The little red numbers switched dramatically from 11:59 to 12:00. Erica was still awake. Lucas was asleep next to her. She felt the need to indulge him a little and let him sleep with her tonight. Actually, she had wanted it. She felt like she was coming undone and he had been the stabilizing force in her life for the last eight months, so she needed him close tonight.
She had almost kissed Callie tonight. What would have happened if Allie hadn't walked in? She had fleeting images that Callie would kiss her back, that Callie would tell her she had wanted this as much as Erica did. Ha! Fat chance. Callie was probably a bit confused right now.
They had established a routine that made sense and that ensured that the kids were with one of them when not in school for good chunks of time. It worked. But the routine had turned into something else, some weird family unit. She saw it in herself and Lucas. Lucas no longer asked if Allie was coming over for breakfast. He assumed she'd be there every morning. They did everything together and Erica had noted that both she and Callie had stopped asking each other on outings long ago. Instead they planned them together. Despite what she had told Callie, that they needed to step back and stop acting like they were a family unit, it had happened anyway.
She and Callie had not talked about what had almost happened in the kitchen and she had no plans to bring it up. Scenarios of lesbian vampires seducing women into their evil ways were lurking in her brain somewhere. She didn't want to be accused of recruiting or seducing or anything. If Callie wanted to, she could bring it up. She thought about their night. The dinner had been awkward for her. She hadn't known what to say, so mired in her own drama, so she let the conversation float around her. She had noticed Addison watching her and then slowly moving her eyes to Callie. She had done it all night with this perplexed look on her face, like she was working out a puzzle or something.
She had seen the same look as her and Lucas said their goodbyes. She had been anxious to leave, still feeling awkward and unsure about the kitchen incident, even though Callie seemed to return to normal after dinner, not hesitating to lay a hand at Erica's back as they passed in the hall.
Lucas was saying goodnight to Allie in the hallway outside her room as Erica struggled to put a jacket on him.
"Goodnight dunderhead," he said laughing.
"Hey, no name calling."
"It's not a bad name," he protested.
"I don't care, no name calling. Go say goodnight and apologize."
He raced into the room as Allie jumped into her bed.
"Night Al. You're not a dunderhead."
"What's a dunderhead?" she asked.
He shrugged before hugging her in a ridiculously fierce way.
"Night" he said again and then was off shouting, "Aunt Cal, I'm ready to say goodnight."
Addison had been lingering in the hallway watching them. Erica walked into Allie's room to see Allie already under the covers.
"Goodnight princess," said Erica laying a kiss on her head. "And don't let anyone call you names, not even Lucas, okay?"
Allie smiled a sleepy smile as she lay down. "Night Mom, I mean Aunt Erica."
Erica tucked her in, gave her one last kiss, patted the small body and got up. Addison was standing in the doorway. They walked out together.
"You're really good with her."
Erica gave her a confused look. "No, she's easy. She's really good with me."
They descended the stairs to see Lucas on Callie's lap. Callie was talking to him softly. He was smiling. As Erica landed on the last step, she saw Callie give him one last squeeze, before saying,
"Goodnight, little man. See you tomorrow."
"Okay, Goodnight Aunt Cal, love you."
"Love you too, baby."
He made his way to the door shyly but paused briefly to hug Addison's legs as he passed.
"Addison, it was nice to finally meet you," Erica said as she extended her hand.
"Likewise," said Addison ignoring the hand and pulling Erica into a hug.
"Don't stay up too late," said Erica over her shoulder as she made her way to the door.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" asked Callie standing up.
Erica turned, "What?"
Callie walked up to her, outstretched arms winding themselves gently around Erica as she hugged her. "Goodnight Erica."
It was a friendly hug so Erica went with it and smiled.
It had almost seemed like they were okay again. She hoped they would still be okay tomorrow.
Addison sat in Callie's living room drinking cafe con leche and thinking about her night. Dinner had been slightly awkward. Erica and Callie were mostly silent at the onset, while the kids kept up animated discussions throughout dinner. After a while, Callie seemed to come to life, but Erica remained subdued.
Erica had left with Lucas after clean-up and a somewhat convoluted goodnight ritual between the four of them. It was a tad strange, their routine. Addison joined Callie as she got the kids ready for bed while Erica did the after dinner clean-up in the kitchen. Even though Lucas was sleeping across the street, he changed into pajamas and brushed his teeth at Callie's. Callie claimed it saved everyone time, but Addison found it bizarre.
Now Callie was seated next to her. They had exhausted the topics of Derek and Meredith, Mark, kids and the ups and downs of Addison's life in Los Angeles. Addison had not failed to notice that Callie had slipped back into a more pensive mood. Sitting there with no other topics left to discuss, Addison took the proverbial bull by the horns and just asked.
"What is going on with you and Erica?"
Callie's head snapped to her. "What do you mean?"
"I mean are you a couple?"
Callie's eyes widened. "What? Where would you get that idea?" She got up and started pacing. "We are not a couple. I'm not gay. Erica's gay, but I'm not, so no, we are not a couple. We're just good friends."
Addison leaned forward resting her arms on her crossed legs.
"Okay, okay, calm down. I just thought, well you act like a couple, a really happy couple."
Callie sat down abruptly. "Well we're not," she said crossing her arms.
Callie laughed for a moment and muttered "I'm not exactly sure," before her face changed and a frown emerged where there had been laughter. "Well there is the whole not being gay thing."
Addison just stared at her. "But you have thought about it?" she asked.
Callie closed her eyes and said nothing.
"You have, haven't you? Of course you have. You should see what I see when I look at you two."
"What do you see?" asked Callie her eyes still closed.
"I see two people who enjoy each other, are attracted to each other, obviously care a lot about each other, and are raising two great kids together. I see a happy couple."
"Yeah that's what I see too."
Addison leaned back.
"So why hasn't it happened? Has Erica made any advances?"
"Kind of, I guess," Callie let out a breath. "We um...almost kissed in the kitchen earlier."
"You almost kissed? Today? And I missed it?"
Callie groaned picking up a pillow from the couch and putting it over her face. After burying her head in it for a few seconds she put it down.
"There've been other times too. At the beginning when we were becoming friends, we flirted all the time. There was a possibility then, but I chickened out and she asked me to stop the flirting and teasing. What's going on with me Addison? We're friends, but… There are times when she looks at me and I know she's seeing me differently than you or Christina see me."
Callie turned her head.
"Sometimes she looks at me and I feel like the sexiest thing in the room. If Allie hadn't come in today, I would have kissed her. What does that mean? God, it's so crazy. She is so amazing but...I'm not gay. This whole thing freaks me out."
"She freaks you out?"
"No not her, this thing. She's awesome, but the situation freaks me out. I just don't know what to feel. I like her a lot. I'm attracted to her, almost from the moment we met I was attracted, but Addy I'm not gay. I'm not."
"So you're attracted to a woman, you like her; you're practically raising two children together. She obviously adores you and Allie. And the problem is?"
"I'm not gay."
"So that means you don't want to get involved with her, because you're not gay?"
"Sure, especially if you're not attracted to her, but you're not telling me that. You're telling me you are attracted to her."
Callie groaned again. "I don't want to get involved with my best friend just to have it end badly because I'm not gay. The last time I got involved with a friend it ended badly and this would be worse. She's my best friend Addy, I can't lose her."
"Is this the same as the George thing? Does it feel the same?" asked Addison.
"No it doesn't feel the same, but it shouldn't right? I mean he was a guy, Erica's a woman."
"Aren't there more differences than that between them?"
"Well, of course, but I was friends with George too and then we got involved and look how well that ended."
"You broke up with George because he cheated on you and because he told you he didn't want a ready made family. I hate to burst your bubble, but you and Erica seemed to have skipped the romance and just made this weird little family together already."
"We are not weird," said Callie. "We didn't skip the romance. We're just friends. We just worked out an arrangement that works for both of us."
Addison looked at her with both eyebrows raised. "You're kidding, right? You just told me you almost kissed. Besides, this is not an arrangement. This is a family."
"It's a routine," Callie protested.
Addison laughed. "Do you kiss her every time she comes 'home' as part of a routine?" she asked putting air quotes around the word home.
Callie opened her mouth to speak and then stopped.
"That's what I thought," said Addison. "Do you even realize that you've stopped referring to your child individually? It's not Allie anymore, it's the kids."
"Wait, back up, I kissed you when you came in. That's not weird, just friendly."
"Yeah, but you never see me. You see Erica everyday. You see her here and at the hospital. You did not greet me like that when I lived here and saw you everyday. Do you kiss Christina every time you see her?"
"Not fair, Christina doesn't even like to be touched."
"You have a point there, but I think my original statement stands. Callie the two of you have made a family here, a good, very happy little family. With two homes, which is weird and you kind of act like a couple, but aren't and that's a little weird too, but it's a home. Those kids don't act like they live in separate homes. They act like these two houses are their home."
Callie thought about that.
"Let me ask you something," said Addison. "Is that the only thing stopping you, that you think you're not gay?"
"I'm not gay," said Callie. "But yes, that's the only reason, but it's a pretty big important one, don't you think? I can't afford to experiment Addison. I have a kid to think about and Erica's my best friend. Neither one of us can afford to experiment with each other."
"I think you're being unfair."
"Unfair? To who?"
"To Erica, to the both of you really. You're not even giving her a chance based on a technicality."
"It's not a technicality. It's the thing that...defines the whole thing."
"She likes you. You know that, right? This whole not being gay thing isn't her issue, it's yours. She'll wait for awhile to see if you decide she's worth it, but eventually, things can't remain like they are. You're fooling yourself if you think you can go on like this, pretending to play house with Erica. She's going to want the real thing eventually. Long lingering looks like I was seeing all day won't be enough. It can't be. She won't wait for you forever Callie."
"I know she likes me, but she's not waiting for me at all. She knows I'm straight. It's just not possible."
"But you just said you were attracted to her, you almost kissed her. You like her Callie. Those lingering looks aren't one-sided. Look around you. You are building a life with this woman and her child. The only thing missing is a physical relationship and you're on the edge of that now. You told me you would have kissed her if Allie hadn't walked in. Why is it so hard to move that little bit?"
"Yes, I'm attracted to her, but what if...what if I don't like it. What if kissing her would feel weird and icky."
Addison laughed. "Do you really think kissing a woman is that different than kissing a man? I mean enough to be icky?"
Callie's eyes widened. "Are you speaking from experience?" she asked somewhat shocked.
"There may have been a girl in college."
"Oh my God! I did not know this about you. Spill. What happened? Did you love her? Did you, you know..."
"Yes, I did love her and not that it's any of your business, but yes we did."
Suddenly Callie sat straight up. "What was it like?"
"It was good, better than good. Different than with a guy, but very good. Ultimately things didn't work out. I've never been attracted to another woman, so for me it was just the one girl I was attracted to. See, I'm not gay and I still managed to have a relationship with a woman."
"Yeah, but it didn't work out."
"Yes, but it wasn't because I wasn't gay. It just didn't, just like me and Derek didn't work out. Sexuality is a little more fluid than are you or aren't you, Callie."
Callie was intrigued. "But what if we try it and we don't like it or I don't like it and it messes up our friendship?"
Feeling like she had made some progress, Addison grabbed Callie's hands and relaxed into the cushions.
"I love you, so I am going to be honest. Whether you act on this or not, things are going to change. I was serious. Erica likes you. I think she might even be in love with you - not to freak you out or anything. But eventually this friendship won't be enough for her and she will look for someone else. Maybe that's ultimately what will happen anyway, but I want you to think about how you would feel if suddenly there were three parents in this household. Would you be okay if it wasn't you greeting Erica at the door with a kiss, if suddenly Erica found someone who could make a marinara sauce as good as yours? Would you want to continue this arrangement, if Erica was with someone?"
Callie's palms were sweaty. She knew what Addison was getting at with her little scenario and it was working because those images were not welcome in her head. She did not want to see Erica with someone else. She didn't want to imagine that. But she wasn't ready to imagine them together either, despite the almost kiss that evening. She had wanted Erica to kiss her, but she was not ready emotionally. She wasn't ready to deal with the implications of being in a relationship with a woman.
"How long do I think I have?" she asked playfully.
Addison let go of her hand and put an arm around her. "Well, I'd say a lot of time actually, unless she meets someone tomorrow. She seems very into you and not especially inclined to give that up anytime soon. Did you two talk about what happened in the kitchen at all?"
"No, I practically jumped out of my skin when Allie walked in. Erica left."
"I thought something had happened. She looked odd when she passed through the dining room on her way to the bathroom. Are you going to talk to her about it?"
"I don't know. I was kind of hoping she would bring it up."
"She might not. She might be scared that you'll think she's coming on strong. She might just wait and see what you do."
"Great, two non-actors."
"Well maybe you should take the initiative."
"How do you propose I do that, just walk up to her and kiss her?" mocked Callie.
"Why not?" said Addison. "It would certainly answer some questions."
"I think I'll stick to just talking. I don't want to attack her or anything.""Somehow I don't think she would think you were attacking her," smiled Addison.