DISCLAIMER: Watch out, this is femslash (lite). Don't read it if you're not into this sort of thing. I own nothing of Grey's Anatomy. I'm only having fun with the characters I'm fast becoming obsessed with.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a story about Erica Hahn finding another "pair of glasses" after the events of the S5 episode, "Rise Up." This chapter was written in late February, 2009. Thanks to Jules68 for her honest and objective opinions. See Chapter 1 for original Author's Notes and Disclaimer. "Odd accents" and overuse of the word "hon" are strictly Baltimorean.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Veronica pulled up behind a taxi at the entrance to the hotel, popped the trunk, and said, "Welcome to the Inner Harbor, Doctor Hahn. I hope you enjoy your stay in Charm City. Steer clear of the Block."
Erica peered through the car window, seeing sparkling water held back by a wide brick promenade landscaped with seasonal flowers and lined with famous-named restaurants, shops, and a strikingly-designed visitor center and science museum. "My God, this is beautiful! I had no idea Baltimore's waterfront was so developed. It's been a long time since I've been here."
"Whoa, mule! You've been here? Then what was all that yapping about big girl and maps and not knowing about the Block? Hey, were you just coming on to me? You vixen, you're no babydyke!"
Erica waved her hand in a gesture of dismissal. "No, no, I'm still a damn babydyke. I didn't mean to mislead you. I was here years ago, in another life, really, but it's why I'm here again. I went to school at Johns Hopkins, and I barely went anywhere but school and sometimes to bed, both of which were within walking distance of each other and not this close to the water. Besides, I'm pretty sure it didn't look like this when I was here."
"So I guess that means you weren't coming on to me, huh?" Veronica made a moue of disappointment.
Erica just shook her head.
"Eh, I forgive you, doc, since I can only imagine what circle of hell medical school must've been, plus things are always changing around here, anyway." Veronica opened the car door and stepped out. "C'mon, let me help with your stuff."
Erica's reservation kept check-in from being complicated, and in a few minutes, the women found themselves outside a door on the nineteenth floor. Awkwardness reared its ugly head, and though the feeling was familiar from her first days with Callie, Erica realized her current situation was nowhere near the same. Still, her tongue stumbled over what to say. "I-uh "
"Good grief, Doctor Hahn, you're about as transparent as glass, you know that? Fear not. I'm a perfect lady. I won't take advantage of your babydyke status," she teased, "unless of course you want me to. Deal?"
Oh yes, Erica decided, she had gobs to learn on this front. Thankfully, however, the awkwardness was gone and speech had returned. "Deal. And would you please stop calling me 'Doctor Hahn?'" Erica slid the key card smoothly into the lock and the door signaled green. She pressed the handle, pushed open the door, and moved into the room, Veronica right behind her.
"Sure thing, Air-ree-kah." Veronica went immediately to the window and pulled open the drapes. "Sweet view. Now this here's the way to look at the water. Not nearly so filthy from this height. And look there," she pointed outward, "you can see the Key Bridge clearly from here."
Erica rolled her suitcase to the edge of the bed, let it go, and walked to stand beside Veronica. "Very pretty." She pointed to her right, to a big hill with a huge American flag whipping in the wind at the top. "Federal Hill, right? It was an outlook point during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Supposedly near where Francis Scott Key wrote much of what is now our country's national anthem."
"Hey, good job. You did pay attention when you were here last, didn't you? Ever been to an O's game?"
"The O's, girl. The Orioles! The Birds! The professional baseball team? Veronica raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "Tell me you went to at least one ball game during your tenure at school."
"Lord. Well, then, my little story won't pack as much punch, but I'll tell it, anyway." She adopted the odd accent again. "See, hon, Francis Scott Key wrote the National Anthem, and they sing it at the start of every game, but when they get to the line, 'O, say does that star-spangled banner,' the primates in the stands stretch out the 'O' for the Orioles." She dropped the accent. "It bastardizes the song and disrespects the history, but there it is. See? Not punch-y at all."
Erica, only half-listening, continued to stare out the window, watching gulls float lazily on wind currents above the water and people strolling along the promenade, some hand-in-hand. A deep sigh escaped her.
"Hey there, doc." Veronica playfully punched Erica on the arm. "Remembering that Callie wench again, are you? You just say the word, and she's dead as a doornail, whatever the hell that means."
Erica smiled and turned from the window to sit on the end of the bed. "I know what that means. I had an uncle who was a carpenter. It's a standard carpentry term, called clinching. It means to hammer a nail through a door and then flatten the end over on the inside so it can't be removed again, making it dead." Erica lowered her eyes to the bedspread and absently began picking at a stray thread. "Callie's not entirely to blame. It was my fault, too."
To her credit, Veronica didn't encourage Erica. Coming to sit beside her, Veronica said, "Hey, listen, I'm impressed you knew about the doornail thing, but you don't have to tell me anything about what happened. I'm just trying to be a friend, a new friend certainly, but ya gotta start somewhere, right? It's all right, you don't need to say anything."
Erica shook her head. "No, it's okay. You've been very nice, not to mention entertaining, and it's not that I think I owe you, it's just that Callie and I were friends first, which was hard enough for me, but she was my person, the one I told everything to. Hell, she was the one who made me realize I was gay.
"The morning that happened, the gay thing? I didn't hold back, you know? I didn't think I had to. It was just such a liberating feeling to finally understand what had been so damned off about my life. I just came barreling out, telling her how gay, gay, gay I was, with this stupid, stupid story about when I was young and got my first pair of glasses. I told her I could see leaves afterwards, leaves that I thought were just green blobs before. I told her she was my 'glasses,' the one who enabled me to 'see my gayness.'
"But, Callie it was too much for her. S-she walked out on me without a word, I mean, she left me in bed. Then later w-we had this big disagreement...about hospital business, and this time I walked away from her. And now I don't I haven't I don't have anyone to " Tears sprang unbidden to her eyes, along with a terrible ache in her throat. In the space of a fluttering heartbeat, Erica was no longer able to keep her grief at bay, knowing full well that all she'd been doing up to this point was delaying the inevitable. It was upsetting to Erica that she should arrive at this vulnerable moment in front of someone she barely knew, but she could not stop the hot tears from falling. Turning from Veronica to save what little face she could, Erica pounded her thighs with her fists and let it all go.
It was clear Veronica understood this particular brand of sorrow. She remained silent and still beside Erica, neither touching nor talking, until Erica began to collapse by degrees onto the bed. When that happened, Veronica reached for her, saying, "Aw, c'mere, hon," and then with Erica fully in her arms, murmured more to herself than to Erica, "God damn it, no matter how old we get, the damn heartache's always the same."
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