Hours of nakedness later, Callie's head was resting on Erica's chest fighting sleepiness. She was tired, but not ready to sleep. She didn't want to spend any part of tonight sleeping. She was trying to keep herself awake by writing her entire name, the long version, on Erica's stomach with just her fingers.
"What are you writing?" asked Erica in a sleepy voice.
"How do you know I'm writing anything?"
"Well I didn't at first, but I recognize an I and a G. That's an E and an N. Are you writing in code?"
Callie laughed. "Yeah code for world's worst name ever. It's my middle name."
"Okay, let me try and figure it out. Can you start from the beginning?"
"No, that would be too easy."
"Okay I think you finished with an I and an A, so we hav A."
Callie raised her head, propping it on a bent arm watching Erica puzzle it out. Erica was frowning, her eyes closed.
"Iphigenia?" she asked unsure.
"How the hell did you get that? There is no way you knew I was writing when I did the I, P, H."
Erica was smirking. "Calliope, you have a very long name. I figured out you were writing before you were done with your first name.
"So totally not fair."
"It's a beautiful name."
"It is not."
"Beautiful," said Erica sitting up and going for Callie's lips.
Callie was lost instantly. Erica laid back down with Callie's lips still attached to her. The kisses were just moving into the wet and steamy stage when a pager went off.
"No, no, no, no. This is not happening. I get the whole night. We deserve the whole night."
Erica smiled. "They'll be other nights, sweetie."
She reached for the pagers that had been placed on the nightstand. "It's yours," she said to Callie handing it to her.
"You would swear that this hospital had no other orthopedic surgeons on staff."
"No good ones," said Erica smiling. "Do you need the phone?" she asked.
"It's Bailey," said Callie as she fell back on the bed hard. "I really hate this. I don't want to go."
Erica rubbed her stomach. "Go, be quick and come back so you can climb back into bed with me."
"It better be quick," said Callie finally getting up.
Ten minutes later she was dressed and ready to go. Erica had been watching her get dressed, a sleepy smile on her face.
"Come say goodbye to me?" pleaded Callie resisting the urge to climb on top of Erica to say goodnight.
"Okay," said Erica as she rose and reached for some clothes.
They made their way downstairs hand in hand. Suddenly it was all so surreally familiar again. They were standing at the front door. Erica's hands were on Callie's face, holding her with a gentleness that made Callie feel precious. The kiss was slow and soft and the whispered I love you that followed was the confirmation of a declaration made weeks ago.
"I love you too," said Callie. She chuckled. "We've done this before."
Erica frowned. "We have?"
"Yeah, don't you remember? Our first time, was just like this." She moved closer wrapping her arms around Erica's neck. "A day spent getting ourselves all worked up with the kissing and touching, making love, saying I love you. Well except that we got naked and had way more time this time and I get to say I love you back."
Erica looked perplexed. "I hadn't realized," she said.
"It's probably a stupid thing to notice," said Callie giving her one last peck. "Be back soon sexy," she said as she opened the door and walked to her car.
Erica watched her drive away before closing the door. She leaned against it, arms crossed. She hadn't noticed it before, but Callie was right, it was just like last time. She felt the panic building as she remembered the morning after the last time. Callie walking in, taking Allie and running away from her, running to Mark Sloan.
This isn't like last time. Things are different now. She loves me. She told me she loves me.
She got her breathing under control and went back upstairs, but the panic re-emerged as soon as her head hit the pillow, the scent of their love-making still lingering in the air. She got up and dressed again, intent on making herself more tired than she already was. Those books in her study could stand to be reorganized. She would start there.
Hours later she had put the last of the books back. She glanced at the clock. She had no idea when Callie would be back or what to expect when she did come back. She was being neurotic. She knew that, but she couldn't seem to help it. This thing with Callie was too insanely good to be true. The things Callie made her feel, made her think about, were insane. Things like forever and soul mates, things she had spent her life scoffing at. It was too good.
She made her way to the living room and sat. She knew things were different now, she and Callie were different, but she sat in nervous contemplation all the same, waiting for Callie to return, bracing herself for another rejection. Any number of things could send Callie running again. Better to know now she told herself as she sat and waited fighting sleep and fatigue and imagining the worse things possible, all the while hoping they would stay in the realm of nightmares.
It was four in the morning. It was four in the morning and Erica was listening intently. She heard a car coming down her street and slow down in front of her house. And then she heard it no more. She turned her head at the sound, turned to the door and front window looking for lights to illuminate the space, lights that would tell her that the sound she heard was Callie's car, but they never came. She got up slowly, placed shaking hands in her pockets and moved to the front door. There was no rush, no excitement in her movements. She looked out the small window, peering out into the night. Everything was black. Suddenly she saw illumination where she thought there ought to be none.
Callie's living room was ablaze. She looked closer concern about intruders warring with a sinking sensation that seemed to be dragging her insides to her toes. She looked toward Callie's driveway and made out her car. There were no intruders. Callie had gone home. Callie had not come back to her.
She stepped back from the window and leaned against the door resisting the urge to bang her head hard for letting this happen to her again.
She closed her eyes tightly concentrating on her body, the sinking sensation that wanted to drag her to the floor, her throbbing head, the pain in her balled up hands, nails piercing flesh dangerously, and the erratic heart pounding in her chest. She started with her heart.
"You will beat normally. You will beat normally. You will beat normally," she repeated out loud over and over until she no longer felt that harsh thump directly on her sternum.
She closed her eyes tighter and moved to the throbbing in her head, visualizing the dilated blood vessels, but before she could start willing that pain away, she heard keys on the other side of the door.
She lifted her body and stepped away, hands still balled into fists deep in her pockets. She stood there braced for rejection, but the door did not open immediately. She waited a few more seconds until the door swung open wildly and there was Callie, a gym bag slung over her shoulder and carrying two bags of…groceries?
Erica was dumbfounded. This did not compute. Callie struggled with the bags and the door for a few more seconds before Erica leapt into action, taking one of the toppling bags from Callie's hands.
"Thanks, but what are you doing up? You should be sleeping. You should be sleeping upstairs. Naked."
Erica was still confused. She looked at the brown bag in her hand and then back at Callie who was closing and locking the door behind her.
"You came back," she whispered still not sure of what was happening. She had so thoroughly convinced herself that she had lost her again and yet Callie was here.
"Yeah, it was quick, surgery not required. Come on, let's drop these off in the kitchen and crawl back into bed. We can still get in a few hours of sleep," said Callie as she dropped the gym bag at the foot of the stairs before walking toward the kitchen.
Erica followed. She set the bag she was carrying on the island and then like she was in some dream, Callie was there with her, wrapping arms around her neck.
"Hey, I missed you," said Callie before her lips brushed against Erica's, hands reaching for Erica's hair.
In an instant, Erica's world was whole and bright and sane again. She deepened the kiss wanting to get impossibly closer. She pulled away for a moment before engulfing Callie in a full body crushing hug.
"I guess you missed me too."
Erica pulled back feeling embarrassed by her earlier thoughts.
"Yes, I did. Sorry for the clinginess. I was having…very stupid thoughts earlier."
"Well no more stupid thoughts. I stopped at the grocery store to get tomorrow's breakfast. I was thinking cinnamon pancakes," said Callie as she began looking through the brown paper bags for anything perishable. She placed a few items into the refrigerator and turned to Erica.
"The rest of this stuff can wait. I also had to stop at the house to get some clothes. I've been here three days; I think I've exhausted my supply of clothes."
Erica smiled. "Then you need to bring more stuff over," she said, feeling all traces of the fear that had gripped her for the last few hours fading rapidly.
Callie smiled widely at her, laughing lightly. "Yeah, well I got some stuff in the gym bag by the stairs."
"Good, come on, the bed awaits," said Erica suddenly feeling incredibly tired. She grabbed Callie's hand and led her out of the kitchen.
"Wait, what were the stupid thoughts?" asked Callie as they reached the foot of the stairs.
Erica picked up the gym bag. "They were stupid insecure thoughts and I'll tell you about them tomorrow. Right now, I need you in my bed."
"I like the sound of that," said Callie gladly making her way up the stairs.
One Month Later
One advantage to "skipping the romance" was that by the time the romance caught up with everything else, it's easy to slide into the new life you'd been building, even if you had no consciousness awareness that that was what you had been doing. When Callie Torres realized she hadn't been to her house in weeks except for mail runs and to get a few changes of clothes, she really wasn't surprised. She and Erica had established a routine long before kisses in parking lots and gay panic and making up and drug-crazed residents. In fact, not having to be at her house made everything easier. It was easier to not have to think about her house to not visit it.
Unfortunately, she had a house and as much as she wanted to not think about it, it was there. As much as she loved what they were doing, her and Allie staying at Erica's, a place that was fast becoming home, it really couldn't continue without them addressing some things. Too many things had been left unsaid for so long in their relationship with some pretty disastrous results that she couldn't do that again. She could not let things go unsaid hoping they would resolve themselves. She had to do something about her house and that meant another shift in their relationship that she wasn't sure Erica was ready for. She was, but Erica had wanted to take everything so slow this time.
That was the one thing they still disagreed vehemently about: whether or not there had been a break-up. Callie hadn't really viewed it as a break-up, more like a breakdown of the things they had been building. For Erica they had broken up and so their coming together was a reconciliation and not merely making-up. It seemed so insignificant, that distinction at first, until Callie realized what that meant. It meant not picking up where they left off, but starting over. That was the point of Erica asking her out the night they finally put Mark and gay panic behind them. Callie had not really understood it that way. She just thought it was romantic as hell for Erica to let her know she wanted to be with her by asking her out. They hadn't actually gone on a real date yet, but they had slowly built up the trust so essential and so much a part of who they had always been with each other.
For Erica the starting over was rebuilding everything and for the most part that was fine with Callie. She just wanted to be with Erica, whether Erica called it reconciliation or making-up didn't matter. That is until she realized that Erica was putting a hold on certain intimate activities. That had just been torturous and wrong, hence the vehement disagreements. Eventually they wove their lives back together and more importantly they'd had sex again, which had been hot and wonderful. And thinking about it still made Callie all tingly.
Really she shouldn't complain. It was not like Erica made her wait forever. They barely made it a few days before Erica just gave up on the whole waiting thing. Callie guessed it had been easy at first with the craziness that was work and the whole Gretchen affair. They were busy and exhausted, but when the dust settled from that, it really became impossible, especially since Erica just went into overdrive every time she kissed Callie, which Callie really, really, really encouraged.
But thinking that she had to do something about her house was as far as her thinking had gotten – recognize the issue. She didn't know what to do beyond that. She wasn't about to start sleeping apart from Erica and it didn't make sense for all of them to transplant themselves to her house so that she didn't feel guilty about the empty house sitting across the street. Lucas really didn't have a room there and most of Allie's things were already at Erica's. She was at a loss as to how to approach the problem.
Well there was the obvious solution – sell her house – but that introduced a new set of complications she didn't think Erica was ready to face. It was great living at Erica's, but selling her house meant thinking about finances and commingling their assets and debts and that was just messy. They hadn't talked about living together, they were just doing it, but she knew the situation couldn't persist like that. They had to talk about it. They had kids to think about and responsibilities but wasn't it all too soon? Should she really be thinking about making Erica Allie's legal guardian?
These were the thoughts going through her head as she sat in her living room, a few days accumulation of mail sorted out in piles on the coffee table. She looked around at the dust collecting on the unused dining room table. The house was cold. She had turned down the heat weeks ago seeing no point in heating an empty house. The kids and Erica were across the street starting on the Chinese take-out they had brought home for dinner. Nell was getting married, so they'd would have to find a new sitter. Nell gave them the name of her cousin who turned out to be more reliable than Nell and somehow at the time it made sense that Jessica watch the kids at Erica's, so the kids didn't even spend their afternoons here anymore.
She looked around noting for the first time how truly empty the place looked. Unread magazines were stacked neatly on the coffee table, a toy stethoscope lay next to the table Allie and Lucas used to draw and color. The crayons, paper, and colored pencils usually strewn across the table had been transplanted to Erica's, so the table lay bare with its own collection of dust. The stray toys and books that could always be found in various places around her house were gone. She got up and walked to the closet opening the door. It was empty. Hats, gloves, winter jackets and sweaters were all at Erica's. The only thing in the closet was a box of jackets Allie had outgrown that Callie intended to donate. She laughed. Why was she obsessing about this when they had already practically moved in to Erica's? Because it was more complicated than moving jackets, she answered herself. She sighed.
She made her way to the kitchen, arms crossed in front of her to ward off the cold. Everything was neat and in its place. Some spaces were empty though. The mixer was at Erica's. She had needed it for Lucas's birthday cake. Other things from this kitchen had made their way over to Erica's in a similar fashion. The cupboards were bare. She had not brought food into this house in about a month. There was no milk or perishables in her refrigerator.
She leaned against the refrigerator and looked around once more. Even some of her favorite pots had found a new home across the street. She blew air into her hands. Despite her heavy jacket, she was starting to feel the cold. She walked back to the living room, grabbed the piles of mail and stepped outside.
She made sure to lock the house with the deadbolt and turned around to make her way across the street when she saw her. Erica was in her jacket leaning against her SUV looking at her.
What the hell was she doing out here in the cold?
She made her way across the street quickly and spoke the words in her head. "What are you doing out here in the cold?"
"Waiting for you," Erica answered easily, but made no move to step away from her car. "You were in there a long time," she commented searching Callie's face.
Callie settled herself next to Erica, putting her weight on the car and its bumper. She crossed her own arms after setting aside her stack of mail.
"I haven't been there in awhile," she said.
"I know," said Erica not looking at her. They let the silence settle around them for a few seconds. Erica turned to look at her. "Does that bother you?" she asked.
Apparently Callie wasn't the only one contemplating the house problem.
"Yes and no," she said honestly, her gaze fixed on the house across the street.
"I love having you and Allie here," said Erica.
"We love being here," answered Callie.
"There's a but coming isn't there?"
Callie let out a breath. "I don't know if it's a but exactly. It's more I don't know what to do."
Erica looked at her. "What do you mean?"
Callie didn't answer for a long while. She didn't know what to say. Finally she spoke. "I love you."
"I love you too," said Erica pushing away from the car and turning to face Callie.
She pulled her into an embrace and kissed her head. "Come on, let's get out of this cold. Besides, I started the kids on dumplings. They were going to try and eat them with chopsticks so there's no telling what the place looks like now."
Callie nodded but burrowed herself more closely in Erica's arms. "I want to talk about this, I just don't know what to say yet."
"Okay. We'll talk later."
It turned out to be much, much later as they lay naked in bed that Callie started the conversation.
"What are we doing?" she asked from her place on Erica's chest.
She was laid out on top of Erica. Erica's hands were on her back alternating between sensual, gentle rubbing and kneading of sore muscles.
"You don't know? You did it really well for someone who doesn't know," answered Erica deliberating misunderstanding the question.
"Not that, you goof and we both do that well."
They were both silent trying to read each other's eyes. Finally Callie rolled off of her, positioning herself on her side and propping her head up with her hand. Erica mimicked her position and then reached over to kiss her lightly.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what does all this mean to you, what we're doing?"
"It means everything. You and Lucas and Allie mean everything. If you're asking me what we're doing, I would say we're living a wonderfully beautiful dream."
"Such a closet romantic," Callie smiled.
Erica returned the smile and continued watching her. Callie's face became serious again.
"I want to live with you," her eyes were focused on Erica wanting to see her reaction.
Erica smiled. "I want that too."
"But it's complicated," said Callie intertwining her free hand with Erica's.
"I knew there was a but coming."
Erica tried to smile, but this conversation was making her nervous. She knew that Callie was happy here and she knew that Callie was right. It was complicated. They weren't roommates. They couldn't just split the bills down the middle and call it a day. As easy as it had been for Callie and Allie to carve out space here physically, living together was another matter altogether. She wanted it. God, she wanted them here. So much so that she had started resenting that Callie's house was across the street in plain site. She hated that reminder that Callie had another place that she called home and could return to.
"No, it's not a but exactly… I want to figure this out with you. I want to live with you, but…. There are things we would need to talk about and I'm not sure… I don't want to push and it might be too soon, so I don't know what to do, because I need to do something about my house, but I know you want slow and this is fast."
Erica cut her off with a kiss, a long deep very wet kiss that had Callie letting go of Erica's hand and pulling her close. She whimpered as Erica pulled away.
"What are you talking about?" asked Erica.
"Erica, we need to have this conversation, but if you keep kissing me like that, we're not going to finish."
Erica merely smirked. "Well you're naked and if you think that's not a distraction you're kidding yourself. Now, what are you talking about?"
Callie lay down on her back and stared at the ceiling. "I called Danielle the other day."
That was a strange change of topic. "Okay"
"I called Danielle because I wanted her to research something for me."
"Well she's a good resource. I'm sure she'll be helpful," said Erica not knowing where this conversation was headed.
Callie turned her head, reaching out her hand to entangle it with Erica's again before bringing it to her lips. "I wanted her to find out what I needed to do to make you Allie's legal guardian."
Callie felt the jolt of shock through Erica's hand, the subtle twitch that signaled utter surprise in the woman lying next to her. Her gaze was focused on Erica's eyes, but she didn't get to see those. Erica closed them as soon as the sentence was out.
Erica squeezed the hand holding hers hard. She hadn't meant to, but the emotions coursing through her were too much. She closed her eyes as soon as she heard the words, the joy she was feeling in that moment too much for her to take in. It was involuntary, an involuntary reaction to utter and complete bliss. She let go of Callie's hand, afraid her hold would get painful for Callie and placed it on Callie's hip forcing her on her side and bringing her forward so that their bodies were touching. She brought her forehead to Callie's and let out a long breath.
"Complicated, I know," said Callie enjoying the closeness, knowing Erica was happy but still unsure of everything else. Allie's guardianship was just one part of the complication.
"No, that's not…I mean yes it's complicated, but I…" She let out another breath before kissing Callie. "I don't know what to say," she said once she pulled away.
"You don't have to say anything right now. I just… it's not just about living here and after everything we've been through, that I've put you through, I don't blame you for wanting to go slow. But slow is not working for me. I want to live here with you, but… for me that means selling my house and selling my house means talking about money and finances and other things like guardianship and I don't want to overwhelm you with all of that, because I get the going slow. But…I don't want to just live here. I guess, I kind of want to be your wife and Lucas's mom and that is…so not where you're at and I get that, but that's the problem. It is fast even for me, but God…I love you so much and I can't imagine life without you and it just seems so clear, but I know its not for you yet. Am I making any sense?"
Erica was pretty sure her heart was about to explode. There were only so many shocks the organ could endure, but Callie was looking at her with tears in her eyes and she knew she had to respond.
"No," she said. "You're not making any sense at all."
Before Callie could react, she placed a hand on her shoulder, rolled her onto her back and covered Callie's body with hers.
"That is exactly where I'm at. I want you here forever. Why do you think I've started hating your house? I want you to live here as my wife and Lucas's mom. You're already Lucas's mom. I want to be your wife and Allie's second much more fun mom. And yes we need to talk about money and finances and guardianships and I want to, but not right now."
She stopped talking taking in Callie's smile, pressing herself closer to Callie's chest wanting Callie to feel the thumping in her heart.
She lowered her mouth onto Callie's slowly, her concentration wavering between lips and eyes. Finally their lips touched in that slow intimate way they had always touched. She felt Callie's mouth open to her and reciprocated. The brushing, grazing, sucking had her head spinning and she almost, almost forgot.
She slowed the kiss, pulling back despite Callie's delicious moans entreating her to continue.
"Right now, I have something for you," she said removing herself from Callie and reaching for something in the drawer of the nightstand
She clutched the item tightly in her hand as she positioned herself on her side.
"I know I said slow, but my heart overrules my head when it comes to you, so I've been walking around with this for a few weeks."
She looked closely at Callie as she opened her hand revealing a tiny black jewelry box. She could see Callie's breathing slow, her eyes dart from Erica to the box. She tried sitting up, but Erica's kiss caught her midrise.
"Stay, please? I want to remember this moment with you exactly like this."
"Okay, but you have to tell me what's in the box," said Callie in a whisper.
"How about I show you?" said Erica opening it.
She wanted to say something before opening the box, had rehearsed romantic speeches of everlasting love and her impossible desire for this, but in the end the words seemed inadequate and she simply opened it, hoping Callie would understand what the rings in the box signified.
"Oh, Erica, they're beautiful," said Callie. Her eyes moved slowly from the rings to Erica.
She brought her hands to the box and removed one of the rings. Hoping she had guessed right, she reached for Erica's left hand and placed the ring on her finger. Erica was having a hard time seeing clearly, but she understood what Callie was doing and reached for the other ring in the box, taking Callie's hand and placing it on her finger, with a gentle kiss to the hand as a final blessing.
"I love you," she said before descending hungrily on those lips again.
It would be another while before they talked about money and finances and guardianships.