Three days since the almost kiss…
It had been three days since Callie's conversation with Addison. Three days that had passed in relative normalcy. Callie had been trying to work up the courage to have a conversation with Erica, a prospect that made her insides feel like jelly. She knew she had to do it, especially since their interactions, or rather Erica's, had been different since their almost kiss. The changes were subtle, but Callie felt them instinctively. Erica hadn't outright rejected Callie, but she pulled away from Callie a lot more and Callie felt her holding back.
Callie noticed the change immediately. She noticed that Erica didn't let her linger when they touched. It wasn't harsh or jerky. Every time Callie placed her hands anywhere on Erica's body, she would find those hands wrapped in Erica's and then feel a friendly squeeze, before Erica moved away slowly. It was almost a natural movement, as if she had been planning to move all along and the action had nothing to do with Callie's advances. Erica had almost stopped initiating the casual touching that had been so much a part of their interactions at work and home. There was no more hand at her back as Erica stepped around her or when they were walking down the hall. Erica no longer bumped her playfully. She wasn't holding back entirely. They still seemed to gravitate toward each other, often standing close together. They still smiled at each other in the hallways at work frequently and for no reason.
Their normal routine at home remained the same. They still had meals together. They had even planned an outing to a local fair and Erica allowed Callie to greet her with a light kiss as usual. Callie had contemplated Addison's suggestion that she forego the friendly kiss on the cheek and just kiss her passionately upon greeting her one of these days, but it wasn't realistic. The kids were usually around and she was uncomfortable with them being exposed to a side of their relationship they wouldn't understand. Pondering Erica's behavior however, had made Callie nervous and hesitant about talking to her and so she was in a state of limbo.
She was in the resident's lounge contemplating all of this as she sipped her coffee, when the door was opened forcefully and someone stormed in muttering.
"Stupid, usurping little thief."
It was Yang. Callie put her own thoughts aside and turned her attention to Christina. "What are you muttering about?"
"That damn new resident from Presbyterian."
"We got a new resident?" asked Callie.
"Transfer from Presbyterian. She's a fifth year cardio resident. Since Webber's only letting fifth year residents specialize, Hahn thought she needed more help in cardio, but we don't need some little usurper to come in and take everything over."
Callie turned to the charts she had brought in with her which had not managed to hold her attention before and started on them again, letting Christina work herself out. She found this was the most effective method for dealing with Christina.
"Erica is not going to let her take over," Callie said easily.
"Yeah, well I just spent three hours watching her and Hahn while I sat back like some damn intern doing nothing. She's bogarding my surgeries."
"Maybe Erica just wanted to see how she works. She already knows you."
"She's from Presbyterian. Hahn already knows how she works. She asked for her special."
"I'm sure you'll get your surgery time, Christina."
"Damn little thief," Christina continued to mutter. Callie chuckled.
The door opened again. Callie and Christina both looked up as a young tall blonde walked in wearing the maroon colored scrubs worn at Presbyterian. Her hair was in a ponytail and she was sporting a huge grin.
"Hey Yang, you disappeared so fast after that procedure. Wasn't that awesome?"
The blonde went to the vending machine pushing the button for Coke forcefully. She turned as she waited for it to fall, smiling widely.
"Hey, I'm Gretchen Samuels, new cardio resident," she said to Callie as she leaned against the soda machine.
"Dr. Callie Torres, Ortho," said Callie extending her hand and trying not to cringe at how peppy this new resident sounded.
"Oh hey, Torres, Erica's told me all about you. Claims you're some sort of bone genius." She shook Callie's hand before turning to retrieve her beverage. "That surgery was awesome wasn't it Yang? Erica has the best freaking hands I've ever seen. She's just gotten better since I saw her last."
Callie squirmed a little. This woman seemed to be claiming a familiarity with Erica that she wasn't sure she was comfortable with.
"God I'd love to see what else those hands can do," she said as she opened her soda. Yang dropped the pencil she had been twirling nervously. Callie stared at her in shock.
"Hey, she's your boss. Show a little respect," said Callie sounding just as harsh as Erica did.
"Whoa, don't get your panties all twisted. Erica and I go way back. She ever tell you how we met?"
"She hasn't told me anything about you." Callie was angry and her anger was showing.
"Swear to god true story. The night before I started my internship I tried to pick up this woman in a bar. Hot sexy body, nice long hair that you just want to tangle your hands in. She was giving me absolutely no play..." she paused to take a drink.
Callie had a feeling she knew where this was going and by the disgusted look on Yang's face, she knew as well. She wasn't sure she really wanted to know the end of this story.
"I was dying, but the more she rejected me the more I wanted her. Finally she just got right up in my face and told me she would cut my heart out with a spoon and enjoy every second of it if I didn't walk away. I almost melted into a puddle. Anyway the next..."
"The next day you found out she was your boss. We've heard it before, except better since Meredith and Derek actually hooked up," blurted Christina.
"How did you…what?" asked Gretchen confused.
"Been there done that," said Callie. "That happened to someone here. It's not a unique story."
Callie was furiously scribbling. Nope, not one bit did she like this new woman, who was clearly gay and obviously still had the hots for Erica.
Four days since the almost kiss…
Only Erica could manage to make a polka dotted surgical cap look cute, thought Callie as she walked into the scrub room. Erica was already lathered up from the elbows down. She was meticulously scrubbing her finders with a small brush. Callie drank in the bright smile Erica sent her way in response to her casual "Hey," but it became subdued almost immediately as Erica looked away. Callie walked to the sink and stood next to her, triggering the automatic faucet with her hands and leaning in to rinse and begin her own cleansing process.
"How's it going? Tough surgery today?" she asked wanting to know what had taken away that lovely smile that had first met her.
"Valve replacement. Nothing too complicated," said Erica as she carefully rinsed off the soap, her focus on her hands as they moved under the rush of water.
Callie frowned as she reached for the soap dispenser. She wanted to know why Erica was being so distant with her. Usually Erica got lost in herself in preparation for a complicated surgery, but while all heart surgeries were risky and involved complexity, this was a simpler procedure. A valve replacement surgery would not create this type of mood.
"Why the long face?" she asked.
"What?" said Erica finally looking at her.
Callie smiled tilting her head just slightly. "Everything okay?" she inquired. This time she got a smile in return as Erica answered her.
"Sure. Just thinking."
"Do you ever stop thinking?" asked Callie laughing softly.
Erica chuckled. "Sometimes, but it usually gets dangerous, so I try not to," she said in a self-deprecating manner. "How about you?" she added. "What are you doing today?"
"Knee replacement," said Callie. "It should be fun."
"Sounds boring," said Erica.
And just like that Erica seemed to step back into the familiar game they played, insulting their respective fields lightheartedly. Callie smiled glad to see signs of her old friend still lurking around. She responded to Erica's quip by bumping her hip, a move Erica had not been expecting. She hadn't braced herself for it, so the bump sent her stumbling a bit. She glared at Callie.
"Not fair to go after me after I've scrubbed, Torres."
Yes. This was the Erica she loved. Actually she loved all of Erica's disparate parts, but she had missed the playful side of her the last few days. This distance Erica was putting between them since their almost kiss had to stop.
"Promises, promises," said Callie teasing. "That's all you cardio geeks are good at. You're all talk, no grit."
Erica was watching her. She had put her hands back under the water after the hip check, but Callie knew she was essentially done scrubbing and rinsing. Callie was smirking at her when she saw it, that wicked glint and that evil little smile on Erica's face that caught Callie mid smirk and made her gulp.
"I'm a patient person Cal. When you least expect it, you will pay for the hip check."
Finally Erica removed her hands from the water and backed into OR2. Callie smiled, happy to have pulled Erica out of whatever place she was trying to isolate herself in. She heard the doors open and looked up. She frowned, her good mood displaced. Gretchen Samuels was rushing over to the sink.
"Torres," she acknowledged Callie as she hurriedly rinsed and reached for the soap.
"Samuels," answered Callie wanting to finish scrubbing quickly. "What are you doing today?" Callie asked trying for Erica's sake to be nice to the new resident.
"Valve replacement," she answered quickly.
"With Dr. Hahn?" asked Callie perplexed. Interns and residents were expected to be scrubbed and ready by the time the attending arrived. Gretchen was late.
"Yeah," she answered.
Callie raised an inquiring eyebrow and gave voice to her thoughts.
"You're late. Hahn's already in there," she said as a warning.
"Uh huh," answered Gretchen barely sparing Callie a glance.
"The attendings do not like residents showing up late to surgeries."
"Whatever. It's fine. Erica loves me."
Callie was getting annoyed. This woman was seriously delusional. She obviously thought she was closer to Erica than she was. Erica was closer to Callie than anyone else but Lucas right now and Erica had never mentioned a friendship with Gretchen. No, she was fairly certain she knew all the important people in Erica's life and Gretchen was not on that list.
"You know you should really show her more respect. You might want to start by calling her Dr. Hahn."
"Why? Me and Erica are...you wouldn't understand," answered Gretchen. "We have a connection."
Callie's heart rate picked up. She needed to get to her own surgery. Thankfully she was flying solo today with no attendings supervising the procedure. Her residents were already in the room waiting, but she needed to set Gretchen straight.
"Whatever connection you think you have is irrelevant. She's the head of your department and your boss. You should treat her as such."
Gretchen started laughing. "Yeah, right, Torres. Like you show your department head any respect. I've heard the stories."
"I don't call him Frank," said Callie as she shook her arms and hands of the excess water. She walked towards OR3 with raised hands and backed into the door still glaring at Gretchen.
The loud music usually pushed everything out. It was meant to mask the sound of bones breaking and splintering, crunching sounds that would make even the most hardened souls lose their lunch. But Callie also just liked the music. She liked it loud and raw and with a lot of bass. She liked feeling the bass in her blood. The music usually drove all her cares and worries away. She didn't know where these things went when she was in surgery, but for however many hours she was operating; everything faded from her mind and was just gone. Not today; today the annoyingly grating voice of Gretchen Samuels was mixing in with the beat and bass, making her wince internally.
Every time the woman said Erica instead of Dr. Hahn, Callie felt a trickle of annoyance that would make her back stiffen. Every time she insinuated some special connection or closeness with Erica, Callie's temperature would rise, the heat following some natural path upward to Callie's head making her want to lash out irrationally. Thankfully, Callie had yet to see Erica and Gretchen interact. That thought made her wonder. How did they interact? Was Gretchen's talk, just talk as Callie suspected? Or was there some connection between the two of them? Callie didn't know what Gretchen was referring to by that phrasing, but she had jumped to the conclusion that the special connection was merely that they were both gay. She didn't think she could really take Gretchen being all touchy-feely-close with Erica.
Addison's warning had been echoing in her head for four days. Erica won't wait forever. That had been four days ago and now here was this annoying but attractive woman (and Callie only reluctantly admitted that), who would not make Erica wait. She heard a question being yelled at her and turned back to her work, her residents, the loud music and the knee she was constructing, successfully pushing aside thoughts of Gretchen Samuels.
Callie was finished with her surgery an hour before Erica, but it was her first surgery of the day and she had a long shift ahead of her. Erica would be going home after her surgery and silly as it was, Callie was waiting around wanting to see her before she left. She was trying to be casual about it, but kept looking toward OR2 as she filled out charts. Finally the patient was wheeled out. Ten minutes later Erica walked out, Gretchen on her heels. Callie flashed her a smile.
"Hey! All done?" she asked Erica.
Erica had removed her cap and gown and was just in her dark blue scrubs. She walked over to the nurse's station where Callie stood.
"Yes," she said as she reached around Callie for some forms. She laid one hand on Callie's arm to steady herself as she reached. "Sorry," she said.
Callie just smiled.
"Nothing to be sorry about it. Everything okay?" asked Callie
"Yes, it was pretty simple."
"Piece of cake for Erica here. They shouldn't even make her do those. Way beneath her skill level."
Callie had forgotten that she was there. She looked at Erica who had retrieved her form and was now filling it out. Erica moved down the counter, placing just a little distance between herself and Callie. Callie was waiting for some snarky comment from Erica in response to Gretchen's obvious brown-nosing, but Erica continued filling out her form, ignoring Gretchen's comment. Callie decided to ignore Gretchen as well, but she was feeling the need to...she didn't know how to describe it, this compulsion she was feeling to just touch Erica. She gave in, moving her body slightly so that their hips and arms came into contact.
"You look tired," she observed and could not resist turning slightly, placing a hand on Erica's arm and rubbing. Erica's arm was cold, which made Callie move closer and squeeze wanting to share her body heat with Erica. Erica stopped all movement. The pen stopped moving, she stopped breathing, everything just stopped. Callie should have moved away and at any other time she would have. She would have interpreted Erica's actions as a rejection or at least as discomfort, but today, in this moment she felt an overwhelming need to get closer, to comfort instead of retreat.
"Erica, you're freezing," she said pulling Erica to stand in front of her as Callie began rubbing her bare arms up and down hoping the friction would warm her. Erica tilted her head looking at her. She had a strange expression on her face, perplexed and very much confused. It was not something one saw everyday, especially in this place, where Erica was sure and confident and never, ever let anyone see an ounce of anything less than complete control and self-assurance. Callie smiled at her and tilted her own head.
"Where's you lab coat?" she asked.
"I'll get it," she heard Gretchen's peppy over-eager voice say.
Callie didn't look Gretchen's way, didn't know if she had left to actually retrieve Erica's lab coat or if she was still standing there. She wondered briefly if people were staring at them, knowing it would bother Erica. Erica seemed immobilized at the moment, letting Callie do what she wanted as she stood there still looking perplexed. Callie wanted to hug her, she wanted to wrap her arms around this woman and feel her body warming up. She knew she couldn't give in to that desire, although she had been doing a horrible job of ignoring all the other desires that had cropped up in the last few minutes. The touching, the being in Erica's space, all of it were things Erica did not let happen at the hospital with anyone else. Callie usually got a pass on the standing too close rule, but Erica was very serious about being a professional at work. She wanted people to see the Doctor when she was here and not a woman, not a friend. Callie was pushing her and Erica was letting herself be pushed. Callie finally stopped the rubbing since it was making the desire to hug Erica impossible to ignore and let her hands slide down Erica's arms. Hugging was out of the question, but...
She grabbed Erica's hands and looked away. She just couldn't look into Erica's eyes anymore, couldn't take the confusion she was seeing, the fears and doubts, so unfamiliar to her in those baby blues. She searched the area for Gretchen confirming that Gretchen had indeed left.
"She's eager to please," she said and turned back to Erica.
Erica rolled her eyes, gave Callie's hands a long squeeze and let go, stepping away from her.
"She should be. She was late, so she basically got to watch me and Yang. Unfortunately, I had to let Yang go after a couple of hours. She was scheduled to scrub in with Bailey and some new peds surgeon."
She went back to her form, but looked up at Callie after a few seconds and muttered. "Thanks...for warming me up."
Callie smiled at her. "Anytime"
Addison was so right. Callie needed to do something or say something. Her stomach could not take much more of this uncontrollable flipping thing it kept doing. She glanced at the time.
"I guess I should get going," she said. And then because she had been doing it for awhile when she greeted Erica, remembered Erica's surprise when she had first done it, remembered the explanation she had been forced to give when she did it again, and because she could not resist the urge to touch her again. She went up to Erica, placed a hand at her waist and kissed her cheek lightly.
"Night," she said. "See you at home later," and then she left. Yup, it was about time she added a goodbye kiss to their routine.
She turned as she walked wanting to see Erica's reaction. Erica was staring at her with that confused look again. It wasn't what Callie had been going for, but she guessed another explanation was in order. "Now you know you're really family," she offered by way of explanation. "When you get the patented Latina greeting and goodbye."
Callie smiled one last time as she turned and made her way back to her patients and work.
Erica was concentrating on the road as much as she could. It was raining and the temperature was dropping, which meant slick roads and possible skidding. She drove slowly partly in deference to the weather and in part because she wasn't in a hurry to get home. Not that she minded seeing the kids, hearing about their day, checking their homework, bath time and all the things in between that had become routine. It was relaxing in a way to have all of those things to do, to not have to think about work for a few hours and to immerse herself in a more fun and somewhat simpler universe that only had Lucas and Allie and Callie in it.
But she was also going over the day's events and those of a few days earlier when she and Callie had almost kissed. She had been trying to keep some distance between them since, but it seemed the more she tried to maintain boundaries, to have a less confusing relationship with Callie, the more Callie pulled her into something that Erica couldn't explain. And it was getting to her at work now, which she did not like.
It was one thing to be stopped dead by one of Callie's flirty comments at home or while they were out, but it was quite another to have Callie touching her and even kissing her goodnight like she had done today at the hospital. The hospital was work and work people. It was not a place to hash out or even think about your personal life. It was the only thing she hated about Seattle Grace. People's personal lives were so out there for everyone to pick through that she wouldn't be surprised to find that the hospital had some sort of forum where all of their personal dramas were discussed.
It was disconcerting to her and even the people who were more guarded like Callie and Bailey couldn't completely escape people knowing intimate details about their lives. She hadn't wanted that and had done a pretty good job so far of keeping her personal life from the halls and lounges of Seattle Grace. People were aware that she had a son and that she was friends with Callie and Yang, but beyond that she doubted people knew much more. However, unless she was mistaken, people would have lots of questions about her and Callie after today.
It bothered her, but surprisingly the personal at work was less of an issue than her confusing, bewildering and crazy relationship with Callie. Wasn't it enough that she had come to terms with her developing feelings after the slumber party? She thought that acknowledging that she was falling in love with Callie would make her more aware of herself and her interactions with Callie, would help her put up boundaries and walls against intimate touches. She thought she would be more able to keep things in check about herself if she knew what she was doing and what was going on, that she could somehow put up shields against Callie and prevent those feelings from getting out of control. Out of control was never good and if Erica knew anything, she knew how to keep people at bay and keep her emotions in check. In all her prior relationships she had been in control. She usually decided who she would be involved with, for how long, what they could do and not do and ultimately when it ended. It was comfortable and safe to be in control. But with Callie that part of her ceased to function.
Callie broke through walls without even being aware she was doing it. Erica would resolve to keep her distance, to not initiate touches, to stop standing so close to Callie and not let Callie's touches linger and then Callie would stand close and she seemed paralyzed. Her heart would start beating rapidly, her skin would tingle and she would find herself wanting to keep Callie exactly where she was. She barely remembered the well reasoned arguments about distance and maintaining boundaries when Callie was standing so close or holding her hand. In those moments there was just Callie.
She remembered briefly her one attempt at breaking that wonderfully torturous little greeting ritual of Callie's. She had wanted to be nonchalant, to tell Callie that while her advances were not unwelcome, she should stop lest people get the wrong idea and by people she meant herself. She had wanted to say something light and unserious, but still a little flirty. She didn't want to hurt Callie's feelings. Instead she ended up awkwardly asking about the whole kiss hello thing as if it was a foreign concept, stumbling over her words like the geek she was in college asking Nicole Warn out on a date, her first date with a girl.
And now Callie was saying goodbye like that too and doing it at the hospital? That was not going to help her get over these feelings she was having. The whole situation was crazy and Callie was only making her more insane. What was with the rubbing up and down of her arms? It took every ounce of will power not to kiss her right there. Deciding she needed to stop thinking about this if she wanted to arrive home in one piece, instead she let thoughts of actual work fill her mind.
Gretchen Samuels was certainly not the same resident Erica had known at Presbyterian and that pissed Erica off. She didn't know what had happened to Gretchen in the two months since Erica left Presbyterian, but something had. She had shown up late for the last two surgeries she had scrubbed in on with Erica. She was making mistakes that no fifth year resident should be making and she seemed to think it was okay. Erica had laid out the rules for her when she brought her over and Gretchen had nodded in understanding. Erica had already yelled at her for being late for today's valve replacement. She hoped that would be the end of it because she needed Gretchen to work out. Webber had not been too keen on letting her come over to their program, but Erica had vouched for her; told him Gretchen would be an asset and not a liability. It was one of her first decisions as department head and so far it wasn't working out. Maybe she would have another conversation with Gretchen about expectations. She mused on that for awhile as she pulled into her neighborhood anxious now to get home. Allie would be spending the night again since Callie would be arriving home after midnight.
She shook her head. Maybe she would feign sleep when Callie arrived instead of meeting her at the door like she usually did. She had always met her at the door from the very beginning, but Callie had her own key now and could let herself in. They had achieved a level of comfort where Callie knew she didn't have to ask if she could stay the night if she wanted to. Callie spent countless nights at her house already. Sometimes in the hide-a-bed in Allie's room, sometimes on the couch and sometimes when she was really tired she let Erica convince her to sleep in Erica's bed, while Erica took the couch or snuck into Lucas's room and his extra bed.
She turned onto her street. She knew she couldn't really do that. She liked meeting Callie when she got home. They would usually drink coffee and talk for awhile before Callie decided whether to walk back to her house to sleep, although they had been having that discussion less these days. It usually turned into a matter of where in Erica's house she would sleep. She sighed as she pulled into her driveway. She needed to figure out a way of handling Callie and fast or she would end up kissing her. Maybe she needed to date. Maybe having someone else to think about would bring back her missing in action control.