Erica was staring at the ridiculous to-go cup she had just unpacked as it sat on the counter. She had been hanging on to it, intent on giving it back at some point. She hadn't yet. She had moved into her new house, began the process of unpacking and was starting at Seattle Grace tomorrow. She'd seen Callie a few times since their pizza night and had never once contemplated giving that cup back. It was her back up. When she ran out of excuses to see Callie, she would always have Callie's to-go cup to return. But the way things were going it appeared she would never run out of excuses to see Callie. Nell had agreed to take on Lucas as well, so her childcare situation was now caught up with Callie's. They lived across the street from each other. Their kids went to the same school and had become fast friends. Should she give it back? She started unpacking the rest of the kitchen stuff in the box, content to just leave the cup where it was for now.
It was the last time Erica thought about returning that cup. Eventually the cup found itself into her cupboard with her other cups. It was the first thing of Callie's that made its way to Erica's house.
In the weeks that followed other things soon made their way across the street. It started with innocent dinners. She would stop at Callie's to pick up Lucas and he would beg her to invite Allie over to share their dinner when Callie wasn't home. Callie worked later shifts than Erica, so she was often still at the hospital when Erica picked up Lucas. She had been unsure at first and so was Nell, who resisted the invitation saying she needed to check with Callie. Callie laughed when Erica asked her at work the next day as Erica was ending her shift. Callie was still in the middle of hers. Of course it would be okay for Allie to go over there for dinner she had stated laughing.
So Allie started coming over to their house for dinner and Nell, having no reason to stay later, left after Erica picked up Lucas and Allie, unless Callie was doing an overnight shift or working until midnight. Allie brought toys and books and extra clothes that somehow never left Erica's house.
Erica was thinking about all of this as she unpacked the last of the boxes. Lucas and Allie were playing in the living room. She glanced at the time. Nell should have come by to pick up Allie fifteen minutes ago. Callie was working until midnight tonight, so Nell was staying late. She thought about calling Nell and just as she wandered to her cell phone it rang. She saw Callie's name flash on the tiny screen and smiled.
"Hey Cal," she said.
"Hey Erica. Listen I have a mega huge favor to ask you."
"Sure, anything. You okay?"
"No, I mean yes, I'm fine, just… I just spoke to Nell. She's can't stay tonight and I have to work until midnight."
"I was just about to call her. She should have been here fifteen minutes ago. What's going on with her?"
"I honestly don't know. New boyfriend maybe? The last time she was pushing back on the overnights and staying late, she had a new boyfriend. God this is such a mess. I hate to impose on you, but since Allie's already there…"
"Callie don't worry about it. She has some extra clothes here anyway. I'll put her to bed and you can come over in the morning. I know you get off at midnight, but it's probably best if she stays the night unless you don't want her to," she qualified unsure if Callie would actually be okay leaving her child all night.
"Is it okay if I…never mind, that's just rude."
"Callie, if you want to come see her when you get home that's fine. I'll be up."
She heard Callie sigh. "Are you sure? I just…it's not that I don't trust you, it's just I like to see her before I go to bed."
"Callie I completely understand. Just don't ring the bell. I'll look out for you or just knock."
"Thank you so much Erica. I have no idea how I'll repay you."
Erica laughed. "I knew there would come a day when I'd start payments on the debt I owe you."
"Seriously, I really appreciate it."
"Callie it's no problem. Here I'll put her on the line and you can explain it to her."
She called for Allie and put her on the phone. She hoped Allie would be okay spending the night. At least this place wasn't strange to her, but staying the night somewhere that was not home without your mother had to be scary.
"Really?" she heard Allie say over the phone. "Okay…yes Mom…Okay…I gotta go tell Lucas. Love you too," she said hurriedly as she handed the phone back to Erica.
Erica took the phone and watched her run toward Lucas. "Guess she's okay?" she asked amused.
"Yeah, I think she's pretty excited. Thank you so much Erica."
"Callie it's no problem, really."
"Okay I have to go, but I'll call you before I leave the hospital."
"Okay, be safe," she said almost as an afterthought.
They made popcorn, watched cartoons and then took baths. Bath time was interesting to navigate, but both kids were too interested in getting to play so late together that they were anxious to get baths over with, so it was relatively painless for her. She put Allie in a t-shirt and one of Lucas's spider man pants and let them play for a half an hour before story time and then bed. They were too excited to go to bed right away though and she had to make several trips upstairs to remind them they had school the next day and should be trying to sleep.
She thought about changing for bed as well or at the very least trying to get a nap in before Callie came to check on Allie, but found nervous energy preventing her from doing either. Instead she logged onto the hospital network and worked on the administrative tasks that came with heading up a department, trying not to look too often at the little corner of her screen where the time was displayed.
Callie called a little after 12 to let her know she was on her way. After fending off more thank you's, she put the phone down and logged off. She went to the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee in case Callie wanted to sit awhile.
She heard a car pull into her driveway and walked to the door. Looking through the front window she saw Callie getting out, a tired look on her face. She looked surprised at where she was. She shook her head and walked toward the front door. Erica had the door open by the time she got there. Callie looked exhausted and a little nervous.
"Hey," said Callie brightly. "I just realized I could have parked across the street and just walked over."
"Hey yourself and don't worry about it," said Erica as she closed the door behind her. "You look exhausted."
"Had one more surgery than I planned," she said as she started to remove her jacket. "Hey you've made a big dent in the unpacking," she continued holding her jacket awkwardly.
Erica took it from her and laid it on the couch.
"Relax," she said. "I have a pot of coffee if you're interested or left-over Chinese if you haven't eaten yet."
"Thanks, I ate earlier, but coffee sounds great. It's pretty late for you though, isn't it?"
"Yes, but I'm used to not sleeping despite my somewhat regular hours now. Surgeon too, remember?"
"I hate to keep you up though. I feel like I'm just waltzing in here and making myself at home."
"Callie it's fine. Why don't you go check up on Allie and I'll pour the coffee," she suggested.
Callie gave her what could only be described as a grateful smile and went upstairs.
Here we go again, thought Erica. She should go to sleep. She should let Callie go to sleep, but since she started work at Seattle Grace she had not seen as much of Callie in private as she would have liked. They talked at work and lunched together once when Callie was on a regular shift. They found time for coffee often and talked if they had the chance, but Callie had a brutal schedule, so she worked most evenings, or disappeared into the night for the dreaded night shift.
Erica sighed. Control Hahn, just control whatever's going on with you. She thought of all the 'should not's'. She should not be thinking about this woman all the time. She should not be plotting ways to see her more. She definitely should not desire her as much as she did. Callie was straight. That should mean something. It did mean something. It meant no chance, absolutely no chance no matter how many flips Erica's heart did when she saw her.
And yet she couldn't seem to stop herself from wanting to spend as much time as she could with her. Maybe it was the fact that she was straight. Maybe it felt safe to desire someone who was ultimately unavailable to her. She wanted that to be true. The alternative, that she was developing feelings for Callie, was too scary a prospect. She heard Callie coming down the stairs and leaned on the counter trying hard to display a cool and casual demeanor she did not feel.
"Hey!" said Callie cheerily smiling that smile that made Erica's insides turn into shapeless formless goo.
Erica sighed internally. She was in so much trouble. She cleared her throat and handed Callie her cup.
"Cream and sugar are there," she pointed. "I can't do coffee like you can, but it's not too bad."
"I'm sure this is great," said Callie as she took the cup.
Their hands touched lightly and held, eyes meeting. Erica wanted to close her eyes, needed to really if she hoped to block out her thoughts, but Callie's eyes were holding her gaze. Callie smiled and gripped the cup firmly, pressing on Erica's fingers. Erica let go and pulled away, stuffing both hands in the pockets of her jeans.
"So everything okay upstairs?"
"Yeah, thank you so much for taking her and for letting me come over. I know it's stupid."
Erica frowned. "Why would it be stupid? If it was Lucas, I'd want to do the same thing. So how was the day?" asked Erica leaning on the counter slightly and sipping from her coffee.
It was two thirty in the morning before either of them realized that they had been talking for two hours. Callie noticed first as she went for more coffee. The 2:30 in digital letters on the microwave startling her.
"Oh my God!" she shouted a little too dramatically.
Erica turned immediately. "What?" she asked as she closed the few feet between them. Thinking something was wrong she placed a hand on Callie's shoulder and turned her. Callie placed her hands on Erica's stomach.
"It's so late, Erica. You have to be up in a few hours. I'm so sorry. I don't have to be in until seven tomorrow night."
"Jesus Callie you scared me!" said Erica as she let go of Callie's shoulder hoping she had not unconsciously pressed forward into Callie's touch, but not really remembering if she had.
And because she had been genuinely scared and needed Callie's hands off of her stomach, she hugged her. It was quick. She let go almost immediately and stepped back.
"Don't do that," she said trying not to think about how the hugging felt just as good as Callie touching her. Callie was smiling at her.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you, but God, it's so late!"
"And you were exhausted when you walked in," said Erica switching gears. "You should go across the street and get some rest. I'll get the kids up and you can come over for breakfast in a few hours."
"Yeah," said Callie looking a little sad. "What's wrong?" asked Erica.
"It's just all of you are here and I'll be over there in that big empty house."
Erica laughed. "Okay, then stay here. I have a pull-out couch and blankets or you can take my bed."
"God, I'm being an idiot aren't I?"
Erica placed both hands on Callie's shoulders and looked her in the eye. "Stop it. You are not being silly, an idiot or any of the other bad things you're thinking. You're tired and your child is here and you want to be near her. Perfectly normal."
Callie hooked her hands on the arms reaching out to her and smiled. "Thank you." She tilted her head. "I'm really glad we became friends," she said.
Erica removed her hands from Callie's shoulders, but Callie did not let go letting her fingers slide down Erica's arms until they reached Erica's hands clasping them firmly in her own. Erica looked down at their joined hands and tried not to think of how she felt every time they touched. She closed her eyes and responded to Callie's comment.
"Me too," she said.
She didn't want to let go. She opened her eyes and found Callie looking at her concerned.
No, I'm not okay. I want to kiss you right now and that is not okay.
"Yeah," she said as she let go of Callie's hands. "Let me go get some sheets and blankets. Unless you want my bed?"
"Erica, seriously I am not taking your bed. The pull-out is fine."
"Okay, I'll be right back."
She practically bolted out of the room and up the stairs. She found the blankets easily, but lingered in the hall. She's straight. No matter how hot she is, no matter how many times she touches you, she will always be straight, she told herself over and over until she felt like she could look at Callie again and not melt into a puddle. Finally she made her way back downstairs.
The next morning's breakfast was a chaotic affair. Erica was incredibly tired, despite what she had told Callie the previous night. She begged and pleaded with Lucas and Allie to be quiet as they got ready for school, which they mostly were when they were upstairs. They looked ridiculously cute tip toeing down the steps like it was a game, but somehow they either forgot that Callie was sleeping in the living room or thought sound didn't carry from the kitchen. It had really been too much to ask of them, she thought as she watched them eat breakfast.
First Lucas wanted to pour his own milk and was whining like…well a seven year old about how unfair it was that Erica wouldn't let him. Then Allie had insisted on eating the same cereal as Erica which was healthier and had half the sugar. Erica complied and then regretted it as Allie spent five minutes letting her cereal get mushy and looking quite miserable. Erica poured her another bowl of the sweet cereal Lucas was eating, which perked her up considerably and although Erica should have been happy that she was eating, she regretted getting her all peppy. Peppy Allie combined with excited Lucas meant the volume in the kitchen was being raised. She wanted to get breakfast over before she woke Callie, knowing Callie didn't sleep enough in general, but halfway through their pieces of toasts Lucas and Allie were chatting away like they were at a concert, namely at the top of their lungs trying to talk over each other and giggling at just how loud they could get. Erica tried shushing. She even tried glaring at them, but just when her own voice was about to get louder, a sleepy, grumpy looking, messed-up hair, T-shirt wearing Callie strolled into the kitchen.
"Are they always this loud?" she asked Erica.
Erica smiled as she watched Allie jump from her chair.
Callie picked her up and kissed her.
"How'd you sleep Al? I'm sorry Nell couldn't stay with you."
"This was better. I got to sleep in Lucas's room. He has two beds."
Lucas jumped down from his chair as well. "You slept over too. Cool!"
Callie set Allie down and bent to hug him.
"Yes, I did. You don't mind, do you?"
"Nuh uh. You can sleep over all the time and then Allie can too. Can they Mom?" he asked Erica who was busy pouring coffee into her favorite to-go cup. She was only half-listening to their conversation.
"Sure kiddo. We can just fix up that extra room, put a bed in for Allie, but I don't know where Aunt Cal's going to sleep," she teased.
"She can sleep in your room," he said with all the logic a seven year old could muster. Erica spilled her coffee onto the counter, thankfully not getting too much of it on her hand.
"I don't think Aunt Cal would like that too much," she managed to say looking at the mess she had made.
And suddenly Callie was behind her with some paper towels.
"Don't be so sure," said Callie as she moved behind Erica. "That pull-out is okay, but I'm sure your bed is way more comfy," she said smiling. "Guys, finish your breakfast," she shouted to Lucas and Allie while she mopped up the spilled coffee.
Erica was standing still, stupidly holding a dripping cup. She managed to put the coffee pot back, but could not move with Callie still behind her. Callie reached for Erica's arm to steady her as she wiped the dripping cup. She seemed to be pressing her body into Erica. Finally, she moved slightly so that she wasn't standing directly behind Erica, but placed one hand at Erica's back keeping her in place.
"Did you get any of that on yourself?"
"No," said Erica feeling like she really needed to move away from this woman.
Should she ignore the blatant flirting? She could not be misreading Callie's comment. Callie was definitely flirting with her and if Callie got to flirt with her, well she could dish it out too. Besides, she was getting a little tired of all the flirting and touching and feeling like she had to keep herself in check. If Callie wanted to play, she could play.
"Feel free to try out my bed anytime," said Erica looking at Callie intensely.
Callie's eyes widened in surprise and Erica smirked until Callie moved closer, turning her slightly and placing one hand on Erica's midsection. She licked her lips. Oh god, she actually licked her lips.
"Maybe I will," said Callie standing so close, Erica felt her breath on her face. And then Callie started laughing and backed away.
"I'm better at the teasing than you are," she said.
"Yes, you are," said Erica not sure how to interpret what had just happened.
"Get your stuff," she said to the kids although her eyes never left Callie's. The playful mirth was gone though. There was only a slightly pained expression. "Don't kill me okay," said Erica sincerely.
This was a game to Callie, she realized; flirting with her was merely a game to her. One of the various, see if you can mess with the lesbian games straight women sometimes played.
"I understand this is fun for you, but don't take it too far, okay?" she said to Callie.
Callie was looking at her confused. "I think I missed something," she said. "I didn't mean anything..."
"I know," said Erica as she put the top on her coffee cup. "It's okay, don't worry about it." She sighed. "Forget I said anything."
She gave Callie a friendly squeeze on the arm. "I figure I'm up and dressed and they're ready so I'll take them to school, unless you want to take Allie?"
"No, that sounds good, let me just get my stuff and get out of your hair."
"No, stay as long as you like. The door locks automatically." She walked into the living room and grabbed her bag and jacket. "Two minutes guys. You have two minutes to get your stuff together. I'm going out to the car and will be leaving in exactly two minutes," she said to them.
A mad search ensued which Callie watched from the doorway. Allie seemed to be doing okay. Her things were mostly together, but Lucas had stuff everywhere and was frantically tossing everything in his school bag. She wanted to help him look, but didn't know where to begin. Finally they were out the door giving her kisses and hugs before dashing to the waiting car.
She watched them climb in and saw Erica turn her head and say something to them, probably about buckling themselves in. She squinted trying to see Erica's coffee cup through the windshield. She blinked. That was her cup, the one she had lent to Erica weeks ago. She smiled. Guess she liked it.
She thought about Erica's comment as she gathered her things. She hadn't meant to offend her. She was just continuing the playful banter she enjoyed with Erica, but Erica had warned her off. She didn't liked being warned off. She liked their interactions. A lot. She groaned. She had not wanted to deal with the revelation she had come to over pizza weeks ago and in some strange way, flirting with Erica allowed her to put that epiphany to the side. She could act on the confusing feelings Erica inspired, without really acting on them. It felt safe to flirt with her like she did, let her attraction manifest itself in the flirting without real engagement. She picked up her bag and walked out the door.
It was only later as she was settling in to sleep that she realized she had left her top at Erica's. Erica had kindly lent her the t-shirt she was now wearing. Oh well, she could get it tomorrow.
Allie had books, and toys and clothes at Erica's. Callie had a coffee cup and now a blouse.