Callie took a deep breath and walked into the kitchen. She found Erica pouring water into the coffee maker.
"You making enough for me too?" she asked.
Erica gave her a shy smile. "I wasn't sure you were staying."
Callie walked up to her and pushed her gently to the side. "Let me," she said.
She checked the coffee and shook her head. "You really weren't making enough for me. I missed dinner, the least you could do is offer me coffee."
She glanced at Erica who looked slightly confused. "Sorry, there are left-over's in the fridge," answered Erica.
"Chinese or chicken nuggets?" asked Callie playfully as she re-did Erica's work pouring in more coffee grounds, adding a little cinnamon to the mix and pouring more water.
"Chinese," said Erica laughing a little.
"I was kidding. I ate earlier at the hospital."
"So, are you taking Allie?" asked Erica bluntly.
"No, I read them a story. I hope you don't mind, they wanted to stay in the bunk beds. They were kind of excited about sleeping in the same house again."
"No, no, I know. That's where I was going to put them."
"They're waiting for you. Why don't I finish the coffee and you can go up and say goodnight."
"Okay. Will you still be here when I get back?" asked Erica unsure.
"Oh yeah, I'll be here."
"Okay," said Erica again and walked out of the kitchen.
Ten minutes later Erica was slowly making her way downstairs trying to think of how she should act. Something had changed with Callie. She was no longer shy and timid with Erica trying hard to give her the space that she had asked for. Erica made it to the bottom of the stairs and stopped. She looked toward the kitchen. She heard the sound of a cabinet door opening and closing, the gentle scratching of cups being dragged on a counter and other things she could not decipher. Callie was still in the kitchen. It was only with Callie that she heard those kitchen noises. She had been missing them for the last two weeks. The kitchen seemed cold and sterile since Callie stopped coming over. It was silly, but it seemed even the kitchen missed Callie. She could smell the coffee Callie was making and sighed as she continued to stand at the foot of the stairs, wanting some direction, some clarity.
She tried separating her life from Callie's, but it wasn't working. It was ridiculous; the two of them living separate lives. Everything about the situation was not working. Lucas was constantly pissed at her and she was being testy with him. He hated that Callie and Allie weren't coming over for breakfast and hated leaving Callie's right after dinner.
The first night he was perplexed but had gone with little protest. They spent the night finishing homework and watching television. The second night he threw a colossal tantrum when they got home. She let him scream and rant on the living room floor until he tired himself out, occasionally wiping the tears that formed on her own face. He didn't understand any of it. He only ate half his breakfast the next morning and refused to speak to her. He was not a naturally quiet child, however, so he peppered her with questions in the car as they waited for the school doors to open. At that point, she was so sick of thinking about her and Callie that she got short with him, telling him that it was grown up stuff and that he would understand when he was older.
The next morning he told her how stupid it all was. He had just come right out and said it.
"Mom, this is stupid. Aunt Cal is right there," he said pointing behind him where Callie and Allie had just pulled up.
She looked at him point blank and said, "You're right Lucas. This is really stupid." She was exhausted, her arm braced against the driver's side door was holding up her head. She looked at him.
"Go, you know you want to wait over there with them."
He at least had the decency to say thanks before bolting from her car with his backpack and running to Allie and Callie, leaving her to contemplate his assessment. The first time she sat in the car watching them through her rear view mirror until the school doors opened and the kids were let in. But after that first morning, she simply drove away as soon as she saw him with Callie. That had become the new routine. They would drive up; he would talk about Callie and Allie for awhile and then run off as soon as he saw them. And every time, her assessment of the situation was the same as Lucas's.
This is really, really stupid.
Yep, the whole separation thing was stupid, but she started it and didn't quite know how to end it. She missed Callie. She missed Allie. She missed the four of them.
She hated that she and Callie didn't talk at work. She didn't have that many friends there, but since she never bothered making any except for Yang and Callie, it felt particularly lonely now that Callie was working a regular shift. It was funny how she had never felt alone at a hospital before. Somehow having Callie there and not being able to talk to her made her feel very lonely. But she was the one that asked for space, so it made sense that she would be the one to pay the price.
She had been trying to figure out how to resolve this in her head for a few days. She wanted Callie, wanted to be with her and Callie had told her she was ready for a relationship as well, that the thing with Sloan was a kind of gay panic. She didn't know if she could trust Callie on that yet. Actually she didn't know what gay panic was having never panicked about that herself. Nevertheless, this separation was killing her and so reluctantly she always came back to Lucas's conclusion that the whole thing was really stupid.
It was stupid to look forward to dinner every night because she got to see Callie and then get there and not talk to her. It was stupid to make Lucas leave after dinner when all she wanted to do was stay. It was stupid to leave a few minutes earlier for school when they should all be leaving together. Things would be so much simpler if her and Callie had not already intertwined their lives so much. If there was no Lucas and no Allie, she could just leave, find somewhere else to work. But then without Lucas in her life, she might still be at Presbyterian. She might never have made it to Seattle Grace, might not have met Callie at all. That thought always made her head spin. She knew this separation thing had to end when she could not imagine having not met Callie. Yet Erica didn't know how to do it. She didn't know how to deal with her fear that Callie would run from her again despite the things she had said two weeks ago.
So here she was standing at the foot of the stairs thinking about what she was going to do next. She didn't have a plan, which was rare for her. She always had a plan, but in this, with Callie she had never been able to actually formulate one. It was probably why they had gotten together in the way that they had. Resolving to follow Callie's lead, she headed for the kitchen. Something had happened with Callie. She didn't know what it was, but Callie was apparently done with giving her space. She had kissed her. She had touched her and now she was here letting Allie sleep over and apparently not leaving. She took a breath, tried to clear her mind and walked into the kitchen.
Erica walked in just as Callie was mixing hot milk with her delicious coffee. Callie turned to her.
"Hey, I figured this is our drink of choice for big talks, so I made a batch."
"Are we going to have a big talk?" asked Erica sitting down at the island.
"You tell me," said Callie pouring two cups. "I'd like to. I've missed you. You and Lucas."
Erica accepted the cup. She closed her eyes as she sipped, smiled, then opened them again. "I've missed you too. And Allie. And this coffee."
Callie sat with her own cup smiling widely. "Glad you still like it. Thanks for letting Lucas sit with us in the mornings."
Erica frowned. "Well, Lucas doesn't like me much these days. He doesn't understand why things can't be the way they were before. He says I'm acting stupid."
Callie was surprised. "Erica you can't let him talk to you like that. I know he's frustrated, but..."
Erica smiled. "You have it so easy, you know. Allie is an angel, but Lucas, he can be so strong willed."
"Like his Mom," said Callie.
"Maybe, but he's right. It is stupid. What we've been doing is stupid."
Callie put her cup down carefully. "What...what are you saying?" she asked concern lacing her words.
"I'm saying that this isn't working."
Callie got up abruptly. This was her nightmare. That Erica would decide she couldn't do the friend thing either before Callie could convince her that a romantic relationship was worth the risk. Her first instinct was to leave. She didn't want to kind of break-up again. She didn't want to hear about separations or routines, but she couldn't leave either. Leaving would accomplish nothing.
"Please don't make another speech about how we need to separate our lives."
"Would you like to go out with me?" asked Erica, but Callie kept talking.
"Because I don't think we can anymore. Separating our lives isn't working because we should be together. I don't want to separate our lives." Callie stopped, her eyes opened wide as Erica's question registered. "Did you just ask me out?"
"Yes?" asked Erica sounding unsure.
"Okay how do we go from this isn't working to go out with me?"
Erica was looking at her nervously. "I don't think this whole separation thing is working out, so I just thought... We could maybe try…"
Callie waited for Erica to finish her thought, trying to ignore the back flips her heart was doing and wondering how high her blood pressure could get before she stroked out, but nothing further was coming from Erica.
"Erica?" she said trying not to sound impatient.
Erica laughed into her cup. "Nothing. That was impulsive me talking."
Now Callie was getting pissed. "Erica you really need to finish that thought."
Erica said nothing and continued to stare at the cup in front of her. Callie walked over to her, pulled the coffee cup out of her hands and stood between Erica's legs, cupping her face with both hands.
"Did you just ask me out?" she repeated her earlier question.
"Yes, I did," said Erica trying in vain to remove Callie's hands from her face. "But nothing has changed. You're not gay. Just because this separation thing isn't working out doesn't mean you want to be with me...in the way I want you to be."
"Yes, I'll go out with you."
"I mean you and Mark seem to have some sort of...I don't know...connection and well, I guess I understand that."
"Erica, stop and listen to me."
"What?" said Erica now trying to stand to get away.
Callie maintained her ground, her hands still cupping Erica's face, trying desperately to keep Erica in her chair. She knew if Erica wanted to, she could get physical and shove her, but until she did that, Callie was staying where she was. Erica did not push, but she was still struggling to remove herself from Callie, so Callie did the only other thing she could. She leaned in and kissed her. She put aside the fears and concentrated on what was in front of her, what she wanted, what she had been wanting for months now. She pressed her lips to Erica's let out a moan of relief as she felt Erica respond and just went with the emotion.
The kiss was slow and deep and went on for minutes neither of them quite ready to stop. Callie tangled her hands in Erica's hair as she felt Erica's arms wrap themselves around her, urging her closer. Finally air became a necessity and the kisses slowed until Callie pulled away, her hands still in Erica's hair.
"Did you not hear me?" she asked again softly with a smile.
"Did you say something?" asked Erica still looking a little dazed from the kiss.
"Yes, I would love to go out with you."
"On a date, a real date?" asked Erica still looking unsure.
"A date date," Callie said going for another kiss.
This one was all fire, fiery red and hot. Erica stood up pulling Callie closer to her until their thighs were intermingled. She pulled her lips from Callie suddenly, but kept Callie in her embrace.
"You are dangerous," said Erica breathing hard and with a tone Callie could not decipher.
Callie looked at her. "So are you," she joked as she tried withdrawing wanting to put some distance between their overheated bodies, knowing they needed to talk. Erica held on tighter.
"Just give me a minute," said Erica relaxing her hold after a few seconds, but leaving her arms wrapped loosely around Callie.
Callie laid her head on Erica's shoulder as they both waited for their breathing to return to normal.
"I wish I could tell you that I would accept whatever you have to offer Callie."
Callie was confused. She thought a talk was in order after what had just happened, but she wasn't expecting that opening line. She raised her head and looked at Erica letting her confusion show. Erica continued to hold her but met Callie's look. It was open and a little sad which caused Callie's stomach to clench in response.
"I don't understand," she said.
Finally, Erica let go. She ran her hands through her hair and sat back down.
"A better person would tell you that they would accept whatever you had to offer even if it was just friendship." She stared into her almost empty cup.
Callie went to the carafe where she had put the batch of cafe con leche and poured her and Erica another cup.
"I thought you were offering me more, that we were offering each other more," said Callie.
Erica looked at her, confusion clouding the usually vibrant blue eyes.
"I want to. I am offering you more, but I need to be sure that you're willing to take what I offer without regrets or doubts. I don't want to be an experiment, Callie. I know there are no guarantees, but if you're unsure, then this has to end and ending means ending. No more dinners, no more hanging out with the kids. I wish I could offer you my friendship if ultimately that's all you're interested in, but I'm discovering that I can't. These last two weeks have been really hard and seeing you everyday, well it's just not working. I can't be just your friend."
She was giving Callie a sad apologetic look. "Callie, I want you. I want you so badly that I can't seem to… I can't turn that off."
"I don't want you to," said Callie edging closer to Erica. "I want this too. I don't know how many times I have say this for the message to get through. I love you and I want this," she said.
Erica sighed. "Callie the last time I heard you said you wanted this...Mark Sloan happened."
"I love you Callie. I'm in love with you, but I don't want to be your lesbian experiment and I can't just be your friend. You will never be just a friend to me. I can't imagine being a bridesmaid at your wedding. It would kill me. I'm not that person."
"You don't have to be that person. I love you too. I want this, the whole thing. I want the friendship and the kissing and everything. I want all of you."
"Why did you run? Why didn't you talk to me?" asked Erica changing gears.
Callie let out a frustrated breath. "Two weeks ago I panicked okay? I panicked big time. I was all in this totally wonderful place after we...and then I let George freak me out. I let him convince me that I was risking Allie, that they would take my child away from me because of this. So I panicked."
"What's different now?" Erica asked. "Does that not freak you out now? Is someone else going to say something that will send you running? Callie I stood in that doorway waiting for you after we had shared something that was pretty important to me, worrying about how to greet you and hoping I could convince to lie down with me and you ripped me to shreds. I can't...have that happen again. So I'm asking you, what's different, what's changed? Right now it's just me and you and this house and the kids and it's great. It feels good and it's just us and the world isn't intruding. But what about later, when Webber has you fill out that stupid who have you been with form? When your friends find out, because George's comment isn't the only one you'll get. People will say all sorts of things to you that they wouldn't if I was a man. How can I trust that you won't go running again?"
Callie smiled at her. "Erica, you have to take a leap of faith. I'm not promising that it won't freak me out. It will. But I want to be with you. That won't change."
Erica put her head in her hands, elbows on the table. "I want to believe that. You have no idea how much I want to believe that, but..."
"There are no guarantees, Erica. All I know is what I'm feeling and right now I can't imagine my life without you in it. I tried, but I can't. Right now I want to go upstairs and sleep with you and then wake up with you and never leave. I know this changes everything for me and they'll be some fallout, but you've become a part of me and I can't not have that."
She approached Erica again needing the closeness.
"You're not the only one taking a risk, Erica. There's risk. I can't will that away and neither can you. David could come back and use this against me, but I can't let him rob me of something that makes me and Allie happy. I can't let him take you away from me, so please believe me, when I say I want this."
Callie could see the uncertainty in Erica's eyes and her heart sank. She wasn't going to be able to do it. She would not be able to convince Erica to take the risk. Deciding that the only thing that had worked so far was the kissing, she leaned in again.
It was almost automatic, Erica's response. No matter what doubts and insecurities were swirling in her head, she always seemed to respond to Callie's lips. Callie sighed into the kiss seeking comfort and security in the touch. To her surprise Erica responded in kind. It was like they were in sync. This kiss, unlike their prior exchanges that fueled fires already too large, simmered in its warmth. It was comforting and sweet and felt just as good as the heated kisses more common for them. She reluctantly pulled away and opened her eyes to look at Erica. How could Erica not see how right this was, how it was worth the risk?
Erica was staring at her, eyes riveted to Callie, and then Callie saw it, saw Erica make the leap and come over to her. Erica leaned her head forward resting it on Callie's.
"You are so amazing," she whispered. "Lucas was right, I've been so stupid." She sighed. "Not to be melodramatic or anything, but I won't survive you leaving again."
"You won't have to," said Callie kissing her lightly. "And you couldn't be stupid if you tried. I'm not going anywhere, Erica. I may freak from time to time, but you have me, all of me for as long as you want me."
They were still embracing. Erica let out a sigh. "Promise?" she asked.
"Yes," said Callie. "Very much, yes."
An hour later, the coffee was gone and it was just them sitting on the couch slowly taking in the shift in their relationship. The air between them was a mixture of excitement, tension and a small dose of uncertainty. Even after the promises were made and kisses exchanged the knowledge of what they were risking, of how easily it had been shattered before, made them uneasy. Things do not happen in an instant.
They had said the important things, they even talked playfully about how ridiculous the concept of dating was for the two of them, but it was getting late and they both needed to sleep. They were due at the hospital in the morning and they needed to rest and replenish much depleted energy if they expected to function. The problem was that neither woman wanted to part. The magic of the moment still hung in the air, mixing with the tension of the change they were embarking on, creating a strange mood that was equal parts elation and worry about what came next.
But it was the magic, held in place by shared kisses, less heated, but coming with increasing frequency, that was keeping them awake. Soft touches that lingered unabashedly added to the aura. They were seated close together on the couch, tangled limbs and arms making unclear beginnings or endings. Callie finally relented acknowledging the reality that lay beyond the aura and the magic.
"It's really late," she said softly, never lifting her head, the words bouncing off the shirt she was resting on. Her hands untangled themselves from Erica's to trace non-existent patterns on Erica's shirt.
"We should get some sleep," offered Erica in a non-committal tone, her hand never letting up on the casual stroking of Callie's hair.
"I don't want to get up," said Callie shifting a leg until it was fully on Erica's lap. One more inch and she would be in straddling territory.
Erica placed a soft kiss on her head as her free hand settled on Callie's leg, holding it there. "You'll probably be more comfortable upstairs."
"That depends," said Callie trying to sound brave and bold. She felt the hand in her hair slow its stroke.
"On what?" Erica's voice was careful, controlled, giving nothing away. She placed warm lips on Callie's head for a long moment.
"On which bed I end up in, exactly."
Callie felt Erica's smile on the top of her head.
"Allie's trundle bed not comfortable?" asked Erica removing her lips from Callie's head, still maintaining that careful, controlled tone.
"I can think of a more comfortable place to sleep," said Callie closing her eyes and unconsciously clutching at the cotton shirt under her.
Erica resumed the stroking of Callie's hair, her other hand coming up to caress Callie's face for a few seconds before settling under Callie's chin and shifting it upwards so that she could see Callie's eyes. She caressed the face under her fingers, memorizing the feel and texture until Callie's eyes traveled upwards to meet hers.
"Dr. Torres, are you trying to seduce me?" asked Erica, her eyes glittering with laughter.
Callie laughed at the comment, but her eyes never left Erica's. She lost herself in those eyes, saw them lose their mirth and darken to an impossible blue with desire. It happened fluidly, almost without transition. They had been doing this for an hour, moving between comfortable closeness to an intense longing that inflamed skin and lungs like dried kindling sitting out in the sun.
Erica held Callie's gaze.
"There is nothing I want more than to take you upstairs and make love to you." She saw the flush of heat rise and fall in Callie's face. "But, I'm not sure we're quite ready for that yet. Last time we got ahead of ourselves and it didn't end very well."
Callie leaned hard into the hand caressing her face. "I'll wait as long as you want Erica, but I don't think our being together last time had anything to do with what happened after."
Erica smiled weakly. "Yes, it did Callie. Being physically intimate with you, making love to you made everything that happened after mean more. It might have hurt less if we hadn't."
"You think so? I'm not sure. It hurt like hell to think I'd lost you. I think it would have hurt that badly even if we hadn't made love." Callie's hands were resting on Erica's knee applying a light stroke. "We don't have to do anything, Erica. I just want to lie with you, have you hold me."
"I want that too," said Erica taking a deep breath. "But having you next to me and not being able to ... well I think it might be torture."
"We're adults, Erica."
"Exactly. Sexually charged adults. I don't want to make the same mistakes, Callie."
"Okay," Callie relented. "But now I have absolutely no incentive to get up."
Erica gave her a squeeze. "I'm sorry sweetheart, but lying next to you and not… I just don't think I could do it."
"Oh you could do it. I know you could do it. Really, really well too."
Erica laughed. "That's exactly why we're headed for separate beds. You can take my bed or bunk up with Lucas or Allie, whichever you prefer."
Callie smiled. "I prefer you in bed with me, but I get your point. We're on overload anyway."
Erica nodded but made no move to follow through with the getting to bed plan and continued holding Callie close.
Erica cleared her throat and tried clearing her head. A low level buzzing had started only moments before, not annoying, but soothing, almost like a humming that was lulling her into a dazed unaware consciousness. She tried opening her eyes, but they were being uncooperative. It was a few minutes before she responded.
"Yeah?" she finally answered softly, eyes still closed.
"You and Gretchen..."
"Well, were you...did you ever...was she ever one of your casual...you know."
"I'm sorry sweetie. I'm not sure what you're asking," said Erica still feeling the heaviness of sleep tugging at her.
"You and Gretchen. Were you ever together?"
"Together?" asked Erica confused by the question. Here brain didn't seem to be processing things very well and her first thoughts were that the question was strange.
"Of course we've been together. We've known each other for years. We're bound to be together at some point. That's a strange..."
Erica was confused but the stiffening of the body under her and the force with which that body was trying to push away from her sent a jolt of energy to her brain. She finally got the question. Callie lifted her head, her hands were pushing on Erica's body trying to extricate herself from her comfortable position.
"Wait," said Erica tightening her hold, desperately wanting to keep Callie where she was.
Thankfully she was in a better position. Callie was lying on top of her which meant gravity was on her side. Her grasp was firm, even as she tried gentling her touch, but holding Callie like this was like holding a skittish cat. The key, Erica knew, was to hang on anyway and so she did, caressing Callie's back and head and arms and anywhere she could reach, even as she held her in place.
"Hey, you've got a very sleepy surgeon here who's been on an emotional acid trip tonight. I didn't understand the question. No, Gretchen and I have never been together as in sexually, romantically or even friendly together. Ever. We've been in rooms together, but now I'm thinking you didn't mean that."
She felt Callie relax into her again, a soft breath and chuckle escaped her.
"Sorry. Not sure why I reacted like that or why I even asked."
"Probably because Gretchen's being a little persistent?" said Erica now understanding not only why Callie asked the question, but why she wanted them in the same bed.
"Try lecherous," she heard Callie mutter.
Erica smiled. Despite all they had said to each other, despite the obvious connection between them, Callie was a little insecure. Erica couldn't blame her. She felt the same way about Mark Sloan. Not knowing if it was a mistake or not, she made a decision.
"Come on," she said to Callie as she set her feet down firmly on the floor and prepared to push both her and Callie from the couch. "Let's try to get some sleep."
Callie was not helping her in her quest to get off the couch and she was having no success lifting both her and Callie, so she slipped from under Callie and stood, reaching for Callie's hands and pulling.
"Come on, you sleep on the right side, right?"
It took a few seconds for her meaning to become clear, but Erica knew the moment it did, saw Callie's full smile emerge as slowly and lovely as the dawn and suddenly Callie was easy to pull and her body crashed into Erica's, but Erica didn't mind. She simply set her feet, braced herself for the new weight and wrapped her arms around Callie. They kissed again and Erica had no more thoughts of mistakes. Her only thought was of this woman in her arms. She knew it would be hard to lie in a bed with Callie and not do the things she really wanted to do, but she could do this. She didn't want to rush things.
She needed to feel like they were completely connected before being intimate again. The weaving of their hearts was important, essential. It was happening already and quickly. She felt it, her heart reaching out to Callie's wanting to lose itself in her. But things don't happen instantly. The slow weaving of their hearts would allow the emotional stuff to heal until they were both ready. She could wait. They could wait.