"So what… What did I see if it wasn't what I thought I saw?" said Erica standing at the edge of the living room.
Allie had been the first to fall asleep. Lucas had been halfway there but needed to be carried up all the same about 45 minutes into the movie. Things were a little awkward with just the two of them after they settled the kids. All kinds of questions were rolling around inside Erica's head as they made their way downstairs again. She hadn't known which question would actually come out first, but was somewhat happy that her subconscious wanted to get to the heart of the matter.
Callie was quiet on the way down. She went to the couch and sat not really acknowledging Erica's question. Erica's stomach immediately tied itself in knots again and she felt the familiar throbbing in her head that signaled another headache.
"Have you eaten?" asked Erica not sure of what else to say.
"No, but I'm not hungry right now. Come sit next to me," said Callie patting the seat next to her.
Erica looked weary. She felt safer where she was, standing at the edge of the living room, but Callie was looking at her expectantly so she walked over and sat down.
"It was and it wasn't what you thought you saw," began Callie.
Erica's hands started to shake. She clenched them tightly and sat back.
"Okay, I'm going to need a little more explanation."
She closed her eyes willing the headache to recede into the background. Callie turned to face her.
"I tried sleeping with him. It felt wrong, so I stopped. We didn't."
Erica was trying hard not to lose it. "Maybe I don't want an explanation," she said. She let out a breath. "Okay, I have a feeling I'm going to regret this, but what the hell? So how far did you get? No, you know what, I don't want to know."
"We didn't get very far. I told him to stop and he did. End of story."
"He had his shirt off. He was doing up his pants. What, did you not get to finish?" This was a mistake. She didn't want to know. "This was a mistake," Erica vocalized the thought in her head as she started to get up.
"I love you," she heard Callie say stopping her in mid-motion.
Erica sat back down. She had been wanting to hear those words since she said them herself two days ago. Now they seemed hollow, like something you said because it was expected or required.
"I wanted you to know. I love you too. You told me you loved me and I told you that you were special. Well, you are special to me. I'm in love with you."
Erica thought about that. She wanted to believe her. She really did. "Then why were you even trying to sleep with him?"
"I'm not sure I'm gay, so I wanted to...I thought it would answer that question. It did. I didn't want him – didn't want that. The 'that' doesn't mater. I just want you."
"Good, great. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say here Callie, congratulations?"
This was a bad idea. Everything was too fresh in Erica's mind. She needed some distance from it before she could talk about it rationally.
"I'm sorry Callie. I can't have this conversation right now. I just..."
She got up abruptly and went to the window trying to collect herself. Callie did not follow. Neither woman spoke.
Erica had been like a robot tonight strictly on autopilot as she put chicken nuggets in the oven and checked homework. The routine, the kids, Callie kissing her, those things chased away the last of the anger she felt this afternoon and now all that was left was the bone-chilling hurt she had been trying to hold at bay for two days. After a few minutes Erica felt like she could form words and even say them out loud, although she didn't. Knowing you could say words and figuring out what the words should be were two different prospects. She stayed by the window finding the bleak rainy visage oddly comforting. It was a mirror to what she was feeling.
An hour ago she and Callie had been kissing. Callie had been in her arms, molding herself to Erica's body, holding on to her so tight, it made Erica believe she wanted to be there. She was weak. That was the only explanation for the hope that sparked in her heart in that moment. It surprised Erica. She was not a hopeful person, but Callie's kiss in the kitchen ignited it. She shook her head as she considered the ridiculousness of having hope in such a hopeless situation. Two days ago she let herself believe that Callie was feeling what she was feeling, that they were both falling in love. She couldn't put faith in that again because instead of celebrating their new love, she was standing here in her own house waiting to hear about Mark Sloan. She didn't want to hear it, didn't want to know exactly how far Mark and Callie had gotten. She didn't want to have to imagine Mark's hands touching places she had yet to touch. She laughed at that.
She heard Callie call her name in question and turned, but did not respond.
"You okay?" Callie asked and then cringed at her own question.
She considered lying and telling Callie she was just fine, nothing bothering her today, but she was never been good at lying. She was more comfortable with blunt honest truths. She sighed and turned her gaze back to the inky black darkness outside the window.
"I will be," she finally answered. "I'm not right now, but eventually I will be."
"What was the laugh for?" asked Callie.
Erica laughed again. "You don't want to know."
"Yes, I do."
Erica turned to look at her, but her eyes could not remain on Callie for long, not without compromising her precious control. She turned back to the window before answering.
"You didn't take your shirt off," she said.
Callie let a few minutes pass in silence. Finally she spoke.
"I don't know what that means?" she said sounding confused.
"You didn't take your shirt off with me. Amateur, teenage romp on a couch. No clothes came off." She laughed again. "Unlike your other…" she struggled to find the appropriate word and settled on "encounter". She spared a quick glance at Callie noting the moistness in her eyes before looking away again.
"Kind of says it all doesn't it? With me it was play, foreplay even, a warm-up for the real thing." There was no force in the world that could keep the bitterness out of her voice.
"Oh God, Erica, that is not…please don't."
Callie's voice was shaking, the tremors recognizable in every syllable she spoke. "It was stupid. A very stupid idiotic thing. It was me trying to get a question answered, nothing else. It was not…"
Erica interrupted her ramblings. Even now she couldn't stand to see Callie in pain. "It doesn't matter Callie."
"What do you mean? Of course it matters!"
Erica didn't respond. She continued to stare at the world outside her window for a full minute before speaking again.
"Callie, I think we both know this was a mistake."
"I know I made a mistake, but I don't think…"
"No, Callie, I mean this, whatever this is, whatever's going on with us, it's a mistake."
Callie was staring at her, disbelief etched into every line of her lovely face. Erica tried to smile at her.
"You're not gay. That's why you have questions you need answered. That's why you're struggling with this. Callie, I love you, but this is a mistake. I think we… we need to start thinking about how to separate our lives."
"I don't want that," said Callie defiantly.
"Neither do I, but it's the only option open to us."
"I didn't kiss you earlier because I wanted to spend time apart. I didn't expose our relationship to our...to the kids so that we could separate our lives. I didn't just tell you I love you so we could walk away from each other."
"It's not that simple, Callie. I know you think you've figured things out, but we've been here before and I can't jump into this thing with you a second time." She found solace in the window again and turned her gaze outward before continuing. "I've been in love with you for a long time, but I accepted that you weren't feeling the same thing and tried to be your friend. Friday night and Saturday were…"
She closed her eyes taking in big long breaths. "Pretty wonderful for me. I'm sorry it wasn't like that for you. I wish you had talked to me, but… you didn't. This afternoon… I've reached my limit, Callie. I can't do this anymore. I'd like to salvage the friendship, but I'm not even sure how to do that. For right now, I think it's best to put some distance between us. It gets too confusing when we're together. Otherwise, I don't think I'll survive this friendship."
"What..." Callie had gone from defiance to shock. "What does that mean?"
"Callie we need to…I need some space from you, see if I can put this behind me."
"But I don't want that. I don't want you to put us behind you. I want to be with you. I know I screwed up. I didn't talk to you about what George said and I…I was trying to get a question answered and I did, but I don't want to lose you."
There were tears in her eyes and down her cheeks and some of her words came out choked and Erica's heart broke a little more. She hated this. She hated how she was feeling and she hated seeing Callie hurt.
"Callie I don't want to lose your friendship either. It's been hard enough to lose...but too much has happened. I can't go back to being friends with you again, not yet. I need some time to…"
"But I don't want to be just your friend. I want you, Erica."
Callie stood and walked over to Erica reaching for her, wanting to feel her hands on Erica's stomach, the place she seemed to naturally gravitate to.
"Please don't," said Erica her eyes closed. It had taken every ounce of will power she had left to not flinch, to not step back abruptly and walk out of the room.
"Oh God," said Callie as she looked away, new tears glistening paths made earlier on her face. "Oh God, this is… Erica, please don't do this. Don't shut me out. Please…"
Erica's eyes were stinging. She was sick of the tears and the hurt and the confusion and because despite everything that had happened, she was in love with this woman and hated to see her in pain or distress, she surged forward and wrapped long arms around her. It was like no sensation she had ever known this combination of pain and elation that was twisting around her insides like some psychotic game of Twister.
"It's okay Callie. It'll be okay. You'll be okay."
Callie had a death grip on her, but her sobs subsided after a few minutes. She sniffled into Erica's shirt and lifted her head. "Will we be okay?" she asked.
Erica thought about her answer for awhile as she looked at Callie. "I don't know Callie. We'll take some time and figure things out and see what happens."
Callie stopped crying and seemed to get herself together. She let Erica go and stepped carefully out of her embrace.
"Don't give up on us Erica. I want this with you. You want it too. I know you do."
"It's not a matter of want, Callie. I think it's a matter of what's best."
"I don't care about what's best. I care about what's right and you and me, we are right. I never feel as right as when I'm with you. It just took me awhile to recognize it."
Erica said nothing. She thought she had known how this conversation was going to go.
How many things could I be wrong about in one day?
Callie was saying the right things, she really was. Erica hadn't expected that, but she knew herself, knew her desire to believe Callie's words came from her heart, just like the kissing in the kitchen earlier. That was her heart talking too, but she needed her head right now, so she forced herself to be logical, to push back on the emotions and instead think about the last two months, the back and forth with Callie, her running away, Mark Sloan. Mark Sloan. No matter how right things felt, Callie had still felt the need to go to Mark Sloan.
It was too late.
It took you too long to recognize it Callie, because I'm not sure I want to make myself that vulnerable again with you. My heart can't take it. I can't take it.
Callie must have seen the doubt and fear in Erica's eyes.
"I know you're not sure. I get that. I just want you to not give up on us. Please don't… I need you to not give up on me. Please tell me you won't give up?"
Erica was staring at her, willing the right answer to appear in front of her like magic. But there was no such thing as magic, there was just her heart and her head and they weren't providing the answer.
"Okay," she said unsure of what she had agreed to. "But, things can't be the way they were before, Callie. I can't be around you all the time."
Callie considered the statement. She let her hands settle on Erica's stomach letting out a breath in relief that Erica was allowing it.
"You're always so warm here at your core. It's my favorite place to be. I feel like I'm anchored to you when I'm here." She took a deep breath. "Okay, I can give you space. But you need to know that I want to be with you. You know that right? I want this, you and me and Lucas and Allie. I want it with you and I'll be here when you're done thinking about everything. I've had my gay panic and I'm over it."
Erica was surprised at her words. "Gay panic?" she asked.
"That's what Christina called it."
"Okay," said Erica enjoying Callie's hands on her and knowing she had to put an end to it soon. She was trying to will herself to do it. She stared at Callie's hands and finally got her own hands to settle on Callie's, gripping and pushing Callie away from her.
"Not yet," said Callie looking at her with pleading eyes. "I promise I'll give you space. I won't do the touching thing and I'll accept whatever boundaries you want to set up, but let me just…for tonight, right now, can we just pretend today didn't happen? Can you just hold me?"
Erica knew she should say no, that no amount of denial could change the events of today or the last few days, but this had been one of the worse days of her life and she wanted to forget it too. She wanted to forget Mark Sloan and on-call rooms and gay panic. So instead of taking those hands away, she engulfed Callie in a hug and let Callie's head rest on her chest. She wrapped her arms around her body and just held on, dreading the morning and all the changes it would bring.
And somewhere in her head something registered. What the hell had George O'Malley said to Callie?
An hour later, Erica was still holding her. They had moved to the couch and Erica's mind was all over the place. She didn't think it was a good idea for them to be like this, wrapped around each other when tomorrow everything would change. But she had already denied Callie a pretty big thing and there were only so many things she could deny Callie in one night. This was not one of them. She could feel Callie's breathing deepen and thought she might fall asleep where she was.
Erica was not a processor; she didn't see much point in going over the details of something like this over and over again, but one thought had nagged at her for the last hour.
"What did George say to you?"
Callie didn't stir from her place on Erica's chest.
"Um…he said my getting involved with you might put Allie at risk."
Erica tried to remain calm, but what the hell had O'Malley meant by that? She could tell Callie was sleepy and didn't want to disturb her with the anger coursing through her, ready to be expelled, so she breathed deeply and said nothing. George was a dead man.
Callie stirred anyway, adjusting herself so she was even closer to Erica. "I mean, he said David would find it easier to sue for custody if I got involved with you."
The anger flared again. Erica wanted to hold David's heart in her hands. She wanted to strangle the life out of him and George and Mark Sloan and anyone else that messed with Callie. She breathed deeply again. She wished she could deny it, but as much as she hated to admit it, their involvement would probably make it easier for David to mess with Callie and Allie. It wouldn't be automatic and his chances of success were still limited, especially in Washington, but it was possible. The wrong judge, the wrong time and their lives would be ruined.
"Callie, I'm sorry." She squeezed the body wrapped around her, not know knowing what else to do.
"S'okay. Still want you. We'd find a way to fight him," said Callie in a sleepy voice.
George was such a dead man.