Callie was doing lasagna. It wasn't her specialty, but she didn't really have time for the whole enchilada mess she wanted to make, which involved marinating things and fresh tortillas. Between the few hours of sleep she had gotten at Erica's and her nap this morning, she had slept well, a rarity for her. It felt like she had hardly slept the last five years. The hours she needed to put in to succeed in her residency program and her desire to spend as much time as possible with her daughter meant something had to give. Sleep was usually that something and so she often went without it. And that surprisingly made the hours she actually slept, as short as they were, restless. But today she slept pretty well. She hadn't woken up every two hours in a panic before she looked at the clock. She hadn't tossed and turned. She thankfully, just slept.
She had lined everything up for dinner before going to pick up the kids from school. She was scheduled for an overnight shift tonight and hadn't heard from Nell which was a good sign. She hoped that meant the young woman was actually going to show. The last time Nell started bailing on her at the last minute meant lots of overnights for Allie in pediatrics. She hated doing that to her. Allie was okay staying at the hospital for the most part, but it was big and pediatrics was nowhere near the surgical floor, so Callie felt far away, like no one would be there for Allie if she needed something.
The kids were grumpily doing homework at the dining room table. She had given them a snack and let them play for an hour before insisting on homework. Lucas had papers and notebooks spread all over the table. Allie was practicing letters on her lone sheet of paper.
The pan of lasagna went in as she heard her bell ring. She frowned, Erica was early. She went to the door and was disappointed to find Nell standing at her door, clearly dressed to go out and telling Callie she could not do tonight's overnight. Callie just stood there a bit dumbfounded. She supposed she could beg, but it would be to no avail. Nell had already made her up mind, so she simply said thanks for letting me know and closed the door. No bonuses for that girl come Christmas. She went back to the kitchen idly wondering if she could possible impose on Erica again.
Thirty five minutes later, the lasagna was nice and bubbly and her bell rang again. She was fairly certain it was Erica this time. She put the lasagna on the cooling rack and tried not racing for the door. Lucas was already there asking who it was. She reached them just as Lucas opened the door.
"I beat you," he said.
Erica looked at him questioningly. "At what?" she demanded with a smile.
"The door. I was here before you," he said proudly.
"Okay, if you say so," she ruffled his hair and picked him up. "Have you behaved, my little monster?" she asked as she kissed his face.
Lucas hugged her around the neck before she set his giggling little body down.
"Hey," she said to Callie. "God it smells great in here. Guess I can't convince you to come over and have chicken nuggets with us."
She looked down before Callie could answer as Allie walked up to her. "Hey Princess," she said as she lifted her off the ground and kissed her. "Is Lucas being good?" she asked Allie.
Allie nodded vigorously. "Are we going to your house or staying here?" she asked.
Erica set her down. "Sweetie, your Mom is here today, and it smells like she's been making you a delicious dinner, so I think you'll be staying here." She patted her head and Allie took off running.
"We're staying here Lucas," she shouted as she landed on the living room floor next to him.
"Oh…that's not what I…"
Callie put a hand on her arm. "Take off your jacket, Hahn. That's the best invitation you're ever gonna get."
"Probably, but no, Callie I don't want to impose."
Callie reached for Erica's jacket herself and began removing it.
"Seriously Erica, I made enough for all of us. You've fed and taken care of my daughter all week. Please let me just do this?" she begged.
Erica was unsure. She had resolved on the car ride over to stop thinking and obsessing about Callie Torres, but she needed some distance in order to do that. She needed to stop taking Callie's playfulness so seriously. She was afraid that her comment this morning might dampen their friendship, but Callie was seemingly still insisting they spend time together.
"I'll make my famous coffee," Callie added in a sing-songy voice.
Erica smiled, "Okay, but only because you're throwing in the coffee."
The lasagna was to die for. They had finished dinner and were now enjoying what Erica called Callie's special slice of heaven coffee.
"Cal, are you sure you didn't miss your calling? You are an amazing cook. I mean you're an amazing surgeon too. Everyone at that hospital is ga-ga for you, which I can't really blame them for, although it also kind of pisses me off, but your food is just heavenly."
She stopped. Where in the hell was the babbling coming from?
Callie was smiling at her, "I think there was a compliment in there somewhere, so thank you." she said. "But you're wrong. Everyone at the hospital is not all about me. The residents really don't like me and well besides Christina, I don't have that many friends there in general. I had a good friend for awhile, but she moved to L.A. She is a very cool awesome lady."
Deciding to ignore her babbling tonight, something very much out of character for her, Erica plunged ahead.
"What do you mean? All the attendings and residents rave about you. Webber thinks you're single-handedly saving the ortho department. You publish more than some of the attendings, you certainly do more surgeries and more complicated ones at that."
"Erica, you've been there like a week. There is no way you could find all of that out in a week."
"A few weeks actually and you can if you ask the right questions and look in the right places," she said taking another sip of her coffee. "And I do," she finished. "Back to my original question, why aren't you a professional cook and what would it take for you to cook for me all the time?"
"You could ask me to marry you," said Callie laughing as she watched Erica's animated eyes darken as the words reached her. She blinked. "Sorry I'm doing it again, aren't I?"
Erica looked down at her coffee. "That's okay," she said only barely stopping herself from blurting out something embarrassing, like I'd marry you if you couldn't boil water. Erica, you need to get this under control, she chastised herself internally.
"So why does it piss you off?"
"Excuse me?" asked Erica, not sure what Callie was referring to.
"You said in your little speech that it kind-off pissed you off. Why would it piss you off that people like me?"
"Oh…well because…" She was at a loss. Most definitely she needed to see someone about the whole Callie business because she was losing her ability to think rationally and the capacity to keep her little thoughts and feelings to herself.
Callie was smirking. "Come on Hahn, out with it."
"I… well I guess I don't like the ga-ga part," she said softly.
"What's the ga-ga part?" asked Callie.
Erica eyed her carefully. Callie was still smiling at her with those playful eyes just staring right back at Erica. She took a breath, gave the kids a glance, satisfied that they were still in their own little world in the living room and leaned forward.
"The parts where they seem enamored by you."
"Why would that bother you?" asked Callie the playfulness changing to serious contemplation all of sudden.
"Why do you think?" answered Erica.
Callie swallowed. "Oh," she said. The smile returned. "Someone's a little jealous? I think I like that."
"You would, Torres. So are you still working tonight?" she asked more to change the subject than because she wanted to know, since she pretty much had Callie's schedule memorized.
Callie's eyes became concerned. "Yeah, I meant to ask you before." She sighed. "Nell bailed on me again."
Feeling relieved that she had successfully changed the topic, Erica jumped into this new conversation with fervor.
"Again? What's her problem? Allie can just stay with me tonight, if that's okay with you."
"That's more than okay. She loves it over there. Are you sure it's okay?"
"For the love of Pete, Callie its fine. Why are you so concerned about this? It is not an imposition. Allie is angel. She's no trouble."
"I just don't want you to feel like I'm taking advantage of you."
Erica laughed. "I wish," she said under her breath as she took another sip. There you go again Hahn, saying and thinking things you shouldn't.
They lingered over coffee for only a short time more before Callie started cleaning up and Erica helped the kids gather their things to go across the street. This time Allie had a whole bag of clothes she was traipsing over. Apparently she wasn't sure what she would be wearing the next day. Erica's mind was whirring and clicking. It was ridiculous that Callie was being put into this situation by Nell. Nell was nice and good with the kids, but this wasn't the first time Callie had complained about her availability for overnight or later shifts. She let the whirs and clicks continue in the background as she watched the kids saying their goodbyes. The kids got a hug and kiss from Callie which made her smile. Finally they were ready to go.
"So any special instructions?" asked Erica as they stood beside Callie's car.
"No, I don't think so. Call me if she gives you any trouble."
"What time is your shift over?"
"7 in the morning. I'll get here as soon as I can. I'm sure you have all sorts of things you need to do."
"Come straight to the house and we'll do breakfast when the kids get up" said Erica she as she started walking away, but Callie put an arm out to stop her.
"Thanks Erica," she said and then reached over and kissed Erica on the cheek. It was quick and completely friendly, but it stopped Erica momentarily.
"Right, okay," she said after a few seconds. She saw Callie getting in her car, tried to shake off the kiss and then walked toward her house.
A week later, Erica was still contemplating her idea. Her brain's clicks and whirs had not failed her. She had come up with a workable solution to Callie's childcare issues with Nell, but she had yet to mention it to Callie. They were standing in the kitchen. It was 7:30 am and Callie had just come off of another overnight shift that Nell refused to do. They both noted the pattern. For the most part, it was the Friday and Saturday nights that she was refusing to do, so the boyfriend theory gained more support.
"Hey, listen..." Erica started, hands in her pocket, leaning against the kitchen counter. "This may be a little strange and you do not have to take me up on it, but...I was thinking...On the nights you work overnight, if you want, Allie can sleep over here. I know Nell's been giving you a hard time about the overnights and well I thought if it would help you out, I'm here. I can get the kids ready for school if you're late and if you're not, you can just come over here and pick her up."
Erica glanced at Callie who looked stunned by the suggestion.
"It's just an idea. Think about it or not. It's up to you. Don't feel like you have to take me up on the offer, okay? I won't be offended. I just thought it might work out."
Callie shook her head. "Yeah, no I will. Think about it, I mean."
She stood arms crossed. It would be perfect. She would not have to worry about Nell's absenteeism or taking Allie to the hospital overnight and then worrying about getting her to school on school days. It would not be too horrible for Erica since the kids went to the same school. And it had the added bonus of giving her more excuses to see Erica.
Although, she didn't need more excuses. They saw each other practically everyday and when they didn't...Callie pushed that thought away. She didn't want to think about how she felt when she didn't see Erica.
"I'll talk to Allie, but do you realize what you're getting into with this suggestion?" she asked Erica seriously. "I mean it would be perfect Erica. I would love for her to be here with you and Lucas. She loves it here and I know she's safe, but you'd practically be… well taking care of her. I pay someone right now to do that. I mean, I could pay you…"
"Don't even make that suggestion, Torres. I'm making this offer free and clear. It's not a big deal. I love Allie. I would much rather have her here regularly than at the hospital or her constantly not knowing where she'll be spending the night. It's up to you, but she is always welcome here. So are you."
Erica walked out of the kitchen to try and calm herself. How could Callie even suggest paying her for taking care of Allie? She wasn't sorry she made the suggestion, but Callie's response was different from what she had expected. She expected her to maybe refuse, say thanks, but no thanks, but offering to pay her had been…insulting. She was in the middle of the living room trying to figure out where to go. The kids were still sleeping and the room was a mess. She decided to start cleaning.
"Erica?" she heard Callie's voice behind her.
She turned around to find Callie standing in front of her.
"Hey," she said stepping back. Callie reached for her grasping both hands. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."
Callie looked at their joined hands before focusing on Erica again.
"For a really long time it's just been me and Allie. I've never really had anyone that I could count on. I mean Bailey's great with my schedule and Addison helped a little when she was here, but I've just never had anyone say, let me help you with no strings attached. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."
Erica squeezed the hands holding hers. "Callie, I'm here. I don't make friends easily, but I'd like to think we're friends and friends help each other. I would not hesitate to leave Lucas with you if I needed to. I'm here. Just think about it. I won't be hurt if you don't take me up on my offer, but I'm not making this offer because I need or want anything from you. I'm not looking to make extra money with..."
Callie put a finger to Erica's mouth. "I know," she said. "I'm sorry I said it. I'm just not used to it. I'm not used to people that aren't family helping with Allie. Please forgive me?"
Erica was fighting for control, but she was losing the battle so she stopped breathing, stopped all brain function and concentrated on slowly removing Callie's fingers from her lips. She found it harder to step away from Callie. She tried, but Callie squeezed her hands and anchored her to the spot.
"Forgive me?" Callie asked again.
Erica could do nothing but smile at her. "Nothing to forgive," she said. She brought Callie's hands to hers and kissed them lightly before letting go and finally stepping back.
"It's fine Callie. We're fine."
A relieved smile broke out on Callie's face. "Then I would love for Allie to stay with you."
"Okay then, that's settled."
The next few weeks were a frenzy of activity as they adjusted to their new circumstances and it was also the first time Erica saw Callie angry. She didn't like it, especially as that anger had been directed at her. For Erica having Allie as a regular guest meant turning one of her extra bedrooms into a little girl's room and she had probably gone overboard with the new furniture. Of course she wouldn't admit that to anyone, especially Callie.
Allie was excited, but her mother had been fuming when she saw the new room. The "conversation" that followed was not pleasant for Erica. Callie lectured her about spoiling Allie, about how Allie had a room in her own house and reminded her that Lucas might get jealous. It was Lucas's idea, she protested to no avail. Callie responded that Erica was the parent not Lucas and she had to set boundaries. Finally Erica stopped arguing and let Callie yell at her for awhile. Eventually Callie stopped and sat next to her on the bed. They had sent the kids downstairs earlier or rather Callie had ordered them downstairs so they could "talk" which meant they were currently sitting alone in Allie's new room.
"Thank you," Callie said after minutes passed in silence.
"I just wanted her to have a place that was hers if she was going to be spending so many nights here."
Callie grabbed Erica's hand, her eyes still scanning the room carefully. "I know and I appreciate it. She loves it. I'm sorry I yelled," she said looking at Erica whose facial features were now more relaxed than they had been earlier.
"That's okay. I know this is a little extravagant, but Lucas said new room and Allie's eyes lit up and well, there's just something about you Torres women."
Callie laughed and lay back on the bed taking Erica's hand with her, and forcing her down as well. "Something about Torres women you like?" she asked.
"Lots of somethings," said Erica propping herself on her elbow, facing Callie. Callie was beaming at her. "We are tempting," she said with mischief in her eyes.
Erica was getting that hazy feeling again, the feeling that made her forget that this was her good friend; the one that made her vision go haywire and blurred the lines between friendship and romance transforming the woman in front of her from fun-loving innocent friend to hot and sexy woman.
Erica closed her eyes and smiled. "Yes, you are," she thought, except that she actually heard that thought in stereo. Had she said that out loud? She opened her eyes to see Callie staring back at her. Her breathing was even, but her eyes looked confused. Erica blinked rapidly.
"You weren't supposed to hear that." She pushed herself off the bed quickly and started to apologize. "Callie I'm sorry I was out of line with…."
Callie followed her off the bed and grabbed one of her arms. She silenced Erica with a finger to her mouth. "It's okay. It's nice to be…desired," she said smiling. She caressed Erica's face lightly. "It's okay," she said again and then stepped away and out the door.
Erica blinked and looked around the room. She wished there had been witnesses because she wasn't sure if what just happened had actually happened. She fell back on Allie's new bed dramatically. It's nice to be desired? Callie you have no idea.
Callie let herself into Erica's house with her very own key. After a week of their new arrangement with Allie doing overnights at Erica's they decided it was probably prudent to exchange keys to their respective houses. She saw Erica as she entered already decked out in exercise gear. She had on black running pants and a loose fitting long sleeve shirt. She was currently lacing up her running shoes.
"Hey, how was your night?" asked Erica as she finished one shoe and started on the other. "Not busy, thank God. All ready to go out, huh?"
"Yes, I'll be back in 45 minutes. Take a nap if you want; the kids won't be up for another couple of hours," said Erica standing up.
"Okay," said Callie as she went over to give Erica her customary greeting, a light kiss on the cheek and a quick squeeze of her arm.
It was a Latina thing, she told Erica's confused face when she first started doing it and it was. That was how she greeted her family, except that Erica wasn't family and none of Callie's friends got that greeting, but she didn't like to dwell on that. Instead she focused on how right and natural it felt to do it. Besides that was how each of them greeted the kids; it only made sense that they greet each other like that as well. Erica never complained about it. She had shyly asked Callie about it when Callie started doing it, explaining that she didn't want to misread things, but once it was explained she seemed to have no problem with it and even seemed to expect it. Like now, today, a few seconds ago. Callie saw it in her movements. She could see that despite the fact that Erica had been in the midst of lacing her shoes, when she was done, she stood with an expectant look on her face that wasn't dispelled until Callie stepped forward to kiss her. It was natural and good and Callie didn't like to really think beyond that. She was taken out of her thoughts by Erica's voice.
"Crap! Sorry, the blankets are in the wash. I didn't get to finish them last night. Just go up to my room and nap."
"No that's okay; I'll just lie on your couch."
"Callie you'll get cold. Stop being stubborn and go lay down on my bed. Don't worry, there aren't any bed bugs or cooties or anything, no matter what Lucas says." She smiled. "Go, get some rest," she said as she walked out the door to start her run.
It was funny how easily they had established a routine. Allie sleeping over at Erica's made things a hundred times easier for Callie on those nights she worked late or overnight. At first she would go home and sleep before coming over to pick up Allie, but it soon became clear that it was easier to help Allie get ready for school at Erica's and since she was there she helped Lucas as well giving Erica time to put together a quick breakfast. After a few weeks, she found that going straight home to nap was also kind of unnecessary. Erica liked to run and had been missing it since she got Lucas. With Callie crashing at Erica's, Erica could resume her morning runs. So, the routine changed again. She would arrive at Erica's and take a nap while Erica ran. Then Erica would shower and do breakfast while Callie made sure the kids brushed their teeth and got dressed and ready. Breakfast was generally a loud affair before Erica and the kids left for school. Then Callie would return to her own house for some much deserved rest.
The afternoon routine had changed as well. If Callie was available she would pick up both kids, make sure they did their homework and think of something for dinner. Erica would come over, typically after stopping off at home to change clothes and the four of them would have dinner. On those few days they both worked days, Callie and Allie would walk over for breakfast and then Erica would drive the kids to school. Callie had longer hours, so she would take her own car to work arriving a little earlier than Erica and usually staying later.
It was comfortable and right, but it was the routine, good as it was, that was putting all sorts of other ideas into Callie's head about her and Erica. It had to be, because she was not gay. She cleared her throat, deciding she did not need to think about this now, not when she was about to go up to Erica's bed to sleep.
She had been doing a pretty good job of ignoring the whole liking Erica issue so far. The few times her mind thought beyond their immediate interactions, she always managed to find an explanation for her behavior or reactions. Sometimes she rationalized that this was just how women friends were with each other, nothing weird about it. Sometimes she told herself that she was just a touchy feely person and that was why she always seemed to want to touch Erica. The rationalizations went on and on.
Pushing the questions aside once again, she bowed to the inevitable and made her way upstairs, checking on both kids before entering Erica's bedroom. The bed sheets were askew and put images into her head. She fought to push them back and concentrated on her movements, slowly stripping her pants and shirt and climbing into the bed. Nothing weird about it, she kept telling herself. But her stomach was doing those nasty little flips again and she was feeling a tug from parts south. She closed her eyes. Just sleep she told herself, over and over again until her body relaxed and sleep found her.
She woke to the sound of the shower and was momentarily confused. She looked around trying to get her bearings. She saw a pile of clothes by the bathroom door and realization struck her. Erica must be back, naked and in the shower. She couldn't stop the images that came into her head so she settled back down cursing.
You can't just stay here, she thought to herself. You have to get the kids ready and stop thinking about Erica. She got up, hoped she had been covered by the sheets when Erica walked in and threw her clothes on hurriedly. She heard the water in the shower stop just as she grabbed her shoes and walked out of the room. This harmless little attraction was getting to be too much. That place in her mind where she kept her list of things about Erica she didn't want to think about was getting pretty full. She would need to deal with it soon, very soon.