take over as she looks down at Mark's crotch, and it's infectious. I join her.
Mark glares at both of us before smiling too. "Nice spending time with you, Dr. Hahn. You're not quite as bad as I thought."
"Same to you, Dr. Sloan."
"What's with the 'doctor' doctors?" Callie dissolves in a fit of drunken giggles and Mark and I both smile fondly at her.
"As fun and enlightening as this evening has been, I really think it's time I took her home." He shoots me a significant look on "enlightening." We're both very aware what he's talking about, but Callie, thankfully, is oblivious as she waves at me while he hustles her out the door.
I head home myself, and I'm aware that I've probably overindulged a little tonight, especially as I have surgeries in the morning. It's still quite early though, and I replay the evening - and Callie's smiles - as I wait for a cab and I can't find it in me to regret it. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I asked them for drinks, but I'm certain I wasn't expecting to have as much fun as I did. I could have done without Mark being there, but all things considered, he's not such a bad guy, despite his constant flirting with any women in his immediate vicinity. Callie though, Callie is pretty amazing. She could be the one exception to my dislike of people.
As I drift off to sleep remembering how she felt against my body, I'm really hoping she is.
Like everyone else in the world, I hate waking up when a dream's just getting good. It normally puts me in a bad mood for the rest of the day, especially when it's getting good with someone like Callie Torres. I can't help it, I'm drawn to her. The commute from my place to the hospital on top of that, and God help anyone who gets in my way when I first arrive at work. This morning though, I'm in the elevator, coffee in hand when I spot Callie lunging for the door. As I reach out a hand to stop the doors from closing - something I'd have done for no one else I work with when my day has started out with frustration and road rage - I offer her a smile and let my eyes run across her body. An image of her wanton and spread before me from my dream flashes in my mind and I'm glad of my almost legendary control when I manage to greet her with a professional "Dr. Torres." Sure, there's a friendly lilt to it, but it's better than whimpering out "Callie."
Her answering smile sends a shiver through me, and her voice is the only sound I've ever heard that I would actually miss if I never heard it again. How is it that after just one night spent drinking and talking with this woman, I'm melting inside when I see her again. There's a teasing lilt to her tone when she replies, "Dr. Hahn, anyone who can out drink me and still kick my ass at the dartboard gets to call me Callie." We both know that I called her Callie all last night, but there's boundaries to be observed here at work, and I didn't want to assume that she would be okay with my calling her by her first name in a professional setting. I'm still not sure that I'd be okay with her calling me Erica here, but if there's anyone other than the Chief that I would allow to use Erica, it would be her. I already know that.
"Last night was actually fun wasn't it?" She agrees with a smile and a slight nod and I watch the line of her throat as she tilts her head back, drinking from the water bottle in her hand. I swallow with her my throat dry as I imagine trailing my lips over the tempting skin of her neck, as I long to feel the thumping of her pulse against my tongue. Sipping from my coffee, I give myself the split second I need to regain my composure and continue "And I'm not a group person."
"I think it's because I generally don't like people."
There's a giggle in her tone as she replies this time "Me neither." I can't help but wonder what else we have in common. More than anything else I want to get to know this woman. She intrigues me in a way that no one else ever has, and I think that I'd be lucky to just be her friend. I'd like so much more, but something tells me that anyone who's lucky enough to have this woman in their life should be happy with whatever her role there is.
The elevator slides to a stop and Mark Sloan is standing in front of us, looking tired and rumpled. I briefly wonder what happened to him between last night and now, but when he opens his mouth to speak I remember why I don't really like him - he's far too charming for his own good. He thinks he's God's gift to women, and he's just not. He may have had women falling all over themselves to do his bidding his whole life, but I'm not ever going to be one of them. I hope Callie isn't one of them either. I actually hate him a little for all the things that I'm sure have come so easily to him that I've had to fight for by virtue of my gender - and for the easy interaction and familiar relationship he so clearly shares with the woman beside me.
"Morning ladies." That smarmy smile is back and I'm certain that I never want to see it directed at me again. I know it's ridiculous to dislike him as intensely as I do, when really, he's been nothing but courteous to me. He's bought me drinks, we've shared a game of darts, we've had surgeries together and he's never really been anything but friendly towards me. A little unprofessional and flirtatious, yes, and I've heard rumors that he's interested in any woman who can walk, but I've never seen any evidence of that, The main reason I don't like him is the bond he has with Callie. I don't know what their relationship is, but I'm jealous of him. I'm jealous of a plastic surgeon. That's an emotion I never thought I would have.
"Case in point." I don't feel bad about it. He has no idea what we're laughing about, and Callie is laughing with me, almost as hard as she did last night. She's so free with her laughter and it lightens my mood to hear it. We step past Mark out of the elevator, and I notice the odd, almost apologetic glance she throws him as we do. I don't want to overanalyze it, but I need to know what it is that's between them. I need to know so that I don't make a fool of myself when I make the move on Callie that I'm increasingly sure I will.
"What's so funny?" Sloan yells after us and I'm pleased to note that she doesn't look back at him either. She touches me lightly on the arm as we continue down the hall together, readying ourselves for what's sure to be another busy day.
"You're not a people person either, huh?"
"Not really. I was, once, but now I pretty much just have Mark and my parents. And you, I hope" There's a note in her voice that I can't quite read, and the idea of her having me is far too enjoyable, but I shake it off.
"You seem so open. Most non-people people are kind of... closed off."
"Like you?" She's teasing, I can tell from her tone, but that still hurts a little. I know my walls are high and nigh on impenetrable, but I've let her see through them already. I can feel the foundations beginning to crumble and I want to let her inside, more than I've ever wanted anything before, Anything personal, I mean. I want her in my life, and I'm not sure I care how. That's a lie. I do care... much, much more than I should. I'm scaring myself with the intensity of this pull I have towards her.
"Sorry. I'm a sucker for punishment I guess. I can't help but want to believe that people will surprise me one day." She surprises me with every turn. I think I understand her, and then she's not what I expected at all. We were pessimists together last night, and now she's behaving like the eternal optimist. She's a puzzle that I'd love to solve, but I think I could spend my whole life trying and never quite understand her.
I spot Yang and Stevens at the end of the corridor and groan. Perky and Kiss Ass, just what I need today. I definitely drank a little too much last night and the slight throbbing in my head threatens to become the pounding of a sledgehammer as I contemplate the prospects of a day with either of them. Callie hears my groan and follows my gaze. "You don't like them?"
"Not Stevens. But Yang's okay. I lived with her for a while."
She laughs. "I don't know really. We're not friends. We can tolerate each other I guess, and neither of us wanted to be alone." I can't
imagine Callie not having people flocking to be by her side. There's something about her that should intrigue anyone.
"Well, if I have to deal with either of them today, I'm gonna need a drink later. Want to get together?" My heart is pounding wildly in my chest and my palms are sweaty. I'm cool on the surface, but underneath I'm panicking. I didn't expect to ask that. I didn't expect to be so terrified of her answer either.
"Just you and me?" I can't read her tone.
I cringe at the idea of running into any of our co-workers on what I'm realizing will be a prelude to a date. The test run, so to speak. "No. Meet me in the lobby after your shift and we'll go from there?"
"I'm all yours, Erica. Seven okay?" Did I mention that I really like the way she says my name?
"Seven's great." We're getting close to the end of the hall now and I can make out the sound of Yang and Stevens arguing about something. If it's who's on my service, neither of them will be. I'm sick of them playing games and trading places and thinking that they have a right to be here. They're junior residents, and Yang may have been favorite under the previous head of Cardio, but she's not favorite with me. And not just because she slept with Burke to get ahead. This is serious and they're still learning, yet they swan around like they're the saviors of medicine. They challenge the decisions of attendings every chance they get, and what's worse is that Webber lets them do it. I won't have it though, and as head of Cardio I'm entitled to decide that they aren't allowed anywhere near my patients, which they seem to forget.
"Good luck playing babysitter." Callie flashes me a grin as she heads towards the Ortho wing and I'm floating on air even as I dread the day ahead. However much I have to deal with from these two idiots, I'll get through the day without wanting to slap some sense into the idiots that somehow got into a program as challenging as Seattle Grace's but can't deal with their personal lives on their personal time, knowing that I have something to look forward to at the end of the day.
I'm mulling over ideas of where to take her when I reach the bickering duo. Given a choice of the two of them, I'll take the simpering, emotionally-involved idiot over the irritating, know-it-all idiot. Lesser of two evils.
"Stevens. Elizabeth Archer's chart."
She doesn't jump to attention like usual and I just hope that this isn't another emotional breakdown that's going to result in one form of trauma or another that takes the attention of her supposed-doctor friends. Or that I'll have to deal with in the middle of surgery.
"Yang has it. You two have fun." Stevens turns her back. and before I can tell her that I don't care what drama she has going on, when she's in the hospital she has a job to do, so she'd better do it, Yang's leapt forward. She's always so damn eager, like I was 10 years ago, but I am certain I was never anywhere near as annoying as her. While she's busy telling me that Stevens isn't a cardiothoracic surgeon and that she's a "rock star", I'm busy looking around for a resident - any resident - to save me from the day of irritation that will develop if I'm forced to have Yang on my service.
It's not just about my irritation, though. It's about the fact that she spends so much time in Cardio that her other surgery skills are lacking. She behaves as though the only organ she will ever see is a heart and that's not true. Even once she has actually chosen a specialty, officially, the heart is not all she will see. She knows more than the other residents where my specialty is concerned, but that's exactly why the others need to be on my service more than she does.
Spotting Karev, I breathe a silent sigh of relief. "Karev, are you a rock star?"
I take the chart from Yang handing it off to the man who might well be my favorite junior resident. He seems to bring his personal issues into the hospital far less than the others, and his tendency to question me is less than Yang's.
"You're with me today. Congratulations. Your life just got more interesting."
I head off down the hall, both of them following me. Yang's persistent, I'll give her that, and it will serve her in good stead once she's fully qualified. In Cardio, you can't give up, even when it looks like a lost cause. The heart is an amazing organ, more resilient and yet more fragile than most. Sometimes, it takes patience and determination to get a heart to beat again, even when it looks like there's no hope. My first surgery here proved that. I think his name was Denny-something and the other surgeons were looking for me to call it when the donor heart didn't start beating quickly enough for them - but it did beat. I had faith. I still have faith.
I'm barely listening to Yang's attempts to change my mind, instead running a list of places that I could take Callie tonight through my mind. Barely listening is enough to respond to her though.
"Karev doesn't know anything about Elizabeth Archer."
"You can read can't you Karev?" There's a hint of mocking in my tone, and I know it. Yang has to learn. That's my job here, and learning doesn't just encompass learning about surgery. It means learning to accept the decisions of a superior. I had to do it. We all had to do it at some point. If we just had our favorite surgeries handed to us on a silver platter, we wouldn't learn determination, or persistence. We wouldn't get better: there'd be nothing to push us towards better.
I hear Karev fumbling with the chart before he responds and I can sense Yang's irritation with what she perceives to be his inferiority. She needs to learn to respect her fellow surgeons. She is the best, but that doesn't mean the others aren't good. They just weren't the favorites. If Karev, or Grey or even O'Malley had been Burke's favorite, they would be better than her. She's better because she's had more chances than the others. It's only fair that I even it up.
Karev reels off the patient's information, but Yang jumps in with the details of her condition and I can't help but scoff. We reach the patient's room and I glance through the window, noticing something that Yang didn't. I turn at the door, noting the look of long-suffering on Karev's face, and the longing for praise on Yang's.
"While I admire your preparation, Dr. Yang, there's one thing about the patient that you failed to notice." I swing the door open. "She's gone."
I leave them there sputtering, knowing that they'll do everything they can to find my patient without me having to tell them to. There's something to be said for my reputation when it means that the doctors below me on the pecking order will jump to do what they think is my bidding.
Slipping into my office and closing the door, I sink into my chair, my head in my hands as I try to sort through my muddled thoughts. My mind has been half on Callie all morning, and I need to push her out of it. The problem is, she's all I want to think about, despite the surgeries I have planned and the traumas that are almost certain to take over my schedule. Gathering all the professionalism I can, I turn to the mountain of paperwork awaiting me. I don't hate the bureaucratic aspect of medicine as much as some of my colleagues - and I'm sure Callie is amongst them - but it's never top of my to do list. Right now though, I'm thankful for the mind-numbing work.
It feels like forever, but it's only twenty minutes before Karev pages me to say that Bailey found my patient and she's safely back in her room. I'm not sure that twenty minutes was really long enough for the Dr. Hahn mask to slip fully back into place, but the lure of surgery helps focus me. It takes me less that five minutes to stride back to Ms Archer's room, praying the whole time that I don't bump into Callie. When I get there, I find Bailey settling the woman back into her bed whilst Karev and Yang loiter in the doorway. I assume that, if Bailey is letting them do nothing, she has a reason for it, so I don't bark at Karev to help and for Yang to go away, choosing instead to focus on the very real heart problem that will kill this woman if we don't get her into surgery soon. Standing in place at the foot of the bad, I try my best not to scoff at the conversation.
"So, you're a faith healer?"
"I'm a healer and I have faith, but I'm not sure the two are related." This is just completely absurd. In my younger, more naive days, I may have been willing to take the chance that this woman is right, that there's some reality to her assertions, but at this point, I don't think that there's anything I haven't seen. It's not cynicism, it's realism. The last person I heard talk about faith healing refused surgery and died because I allowed her to explore her delusion. I refuse to let that happen again.
"Ms Archer, you collapsed. You could go into cardiac arrest at any moment. So, I'm less interested in what you do for a living than I am with getting you into-"
"Wait, I wanna know what she did to Mr. Greenwald. I mean, he's been in and out of V-Tach all day and now he's stable."
I don't have time for this. Bailey can ask her questions once my patient isn't in imminent danger of coding. I don't care what she wants to talk about after I make sure that this woman doesn't die.
"Maybe because of the Amiodarone he got two hours ago." If I sound dismissive, it's probably because I am. Medicine will either save Mr. Greenwald's life or it won't. It will either save Ms Archer's life or it won't. It's black and white and Bailey - who is the closest person other than me to a consummate professional this hospital has - should know better.
"Really? Does Amiodarone usually take two hours to kick in?"
Trying to keep the frustration out of my voice, I ignore the question. "Ms Archer. You have a coronary artery dissection. Dr Karev and I need to get you into surgery as soon as possible."
"I appreciate that, Dr Hahn, but I am not going into surgery until we've exhausted all the other possibilities."
What does this woman not understand? There are no other possibilities. Without this surgery, she will die. I don't know whether it will be in the next hour or the next day or even the next week, but it will be soon.
"Ms Archer. If you don't have the surgery soon, I can guarantee you that the blood supply to your heart will be cut off and I'll have to open you up anyway." I leave it unspoken that her chances of survival will drop drastically if she lets that happen, but I think that my tone carries that it would be unpleasant.
She' s not listening. "All I'm asking for is that you give me some time and talk me through the surgery that you'd like to perform so that I may visualize it while I do what I do. And if it doesn't work, then you can slice me open. Okay?"
A combination of Bailey's glare and the fact that I have patients to check up on that actually want to live makes me acquiesce. "Dr. Karev can work with you doing whatever it is that you do. I'll check in soon." I turn to leave, muttering "Call me when she codes" to Karev as I leave.
I'm not at all surprised that Yang follows me.
I've managed to shake Yang off and I'm walking out of my last Post-Op's room when I see Callie standing by the nurses' station, chart in hand. She takes my breath away, and the feeling only intensifies when she looks up and offers me a brilliant smile. There's a slightly harassed look in her eyes and I couldn't not go to her if I tried.
"Coffee?" she asks when I reach her.
"Less than an hour in and you need coffee already, Torres? Are you really a doctor?"
She slaps me playfully on the shoulder and I glare at her, horribly aware than no one has ever gotten away with even attempting that before. Clearly, where she's concerned, my glare isn't as deadly as normal, because she actually giggles at me.
"If you turn down caffeine, I'll have to reconsider your credentials. Who knows when the next opportunity will be?"
"Well, when you put it that way..."
She puts the chart on the station behind her without looking, and loops her arm through mine as we head towards the cafeteria. I'm sure my heart actually stops beating at the contact.
"I hope your day's going better than mine is."
"My patient thinks she'll heal a coronary dissection with the power of her mind, but other than that stunning stupidity, it's fine. I've got Karev with me, so I don't have to deal with either of the annoying twins. What's wrong with your morning?"
"George's mother is here."
I'm confused. I don't really understand what that has to do with her.
"I don't know, really. She just- You know what, I don't think you want to know."
I let her drop the subject, reluctant to sound too interested in every little detail of her life. Although, I desperately want to know every little detail of her life.
"So, a faith healer, huh? That's... different."
"She's just scared. I can understand that. Did you try telling her that you're the best surgeon this hospital has?"
I feel incredibly proud to hear her say that, but I try to play it off, hoping that she hears the laughter in my question. "This hospital?"
"Sorry. America." She bumps her hip against mine and I pretend to stumble as she smiles at me.
There's a spring in my step as Callie and I go our separate ways after a not-so-quick cup of coffee. We ended up standing on the breezeway watching the hospital move below us, as she asked me question after question about my life. I played some things close to my chest, but I'm still certain that I've opened up more to Callie Torres in the last 24 hours than I've opened up to anyone in a long time. My mood drops immediately when I see Mark Sloan wheeling Ms. Archer towards me, frustration on his face.
"Dr. Sloan, why are you endangering the life of my patient?" I'm probably being harsher than I need to be, but I don't really like him. It's not really his fault, just his attitude and the fact that he's so obviously a member of the Old Boys Network that I can't penetrate, no matter how skilled I am.
"Because your patient had her hands all over one of my patients." I should have known really. Karev and I need to keep this woman in her room before the Chief finds out that she's wandering around the hospital trying to heal people.
"She had a staff infection. I was trying to heal her." I sigh inwardly at the insanity that seems to be drawn to this hospital. Things are never straight-forward here, there's always something.
"Don't worry your pretty little head about it Sloan." I spot Karev nearby and call for him. He's been trained well, because he jumps to my side straight away.
Sloan jumps on the bait the way I knew he would. "Do you notice that even when you're insulting me, you manage to tell me how pretty I am?"
"It wasn't meant as a compliment." But we both already knew that.
"Is this a gender reversal thing with you, where you're the big man on campus and I'm the hot blonde who's ponytail you can't stop pulling?"
Whilst I'm sure it seems like he's just being Sloan to the others around us, I know what he's really doing. He's prodding me, taunting me, hoping that I'll say something to confirm his suspicions. I don't really know what the purpose is, but I'll play along with him. We can play this game in circles for all I care. I'll let him keep his man-whore reputation, shoot him down to keep my own and we'll probably never put words to the fact that we're posturing, we're competing over Callie and we're the only ones who know it. To everyone else, this is him and me the way they expect us to be.
"Why don't you get that I just don't like you? That I think you are a crass, predatory, ape of a man who just happens to be a decent surgeon?"
I know I've hit a nerve when he turns to Elizabeth Archer, a frown on his face. "Wanna heal someone? Heal her." He inclines his head in my direction, challenging me with his body language. I'm not entirely sure what he meant by that, but I don't like it. I'm saved from coming up with a retort though as he turns and walks away.
My patient is getting on my last nerve when she looks up at me and Karev. "This is really toxic in here. Could somebody take me back to my room? My healing team should be arriving soon." She's not giving up on that yet? I can't understand it, but I don't suppose I have to. If she won't consent to the surgery, there's nothing I can do until she codes.
Karev does as he's expected to. "I'll take you."
He wheels her away and I'm left to find something else to do. There's nothing urgent that I'm aware of, so I slip into the nearest on call room to try and figure out where I'm taking Callie. She kept asking while we were having coffee, and I think she's built it up to be something amazing in her mind because I refused to tell her. I don't think it's even occurred to her that I don't have the slightest idea.
By the time I'm paged 911 to the OR, I've figured out the perfect place to take Callie. I push tonight to the corner of my mind as I enter the OR corridor though, knowing that whatever trauma awaits me, I can't let my infatuation with the Orthopedic Surgeon interfere. I love traumas, especially when I'm struggling to focus on medicine. They have a way of grounding me in the moment and they force all other things from my mind. It's these situations that are the true measure of a surgeon. There's no time for preparation, just reaction, and if we're not at the top of our game, the patients will - and frequently do - suffer. I don't think it's boasting to say that I'm good at this. I'm in my element amongst the chaos of an emergency and it's the one place that I can trust my instincts to never let me down.
I'm not expecting what I'm greeted with though. Bailey is inconsolable, and several of my colleagues are gathered around a toddler on the table. Webber looks harried and, as Bailey steps forward, I understand why. The little boy on the table must be Bailey's son. I've never met him, but I'm not good with children, so that's probably a good thing. I've heard a lot about him from others, but never much from Bailey except for the occasional complaint that she's missing time with him. Like me, I think Bailey prefers to keep the personal away from the professional, and I respect her for that. Now though, she's trying to be a doctor when she needs to be a mother and I see Richard struggling to keep her at bay. Meredith Grey seems to be on baby-sitting duty, and I join Webber in the scrub room, taking the films he hands me. I can feel the tension in the air that always occurs when the patient is one of our own. Looking at the films, I mentally prepare myself for the procedures that will be needed to fix the multiple problems this kid has. His colon is in his chest cavity and is surrounded by fluid, which could mean that the thoracic aorta repair he needs is compromised by fecal matter escaping from the colon, which could kill him. We'll also need to repair a diaphragmatic hernia that I assume no one caught when he was born. He's lucky that something like this hasn't happened before. And lucky that his mother works with some of the best surgeons on the West Coast.
I glance at Richard while I scrub in, noting the tension written across his face. He catches me looking. "What?"
"Nothing. How do you want to do this?"
"As quickly and thoroughly than possible. I don't think I need to tell you that the longer this takes, the harder it will be to keep Miranda outside."
"I'll need you to help me with the colon before you get to work on the heart issues. I want to make sure that there are no complications here. If we go for the heart first... well, I don't need to tell you."
He doesn't. If we open up his chest enough that I can get to the thoracic artery before we make sure the colon hasn't ruptured, this kid's chances of survival will drop dramatically. His artery hasn't ruptured, so it's not the first priority. We both know though that if we don't do this fairly quickly, his cardiac status will deteriorate, and 15% of deaths in MVAs are caused by thoracic aorta issues such as Tucker's. There's good reason for the tension that swirls around us as we head into the OR together.
We're about a third of the way through the surgery and everything is going well when, shortly after we've given the older Grey an update for Bailey, Bailey herself barges through the doors and into the OR. Grey is behind her, ineffectively trying to pull her back into the hallway. We all look up in shock, and I glance at Richard briefly, hoping that he will take charge of the situation. He doesn't. I stop examining the media steinum, freezing with my scalpel just above the incision.
" Dr. Bailey, are you kidding?" I'm incredulous and I know it's clear in my voice. I know Bailey knows better than this. She's a mother, and I understand her fears, but she's also a surgeon and she should understand that this is the last thing we need.
"I need to be with my son." I feel for her, I do. Her words are laced with pain and worry but she needs to leave.
"Miranda." Webber is blind when it comes to her, and he's completely unable to put any kind of authority into his words. It's a lame attempt at gaining control, and I'm sure he's aware of it.
"I have no intention of getting in the way. I just can't stand out there. I can't. I need to be with my son."
I cast another look at Richard and see the helplessness on his face. I have to take charge here, even though it's not my job. "And what we need, Dr. Bailey, is to not have our patient's mother watching us perform his surgery. Dr. Grey, please escort Dr. Bailey back outside."
Grey reaches for Bailey's arm, but Bailey shakes her off. I know they're all fond of Miranda. I like her too, but someone has to stand up to her now, and it's clear that I'm the only option. Webber won't. He's blind to Bailey's mistakes because she's his favorite. He doesn't even try to hide it.
"You can proceed." She's stubborn and I respect that, but there's no one in the world more stubborn than I am.
"I will not proceed until you leave this OR. Now, do you want me to stand here talking to you, or do you want me to try and save your baby's life?"
We glare at each other for what seems like an eternity, and I can see in her eyes that, because of this moment, she doesn't like me, and she never will. I know it's harsh, but I also know it's the right thing to do. It's the only thing we can do. She can't be in here right now, however much she feels she needs to be.
Once again, Richard tries to take charge and fails. "Miranda." At least this time, he sounds more determined.
"I just wanna hold my son's hand. I just wanna hold his hand." She's slowly losing control and I know that if something goes wrong now, all Hell will break lose. I keep my hand steady, ready to continue, but I won't move until she leaves.
To my surprise, Yang is the one who steps in now, the one who offers exactly what Bailey needs. "I'll hold his hand." Yang looks up at me, questioningly. "Dr. Grey can hold this protractor, right?"
I'm thrown. She's the last person I would expect to essentially give up a surgery, to react with compassion and humanity to someone else's plight. Maybe there's hope for her yet. The soft voice of the intern Grey agrees, and we all look at Bailey, hoping that she'll cooperate.
"I'll hold Tuck's hand, Dr. Bailey, if it's okay with you. I'll hold his- I'll hold his hand." Yang's voice shows her concern and Bailey gazes at her for a long moment, reading her sincerity.
There's so many reasons that Cristina Yang gets to me so much. She reminds me to much of myself. She's irritating and approval-needy. She believes she has a God-given right to forever be on my service because she was Burke's favorite. And she reminds me far too much of my ex-girlfriend. That last one shouldn't make a difference, but if I'm honest, it does. Just a little. It's the mannerisms and the constant begging for my attention. It drives me insane. But right now, I have a new found respect for her. Maybe she does understand that, while surgery is important, it shouldn't be the most important thing in the world to you all the time.
"Okay. Go." Relief. "Go. Go." And impatience. She wants to get through this just as much as we do, and knowing that her son isn't alone in here seems to reassure Bailey as she turns to leave.
Now Richard steps in where we needed him before. "Okay everybody, let's get back to work."
Yang strips off her gloves, handing the protractor to Lexie and taking Tuck's hand. She leans in to whisper to him that she's here, that he's not alone, that he doesn't need to be scared. I watch Bailey leave, concerned about her despite the fact that she doesn't think I am. It's just a moment, and then I turn back to the surgery, shutting down my emotions and focusing once more on what needs to be done.
The rest of the surgery passes in relative ease, and I lose myself in the familiar routine of mending what's broken; of scalpel and stitches and knowing what's right without having to think about it. It's so different from the person I am outside of the OR, outside of the hospital. I've repaired the artery and Webber is checking that the abdominal issues are resolved.
"The stomach's repaired, there's no splenic laceration." I hear the relief in his voice and it echoes through my body. Contrary to popular belief, I do care about these people. I couldn't do this without caring about them. I just need to disassociate when I'm operating because emotional entanglements are messy things and absolutely the last thing anyone needs in an operating room.
"Now all I have to do is get the chest tube in and we're done." I think I keep the relief out of my own words, but it doesn't change the fact that it's there.
I listen as Yang whispers "That's good, Tuck. That means you're in better shape than we thought. Means you're almost outta here."
"Dr. Yang, would you like to do the honors?" I look at her, hoping that she'll say no. Hoping that the human side of her that I'm seeing for the first time is going to stay around for a little while. I like her much better this way. Grey offers to trade places with her, and I cringe inside. Grey needs to learn to disassociate more, before we have another Stevens on our hands, but Yang? Well, the human side of surgery is what she needs to learn more than anything else. I stare at my Cardio-Surgeon wannabe, trying to figure out what she's thinking. She appears torn.
"No, I'm okay. I'm okay here." Despite the yearning she has to operate, she does the right thing, and I feel oddly proud as I nod at her, just slightly. I know the human side of medicine isn't what she's learned from me because I rarely show it, but her potential to be great has just grown in my mind.
We wrap up the surgery and Cristina accompanies Tuck and some nurses to a post-op room, while Richard and I scrub out together. The tension from earlier is gone, replaced by a numbing relief, but I know that we still have to talk to the parents, and while Richard might be comfortable in the moment, I dread talking to Bailey. I'm sure there's going to be Hell to pay for kicking her out of the OR, and that I'm going to carry the blame because he was too much of a wimp to stand up to her. I honestly don't know how this man became Chief of Surgery at times. He doesn't have any ability to instill discipline amongst his surgeons as far as I can see. I distract myself with thoughts of Callie as we head down to face Bailey and her husband. I'm happier than I've ever been about having plans after work, because I really am going to need that drink after the day I've had. I just hope she likes the place I've chosen as much as I think she will.
Once again, I have to force Callie out of my mind as Bailey and her husband spot us and head towards us frantically.
"So, the surgery went well." I'm looking Bailey in the eye as I say it, and I see the anger and worry in her gaze cloud over in relief. "However, there is a lot of fluid in the chest cavity, so at this point we have no way of knowing whether he'll be able to breathe on his own any time soon."
Despite the fact that she must know I'm explaining this more for her husband than for her, Bailey seems to take that personally. "I know that. You don't think I know that?" Great, a combative Bailey. I might not have been here long, but I've been here long enough to know that that's never a good thing.
This time though, Richard does step in, seeming to know that she's being deliberately difficult. "We'll be moving him to the pediatric ICU. We'll be watching him closely. "
"Can I see my son now?" The worry has clearly taken its toll on Bailey's husband, and he seems to be the kind of person that needs to see something for himself before he can truly believe it. I'm hoping that Miranda will need to see for herself as well and that this confrontation can be delayed, but I'm out of luck
As Richard says "Absolutely" and leads the concerned man down to see his son, it looks like Bailey will follow them, and for a moment, I'm almost breathing a sigh of relief. But then Bailey stops, turning to me. I steel myself, knowing that whatever she's going to say, it's probably going to be as harsh as she judged me to be earlier. She must understand that I had to do it, but she's clearly not going to forgive me.
"You're new here. You don't know me. And if what you did today ends up saving my son's life, I'll thank you for it." This isn't really the reaction I was expecting, but I realize she's not finished as she takes a breath. "But if I never have to look at you again after that? That'll be alright with me."
Her words hit home and they hurt. I know I have the reputation of an ice queen, but it's just a cover. Underneath that, I'm still human. I'm still just flesh and blood. I still have feelings, and it's still possible to hurt them. I hide it well, but I can't change the fact that it's still possible to hurt me. Believe me, I've wished I could. I watch Bailey stride away from me, her head held high. I did the right thing today. I did what had to be done. If she had stayed in the OR, we would have been distracted. We could have missed something. We could have failed. It was the right thing to do. So why doesn't telling myself that help?
I head to the locker room, my eyes fixed on the floor. Which is why, this time, I don't notice Callie immediately. It doesn't take me long to feel someone beside me, but I don't want to know who it is that's seeing me like this, so I don't look up. I'm hoping it's her though, so when I step into the room and she speaks, I'm relieved. She's only person in this hospital that I want to be here in this moment.
"Erica?" I look up, and her expression tells me that she sees the defeat in my eyes. I see her struggle to find words before she silently steps forward and pulls me into her arms. I rest my head on her shoulder, my hurt not masking the thrill of being wrapped up in her embrace. I breath her in deeply, wanting to memorize her scent; feeling her rub my back comfortingly. Each second eases the pain a little, and it's not long before I feel like I'm in control of my emotions once more. I don't want to pull away from her, but I have to. Maybe one day, I won't be afraid of her seeing me as weak, but today isn't that day.
She looks at me, the concern clear in her eyes as I pull off my scrub cap and throw my surgical gown into the bin in the corner of the room. "I'm okay."
"Yeah. The baby's gonna be okay, so, I'm okay."
"You did the right thing." Of course she's heard what happened. I'm sure Grey told her little friends all about it within moments of the surgery ending, which means that it's all over the hospital by now.
"It doesn't look like you do." I don't know what to say to that. I don't understand how she knows me so well already, but Callie lets the subject drop, offering me a small smile. I can't help but smile back at her. I like it when she smiles in general, but when she smiles at me, just at me... it does something to me that I can't explain. I hate that she's burrowed her way into my body so quickly. If this doesn't turn out the way I so want it to, I don't know what I'll do.
"So you wanna tell me where we're going tonight?" After what I'm sure she's heard about me, I'm surprised she still wants to go, but I won't question it. I'll just be thankful.
"Nope." I smirk at her. Apparently, now I actually could answer the question, I'm smug about it. That pout I saw last night makes a reappearance, and I smile widely at her now as I pull my hair out of the scruffy bun I scraped it into for surgery. My smile turns into a frown as I try and fail to untangle a stubborn pin. It won't come loose and she steps into my body from behind, trailing her hands through my hair as she helps me. I barely hold back the moan as her nails scratch lightly on my scalp, and all I can see is the image of hands tangled in hair as she melts into a kiss. I'm not going to play that hand just yet though, and I sigh in relief as she steps away, the pin held out in front of her.
"Not even a clue?"
"You'll like it."
"I don't think you can know that."
"Oh, but I do." I leave her standing behind me as I pull on my white jacket and head back into the madness. Time to try again
with Ms. Archer.
I had planned to try and convince Ms. Archer - again - that she needs this surgery, but when I get there, she's gone, so instead, I find myself yelling at Karev.
"Karev! Where is my patient?"
"I don't know."
"Why the Hell don't you know? You had one job. Just one. And you screwed up!" I know I'm probably going to extremes, but I need to clear my head, and surgery is the only way I know to do that. Luckily for me, I've got the one resident that's not afraid to yell back on my service today. The emotions need to come out somehow, and Alex is the only one of them who's strong enough to take it and not need months of mollycoddling afterwards before he can get back up and keep going.
"The Chief took her somewhere! You wanna yell at Bailey. Go yell at Bailey! Good luck, but yell at Bailey. Don't take it out on me."
"The Chief took her? Great." I'm not sure what that means. He could have decided that she can't be in the hospital because it is, after all, bad for business to have a woman running around telling our patients that they don't need surgery to get better. Not to mention the lawsuits that would flood in from bereaved families when their beloved mother or brother or aunt goes home and dies because we didn't give them the medical help they need. Or, he could have some crazy, hare-brained scheme that involves Elizabeth Archer's delusion that she can heal people with some divine intervention. Neither is an attractive option.
I don't apologize to Karev before I storm away. He can take it, and apologizing - showing your weakness - is never a good thing to do around your subordinates. It doesn't take me long to find Ms. Archer. What seems to be all my colleagues are gathered around Bailey's son's room, and I briefly wonder how many patients are dying right now because they've all decided that watching whatever goes on inside is more important than actually being doctors.
Looking through the window into the room, I see my patient, Bailey and her husband hovering over the broken child in the bed. I realize that all my colleagues are looking for proof that there's something more, and despite myself, I join them. Sometimes we all need to believe in something more powerful than us. I don't watch the "healing" though. I watch Callie. More than anything, I want to believe in her.
I stare at her for a long time, looking away only when I feel someone's eyes on me. It's not Callie, although she has glanced my way a few times and I don't know who would want to gaze at me as intently as I'm gazing at her. I turn, finding Mark looking at me with almost the same intensity that I've been watching the woman we have in common. I'm sure that he loves her, even though I still don't know her feelings for him. And I'm almost certain that he suspects that I have motives other than friendship towards her. Our eyes lock and I can't read the expression on his face. I wish I could, because I think that it could tell me everything I've been wondering about the two of them. She's barely mentioned him when we've been together, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. I'm floundering, and I've never, ever been this lost when it comes to women. He doesn't stop looking at me, studying me. It's making uncomfortable, so with one more glance towards the beautiful Latina, I walk away.
I stride into the lobby, almost walking on air despite the challenges of my day. This is where I find out if Callie could ever return the feelings I have for her. Or really, whether she would. After her shiver as I whispered in her ear last night, I already know that she could. I'm as dressed up as I could manage on the limited supplies I keep in the hospital. I don't exactly make a habit of mixing my private life with the professional, so it was a challenge, but after thinking about it for a while, I've finally found a combination of hair, make up and clothes that I feel comfortable wearing around Callie. She's not here yet, but Mark is waiting for the elevator. We look at each other for a long moment before I slap my umbrella against my hand and walk over to him. He turns fully towards me, and I don't think either of us knows what to say.
I open the conversation that neither one of us wants to have. "Here's the thing. You're too pretty."
"Oh, come on."
"No. It makes it hard to respect you as a surgeon, but I have to do better. You're not such a bad guy, when it comes down to it, and if I want to be a part of Callie's life, I have to be civil with you. Clearly she likes you, and if I don't understand why... that's my problem. So-" I don't finish the thought, because I don't know what to follow up with. I'm saying that if he's with Callie, or if she chooses him rather than me... I'll accept it. I won't like it, but I'll accept it. Once again, we're talking in code about the woman who is the only true link the two of us have.
There's a second of silence and then Callie steps off of the very elevator that Mark was waiting for. She must see the tension between us, but she doesn't address it. She just shoots Sloan a smile, then turns to me, saying "Oh, hey. You ready?" I love the lightness in her voice, the hint of excitement. She wants to spend time with me and it's crazy how good that makes me feel.
I run my eyes over her body, noting the reaction she instills in me. I definitely approve of the tight jeans she's wearing. They make her ass look amazing, and I so badly want to run my hands across it. I clench them tightly, my fingernails digging into my palm and bringing me back to reality as I turn to leave, seeing Callie throw Mark another one of those unreadable looks as I do. I'm afraid to look at her for too long, afraid to let them see just what she does to me.
Mark calls after us, "Where you guys going? You going to Joe's? I'll come meet you." I want to read worry in his tone, but I can't. I don't know what to think. It's frustrating, and if I don't figure this out soon, I may well go insane. Callie turns, keeping pace with me but walking backwards as she shrugs at him. I'm inordinately glad that I didn't tell her where we're heading. I don't know if she'd have told him anyway, but this way, she can't, and that's definitely a good thing. It wouldn't be much of a trial date with Sloan tagging along.
I barely bother looking back, knowing that I've won this battle. It may only be a default win again, a result of the fact that she has no idea where we're going, but I'll take any win I can right now. "Goodnight, Dr. Sloan."
We step out of the hospital, and Callie immediately slips her arm through mine again. She's not afraid to touch me and I love that about her. I usually have to think about those little touches before I do it, but Callie seems completely at ease with physical contact. She's not afraid to touch people, on a real or metaphorical level. I've seen her put patients at ease with a joke or a smile, and that's a skill I wish I had. There's laughter in her tone as she asks me, "So, Dr. Hahn, where are we going?"
I laugh openly at her curiosity, confident that she'll love the restaurant I'm taking her to. "You'll see." I pull out my phone to call a cab, effectively cutting off her chance to ask further questions. I know it wouldn't take much coaxing for me to tell her everything, and I want this to be a surprise. I thought long and hard about the venue and I think that this one will be perfect. I long to see joy and shock on her face when she realizes that I do, in fact, know her quite well already.
Here we go.
I'm glad it's dark in the cab as we head over to the restaurant: with Callie's scent surrounding me, I'm flashing back to my dream at the most inopportune of moments. As Callie's asking me how my day went, I'm thinking about the feather-softness of her lips and wondering if she would feel as good in my arms in reality. As she tells me about her own, I'm recalling the weight of her breasts in my palms, the way the curves of her hips flowed under my hands like silk. I know I need to stop this, to return to the real world; the world where I don't know if Callie would even be vaguely interested, but the more I try to stay in the moment with her, the more I notice. My cheeks are flushed as I study the lines of her face, and my hands are itching to reach out and stroke her skin.
"Hey, where are you?" Her voices draws me out of another dreamy moment, this time about my hands tangled in her hair.
"Nowhere. You were talking about Tuck. I'm glad he's going to be okay."
"Me too. Bailey's a great mother. And a great doctor. She doesn't deserve to suffer for either of those things."
"People rarely deserve being in the hospital, Callie. It's just... life."
"I empathize with her. I don't know what I'd have done."
She probably wouldn't have been so harsh to the people who were trying to save her son's life, I think. I don't say it though. "Can we not talk about the hospital?"
Callie tilts her head as she studies me in the dim light, her eyes searching mine. I don't know what she sees in them, and I can't hold her gaze for long. The things she does to me without even trying are overwhelming, and I'm forced to look away before I do something stupid.
In the restaurant, Callie immediately turns to what I knew she would - the paper and crayons they provide. It makes me want to giggle in the smitten, girly way I so hate to watch grown women do. I guess now, I understand why they do it.
I've only been to 94 Stewart once before. A colleague at Seattle Pres suggested it the one and only time my parents have visited me in Seattle. I broke their hearts that trip. but the restaurant was exactly as expected. Small and friendly, with good food and better wine - and the childish side that I knew would appeal to Callie. It works for me too, because this is definitely not the kids kind of place.
"I love this place." Her voice shakes me from my thoughts.
"You do?" I'm a little disappointed that I haven't taken her anywhere new, but inordinately proud that I managed to pick somewhere that she likes.
"Just the once. George hated it and I've never managed to find the time to come back."
"Yeah. We dated. Surely you've heard the story?"
"You and O'Malley dated?"
"Don't act so shocked. It was a disaster."
"I'm not acting! I thought he and Stevens had a 'forever love'?" There's disdain in my voice. I'm sick to death of Stevens and her relationship with O'Malley. She talks about how perfect their relationship is so much that I have to doubt how wonderful it really is. It doesn't surprise me that he and Callie were a disaster though, and weird as though it may sound, it raises my hopes. George is barely a man, and so much like the few men I dated before; I embraced the fact that I have only ever wanted to date women and it makes me wonder even more about her.
"That's what she thinks. It's why I don't like her though. and how I wound up living with Cristina for a while."
"Want to tell me how that happened?" It's one of the things I've been wondering most about all day. How did two people who are such polar opposites - especially in how they relate to me - manage to share living space without killing each other?
"You'll have to buy me a drink first." She glances up from whatever it is she's drawing, laughter shining in her eyes.
As if he heard her, our server appears. Callie orders a gin and tonic before turning back to her doodling, while I pour over the wine list, eventually picking the Charbono that I've rarely seen since the last time I was welcome to visit my parents in Napa. As the waiter walks away, Callie tosses her drawing across the table at me. It's a stick figure with blonde hair laying on the beach, an arrow pointing to it that labels the "person" as "Erica." I laugh at her.
"Tell me about California?"
"You haven't been?"
"No, I have. I want to know what it was like for you, growing up there."
"Can't believe I'm a California girl, huh?"
"Not really. I had you pegged for New York, or maybe the Midwest. I can't see you as a beach bunny."
"I wasn't. Not all of California is beaches. I grew up in wine country. It was the only thing I liked about California. I got out of there as soon as I could."
"Do you ever visit?" Her question is innocent and I know she has no idea about the mixture of emotions she's just inspired. I shove them back down, wanting to enjoy being here with her. The last thing I want to do is talk about the reasons I don't go back to Napa.
"It's been a while. I'm too busy, you know? How about you, do you visit Miami often?"
Callie smiles ruefully. "It's been a while for me too. My parents come to Seattle all the time, but I don't get many chances to go back home. I wish I could visit more though. I miss the beach."
"So you were a beach bunny?" It doesn't surprise me. She has the lightness of spirit that I've always associated with people who love the beach. It's not a bad thing, in her more than anyone else. I want to be more like her. I'm too focused for my own good sometimes.
"Our back yard pretty much WAS the beach." Her smile is bright and beautiful and all the things I'm not, and I know I'm looking at her a little more intensely than I should, but I can't help it. I've never met anyone like her before. I've never met anyone who makes me want this much this quickly. It scares me at the same time as draws me towards her. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know how to stop.
Over dinner, we talk about anything and everything. I sidestep questions about my family by bringing it back round to hers. She clearly loves to talk about them, and I'm a little jealous of how close they seem to be. She talks about her older brothers and the way they terrorized every guy who tried to come near her in High School. The way she tells it, they didn't have many to terrorize, and I can't understand that. Teenage boys are obviously blind in Florida. My own brother had long left home by the time I was in High School, and honestly, I was such a geek that most of the other kids stayed well away from me. High School was the first place I learned to keep people at a distance. It surprises me that Callie seems to have had a similar academic experience to me, beyond the obvious similarities in our educational choices.
Callie steers us through the conversation, flitting happily from music to politics, from college to our early years as doctors, and finally onto movies. I can't remember the last time I had this much fun.
We giggle our way through dessert as we compare the movies we've seen recently. I don't have much to say on that topic. I can't even remember the last movie I went to see.
"What's your favorite movie?" I'm honestly intrigued. I feel like her answer could tell me a lot. It's the sort of question I've never really cared about before, but I want to know everything where Callie is concerned. I don't think that anything she shares with me could ever be trivial. I raise my eyebrow at her as she looks down at the table for a moment, apparently considering her answer. I don't know if that's because she truly can't decide, or if it's because she's worried about what I'll think.
"Beauty and the Beast." She smiles at me, almost embarrassed, but I don't understand why. It's quite possibly the sweetest thing I've ever heard. What is wrong with me? I don't do sweet and endearing. But as she lowers her gaze, I realize that, apparently, with her, I do.
"You should have seen my face when the Beast takes her to his library. I was so jealous of her. All those books."
There's delight in Callie's eyes. "You were a bookworm, huh?"
"It's okay, you can say it. I was a geek."
"Was?" She smirks at me and I smack her on the shoulder ineffectively. Her eyes twinkle and I smile too. "It's okay, Erica, I'm a geek too. We're doctors. We were all science geeks." She pauses for a second and I can see her doing the math. "You were like, 20 when that film came out though."
"Well, you were 15!"
We laugh at each other, aware how ridiculous we look, but not really caring.
"You clearly already know I'm still a child! You bought me here because they have crayons." I didn't know she'd figured that out. I feel myself flushing, and she leans closer to me across the table, reaching up and running a hand across my cheek. "Yep, definitely blushing." I don't think she intended that to come out as husky as it did if the look on her face is any indication, but I feel the timbre of her voice through every fiber of my being and I instantly miss her touch when she lowers her hand again.
"Want to get out of here?" I'm surprised at my own tone. I know her touch affects me, but my voice is laced with a desire I wasn't expecting to share just yet. Her eyes fix on mine and we sit there, staring, for what seems like a long time. Eventually though, she makes a decision. My heart skips a beat at the look in her eyes.
"Yeah. But I don't want to go home yet."
A short while later, we're walking along the waterfront as she tells me quietly about her relationship with George O'Malley and how Izzie Stevens played her part in the destruction of something Callie wanted to be more than it ever turned out to be.
"He told me that Izzie was stacked and I was curvy, and I knew then that we wouldn't work. I knew I'd always take second place to her." I'm shocked by how angry that makes me. How could anybody choose anyone but Callie if given that opportunity? She's everything I've ever dreamed of, and I don't know how to tell her that. The messages she's sent me have been so mixed. She's talked about the men in her past, but she's flirted with me and I can't figure her out.
Looking at her, I see the pain that's still clear in her eyes. "Cal?" She turns her head, meeting my gaze. "Izzie Stevens could never compete with you." My voice is deeper than I was expecting, and I'm terrified that she's going to see everything I'm starting to feel for her, but she just smiles at me and turns away, taking my hand in hers as we continue walking, a comfortable silence enveloping us. I don't know how long we've been walking, but I want this night to last forever.
Her hand feels so right in mine, and I wish I could know what she's thinking. I study her as we walk, and I can't help myself. The lights reflecting off the water; the moon hanging low in the sky; her hand laced with mine; her smile sending shivers racing across my skin...
I stop walking and she turns to me, a question in her beautiful eyes. We've walked so far that we're completely alone, and I stare at her for long moments, the tension between us deepening as I absentmindedly lick my lips. Something in Callie's eyes changes as she follows the movement and she swallows hard.
There's nothing I could do to stop myself, even if I wanted to. The wind from the waterfront ruffles her hair and I take a step closer, unable to believe that someone so beautiful exists. I reach out to her and she's frozen in the moment as I smooth her silky locks, drawing her ever closer to me. I lean in slowly, giving her more than enough time to pull away, my heart thundering in my chest.
When my lips meet hers, I stop breathing, feeling her soft and pliant and perfect against me. My hand moves from her hair to stroke across her cheek and I feel her relax into the kiss. Our mouths slide together, so softly that it's killing me, until she places one hand on my hip and I slide my free arm around her waist, pulling her tightly against me.
I'm dying, I know I am, and if the last thing I feel is her lips against mine, I'll thank God for making my last moments on this earth so perfect. I've wanted to kiss her for so long and now that it's happening... I can't believe it's really true.
I fight the moan that threatens to escape when she wraps both arms around my back, before sliding a hand up to tangle in my hair. I try desperately to memorize this feeling, the joy that floats through me as she eagerly returns the kiss, pressing our lips more firmly together as I delicately trace the indentation of her spine under her jacket.
She pulls far enough away that we can both gulp in air and then she slides us back into the moment, parting her lips in invitation. I don't need to be asked twice. I slip my tongue into her mouth, tangling it with hers, teasingly pulling back without parting our lips, hoping fervently that she'll chase me. When she does, I lose the battle against the moan.
I don't know how long we stand there, but it's not long enough. I want to burrow into her embrace and never leave it. I want to feel her hands on my skin. I want so much from her. Gathering all the nerve I have, I trace lower down her back, sighing into the kiss as I slide my hands over the curve of her ass. She feels as good as I knew she would when I saw how tight her jeans were earlier tonight, but the action causes her to pull away from me, gasping.
I can't keep the "wow" from slipping from my lips . My eyes flutter open and I want to kiss her again, but when I meet her gaze, the mixture of emotions stops me. I stare at her, knowing that the lust in her gaze is mirrored in mine. Underneath her desire though, there's confusion, panic and something that I can't quite place. She kissed me back, but now she doesn't know what to do with that. "Callie?"
She lifts one hand to her mouth and I watch as she runs a finger across her lips.
She looks up at me and I can suddenly see what the other emotion is in her eyes. Guilt. She opens her mouth to speak, but I cut her off.
"Please, Callie, just... just let me have this. Just for tonight I want to be happy. I want to know that I had the guts to kiss you, so just... don't."
I tune back in the direction we came from, rifling through my purse for my phone , knowing that, as wonderful as this night was, it's over now. Maybe it's all over, but I try to stay in the memory of her lips on mine, the feel of her pressed against me. It was beautiful and perfect, but I know it's going to hurt soon. I don't want that time to be now though, so when she reaches for my hand, I let her take it, squeezing slightly in reassurance as I use my other hand to dial a cab.
We walk in silence, the easy conversation replaced by uncertainty. I don't know how we'll deal with this tomorrow, but at least she's allowing me this night. At least she's not marring this memory with what I now know she has to say.
When we get to the address she gave the taxi driver, she tugs at my hand as I turn to tell her goodbye. I don't know what she wants, but I follow her willingly. I'd follow her anywhere, I think. I ask the driver to wait for me and let her lead me to the front of the up-market block of apartments she calls home. We stand in the doorway, too close together, but I can't bring myself to move away. She studies me for a long moment and then slips one arm around my waist. I think I stop breathing.
"As long as we're just having tonight..." It's barely a whisper, but I'm so attuned to her that I feel her in every part of my body. I don't understand what she means, but I whatever it is, I'll gladly do it.
Before I can catch up, she leans in and kisses me this time and Oh My God it's so much better. She's kissing me and I'm kissing her back with a hunger I've never felt before. As she runs her tongue along my lip, I welcome it, unable to hold back the moan that I'm almost certain is echoed in her own throat. I don't want it to end. Ever. I could kiss her for the rest of my life and it still wouldn't be long enough. We're both panting when the lack of oxygen forces us to part.
"Thank you." Her voice is gentle and I'm not sure I know what she's talking about. My brain won't re-engage.
She giggles slightly, despite the reality that we both know we're returning to. The reality that means she can't be mine. "For a lovely night. Coffee in the morning? Or lunch?"
"Both." I'm not sure that I'll be ready for her to tell me what I know she has to, but I'm not sure I can stay away from her either. I can still feel her hands on my skin and her lips on mine, and I can't concentrate on anything else. She's going to tear my hopes down tomorrow, but for tonight, I'm just a woman who wants her; a woman who had the confidence to go for what I want. She's letting me have it, and maybe, just maybe, she's taking what she wants too.
She flashes me another stunning smile - I've seen so many tonight, but she still takes my breath away. I push the fact that this is going to hurt tomorrow to the back of my mind, focusing on the little that's left of the night. I run my hand down her arm, lacing our fingers and leaning in again. If I kiss her the way I want to kiss her, I don't think I'll be able to stop, so I gently kiss her cheek instead, lingering longer than I probably should. When I pull back, I know she's as torn as I am, but she resettles her bag on her shoulder and turns towards the door, entering the combination to open it on the keypad to the side. I hate that tonight is ending. I could spend so much longer with her, and I still don't think it would be enough.
Callie slips inside the door, flashing me one last smile as she goes. "I'll see you in the morning?"
"Count on it." I watch her through the glass as she heads to the elevator, smiling at her as she turns to wave at me. Reluctantly, I turn round once she's out of sight, sighing with the conflicting emotions that run through me and knowing that I'm destined for another night with her starring in my dreams.
The driver watches me in the mirror when I return to the car. I tell him my address and he gives me a sympathetic smile. "Shot down, huh? I feel your pain."
If only he knew what's coming.
If only I knew what's coming.
I don't meet her for coffee. I skip lunch. I know that when I see her she's going to tell me that she's sorry, but she's not interested in me in a romantic way. That's she's with Mark. I know it now, but I don't want to hear it from her. Somehow, that will hurt more, and I don't want her to see how much power she already has over me. So I'm avoiding her. And I'm doing a good job of it.
Until I make the mistake of going to my office.
To be fair to myself, I couldn't avoid it. Richard wants my paperwork from the surgery on Bailey's child, and it's on my desk, but I should have known better than to go myself. I could have sent any resident or intern to get it and I could have avoided what has me stopped in my tracks at my office door.
Apparently, Orthopedics is either a surgeon down today, or they have no patients, because it looks like she's been here a while. There are several coffee cups that I know I didn't leave on my desk, and she looks like she's exhausted.
"So, you're avoiding me."
I don't have an answer to that. I could pretend that I've just been busy, but we both know that's not true, so I just stand in shocked silence, unable to move as she stands up from my chair, slowly walking towards me.
"I watched you run away from me three times this morning, you didn't meet me for coffee, you weren't anywhere to be seen at lunch... It didn't take a genius to figure it out."
I can't speak. Even when she's about to rip my hopes to pieces, she takes my breath away. She's standing right in front of me now, and she tentatively reaches out to take my hand, pulling me through the door. She closes it behind us and I swallow hard, trying to find any words.
I realize I'm staring and drop my gaze to the floor, wishing that I'd thought this through. I watch her sink into one of the chairs by my desk and she lets go of my hand. I can't move.
"I'm sorry." It's barely a whisper, but I know she hears me.
"Why are you sorry?"
"I shouldn't have kissed you."
"You don't need to be sorry." I don't know what's going on here. I can't look at her, but she pulls me down into the chair beside her, gently taking my chin in her hands and lifting my head, so I stare at the wall behind her. Her skin is so soft and I'm wanting desperately to think about anything else, but I can't think when she's touching me.
She sighs heavily, struggling almost as much as I am to find speech. "I... I haven't been entirely honest with you."
There's a long pause as she seems to steel herself.
The breath I didn't know I was holding escapes, and I know that I visibly deflate. I thought I knew what she was going to say. I didn't. I absolutely did not expect this. How did she keep this a secret? How was there no indication in the incestuous gossip that plagues this hospital that this would be true? I don't know what comes over me, but I'm laughing, trying hard to hold back the tears that threaten to fall. I refuse to let her see me cry. She's already seen me weakened. I will not let her see me break.
"No. No, it's not. It's just... my luck, you know, sucks." I never talk this way, but I don't think that I'm home right now. I'm watching this play out like a scene from a movie, and I'm thinking, what the fuck, but I can't stop. I can't not laugh. Anything else would kill me right now.
"I'm sorry. Look, I don't know what's going on between us." Well, at least she admits there's something. I can't see how that helps me right now, but I think it will be hope to hold on to later. "But I can't- I can't let it. Mark... he's good to me." Not as good as I would be. "And I like you, I do. And I... I liked kissing you. But it can't happen again."
I knew that, but I feel like she's ripped something precious away when she actually says it. It hurts in a way that I hadn't hurt yet, and it's getting harder and harder to hold back the tears.
"Can we maybe...just be friends?"
I don't know if I can manage that, but I nod anyway. She's amazing and, if she can only be my friend, well, it's better than not having her in my life at all now that I'm getting to know her. She smiles at me, but it's tinged with sadness. If I didn't know better, I'd think that she regrets that we can't be more than friends almost as much as I do. We avoid each other's gaze for a long moment, until my pager breaks the silence. I snatch it from my hip, for once relieved at the interruption. It's only Richard though, reminding me that he needs my chart, but I cling onto it like the opportunity it is as I wearily raise myself from the seat, finally meeting Callie's eyes.
"I've got to..."
"I know. Um... will you be long? Because I really think... I really think we need to talk about this." She blows her hair away from her face in frustration and it's so damn adorable that I can't help but smile a little, despite the disappointment in my chest. I don't see what there is to talk about. She's married. That basically ends the issue. Apparently, though, while my brain is telling me this, something else makes me nod, and whisper, "I just need to take a chart to the Chief and then..."
Her hand wraps gently round my wrist and I hate myself for the way I shiver at the contact, the way my nerve endings flare to life at the softest touch of her skin. I look at her questioningly and she offers me a nervous smile. "Then you'll come back and we'll talk?"
My brain screams that it's a bad idea, but my body betrays me again when I nod at her, my eyes searching her face for any sign of what she feels it's so important to say. I lean forward to grab the chart I need off of my desk, and Callie stays where she is, letting me lean close enough to smell her shampoo. I shouldn't enjoy it, and she shouldn't give me the opportunity. Strictly, this is straddling the line between "just friends" and "something more," but in this moment, I think we both enjoy the closeness - even if it's the last time.
I offer her a sad smile - at least, I try to - and pull out of her space, even though every part of me revolts at moving away from her. I study every inch of her while I walk backwards towards the door, knowing that this may be the last time I'm allowed to. Callie smiles back at me, but it's not as bright as usual, and I want so badly to think that this is hurting her too. I turn away reluctantly, regretting it the second I do. I open the door before I can change my mind, keeping my shoulders straight and my head held high as I let the professional image overtake the all-too-human woman that, within the walls of Seattle Grace, Callie Torres alone has seen. My colleagues will not see me break, even as my emotions battle for supremacy with a ferocity they never have before.
I find myself on the roof a short while later. I didn't think this through, and I'm shivering as I swim up through the fog of thoughts and emotion, and come back to full awareness. I don't even remember deciding to come out here. I remember Callie, Webber, and finally the sight of Mark, which stirred all the anger and doubt and pain that has settled into my chest since last night.
Cursing my stupidity, I turn back towards the hospital, only to stop dead in my tracks at the sight of Callie reaching towards me tentatively, my jacket hanging over her arm. I can't move. I don't know what I haven't given her today. She's seen my pain - does she really need to know how much I feel it?
"It's been an hour, Erica. You said you were taking the chart to Webber and we could talk, but" she exhales sharply, once more blowing the strands of hair that have tumbled onto her face away. "It's been an hour."
She offers me my jacket and I take it from her, grateful for the warmth. "Thank you."
"I...I looked everywhere for you and then I thought about the two places I go. I didn't think you were the "lock myself in a dark room and never come out" type, which left the roof, and I took a chance that you wouldn't have your jacket so I'm glad I bought it. You must be cold. Are you cold? I'm rambling. I keep telling Mark he needs to slap me when I do that."
She is rambling, and I think that I'd be happy to listen to her saying anything as long as it means I don't have to deal with the way she makes me feel now that I know the truth. And then she mentions Mark Sloan and my blood boils. I only thought I didn't like him before, but now... now he has the only thing other than surgery that I've wanted badly enough to just forget all the risks and dive right in. I hate him... and I'm livid with her. I thought there was something between them - that's true - and I thought I was prepared for her rejection - but that's not. It hurts more than I ever thought it could.
"You don't get to call me that right now!" The fine wire holding in my emotions snaps and I know I'm bleeding out all over the place, so rapidly that even I couldn't save me. "How can you... how could you.... why would you think I want to talk about Sloan?" It'd probably the least important thing she's said to me today, but it's the one thing that my brain latches onto and refuses to forget. I can't believe she would be so careless as to throw the name of the person who has everything I want into conversation when the loss of my dreams is still so raw. I see her stumble for an answer, to try and explain something. but I don't want to hear it. I don't have to hear it.
"Leave me alone, Callie! Just... leave me alone."
She reaches out a hand to stop me as I go to walk past her, but I sidestep it, needing not to touch her right now. Even though I don't look back as I slip into the familiar corridors of my profession, I know she's standing there in shock, trying to figure out how we went from a promising friendship to jealous rage in three days. I don't think my heart is broken, but I'm sure that something inside of me is. Maybe it's because I trusted her, I trusted that she was telling me the truth, and all this time she's been lying to me. She never said she's single, but she definitely never said that she's not. It would have been one thing if she was fooling around with that buffoon, but this... this feels like betrayal and I don't really know why. She was never mine. She never said she was mine. I never even really thought she could be.
Except... maybe I did.
I don't know how long I walk for, my last real memory, that isn't tears and Callie, being checking for my phone and pager as I left the hospital. I thought about going back for my car keys, but the last thing I need right now is to be driving. I can barely see through my tears. I'm a mess, and I can't wrap my head around it. I've never cried like this for the loss of anything, let alone the loss of something that I didn't even have. All I can think about is her though, and how amazing she felt in my arms. I knew the memory of our shared kisses was going to hurt today, but I didn't realize that it would slice into me like shards of broken glass, ripping me apart in the process.
I don't understand what's happening. I don't know how something that was so perfect last night can be so tarnished today. I can't reconcile the woman I saw last night with a woman who would be married to Mark Sloan. I can't see Mark Sloan as married. There's so much about this that seems so wrong, so much about this that I can't understand, and I can't ask her. I don't want to know that she kissed me out of pity, or curiosity or for whatever reason a married woman kisses someone back like she kissed me. I don't want to know why she kissed me unprompted, because, whatever the answer, it doesn't matter now. I can't fight against marriage. That's a bond that should never be broken. It's a vow she took intending not to break it, and even if she would let me be, I don't want to be that woman. I don't want to be the woman who hangs around for whatever scraps her married lover chooses to throw her. I don't want to forever believe her when she tells me "It's just got to be the right time." I shouldn't want anything from her now. But I do. Oh, God, I do.
Eventually, though my pager buzzes and I'm pulled back to life, still only a shell of my usual self, but able to think about something other than Callie for however long it takes me to deal with whatever emergency demands my attention. It's only then that I notice that I don't have a clue where I am. There's a park nearby and I can just about make out the freeway through the gaps in the houses, but I don't know exactly where I am, or how to get back, and I can feel the tightening in my chest, I can feel the stress on my breathing. I'm trying to calm myself down, but I'm struggling because all of this is just too much. It's too much to face today, and I can't make sense of anything. It's rushing around my head and hammering at my skull. All I want right now is Callie. I want someone to hold me and say that everything's going to be okay, and as fucked up and ridiculous as it is, as much as she's the root cause of my pain, I want it to be her. She's the catalyst for everything today, and more and more, it feels like she's the catalyst for something else as well. Something that might be bigger than both of us and all the plans that either of us have made. I don't believe in fate, but I do believe that when someone can break you and you still want them, it's not something you can control. I'm drawn to Callie like a moth to a flame, and even though she's scorched me, I want to burn. I can try and stay away from her, but I don't know if I can succeed. That's terrifying. It's more terrifying than not knowing where I am, it's more terrifying than the way I've fallen to pieces over her this afternoon. To think that there might be a bigger plan; that this is the bigger plan... well, I'd like to see where it ends up before I buy a ticket to ride the insanity express.
I can't believe I'm even thinking about this. I can't believe that a slight moment of panic and I'm running back to her, begging her to let me be the "other woman," just one scare and I'm thinking about ripping up every moral I have. I can't believe that there's anyone alive who can make me want to throw away pieces of myself the way she does. I hate it at the same time that it reminds me - for the first time in a long while - that I am alive.
My pager chirps insistently again, and this time, I actually manage to look down at it. It's Callie and I have no way of knowing if this is one of those rare times where our specialties coincide or not. I feel a rush of calm seeing her name, like I'm more grounded than I was a few seconds ago. I wished for Callie to be here, and in a way - she is. Digging out my cell, I call the hospital, knowing that whoever picks up will be able to tell me if I'm needed for a trauma.
I'm not. Callie herself answers the phone. "Seattle Grace, Dr. Torres speaking. How can I help?"
"Erica? Oh, thank God. I've been looking for you for hours. Where are you?"
"You paged me for this?"
"I paged you because you weren't answering your cell, you weren't anywhere in the hospital and I was worried. Where are you?"
It pains me to admit it, but I have to. "I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"I mean, I don't know." The frustration is showing in my voice, so I make a conscious effort to calm down. "I started walking and, uh, I don't really know how to get back."
She laughs just a little, I think from relief at the fact that she's found me and I'm okay - alive and uninjured anyway. "I thought you'd been kidnapped for a second." I was right: relief.
"Who would kidnap me, Cal? Who do you think would succeed in kidnapping me?"
"Even you can be vulnerable Dr. Hahn." There's a long pause as she seems to realize that, actually, the only times she's really seen me vulnerable is when it's about her. Even in the locker room after Bailey's outburst, I wasn't really vulnerable, but last night - and this afternoon - I've been as far from strong and impervious as I have ever been. "What direction did you walk in? We're two smart women, I'm sure we can figure out how to get you back here."
"I don't know. North, I think."
As I describe my surroundings to her, I'm only half paying attention to the conversation, even as I know I shouldn't have left the hospital at all, let alone be reluctant to return there. Since my first day as an intern, I have never not wanted to be at the hospital. The amount of vacations I've taken in twelve years can be counted on one hand. There's no thrill in life that can match surgery - at least, I was sure of that until I felt her lips on mine. She made me feel the rush that surgery brings, with none of the pressure of failure. In the same way though, surgery doesn't scare me, and Callie most definitely does. I'm in my element in the OR; with Callie, I'm just a woman. I don't understand the way I react to her voice, even when she should be the last person whose voice I want to hear.
"I know where you are!" There's excitement in her voice as she figures it out, but I'm just exhausted. I can't feel happy to be able to get back to the hospital because the hospital means I have to face her. That I might have to face Sloan. I don't know how to relate to either of them right now. Callie makes me want to cry, and I'm fairly sure that I want to hit Sloan - and much as that would probably make me feel better, I don't think it would do my career any good. I couldn't justify it without sounding like I've gone insane. Maybe I have.
"Can you tell me how to get back?"
"It's pretty far. Stay where you are and I'll come get you."
"No. Just tell me how." I don't want her to see me like this. I'm not myself. I can feel the tightness on my cheeks and the soreness of my eyes that speaks of the tears I've cried. I'm not the sort of woman who carries a compact, but if I were, I'm not sure I could look at myself now. I'm not a crier. I never have been. When I was a kid, if I fell down, I just got right back up and carried on. I've always been driven, determined. Setbacks are just another chance to prove yourself. As an adult, I've never really cared enough about anything but surgery to let things get to me. I get melancholy, I get sad, I've even almost been broken-hearted, but I never let myself cry. Yet, there's something about Callie that makes me run the full gamut of emotions. I couldn't stop the tears when I left the hospital and now, I'm pissed. Maybe it's because of the tears, or maybe it's because of the situation. I can't understand why she kissed me back. I can't understand why she initiated the kiss outside her apartment. I don't understand exactly what it is she wants from me.
I don't want her to see me like this. I can't stand pity, especially when it's directed at me, and pity from Callie Sloan is definitely not something I care to experience.
"Well, you really are a long with from the hospital. I'm going to come get you. Alone. We need-"
"I can get back by myself!"
"I'm not saying you can't, Erica. I just... we really need to talk."
"About what? You're married, Callie. To Mark Sloan." The disgust is clear in my voice, as much I try not to let it show.
"You agreed- You know what? I'm not doing this on the phone. I'm coming to get you. If you're not there when I get there, Seattle Grace will be two surgeons down until I find you."
"Callie-" She doesn't let me finish.
"No. What if you're needed here? If there's a trauma, I don't think anyone can wait for you to walk back. I'll see you soon." She hangs up before I can argue, and, truthfully, I don't have anything to counter that.
Fifteen minutes later, as promised, Callie shows up alone. Other than her terse "get in," when she pulls up beside me, we don't say anything until we're a few blocks from the hospital. I don't know what to say to her, and I can't look at her. If I look at her, I might forget that I'm supposed to be angry, and I've worked myself up enough over her that I think I can pull off being Dr Hahn for the rest of the day if I can stay pissed off. I feel her eyes on me from time to time, but I refuse to look anywhere but out of the window.
She heaves a sigh. "Erica-"
"No, Torres. I don't want to do this today. I can't be your friend right now."
"I nodded. I didn't say anything."
"Fine. You agreed to be friends. I like you a lot, Erica, and I meant it when I agreed that I don't like people."
"Clearly you like Sloan." I can't keep the bitterness out of my tone, and I hate myself for showing her how much this has affected me.
"Mark and I... it's complicated. I can't explain it right now-"
"And I can't have this conversation right now. I can't. Just... let me start being your friend tomorrow. Please. Just let me be pissed today, so I can be your friend tomorrow."
She pulls into the hospital parking lot a little too fast, and I know without looking at her that her jaw is tight and frustration is written all over her face. As soon as she stops the car, I'm out the door, ignoring her call after me as I gather myself and stride into the hospital. I've said all I can manage to say.
"Yang." The resident jumps at my commanding tone, almost running over to me.
"You're friends with Dr. Torres." It's not a question, but she answers anyway, in that sycophantic way that drives me insane. I ignore it for now though, because I need something from her, and I don't think she's going to give me it unless I'm nice to her. Nice for me, anyway.
"Yes, Dr. Hahn."
I avoided Callie for the afternoon with paperwork and then, blissfully, a surgery that required no thought at all. Now though, I want to talk to her, I have questions that need to be answered before I can put my brain to rest, and Callie has gone home. Sloan, however, is in surgery, and will be for several hours yet.
"I have a double bypass tomorrow morning. Give me her apartment number, and you can scrub in." I watch the brief conflict play out across Yang's features. "Hurry up, Yang. I'm sure Stevens will be more than happy to take it." Yang's ambition and desire to impress wins out.
"I don't need the whole address. I just need the apartment number."
"Of course, Dr. Hahn." The tone she takes with me drives me insane. I know she doesn't like me. She told me as much before she knew that I'd agreed to take over for Preston Burke. Yet still, she's so deferent. I'm sure I was never as over-the-top as she is as a resident. There's a difference between respectful and annoying, and I don't think Yang knows where it is.
She's still looking at me expectantly.
"Go." She scurries off, no doubt off to tell all her little friends how Callie has somehow upset me. It's funny, really. She's right, but she's so very wrong. "I'll expect you at ten tomorrow, Dr. Yang."
She skids to a stop just before rounding the corner, turning back to me with an overly thankful look. "Of course, Dr. Hahn. Thank you, Dr. Hahn." The overuse of my name is another thing she does that makes me dread spending time in her company. I know who I am (though I'm worried that if I don't get a grip on this Callie thing, I won't recognize myself anymore), I don't need Yang reminding me every five seconds.
Looking around to make sure I'm alone, I drop my charts on the nurses' station, leaning on it with my head in my hands. I told Callie that I needed to take today to pissed, and I do, but I don't want to leave my questions until tomorrow. I'll toss and turn all night if I do. Making a final decision, I sigh, check the surgical board again to make sure that I was right about Sloan's whereabouts, and head back to my office to end this awful day.
"Erica." There's no surprise in Callie's voice when she swings the door open, and it's not because I had to buzz to get in. For such an upscale place, people are maybe too trusting. She must see the shock on my face at her lack of shock because she steps back and waves her cell phone at me. "You need to be more careful what you tell Cristina she can and can't do if she wants to stay scrubbed in on your surgeries."
"She called you."
"She called me. She shouldn't have needed to though. You could have just asked me."
"You weren't there. She was."
"So, you like seeing how high she'll jump for surgeries?"
"You've got my number, too. You could have called me."
"I didn't want to do this on the phone." I drop my gaze to my feet, unable to look at her anymore.
"Come in." I hesitate and she's completely wrong as to why. "Mark's still at work."
"I know." Steeling myself, I take a step forward, and then another, until I'm far enough inside her - their - apartment that she can close the door behind me. I brought us here. I kissed her. I came here... and yet I feel trapped. I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say. I have no idea how to start this conversation.
"Drink?" I don't think I want one really, but I flash back to my guidance counselor in High School telling us to always accept drinks if they're offered, because it gives you time to think. I don't think he had this exact situation in mind when he said it, but I believe it applies here. All I've done this afternoon is think about what I want to say to her, but now she's in front of me, I don't know where to start.
Callie disappears into the kitchen, leaving me alone in the living room. It's a nice place: big, bright and airy. There are pictures everywhere, but the it's the one above the fireplace that draws my attention. It's larger than the others, but not huge. Callie is leaning against Mark, wrapped in his arms. They're on the beach; Mark in a crisp white shirt and Callie in a simple cream dress. I hear her walk up behind me as I realize, with a jolt of something I can't name, what this is a photograph of.
"Our wedding day. Mom and Dad made us go to Miami. I was all for quietly eloping in Vegas, but Mark called my parents, and, well... Miami." She seems almost as nervous as I am about this conversation, and it anchors me to know that I'm not the only one who feels out of her depth. She hands me a glass of red wine, and I take it gratefully, needing something to hold onto.
"It looks beautiful." What I mean is she looks beautiful. She's glowing in white and her smile is movie-star dazzling. Her eyes are twinkling in that way that I know means trouble, but there's something under the surface that says she's not as happy in that moment as she should have been.
"It was." The conviction that should be in her voice isn't there, and I turn to face her. She's melancholy as she looks at the photograph. When she notices the question in my eyes, Callie smiles, but I don't think it's genuine.
"I just really would have preferred it to be just us. I wasn't exactly... there were things that I don't know how to explain. It's complicated. Mark and me." I follow her as she leads us to the couch. We sit uneasily at opposite sides, both staring into our wine glasses. I know what I want to say to her. I know what questions I need answered, but I don't know how to bring it up. I don't know how to have these conversations. I've never needed to before. I don't get this attached to people, and it's normally the problem in my relationships. I run to surgery when things get hard, but today, I ran from surgery because of her, and I can't understand what it is that's so different about Callie.
"Callie?" We speak at the same time, and giggle uncomfortably at each other for a second. When I look down at my glass again, she composes herself too.
"I didn't mean to hurt you."
"I did though, didn't I?"
"I'm a big girl. I can cope."
"I wish you didn't have to." The words force me to look up, but she's gazing into the distance, so I can't read her emotions. "I just... if things were different... but they're not, and I can't- Mark's good to me." It's almost like she's trying to talk herself into something, and I'm wondering again if she's been suffering from the same inexplicable attraction that I have, if she's been struggling between dream-us and real-us.
"So you've said." I offer her a smile she doesn't see, and take a gulp of my wine. "I can do this. I can... it might take me a while, but I can watch you be with him. I'd rather be your friend than nothing at all, and I think you're saying those are my choices."
"I wish it was different." With those words, she confirms everything I've wondered, and I don't have to ask the questions I've asked myself all afternoon. She hates this as much as I do, and it's not my imagination that there's something between us. It's not just because she's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. There's something tangible here, but our hands are tied. There's nothing we can do but accept that friends is all we can be.
"It's not though. I get it. I do."
"Erica..." Finally she turns to face me, looking deep into my eyes. Hers are deep pools of emotion, a conflict raging beneath them that I don't want to see. I need to know that this is what she wants, that Mark is what she needs. "I'm sorry."
What can I say but, "Me too"?
We talk for a short while after that, but Mark will be home soon, and I need to leave before he is. I don't want him to see me here. I don't want to see him here. Most of all, I don't want him to see the cracks in my facade. It's enough that Callie sees through the mask without trying, but my defenses are down now, and I don't think I can take Sloan seeing that I'm just a person.
Callie calls after me as I reach the elevator, and I turn, unable to deny her anything. She jogs down the hall towards me, enveloping me in her arms. It's almost automatic when I breathe her in, branding her scent on my lungs. We fit together so well, and I wrap my arms around her instinctively.
I don't know how long we stand there, but it feels like forever - and no time at all. I have to loosen my hold on her before she pulls away, and, like everything else, it's confusing, and exciting, and dreadful, and wonderful when she seems reluctant to let me go. She brushes her lips across my cheek before stepping away, and I could swear that my heart skips a beat.
"Friends?" She whispers it quietly, but it still burns.
"Friends." I confirm it with a slight nod, my voice steady, although something uncomfortably close to my heart is screaming its displeasure at the word. I back into the elevator, unable to turn away from her.
She's still watching me as the doors slide closed.
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