An hour after her little spat with Gretchen, Callie found her.
"Hey you," said Callie finding Erica immersed in paper work in one of the many lounges. "I've been looking for you."
Erica looked up and smiled easily.
"Any chance they'll let you out of here now instead of eight hours from now so you can come home with me?" asked Erica setting down the clipboard in her hand.
Callie smiled as she took a seat close to her. She liked this. It felt more like how they were before Erica had started withdrawing from her in bits and pieces.
"I don't know. You're an attending, wanna spring me early?"
"Unfortunately, I think you'd have to ask that glorified carpenter Samson to spring you. Seriously Callie how you learned anything from that guy is a mystery to me."
She propped her head on her hand and closed her eyes. Callie knew Erica was about twenty minutes away from ending what had most likely been a very stressful shift. She heard from one of the nurses that it had been nothing but surgeries and consults for Dr. Hahn since 5am when she had been called in unexpectedly. They had noted it because despite the stress, she seemed to be in high spirits.
"He's an idiot," Erica continued. "You have a guaranteed job here, you know. You are the best ortho surgeon in this whole place. They won the lottery when they got you."
Erica did not hand out compliments lightly. But it was the way she was delivering the compliment that touched Callie. She was not saying it to prove a point or to try to win favor with Callie. She was saying it like it was a fact or common knowledge. Callie was about to burst. She had not seen this particular Erica in a week. She liked this Erica, wanted her back desperately.
"Wow, you're in a good mood," she said smiling uncontrollably and not being able to resist the impulse to lay a hand on the arm resting casually on the table. To her surprise and delight, for the first time in a week, Erica did not do that slow pulling away thing she had been doing.
"I guess I am," said Erica sounding a little surprised. "I finally got some help in cardio. This department has decent surgeons, but none of them can handle difficult cases, well except for Yang, but Webber won't let me have her. I finally got a resident who knows what she's doing and isn't afraid of complexity. She had me a little worried, but she really came through today."
Callie's smile disappeared. "Ah, your new resident."
"Yes, you've met her, haven't you?" said Erica opening her eyes.
"Yeah. She's a little obnoxious," stated Callie unconsciously stroking the arm under her hand.
Erica lifted her head. "She can be, but she's good. She holds up under pressure and for the most part, I don't have to teach her anything. Although I think her transition to Seattle Grace has been a little tough. She's been making mistakes, but she was great for most of today. She's got a lot of surgeries under her belt and great instincts. She's like you," she finished.
Callie frowned. "I hope not."
"What did she do insult your mother or something?" Erica teased.
"No, she insulted you," she said.
Erica seemed taken aback. "Really? That's surprising. She's usually trying to be overly friendly to me."
"Well she didn't insult you in the usual way, but she did show a serious lack of respect," said Callie.
"What did she say?" asked Erica.
Callie looked away. Erica reached for the hand currently not resting on her arm with her own free hand and held it gently in hers, apparently forgetting her no initiating touching policy.
"Hey, it doesn't matter. I'm not affected by it, I promise. It couldn't be anything worse then what's already been said around here. I've heard it all before Callie. It doesn't bother me."
She tugged at Callie's hand. Callie tangled her fingers with Erica's and returned Erica's gaze, letting everything she was feeling show. She let the fears and insecurities rise to the surface, alongside the desire, the wanting and yes, the love she felt for this woman show in her eyes as she stared. Erica seemed astounded at what she saw and blinked. Callie took note of their positions, sitting close together, their hands entangled in each others, her casual stroking of Erica's arm and knew that a stranger walking in right now would not be confused about what they meant to each other. If a stranger wouldn't be confused, why should she?
Callie took a deep breath thinking about what to say, but her mind was a complete blank slate. Surprisingly, thoughts of Gretchen rushed into the empty spaces. She imagined Gretchen walking in on them at this moment and a part of her wanted Gretchen to walk in, not because she wanted to gloat or make obvious that she was as close to Erica as Gretchen wanted to be. No, it was the primal peeing around your territory part of her personality that wanted Gretchen to walk in. It was about protecting what was hers and she wanted Erica to be hers and Gretchen to know it. So part of her was hoping, wishing, praying really that a certain long-legged, skinny, coke swilling, obnoxious blond resident would walk in right at this very moment. But they were alone and no one was interrupting them.
She saw Erica look away in confusion, felt the hand in hers relax around her fingers and start to pull away. Callie squeezed hard, holding on, intent on not letting Erica slip from her. She thought of Addison's warning again. This was her opportunity. It was the wrong place, but it was time. It was way past time. She leaned in closer focusing on Erica's hand in hers.
"She said something about wanting to see what else your hands could do and I didn't particularly like that comment."
Erica's mouth opened slightly, her eyebrows were almost to her hairline. Callie didn't know what else to say so instead she began slowly tracing the fingers in Erica's hand. Erica's eyes went to their joined hands. She cleared her throat.
"Is that so?" she asked.
Callie shrugged. "Yes," she stated simply her fingers continuing to trace the outline of Erica's hand.
Erica watched her. She seemed at a loss for words. Finally she spoke, her voice low and slightly huskier than usual.
"It doesn't mean anything. Not to me and I doubt it means anything to her," said Erica.
Callie felt like the worried lover and decided to go with that feeling, play that role, thinking this was her way of having a conversation they needed to have. She took both of Erica's hands in hers and continued the gentle tracing of her fingers.
"Should I be worried?" she asked both verbally and with her eyes.
Erica looked confused alternating between looking at Callie's face and their joined hands. "Why would you be worried?" Erica responded.
"Well, I don't particularly want her to find out what other things your hands can do."
"Then no, I don't think you have anything to worry about."
You don't think," repeated Callie with a smile. "I need a little more assurance than that."
Erica tilted her head. "Assurance of what exactly, Callie?"
Callie leaned forward. "I don't want you touching anyone… but… me," she whispered.
Callie noticed the accelerated rate of Erica's breathing, how Erica's eyes were glued to their hands, so she kept up the gentle tracing enjoying the warmth of those fingers. She watched her, waiting for a reaction. Erica closed her eyes and looked like she was trying to relax or get something under control.
"Callie…" she started to say as she looked up. She stopped mid-speech as she saw Callie get up.
Callie moved closer to Erica, still holding Erica's hands in hers.
"Erica, I really want to kiss you right now."
Erica swallowed hard. Callie leaned forward wanting to fulfill her desire. Erica watched her intently as if not believing this was really happening. Their faces were inches apart, mouths slightly open, breath coming in irregular spurts.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
They jumped, reaching for their pagers automatically.
"It's me," said Erica looking at Callie only briefly as she got up. She stopped at the door and turned. "Callie," she started. She put her hands in the pockets of her lab jacket. "I don't know… I'd like to..." her eyes wandered around the room.
"Me too," said Callie.
"You don't know what I was going to say."
"Whatever it was me too."
Erica laughed nervously. Her pager went off again just as Callie reached the door to stand next to her.
"I'll walk with you," said Callie.
"What if I was going to say I'd like to get into your pants?" said Erica pointedly not looking at Callie.
"I'd say me too."
Erica almost tripped over her own feet. They were almost to the Pit when Callie's pager went off too.
"You have the absolute worse timing in the world Torres," said Erica. "I'd really like to finish this conversation, but we need to decide who's going to call Nell and give her the bad news, because I don't think I'm getting out of here on time today."
"Let's see what were dealing with first," answered Callie.
It took over nine hours to get that kid out of the cement block he was encased in. The only good thing about the whole situation was that she and Erica had actually gotten to work together, something that didn't happen very often. It made Callie inappropriately giddy and she'd had to work really hard to put a clamp on that. Then there was the utter sexiness that was Erica working, taking command of a situation, fighting to save the kid's life. Even though they all had important roles to play and they were all working towards the same goal, Erica still had the toughest task, which was basically making sure the kid's heart didn't explode. Just like when she had seen her with a guitar strapped to her months ago, there was something about Erica performing that just did things to Callie.
So on top of keeping her head together in a crisis, keeping the goals front and center, doing everything she could to make sure the kid got to keep his legs, she had to put aside what Erica's nearness was doing to her. At one point Erica was so close that mere inches separated their faces. Their eyes had met briefly and Callie almost groaned out loud. Erica had hurriedly looked away.
Mark had been making snarky comments throughout that she knew were directed at them or maybe they were just directed at her since he seemed a little afraid of Erica. After nearly nine hours of working on that kid she was still standing. Their own kids were no longer a concern. In between everything Erica called her friend Danielle, who agreed to stay with Lucas and Allie so they wouldn't have to drag them to the hospital.
She was watching Erica work from the scrub room. Erica should look exhausted and worn out, all of which Callie was also feeling. The difference was that Callie was sure she looked it too. Erica somehow still looked good, like she could go another eight or nine hours, no problem. At least that's what she looked like to Callie. She shook her head.
"You're supposed to be sitting down. That's what the breaks are for. We've been on our feet for over nine hours, rest your legs," said Mark as he walked in and saw her.
"My legs are good," she said to him still watching Erica through the glass.
"Inappropriate, don't you think? Thinking about sex during surgery."
She looked at him ready to protest.
He continued, "I'm just saying what I've been witnessing all day."
She looked away. "We had a pretty important… conversation before all of this." She closed her eyes and turned around, her back now to the glass. She leaned against the counter. "I haven't talked to anyone about this, but we…there's something..." She grimaced hating that she was struggling with the words.
"Callie it's okay. Anybody can see there's something between you. I wish someone would look at me like you look at her. So what happened before cement boy?"
He was next to her, up against the counter, mimicking her position, arms crossed in front of him. She smiled.
"I told her Gretchen had the hots for her and that I didn't want her having the hots for anyone but me, or something like that." She looked at him. "I know, I know, pretty lame."
He smirked. "It's weak, but it's something. It's about time too. So then what? She jump your bones or something?"
She gave him a disbelieving look and laughed at where his dirty perverted mind was going.
Their conversation was interrupted by the swish of doors. Erica was standing there looking at the two of them, a crease forming at her forehead, her eyes shifting from one to the other. She had a question in her eyes and what Callie thought was a look of pain or fear, barely discernible. Her gaze was on them for a few seconds before it went internal and focused on nothing. Callie found her voice and uttered an awkward sounding "Hey".
"Well, he's vascularly intact, so you guys can start
debriding." Mark and Callie nodded acknowledging her.
"I'm going to check on my service," she said and then she was gone.
Erica knew it had been a lame excuse, but the sight of them standing so close together, obviously involved in an intimate conversation irked her. He irked her. He was, she honestly surmised, a threat, which she knew sounded odd, but it was her gut instinct telling her he was a threat and she tended to trust it. Of the two very stupid men Callie had been involved with at Seattle Grace, Mark Sloan was the one who could interfere, interrupt, damage or just mess in general with her and Callie, if there was ever going to be a her and Callie.
Yes, Callie had actually been romantically involved with George, had loved him even, but George was clearly not interested in Callie. Erica saw it in his actions more than anything else. He didn't look for Callie and even when they happened to occupy the same space, his eyes didn't search her out. He just wasn't or at least didn't appear to be that into Callie. Erica sometimes wondered what they had ever seen in each other or how they had acted when they were a couple. There was nothing that lingered from that relationship. It was as if there were no traces of it in their interactions, nothing to even hint at intimacy or closeness.
Mark was a different story. Mark's eyes lingered on Callie and while Erica could tell that his attentions were based on pure physical attraction, he also cared about Callie. He sought her out, he laughed with her, he was concerned when she was upset. She had seen examples of it. No, Callie was not and had not been romantically linked to Mark, but even their short seemingly insignificant physical relationship seemed to suggest a level of caring that went beyond a purely casual encounter. Callie had told her he made her feel loved and Erica had no doubt that were he to put his mind to it, Mark could love Callie. Erica could handle George, Mark, Mark made her nervous and anxious and insecure. She hated him for that. She wasn't used to those emotions and she didn't like them, didn't like herself feeling so unsure. So instead of dealing or staying there and talking to Callie, she had done what she did best, gave them instructions and stomped off to work.
She and Callie shared a pretty amazing moment hours earlier. As a result her focus today was hard fought. She'd had to contend with exhaustion and her own heart beating in all sorts of irregular patterns. No wonder Bailey had been the one to figure out what they were missing with cement boy. She should have known that, but her head had been in the clouds, examining and obsessing about every interaction with Callie during the crisis. Every look, every touch had been catalogued and analyzed right alongside the patient's stats and the problems he was presenting. Now she should be preparing to go home and relieve Danielle, but she wasn't. She was sitting in a dark nurse's station charting. She wanted to make sure all of the bases would be covered overnight for cement boy. That's what she told herself or what she would have told anyone who asked.
But she knew she was really killing time until Callie was done, although she didn't know when that would be exactly. They had promised to finish their conversation, but the minutes were interminably long and she was starting to feel like maybe she misunderstood what had happened earlier, maybe it was a figment of her exhausted mind, like an illusion or a mirage. She was sure Callie had mentioned something about Gretchen wanting to sleep with her. But that was just Gretchen being Gretchen. Had she imagined the rest? Had she been in fantasy-land even while awake, thinking Callie had told her she hadn't liked Gretchen's attentions towards Erica, that she felt threatened by them?
"Stop it. Just stop it!"
Yang's voice startled her. She thought she was relatively alone at the desk. The verbal scolding were meant for her ears only, a last desperate attempt to stop thoughts that were making her fearful and queasy.
"Yang. I didn't know you were there," said Erica trying to compose herself.
"Just charting same as you," said Christina.
"Okay," answered Erica absently.
"Hey where was Gretchen super resident today? I would have expected her to be all over this."
Erica frowned realizing that Gretchen had not shown her face in the trauma all day. All day Erica had been relying on Yang.
"I don't know. I didn't think to page her, but she should have been around, at least at the beginning." She sighed before turning to Christina. "You did great by the way. I wish Webber would just let me..."
She stopped. God, what the hell was happening to her? She could not very well tell Christina that she wished Webber would let some junior residents specialize. She would love to have Christina on her service permanently. She would even promise to lend her out regularly to other departments to give her a well rounded surgical education. Christina was looking at her expectantly. She sighed.
"She's not working out as well as I had hoped," she offered.
Christina blinked. "Yeah," she said. "Get rid of her."
Erica laughed heartily.
"You should go home, Erica" said Christina. "You've been here almost twenty hours."
"I know. I think I will," she said knowing that it made sense to just go home.
She didn't know when Callie would be done. She had been at the hospital too long. She needed to get some sleep. She and Callie could talk tomorrow. She pushed aside the charts after making some notations, tried to push aside the fear that whatever had inspired Callie to tell her she wanted to kiss her would recede and they would never talk about it again and went to the locker room to change her clothes and get ready to go home.
Erica was about to crash hard from the high she had been in for most of the day. The moment with Callie that felt so promising had started the high, but it continued when she first set eyes on the cement encrusted mess that had started out as a healthy, albeit slightly idiotic, young man. It was the challenge and urgency of the situation that fueled her high then. But now she was crashing. Her stupid insecurities only made the downward spiral worse. She had been going over the moments with Callie before they were interrupted by the cement boy trauma repeatedly; trying to convince herself that what she thought happened, had really happened. And now she had lost her keys. Losing her keys was pretty much the crap icing on the shit cake that was coming down from that high.
And to think, she had been in such a good mood. Right before Callie found her in the lounge ages ago, she was about to end a perfectly decent shift. It was long and she had not relished being called in at 5 AM, but her surgeries had actually been interesting. Gretchen appeared to finally be living up to Erica's expectations. No one died, she found time to chart in peace and no grenades had been tossed her way. When Callie found her, she was in such high spirits and so happy to see her that she had forgotten all the awkwardness and fear that had plagued her after their almost kiss.
Callie was happy to see her too and Erica wanted to revel in that. The playful and highly suggestive banter that followed and which had unbelievably almost ended in a kiss only fueled the good mood. But after hours of working on cement boy her good mood drained out of her. She and Callie hadn't finished their conversation. Gretchen had gone AWOL during the crisis, which pretty much meant she was becoming a problem Erica would need to deal with, since she had brought her here. And on top of everything else, she couldn't find her keys.
This was the second time she had emptied her bag, only to fill it again and still no keys. She patted herself down trying to listen for the tell-tale sound of jingling, but all she heard were cars zooming in the distance and the rustling her hands made against her jacket. She took a deep breath and dove into her bag again. Maybe the keys were hiding in some dark corner. For the third time she started emptying her bag. She turned the bag inside out, shook it, ran her fingers through every inch of it and still no keys. She was refilling her bag, making sure to vigorously shake everything as she put it back. She knew if she didn't find her keys soon, she was going to lose it. She needed sleep.
She heard footsteps approaching her and knew the rhythm of those steps. She wasn't going to be able to handle Callie right now. She was in no condition to have the conversation they had promised, assuming Callie still wanted to have it, so she kept her head down continuing to throw things in her bag carefully.
"Hey, you're still here. I thought you were long gone."
"I can't find my keys," answered Erica absently.
"Why don't you leave your car here and I'll drive us home. You're exhausted anyway. We can pick up your car tomorrow."
"I had the damn keys this morning. I put them in this bag, but I can't find them," she said still not looking at Callie.
"Erica," Callie was frowning.
"I'm just a little tired," she said still not looking at Callie.
"Erica!' said Callie loud enough that Erica had to look at her.
"What?" she said pretty sure she looked as exhausted as she felt.
"Let me take you home. We'll find your keys tomorrow."
But for some reason Erica's keys had become the key to her stability. Without them, she would feel completely lost.
"I need to find my keys," she persisted still looking at Callie.
Callie searched her eyes and held Erica's gaze. She stepped forward, their faces once again mere inches apart. Callie reached her hand into Erica's jacket. Erica heard it, the jingle. She blinked in surprise as Callie pulled out her keys and held them in front of her. Erica was tempted to laugh at the utter ridiculousness of the situation, but Callie was still in front of her close enough to reach without much effort. In fact it was no effort at all.
She leaned into Callie who met her halfway and this time there were no pagers and no bouncing children. Their lips met and it was as if they had been kissing for ages. Their lips moved softly over each other, brushing sensually in a natural rhythm. They pulled back slightly staring at each other momentarily before continuing. The kisses became more urgent now and mouths were coaxed into the game, opening and closing as they sucked each other's air. Tongues became involved and they found they couldn't be close enough. Callie's hands were tangled in Erica's hair as if she was afraid Erica would pull back or disappear. Erica's arms went around Callie's waist pulling their bodies close. Finally, Callie pulled back, looking around as if she had just realized they were in front of the hospital.
Erica was standing in front of her, eyes closed. Seconds passed and still she remained in the same place, eyes still closed. Callie reached for her, cupping her face gently.
"Erica, are you okay?"
"I'm tired," said Erica "And I don't know if I'm dreaming."
Callie laughed before giving her a light peck on the mouth.
"You're not dreaming. Come on let me take you home. You need some serious sleep."
Erica did not move, but she did open her eyes. She smiled. "Do I get more kisses?" she asked.
Callie was now throwing Erica's things back in her bag. She laughed. "Yeah, but we gotta get you home first, okay?"
Erica snapped out of it and began helping. Callie picked up the bag once they were done and put it over her shoulder.
"Come on, let's get you home."
She threaded her hand through Erica's and led her to the parking garage and her car, never noticing George O'Malley watching them from the entrance to the hospital, his mouth open, his face pasty white.