A Simple Love Story

Chapter 23

It had been eight hours since the trauma hit them and Erica was still in surgery. Callie was exhausted. She imagined Erica must be as tired as she was, if not more so, since Erica was still in surgery. Erica had been going almost non-stop since the trauma came in and before that she'd had back to back surgeries during her regular shift. Two carefully planned surgeries for two different patients presented complications that had both running longer than expected and kept Erica occupied during most of the day.

Callie watched Erica work through the glass in the scrub room. This was Erica's third and final surgery since the trauma came in. Sometimes multi-vehicle crashes were bad and sometimes they were horrible. This one had been worse than horrible. Twelve cars piled into each other on a busy highway. Puncture wounds and lungs, broken bones, deep lacerations, head traumas, you name it they had seen it from a victim in this crash. She lost count of the number of bones she set or how many pins she put in today. She was sure Erica had it worse. One of the vehicles was a church van on the way back to a nursing home with its elderly parishioners, many of them with not so strong hearts. Erica of course was dealt the worst, most complicated cases.

She wanted to look in on Erica before checking on the kids who were dropped off at the hospital when both she and Erica had been required to stay long past the end of their shifts. So here she was watching Erica work. One of the nurses had projected that the team in with Erica was about an hour from finishing up.

Last night was incredible. She had finally convinced Erica to take a chance on her and God was she ready to start the rest of their lives. She didn't know what it would entail, what it all meant right now. Should she be coming out to people? She was more comfortable just letting people find out on their own, but she didn't want Erica to think she still had doubts about them. She wanted to talk to Erica about it, but they had been so busy today that she hadn't even found the time to sneak a cup of coffee in peace, let alone carve out time to talk.

Callie hadn't even shared her good news with Erica yet. Webber told her she would no longer be working overnights and then offered her a job. The only thing that had stopped her from hugging him on the spot was that her trauma arrived and needed attention. She did manage to thank him though. She had been in denial about her future for awhile. She knew that her residency was ending and she wanted to take her boards, but she wasn't sure if she should apply for a fellowship to get more expertise in her field or apply for an attending position here or at another hospital. He made her decision easier by offering her a position and suddenly she knew what she wanted. The reason she had made no move to apply for a fellowship or look for another job became clear. She wanted to stay at Seattle Grace. She was meeting him sometime tomorrow to discuss the details.

It would be interesting to see what Webber had to say. Right now though there were a couple of kids hopefully sleeping in pediatrics that she had to check on. It was late, but they were in a strange place and she was worried that Lucas especially would have a hard time sleeping. Taking a long last look she backed out of the scrub room and headed to pediatrics.

Erica let out a frustrated breath as she worked. She was exhausted and she was pissed. She understood this was their third surgery, but she thought Gretchen had a little more stamina than she was showing tonight. Her work was getting sloppier and sloppier with every incision and every cut. Erica finally just took over figuring the guy had a better chance of living through the surgery even if it would take longer. This is why she had asked for Gretchen, so she could get some help and relief on nights like this. She would need to have a talk with the resident after they finished here. Gretchen was going back. If she wasn't going to be helpful, she might as well go back to Presbyterian.

She spared a glance at the door and saw Yang walk in. Erica knew Christina had been pulled here and there assisting with a number of surgeries that night.

"Anything I can do?" she asked.

Erica hated to do it. She really did because right now she could use a hand, but she couldn't ask anyone else in this room and it had been on her mind, a silent, but persistent distraction she didn't need.

"Yes, Yang. Can you check on my kids?"

She heard the words seconds after they came out of her mouth and silently cursed. As far as everyone in this room knew she had one kid. Oh well, nothing to be done now. If she wasn't dreaming about what had happened last night with Callie, her colleagues would have to get used to thinking about her having two kids. Besides, she thought Christina would probably know exactly what she was talking about.

"Callie's probably stuck in surgery too, can you..."

"Sure thing, Erica," Christina interrupted.

"I'll go check on him. Yang looks fresher," said Gretchen as she stepped away from table.

She didn't wait to be dismissed. Erica considered calling her on it, but then another thought broke through her exhaustion and irritation. I'll check on him? Before Erica could react, Gretchen was gone.

"Yang, get in here and help me so we can finally finish this and I can go check on my kids," she ordered.

"Yes Dr. Hahn," said Christina stepping forward.

"You're being annoying Yang," said Erica.

She looked at Christina's eyes momentarily and thought there might be a smile hiding behind the mask she wore.

Callie made her way to pediatrics. She smiled at the nurse on duty and walked to a small room just beyond the nurse's station where Bailey told her they put Lucas and Allie for the night. This was the third time they had been forced to bring the kids to the hospital because of a trauma. She knew Lucas hated it. Having a mom that worked in a hospital, Allie had never been fazed by hospitals, but Erica explained the awful circumstances surrounding her sister's death. It had taken her a couple of hours to get to the hospital where her sister and brother-in-law died. Lucas was picked up from school by his grandmother, who had not known what to do with him, so she brought him to the hospital and left him alone in the waiting room while she dealt with doctors and relatives and arrangements. Erica found him crying in a chair, his arms wrapped around his legs, his head on his knees. Needless to say, despite that fact that his aunt worked at this hospital, he never liked coming here.

She opened the door carefully. The light was still on. He was sitting in bed with Allie lying next to him asleep. Lucas was holding her hand, but he was wide awake. His eyes opened wider as he saw her. He let go of Allie's hand and jumped off the bed.

"Can we go home now?" he asked raising his arms automatically.

Callie picked him up and hugged him. She sat in the rocking chair next to the bed with Lucas on her lap.

"I think we'll be able to go home soon," she said wrapping her arms around him as he laid his head on her chest. "Why are you still up?" she asked kissing his head and rubbing his back.

"Waiting for you and Mom," he said in a soft voice.

"Well your Mom's not quite finished yet, but I think I'll be able to go soon."

"How long?" he asked.

"About thirty minutes," she answered rocking him.

"How about Mom?"

"She'll be a little longer," she said.

"Where are we going, big house or little house?" he asked raising his head.

She chuckled. They had just started doing that before the whole Sloan fiasco two weeks ago, calling her house the little house and Erica's the big house because it had more rooms. They explained it to her and Erica over breakfast. They made an expedition of it and everything counting and naming every room before deciding which was the big house and which the little house. She was glad the idea was still with them even after the two-week hiatus.

"Where do you want to go?" she asked.

"Big house, cause that's where Mom will go when she's done, right?"

"Probably, but we can ask her to just come to wherever we're going to be."

"Okay," he said lying his head back down. "I think the big house cause Mom has a bigger bed." She smiled. They really had been thorough in their inventory of the house.

"Okay kiddo," she said kissing him again.

She heard a loud voice outside and the nurse's very audible shushing. A few seconds later the door swung open.

"Luc...Oh, it's you."

"Yeah, it's me. Can you keep your voice down?" said Callie looking over at Allie who was startled and was shifting in her sleep.

"Sorry," said Gretchen lowering her voice. "Erica asked me to come down and check on Lucas. Hey bud how are you?" she reached over to tickle him.

He wiggled in Callie's arms and frowned.

"Remember me?" said Gretchen. "I'm Gretchen. Gretchen Samuels."

"Hello Dr. Samuels," he mumbled.

"Aw come on, don't be grumpy little bud."

"It's 11 o'clock. He has spent the majority of the night in a boring hospital. He has a right to be grumpy, right baby?" said Callie.

He smiled into her chest and nodded.

Gretchen stretched. "Rough night," she commented.

"Erica sent you in here to check on Lucas?" asked Callie.

"Yeah, well actually she said to check on her kids. She must be real tired because she just has the one." She yawned.

"Nuh uh," said Lucas. "She has me and Allie."

That's right Lucas, set this little hussy straight. Callie smiled.

Gretchen turned in Allie's direction. "Who's that?" she asked.

"That would be our…my daughter," said Callie.

"Oh right. I forgot you have a kid," she said her voice getting louder.

"Please, keep your voice down," said Callie forcefully. "Look you've checked on the kids. You can tell Erica that I'm taking them home in half an hour."

Gretchen looked confused. "Dr. Torres, she'll be finished in a couple of hours. I'm sure he can wait until then. There's no need for you to take him."

Callie's eyes were blazing. She wanted to push this woman up against a wall and explain things to her, tell that these were their kids, that this was her family, that if anyone was getting into Erica's pants or finding out how good Erica's hands were it would be her. That last thought had her thinking about last night, how wonderful it had been to simply lie with Erica and she missed her opportunity. Gretchen got up abruptly and walked out the door.

"She's not very bright is she?" she said out loud.

Lucas shook his head. "She doesn't know anything," he said his voice sounding sleepy.

Gretchen needed to make a quick stop at her locker before returning to the surgery that she hoped would be over by the time she got there. She knew she had been sloppy, her energy levels were completely zapped by the day's events and she needed to re-charge before returning to the OR. But the effects wouldn't really be immediate enough, so she hoped the surgery would be done by the time she scrubbed back in.

It was amazing to her. All her life, she had been afraid of taking narcotic substances, buying into the falsehood that they were all-consuming things that ended up taking over your life. What a load of crap!

Maybe some people shouldn't take them. She was a doctor, she knew that drugs could be damaging, but she figured out the key. It was control plain and simple. If you controlled it, it could not control you. That's where people were wrong about drugs. Sure it was inevitable for some people to lose control, if they were weak, but if you had a tight enough hold on yourself, drugs were perfectly safe. And she had it all under control.

You took what you needed and no more. If you focused enough, you could tell how much you needed to get you through the day and voila no problem. The drugs made her life so much simpler. She had started taking them at Presbyterian, just a few here and there to be able to stay ahead of the other residents. All residents suffered from lack of sleep, logging in too many hours, but she found that she was able to function better and stay ahead of everyone with a boost every now and again. Sure her intake had increased lately, but so had her responsibilities, so that made sense. She was still in control.

She thought of the subpar people she worked with, doctors who were trained to notice things about the body, were trained to see changes and side effects and yet no one had caught on to her. That was how she knew she was in control. She had mastered it and yet she couldn't tell anyone. She had come close. She wanted to throw it in Torres's face as a demonstration of her superiority. Everyone raved about Torres, how amazing she was having been able to pull off a successful residency and be a single mom. But Ortho was a sucker's specialty. It involved no precision whatsoever. It might as well be a part of general surgery. And while she seemed to be doing it all, Gretchen saw through the martyr act. Callie was wasted. She was tired and it showed. She had lost that fire to excel. She was just trying to get by now and eventually her star would peter out. It was simply a matter of time.

It ate at her, having this power and not being able to tell people. She had something other people didn't have, she could control something most saw as uncontrollable. She wanted to let everyone know that she had accomplished what no one else could, but she knew that was a mistake. They wouldn't understand. She would have to settle for the superiority she felt in other areas. She smiled to herself as she opened the pill bottle. They were all idiots. Even Erica was unaware, but that was probably because that Torres woman was distracting her with her annoying behavior.

She closed her locker and smiled at herself. In no time she would feel that familiar buzz that signaled a surge in energy. She loved that feeling. Feeling energized just by the thought, she walked out of the locker room and headed back to the operating room she had left ten minutes ago.

As it turned out they were not finished by the time she walked back in to the scrub room. She hated that she needed to scrub in again. She wouldn't be doing anything. What she really wanted was to leave the hospital and enjoy the feelings the pills gave her. She sighed as she finished scrubbing and made her way back into the OR room.

"Hey, Lucas is okay. He's still awake, but he seemed fine," she reported as she took her place among the attentive interns crowded around Yang and Erica.

"And Allie?" asked Erica sharply, her temper rising.

"Who?" asked Gretchen.

"Allie, the six-year old that was with him."

"Oh her, she was sleeping. Her mother was with her."

"Callie was with the kids?"

Gretchen nodded. "Yeah, she was all weirdly possessive about Lucas. Said she was taking him home with her or something. I told her to stop acting like his mother. Told him that you would come get him when you were done."

Erica stopped what she was doing and stared coldly at Gretchen's masked face. Her hands were beginning to shake.

Yang looked up at her and then at Gretchen. She looked back at Erica.

"Callie's with them, they're fine."

Erica resumed her work with scarily steady hands.

"Callie's not gonna listen to anything Gretchen tells her. You know that, right?" said Christina.

"I know," said Erica glancing at Gretchen who was starting to fidget.

Gretchen was rocking back and forth, her eyes darting all over the room. She let out a loud sigh and cracked her knuckles.

"I'm starting to feel refreshed, so I could take over from Yang if you need. I mean this is pretty much a snap and Yang is going so slow."

Gretchen continued talking as Yang worked. Erica looked down at what she was doing letting Gretchen drone on and thinking about Gretchen's odd behavior, her lack of concentration, her tardiness. In some ways Gretchen was no different than she had been at Presbyterian. She was always obnoxious, having what most people would call over-confidence in her abilities, a trait Erica actually appreciated, especially as Gretchen could back it up. In other ways she was very different than the resident Erica had known. Here at this hospital she was not backing it up. She was displaying a confidence all out of proportion with the work she had produced. Callie had called her delusional. Was she? She certainly seemed to think she was doing well here, even after Erica had informed her point blank that she was not.

Gretchen worked a lot of hours and it always impressed Erica how she seemed to relish the challenge of cardio, staying later than other residents, improving her skills by participating in every surgery she could scrub in on, and always up on the latest research. She was working a lot of hours here too, but again she wasn't producing. She was distracted and sloppy even if she seemed to have a lot of energy while she was here. What was she doing with the energy anyway? It certainly wasn't on display today when Erica needed her. In fact, why was she so energetic now when she had been demonstrating nothing but sluggishness earlier?

She came out of her thoughts and heard Gretchen's solitary voice reverberating loudly in the large room.

"Shut up, Gretchen. We're trying to work here."

"I'm ready, Erica."

"For what?" asked Erica.

She wished Gretchen would leave, would take her borrowed energy with her out of this room. She stopped, considering the thought. Borrowed energy? And then she saw it. She saw everything. The signs were there, had been there for awhile, but Erica hadn't known to look for them. Why would she? She was bringing in a top-notch surgical resident she was familiar with, someone she didn't need to train, someone whose skills she was confident in. But that wasn't who had come over. Something had happened and she had missed it assuming that all she had to do was get Gretchen here. She hadn't paid attention.

Gretchen's energy levels, always high even as her concentration wavered, her nervousness, her over- confidence, her tardiness, sloppiness, all of it suggested a possibility that before this moment Erica had not thought possible. She finished her task, sparing a moment to make sure everything was going well for Yang before looking at the fidgeting figure looming over Yang's shoulder. The pupils were dilated. She was sweating, and couldn't seem to stand still.

"Dr. Samuels you need to step out of this OR."

"Huh? You done with me for tonight? I could still get in there. Me and Yang could..."

"That's not really possible anymore. You need to leave the OR Dr. Samuels."

Gretchen laughed. "What?"

"You no longer work for this hospital, Dr. Samuels so you can't be in this OR. You're fired. Go pack up your stuff and leave. We'll sort out the details tomorrow."

"What?" Gretchen was still laughing.

Erica couldn't get into this here. She was pretty sure Gretchen was on something, which meant she had to stay the hell away from patients.

"Are you doing this because of her?"

Erica was trying to concentrate on her work. "You need to leave Dr. Samuels or I will have Number 3 over there call security and escort you out."

She was probably not following procedure. HR would tell her that Gretchen would need to be escorted out of the building anyway, that she should call security and not just instruct her to leave. But she was in surgery, had no proof of anything, just a vague sense, and so this would have to do.

"Look I'm sorry I didn't look in on Lucas more closely. I'll just go make sure he's okay and waiting for you."

"No. Lucas is fine. I'm asking you to leave this room."

"Why?" Gretchen was no longer laughing.

This wasn't working. Erica changed tactics. "Go wait for me in my office, we're almost done here. I'll come and get you."

Gretchen nodded before angrily stepping away and walking out flinging her surgical cap and gloves to the floor before stepping into the scrub room.

"Okay, Yang, anyway we can speed this up so I can go deal with that..."

"Freak show?" asked Yang. "No problem Dr. Hahn. One speedy but clean finish coming up."

Erica frowned through her mask. She didn't wanted to deal with Gretchen tonight, but like everything else about this day, it didn't matter what she wanted. It didn't matter that she had hardly slept last night, Callie's closeness stirring up intense desires she could not yet act on, but which kept her awake. It didn't matter that she just wanted to relax into their first day as a couple, feel the shifts in their interactions deep in her bones, feel Callie and her knitting their lives together in a deeper way than they already had. Instead she had barely seen Callie all day and then the trauma happened and they were both stuck and now she couldn't even look forward to going home with Callie. She took a deep breath, put all thoughts of the personal to the side and concentrated on the heart beneath her hands. Her own heart would have to hold on a while longer.

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