5 Days after the almost kiss…
Callie sat in the cafeteria with two warm cups of coffee in front of her, thinking about a conversation that was long overdue. She needed to talk to Erica. That fact however was the only constant about the whole situation. The when, where and how of said conversation plagued her, especially now that Erica seemed to be pulling away. Callie was trying to hang on, but her hold was getting tenuous.
Right now was the wrong time and place, but she couldn't really imagine a good time or place, so she sat waiting for Erica to show up, thinking about how to start. She wanted to have the conversation, had been nervously contemplating opening statements, impassioned speeches, and lyrical prose for days. Unfortunately her attempts at coming up with such an opening had only produced a collection of stuttering phrases and incomplete sentences, laced with mixed metaphors and decidedly un-flowery language. Perhaps now was not the best time.
She glanced at the door for the hundredth time. She had gotten two cups of hot coffee a few minutes ago and hoped Erica would arrive before they cooled too much. Normally Erica would have just walked to the cafeteria with her for their semi-regular coffee dates, but she had begged off today, telling Callie she needed to write down some last minute instructions for a patient and then muttering something about incompetent interns. She had told Callie to go ahead, that she would catch up to her.
It wasn't the fact that Erica was taking the time to write instructions on her patients that had set off alarm bells in Callie's head. No, Erica was an excellent doctor, vehement about patient care, even while being harsh with patients at times. No, it was that she had not asked Callie to wait; after all this was not the first time that their coffee dates had been put off for a few minutes by work. Every other time it had occurred, Erica asked her if she minded waiting. But not this time and that had Callie concerned. That and what had come after.
She stood there ignoring Erica's suggestion that she go ahead, intent on waiting, when Erica addressed her again. In a soft almost hesitant voice she asked if perhaps it wouldn't be better to cancel. That had startled Callie because this was the fifth day in a row that Erica seemed to be trying to avoid spending time alone with her. Callie had managed to pull her out of whatever funk she was in yesterday. She thought that was the end of the distance thing, especially since things had been relatively okay when she had arrived at Erica's after her shift ended last night.
She arrived around midnight, a little earlier than she had anticipated, so she wasn't completely surprised that Erica did not greet her at the door like she usually did. She was disappointed, but not entirely surprised. For a moment the dark and quiet house made her think that Erica had given up their late night coffee talks, but that thought was dispelled quickly by the light coming from Erica's office. She had approached the room quietly in case Erica was asleep. She wasn't, but she didn't seem to be immersed in anything but her own thoughts. She was sitting in front of her computer, but the screen had already gone into sleep mode. Erica was staring at it, but not really seeing it. Callie rapped on the door frame lightly to announce her presence.
Erica jerked around. "Callie!" she said almost as if she'd been caught doing something naughty. Erica darted out of her chair as Callie started walking towards her.
"Hey," said Callie as they reached each other. Callie's hands and lips were on automatic. She held Erica's waist and kissed her cheek. She loved that she could do this with Erica and was grateful Erica still allowed the casual, but intimate touch. She stepped back.
"You doing okay Erica? You've been…I don't know, someplace else lately," asked Callie seriously.
"Yes," said Erica. "I told you, I'm just thinking."
She grabbed Callie's hand automatically and led her out of the office.
"Coffee?" she asked.
"Definitely," said Callie forgetting all about her concern over Erica sitting in a room staring at a blank computer.
Erica was holding her hand and pulling her toward the kitchen which meant coffee and talking and staring into amazing blue eyes.
They stayed up too late, which was not new for them, but there had been an intense hesitancy on Callie's part to end their conversation and figure out where she would be sleeping. For a whole minute she had even contemplated suggesting they just sleep in Erica's bed together because that way they could keep talking. But Catholic guilt kicked in before she got the courage to make the suggestion. Erica had to work the next morning, so instead she gave in to logic and suggested they call it a night after a couple of hours. She ended up in Allie's room staring at Allie's fluffy clouds and thinking about her talk with Addison. She had no answer to her interminable riddle yet. How could she be having such a strong reaction to Erica? She wasn't gay.
But despite last night's return to the closeness Callie was used to, today Erica was once again keeping her distance, trying to put off or cancel their coffee time was just the latest attempt. Their shifts didn't overlap by much, so this would be the only time they would have to talk alone.
"How long are you going to be?" Callie had asked stuffing her hands in the pockets of her scrub pants.
"Well…" Erica hesitated. "I should be just a few minutes. Why don't you get our coffees and save us some time?"
"Okay," said Callie. She had lingered for a few seconds more before turning and making her way to the cafeteria.
And now she was waiting. She looked at the clock. Five minutes had passed since she'd retrieved their coffee. She sighed.
The subtle shadow barely discernable in the fluorescent lights alerted her to a presence at her back.
"Torres," said a peppy voice.
Callie turned. Gretchen was standing behind her, a Coke can clutched in her hand.
"Whatcha doing here all by your lonesome?"
Callie was trying to think of the best way to make Gretchen go away. She was waiting for Erica and did not relish having to share her with the most annoying person in the world. Before she could put words together, Gretchen plopped down at the table.
"I'm waiting for someone," she finally got out, hoping that Gretchen would get the hint that she wasn't looking for company.
It was hopeless. Gretchen did not seem to get subtlety, hell she sometimes even ignored outright hostility.
"Who for?" asked Gretchen leaning back in her chair like someone who was planning on staying awhile and once again validating Callie's assessment of the resident as clueless.
Honestly, she could not figure out why Erica thought highly of her.
"None of your business," said Callie looking toward the door and then at the other empty tables longingly.
"You waiting for Erica?"
Callie's head snapped back to Gretchen. "Do you not understand English because I can say it in Spanish too? No te metas en lo que no te importa."
"Whatever." Gretchen smiled at her. "I've just been noticing that you two kind of hang out if you're both here. I think it's funny."
Callie frowned. "What's funny about it?"
Gretchen laughed. "God, just that everyone's been kind of wondering what's going on with you two, but any idiot can see that there's nothing there."
Callie's face became hot. She gripped one of the cups of coffee, an image forming in her mind of her tossing the hot cup in Gretchen's lap or better yet, her smug face. It didn't help with the anger. She should be concerned that people were talking. It wasn't weird that people had noticed them, but she knew it would freak out Erica. However, instead of concern over what people were saying, Gretchen's comment was making her seethe.
"I think I told you it was none of your business or anyone else's for that matter."
"Hey, I know. It's just ridiculous. I mean you and Erica?" She laughed again.
Now Callie was trying to calm herself with images of her fist in Gretchen's face. "It's not," she said coldly.
"Not what?" asked Gretchen taking a sip from her own beverage.
"Not ridiculous and not funny."
Gretchen looked confused. "What are you talking about? Of course it is."
"Stop. Just stop. Not that it's any of your business, but Erica and I are friends. We're close and the idea of us is not funny or ridiculous."
"Well I know you seem close here at the hospital, but that doesn't…"
"You're delusional. You don't know anything about Erica. We are close, we're very close. There is no but. She's my best friend. She's every…."
Callie stopped, shocked by what she was about to blurt out. She's everything to me.
Gretchen sat in silent contemplation.
"Hey Cal! Sorry I'm late."
Callie turned at the sound of Erica's voice. Gretchen looked up too.
"Erica," said Gretchen standing. "Were you looking for me?"
Erica turned to her for a second, a frown crossing her face.
"I was on my way to check on our next miracle, you know the women in 303? I can give you the run down as we walk."
Erica looked at Callie and the cups in front of her, still slightly confused by Gretchen.
"Which one is mine?" she asked Callie taking a seat next to her.
Callie's smile could not have been wider. She handed Erica the correct cup and spared Gretchen a brief glance. She heard Erica talking again and turned her attention to her.
"Thanks for getting these," said Erica. "Crazy day today. It's nice to get a break."
She turned to Gretchen who was still standing, still clutching her Coke can.
"Samuels, I thought you were checking on the patient in 303?" asked Erica.
Callie watched the two of them. She could see Gretchen's knuckles go white as she gripped the can tightly. It crumpled slightly.
Gretchen gave Erica a bright smile, but Callie noticed the pressure she was putting on the can in her hand and suddenly she understood. The peppy voice, the cheeriness, it was all an act. Gretchen was nothing more than your garden variety brown-noser.
"Yeah sure," Gretchen was saying still smiling at Erica. "I'll see you later."
Callie watched her go and then turned to Erica.
"You know she thinks you and her are in some kind of close relationship."
"Why would she think that?" asked Erica sipping from her drink.
Callie shrugged. "You tell me. She's your resident."
"She's not mine," said Erica shifting in her seat, looking uncomfortable with the conversation.
"Good," said Callie smiling.
"Am I missing something?" asked Erica.
"No…just forget it, so how's your day been? Everything turn out okay with the whole idiotic intern upstairs?"
"Yes, it was just some intern with dyslexia or something. Do you usually double check interns' work on patient charts?" she asked.
"Of course. They're idiots. You have to check their work. First how else are you going to teach them what to do or not do. Second they make a lot of mistakes, so you have to check to make sure they don't kill anyone."
Erica smiled. "Yeah that's what I thought. Don't know why Samuels is falling down on the job. She should have checked those numbers."
Her gaze went internal. Callie knew she was thinking about work and probably Gretchen. She didn't want to talk about Gretchen and she didn't want Erica to think about Gretchen, so she searched her head for a different topic. She found it quickly as she relayed a story about a conversation she'd had with the kids and they were off talking. For a moment the distance she thought Erica had been trying to put between them seemed to disappear.
Long minutes later, Erica sat frowning as the last dregs of coffee, now cold, slid down her throat.
"So, I've been thinking… You know all about me, my professional life, love life, home life, family, but I don't know as much about you," said Callie.
"What?" asked Erica incredulously.
They had been talking for fifteen minutes and both knew they should get back to work. She had been about to suggest an end to this gab session, but Callie's comment stopped her.
"Well come on Erica. You know all about me, but I don't know all there is to know about you."
"Yes, you do," said Erica.
"No, I don't think so. Let's see. I know you're an excellent kick-ass surgeon. I know where you went to med school, that you hate Preston Burke, you have a son, you don't get along with your mother, were close to your sister and have two very close friends."
"Three," said Erica.
"What? Three what?"
"I have three very close friends and one of those…" she looked pointedly at Callie, "is an especially close friend."
Callie blushed which made Erica smile. She loved doing that.
"Okay, three and the feeling is mutual by the way, but I don't know anything about your love life. You know all about mine, but apart from the fact that you're gay, I don't know if you've even had a serious girlfriend."
Erica looked at the empty coffee cup. This was dangerous territory.
"That's because there's not much to tell," she said trying to thwart the whole topic, but knowing full well Callie would probably not let it go.
"No girlfriends? Ever? I find that hard to believe. You're way too beautiful to not have people falling for you all over the place."
Erica snorted. "Do you see anyone falling for me around here? Please let me know if you do and I'll buy her a drink," she laughed.
Callie was staring at her waiting. Erica could usually tell when Callie was nervous and she could see the nervousness radiating off of her right now. She didn't know where that was coming from, but decided that answering the question might help Callie relax again.
"Okay, fine. I've dated. Nothing serious though, mostly casual things."
Callie was still looking at her intently. "Come on Dr. Hahn, you know all my dirty little secrets, spill yours."
"Seriously, it's not that exciting Callie. I had one serious girlfriend in college. We broke up when I went to med school and she went to grad school across the country. She's probably teaching literature to snot nosed kids at some private liberal arts college right now. No one serious since. I was always more of a casual dater. I didn't really have time for anything beyond that and after my residency, when I finally did have the time, the casual dating seemed easier, so I just continued to do that. When I got Lucas that stopped and now there's just me and Lucas and….you and Allie," she finished somewhat uncomfortable with how that sounded. She didn't want to freak out Callie.
"Good," said Callie.
Erica stared at her. Callie's eyes darted back and forth and she looked like she was muttering under her breath. This was turning into one of the stranger conversation she'd had with Callie. She didn't know what the 'good' comments were about, either the one she had spoken a few seconds ago or the one Callie had uttered when they were talking about Gretchen.
"Um…I mean…I'm glad you feel like you have me and Allie…"
Erica hadn't asked for clarification, but Callie was giving it, hurriedly and nervously she was giving it. Interestingly the nervous shaky tone had seemed to cease as she said 'me and Allie'.
"Because you do…have us, I mean," finished Callie.
Erica tried not reading too much into the comment. I wish I did, Callie. I wish I had you like I want to have you. She shook her head and those thoughts from her mind and decided to shift the conversation slightly.
"Well I've been thinking that I should probably start dating again."
Callie started coughing violently. Erica immediately got up, removing the cup Callie was holding from her hands as she continued sputtering. She pounded Callie's back lightly not wanting to hurt her but worried that her light touch was not really helping. Her motion turned into a gentle rubbing as Callie's coughing slowed and eased.
"Breathe slowly," instructed Erica as she moved her chair close to Callie and sat. She continued rubbing her back and then reached for Callie's left hand caressing it as Callie tried breathing slowly.
"Thanks," said Callie. "Went down the wrong way."
"I noticed. You okay now?"
"Oh yeah," said Callie.
Without conscious thought she leaned into Erica placing her head on Erica's chest and just enjoying the closeness, putting all thoughts of Erica dating into the darkest, most inaccessible parts of her brain. She didn't want to have to think about that again.
Six days after the almost kiss…
Callie was writing furiously looking at the clock on the wall after every entry, an action that she realized took time, time she didn't have if she wanted to leave the hospital soon. The Saturday overnight had been unusually quiet, too quiet. It had been so quiet that quite a few residents (herself included) took advantage of the lull and caught up on sleep. But it was too good to be true. At 3am everything exploded into a flurry of activity and everyone was needed in the Pit to handle the influx of patients from a number of fires. It was a freakish thing, multiple fires on a night so normal feeling.
It caught them by surprise. Thankfully there were no really serious burns, but there were a lot of patients. Mark had been paged and was running the show, something that hardly ever happened for him. There were a few broken bones, but nothing requiring surgery. Now that everyone was bandaged and medicated, charts needed to be done and it was long past the end of her shift.
She had called Erica at 8am to let her know she was stuck at the hospital for an hour or so more. It was 9:30 now and Callie just wanted to finish this last chart and get home to start her Sunday. She was excited. The dull night had allowed her to sleep, which gave her the chance to spend the day with Erica and the kids without needing to rest. She was almost done with the last chart when a can of Coke appeared out of nowhere. It was sitting on the counter next to her chart. It had not been there a few seconds ago.
"Torres," said Gretchen through a yawn. "Man, I hate that I have to be here. I mean Erica's not even here, why should I have to be here, you know?"
Callie sighed. She would not let Gretchen ruin her good mood, but… "You're a surgical resident, not Dr. Hahn's personal resident."
"God I wish I was her personal anything. I'd really like too…"
"STOP. RIGHT. NOW," said Callie, her hand pressing down on the chart so hard, the ink was bleeding out onto the paper.
"What?" said Gretchen for once sounding annoyed.
"Do not talk about her like that."
Gretchen laughed. "You know what Torres, you're not the thought police and you're not Erica's guard dog. If the idea that I think Erica's hot and sexy bothers you, I don't need to hear about it. Take your homophobic sensibilities and shove them…"
"Hey! You are so out of line. It's not homophobia, you pig. I have no problems with Erica being gay. She's your boss not a piece of ass."
"She's my boss and she's hot and if I get the chance, I'm grabbing that piece of ass."
"Oh no you are not!" said Callie her voice getting louder.
"Who's gonna stop me? You? Yeah right. You're just a big straight tease. I've watched you. You like to tease her, but if she ever tried to kiss you, you'd run screaming the other way. Yeah you're curious, but you don't want her. You might as well give it up Torres. Erica's on to you. She knows you're just a big tease. That's why she hasn't done anything. Any other woman throwing herself at Erica like you do would have been bagged already."
"You mean like you? You're not subtle at all."
"That's different. I'm actually gay."
"Yeah it is different. Erica doesn't want you."
Gretchen opened her mouth to speak, but a giggle was the sound Callie heard. Gretchen frowned also surprised at the sound.
Callie was jarred as a small body crashed into her legs and suddenly she knew that giggle and knew it had not been produced by Gretchen, which was a relief because that would just be weird.
"Aunt Cal!" she heard and saw little arms reaching up to her.
"Hey kiddo," she said picking Lucas up and smothering him with kisses. "What are you doing here?" she asked looking around as he started squirming.
Callie heard the squealing as she put Lucas down and saw the most wonderful sight heading her way. Allie was running or trying to, dragging a much taller Erica behind her. Allie looked at Erica jumping up and down. Erica finally let go of her and Allie took off at a run toward her mother.
Callie hugged and kissed her, her temper and Gretchen all but forgotten.
"What are you guys doing here?" she asked as she purposely walked over to hug and kiss Erica on the cheek.
"Breakfast. Mom said we could get you for breakfast," said Lucas.
Callie was standing next to Erica not suppressing the urge she had to intertwine their hands.
"That sounds great," she turned to Erica. "Give me about 10 minutes. I have one more chart and then I'll change and we can get going."
"Okay, but actually can the kids hang with you for a few minutes? I want to check on a patient. I got a call from Yang last night that some of her numbers are spiking."
"Sure, why don't we meet at the resident's locker room?"
"Okay, see you in a few minutes," said Erica as she squeezed their still joined hands. She rumpled Lucas and Allie's hair before walking down the hall and toward her patient.
Callie watched her for a few seconds before turning to find the kids sitting on the floor taking Legos from the backpack Lucas had carried in with him.
"Hey guys, not here." She picked up her chart. "Why don't we go to the waiting area and you can take some of those out there?"
They nodded in agreement.
Callie looked at Gretchen whose gaze was on the hallway where Erica had disappeared. "Make a move Torres," Callie heard her say.
"Give it up Gretchen," she started to respond with a frown, but Gretchen wasn't listening.
"Make a move or get out of the way," said Gretchen as she stepped into the hallway following the same path Erica had taken.
Twenty minutes later, Callie was dressed and ready. The Legos were back in Lucas's backpack and the kids were walking around the locker room making all the locks swing.
"When's Mom coming?" whined Lucas.
Callie looked up at the clock. "She'll be coming any minute now Lucas," she answered him absently.
She had been saying that for the last ten minutes. Erica should have been here by now, but this was a hospital where things went wrong or changed from good to bad in a heartbeat. Erica could be caught up in some emergency. Hoping she wasn't making a mistake, she got up from the bench.
"Let's go guys. Let's see if we can find her."
She heard their footsteps pounding lightly on the tiled surface as they made their way to her. They reached for her hands and stepped out of the locker room. Callie quickly calculated Erica's most likely route and followed that hoping they would catch her in route and not end up missing each other entirely. They passed a few nurse's stations slowly, Callie's eyes peeled for Erica's blonde head.
Lucas stuck close to her, but Allie was skipping along happily. They approached the resident's lounge and Callie slowed to take a peek inside. She stopped abruptly startling Allie.
"Mommy!" said Allie. "You have to say when you're stopping."
Callie heard her but couldn't answer. She had an overwhelming urge to burst into the lounge and pull Gretchen off of her…friend. Erica was seated at the round table immersed in whatever problem or mystery was in front of her. Callie could see her eyes moving back and forth reading. Gretchen was looking over Erica's shoulder standing way too close for Callie's comfort. Erica was either too immersed in whatever she was looking at to notice Gretchen or Gretchen's presence was welcome. The second option was a prospect that caused an unwelcome twisting in Callie's stomach.
She saw Gretchen's hand move from its idle state in Gretchen's pocket to Erica's back and almost slammed the door open.
"Is Mom in there?" asked Lucas.
"Yeah, sweetie," she said still unsure of how she wanted to proceed. She saw Erica's lips moving, her eyes still excitedly scanning the pages in front of her. Callie reached for the doorknob in a quick easy motion, letting herself in just as Gretchen was removing her hand and taking a half-step back from Erica. Both Erica and Gretchen looked up at Callie as she entered. Callie tried to keep her face neutral as she spoke.
"Hey," she said smiling at Erica.
Gretchen rolled her eyes. Erica returned Callie's smile.
"Mom," said Lucas for once not moving toward his mother. "Can we go now?" he asked.
Erica's eyes left Callie and focused on him. "Okay kiddo. Sorry this took a little longer than I thought. Give me 30 seconds," she said as her gaze returned to the papers in front of her. She made a few notations then looked up. "All ready." She handed the papers to Gretchen.
"Nice work Dr. Samuels. You and Yang did great catching and explaining that spike in her numbers." She nodded her head at Gretchen in acknowledgement before turning to Callie and the kids.
"Okay, all ready for pancake breakfast?" she asked.
"Finally!" said Lucas letting go of Callie's hand and walking back into the hall. Allie followed him.
"Well let's get going then," said Callie extending her hand to Erica in invitation.
Erica blinked unnaturally, before her eyes settled on Callie. Callie looked from Erica to her outreached hand. Finally Erica reacted, reaching for Callie's hand, intertwining their fingers and walking out. Callie gave Gretchen one last glance as she followed the tug of Erica's hand.
Seven days after the almost kiss…
Callie was in a bad mood. She had done a quick search for Erica when she first arrived for her shift this afternoon, but had not seen her yet. That was reason enough to be in a bad mood, but add to that the mere presence of Gretchen Samuels and you had the ingredients for a super-powered extra nasty bad mood. Gretchen Samuels had been here a week and already their snippy little fights were becoming the stuff of legend at Seattle Grace. Perhaps that was a slight exaggeration, but nevertheless she could not deny how people steered clear when the two of them were in the same room.
She entered the resident's lounge wanting a simple cup of coffee. Much to her annoyance she found Gretchen at a table, that interminable can of Coke in her hand, talking smack. Even if her mood had been a little brighter, she would not have been able to help herself. Gretchen was taunting her. She knew Callie hated to hear her talk about Erica in the way she did and yet she continued.
Callie tried to ignore her, going straight for the coffee pot and not acknowledging her at all. Gretchen gave her a fake smile and continued talking in a loud voice to the few folks that had remained in the lounge. Callie tried not to listen.
"God whenever we have a surgery like that, it makes me so….Well let's just say Erica Hahn can touch me anytime she wants with those magnificently beautiful hands."
It was tough not to listen and as a result Callie almost burned her hand off when she heard Gretchen's comment. She only just managed to get control of the coffee pot she had been pouring, stopping the overflow that was seconds from happening. She carefully tipped her cup to get rid of some of the excess and tried to concentrate on adding sugar and cream.
"Yep, I would love to see what else those hands could do. I mean those fingers, the precision with which she works; man that just makes me..."
"Shut up, Samuels. It's disrespectful and you know it. Besides no one wants to hear your wet dreams. Keep it to yourself and leave Dr. Hahn out of your dirty little fantasies."
"As if you could make me."
"You're disgusting. You should be showing her some respect. Instead you objectify her, probably like every male surgeon she has ever encountered who treated her like all she was good for was a good fuck."
Callie was pissed and she had said too much, but she also finally made Gretchen shut up. Gretchen sat there not looking at her and not saying anything. Callie picked up her coffee and made her way to the door quickly. This crap with Gretchen had to stop.
She was walking down the hall as she thought of Addison's visit and the almost kiss she had been replaying over and over in her head. Gretchen was right. She needed to make a move. She needed to find Erica. She sipped from her hot coffee and went in search of Erica. She was still nervous about the whole thing, but Addison was right too. Whether or not she acted, things were bound to change, they were already changing and Callie wanted them to change in ways that made her and Erica happy. She didn't know how she was going to do it or what she would say, but she would not let another day pass without letting Erica know how she felt.