Lucas looked at the number displayed on his mother's phone. He had pushed a lot of buttons and been confused by some of the menus, but he finally found it. Callie Torres. He hit the green button hoping it was the right one. When he heard the phone ringing he knew he had done it right. He glanced nervously at the stairs. He didn't want his mother to catch him on the phone because he was scared that she wouldn't let him invite Callie and Allie over. He knew she wouldn't say no once they were here or once he had invited them.
Allie had been spending many of her nights here at their house, but his mother had told him that tonight Allie would be with her Mommy. Aunt Cal wasn't working tonight, so no sleep over. But they had planned on watching Nemo. He and Allie were going to sleep in the living room in their sleeping bags just like camp. His Mom had told them they could have pizza and popcorn. But that was before Allie's Mommy found out she didn't have to work on Saturday night. His Mom had tried explaining it to him, but it didn't make sense. Aunt Cal could come over too, he had argued and the four of them could have a sleepover. His Mom had rubbed his head and told him they would do it next week, but next week was ages away and he and Allie had been looking forward to Nemo since forever. He tried whining and then just arguing that it would be more fun with all four of them now instead of next week when there would just be three of them, but his Mom just smiled and told him next week would have to do and that Nemo wasn't going anywhere. He couldn't believe they wouldn't want to come over. His Mom hadn't even asked Aunt Cal if she wanted to, which is why he was looking anxiously at the stairs hoping Aunt Cal answered before his Mom came downstairs.
"Honey is something wrong? Is your Mom okay? Do you need me to come over?"
"Yes. Come over. But…no there's nothing wrong. I just wanted you guys to come have pizza and maybe Allie and you could sleepover. I know you're not working, but me and Allie were supposed to watch Nemo and Mom said we could sleep in our sleeping bags and have pizza and make popcorn. Don't you wanna come over for popcorn? We're all gonna sleep in the living room like camping, it would be so cool Aunt Cal."
"Does your Mother know that you're having a slumber party?" asked Callie suspiciously.
"Um yeah? Oh oh."
"Who are you on the phone with you little monster?"
Callie heard Erica's slightly raised voice.
"It's Aunt Cal," he replied cheerfully handing over the phone as he bolted from the room.
"Hello?" Erica asked into the phone.
"Hi, so I hear you're having a slumber party."
"A slumber party?" Erica asked clearly confused. "Oh, well…" she stopped, blowing out air in exasperation. "We were planning on pizza and a movie and sleeping bags in the living room. Is everything okay? I didn't hear the phone ring," she asked still concerned.
"Lucas called over here. He invited me and Allie for pizza, popcorn and Nemo," said Callie chuckling into the phone.
Erica's gaze turned toward the little brown haired boy jumping up and down in the living room.
"I'm sorry," Erica started. "I guess he's used to Allie spending the night. They had this big Nemo thing planned. I must be too boring for him to do it with just me so he needs to scheme ways to get his best friend over here. I imagine you want to take advantage of a rare Saturday night off and just spend some quality time with Allie. I'll tell him no."
"Well okay, but we'll all be disappointed. I mean I thought the invitation was for me too, so it's not like Allie and I would be apart."
Erica's heart started pounding. Definitely not a good idea for Callie and her to be in a slumber party type situation, she chanted mentally in her head. She closed her eyes and sighed into the phone.
"You actually want to come over?" she asked. "I would have thought you'd had enough of us, although I suppose it could be fun, you and me and the two munchkins in our pajamas."
"I don't wear pajamas to bed," said Callie in the most no nonsense tone she could produce. She heard an audible gulp on the other line.
"Yeah, we'll it's not that type of slumber party, so you better wear pajamas. I'll order the pizza. Come over whenever you like."
Erica hung up the phone and took a moment to breathe. That woman was going to be the death of her. She had been trying so hard to clamp down on the things Callie made her feel, but Callie was making it impossible. Actually, that wasn't true. Erica enjoyed the flirting and banter; even if it wasn't going anywhere and she had chastised herself a million times for not trying hard enough to put a stop to it altogether. The fact was she liked it. She didn't have time to think about it right now though. Resolving to reflect on it later, she looked up the pizza place on her phone.
Callie smiled as she carefully put down the phone. "Pack your jammies Allie. We're going to a sleep over."
A short time later they walked out of the house as the sun was just starting to disappear over the horizon. I'm playing with fire here, thought Callie as she handed Allie her backpack for the short walk across the street. But fire was enticing sometimes and Erica was like getting lost in a nice warm campfire, feeling the warmth all around you and enjoying the wildly dancing flames. She knew her constant flirting and teasing were affecting Erica, but instead of feeling bad or weird about it, she loved it. It was probably the reason she couldn't seem to stop herself. They walked slowly across the front lawn, the smell of fresh cut grass still lingering in the air. Callie was lost in her thoughts.
The problem was that all the shameless flirting the last few weeks was starting to affect Callie as well. She had found herself wondering more than once what it would be like to kiss Erica. She thought Erica wanted to and that should have sent alarm bells to all parts of her brain. Instead, it made her anxious and excited. She wondered if Erica would ever cross that line with her. Part of her wanted her to and another part did not. That part was too scared of the possible consequences. Still she was fairly certain Erica wanted to kiss her unless she was reading everything wrong. Hell, maybe girls did things differently and she was getting her signals mixed up.
They approached the front door just as it swung open wildly sending a laughing seven-year old clad only in sweat socks and jeans careening to the floor laughing. Allie rushed into the house just as Erica jumped out from her hiding place behind a side table and lunged at both kids, engaging them in a tickle fight. Long fingers sought out and found sensitive spots and raucous laughter was the only sound Callie heard for awhile.
She let herself in as the laughter died. She looked down to find Erica sitting on the floor smiling back at her.
"Hey, thanks for coming," was all Erica could manage.
The kids took advantage of Erica's distraction and scurried to the living room. Erica rose to her feet shouting "Put your pajamas on you little creep or we'll give your share of pizza to Callie here."
"You know…" Callie said as she bent down to pick up the backpack Allie had discarded in her haste to join the tickle fight. "You're going to have to follow through on your threats or they'll never respect you."
"Yeah, I know. Here let me take those from you." Erica reached for the backpacks and smirked. "Anything breakable in these?"
"Not that I can think of," said Callie removing the jacket she wore. She regretted the words as soon as they were out.
She watched as the backpacks were catapulted into the living room barely missing the kids sitting in front of the television. Allie had decided it would save time if she changed at home and was already in her pajamas. Callie had not bothered to argue, glad that the girl was willingly changing into pajamas. Lucas had his pajamas strewn about him along with the clothes he had already discarded before the tickle fight, but was making no move to change.
The sound of the doorbell pulled Callie out of her contemplations. She saw Erica reaching for her back pocket and pulling out money Callie assumed was for pizza.
"You take care of the pizza and I'll try to get Lucas dressed," offered Callie.
"It's a deal, but I gotta tell you, I do that every night and it's no picnic," said Erica as she opened the door.
They ate their pizza at the dinner table without any major calamities. No food was thrown, no kids cried and no milk was spilt. Moments later, the leftover food was put away, the dishes were in the dishwasher and two kids and two adults were sitting among pillows, blankets and sleeping bags trying to decide if Nemo was really the movie they wanted to watch. Actually Erica was teasingly trying to talk the kids out of it, but they were on to her and were not relenting on the movie choice.
"Hey you guys aren't in your pajamas. You can't watch the movie without pajamas," said Lucas as he lunged at Erica.
Erica caught him and wove long arms around him as he settled in her lap. "I think you're right," she said glancing over to gauge Callie's reaction. "Why don't you guys put Nemo in and Callie and I will go change into our PJs. Okay?"
"Okay," said Allie as she walked over to the movie cases that were strewn about the floor along with the blankets and pillows.
Erica rose to her feet with Lucas still in her arms. She bounced him lightly laughing as he squealed. Finally, she put him down on the couch and saw Callie grab one of the backpacks that had been tossed in the room earlier. They left the room and headed for the stairs without a look, a touch or a word passing between them.
Callie was up against the wall in the hallway at the top of the stairs with Erica's body plastered to her, their mouths locked in a fire inducing kiss. Erica's leg was ensconced between Callie's thighs, the heat scorching her through her jeans. Her hands were on Callie's backside kneading and squeezing in time to Callie's hip movements, urging, and pulling her closer. Her chest was engaged in its own rubbing motion moving up and down against Callie, pressing forward wanting to erase shirts and bras with friction. They were both trying desperately to breathe through noses, as mouths and tongues were otherwise engaged. She detached her mouth from Callie's to bury herself in Callie's neck, reveling in Callie's panting and moaning.
Suddenly Erica's stomach lurched and the ground seemed to be coming up fast. Somehow her forward motion was broken and she was standing up right again on two sure feet. She blinked rapidly.
"Hey, you okay?" asked Callie. "You kind of missed that last step."
"Yes, I'm fine," she smiled at Callie embarrassed not only by her apparent stumble, but by the vividness of the vision she had just had.
"Um...you can change in Allie's room or the bathroom, your choice. Let me know if you need anything," she said as she opened the door to her own bedroom and rushed inside.
She closed it rapidly and headed to her bathroom to splash cool water on her face. She needed a cold shower, but there was no time for that and besides, cold showers could make Callie suspicious.
That she was attracted to Callie Torres was no surprise. She had been attracted to her from the moment she first saw her sitting at Christina's table at Rumors. That she couldn't seem to control her body's reactions to Callie was disturbing and completely out of character for her. Erica didn't do crushes and she especially did not do straight girl crushes.
She went back to her bedroom and pulled out pajama pants, a sleeveless undershirt and the not often used pajama top. The less body parts were exposed tonight the better. Callie had a very deliciously bad habit of touching Erica everywhere. Erica had no power to stop her and so she reasoned the less skin exposed to Callie's touches, the better for her overall physical and mental well-being. She had to get this under control, but for the first time in Erica's life she didn't know how she was going to do that. She had been trying for a couple of months with no success.
Her body had stopped listening to her mind a long time ago when it came to Callie so she couldn't do what she normally did - which was to will her body to stop. She needed to find another way and quickly because those were pretty vivid images she was having back there and there was nothing she wanted more right now than to make them reality. She sighed heavily as she stripped her clothes, changed into her pajamas and thought about the night ahead. She'd had no intention of sleeping on the floor before Lucas invited Callie and Allie over. She thought she could get away with the couch. But now with Callie joining their little overnight slumber party, they'd all end up on the floor, a prospect her back was objecting to. She just hoped they would end up putting the kids between them. She didn't need to be having erotic visions of Callie while sleeping next to her.
She stepped into the hall just as Callie was closing the door to Allie's room dressed in a short sleeveless nightgown that came to way above her knees. Erica saw bare shoulders and legs. The rest of Callie was covered by only the barest material, teeny tiny straps the color of mocha were holding up the flimsy garment on Callie's body. She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out.
"Hey," said Callie. "I forgot, I usually wear a robe with this thing, do you have anything I could borrow?"
Erica said nothing. Her brain had short circuited. She stood in the hallway just staring.
"Erica?" said Callie coming closer.
Callie's scent permeated Erica's paralyzed state as she slowly came out of her stupor to see the vision sending her into oblivion standing right in front of her, smelling of vanilla.
"Yeah, um what?" she asked blushing.
Callie was sporting a wide grin, almost laughing.
"You alright, Erica?" she asked again letting her voice get breathier and lower and completely invading Erica's space until they were so close, their noses almost touched.
Erica found her voice, knew it would sound shaky when she spoke, but proceeded anyway, hoping that the very act of forming sounds that linked together to make words would snap her out of the state she was in and allow her to back away from Callie's smiling face.
"I...I have pajama tops you can borrow," she said wondering if that was actually true. She was right, the words did allow her to step back and away from Callie, but Callie followed still smiling that ridiculously wide, laughing smile.
She backed into her bedroom and turned quickly opening and closing various drawers until she found the right one and then picking up a flannel pajama top.
Callie was right behind her. Erica held the pajama top in her hand. Her heart was thumping wildly and her brain was doing laps trying to find a way to make everything stop. It came to her in a flash. She needed to stop trying to make her reactions to Callie go away or be different. That was an impossible task. She didn't need to banish them she needed to control them. She backed into Callie, meshing their bodies together and then turned abruptly. She needed to stop letting Callie set the stage to this little play. Now it was Callie backing away at the look on Erica's face. Erica smiled at her as she brought her arms around Callie draping the pajama top around Callie's shoulders and continuing to push her back until she hit the closed door of the bedroom.
This was the dangerous part of her little game. It was easier for Callie to play games with her. Callie wasn't really interested; she wasn't attracted to Erica. Callie was straight, but for Erica, this game brought her too close to the edge of something she wanted to make reality. Her mind went briefly to the image she'd had of the two of them up against the wall in the hall. Her breathing shifted. Her hands were on Callie's waist wanting so very much to travel upwards. She wanted to close her eyes, go with the desire and let everything drift away. But instead she stood pressed lightly up against Callie, her hands stationary on Callie's waist. Their faces were so close. Erica leaned in, letting Callie feel her ragged breath, letting her eyes linger on Callie's lips. She moved closer to Callie's mouth making a last minute detour that ended with her lips close to Callie's ear.
"Stop messing with me," she whispered. And then because she hated for Callie to think she was mad at her, she pulled back and smiled pulling Callie into a hug that she hoped convinced her that everything was okay, that despite the small loss of control, despite the teasing, they were okay.
Erica pulled back. "Seriously, why some guy has not snatched you up yet is the eighth wonder of the world," she said laughing lightly. "Come on. We better get downstairs before those monsters burn down the house."
Callie was in a bit of a daze as she followed Erica downstairs, Erica's slightly over-sized pajama top draped over her shoulders. She managed to slip her hands through the sleeves as she walked thinking about what had just happened. She loved teasing Erica, probably more than she should. She had tried, really tried to not tease her too badly. Erica had already warned her off once, but she remembered that scene in the kitchen and how Erica seemed to regret the warning moments after she had spoken the words. She tried to take Erica's warning to heart and back away from the flirty teasing, but it hadn't taken long for her to start up again. She knew Erica was attracted to her and it intrigued her and made her feel sexy and so she selfishly encouraged it, even though she was straight and nothing could come of it; except she thought about it a whole heck of a lot for a girl who claimed to be as straight as an arrow. She liked seeing that desire in Erica's eyes and knowing it was her that put it there. It wasn't fair to Erica and she knew that, but flirting was fun and harmless. Erica knew she was straight. The attraction between them was just that, attraction. It had nothing to do with their friendship and they both understood that there was no possibility of romantic involvement, so it was safe, right?
Except that it hadn't necessarily felt safe back there in Erica's bedroom. And that was happening a lot lately. At first the flirtatious behavior was something she could pull back from easily, see it for what it was and then retreat. But lately it was getting harder and harder to see the line between playful teasing and her desire to make some of the flirty things real. She wanted Erica to kiss her back there. Erica's body on hers, being backed into the door, feeling Erica's labored breathing all triggered a response in her that had her own breathing going all irregular. But it was more than just a physical response. Erica's eighth wonder of the world comment had knocked her off balance too because in that moment it seemed wrong somehow that some guy snatch her up when she had the most wonderful person in the world right in front of her, someone who would probably do the snatching herself if only Callie would let her.
They reached the bottom of the stairs.
"You guys took forever," said Lucas. "Can we do the popcorn now?"
He was excited. They both were, but they hadn't moved from their sleeping bags.
"I'll do the popcorn," said Callie needing both the distraction and some distance from Erica.
"Okay," sad Erica settling herself down on the couch. "You guys ready for the movie or do you want to want to wait until the popcorn's ready?"
Callie heard the question as she walked into the kitchen to prepare the popcorn, too deep in her own thoughts to pay attention to the response.
Erica sat on the couch watching the characters on the screen, hearing the cheery music, seeing them talk. She couldn't make out the dialogue though. It was all muffled to her. She had stopped being able to discern that about 15 minutes ago or rather five minutes into the movie. She thought she had put the little episode upstairs out of her mind, but it had come back like a heavy mantle, pushing her down and making everything jumbled and confused. There was too much in her head, too much she was trying to hold in. Had she been able to understand the words being spoken on the television by fish underwater, it would have hardly mattered.
She was doing it again. She didn't know how she always let herself get back here, but she was once again in that place where the longing to be with Callie was intense and no amount of rationalization could make that desire recede. She rubbed her hands up and down her thighs nervously.
Callie was seated next to her seemingly immersed in the movie. They had barely spoken since coming down the stairs, although the smiles they shared belayed any animosity. No, Callie seemed to be lost in her own thoughts as well or maybe she was lost in the movie. The kids were busy munching on popcorn happily as they sat in the sleeping bags that covered the floor of the living room. Erica continued the nervous rubbing, wanting to calm her overactive libido, wanting to stop thinking about touching and kissing Callie. It had been a game upstairs. She wanted to turn the tables on Callie, to wrestle control of the flirty behavior from Callie so that she could put a clamp on the thoughts that seemed to constantly buzz in her head whenever Callie was around, thoughts that need not be acted on or even acknowledged. Callie was straight. She wasn't interested, not even a little, no matter how many times she shamelessly teased Erica.
But the snippets of the fantasies she had been having increasingly along with her actions upstairs were haunting her. She thought that by taking control of the situation, she could harness those feelings and ultimately defeat them. It worked for about five minutes. She had managed to not think about Callie or all the things Callie made her feel for five minutes, but the whole thing was too intense to be forgotten or pushed to the side like soggy vegetables. She thought that if she pushed back with Callie, gave her a taste of the effect Callie had on her, came on strong, that Callie would shirk from the teasing, that she would be uncomfortable and stop. But Callie seemed to have the opposite reaction. Erica had seen it upstairs. Callie was intrigued by the desire she saw when Erica let her passions flow. Erica thought she might have even liked it. She almost kissed Callie upstairs. She had wanted to.
Now she sat and wondered if she should have. She had not seen fear or disgust in Callie's eyes upstairs. She hadn't been rejected. And that was a problem, because it was the one thing that kept Erica in check, that Callie was not intrigued or curious at the idea of the two of them together. That was gone now. Gone was the fear of complete rejection, the fear that Callie would recoil from her. None of that had happened. The thing that allowed her to somewhat successfully not think about how it would feel to kiss Callie had disappeared.
Now it was all she could think about and having Callie this close was not helping. The kids weren't even the deterrent they usually were. They were captivated by the colorful characters on the screen, oblivious to Erica and her nervous rubbing. She looked up at the ceiling and closed her eyes wanting to will herself to relax and forget what had happened upstairs. Suddenly warmness invaded her every pore. Callie's hands reached out to cover one of hers, effectively halting the constant rubbing motion.
"You're going to wear out your pants," Callie said quietly.
Erica let out a breath and stopped fidgeting waiting for Callie to remove her hand. She didn't. Erica almost groaned. She sat still, only taking long breaths in intervals. Callie's fingers wrapped themselves around her hand and turned it over, palms meeting, fingers curling into each other, decisively intertwining their hands. Erica looked at her, but Callie's attention was fixated on the movie. The only indication she gave that she was aware of Erica watching her was the gentle squeeze of her hand. Deciding that she needed to relax if she had any chance of getting through the movie, Erica closed her eyes, squeezed Callie's hand and concentrated. It worked for the most part. Somehow being close to Callie, holding her hand seemed to calm her and she started to be able to make out the words being spoken on the screen.
Ten minutes later she began fidgeting again. Callie noticed and squeezed her hand. She shifted in her seat and leaned into Erica, resting her head on Erica's arm. Erica went with the feeling, detaching her left hand from Callie's right and putting her arm around Callie. The hand holding ended, but Erica decided this was better. She felt Callie's head on her chest. Hand holding was over-rated anyway. But then Callie reached over and grabbed Erica's hand, the one that was not lazily tracing patterns on Callie's back. The next forty minutes were bliss, but somewhere along the way, they stopped paying attention to the movie and promptly fell asleep.
Erica was feeling pain. It was persistent, seemed to have no origin and would not go away. She tried everything. She rubbed, she moved her neck, stretched it, but the pain persisted. Slowly her sleeping consciousness gave way to wakefulness and the pain intensified, but this time she found relief as she lifted her head from its awkward position. It had been tilted to the side in sleep with no support.
"Ow," she said untangling her hand from the warm spot it had gotten itself into and rubbing the affected area. She felt a heavy weight on her left side and looked down in confusion. Lucas sometimes fell asleep on her, but he took up less room and was not as heavy. Her eyes opened wide. Callie was asleep, her head on Erica's chest, the hand that had been holding Erica's now resting on Erica's pajama clad stomach.
Erica smiled. She was about to put her head back down again, but thoughts came rushing at her. They had been watching a movie. She looked at the dark television. In fact, she noted that someone had turned off the lights in the living room. The only illumination came from the kitchen and hallway lights. She listened intently. She heard whispered giggles coming from the kitchen. She wondered what time it was and what the two munchkins who had let them slumber were doing in the kitchen. Nothing good probably.
She looked at Callie still sleeping soundly, her hand now clutching at Erica's pajama top. Erica just watched enchanted by the beautiful relaxed face. She never got to see Callie this relaxed. Callie was a worrier. She tended to worry and freak out about everything, but in sleep, apparently, she could relax. She hated waking her. She tried inching away slowly, but Callie's grip tightened with every move she made.
"No wonder I can't resist you woman, you just want to hang on don't you?" muttered Erica.
"You can't resist me, eh?" she heard Callie's voice hoarse from sleep and sounding sexier than ever.
"I thought you were asleep. You weren't supposed to hear that."
"That's okay," said Callie as she raised her head and rubbed her eyes. "What happened? Where are the kids?"
"We fell asleep. I think they're in the kitchen. I was thinking of sneaking up on them," she smiled at Callie.
Callie groaned and laid her head against the back of the couch.
"The two of them are impossible. They're easier to manage separately. You know that don't you?" she said.
Erica had been trying to comb her hair with her fingers. Her hands slowed at Callie's comment. It bothered her and managed to dispel her good mood.
"Yeah, well that's probably just math," she said getting up off the couch.
She was pulled back down by the seat of her pants. She plopped down next to Callie again.
"You're not going to scare them, are you? Allie won't sleep if you do, then I won't sleep and I'll be crankier than I am now."
Erica gave her a look.
"I wouldn't give her nightmares, Callie. I know I suck at this, but I'm not stupid."
Callie was taken back. "I know you're not stupid. What do you mean you suck at this? If you're talking about the kids, I didn't mean..."
"I know what you meant," said Erica getting up quicker this time and stepping toward the kitchen.
Callie was looking a little bewildered. She thought about what she had said. Crap! It had not come out right. She closed her eyes momentarily before getting up and following Erica.
Erica stepped into the well lit kitchen expecting to find giggling children. Instead she found an open box of Chips Ahoy, a gallon of milk and two children asleep on the counter their hands still holding half-eaten cookies. There faces were a mess of chocolate and caked on milk. She stood there not stifling the quiet laughter that rose out of her. She stopped the moment she felt Callie beside her, thinking Callie was going to be pissed. She turned to gauge Callie's reaction. Sure enough, Callie looked pissed or pissy, she wasn't sure which. Erica let out a loud sigh and shook her head.
"I'm sorry, this is my fault. I shouldn't have left the cookies out where he could get to them. We can probably just…"
She was trying to think of a plan that would make Callie less pissed at her and not disturb Allie and Lucas too much. It had to be more than leaving them as they were, but less than waking them up to brush their teeth. She looked at the clock. It was eleven o'clock, no wonder they conked out. She walked over to them, Callie at her heels, having said nothing to Erica's apology. Erica picked the cookies out of their hands and set them to the side. She put the milk back in the fridge and went to the sink to wet a couple of paper towels.
"Why don't we just let them sleep it off? We can clean them up as best we can and just tuck them into their sleeping bags. God they've had so much junk today," offered Erica.
Callie took one of the paper towels from Erica and began wiping her daughter's face. Allie was sleeping soundly and although she frowned a little, she did not wake. Erica went to do the same to Lucas, but Callie leveled a stare at her, so she stopped. Her stomach sank.
She hated this feeling. There were times when she looked at Callie in complete awe. She was such a perfect Mom. She knew what to do, when and how. She knew when a punishment was too heavy handed or when it was too lenient. She knew when to give Allie freedom and when to hold back. Erica knew none of these things. She knew how to be an Aunt not a parent. And right now she felt very much like the stupid Aunt and not the parent she needed to be.
Callie finished with Allie, took the second paper towel from Erica's hands and started cleaning off Lucas who tried swatting her away lazily. Callie chuckled.
"This is totally your fault," she whispered to Erica. "So you get to carry both of them into the next room. I cleaned them up, you get to cart them to their sleeping bags."
Erica moved reaching for Allie who was lighter than Lucas. She picked her up, heard the small moan of displeasure, and waited until Allie settled herself in her arms, laying her head on Erica's shoulder and wrapping her arms around her neck.
She made her way to the living room and tried not tripping on the various toys and bundle of sleeping bags the kids had laid out for their slumber party. She stumbled only slightly before bending down on one knee and laying Allie gently on the pink sleeping bag. She slipped off Allie's slippers, took the sweater she had been wearing off her limp body and left her in her pjs. She brought the blankets up around her and placed a gentle kiss on her head.
"Night Mom," she heard.
"Night sweetie," she said knowing Allie was sleepy and confused about who was tucking her in.
Callie finished getting more chocolate and milk from Lucas's face and hands and thought about picking him up and taking him to his own sleeping bag. It was unfair of her to make Erica do it. She was being bitchy to Erica and she knew it. She also knew why. That whole incident upstairs had thrown her way off balance, like almost completely off the balance beam. She liked feeling Erica that close. She had really wanted to feel those lips on hers. It was all she had thought about as she made the popcorn and sat on the couch pretending to watch the movie. And slowly as the opening credits floated on the screen she admitted to herself that she had been incredibly turned on by Erica and that made her feel incredibly frustrated.
It wasn't really Erica's fault, but in a way it was. If Erica were a straight woman, she was convinced this whole thing would not be a problem. There would be no questions in her head about the nature of their relationship. They would just be two friends trying to help each other out and kissing would not come into it. If she and Addison were doing this she would not be frustrated that she could not touch her like she wanted to touch Erica. And so she reasoned, the problem was the possibility that Erica's sexuality presented. Because Erica was gay, a romantic relationship was all of a sudden possible and it was messing everything up.
She knew why Erica was being all weird and fidgety around her. Erica was a normal, homosexual woman and she liked Callie. It was obvious. It had been obvious even before that episode upstairs. The problem and Callie was honest enough about this to name it, recognize it, and put it front and center, was that she liked Erica too. She flirted with her constantly, had been flirting with her since they first started hanging out together. She had not fallen asleep on her by accident. But it was impossible. Callie wasn't gay. That should be enough reason really. She was not gay and so they could not embark on any type of relationship because it was doomed to fail. She was not gay. It should be enough.
But somehow it wasn't, because she still felt tingly all over whenever she touched Erica and she was definitely hot and bothered by that little scene upstairs. The whole thing, the whole situation was making her cranky. Telling herself she was not gay over and over had done nothing to dispel the feelings she was having, or the sadness she always felt when they were not going to be able to see each other for a day, or the complete elation and giddiness when Erica was in her presence again. God, she was worse than Allie when she didn't see Lucas and Erica. Thinking she was not gay had done nothing to suppress her desire to kiss Erica upstairs. It wasn't helping her now because she was still thinking about it. In fact, that was why she was cranky with Erica in the living room. She hadn't wanted to deal with the kids. She wanted to stay on the couch and flirt some more, maybe see if she could coax a kiss out of Erica this time. She wanted to kiss Erica and at the same time, the prospect terrified her.
She walked over to Lucas whose eyes were squinting, his face frowning, his hands twitching in agitation. She wondered if this was one of the nightmares he sometimes had of his parents. He had not witnessed the accident that had taken their lives, but he was a smart boy with an active imagination and she knew that he sometimes woke from nightmares about it. She put a hand on his head running her fingers through his short hair. It seemed to relax him and his features returned to normal, his hands relaxing again. Erica walked in and stopped short.
"He okay?" she asked slowly making her way to them.
"Yeah, I think he was getting a little fidgety. I thought it was maybe a nightmare."
Erica looked at her. "Thanks. He looks okay now, so whatever you did, thanks." She picked him up in much the same way she had picked up Allie. She turned to Callie.
"You always seem to know what to do." She smiled weakly and walked out of the kitchen.
Callie wanted to follow, but she relented. She hoped Erica would not decide to leave her on her own and go directly to bed. She turned to the cabinet she knew held the coffee and began making preparations.
A few minutes later, Erica walked back into kitchen, hands in her pockets. "They're all settled in. Thanks for your help."
"Erica, you don't have to thank me. They're my kids too, you know."
They were both silent.
"That was an incredibly awkward thing to say," said Callie after two long minutes.
Another two long minutes passed in silence. Erica was frowning. She wanted to say the right thing, but she was at a loss for what that was exactly.
"I guess sometimes it feels like that."
"Yeah it does," answered Callie. "Coffee?"
"I think we need to talk," said Erica.
"That sounds ominous," said Callie pouring them both cups. She handed one to Erica who sat stiffly at the island.
"About what happened upstairs?" asked Callie.
"Yes," answered Erica. Thinking there was no better defense than an offense, she began quickly trying to head off any awkward explanations from Callie.
"I think we should stop...doing what we did upstairs."
Erica frowned. She was usually more articulate than this. She tried again. "Maybe we need some distance from each other, we should start spending some time apart. I'm starting to get a little confused about what's happening and I wouldn't want the kids to get the wrong idea about things either."
Callie was taken aback. "What are you talking about? What happened upstairs had nothing to do with the kids."
"Well no, not directly, but...Callie all the teasing has to stop. It's...not good for us to act like that. This whole situation is just getting confusing...you and me and the kids…we…it's just getting confusing. Things seem like things they aren't and I'm afraid that when things change, it will be bad."
"What do you mean? Why do things have to change? What if I like things the way they are?"
"Callie, you're a beautiful, talented, smart woman." She took a deep breath. "I wanted to kiss you upstairs," she said softly not looking at Callie. "But you are not gay. I would never be inappropriate with you, but there's only so much teasing I can take before I start to have thoughts that don't belong in my head. All of this makes me think of things that can't ever be and for my own sanity I have to stop. We have to stop. Maybe we should step back a little from each other, spend some time apart."
"Why? Look, we can stop the teasing, but I don't want to spend time apart," said Callie genuinely confused.
"Callie it's not just the teasing. It's everything. Don't you think we're letting the kids get too close? I mean one of these days some guy is going to figure out how great you are and you'll want to have a real family with him and there won't be room for me or Lucas."
Callie was staring straight ahead. Tears were forming in her eyes.
"There will always be room for you and Lucas in my life."
Erica grabbed her hand. "I know, but not like this, not like we are now..." She let go of Callie's hand. "Not like we've been acting. If things keep going like this, I'm not sure how the kids would handle it. I think such an abrupt change would be devastating to them. We can't let that happen. Besides, you said so yourself. They are impossible to handle together. Maybe its best if we just pull back, have more of a normal friendship."
"A normal friendship? I didn't realize we didn't have a normal friendship. What is that exactly? We hire strangers to take care of our kids when we're at work, so that we can see each other at holidays and birthday parties or maybe we can go bowling once a week."
Erica stared at the ceiling. She wasn't making much sense. She knew why. There were two things going on and she was confusing them. She wanted Callie to stop flirting with her. That was the first thing, but she was also getting scared about all the time they spent together. Her physical attraction to Callie she thought was normal and manageable - as long as Callie stopped with the teasing. Her emotional connection to Callie and Allie was more difficult to untangle. She was getting scared of it, of how much a part of her life they were becoming. It made her queasy to even think about not being able to spend time together like they did now. So she had to withdraw now before she couldn't because eventually things would change. She knew that. She had to prepare herself.
"Maybe, something like that," she said absently.
"So you are proposing that we end our friendship so that the kids won't be devastated later, when I marry some guy or you shack up with some woman?"
"No, Callie. I am saying that I think this seems like a family to them and it's not. We are not involved. We aren't mom and dad. And one of these days you will find a Dad for Allie and everything will change and then you'll have this family that Lucas and I won't be a part of. That's fine. It really is. It's how it should be, but we need stop pretending like we're a family, because when you do meet that guy and you start a family with him, the kids aren't going to understand the change."
"I don't understand. That makes no sense. Even if I did find someone, Lucas would always, always be welcome in Allie's life and in my life. Always. They're best friends. You don't just break up best friends."
Erica contemplated that. Callie was right. This wasn't really about the kids. It was about her and what she could or could not handle. Allie and Lucas would be fine no matter what happened. But Erica wouldn't. She wanted Callie and Allie to be her family along with Lucas. She wanted to continue this thing with Callie. She wanted it to progress to the point where Callie and Allie were here permanently. But that wasn't going to happen. Eventually, Callie would meet someone and when that happened, it wasn't Lucas who would be devastated. It was her.
She got up and walked over to the sink depositing her cup.
"Maybe we should table this discussion for now. We should try to get some sleep. I'll stay with the kids down here. You can have my bed upstairs unless you want to sleep on a hard floor."
"I don't think we're done with this conversation," said Callie.
Erica's shoulders slumped as she sat back down, her head in her hands.
"What else is there to say? This is so cliché and I really hate how it sounds, but I like you Callie. I like you a lot. I like you in that way I'm not supposed to like you. And all the flirting and being around you all the time...is not making things easier."
Callie said nothing. Erica spoke again.
"I'm sorry Callie. Why don't we try pulling back just a little, try to focus on the kids and not each other for awhile? We'll stop the teasing and just pull back a little. That should allow me to put the things going on with me to the side."
"That's what you want? That would make you feel more comfortable?"
"Yes. I need the teasing to stop if I'm going to be able to be your friend."
"What if I said I liked you too?"
"I know you like me, but when a lesbian says that and when a straight woman says that it means something slightly different," said Erica with a chuckle. "Just let me work this out," she pleaded.
"You aren't trying to get rid of me?" asked Callie still staring straight ahead.
"No, I wouldn't do that. I'm sorry Callie. I know if things were different, if I was a different person we wouldn't be having this conversation."
"Okay," said Callie. "No more teasing. I can do that. Am I supposed to stop... everything? I'm kind of a touchy feely person."
"I've noticed," said Erica smiling.
"So, I mean, is it like completely hands off?"
"No, not completely hands off. Can we just not do the teasing thing? You know, no more sexy nightgowns?"
"Okay, I can handle that."
They were both silent. Finally Callie put her own cup in the sink.
"I guess we should get to bed," she said turning around at the sink. "Oh and I am taking your bed." She gave Erica one last smile before heading for the stairs leaving an exhausted Erica in the kitchen.
Callie lay in Erica's bed contemplating the conversation they had just had. It hadn't made sense to her and it still didn't, but she wasn't ready to deal with Erica's honest declarations that she liked her. She thought she was ready. She had made coffee in anticipation that they would talk about what was happening between them. But then Erica jumped into warp speed talking about how they resembled a family and how things would change when Callie found someone and she lost her nerve.
She had made one last ditch effort at the end, telling Erica that she liked her. She put it in the form of a question though and Erica hadn't taken it in the way Callie intended. Part of her was relieved. She really wasn't ready for that conversation yet.
Erica was right; she couldn't just react to this thing. She couldn't just sit around waiting and wanting Erica to kiss her without giving thought to what that would mean for all of them. She wasn't gay and that had to mean that whatever she was contemplating with Erica would be fleeting. Maybe she was curious, maybe she was confused, but whatever the case, it was not something she should pursue. It wouldn't last. How could it? She wasn't gay.
She didn't know the first thing about being in a relationship with a woman She had never considered it before since it had never appealed to her, two women together. Would she even know what to do? Kissing was one thing, but getting more intimate, that would be scary. She let out a frustrated breath.
Come on, Callie don't be stupid.
She closed her eyes.
It wouldn't be scary at all. You should know that. It's all you've been fantasizing about since you met her.
No, it wasn't that part that would be scary. It was the other parts, the happily ever after, the rest of their lives. She was a coward. She wasn't scared of Erica; she was scared of what everyone would think.
She wiped the tears that had somehow materialized on her face. This sucked, but she would give Erica what she wanted. She would stop the teasing and blatant flirting. They both needed it to stop. Maybe Erica was right and they needed to stop acting like they were a happy family too. Maybe she just needed to start dating. She groaned. The idea had no appeal for her. It hadn't for awhile. Even before she met Erica, she dreaded dating. She preferred the company of her daughter and lately she just preferred hanging out with Lucas and Erica. No, she would hold off on the dating.
She turned over and brought a stray pillow closer to her, hugging it to her body. It was impossible not to smell Erica's unique scent on it and she reveled in that. They would get through this. She was sure of it. They just needed to stop acting on their attraction. That was all. In time, the attraction would fade and they could go back to being just friends. She sighed, unsure if that was even possible, how do you stop being attracted to someone?