DISCLAIMER: Erica's gone and I don't feel so good myself. However, that's not stopping me. Shondaland sent her off from Seattle Grace and I'm bringing her back for an encore. Powers that be, sue me but I don't think you'll get much. I don't even have a small brown dog anymore.
SPOILERS: Definitely through the departure of Erica Hahn in Season 5 of Grey's Anatomy. Includes other elements of the season with a little rewriting.
SEX/VIOLENCE WARNINGS: Girls!Girls!Girls! Or I should say, Women!Women!Women! If a naked man appears it's just for comic relief. Medical grossness, snark, and foul language are to be expected.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: They replaced Erica with Nadia!! Even if they did rename her after a state That's wrong on so many levels. At least in this little world, I know Callie has better taste, although she does get confused and conflicted sometimes. I mean, Good Lord, she married Bambi. But she finally had the good sense to fall for Erica. And then it all went to hell. Someone has to pick up the pieces.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Little Too Gone
By Sharon Bowers
Prologue: Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes
Nobody wanted to tell her. In fact, they actually drew straws and when Stevens lost, she said, "No way in hell." Because really, did Callie need another reason to want to hurt her? Nobody blamed her. And none of them wanted to do it. And so well nobody had told her.
She saw the name on the consult board and blinked three times trying to clear her head. She even closed her eyes thinking that maybe she was imagining things. When she reopened them-the name was still there.
E. Hahn (Cardio-- LA Gen)
Erica was back.
As the day progressed, that thought was not hers alone.
Part 1: No Stranger to the Rain
She stared at the revolving doors centered between the double ones on each side, wanting nothing more than to not walk back through any of them. She had left Seattle Grace. She had put it behind her. She had, she told herself, not for the first time. She closed her eyes and focused on the something more important than what she wanted-there was a woman who was going to die in there if she didn't.
Then someone was emerging from the doors she was contemplating and standing in front of her. It was sort of a blur.
The picture came into focus, and her spine stiffened. "Dr. Webber."
He took a step back, and she watched him measure the look in her eyes. Both of them were more than aware that the terms on which they had parted weren't good. She hadn't gone to UNOS, and he hadn't fired Stevens. She had never been quite able to forgive either one of them for those decisions. But here they were.
Then Bailey was there, shoving IDs, charts, and echoes into her hands and saying, "They want to talk to you as soon as possible." Her tone was flat and blunt. Not exactly a welcoming one, but then again she hadn't ever been in the first place.
Welcomed here, that was.
She turned her eyes on the smaller woman, knowing that stare downs were one of Bailey's specialties. Blue eyes met dark brown ones, and the brown ones were the first to blink and look away. She didn't really feel any satisfaction in that. "I know," she replied. "Lucy's probably bouncing off the walls. And Samantha's trying to calm her down when she's actually the one who needs to be calm. Her heart doesn't need the workout."
She had been treating Samantha Verios for years-a consult at Mercy led to them seeking her out at Pres and then moving when she did to Seattle Grace. When she was called in Los Angeles and told Samantha had asked for her to perform the procedure, there had been no way she was going to say no. No matter how much she didn't want to be here. "I'll talk to them both after I've looked at the new films and reviewed her charts again. Shouldn't take me long. If you'll have someone let them know I'm here." Bailey's head dipped in grudging acknowledgement. Webber's didn't.
She was aware of Bailey's eyes kicking between the two of them until it became obvious that neither of them were going to say anything. Bailey muttered something about following up on that and turned away. Fleeing the scene of any potential crime more than anything else, Erica suspected. She kept one eye on Webber and watched Bailey retreat with the other. After Miranda was out of sight, she refocused on the man standing in front of her. Neither one of them blinked.
Did he really think they were going to have this conversation in the parking lot?
Because she certainly wasn't, although she very well knew there was a conversation to be had. Instead, in a bland tone she was rather proud of, she said, "I appreciate you reaching out to me on this case, Dr. Webber, and granting me privileges." She saw his eyes flicker and couldn't stop herself from adding, "I've looked after Samantha a long time."
He paused a long moment and crossed his arms.
Erica suspected he was choosing his words as carefully as she just had.
"That's what she said," he finally replied. "That you looked after her. And she didn't want anyone else doing that. Especially for this."
The silence rested between them uneasily. She couldn't do this anymore, not if she was going to be the doctor her patient needed her to be. Erica held up the files in her hands. "Then I'd better get busy doing just that." He was uncomfortably close when she brushed by him, and she only turned around because she heard him call out.
"Dr. Hahn "
She met his eyes once more.
"You'll always have privileges here."
"Anybody seen her?"
"Torres or Hahn?"
"Bonus points for seeing the both of them together."
"That's not gonna happen." Grey said decisively. She had to sing the chorus of Arizona before anyone got it. Except nobody did. So much for seventies music. And for being subtle.
"Torres will run screaming out the door first."
"Um You sure about that?" Stevens asked through a mouthful of roast beef on whole wheat. "She's not exactly the non-violent, conflict-avoidance-tactics type."
"Neither is Hahn. Two-to-one on a screaming girl fight happening."
"Shut. Up." Yang muttered under her breath. "Here she comes."
"Hahn or Torres?" The question fell, along with a potato chip, out of Karev's mouth before anyone else could focus on the approaching figure.
"Why the fuck didn't anybody tell me?"
Callie was larger than life in front of them. Eyes roamed all over the table, and none of them knew what to say. Nobody knew how much Callie knew about what everyone else knew about her. And Hahn. And everything that had happened between them. Which led to them appearing to not know about Callie maybe switching teams permanently and the new blond doctor that none of them knew about, but everyone knew about anyway.
"We figured "
"You wouldn't "
"It's just a consult "
"And a procedure "
"Then she'll be gone "
Callie crossed her arms and studied them for a long moment. "Yeah," she finally said. She shook her head softly. "Then she'll be gone. Just like before." She turned and walked away.
All of them exchanged glances-- Stevens casting her eyes down, and Meredith and Cristina wordlessly agreeing that tequila would be necessary for discussing it later.
Alex, however, was the first one to put anything into words. "Dude "
"Shut up." The other three said in unison.
"While I'm flat on my back you move to Los Angeles?" The light in Samantha Verios' hazel eyes was as gentle as her smile. Dark hair-the exact color of a Hershey's Kiss, Erica remembered thinking once-was loose along her pillow, framing an oval face and slightly snub nose. For a woman who had been dying for the last five years, she looked remarkably healthy. The labored pain of her breathing and an unnatural paleness were the only real indications of her condition. By contrast, the red-head hovering by her bed seemed to be the one in need of urgent care. Lucy Taylor was even more haggard and washed-out than the last time she had seen the pair. Her fair skin was almost translucent, making the dark circles under her green eyes look like someone had given her a one-two punch, and Erica noticed she had lost weight she really didn't need to lose.
Her eyes flickered back and forth between the two women. Lucy was visibly on edge, and Samantha well, Samantha was always a case hard to study. She offered a lopsided smile to both women. "Sunshine and smog I couldn't resist the combination." She glanced at the charts she had already examined and held them up. "You've been in good hands since I've been gone."
"Right," came the voice from the other side of the bed. "That's why we had to call you and beg you to do something that will make her hurt even worse."
"Luce " Samantha interrupted.
Erica looked at Samantha briefly, but chose to level her eyes on Lucy. "I'm sorry that circumstances took me to a different hospital, but I'm more than grateful to be here for this procedure. For you asking for me." She nearly faltered over her next words, but they came out strong. "And Seattle Grace is a great hospital." She eyed each woman in turn and then focused on Samantha. "Yes, this procedure will hurt like hell. But if it's successful, it will buy us enough time to get you a new heart. You've already moved up on the UNOS list. Near the top. I checked just this morning. You're a strong woman. You can make it through this." Because thirty-three was too young to die, she thought, but didn't add. And though she wanted to tell them both that everything would turn out okay, she couldn't. She had never lied to a patient, and she wasn't about to start now. "Hang in there with me."
Soft hazel eyes were fixed on hers. "I'm hanging in there with you, Dr. Hahn." She reached for Lucy's hand and found it effortlessly, their fingers twining. "After we do this When they find me the heart-you'll be the one " She trailed off.
"If that's what you want." Erica inclined her head in acknowledgement. "I can notify UNOS and they can fly anywhere in the country to find your heart and bring it to Seattle Grace. And I'll be waiting here when it arrives." Hoping that Webber really meant what he said about her always having privileges.
Samantha smiled gently and looked at Lucy. "My heart is already right here."
Erica watched the two women lose themselves in each other's eyes and turned her head away.
Sometimes she thought about things in spite of herself.
"Anybody seen her?"
"As far as I know, only Richard." Derek Shepherd regarded his best friend with a dubious expression. The remains of their lunches were on the table, and both of them were killing time until they had to scrub in. "If you're lucky, you won't. And if you do see her, I'd advise walking- maybe even running-- in the opposite direction."
They both knew exactly what he was talking about.
It wasn't the first time they had had this conversation.
"I didn't force Torres into the on-call room," he said. Again, not for the first time. There was the same defensiveness in his voice, then the change to defiance. "Hell, it was her idea."
Derek bit down hard on the inside of his cheek. He loved Mark Sloan like a brother. He would take a bullet for him. He would give him the last dollar from his pocket. He would hide him if he were a fugitive, but damn it all, sometimes Mark was the most insensitive, self-centered asshole on the planet. Not that this was a surprise to him, because after all Mark had slept with his wife before she became his ex-wife. A faint smile crossed his face as he realized the irony-he and Erica had responded in exactly the same way to being betrayed. Fleeing somewhere else, anywhere else, to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Now it seemed they were all full circle. The most absurd part of him thought that at this rate, Addison would show up any minute and probably be having an affair with Erica. He put that particular thought-intriguing as it was-- out of his mind when he saw Mark was obviously waiting for him to say something. "Let me put it this way " he began, then shrugged nonchalantly. "Hahn once threatened to remove Meredith's heart with a steak knife for something that was far more minor than having sex with her girlfriend." He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair in the cafeteria.
In spite of the cocky sprawl of his posture, Mark looked mildly alarmed. "Jesus, was she serious?"
"Meredith certainly seemed to think so."
"What the hell did she do?"
"Meredith was on Erica's service and didn't know anything about the procedure they were doing. So she got Yang to coach her."
"Why didn't she just tell Hahn?"
"That's the point. She lied to get on the service and then continued to lie to her during the surgery. And Erica knew it all along."
Realization finally dawned over Mark's face. "She lied to Hahn." He settled back comfortably in his chair, crossing his arms. "Then Torres has a hell of a lot more to worry about than I do."
Though he didn't voice it, he thought that Mark shouldn't be too sure about that.
Part 2: Between the Work and the Hurt and the Whiskey
Richard glanced up at the quiet knock on the side of his open door, and his brows rose in surprise. Standing in the threshold, waiting for permission to come in was Hahn. That was new. She had never knocked on his door when it was closed, much less when it was open. He also noticed that she had changed from her street clothes into scrubs and her LA Gen lab coat. The scrubs were dark green. Fleetingly, he thought dark blue suited her better.
"You have a minute?"
"Of course." He took off his reading glasses and made a half gesture of entry. "What can I do for you?"
"I have a favor to ask."
Now she had his interest. Erica Hahn didn't ask for favors. Or permission. She just did things. Like perform awake open-heart surgery in her first week on staff. "What kind of a favor?"
"I have a resident at Mass Gen "
"You're not seriously going to ask me to let one of your residents scrub in on a surgery in my hospital?" he interrupted. He should have known it, dammit. Hahn hadn't changed a bit.
To his surprise, she didn't answer the anger in his tone with a matching one. "No," she said. Her pale blue eyes fixed on him. "I'm asking you to allow her to observe the procedure. She's one of the most talented residents-if not the most talented-I've ever worked with, and I think she could benefit from watching it performed. She's never seen it done, and chances are that if we do get one at Gen I'm going to put her on my service for it. And this will help prepare her for what will happen. As you know, it's not a pleasant experience. I'd like her to be able to observe in the OR, but if you're uncomfortable with that, the gallery would be more than fine."
He steepled his fingers together and regarded the woman opposite him. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe Hahn had changed. He had certainly heard enough of Greg Tobler singing her praises in LA when he called to make the request for her services. He studied her face, noticed for the first time the glasses she now wore and that behind them the perpetually harried expression in her eyes was gone. The tension she had always carried in her jaw had vanished, and the tilt of her head was querying instead of interrogating. Without a doubt, she was the picture of a surgeon at the top of her game, and one who knew it. Slowly he nodded. "I don't have a problem with her observing either from the OR or the gallery. But get the patient's permission first."
"I was going to do that after I cleared it with you. I'm pretty sure that Samantha won't have an issue with it. She's been with me at Pres and Grace and knows what teaching hospitals are for." She offered him a faint smile and rose to her feet. "Thanks, Dr. Webber, I appreciate it. Judson will appreciate it even more."
She turned to leave, but once again he called her back. "You know, you can still call me Richard."
Those pale blue eyes were pensive as she regarded him, and he felt like she was searching for something inside of him. For what he had no idea. She hovered in the door a moment. "I know," she said finally. "But I don't want to."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Sloan literally recoiled at Callie's sudden and very angry appearance in front of him. She was nearly bleeding energy and frustration and something that could possibly psychically crush his sternum. He held his hands up in surrender, not even pretending to not know what she was talking about. "I just found out about it yesterday. You know the Cardio-gods don't tell Plastics anything."
Her hands went to her hips. That was never a good sign.
"Don't blame the Cardio-gods. All the fucking residents-all my fucking friends-- knew and didn't tell me. So don't tell me you didn't know too."
"Maybe nobody wanted to tell me either!" he shot back. "There are certain parts of my anatomy that I'd like to keep intact, which are in jeopardy now because of you and that terror of an ex-girlfriend of yours. In case you hadn't noticed, she happens to wield a really nasty scalpel." He hated this, hated that Callie was so angry with him, had turned on him in the wake of Erica's departure. He thought things might go back to the way they were before Hahn. Hell, he hadn't thought things had changed even though Callie was with Hahn. At least certain things. Until that last time in the on-call room when he was deep inside her and she was coming so hard and the name on her lips was most certainly not his.
Talk about a reality check.
Something in Callie seemed to collapse, and she rubbed her forehead so forcefully Sloan thought she might leave a mark. She closed her eyes and sighed. "I heard she's already in the hospital."
"Yeah, that's what Derek said."
"He's seen her?" Panic filled her eyes, but Mark thought he also detected a faint hopefulness in the question. Given what Derek had told him, if he were Callie, he'd be more worried about that nasty scalpel and how he might avoid it. Then again, he hadn't been the one to ever make Hahn smile in a most un-Hahnian way, so who the fuck knew what Callie was thinking. God knows she wasn't discussing it with him anymore.
He shook his head in reply. "Said Richard had, though. And I guess Bailey, since she'll be assigning Hahn's service while she's here."
"I can't believe Yang was able to keep quiet about this. She's probably dying inside waiting to find out who gets it. You know what she's performing?"
"I heard it was an alcohol ablation."
"Oh yeah," he nodded. "Maybe Stevens is the one who really should be worried about the terror with the nasty scalpel." They locked eyes, but some of the anger between them was gone. It was the most civil exchange they'd had since Erica left. Maybe there was hope for them yet.
And then a familiar figure in unfamiliar dark green scrubs caught the corner of his eye. Unable to not look, he turned his head, noticed Callie doing the same.
Erica Hahn came to a dead stop not six feet away from them, a chart in her hand. Slowly she shook her head, an expression that could in no way be classified as friendly crossing her face. He braced himself for impact, but all she did was look at them both from head to toe. Her eyes lingered, he thought, on Callie, and then she shook her head more briskly. "Good to know some things never change," she said dryly.
And walked away.
Now she knew what a mule-kick felt like.
As she rounded the corner, Erica had to stop and lean against the wall to catch her breath, hating herself for even this moment of weakness. She had known she would inevitably encounter Sloan and Callie because, Jesus, Seattle Grace was not that big, and she was going to be here for a few days at least. But she never expected to encounter them together. Together. Fuck. It shouldn't surprise her-and on some level it didn't-but it also shouldn't hurt quite so much. Lord knows they were joined at the hip literally when she and Callie had been supposedly together. She was right when she told them that some things never changed. The difference, she told herself, was that she had.
Any further ruminations or self-empowerment injections were interrupted by the discreet clip of shoes coming down the hallway. She flipped open Samantha's chart, staring at it in the vain hope of pretending she was not having trouble breathing normally. The clip stopped directly in front of her.
She exhaled, recognizing the voice, and thankful that it wasn't Callie's. Why she thought it might be or why she might want it to be, she wasn't about to even begin to consider. Her eyes left the chart and found the ones gazing not unkindly upon her.
"I heard you were back."
"Limited engagement then." The look on his face was soft, and she found herself thinking about that Gentlemen's Evening where she had kicked his ass-all of their asses, actually-at Monopoly while they drank whiskey out in the woods. She remembered it as one of the nicest nights she'd had in a long time. She had hoped they would do it again, but well That promising start had turned to shit-- as things in her life were wont to do when they didn't involve medicine-- even more quickly than she had expected.
"I'm sorry, what?" she asked, knowing that she had missed something while lost in her thoughts.
"I was asking you if you'd have time for a drink at Joe's tonight. The dart board hasn't been the same since you left."
Her eyes widened behind her glasses in astonishment, and she snorted in laughter. "You want to have a drink with me?"
He tucked his hands into his lab coat pockets. "Yes," he answered simply. "Very much."
"Is this some kind of 'Twenty years later the Prom King regrets having stuffed the Nerdy Girl's head into the toilet' thing?"
Erica had to admit that he had a great laugh. And the crinkling at the eyes thing wasn't too bad either.
"If that were the case, I'm sure you would have been stuffing my head into the toilet." He paused. "And then you'd be asking me out for drinks tonight."
She smiled and ran a hand through her hair. But the thought of Joe's, where everything had started, was unexpectedly painful, and she really had no desire to revisit it. "I'm just here for the procedure," she said, surprised at the sound of regret in her voice.
"I know," he said quietly. A wry grin tilted the side of his mouth. "But come have drinks with me anyway."
She found herself answering his grin with one of her one. What possessed her to reply, she had no idea. "Okay."
Callie slumped on the couch in the resident's lounge, wishing that she were anywhere but here. Or maybe she was wishing Erica were anywhere but here. Or, more accurately, wishing things were .
God, she was fucked.
A form that she recognized as her roommate slumped beside her.
"I'm on Hahn's service." To her credit, Yang tried to conceal the elation in her voice, even though she wasn't even remotely successful.
"I saw her," Callie said in response. She couldn't manage anything else, and that took more out of her than she thought.
The eyes that were only slicing towards her turned to complete focus, and all of Yang's cardio-god-ness went out the door. It didn't matter anymore what Callie had said or didn't say or what everyone knew but didn't know.
"I was with Sloan."
Though it was redundant, Yang said it anyway. "Oh fuck."
"Yeah." No matter how hard she had tried, she could never completely clear her head of Erica. Some renegade part of her gray matter would not dislodge this woman from her thoughts. She believed she had reconciled herself to the fact that Erica would always be a non-manifesting ghost in her life, but now Erica was here. The dark green scrubs and glasses were evidence that she had moved on, when something in Callie hadn't.
"What'd you say?" Yang's question forced her into the present tense.
Callie rubbed that place on her forehead that was already sore from the thought of Erica. "Nothing."
"Oookay." Yang seemed to be waiting for her to say something and when that same nothing came forth, she prompted. "What did she say?"
"Some things never change."
She watched Yang consider those words for a long moment, her mouth twitching as she tried to formulate exactly what she wanted to say. God, she hated it when Yang tried to speak girl because the process took entirely too long. What Cristina said wasn't anything she had been expecting.
"Have things changed?"
"I'm not sleeping with Sloan."
"That's not what I'm asking," Yang replied. "Have things changed?" she repeated.
"Of course things have changed!" The vehemence in her words shocked them both. "Erica's in Los Angeles and I'm "
"Switching to a tall blond pediatrician. Pedes! Jesus, at least Hahn is a Cardio-god."
Although Yang's words shot any hope of having any secrets left right out of the water, Callie found herself not caring. "I'm not switching!" she nearly shouted.
"Then what are you doing?"
She didn't like the considered tone in Cristina's voice. Yang wasn't thoughtful. She wasn't measured. She was apathetic about anything that didn't involve medicine or Meredith. Callie looked at her roommate. "I have no idea," she said finally.
Yang nodded, and they looked at one another. "You might want to figure that out," she said at last. "Cause if it matters, Hahn's not gonna be here for long."
Miranda Bailey stared at the rotation schedule and pondered the bigger picture. Although she wasn't sure there was one considering Hahn was only going to be in the building for a few days at most. Then everything could get back to normal-if normal was considered to be having an interim head of Cardio who was even more abrasive than Hahn. And who was, she grudgingly admitted, not half the surgeon Hahn was. Woman might quite possibly be from hell, but she knew her way around the human body. Not to mention the OR.
The woman who might quite possibly from hell in question seemed to manifest herself before Bailey's eyes garbed in dark green scrubs and a lab coat.
When did Hahn start wearing glasses?
"Dr. Bailey " Hahn began.
"You're getting Yang," she said abruptly.
She was confused by Hahn's response, which was a twitch of her lips that she supposed was what passed for a smile. "Good."
"Huh?" she said without thinking.
Now a real smile emerged.
When did Hahn start smiling?
"She has good hands. I'll need them for this. And if you have no objection, I'd like Dr. Grey-Meredith Grey-" she clarified, "Also on my service. She's been through this before, and I think Dr. Yang will be more interested in the technical portion of the procedure. But I still need somebody there to help Samantha focus and keep breathing. I can't do it all."
Neither one of them mentioned Michael Norris.
"That can be arranged," Bailey said curtly.
When did Hahn start saying that?
Hahn turned to go and then suddenly turned back. Bailey squared her shoulders, not sure why. "One of my residents from Gen is coming to observe the procedure. Both Dr. Webber and Samantha have okayed her presence in the OR. Her name is Melinda Judson, and she'll be arriving in a couple of days."
"Couple of days?"
"There are some numbers in Samantha's blood work that I don't like. Looks like she has a minor virus. Nothing serious, but I don't want to be injecting pure alcohol into a body compromised even more than it is already."
"You alter her medication?"
"Only slightly. I think it will run its course fairly quickly, but if it doesn't then we'll rethink doing the procedure." An uncomfortable silence fell between them now that business was taken care of. Bailey thought their conversation was over until Hahn's blue eyes darkened with serious intent. "I don't want Stevens anywhere near my patient," she said, her voice deadly quiet. "Not even for rounds."
It wasn't a threat, but it said everything to Bailey that needed to be said between them about the past. She nodded briefly, glancing at the rotation schedule. "Done," she said.
Then she was gone.
Part 3: Away to Another Land
He was slightly more than halfway surprised to see her emerging through the door at Joe's. Just like he was more than halfway surprised that he had made the invitation. He found himself not regretting it as she approached him and settled herself on the barstool next to him.
She glanced around, and he watched her immediately identify a raucous group of interns surrounding the dart board, O'Malley listing against the bar with Baby Grey, and any number of people who were studiously avoiding her gaze. "This place hasn't changed."
"It's good that some things don't," he replied. "Buy you a drink?"
"Only if I buy the next."
He cocked his head in agreement. "I'm glad you came." He meant for drinks, but found himself thinking it wasn't only that.
She didn't seem to notice the overlay.
"Dr. Hahn!" Joe's voice interrupted. "You're back!"
She smiled easily at him, and Derek remembered their evening out in the woods. That was the last time he saw Erica Hahn smile like this. She was dressed similarly as well-black slacks, black shirt, and boots. Her hair was still long and blond; her eyes blue and clear. The biggest change was the glasses that covered them.
Or was it?
"I'm back for a few days," she said. "Then I'm back to L.A."
"Then the first round's on the house," Joe said decisively. "Visiting docs always get privileges."
"I'm not gonna argue with that. I'd love a whiskey something. You decide."
Joe seemed surprised. "Thought you were a wine drinker?"
"I am," she replied, adding with a half smile, "But no offense, Joe, your wine is swill."
He laughed. "I was wondering when you would notice, but you never seemed to. Got one whiskey something coming up. You want the usual, Dr. Shepherd?"
Derek nodded his agreement and regarded the woman beside him. She met his eyes and then slowly rolled hers. "I never came here for the wine, Shepherd."
He chuckled lightly, all the while wondering if Erica had any idea of exactly how many people knew that wine wasn't the reason she came to Joe's. Looking at the formidable woman beside him, he made the executive decision to wait until at least two drinks into the conversation-- if it lasted that long-- before bringing the subject up. Which he knew he was going to have to sooner or later. He was pretty sure that she wouldn't assault an attending, but he wasn't so sure that rule applied to the resident population at Seattle Grace. Especially certain residents with a tendency to not be able to keep their mouths shut.
He really did want to marry Meredith one day. And he was pretty certain she wouldn't do it if her maid of honor were dead.
He realized Erica was looking at him expectantly, and then she shook her head before laughing. "I realize I'm not the best at small talk, but usually most people wait at least a few minutes before zoning out on me."
"Sorry," he tilted his head in acknowledgment. "I was just wondering how you liked Los Angeles."
She shrugged, "Eh Los Angeles certainly is sunny. But "
He marveled at the rare sighting of a genuine un-Hahnian smile.
"LA Gen is great." She ran an elegantly jointed hand through her hair, and he realized that it was a little shorter and wavier than the last time he had seen her. "Imagine having an administration that backed you, residents who were practicing more medicine than unsafe sex, and interns who actually wanted to learn what you had to teach them."
He opened his mouth to reply, but she interrupted him. "Speaking of which, do you mind if I make a quick phone call before our drinks get here?"
Derek shook his head, eyes widened slightly not just because of what Hahn had said but also because of the offhand manner in which she had said it. "No, not at all. Go ahead. Do you need some privacy?"
She waved his offer away. "This will only take a second." She hit a succession of rapid numbers on her cell, making him become an inadvertent eavesdropper to her end of the conversation.
Judson It's Dr. Hahn. Yes. Not bad. Look I got the go ahead for you to observe, and I've called Tobler's secretary to have her arrange the plane tickets and hotel room. Check with her tomorrow for the details. Not a problem. How did that pacemaker surgery go? Did he let you assist?" Laughing. "Well, Judson, we all have to hold clamps sometimes. They stopped giving out the "Go Directly to Cardio-godness" buttons years ago." More laughter. "Yes, I got the last one." She nodded in silent acknowledgement of the drink that Joe placed in front of her and took a long sip. "You on his service for the next few days? Okay, I'll give him a call so he knows why his resident is abandoning him in the middle of the week. Great. See you soon."
She clipped the phone shut and turned to Derek, lifting her glass. "To limited engagements," she said wryly.
He clinked his glass against hers and cocked his head in consideration. "You've got a resident flying in to observe? That's "
"Unusual, I know." Erica dipped her head in acknowledgement. "But Judson is incredibly talented and besides " A slightly devilish light appeared in her eyes. "Yang's on my service for this procedure and I don't think it would hurt either one of them to realize there are other budding cardio-gods in the universe."
"I thought it was rather ingenious myself. Actually it's not the first time I've done this, but usually I bring in residents from surrounding hospitals to observe procedures that they normally wouldn't see in their hospitals. I think this is the first time we've actually flown anyone out of state."
He was intrigued by the concept of expanding a teaching hospital's ability to teach even more doctors, if only by observation. "And this is a Gen policy?"
"Not so much of a policy. It was something that occurred to me when I was driving back from a weekend vacation and happened on a seven car pile-up. I worked with the EMTs to stabilize most of the accident victims and rode the bus with the worst one. I lost him twice before we could get to this little county hospital that was in no way prepared to deal with the type of trauma he had suffered. And it wasn't for lack of equipment. They simply didn't have the slightest idea of how to treat him."
"Let me guess, you ended up doing it. "
"And got a three week probation at Gen for operating without privileges," she snorted. "But I tried to talk the on-call surgeon through it and it just wasn't working. I didn't bust my ass to save the guy to have him die on the table. But while Greg was reading me the riot act we came up with the idea for the observation program. Feedback has been great. And Greg certainly doesn't mind the higher profile for Gen."
"You sound happy there."
"Let's just say it's been a little different than my Seattle Grace experience." She turned pensive, toying with her glass, and he found himself wondering what thoughts were reflected in the facets of the ice cubes she was considering so intently.
"This place misses you, you know," he said suddenly, not sure why.
"I'm sure. Like a recurring migraine." Taking a large swallow of her drink, she smiled, a little sadly. "It's kind of you to say, Shepherd, but I find that very hard to believe."
"No," he insisted. "It's true. You've actually become an adjective."
"A one-word synonym for bitch on wheels?"
"Well, I did hear Bailey once threaten a bunch of residents to shape up or she was going to go all Hahn on their asses," he admitted. "But actually Hahnian has virtually replaced Hardcore in Cardio."
She shook her head, laughing, "Even if you're making all this up, Shepherd, thanks. If this place misses me at all it's because Webber managed to hire the one person who is more socially awkward and a worse teacher than I am. At least Dixon has a disease to blame it on. I'm just "
"Hahn," he supplied for her.
She signaled for another drink for them both and turned to face him, leaning towards him in way that observers might think was intimate. "That was always the problem, you know." She absently handed Joe a credit card, the silent gesture asking him to start a tab.
He found himself strangely pleased that she really did intend more than just a polite drink and a "Nice to see you again" conversation.
"Everyone wanted the new Burke, and that was something I couldn't be. Something," she added with a slow shake of her head, "I never wanted to be."
He considered her words carefully, realizing even as she said them, she had made a very valid point. Awake open-heart surgeries, moving the OR to a triage room for an unstable patient, reducing a baby's heart into its chest cavity she'd had to fight at every step and maybe, just maybe at every step she heard their silent question, "Is this what Burke would do?"
How ironic it was that now the residents-even Yang-were asking: "Where's the new Hahn?"
"You know you want to go."
Callie stuffed her head underneath the pillow in the on-call room and pretended not to hear her roommate's voice.
"Meredith said that Derek said "
"I don't care what Meredith said," she bit Yang off before she could continue. She already knew what Meredith said about Shepherd and Erica having drinks at Joe's. Like Cristina thought she would be the first one to oh-so-casually tell her? After not telling her so much for so long, apparently everyone was trying to make up for it. To the point where she had barricaded herself- unsuccessfully, it seemed-in the on-call room. Anyway, she didn't need to see the actual footage to be able to know what it would be like to see Erica drinking Joe's godawful wine and trying not to wince. Her smiles, thin at first, then growing broader. Her laughter, muted at first, then growing genuine. Her eyes, roaming at first, then settling in with an almost unbearable intimacy. Sometimes she thought it was those eyes that had done her in. The way Erica had always looked at her, seemingly content with anything Callie had to say or do or
Why on earth was Cristina still standing there?
When it became obvious that Yang wasn't going anywhere, Callie unstuffed her head and glared at the smaller woman. "I don't want to go."
"Yes. You do."
"No. I don't."
"Okay. We can be in the second grade here, but you know you want to go."
She tried a different tactic. "You know I'm seeing "
"You said you weren't switching."
Damn, she hated it when Yang pointed out the obvious.
"I'm not doing anything," she maintained. Because God, yes, she wanted to see anything other than the scrubs and the lab coat that weren't well Hahn. But she wasn't sure she was ready to see Erica, either. She wasn't switching and she wasn't changing and she didn't know what in the hell she was supposed to do.
She and Arizona had flirted. She had liked the way she had been able to disconcert the other woman. She hadn't liked so much the other woman's derision when it came to her being a newbie. Whatever the fuck that meant. But they had dated. They had kissed. They had made it to second base, and the askew and the twist and the clothes and in the middle of it all, she remembered Erica's words.
"I don't know what I'm doing "
She remembered Erica's face, the dashed look of failure combined with the intense desire to make it all right.
They had taught each other.
Erica's mouth, her hands, the feel of that body sliding against hers. The way she had responded. Her mouth. Her hands. All over Erica and not stopping until both of them cried out their release.
God, it had been so good. So good, in fact, it had scared the shit out of her and sent her running in the exact opposite direction of the one she was beginning to think she shouldn't have been running from in the first place.
"I'm just saying this right now, Yang." Callie rose. "Fuck. And. You."
Cristina grinned cockily at her, crossing her arms.
"And you're picking up my bar tab for the night."
They were three drinks into the conversation, and Derek still hadn't mentioned Callie-he was enjoying the woman beside him too much. Then out of the corner of his eye, he pretty much realized that decision was going to be made for him. Thank God Hahn's back is to the door, he thought.
And he was going to kick Meredith's ass if she had anything to do with this. He sighed to himself. Of course he wasn't. And of course she did because there she was with Yang. And Callie.
"So..." he continued in the lurch of their conversation, but was mercifully interrupted by the chime of Erica's cell phone.
He saw her look at the reading and smile.
"Just a sec," she told him before picking up.
Once again he found himself eavsdropping.
"Hey you," she said in a voice even deeper than her usual resonant tones. "Yes, I'm sitting on a barstool." Laughing again. "Yes, I'd rather be sitting someplace else." She cocked her head to listen more closely. "You're closing again? What happened to that hotshot manager of yours?" An impatient wave of her fingers brought another round of drinks their way. Hahn ran the hand that wasn't holding the phone through her hair. "You own the damn place, that's why you shouldn't have to close it."
Maybe he didn't have to worry about the Callie-thing-- as the frat house called it-- at all.
"Just make sure Artuo walks you to your car. And makes sure it starts." She was laughing again. "Yes, I'm repeating myself. Not gonna stop, okay?" She turned on her barstool, settling herself at a slightly different angle.
He saw her see.
Her body stuttered for a second, but her voice never did. "I'll call you when I leave the barstool and you get home. Around two, right? Talk to you then."
It didn't take a genius to recognize that the Callie-thing was still very much alive.
She kept looking in the obvious direction, so he let her be and said nothing. As she clipped the phone shut, she twisted her neck in a way that he was oh-too-familiar with. He had done it enough himself for much the same reason. Her eyes found his-- and for a moment, he found himself thinking, "This is the kind of woman I should have fallen in love with." But his relationship Meredith was living proof that nobody got to choose who they fell in love with.
Which was why Erica was looking at Callie again.
"Everybody know?" she asked without preamble.
He couldn't not meet the eyes that now regarded him so clearly. "Well..." he tried to hedge. "Not everyone."
"No?" The skepticism in the single word reminded him that she was not the halfway kind.
He watched her head slowly shake and duck in a way that if it had been anyone other than Hahn-- he would have thought it a gesture of defeat. Her pale blue eyes closed a moment and then returned to him.
"There are a few cafeteria workers whose grasp on the English language is tenuous at best..." he began and was glad to see a small grin break over her face. "Other than that..." He shrugged helplessly.
More than anything she wanted to smack her roommate into senselessness. And that also went for her other half.
Yes, she was thinking about the two women sitting on either side of her. Even as she was watching Erica talking to Derek Shepherd. She knew she had signed on for a mainline of pain when she walked in the door, but damn...
She hadn't expected this. So much...
She knew they were both watching, and she was glad that Joe sent off the usual bottle of tequila because, really, ordering a drink right now was beyond her.
Some things never change...
"You going to start pretending you're not staring at her anytime soon?" Yang asked brusquely, shoving a shot glass full of the amber liquid in front of her.
"Wasn't planning on it," she replied, throwing the drink back and resuming contemplation of her ex-lover. The last year had treated Erica well, she had to admit to herself. It had been obvious even in the brief encounter in the hallway that had left her shaken to her core. Apparently it must have not had the same effect on the other woman because there she was, talking to Shepherd-- of all people-- like nothing had ever changed. When it so very much had.
She glanced down to see three full shot glasses lined up in front of her. "Geeze, Cristina why don't you just stick a straw in the bottle and save yourself the effort of pouring it for me."
"She figures if you do three quick ones you'll start talking," Meredith informed her, one eye on her, the other trained on her lover observing the quietly intense conversation the he seemed to be having.
"Nothing to talk about," Callie replied flatly, downing the first shot, which was really her second, but she had already decided not to count that one. Maybe it wasn't too early to page Bailey and call in dead for tomorrow?
Yang settled back in her chair, crossing her arms with an I shall not be denied look on her face.
The next shot went the way of the last.
"It's..." she hesitated. "It was complicated."
Meredith had both eyes trained on her now and gently slid the next shot in front of her.
"I fucked up, okay?" The tequila burned an acid path down her throat. "I fucked it all up."
"Well what else is new, Torres?" Yang asked sardonically. "You are the one who, after all, married Bambi after-- what was it-- six days?"
"Thanks for the support, Roomie. And it was six dates, not six days and... that was different."
Now it was Meredith's turn. "How?"
"Because for starters, Erica Hahn is not Bambi!" She rolled her eyes. "Jesus, now you've got me calling him that. She's Erica Fucking Hahn!" The tequila was beginning to go to her head, but she still nodded at the bottle. Meredith obligingly played bartender.
"Yeah yeah," Yang waved dismissively. "Former Cardio-god Supreme of Seattle Grace who is the current Cardio-god Supreme of the number 5 fucking ranked teaching hospital in the country. Did you know they're expected to go up next month? While we're sinking like a fucking stone. This blows."
"Thought we were talking about me here." Callie returned the shot glass to the table with a little more force than she had intended and saw Meredith glance nervously in Shepherd's direction, so she made a conscious effort to lower her voice. "Not your unresolved mentor issues with Hahn."
She ran an exasperated hand through her hair in lieu of strangling Cristina. "She's... she was an attending..."
"Didn't stop Cristina and Burke."
"She was a colleague..."
"Didn't stop Meredith and George. And can I still say 'Ewww...' about that?"
Callie slumped dejectedly in her chair and said softly. "And she's a she."
"Anybody who takes a look at those C-cups of hers can tell that."
"That's not the point..." Callie began, then narrowed her eyes at Yang. "What are you doing looking at her C-cups?" Really, she shouldn't have any more tequila, but another shot found its way to her mouth.
She shrugged nonchalantly. "Nothing wrong with a little window-shopping."
"Cristina's been known to enjoy a little variety in the uh... boudoir," Meredith offered helpfully.
"I thought you said you two weren't a couple!"
"I didn't say I did," she replied hastily. "I said Cristina did."
Callie glanced over at her roommate, who was regarding her closely. Then Yang leaned back in her chair once more and smiled knowingly, nodding to herself. "You had really incredibly mind-blowing sex with her and then you went out and did something really incredibly stupid. What was it?"
"I should have known that Sloan wouldn't be able to keep his mouth shut about it," Erica muttered under her breath. Apparently not under her breath enough because Shepherd put a hand on her arm. She was startled out of her reverie by the gentle contact and found herself meeting his eyes once more.
"Mark never said anything to anyone." He glanced away and back again. "About that..." He waited until Joe placed another round of drinks in front of them before shoving out a deep breath and continuing. "What happened in the on-call room with them."
If she had just been drenched in ice water, Erica didn't think it would be possible to feel any colder. So much so that she had to fight not to shiver. "The fact that you're sitting here talking to me about it indicates otherwise." Christ, she had known this was a bad idea, and it was pretty much playing itself out this way.
"I know for a fact that Meredith doesn't know." His hand remained on her arm, as though he knew how much she wanted to leave. "Which means nobody else does either."
She used the excuse of picking up her drink to shake his touch away and was glad he didn't seem to take insult.
"If it's any consolation, I yelled at him for an hour."
"It's not," she told him bluntly. It wasn't anyone's place to yell at anyone else on her behalf because, dammit, it wasn't anyone else's business. That was why she didn't like to get involved with colleagues. Oh, who the fuck was she kidding? That was why she didn't like to get involved period. Because it led to things like this. Like Derek Shepherd staring at her with that look that was equal parts pity and compassion and whatever the secret sauce was that made him McDreamy. "Look, let's just call it a night, okay?" She half-rose to call for the tab, but his hand on her wrist once more aborted the gesture.
"Let's not," he said softly.
She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes wearily. Damn.... she had only been back at Seattle Grace for a day and she was already up to her neck in all this.... "Shit," she swore softly. She replaced her glasses and shot a half glance at Callie's table. What the fuck, she told herself, she was going to be gone in less than a week's time. And her therapist was really getting tired of hearing this story. "Imagine..." she began haltingly.
"There's no heaven?" The light in Shepherd's eyes was gentle, and a soft smile played over his face, silently encouraging her to continue.
She managed a small chuckle. "That too, but..." Dammit, she sucked at this. The only reason she could do therapy was because she told herself it was a professional situation, that the person listening to her pour out her deepest fears, her most painful experiences, was just a dispassionate observer, just doing their job.
Derek Shepherd might be a brain surgeon-- and God knows she had considered a neuro consult more than once to see if Callie could literally be cut out of her memory-- but the one thing Derek Shepherd was not was a dispassionate observer.
His girlfriend and her ex-lover sitting at a table together across the bar was evidence of that.
"Imagine..." she began again. And faltered again. "Apparently I missed Bailey's special seminar on using allegorical explanations of emotional situations in order to conceal the discomfort of all involved."
His laughter was genuine as they looked at each other. He leaned his elbow on the bar and propped his chin in his hand. "So try the Hahnian Method."
She rolled her eyes and laughed. "I'm so not an adjective at that place."
"You so are, but don't try to change the subject." He held her eyes. "Just talk to me."
"I've never... been good... with people... which, since you've witnessed my beside manner firsthand, you know.
Did you know that I seriously considered a career in pure research? That's how much I don't like people." She shook her head and laughed ruefully. "I want to help them, but, well, I don't like them much."
"What made you change your mind?"
She grinned at him. "When I looked at a beating human heart for the first time... I was gone." Considered the thoughtful expression on his face. "It was the same for you when you discovered neuro, wasn't it?"
"It was," he said, dipping his head in acknowledgement. "But you're trying to change the subject again."
"It's a meandering sort of subject, Shepherd." She ran her hands through her hair and nodded at Joe, who placed two more drinks in front of them. Thank god she had taken a cab. Made a mental note to have Joe call ones for all of them when they were ready to stumble out of here because-- glancing at Callie's table-- it didn't look like any of them would be in any shape to drive.
"You were saying...?"
"Remember, we're using the Hahnian Method."
Taking him at his word.
"It wasn't that I didn't like sex," she began, ignoring Shepherd's skyrocketing eyebrows. "I just thought it wasn't well... There was work and there was work and..." she chuckled. "There was work. The few men that bothered to try and get past that... it was okay." She couldn't help herself-- she glanced towards Callie's table again. "But eventually I always had the feeling that they wanted something-- some reaction-- from me that I wasn't giving them. And they were disappointed in me because of it." She looked away from the table and back at Derek. "Not that there were a lot of theys, but enough to make me think I was somehow wrong."
She finished the last half of her drink, and Joe-- who obviously knew something was going down, because who couldn't with all the significant glances being bounced around the bar-- slid another one in front of her.
"We're back to that?"
"Shut up and let me talk."
"Now see? That's the Hahnian Method."
"What would you do if you met someone who touched every single part of you? Who discovered parts of you that you hadn't even known existed? And that was before you ever even kissed?"
"I think I'd fall in love."
"And when you finally did make love they made your body feel every single thing it had never felt before?"
"I think I'd fall even more in love."
She turned her head away. "I never felt right before, but that night... that morning..." She closed her eyes for a moment before returning to his gaze. "I'd never felt so right." She hated his sympathy, even though a part of her was grateful for it. "Then imagine hearing the person who made you feel so right tell you she went out that morning and fucked someone else. Twice." She shook her head. "Twelve hours." She shook her head. "I had twelve hours. Then I found out that I really was wrong."
Part 4: New Kid in Town
As she stumbled into consciousness, her first thought was "Why the fuck do I always end up on the couch?"
She finally had an apartment with an honest-to-god-bedroom of her own, but she always seemed to end up on the couch. Fuzzy things slowly resolved themselves in her vision, but she was relieved that the face gazing upon hers looked just as bad as she felt. At least she wasn't alone in her misery.
"Morning," Meredith croaked, handing her an entirely oversized cup of what smelled like fresh-brewed coffee.
Manna from Heaven...
"Where are we?" She didn't like asking the question, but since she knew it wasn't her apartment, it was one that had to be answered.
Her quick brain-addled walk down memory lane reminded her of exactly how much she hated waking up in this house, and she promised herself that if she smelled even a whiff of Stevens' baking efforts, she would systematically crush each and every single bone in the other woman's hands.
That's when she remembered Joe pouring all of them into cabs-- Yang, Grey, Shepherd and herself into one. Erica into another.
She remembered her eyes meeting Erica's and wanting to go with her. Erica had almost immediately turned her head and looked away. Then she was gone.
"We have exactly two hours to be at the hospital," Grey said. "And Yang's direct quote is 'I have to serve the visiting Cardio-god, and I don't want to fuck it up.'"
"Then she probably needs this more than I do." Callie offered her mug to Grey. "The visiting Cardio-god wants nothing to do with me."
Yesterday certainly made that blindingly crystal clear.
"I've already given her one."
"Tell her to take two. They're small." About the mug that it took both hands to cradle. She shifted on the sofa, slightly uncomfortable with the look in Meredith's eyes. Almost as if she were channeling McDreamy himself.
Who had spent the entire night at Joe's talking with Erica.
Even if she hadn't disliked him on principle already... she now disliked him in fact.
She preemptively raised a hand, noting how horrified that Meredith seemed to be at the potential for spillage. "Look... now you know the whole sordid story, okay? Can we just let it go?" She sat up further. "And can you keep your fucking mouth shut about it?"
Grey recoiled slightly at the anger in Callie's voice, but to her credit she didn't back down. "I have no intention of saying anything to anyone," she said quietly, reminding Callie of another conversation they'd had.
"I didn't tell George. He told me."
"Not even to Derek," Meredith added.
"I'm sure he knows already," Callie said tiredly. "He and Sloan are almost as bad as you and Yang."
"What're Grey and I so bad at?" Yang walked into the room, her coffee mug hanging limply from her fingers. "Hit me again," she said to Meredith plaintively.
"Take this one." And if the pounding in her head would have allowed it, she would have smiled at the look of naked gratitude on Cristina's face.
The transfer of mugs was achieved without disaster, and Cristina settled herself on the couch beside Callie while Meredith went to look for the largest To-Go cups that the household had to offer.
The silence between the two women was companionable enough until Callie noticed Yang doing that thing with her mouth that she did when she was trying to speak girl.
But Yang surprised her.
"Bailey told me that Hahn has some hotshot resident of hers coming from LA to observe the procedure."
Ah... back to Yang's unresolved Hahnian issues.
Although she had her own unresolved Hahnian issues... it was strangely reassuring to know that some things hadn't changed.
Callie couldn't help but shake her head, although she stopped almost immediately when she felt her brain pan rattle. "Worried about the competition?"
Yang's snort of derision was muffled by the fact that she practically had her nose in the coffee mug, but was noticeable nonetheless. "She's not gonna be any competition for me. My hands are golden."
"Well, I'm assuming because-- and trust me-- while growing up in Beverly Hills I saw a lot of weird shit, but surgical residents named 'Melinda Judson' and who were also men were few and far between."
"When I asked where you were, they told me to just look for the tall blonde with the bad attitude. I had no idea who they were talking about," the voice behind her dead-panned. "Still didn't give me a clue as to where to find you. So I've been wandering around for the last hour looking for an errant Cardio-god."
Erica wheeled around in surprise at the appearance of her resident from LA Gen.
The middle of the surgical floor of Seattle Grace suddenly became the colliding point for her past and her present, and the sensation left her even queasier than all the whiskey she had downed on an empty stomach last night. She closed Samantha's chart and looked at the other woman, the question plain in her expression. "I'm pretty sure I told Tobler's secretary to book the ticket for..."
"Tomorrow, I know," Judson answered preemptively. She was slightly shorter than Erica, but not so much that she actually had to tilt her head to meet her mentor's inquiring gaze. Dark black hair fell softly just below her jaw and her green eyes were bright with anticipation. "I paid the penalty charge to fly up a day earlier. My husband might kill me, but if I have to I'll even pay for the extra night at the hotel."
"That eager to just observe?" Erica bit back the urge to smile at the younger woman. It really wouldn't do for Judson to know that it was exactly what she would have done in the same place.
The excitement in the resident's face reassured her that, despite her own private issues with being back at Seattle Grace, having Judson here to observe was the right decision. This time she couldn't stop from smiling. "I think I can twist the Tobler's arm into picking up the tab for tonight too. After all, it's not like you're staying at the Archfield."
"I'd stay at the YWCA for this chance, Dr. Hahn."
"Don't go overboard, Judson." Erica laughed and shook her head before leveling her gaze at the younger woman. "Just count yourself lucky that you're here and do not embarrass Gen. And even more importantly-- me." She paused a moment, registered Judson's slightly terrified expression, and relented slightly. "I don't want to establish any new precedents between us."
Judson's shoulders almost sagged with relief before her usual swagger reasserted itself. "Like you think I'm going to?" She grinned the carefree grin of a budding cardio-god who didn't know how much more there was to learn. "Bring it on."
"A few ground rules first."
"Seattle Grace is doing Gen a huge favor in allowing you here for this. I'm sure I don't need to remind you of this, but you do not have privileges here. I have two residents assigned to me for this procedure. This is a teaching hospital and they are my residents for this procedure. You..." she looked pointedly at Judson. "Are eyes and ears, but for all intents and purposes you are mute." Judson looked poised to interrupt, but Erica cut her off. "I know. You're going to want to answer every question that I ask of them. And feel free to answer. Silently. And not in mime either," she added acerbically. "Those little wiggle jerk things that you do when you want me to pick you are annoying."
Judson ducked her head. "Got it. Mute and Non-Miming. I can do that."
Erica smiled at her, even as she knew the skepticism in her expression wasn't recognized by the younger woman. Judson wouldn't be able to keep her mouth shut any more than Yang would have been able to.
Any more than she herself would have been.
Instead of saying anything to that effect, she nodded briskly. "Good. Since you're here a day early you have plenty of time to review Samantha's chart. But first let's go introduce you to Chief Webber so you can be appropriately grateful."
As they walked the surgical floor, Erica was aware of the glances that sort of met hers and then sort of didn't-- which really wasn't much different from how things used to be.
But things were so much different now.
That thought almost stopped her cold.
Thankfully, they arrived at Webber's office before she could think anything else. Because she was beginning to think that thinking in Seattle these days would not end well.
She knocked softly at Webber's door, noted the same look of surprise that crossed his features as it had the day before. "Dr. Webber, if you have a moment..."
"Of course, Dr. Hahn," he replied, having seemed to finally figure out that she was in no way shape or form interested in anything but purely professional relations. He didn't seem pleased about it, but reluctantly accepting nonetheless.
She ushered Judson into his office and nodded towards the younger woman as Webber rose to his feet. "Chief Webber, this is Dr. Melinda Judson. She'll be observing the alcohol ablation that I'll be performing."
"Dr. Judson," he said, shaking hands with her briefly. "Pleasure to meet you."
"Thank you so much for this opportunity, Dr. Webber," Judson started beautifully. Unfortunately, she didn't stop while she was ahead. "Dr. Hahn talks about what a great hospital Seattle Grace is --and if I'm Iucky, maybe she'll show me around..." She continued to ramble on, and...
Erica could tell in less than an instant when Richard's bullshit detector went off.
Right around the same time hers had.
All of them.
Still, neither of them cracked so much as a smile, although they exchanged glances in what might have been the most civil-- albeit silent -- conversation the two of them had ever had during her brief tenure at Seattle Grace.
She nodded briefly at Webber. "I'll give Judson here the quick Cook's Tour if you don't mind..."
"Not at all. See Bailey to see about an ID for your..." His mouth twitched.
"Resident," he continued. "There's somebody new in security who handles that and I have no idea what their name is."
Cristina's nose was now into the To-Go cup as she and Meredith pressed the button for the elevator. "All that tequila to hear about Callie's non-epic romance with Hahn? Shit, I knew all that already. Except the Sloan bit, which was just... Anyway... Now I gotta pretend my head isn't screwed on backwards."
Meredith was inhaling the triple brew herself at an equally alarming rate, but managed to keep the bile that was rising in her throat down long enough to say, "Sometimes epic romances start small."
Yeah, well, they barely got past 'GO!' Much less making it around to collect two hundred dollars. And in ten minutes Hahn is going to be grilling my ass about a procedure I've never done and the one that she's doing is the same one she had to do for someone else because Stevens decided to steal a heart for Denny Duquette by trying to kill him."
"Whoa?!" Meredith said as they entered the elevator. Thankfully no one else was there. "When did you decide that?"
Maybe it was the hangover. Maybe it was exhaustion, because they all were these days. Or maybe... Maybe it was Cristina finally making up her mind about what had happened. Because God knows she'd had more pressing concerns that day and had responded purely on instinct. Trying to save a relative stranger's life. Because she'd had no say in trying to save Burke.
Of all the things they had ever talked about, this was the one thing they'd never had.
"Burke's not coming..."
And then Hahn had.
"Look, Hahn being back pisses me off," Cristina said abruptly, not meeting her eyes. "And I'm hungover. Forget it."
"No. You look," she responded sharply because she had been there every minute Cristina had. And maybe, she was beginning to realize, they had drawn different conclusions about that day. "We're both on this service... And we both need to..."
But Cristina was having none of it. "Like you give a good goddamned about Cardio..."
"Bailey said she asked for me..."
"While I got fucking assigned... Hahn didn't ask for me. Shit. I should have volunteered for Ortho instead."
Which meant that Yang didn't want to fight about this as much as she didn't.
It was one for down the road, however. They both knew it.
So she let it slide. For now.
"You really want to spend that much more quality time with Torres while Hahn's here?"
"Not for a fucking minute," was Crisitna's unhesitating answer. "On the other hand," she added, "It would have annoyed the hell out of both of them."
The elevator deposited them on the surgery floor, and the first thing they saw was Hahn talking to an unfamiliar figure in street clothes. The woman-- a very attractive one, Meredith immediately noticed-- was intently studying a chart, then looked up and asked a question. Hahn cocked her head and apparently asked something back. The woman flipped through the chart and answered. Hahn nodded, folding her arms together. And asked something else. Then she smiled at the answer she heard.
It didn't take much for Meredith to figure out that Cristina hated the stranger on sight.
But Yang was never one to let the obvious go.
"I hate her already."
"I had drinks with her last night."
"Everybody in the hospital knows you had drinks with her last night, judging from the number of people who told me last night and again this morning." Mark's arms were crossed and his voice was sullen. "Like I give a flying fuck."
Judging from the red vessels threading through his normally crystal blue eyes, the one he'd tied on that was every bit as vicious as the one everyone at Joe's had. Derek was grateful he only had a day of tedious paperwork ahead of him and was already planning to abandon it and sneak out to remove the ice pick that was currently stabbing his frontal lobe.
Which, of course, meant a return trip to Joe's.
He briefly wondered if Erica would care to join him.
"So did she cry in her beer about how Callie had done her wrong?"
Mark's jeering told him two things. As if he didn't already know. Mark was worried. Mark felt guilty. But right now, he really didn't want this to be all about Mark. These were things, however, he didn't want to address in the cafeteria over a cup of the most awful coffee he had ever had in his life. "She didn't drink beer," he said blandly. "She drank whiskey, and after we all shut Joe's down, she was the only one of us who could still walk a straight line. And," he added, almost as an afterthought, "She kicked my ass at darts."
"She always kicks everybody's ass at darts." Mark laughed quietly. "And Monopoly."
So he remembered the night out in the woods too.
Mark didn't seem to mind that they were in the middle of a crowded cafeteria, although he recognized their location because his words were soft. "If I could take it all back..."
Derek bit his tongue because he knew that Mark wouldn't have done anything differently-- even though he'd like to think that he would have. Their shared history with Addison told him that. Again with the not right place to be having this conversation.
"Let's get a drink today at Joe's."
"And by that I mean..." It was the first time in a lot of years that he had said that.
Mark knew it as well and finished for him. "Right now."
A resonant voice crossed their hearing as both men rose to leave.
"I can't say that I recommend anything on the menu, but I can say it's not any worse than the food at Gen."
Derek turned to watch as Erica-- he didn't think of her as just "Hahn" anymore-- and an unfamiliar woman walked through the cafeteria.
Guess she didn't need the ice pick removal service.
That thought was quickly followed by:
That's the budding cardio-god.
Mark's verbalization, however, as his eyes roved over the stranger was, "She's hot."
Derek sighed to himself.
Some things really never did change.
Part 5: Do It the Hard Way
She deliberately waited until after lunch to have Yang and Grey paged. She had seen them arriving as she and Judson had been reviewing Samantha's chart and hadn't called them over for a few reasons. The first of which was the way they were clutching their coffee cups and looking incredibly green around the gills. The second of which was that she wanted to drill Judson on the procedure in the absence of the other two residents because she really was serious about Judson being mute and non-miming. The third... well, that one was a little more selfish.
Grey and Yang had spent the entire night with Callie. She had seen them in the bar; she had watched them get into the cab. Had to fight back the urge to ask Callie to come with her. She didn't know if the three had arrived together this morning-- but she had caught a glimpse of Callie out of the corner of her eye not too long after she saw the other two.
She didn't know if Callie hadn't seen her or was simply ignoring her.
That might be the best solution for all involved because...
"Dr Hahn!" came the breathless answers to her page.
Why the hell are they running? Erica silently asked and answered her own question in an instant, remembering her own journey as a resident.
"Ladies," she said with a small smile, usurping Sloan's come-on line for a completely different purpose. Allow me to introduce you to Dr. Judson." She glanced at Judson briefly. "Judson, these are my residents for the procedure you'll be observing." She gestured to each woman in turn. "Dr. Grey. Dr. Yang."
Watching Yang. Watching Judson. Hell, even watching Grey-- who was visibly torn between taking Yang's side and trying to play peacemaker. Oh God... she had never wanted to laugh so hard in her life. It was funnier than anything Looney Toones could have ever come up with.
And they were pretty inventive. Hell, they had a rabbit singing Wagner. Didn't know if Yang was quite up to that, though. The best she'd heard her come up with was Madonna.
She wondered if Yang ever knew she had looked in on her at the morgue when she was harvesting those fifty hearts.
"So..." she said into the silence that was the resident equivalent of three cats hissing with their backs arched. "Since you're all here... you ladies wanna go meet our patient?"
Joe was visibly surprised to see them as they entered the bar. "Should I ask how early it is or how late you are?"
"We're not having a very good day," Derek answered. "And we think you can fix what ails us."
Joe's mouth twitched, then he glanced at the clock. "I'm not good with time zones, but I'm pretty sure it's five o'clock somewhere. The usuals?" He watched them both nod in agreement. "I've got a Jones for some pizza..."
"On us," Derek answered the unasked question.
Mark waited until Joe delivered their drinks. "You realize that we're sitting here because of two women neither of us are sleeping with?"
A silence drifted comfortably between them, and he didn't feel the urge to alter it-- until he realized that the very barstool that now comfortably housed Mark had been exactly where she had been sitting last night.
"Erica deserved better," he said quietly.
"Everybody usually deserves better than what happens to them, Derek," was the snap back.
That was an unexpected.
"Fuck," Mark swore, slamming his glass down and acquiring Joe's alarmed gaze. "Bring us a bottle of Scotch and keep the ice cubes handy," he ordered. "And let us know when the pizza's here." He ran a hand through his short, graying hair.
Derek waited for what might come next.
"We had sex almost the first night I hit town." Their eyes met. "Me and Callie." He shrugged, pouring himself an incredibly unhealthily large drink. "Then she went the Bambi route. And well you know about..." he trailed off.
Derek didn't need to hear about how much they had both loved Addison.
"We didn't have sex again until that time she came back."
Derek did the mental equation.
She = Addison.
"Well, the whole eloping to the Church of Elvis, getting cheated on and getting divorced thing might have impeded your path to true romance," he offered. Although he really didn't think that had ever been a path those two were going to take. He also didn't think either one of them had ever labored under that illusion either.
"Callie told me after we started... fucking... again that Addison thought she and..."
Derek could see the struggle over what to call her in Mark's eyes.
"Erica," he finally said, "Were a couple. I told her I didn't care. Actually," he paused before admitting, "It was kind of hot to think about them like that. And she was fucking me, right? Not Hahn."
The name shift didn't surprise him.
"The word 'threesome' popped up more than once when she talked about her," he continued. "But even as thick as I am I knew that wasn't what she really wanted. I started watching them. God, I couldn't help it. The way they looked at each other. One day... I just knew... she was the one Callie thought about all the time. It had nothing to do with me. I knew that. And I still kept... Because I guess I really am a whore. But Callie... she's not." Hands met hair once more, and Derek poured them two more obscenely large drinks that both of them tossed back as though they were shots.
"And then...?" Not like he hadn't heard this story before, but he had never quite heard it this way.
"I watched them kiss. It wasn't the first time." He shook his head in remembrance. "Hahn had kissed her once in front of me in the elevator to prove a point. And fuck knows she did. Cause I really couldn't have..." He shook his head, not finishing the thought. "This one though... it was something else." His voice had taken on the tone someone might use in a confessional. He downed the liquid in his glass and poured more. "The way... Erica... touched Callie's face when they... when they were kissing..."
"You were jealous."
To his surprise, Mark shook his head.
"I was envious."
As the four of them entered, Erica noted that Samantha's room was filled with flowers and balloons.
And one very tense red-head.
She mentally debated on the wisdom of allowing Lucy to stay in the room for this, but seeing the close twine of the two women's hands, she decided not to say anything about it. Instead she said, her glancing over the additions to her room. "Seems somebody's pretty popular around here."
"Hey, Dr. Hahn," Samantha turned her head and smiled softly at her. Then her eyes roamed the bouquets and balloons, taking obvious pleasure in the displays. "They're mostly from my friends that I worked with at the library." She looked behind Hahn towards the three women standing behind her vibrating with intensity. "Speaking of which... who are your friends?" The question inviting all of them into the room so the lesson could start.
She smiled at Samantha's graciousness and ignored Lucy's glower. "Samantha, " Indicating each woman in turn. "These are Drs Yang, Grey, and Judson. Drs. Yang and Grey will be assisting me with your procedure, while Dr. Judson will be observing."
"Ah," Samantha smiled at Judson. "The protégé from LA..."
Hahn couldn't help but glance over at Yang, and her mental image was once again courtesy of Looney Toones. Sylvester the Cat-- with Yang's face-- glued upside down to the ceiling-- not out of fright-- but out of aggravation.
She listened with half an ear as Judson thanked her for allowing her to be in the OR and was glad that Judson caught the look in her eyes that nearly shouted "MUTE ON!" and shut the hell up before going any further.
"So let's walk you through the procedure," she began, only to be interrupted by Lucy.
"We already know about the procedure..."
She watched Samantha's hand tighten around Lucy's, and her head gestured towards the residents gathered at the foot of her bed. "We know. But maybe they don't."
Sheer panic and terror was written all over Lucy's face as she crouched down close to her lover's face. "Baby, we've read the articles..." She glanced briefly at Erica. "Dr. Hahn has told us... I know you said you wanted this... But I'm not sure you should..." She kissed Samantha's forehead softly. It was a last minute plea. "They're going to make you hurt so much..."
"And then she's going to take the first deep breath she's had in the last five years."
The voice that interrupted was Yang's.
"Most patients feel an immediate change within twenty four hours after this surgery," she continued in a professional tone. "And in 90% of the patients who have this procedure, they have a significant lessening of chest pains and irregular heartbeats. And it's entirely possible that she could be back to work at the library in a few weeks instead of being tethered to a bed like she is now."
Erica watched Yang's eyes look from one woman and then the other. And as she herself had yesterday, Yang chose to focus on Lucy. "Without this procedure, your partner will not live long enough to get a new heart. She knows it, you know it, everyone in this room knows it or we wouldn't all be here. You called Dr. Hahn for a reason. And she came back here for the same one."
Dead silence reigned for a moment.
"She's right, sweetheart," Samantha said softly.
Lucy blew out a long, deep breath that sounded like it was the first one she had taken in the last five years. "Okay," she finally said, dropping a kiss against Samantha's cheek and looking up at Yang. "Talk us through the procedure again."
"So I tried to call you last night and see if you wanted to get together but your cell went directly to voicemail. Twice." The voice next to her ear was low and intimate, and it was all Callie could do not to jump out of her skin. "I hope you didn't have a date that was hotter than me."
She turned around swiftly and met the smiling gaze in the other woman's eyes. "I uh... we uh.. that is..." Not sure why she was feeling guilty except that she had spent almost the entire night staring at one woman when the woman she was dating was standing directly in front of her and she... and she... "Yang and Grey wanted to go have a drink at Joe's last night. I got roped in."
Arizona Rollins chuckled lightly, regarding Callie.
She really is beautiful, Callie thought, taking in the other woman's long blond hair, softly rounded face and open expression. She was beautiful in a way that Erica wasn't and... Stop thinking about Erica, she nearly shouted to herself.
"Roped in, huh?"
She was shocked to feel Arizona's hands clasping her wrists and examining them.
"Funny, I don't see any rope burns here..." Her blue eyes were inviting and playful. "Is there someplace else I should check?"
Callie couldn't help but smile. "You haven't been around long enough to know that when Grey and Yang want to go out for 'a drink' that means 'Let's split a bottle of Jose Cuervo three ways.'"
The concern in her face was fleeting, but visible. "I hope you weren't..."
"Joe poured us into a cab." She was once again not thinking about the sight of Erica sliding into her cab. Alone. "Yang and I ended up spending the night at Meredith's." She shrugged in what she hoped was a nonchalant fashion. "We all rolled in together this morning with Karev." When she caught the questioning look in Arizona's eyes, she clarified. "Since Joe's is just two blocks away, we walked. My car is still in the parking garage here. At least I hope it is, because security around this place..." She stopped herself. "Well, you know."
Arizona leaned against the desk of the nurse's station, her body slightly too close and yet slightly too far away. But it was still close enough to bring the murmured words to Callie's ear. "Damn. That means I don't have an excuse to offer to drive you home." She paused just a moment before adding, "Or an excuse to try and take advantage of you after I do."
Callie relaxed into the flirtation. This, she could do.
Then she saw Erica walking by with Yang, Grey, and some really good-looking woman she had never seen before.
She knew Arizona was talking, but she had idea about what.
"What?" she asked distractedly.
"Just wondering if you wanted to have dinner tonight." Bright eyes searched her face, obviously seeing something there. "Or maybe after your date with Jose last night you want to play it by ear?"
The assumption about her queasy stomach was right. The other woman just didn't know the reason why. Arizona brushed her hand lightly against the small of Calle's back. Her spine stiffened, and she exhaled softly to ease into the touch. Even if she wanted... it wasn't...
"If you're not up for dinner, I could serve you some ginger ale and we could watch a crappy TV show." The hand at the small of her back briefly increased its pressure and then retreated. "Then maybe, later if you're feeling up to it we could try for third base." She smiled at the joke she thought the two of them had invented. "First and/or second are always available as well. " When Callie was still wordless, Arizona added, "We also could just sit in the dugout and wait out the rain delay."
Speaking of rain...
Everything was swimming in her vision.
Erica Hahn was standing ten feet away from her, chart in hand talking to Grey and Yang and that woman-- and not for the first time-- a very beautiful, very attentive person was offering a very welcome distraction from, well... Erica Hahn.
She had taken that distraction once.
Impulsively, she decided to take it again. Even as she wondered at the same time if this new effort would be any more successful than the last one. But Erica was going to be gone in a few days and maybe if she tried, she could at least could burn enough of Erica out so that she and Rollins...
An alcohol ablation of her own.
"Let's have drinks at Joe's," she said, forcing the idea that Erica might be there again tonight away from her head. Not admitting that she might want that very same thing. "We'll see what happens from there."
"Looks like we'll be able to perform the procedure tomorrow," Erica said, glancing at Samantha's chart and then at the three women in front of her.
"Blood work come back better?" Judson asked before she could slap the MUTE button on.
Erica glared at her, but it was only for effect. "Yes, seems the virus has pretty much run its course. We'll run another set in the morning just to make sure, but I don't think we'll have to postpone." She looked at each doctor in turn. "Remind me of the potential complications from this procedure, because it seems nobody seemed fit to mention them to the patient." Although she had done so herself a week ago.
She had to fight not to roll her eyes. Judson was doing the wiggle jerk thing in spite of herself.
"Yang?" she asked.
"The most common complication of this procedure is an electrical conduction called 'complete heart block' that requires permanent pacemaker implantation."
The wiggle jerk thing apparently overwhelmed Judson because she added, "And other complications include heart attack in the non-target territory, irregular heart rhythm, bleeding.."
"As well as infection, allergic reaction to the dye," Yang overrode her.
"Kidney failure from the dye."
"Perforation of the artery."
"Dissection of the artery."
"All of those complications are extremely rare," Grey added tentatively. "So maybe we could focus on the positive?"
Hahn looked at the resident, though her gaze was not harsh. "Always focus on the positive, Grey. But always be prepared for the worst." She clasped the chart in her arms and nodded to her residents. "Make sure you ladies get a good night's sleep," she said, looking at Yang and Grey pointedly. "We've got a long day ahead of us tomorrow." She saw them exchange a glance that meant tequila had been and probably was still on the agenda for the evening.
She didn't want to know if it also meant that they knew she knew everything that they knew about herself and Callie.
She and Callie were a closed subject.
Having to tell the parents of a seven year old boy that he was in congestive heart failure was not the most pleasant of experiences. Arizona almost wished that they had ranted and raved. Instead, there had been quiet tears from Benjamin's father and a solemn question from his mother. "What can we do?"
So she really wasn't listening to the random gossip that seemed almost more predominant than discussion of actual medicine around Seattle Grace as she approached the nurses' station.
Until she heard the name "Torres..."
"Karev said she spent the entire night staring at her. And they were all completely hungover this morning. Well, except for Hahn. But man, did you get a look at Yang? Talk about creature from the black lagoon..."
"I don't get it. Why would anybody stare at Hahn, much less..."
"I dunno. I think she's kinda hot."
"Yeah, but you like your girlfriend to tie you up..."
She tuned the conversation out, but her mind started wandering.
Then her body meandered to the visiting board
Sure enough, there it was.
E. Hahn (Cardio, LA Gen)
She had heard "Hahnian" thrown back and forth between the residents-- most especially the ones who wanted Cardio-- but she had never attached a particular meaning to the term. Residents were slightly crazy when it came to their vernacular. She should know. She was one.
Now she was looking at the name of the term's source of origin.
Callie had told her she'd had only one female lover, and that fact had nearly sent Arizona screaming for the hills-- because indoctrination was not her strong suite. Fuck the whole toaster oven concept. She had reached her limit on the whole I kind of am and I'm kind of not crap in college. They had even had a chart. And that was way before "The L-Word" ever happened.
She thought about what Callie had told her about last night. Joe's. Yang and Grey. What she had overheard. Staring. Hahn.
Not knowing much about the cardio-world, she slipped into the research office and quickly referenced "Erica Hahn."
And was somehow not surprised by what she found.
The articles cited. Dozens of them, and that was only on the first page. The pages numbered in the twenties. Curiously-- or maybe it was morbidly-- she clicked on the first one of them.
It was a recent one, because in the picture, Hahn was wearing a lab coat that very distinctly said Los Angeles General.
In the same instant, she understood the piece of conversation she had overheard.
She stared at the image confronting her.
Hahn's looks weren't conventional. They were challenging.
It didn't mean they still weren't beautiful.
She took in the strong cheekbones, the pointed chin, the long blond hair... but most of all she saw those eyes. The palest blue looking into the camera, daring it to look back at her.
Knew it without a doubt.
She was Callie's first.
That rocked her for a moment.
Then she saw the title of the article Erica Hahn had written.
"Pacemaker Implant Surgery in Prepubescent Children."
"So I keep hearing about this place named Joe's," Judson started.
Cristina and Meredith swiveled their heads from the protocols they were reviewing and stared at the interloper. Both of them were exhausted, still hungover and hoping to God that Hahn had no intention of going to Joe's because neither thought they would actually survive the drive home.
Ambling down the block would relieve the pain. And was so much easier. If somewhat more expensive.
And at least Stevens wouldn't be there, Yang thought. Probably.
"I don't drink with my residents," Hahn blandly replied.
Par for the course, both of them thought.
Yang wondered what would have been the case if Callie had wanted cardio.
"I sleep with men..."
Her brain called foul, thinking that Callie was maybe the exception that disproved all of Hahn's rules.
"Yeah, but you told me I wasn't your resident for this procedure."
That was a was a point well made; but still, they both waited for Hahn to go smackdown on her.
It didn't happen.
Instead Hahn cracked a grin and ran a hand through her hair in way that didn't reek of frustration-- which was new in their experience. "Okay," she said, nodding her head. "One drink at Joe's."
"Two," Judson haggled. "And a round of darts," she added.
Yang and Grey shot each other a look that was equal parts shock and a recognition of opportunity.
Hahn's glasses slipped slightly below her eyes as she observed Judson. "You do know how far you're pushing your luck?" she asked, though her tone was mildly amused.
To Yang, the grin that Judson gave her was slightly on the crazed side. "See a bear in the woods..."
It was obvious that something-- what something Yang had no idea-- in Hahn shut down at that remark. She sighed quietly. "Don't talk to me about the woods." Refocusing on Judson, she said. "Joe's is two blocks down. Look for the one called 'The Emerald City Bar.' I have some phone calls to make and have to follow up on some patients at Gen. Might be an hour or so..."
"We'll walk her there, Dr. Hahn," Meredith offered. Then she ducked her head. "We were going anyway." Admitting it because Hahn probably already knew what they had been going to do. "You can meet us there when you get finished with everything else."
Yang watched Hahn's eyes fix on Meredith, then on her resident-- because, really was anybody laboring under the illusion she wasn't-- and then on her.
She might have been gone a year, but Yang still hadn't forgotten that look.
Then it shifted, and those eyes took them all in again. To Yang's shock, Hahn actually smiled in at her. "Try not to drink her under the table before I get there."
Interlude: When the Sun Goes Down
The boy doctors had barely left when the lady ones started rolling in.
Joe ran a hand across his face.
It was going to be a hell of a night.
He wondered why they all kept making it so complicated for themselves, when it could be so easy.
Then he wondered if they all played 3-D chess, because they all operated-- not to make a pun-- at so many levels.
He liked chess; he was good at it-- but he liked checkers better.
He thought about buying a few sets for the bar as Dr. Yang approached him.
Part 6: A Grain of Salt, Tequila and a Slice of Lime
Melinda really wasn't sure what to make of it all.
The three of them walked the short distance, but neither of the other two offered conversation. Yang was still bristling from their exchange over the complications, and Grey was herding them somewhat nervously towards the bar. They walked a little faster than she would have liked-- because she had never been to Seattle and this was looking like all she was going to get to see of it, and she had wanted to take in at least some of it. But alleyways and tall buildings were not her thing, so instead of the lack of scenery, she tried to figure a few things out.
Yang, she had known almost immediately was Cardio through and through.
Grey... not so much.
But there was still... there was something...
Dr. Hahn talked about Seattle Pres and some of the more outrageous things that she had seen there.
But she never talked about Seattle Grace.
She was rapidly beginning to realize-- even judging from the little she had seen and overheard-- there was a lot to talk about.
The wall of sound hit her the minute they walked into Joe's. Why they called it that when the place was named "The Emerald City Bar" escaped her, but it didn't make it any less inviting. And apparently it also was to large numbers of the Seattle Grace staff because she recognized a lot of the faces she had seen for the first time today.
"Let's grab a table by the dart board," Grey said to her as Yang left them to navigate the sea separating them from the bar. Before they sat down, Grey stopped by the chalkboard and wrote Hahn beneath the last of the very long list of names.
"Looks like we'll be playing at around three am," Melinda remarked. "So much for a good night's sleep."
Grey smiled at her. "Just wait."
Melinda's eyes widened in amazement as one by one names erased themselves from the board. Hahn's was at the top by the time Yang got back with an incredibly large bottle of tequila and three glasses. She frowned at the number.
"Hahn doesn't drink tequila," Yang answered the unasked question.
"She drinks bad red wine and pretends not to notice how bad it is."
"Which she does."
"Because it is."
"And it was never why she came to Joe's in the first place."
She hadn't noticed the methodical pouring of shots, the first of which was now poised in front of her and realized she was about to learn a lot about her mentor. She downed the shot.
Yang was looking at her intensely as she put the glass down. Theirs were empty as well. "Quid pro quo."
She blinked twice, not quite sure of how to respond. "You're suddenly Hannibal Lecter?"
To her surprise, Yang started laughing. "The lambs don't scream at Hahn. She screams at them, only she calls them 'residents.'"
She wasn't exactly sure where to go from there, so she took Grey's cue and had another shot.
"So..." Yang was considering her carefully. "You're Hahn's..." she paused meaningfully. "Protégé."
She had just known that Samantha's absent remark was going to bite her in the ass with these two. She tried to play it off, shrugging lightly. "I don't know if Dr. Hahn thinks of me that way, but I do know I've learned a hell of a lot from her in the last year." She took the shot that Grey offered her. "More than I have in the first two years of my residency. I'll be glad to spend the next four with her."
To her surprise, Yang nodded in agreement as she finished swallowing her shot. "There aren't many better than she is. But she never hesitates to tear a new strip in your ass if you fuck up in her OR."
Melinda looked at the two women who were looking at her expectantly. She wasn't sure why. And then she got it.
This was where the quid pro quo started.
"I've... had a few strips torn myself," she admitted. "Not many," she added hastily, lest they think she was a complete lightweight. "And usually-- ninety-nine point nine times out of a hundred-- she's right. The first time I complained to my husband, he suggested I switch to Pedes. Pedes!" She laughed, and at the same time she wondered if tequila and an empty stomach were a good combination. She hadn't had much for lunch because Dr. Hahn ate at warp speed-- like she did everything else-- and that was gone now. Didn't seem to be affecting the other two, though, so she took another shot to match theirs.
She was stepping into the elevator when a breathless voice called after her.
She rolled her eyes.
Had to be a resident.
She turned around. Both the face and the name on her lab coat were unfamiliar.
"Dr. Erica Hahn?" the woman repeated.
"That would be me." She cocked her head because the woman she didn't recognize so clearly recognized her. "I'm sorry, have we met?" And prepared herself for the "I once listened to you give a lecture blah blah blah and it's the reason blah blah blah." It really was surprising some of the things some of her lectures had inspired.
Her favorite was the guy who had left medicine and joined the circus.
She automatically took the hand that was proffered and shook it, noting the other woman's smoothly symmetrical features, full lips and clear eyes. It still startled her-- the way she noticed things like this about women now. Like the warmth of the hand in hers and its slenderness.
"... Arizona Rollins," the stranger was saying, stepping in with her. "I'm Senior Resident in Pediatric Surgery. And I was wondering if I could trouble you for a consult."
Hahn's brow rose even as the elevator they were on descended. "I'm no longer on staff here, Dr. Rollins."
"I know, but..."
"And last I heard, Seattle Grace had a very capable head of Cardio. I suggest you consult with her." The car landed softly, and she was exiting when the younger woman called over her shoulder.
"It's a seven year old boy."
That stopped her. At least for the moment. She turned around and with a nod gestured for her to continue.
Rollins began as through she were presenting at rounds instead of in front of a woman in street clothes just outside the main elevator in Seattle Grace Hospital. "Benjamin Thompson, male, aged seven years. His parents reported a few weeks ago he began complaining of being tired and having trouble breathing. In fact, he had been excused from his PE class on a number of times because of it. They also stated that he wasn't eating. We ran an EKG to evaluate the heart structure, and Benjamin performed an exercise stress test..."
Hahn decided to cut to the chase. "Let me guess, pump failure."
Rollins nodded. "The heart catherization study confirmed it."
"I'm still not sure why you're telling me all this."
"Because you know as well as I do if the clinical treatment doesn't alleviate the symptoms, he's going to need valve replacement or a pacemaker almost immediately. He's going to need that eventually anyway."
"Which is why you have a head of Cardio," she replied.
"Who's never performed either surgery on a patient this young. I checked. No one else on staff has, either." The other woman met her gaze squarely. "You have."
Erica folded her arms together and considered the resident. Apparently the Hahnian thing worked in the non-cardio world of Seattle Grace as well, because she saw the other doctor blanch. She took a deep breath. "If the parents request me." Emphasizing the IF. "And if Chief Webber grants me privileges, which he might well not. And if Dr. Dixon doesn't stab you in the heart for this end run you're doing-- believe me, in her position I would-- then yes, I'll perform any surgery he might need."
"Which you will not be scrubbing in on."
This obviously surprised her. "He's my..."
"I don't appreciate your tactics, Dr. Rollins. Approaching me like this out of nowhere," she said bluntly. "Much less what it says about your attitude towards the Cardio Thoracic department of this hospital. Those are not qualities in a physician that I want in an OR with me. Do you understand?"
Rollins blew out a deep breath and ran a frustrated hand through her long hair. "I just want... Benjamin. He's just a kid."Erica's eyes softened for a moment, thinking the doctor wasn't much more than one herself. "More than likely the boy is going to die. We both know it. Someone that young. The odds of a heart matching..."
"And if one doesn't... It will give him and his parents as much time together as possible. You seem like the best chance of helping that happen when it comes." She jerked her head away and then brought her gaze back to Hahn. "Fuck scrubbing in on the surgery," she said angrily. "Just... help him."
By now she'd heard about the "Date and Tell" policy, which just seemed bizarre until Yang and Grey started talking about some doctor named Sloan, and she found herself saying that if she had been a nurse, she wouldn't have gone on strike-- she would have found the nearest steak knife and used it in all the strategic areas.
"You're so Cardio," Yang remarked.
"I was thinking Gyno," was Grey's response.
"Come on, Hahn would have totally stabbed him in the chest."
"Dr. Hahn would have never put herself in a place where she would want to stab him," Judson said without thinking.
Then felt the heat of two very interested gazes upon her.
"Not that I know that very much about Dr. Hahn," she said, ducking her head.
Another shot was slid in front of her and she thought, "How the hell do these people ever practice medicine?"
Still, she took it.
"You were saying..." Yang prompted.
"I'm not saying," she replied. "Dr. Hahn pretty much keeps her private life that way. So I don't know much, but somebody like that? I can't see her with."
"Who could you see her with?"
She knew the shot they handed her was a bribe but, even as she accepted it, decided it was now her turn for a little quid pro quo. "Who could you see her with?"
She saw the bounce between their eyes, knew that there was someone they had seen her with.
Just when things were about to get good, she heard a voice she had come to know very well over the last year.
"Judson!" Dr. Hahn's eyes took in all three women and then returned to her. "Glad to see you're not under the table yet."
"Takes more than a few shots of tequila to put me there," Melinda replied, although her vision was getting a little bleary. She watched Dr. Hahn eye the bottle of tequila, the chalkboard, and then smile.
"I'm going to get a drink. Meet me at the dart board."
"Dr. Hahn! You're back!" Joe repeated, although by his grin she knew he was teasing.
"Does this get me another free drink?"
"Considering the tab you paid last night... I'd say yes."
The trifecta and Shepherd had apparently forgotten that-- oh, there might be a bill to pay-- so she had told Joe to just put all of it on her card. As she had signed for it, she thought. "Who the fuck knew Buffalo wings cost so much?"
"Who's the new girl?" he asked, interrupting her thoughts and handing her a whiskey and something. He glanced over at Yang and Grey's table. "I haven't seen her before."
"She's my..." she started. And then the door opened and she stopped. Callie. And that doctor from the elevator-- what was her name? It took her a minute to remember it. Rollins. Callie's eyes were looking into the other woman's and they were smiling. She laughed at something Rollins said and rested her hand on her arm. It was discreet, but... it was...
It was something she remembered well.
Joe's eyes were sympathetic as he put another drink in front of her. Because she had drained the first one in the thirty seconds it took her to figure it out.
It took her only a slightly longer time to drain this one. "Thanks, Joe," and reached into her purse to pay the tab.
He stopped her before she could pull any cash out. "On the house, Doc."
She nodded in a slight gesture of thanks because the truth was-- she couldn't get out of there fast enough. She stopped by the table long enough to glare at Grey and didn't take any pleasure in the look of sheer panic that crossed the other woman's face. "Make sure the three of you show up able enough to help me save Samantha's life."
She caught Callie's eyes following her as she left.
Part 7: Light Up the Dark
This is a mistake.
She had known it the instant she saw Erica. The distraction that she thought was going to happen wasn't going to happen. And, more to the point, she knew now she didn't want it to.
She knew what she wanted. Even as she realized that what she wanted... well might not be wanted.
Arizona's eyes were kind as Joe sent over a bottle of tequila and a couple of glasses. She waited until they were delivered before asking conversationally, "When were you planning on telling me that your ex was back in town?"
"I... I..." Callie stuttered, unsure of what direction this conversation was heading. "I'm not sure what you..."
"Callie," Arizona interrupted her softly. "I may not have been at Seattle Grace that long, but I already know that place leaks gossip like a sieve. You and Hahn were all anyone was talking about today."
She poured a shot and handed it to Callie, who shook her head in refusal.
"It'll help with the hangover, if nothing else," Arizona told her.
She had a point, so she downed it-- although doing just that had gotten her into trouble on more than one occasion.
"So, you want to tell me what happened?"
It only took two more shots to run through the clusterfuck that had been her relationship-- if they could even call it that-- with Erica. Arizona remained silent through it all until she got to the Sloan bit.
"What did she say when you told her?" An unfamiliar intensity burned in the other woman's eyes.
"Okay." Callie said and then shrugged helplessly as she added. "Then she went back to her paperwork and wouldn't look at me. I stood there for forty-five minutes waiting for something, anything, but... it was like I was invisible to her. So I finally left."
"Jesus, Calliope! You told her this at the hospital?" Arizona helped herself to another shot, slammed it down and poured another one. "What then?" An angry edge colored her voice.
"I went to her house that night and asked to come in."
"And she said..." Rollins shook her head. "As if I didn't already know."
"Okay, " Callie acknowledged, taking the bottle and sliding it to the other side of the table. Shivering slightly despite the crowded warmth of the bar, she poured another shot and stared into its amber depths. "When she shut the door, she just looked at me... Then she asked me if I had taken a shower that day. She knew I hadn't-- we hadn't had time to-- when we left her house that morning." She refused to meet Arizona's eyes and continued. "When I told her no, she led me into her bathroom and undressed me while the water got warm. Then she watched me while I..." She took a deep breath. "When I was done she dried me off and took me to her bedroom." She mustered up the courage to look Arizona squarely in the eyes. "She laid me on the bed and stripped herself bare for me. I.... she was so beautiful... Then she made love to me..." Not knowing how to say that Erica had touched not just her body but also her soul in that gentle, slow lovemaking. Instead she said, "She wouldn't let me touch her... like that... but I woke up in her arms the next morning. I went to kiss her, but she shook her head no, and I figured that was it. So I got up to take a shower."
"She wouldn't let you," Arizona guessed accurately.
Callie nodded slowly. "She said she wanted me to wear her all day the way I had worn him the day before."
"And you have every day since."
"I've taken lots of showers since." She tried to play it off, though they both knew it clearly wasn't working. "At least one every day and sometimes more when patients get their upchuck on." She glanced away once more. She sighed. "I didn't know what... but I did... I knew she was who... and we were... I thought it was going to be okay... then she found out about that whole Stevens thing... and I hadn't ever told her..." She trailed off. That was one piece of Seattle Grace history she didn't need to bring Rollins up to speed on. "Before I knew it... she was gone." The desolation of the days that followed... the urge to punch Yang when she did her little victory dance upon hearing the news... calling Erica's cell phone only to discover the number was disconnected... It all threatened to overwhelm her once again.
She knew Arizona was waiting for their eyes to meet again, so she did so. Reluctantly.
"You didn't need to tell me any of that, you know?" Her hands were steady, although Callie heard the light tremble in her voice as another shot hit the back of her throat. "I could see it in your eyes the minute you saw her when we walked into the bar. " Her expression was soft. "Just like I could see it in hers when she saw you." Arizona shook her head and ran her fingers along Callie's face in a gesture that seemed unbearably sweet to Callie. "Go," she said quietly. "If she's not... if it doesn't... I'm still here."
This time it was Arizona's eyes that shifted away, and she laughed ruefully. "On the bright side, it looks like the dart board has just opened up."
Callie turned her head, and they both watched Grey erase Hahn's name and slink back to her chair.
She couldn't get to the Archfield soon enough.
It took a trip to the ATM and two hundred dollars to pry Erica's room number from the desk clerk. Even as she handed over the money-- she wondered what kind of reception she would receive.
She knocked on the door.
To her surprise, Erica answered it.
In the same black slacks she had been wearing at Joe's and the same black shirt... but now it was only half-buttoned.
Her eyes raced over Erica; and she took in everything she could, because chances were that the door was going to get slammed in her face any second.
That face. That body. Those eyes.
To her surprise, Erica took her hand and pulled her into the room, shutting the door firmly behind them.
Callie wasn't really sure where her breath had gone, but it was certainly nowhere to be found in her body.
Strong hands gently cradled her face, stroking her cheeks, running through her hair. And all the while pale blue eyes searched hers. She felt the gaze ripple all the way through her-- the way it always did when Erica looked at her-- but the difference this time was that she was no longer afraid of it. She opened her mouth to speak, but Erica stopped her.
"Don't," she said, hoarsely. "Kiss me instead."
Callie didn't hesitate, and their lips met in a gentle reunion that left them both shaking. She could feel it in Erica's body along with the echo in hers. She deepened the kiss, her tongue asking and being granted entrance.
They were clinging to each other-- Callie's arms winding around Erica's waist, and Erica's fingers threading their way through her hair.
She never wanted to move again.
That was how right she felt at this moment.
The long, slow kiss ended, and Callie moaned in disappointment until she felt Erica's hand resting over her heart. Which just happened to be pounding in a way that was just this side of out of control. The heart surgeon massaged the distressed organ in a manner that included more than a few strokes over her breasts-- which left her gasping, and her heart pounding even faster.
"Come to bed," Erica murmured.
A part of Callie froze, even as so much more of her was warm and pulsing. That was what Erica had said that night. After...
"Not if you won't let me touch you," she said softly, pulling away and fighting the urge to cross her arms.
Those hands cradled her face once more and then left her to reach down to slowly finish unbuttoning her shirt, shrugging it off to reveal a smooth expanse of pale skin. She brought Callie's hands to her stomach, then to her breasts. "You can touch me any way you want to."
Slightly drunk would have been a generous way to describe Melinda's condition when she reached the Econo-Lodge that Tobler's secretary had booked for her. Very drunk.... not so much... but somewhere in between, she suspected. She had been more than a little perplexed when Dr. Hahn left almost immediately after she had gotten there. Then she had noticed a woman that she had seen fleetingly in the hospital that day get up and leave not too long after Dr. Hahn's departure.
Yang had propped her hand on her chin. "Interesting." Then looked at Grey. Then looked at her.
It took the entire bottle of tequila for them to tell the whole story.
"Thank God for Buffalo wings," she thought as she pressed the number one button on her phone. "And thank God for Matt's insistence on speed dial."
"Hey, gorgeous, been waitin' to hear that voice of yours," he said cheerfully. "What took you so long?"
She flopped to the bed, phone in hand, conscious of the smell of smoke in her hair and not sure of where to start.
"The consult didn't go well?" he asked, concern evident in his voice. Matt was a music video editor, and what he knew about medicine came from watching "St. Elsewhere" and "ER." And what his wife brought home to him. But he had picked up some of the language along the way.
"The consult went fine." She threw her hand over her eyes. "Dr. Hahn will be performing the procedure in the morning, and I'll be observing." She stopped, not sure of what she should tell her husband. What she had learned. How Dr. Hahn was also Erica. And was about to get her heart broken. Again.
"This place is crazy," she finally said. "And I can't wait to get home to you. Tell me you love me."
"You know I do."
"Say it anyway."
"I love you, Darlin'. Come home soon, so I can show you how much."
That first kiss made words superfluous.
As they were now. The cool air from the Archfield's overcompensating air conditioning brushed over their bare skin, the scent of sweat and sex still clinging to them in spite of it.
Erica nestled her lips against Callie's neck and ran her fingers lightly against the other woman's stomach.
She wanted this to last for as long as was possible, because she knew it wouldn't last a lifetime, and she was coward enough to take what she could get.
"You need to get some sleep," came the low voice of the woman in whose arms she currently rested.
"I need you," she said without thinking.
"You've got me," came the unhesitating answer.
She wanted it to be the truth, so much that she almost cried. Instead she kissed Callie again and held her gently.
"How long are you here?"
"After the procedure, if everything goes okay.... probably not more than a day or two."
"Then you'll leave."
"You could always come back."
She heard the hesitation in Callie's voice even as she heard the words. Kissed her instead of answering the implied questions.
Come back to Seattle. Come back to the craziness of Seattle Grace. Come back to her.
She didn't know if that was possible. On any level. Her life had suffered as such a seismic shift that sometimes she thought she should have relocated to San Francisco-- but that would have been too much of a cliché-- and so she hadn't.
Her hands roamed over Callie, and she marveled once more at the softness of her skin. They kissed once more. "I have a Chief at LA Gen who would be incredibly pissed if I did that," she said lightly. "Not to mention the Cardio-god position at Grace is filled..."
"And you have someone waiting for you in LA," Callie finished for her.
She could feel Callie beginning to retreat and so clung more tightly to her. Her palm cupped the other woman's face. "We've never made it past second base," she acknowledged and confessed. "I... I never really wanted to, I guess." She decided to broach the subject. "You and that other doctor..."
Erica couldn't help but laugh. "Who the hell names their kid after a state? Were they hippies or something?"
Callie settled again into their embrace. "I don't know." She kissed Erica gently. "We never made it past second base either."
Erica exhaled in silent relief. She wasn't Rollins' Sloan.
"We could try..." Callie offered tentatively, understanding what Erica hadn't said and turning to face her fully. "The distance, I know... but we could try and make it work... We could try..."
A sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a cry strangled Erica's throat, and it made her touch Callie all the more softly. She kissed the tip of Callie's nose. "Callie, we couldn't make it work when we lived in the same city and worked in the same hospital. What on Earth makes you think we could do better if I were half a coast away?"
"Because I know what-- no, who I want now," was the resolute answer. "You."
She wanted it to be true. God how much she wanted it to be true, even as the pragmatist in her objected. It was that part of her that replied. "I know the kind of schedule you keep. And you know the kind of one that I do."
Callie's answer was a slow trail of her fingers down Erica's ribcage, coming to rest on her hip.
"So what happens when we can't see each other for a month?" she continued in spite of the overwhelming urge to take Callie's hand and guide it between her legs. "What happens when that very beautiful pediatrician-Pedes!-- asks you out for a friendly dinner? What happens when you've had a shit day, a few shots of tequila and Sloan asks you if you want to dance?"
Callie had asked her questions. Now Erica was asking her own.
"You don't trust me," she answered bluntly.
Erica kissed her again, and the look in her eyes was regretful. She wanted this woman so much. "You think you've given me much reason to?"
Heaven help her, she loved this woman so much.
So much so that she folded completely into Callie's embrace and silenced the conversation with another kiss, wanting to believe in everything that couldn't possibly be true.
Callie didn't answer, but her arms tightened around her.
They slept entwined together until the light broke over the sky and reality beckoned them once more.
"Anybody seen Hahn yet?"
"Anybody seen Torres yet?"
"I think I get the bonus points," Yang interrupted. "Cause look-- there they are."
Karev always had a way with words.
The four of them stared as Hahn and Torres emerged through the employee entrance together--not touching, not even doing anything that remotely implied they were anything but colleagues-- but everyone knew. Because Hahn only smiled That Way for Callie.
Yang turned to Grey. "At least we get to induce a controlled heart attack with someone who just got laid. Could be worse."
Part 8: Here Comes Good-Bye
She glared at her two residents for the day and her observer/resident and was relieved to see that their eyes were not completely bloodshot.
As for her own self, she could still feel the imprint of Callie's body on hers. In the slight puffiness of her lips, in the complete ease of her body. She had even stolen a kiss beside their cars before they walked in together. And that was something they had never done before.
She was ready to save a life.
"You ready Sammy?" Erica asked, smiling down at her, deliberately using her lover's nickname to relax her.
"Not in the least," Samantha confessed. "But then again, I don't want to die either." She glanced over at Yang. Her gaze flickered between the doctors. "Who's going to be talking to me while this is happening?"
"Dr. Yang will be assisting me in the medical procedure," Erica answered smoothly. "While Dr. Grey will be talking to you throughout everything that happens. It's very important that you focus..." She brushed her hand over Samantha's. "In spite of everything that your body is feeling. You need to keep breathing, need to keep talking. It doesn't matter what you say."
Erica saw Samantha take the deepest breath she could. They really needed to get started. "Can I ask for something? Like the way I asked for you?"
Three doctors cast fleeting glances between each other, and Erica was very conscious of Judson's presence behind them.
She took Samantha's hand. "Of course."
"Is it okay if Dr. Yang's the one who talks to me while you do this thing?"
Erica's eyes flew to Yang's. They both knew how she had dealt with getting Burke off the intubation. You will do this, her glare said. You will not disappoint this hospital. You will not disappoint yourself.
The brief nod that Yang gave her was all the acknowledgment that she needed.
"Absolutely." She smiled once more at Samantha. "Then shall we? Ladies, let's proceed."
"Heard anything yet?" Richard said, standing over the lunch table that Shepherd and Sloan shared. His hands were on his hips, which was always a bad sign, but his glare was notched down from death-ray level.
He took the liberty of helping himself to a chair beside them and slumped heavily into it.
Sloan considered him speculatively. "You really want her gone, don't you?"
Richard stared at both men for a long moment. He shook his head. "Quite the contrary. I was just wondering if she would entertain the notion of coming back."
Sloan's jaw fell open in shock, even as Shepherd's eyebrows lifted at the possibility.
Richard leaned closer. "All of us know Dr. Dixon isn't..." Saying without saying. "And Dr. Hahn is one of the finest surgeons..."
"She not another Burke," Shepherd interrupted him.
"Do you think I want her to be?"
"I'm not sure, but I think that had a lot to do with why she left," he answered. "This whole Stevens thing..." Finally broaching another subject the everybody knew about but didn't want to talk about. "If she had been in Burke's place, she would have shut that down," he said.
"Burke happened to have been shot at the time," Richard objected.
"And the only reason Burke was shot is because he came back here knowing something wrong was happening. And he didn't call anybody in Cardio, he didn't call you-- because he was covering. And he wanted that heart."
Richard looked poised to object, but Derek continued, "You know as well as I do that she would have had someone on the scene confirm what was happening with Duquette. And when she found out she would have ordered the L-Vad replaced. And then she would had have Stevens kicked out of the program. And she wouldn't have covered up for her girlfriend. In the meantime..." He turned his head to the side, knowing how involved Meredith was. "And then maybe the more needful patient would have gotten the heart."
Richard glanced around. The cafeteria really wasn't the place to have the conversation that he knew was brewing. "You're saying..."
Derek leaned towards him, speaking softly. "I'm saying that this hospital betrayed her. And she was the one who put the heart into Duquette's chest. Without knowing the circumstances. Without knowing," he emphasized. He glanced over at Mark. "And she found out about those circumstances at the same time her lover confessed to cheating on her with a manwhore. What on Earth makes you think she would want to come back to Seattle Grace?"
Richard leaned back in his chair, folding his arms. The other two men waited in silence. He bowed his head, shaking it softly before lifting it up to eye each man in turn.
"Because this place needs her."
"Oh God... OH GOD..."
"Keep talking Sammy..." Yang said, gripping Samantha's hand tightly. "Try and keep breathing."
"I can't. GOD I can't. Please make it stop..." Her eyes met Yang's pleadingly.
Yang didn't do soft and gentle, so she just did it the Yang way. "It's not gonna stop." Glancing at Hahn who nodded at her. "Because you want to get better and this is gonna help make it happen."
"Keep talking, Sammy," Yang encouraged.
"So bad, so much... I don't want to leave Luce..."
"And this will help keep you here with her."
A great heaving gasp left Samantha, so heavy that Yang was afraid they had lost her. That the worst-case-scenario had just happened. She jerked her head towards Hahn. "We need..."
"Wait," Hahn told her.
And the Samantha's breath evened out more deeply than in the short time Yang had known her it ever had.
"Oh God... Oh God..." Samantha murmured, her eyes flickering open.
Yang watched Hahn approach the bed and take Samantha's hand once more.
"Told you, didn't I?"
"Can't get my breath..."
"Just take them deep and long, Sammy. Slow as you can."
Yang saw a softness enter Hahn's eyes as she leaned towards the younger woman.
"You'll get used to it, I promise. And it will feel so much better,"
"Luce..." Samantha asked, clearly breathing easier than before-- although her body was fighting the years of accommodation her heart had demanded.
"Will be here as soon as she can. She's waiting outside, wanting to see you as much as you want to see her. " She stroked Samantha's hand once more. "But what we need to do right now is get you into recovery and let you get some rest. I'll talk to Luce and tell her about everything." She smiled. "Then maybe she can get some rest at the same time you do."
Hahn went to withdraw her hand, but Samantha kept it close. "Thank you, Dr. Hahn."
Yang was astonished at the smile on Hahn's face.
"Pleasure's mine, Samantha. Thank you, for trusting me."
"I guess I don't need to ask how things ended last night."
Arizona really needed to stop sneaking up on her like this, Callie thought as she barely managed not to drop the chart she was holding in her hand. When she collected herself enough, she turned to face the pediatrician. "Whoa, didn't hear you there."
The other woman smiled. "Little cat feet, you know."
"Apparently so." She hugged the chart closer to her, at a loss for what else to say. Her senses were so overwhelmed with Erica, with their lovemaking-- slow and gentle at first, before they realized this was really happening and let themselves go to indulge in the passion they both felt, so much so that she already knew where they would both be aching for the next few days.
She didn't regret a minute of it.
And looked forward to another night of it. If Erica still wanted her, that is.
Then she remembered that kiss in the parking lot-- the way Erica's mouth had consumed hers, the way her hands had cradled her face.
Oh yes-- Erica still wanted her.
And she would take as many days as she had left, and hope for a chance to plead her case for some more tomorrows.
Arizona was regarding her carefully. "You think she's the one?"
Callie nodded, then ducked her head. "I know she is." Then she met Arizona's eyes once again. "She can be the most frustrating, aggravating woman on the planet. And she doesn't like people-- which makes us have a lot in common actually, because I don't either." She laughed softly. "The thing about Erica... once she lets you past all the Hahnian stuff... What nobody gets about her is that she's so hard on the outside because she's so soft on the inside." She met Arizona's eyes squarely. "She let me see all the soft stuff. And that made it okay for me to do that too."
There was no other way to explain their connection, other than the simple fact that they had just let each other in. And in doing so they had fallen in love. Because she knew now she was in love with Erica Hahn.
She felt the heat of Arizona's glance and saw the sadness in her eyes. "I hope she doesn't disappoint you."
Callie smiled at her. "She never has."
"I hear everything went very well today."
Erica's hair was still damp from the shower that she had just taken, and Richard's sudden appearance outside the residents' locker room startled her. Why hadn't they finished refixing the female attendings' shower room after that whole plumbing fiasco escaped her, until she thought to herself. Oh, Dixon must be the only one.
Just like she had been.
Why fix something you don't need?
She couldn't wait to get back to LA, she told herself and ignored the throb in the thing she called 'a muscle' instead of 'a heart.' Then things wouldn't be so crazy.
Then she would stop wanting something she had realized a year ago that she couldn't have.
But wanted so much.
Outwardly she said to Webber blandly, "You're right. Everything did." She inclined her head. "Both Yang and Grey were a credit to this hospital. You should be celebrating." Ironically echoing what Webber had said to her a year ago.
He acknowledged the remark with a brief dip of his head. And then changed the subject. "I had a visit from Dr. Dixon this morning."
Erica laughed. "I bet you did. Was she confessing to stabbing Rollins in the chest?"
"Not quite," He acknowledged.. "But I'm sure she wanted to. She's not the most..." He trailed off. "There was quite a discussion, but in the end she recognized that you had more experience in this circumstance. So if you're willing..."
She interrupted anything else he might have said. "If Benjamin's parents want me to perform the surgery, then I will." She folded her arms. "Unless Seattle Grace doesn't want my services."
"I told you, Erica..." Webber shook his head, forsaking the tenuous detente they had established between them because he really felt like he finally was seeing the Erica behind the Hahnian. "You'll always have privileges here."
They regarded each other for a long moment, and Erica fought the surge of emotions-- reconnecting with Callie, the remembrance of a loneliness she had never known was there until she had learned so much. In too short a time. And damn her. It was all connected to this hospital.
"You're going to be here for a few more days, you said," Richard was saying. ""You want to go meet Benjamin and his parents?" He paused, "For when the inevitable happens."
"Might as well," she replied.
Sloan and Shepherd looked at each other as they both scrubbed into different surgeries.
"You really think Webber wants Hahn back?" Mark asked incredulously.
"I can't think why he wouldn't," Derek replied blandly. He believed wholeheartedly that yes, Seattle Grace would be a better place if Erica Hahn were their head of Cardio-- but he wasn't sure if that would be the right choice for Erica. Not that he knew much more about Erica than what the last few days had told him. But they had told him a great deal.
The most important one was-- she loved Callie Torres.
Given the rest of the circumstances of her current life... it was the only reason he could see her coming back.
He didn't know what it was about this place-- the one he went fleeing to, the one that brought his estranged wife back into his life, the one that brought her lover-- and his best friend-- back to him.
Would it really be any odder if Erica came back?
Came back for Callie?
And to try and make this hospital resemble the kind of doctor she was. And help them all to be the kind of doctors they could be.
They were walking down the corridor that would lead them to Benjamin's room. "Should we page Dr. Dixon or..." She was grateful that she didn't trip over the name... "Dr. Rollins before we go in?
Webber seemed startled. "I don't see why that would be necessary. Both Dr. Dixon and Dr. Rollins believe you're the best surgeon for the procedures. I have no problem with you and I talking to the parents together."
Erica ran an exasperated hand through her hair. This place really never did change. Protocol was not a word in their lexicon. As a surgeon she vastly understood the need for improvisation sometimes-- there was a reason she had a patient's room turned into an OR-- but the fly by the seat of your pants and hope for the best culture that seemed to permeate this hospital was something that she'd always had a hard time dealing with. "Well, I do. Even if the parents agree to me performing the necessary surgeries, in the interim, Dr. Rollins will still be his primary physician-- who will need to keep me apprised of his condition as it progresses. And it might be nice for the head of Cardio to explain why she recommends that I perform them."
"I think I can do that in her absence," Webber replied acknowledging her point with an incline of his head. "But you're right about Dr. Rollins. I'll have her paged immediately."
"I'd appreciate it," Erica answered, not letting herself think about the fact that in moments she was going to be seeing the woman Callie had gone to instead of her. Even if they had never made it past second base, even if she was the one who spent last night making love with Callie instead of her, even if... a thousand even ifs went through her head... it still didn't stop a part of her from wanting to go to the cafeteria and finding the nearest steak knife.
"Dr. Webber," the slightly breathless younger woman addressed the chief of staff. Then her gaze met Erica's.
If Webber registered the eye-drow-down between the women when Rollins arrived, he didn't acknowledge it.
"Dr. Hahn. I'm glad you decided to meet Benjamin."
Erica allowed Rollins to take the lead as they walked into Benjamin's room, where she saw two parents on the close edge and a boy who was too small to be lying in a hospital bed this big.
"Hey Benji," Rollins said to the youngster familiarly. "How's it going today?"
The boy smiled. "You've already asked me that twice today, Nevada."
The younger doctor laughed. "Arizona."
He shrugged, "Still a state, right."
Erica considered anyone under the age of twenty-one to be ankle-biters, but she had to laugh-- which brought Benjamin's attention, as well as that of his parents, to her.
"Benji," Rollins said, glancing in the direction where Erica and Webber stood. "You know Chief Webber, right?" When he nodded she continued. "This is Dr. Hahn," gesturing towards Erica. "She works on hearts. And is here to help yours."
"Hi Benjamin," Erica said, stepping forward and smiling at him. Then she turned her eyes to his parents, who were alternately looking hopeful and terrified. "I'm Dr. Erica Hahn." She offered her hand to each one in turn. "Dr. Rollins asked me in for a consult."
"We..." Benjamin's father started, "Talked to a Dr. Dixon..."
Erica glanced at the bed where Benji's eyes were following with animated interest.
"Why don't we talk outside," she suggested.
"No," Benjamin interrupted. "I want to hear." He paused a moment to let his breath catch up with him. "It's my heart, right? New Mexico told me something was wrong with it."
Erica smiled at him, tried to tell herself it was because he kept mangling Rollins name, but the boy was right. He deserved to know. She glanced at Rollins. "Can you get me one of those breakaway hearts and a pacemaker demo?"
As they were waiting for Rollins' return, Benjamin's father shifted uncomfortably. "You're on staff here?" he asked Erica.
"Actually no," she replied thankful that the ease in her voice belied everything that had happened in the past. "I'm head of Cardio-Thoracic at Los Angeles General. I'm here because a long-time patient requested me to perform a surgery."
"Dr. Hahn is our former head of Cardio," Webber interjected.
Benjamin's eyes were bright as he asked, "And you went away?"
She was temporally at a loss for an answer to the unexpectedly loaded question. Her eyes collided with Webber's, and then she smiled. "Got enough of the rain. Los Angeles is much sunnier."
"You meet any movie stars?" he asked excitedly.
Erica didn't have any way of telling the boy that her life consisted of fixing hearts and making it to second base, but she managed to recall the one celebrity encounter she'd had. "Angelina Jolie," she replied.
"Yes, way." She laughed. "I nearly bowled her and her son over because I wasn't watching where I was going..." Omitting the part that it was because of her exhaustion after performing a ten hour surgery on someone not much older then Benjamin was. "She was really nice about it."
"Did you get her autograph?"
Thankfully Rollins returned with the requested items, and thus saving Erica any more small chat.
Small chat was not something she did well.
She smiled with more than a little gratitude and took the breakaway heart into her hands. "This is what your heart looks like, Benjamin. I'm sure Dr. Rollins has shown you."
"And there's something wrong with it, right?"
"This is the size of a normal heart in someone your age." She looked at Benjamin, then flickered her glance to his parents. "Do you want to see your heart?" she asked quietly. She took the minute nod from his mother as permission to continue, then she walked over to the x-ray screen affixed to the wall and flipped it on.
It didn't take a medical degree to see the differences in the breakaway heart in Erica's hand and the film they all saw on the screen.
"That's what I look like on the inside," Benjamin asked, a slight tone of wonder in his voice. Erica fought the urge to smile as she nodded. "You see this?" She walked over and touched the image of the boy's enlarged heart. "Your heart isn't able to pump enough blood into your body which gives you oxygen, and because of that, your lungs are having trouble." She pointed at the area surrounding his heart. "See that? Those are your lungs, and there's fluid in there. Which is what happens when your body doesn't get enough oxygen. That's what makes it so hard for you to breathe."
"What happens next?" Benjamin's mother interrupted softly.
"As I'm sure Dr. Rollins told you..." She glanced at the other woman briefly. "There are a number of medications that can help to alleviate this condition. If he responds to the clinical treatments, he'll be able to return to school and any number of activities." She paused for a moment, looking at Benjamin before returning her eyes to his parents. "He'll need surgery, hopefully later rather than sooner." She took a deep breath and tucked her hands into her lab coat as her gaze met his unflinching one. "Then we'll need to get you a new heart."
Yang slumped on the couch in the residents' lounge the way she always did, but Callie could tell by the elated look in Yang's eyes that the procedure had been a success. "So? You and Hahn...
Callie was elated too, but Yang wasn't the only one who had been educated in all things Hahian, so she didn't even bother to try and deflect the question. "You're not going to even try and be subtle about this, are you?"
"Any point to that?" She paused before adding, "At this point."
Callie sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "Too many points-- which might be part of the problem, but no, I guess not."
"How'd Wyoming take it?"
"It's 'Arizona,' Yang." she said exasperatedly. "Why can't anyone remember that?"
"Cause naming your kid after a state is stupid, and I refuse to not act on the opportunity for such easy mockery. And besides, she's pedes. Pedes!"
Callie watched Yang eye her with interest.
"So you were talking about you and Hahn..." she trailed off hopefully.
"No, you were trying to interrogate me about me and Hahn."
"Ha!" Yang's tone was triumphant. "So you admit there's a you and Hahn."
"Not for much longer." Callie dropped her eyes. "Cause as you pointed out-- she's not going to be here for long."
Yang did the thoughtful head tilt that always worried her. There it was-- that mouth-working thing leading up to Yang speaking girl. "Then figure out a way to make her stay."
"I think that went well," Webber said as they were walking down the corridor towards the elevator. Robbins had disappeared almost immediately after the consult, and Erica didn't have any doubt that it was because the other woman knew exactly what had happened last night.
She ran a hand through her hair, bringing her mind back to things more pressing than the memory of Callie's mouth against her. "The Thompson boy is a strong and smart kid. I hope a miracle happens."
Webber nodded, knowing as well as she did that the likelihood of a heart for Benjamin was... well, not good. "But you'll do everything they request..." he trailed off.
"Of course," she said, and then had to laugh. "Although after all this Greg's going to think I'm on permanent loan to Seattle Grace."
"Wouldn't be a bad idea," Webber said cryptically. "Can I buy you a cup of coffee?"
"The mud you people call coffee?" She shook her head. "I don't think so." She glanced at her watch. "I need to check on Sammy, but after that I'm free. I think the least you could do is buy me a real drink. Meet me at Joe's in an hour, say?"
She could tell that he was taken aback, but he rallied. "We're going to terrify all the residents."
She laughed. "No, you're going to terrify all the residents. Me? I'm just visiting."
"Then you haven't heard about 'Hahnian'," Webber said.
"I have," she replied. "But I still don't believe it."
"Believe it," he returned. "I've even heard Yang say it.
Yup, they were terrifying the residents, Erica observed as she and Webber walked into Joe's and settled themselves at the bar.
"Dr Hahn!" Joe said, smiling. "You're back!"
She laughed. "Last encore, Joe. If my patient's stats are still as strong as they are now, I'll be leaving tomorrow."
"Well that sucks," he said matter-of-factly. "You class up the joint. Not to mention you rule at darts. And you don't start any fights."
"No," Webber commented wryly. "She only does that at Seattle Grace."
"Only the ones that are worth it," she muttered under her breath.
"Whiskey and something for you Dr. Hahn and a ginger ale on the rocks for you Dr. Webber?"
Webber inclined his head and smiled. "Sounds like a plan. Good to you, Erica?"
"Absolutely," she replied, rolling her neck to get the cricks out. The ablation involved a very controlled release and very steady hands-- not to mention a very steady everything else. Now the exertion of the procedure, not to mention the exhilaration of spending last night with Calllie, was beginning to catch up with her. She was hoping the whiskey and something and a couple of hours down time would loosen her up because Callie was getting off shift at eight and had mentioned something about Joe's.
She was hoping that had been an invitation, and that was one reason she had asked Webber to Joe's.
Not to mention the added bonus of scaring the hell out of the residents. That was just pure fun.
She and Webber sat in idle silence until Joe slid their drinks in front of them. Webber lifted his briefly towards her, so she did the same. They didn't toast, but it was an acknowledgement of each other.
"So..." Webber started abruptly. "We... That is... Dr. Dixon's contract is up in six months." His eyes met Erica's. "The hospital doesn't plan on renewing it."
Erica lofted a brow in response. "That bad?" was all she could manage as the whiskey something slid down her throat.
"She's a good surgeon, but..." Webber dipped his head. "She's not a good teacher." His eyes returned to hers. "And as you well know, this is a teaching hospital."
Erica's first inclination was to ask him then why the hell was he letting the residents run amuck instead of teaching them? Wasn't what he had been pounding into her before she left? Instead she finished her drink and nodded at Joe, who promptly returned with another. When it was centered in front of her, she asked, "Who are you looking at? Eric Sandsport at Detroit Central is excellent, and I heard he was looking for a move."
"Sandsport's good, but he's never been shortlisted for the Harper-Avery," Webber replied. "Which you have. Congratulations. Again."
Erica smiled wryly. "Burke will probably win it. Again."
"I wouldn't be so sure about it, but that's not what I was talking about."
"I thought you were talking about someone to replace Dixon," Erica replied, perplexed.
"I was..." He looked at her. "I had someone else in mind for the position."
"I'm curious," she said, because she had known how much Seattle Grace had spent to bring Dixon on board in the wake of her abrupt departure. She didn't know how much more they could afford.
"You," he said succinctly.
"You're out of your mind," she answered just as succinctly.
She stared at him in shock.
"Now I know why Seattle Grace is so crazy." Erica rolled her eyes and drained the rest of her drink, which Joe promptly refilled. "You're nuts. I finally figured it out... it all starts from the top down."
He laughed, and the sight of Richard Webber laughing was almost as rare as Erica Hahn doing the same. "There might be some validity to that claim, but still-- all the same-- I'm serious." Webber leveled his gaze at Erica's. "I'm asking you to come back to Seattle Grace."
She stared at him incredulously. "What the hell are you thinking?"
"That I had lured you away from Seattle Pres once. I was hoping to do it again."
"One-- I'm not at Seattle Pres anymore and two-- given what happened the last time makes you think anything would turn out differently?"
"Because maybe this time we'll get it right," he answered evenly, sipping his ginger ale.
"Maybe?" Erica asked incredulously. "You're suggesting I uproot my life-- again-- on what I have to say is a very doubtful 'maybe?'" She shook her head and glared at Webber, surprised to see that the Hahnian thing also worked on Chiefs of Staff and made a mental note to try and lay the whammy on Greg the next time they argued. She dropped the glare and shook her head. "You don't get it-- I'm happy in LA. I have a brilliant career. I have colleagues who enjoy spending time with me outside the hospital. And..." she trailed off. "I have... someone... who cares about me."
Refusing to contemplate the ramifications of last night.
To her surprise Richard nodded thoughtfully-- which made Joe think they wanted another round, which was promptly delivered. "I can understand that..." he began, but Erica interrupted him.
"And besides-- LA Gen is supposed to move up in the rankings this year-- maybe as high as number 2..."
"Which is, in part, a credit to what you've brought to their program..."
"And Seattle Grace is expected to drop. Again."
"You're probably right about that," he agreed with an incline of his head.
"So why on Earth would I want to come back here-- to the kind of life that I lived in Seattle-- especially after everything that has happened?"
She watched him considering his words carefully-- it was almost more painful than watching Yang try to speak girl to Grey, but she waited it out. "You don't have to," he said softly. "The way I see it... You can have a brilliant career anywhere." He cracked a wry smile. "Even at Seattle Grace. You know your own talent, Erica. As for the colleagues... I hear you and Shepherd shut this joint down the other night. And the Gentlemen's Evenings are sorely missing their fourth member. And..." he waited until her gaze met his. "As I understand it, there is someone who cares about you very much right there in the hospital."
Erica felt her face burn scarlet and downed the last of her drink. "That makes it official. There is nobody at Seattle Grace that didn't know about us."
"Hate to break it to you..."
Erica hung her head.
"And..." Richard added brightly, "If there were any who didn't, that kiss that you planted on Dr. Torres in the parking garage this morning would have eliminated all doubt."
Now she buried her hands in her hair.
"Erica..." he waited for pale blue eyes to meet his dark ones. "But none of that is what is most important."
"And that is?"
"The fact that you can make this place a better hospital. You know it. And now I finally do too," he conceded.
"Just ... just.... think about it. You have months..." he began, but stopped abruptly when he saw Erica's attention directed elsewhere.
Eric's heart surged, and she forgot nearly everything about their conversation because coming through the door was Callie.
Their eyes met, and a raw open grin spread over each woman's face.
Richard startled her by leaning in close. "In case you wondered how everyone knew, look at her looking at you." He smiled at her. "You look the same way."
"Richard..." she faltered.
"Go." He gestured towards Callie. "I've got the check. Like you said, least I can do."
She was off the barstool like a shot, but turned back to him and said impulsively, "I'll think about it, Richard. About coming back."
She met Callie before the other woman could make it halfway across the crowded bar. "Hey you." Fighting the urge to just take Callie in her arms and claim her. "Can I buy you dinner? I hear that new place Mosby's is terrific."
"I have a better idea," Callie murmured, her voice barely audible in the mill and throng of the crowd. "The Archfield's room service is just as terrific."
A brow arched. "Oh is it?"
A languid smile curved Callie's lips. "Even better, we can eat it in bed. Naked."
Erica's mouth went dry. "Suits me."
Yang was, as usual, breathless as she skidded to a halt in front of Erica with the same astonished expression that she had always worn in the past whenever Erica had paged her. "You... um... "
"You want to do the follow up on Samantha?" she asked mildly. "I am, after all, leaving tomorrow."
"Yes. I mean... of course..." She blinked and did a double-take. "You're leaving?"
"Yes, Yang. That is generally what visiting doctors do when they have a patient with a favorable outcome."
"But... but.." Yang stammered.
Erica noticed the working of the other woman's jaw and intercepted her before she could say anything else. "My patients at LA Gen might appreciate me following up on their cases. And continuing to treat them." The last thing in the world she wanted was to speak girl with Yang. "And I'd like to get back to my life," she added acerbically, not quite knowing why. Except she did know why. The last two nights with Callie, coupled with Richard's offer had her thinking things that weren't even remotely sane.
Things like coming back to Seattle Grace.
Things like how much she loved Callie.
Things like things might finally turn out in her favor.
But those kind of things never did.
The blink of an eye passed, and she saw Yang staring at her expectantly. "Let's go talk to Samantha."
The two women in the room were waiting for them in anticipation as they pushed the door open.
Erica smiled at both of them in turn. "Your blood work looks great," she said. "So good that it looks like you'll only be here for a few more days." And ignored the glance that Samantha and Lucy exchanged. She waited only a few moments longer before continuing, focusing her gaze on her patient. "You need at least three weeks bed rest, Sammy. With graduated activity. But the minute..." Here she leveled the Hahnian glare... "You feel even a second of stress, you stop. Do you understand me?"
"Aye aye, Captain." Sammy gave her that smile that so few of her patients ever did. "Who's gonna be manning the ship while you're gone?"
The way she said it sounded to Erica as though her absence was only temporary. She mentally shook her head and glanced at Yang. "Dr. Yang will be following your case, if you have no objections. She's an excellent cardio resident, and can keep me apprised of your condition. I'd like you to see her at least once a week," she finished, ignoring Yang's staggered expression. "Until we find your..." she glanced at Lucy and corrected herself, smiling.
"The heart. Dr. Yang will be assisting me when that time comes." She looked at all three women in turn before brushing Sammy's hand.
"I'm still hanging in there with you Dr. Hahn," Sammy said, returning the pressure briefly.
"Erica." She smiled. "My name's Erica."
"Let me come to the airport with you."
"I have to return the rental."
"I can catch a cab back."
They were twisted together in all the places that would make them ache in all the ways they had been aching for the last two days, and Erica had been unable to say no.
Which brought them to where they were now, standing in the lobby of the airport. She had already checked her suitcase-- paying fifty bucks for the privilege-- and had her laptop slung in its case over her shoulder.
She had no idea what to say, except that she knew everything she wanted to say would be exactly the wrong things. Things like "You" and "Love" and "Us."
Because there wasn't an "Us." Even if there was an "I love you" that she couldn't summon up the courage to say.
Callie shifted awkwardly before meeting Erica's eyes. And in an instant, Erica knew why she hadn't looked at her the entire drive over.
Callie was in love with her.
And didn't know how to say it anymore than she did.
Instead, Callie stroked her shoulder, trailing down until their hands clasped. "Call me when you get there." Not calling it home.
"The minute," Erica assured her, and shocking herself, brought Callie's hand to her lips and kissed it softly. She clung to it a moment longer to press a small piece of paper into it. "And you do the same. Any time. All the time."
Callie looked vaguely terrified and hopeful at the same time. "Does this mean..."
Both women were distracted by the boarding call for Erica's flight.
Erica leaned in, cupping Callie's face, oblivious to the people around her. She kissed her softly, pulling away when she felt the kiss deepening. Not because she was ashamed of kissing a woman in public, but because she was afraid of everything it might lead her back to. Everything she had left behind.
"I don't know what it means, Callie," she answered honestly.
The second boarding call for her flight sounded, and Erica wondered if she looked as heartbroken as she felt. She gave into the longing and wrapped her arms around Callie.
Their bodies surged together briefly and broke away.
"Please call me," Erica said huskily before turning towards the departure gate. She was not going to cry. She walked away steadily, not turning around, and found herself saying, even though she knew the other woman couldn't hear her.
"I love you, Callie."
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