"She'd be happy to," the woman replied, none too happily.
It didn't matter to Addison who sighed in relief. At least something was working out. One ray of light in the crap puddle called life.
"You sure you wanna do it?" Teddy asked her best friend.
"I already said that I would."
"Yeah, but it's not too late to back out," teddy added, causing Arizona to look at her in shock.
"Back out? From the cancer lady? It'd probably be worse than if I said no to begin with."
"Arizona, all I'm saying is… people will understand. They'll forgive you."
"Well, I won't forgive me. And neither will the press, nor April."
"If you're doing it for the press…"
"I'm not," Arizona cut her friend off before Teddy had a chance to finish the sentence.
"Arizona, this woman, she isn't some kid."
"So? Cancer is cancer, Teddy. It doesn't matter if she's not a kid. There's a way for me to make things a little better for her. Who am I to say no?"
"All I'm saying is that if this was some Make-A-Wish Foundation thing, I'd feel better about it, but… "she paused, her voice clearly exasperated, "this stranger randomly called your manager and told you a tale. What if it's all it is? A tale? Some attempt to get you alone somewhere."
"You're very cynical. I'm choosing to believe no one is cruel enough to make this kind of tale just to meet Arizona Robbins."
"You're giving the human race way too much credit," Teddy said, knowing she lost the battle.
"When do you want me to pick you up, Ms. Robbins?" her chauffer asked after they spent a few minutes parked by the hospital with Arizona staring quietly at the building.
"I'm not sure, Eduardo. It'll take as long as it takes. I'll be in touch," she finally said, glaring at the man, already expecting the sentence to follow.
"Ms. Kepner told me to not let you stay there for more than an hour," he explained, uncomfortable under her gaze.
"Ms. Kepner is more than welcome to come and drag me out of here by herself," she snapped, and put on the customary sun glasses and hat before she aggressively shut the car door behind her.
Getting to the hospital in her town car was probably the worst thing a woman who wants to keep low key could do, but April demanded that the almighty Arizona Robbins, her favorite client, will not travel to a public place in a cab. God forbid.
When Arizona pointed out that it doesn't matter how public the hospital was, because she had no intention of being seen, April didn't seem to care.
People allowed themselves way too much when it came to her life these days. More often than not, they didn't seem to care. And that didn't mean they didn't care about her in general, just that sometimes, she said "no" and somehow, it turned into a "yes."
And then other times, she said "yes" and others would try and turn it into a "no." Just like with today. If Arizona weren't there when April got the call from one, Addison Montgomery, the best friend of an allegedly dying woman, Arizona might've not know about it at all and might've not been able to use her fame for some actual good, for once. Everyone's opinions about what she had to do seemed to matter more than her own did these days.
April sure tried to sway her away from showing up at that hospital, as did Teddy, and maybe visiting a dying stranger was a bit of a rebellious act on the actress' behalf, but knowing that someone whose days were numbered wanted to see her, above all else, made her feel wanted in a way that the people around her forgot how to make her feel a long time ago.
Arizona Robbins has become a brand. Everyone was obsessed with what she said, what she thought, what she should think. But that was just an image. And yes, the dying woman didn't know her, not really, but what she asked of her, or more accurately, what her best friend asked on her behalf, was still intimate.
Arizona missed intimate. She knew that she was also being selfish, but she felt that maybe, for a few moments, that she could have something real with this stranger. And because there was a time stamp involved, a dead line, no pun intended, what did she have to lose? She could say whatever she wanted, and in a week or two the only witness to her true self will be gone. Even if her true self was disappointing, the disappointed party would be gone.
She took a moment to lean on the building's wall, and smoke a cigarette. She had to change the negative way in which she was thinking before she entered the hospital.
"Smoking a cigarette before visiting a lung cancer patient. That's a new low, Robbins," she told to herself yet kept smoking anyway. She was nervous. And she didn't know why. Encounters with death around her weren't new to her. Maybe that was why she was nervous.
She took a moment to think about her brother. The brother who wasn't there when she won her Academy award five years ago. The brother who would've told her that she should take things easy and have fun.
"Once this stops being fun, Zona, you get out. You get out as fast as you can and never look back," he told her after her first major role that came with a gazillion new fans, but also with unfavorable reviews and loss of privacy.
"It's still fun, mostly," she whispered, finishing her cigarette.
And every now and then, she got the chance to do something important. Like today. And that's the state of mind that she wanted to be in when she met Callie Torres. Not the "what can I gain from this," but "what can I give back."
When you work in the entertainment industry, it's so easy to think how to use a situation to your advantage. It's almost like you're programmed to do that. Arizona tried to stop for a breath every now and then, remember that she was a person before it all happened, before the so called "breakthrough", and think what she could do to give back.
She carried the cigarette bud in her palm and threw it into a garbage can once she was in the lobby. Maybe she was famous, but she was still her father's daughter, and she still had manners.
She looked around, searching for a tall redhead as she was instructed. Once she spotted a woman who fit that description, she approached her, hoping to not embarrass herself.
"Addison?" she asked hesitantly, surprising the other woman who jumped and examined Arizona.
"Hey, Arizona. Can I call you Arizona? You actually came," Addison noted in disbelief.
"Of course I did. I said I would, didn't I? And yes, you can call me Arizona. Last I checked that was my name," she teased kindly, making Addison smile.
"You're alone?" Addison asked, surprised, as she looked around in confusion.
"I am. Why, are you planning on taking me out?" Arizona asked with trepidation in her voice. Nervously biting on her lip she was starting to think that maybe Teddy's concern was justified after all.
"That's more of Callie's style, if you know what I mean. But I'm afraid she's too weak," Addison replied with a sad smile.
"Let's go see her, then," Arizona offered, starting to feel her reservations return and trying to push through.
What was I thinking? Who the hell am I to be a dying person's last wish? I'm just famous, it doesn't make me important.
"Callie is gonna flip!" Addison said excitedly, walking side by side with the actress, leading them to Callie's room, completely ignorant to Arizona's inner struggle.
"Wait, she doesn't know I'm coming?" Arizona stopped dead in her tracks, now more sure than ever that the visit was a mistake. Coming to see someone who asked for you as their dying wish is one thing, assuming someone wanted to see you as their dying wish… well, that's just pure megalomania.
"No, she doesn't, you're a surprise. Thank you so much, by the way!"
"Wait, Addison, I wanna help, but… are you sure this is something that she'd want?" Arizona asked with uncertainty in her voice.
"Oh, trust me," Addison said, linking their elbows. "We joked about it a few weeks back. In a 'no actual way this will happen' kind of manner. But then she got all quiet and had that 'I wish' expression on her face."
"'I wish' Expression?" Arizona asked in confusion.
"Yeah. Ever since she got sick, she has that expression occasionally. Like 'I wish I could do that, but…'"
"But I'm dying," Addison explained sadly. "I wish I could get married, but I'm dying. I wish I could go walk on the Great Wall of China, but I'm dying. I wish I could actually meet Arizona Robbins, who I had a celebrity crush on for years, one day, but I'm dying."
"Oh," was all Arizona could say.
"So she got the 'I wish' expression when you talked about me?"
"She did. So your presence is very welcome," Addison said softly, understanding the distress of the other woman. She's seen how awkwardly people have been behaving around her best friend for the last few months. And those were people who actually knew Callie. Arizona was a stranger. A very famous one, but a stranger nonetheless.
Arizona nodded thoughtfully, but didn't say anything.
"Okay, we're here, you ready?" Addison asked softly.
"Yeah, yeah, I think so."
"Stay behind me, let me give you a worthy intro," Addison said with a smile.
"Please don't," Arizona begged, making Addison chuckle.
"I think I like you," Addison said. "Don't worry, nothing too over the top, just a bit of a build up," she assured, and Arizona nodded, inhaling deeply.
"Okay. Here we go," she said then stepped into Callie's doorway. "Cal! I have returned baring gifts!"
"Addie! Where were you?! You've been gone forever and left me all alone. I'm dying, you know," Callie teased dramatically, pouting and making Arizona, to her own surprise, laugh from her spot behind Addison's back.
"You're not alone?" Callie asked suddenly, self conscious of her current physical appearance. Addison was one thing, but strangers? She was thin, and pale, and tired, and dying.
"I am, as a matter of fact not alone, Callie. I have a surprise for you!" Addison announced excitedly, ignoring her friend's discomfort. "Ta da!" she said, pulling Arizona from behind her and pushing her gently into the room.
Callie's eyes grew in shock as she subconsciously pulled the blanket up to cover more of her frail body.
"Hi," Arizona said quietly, offering Callie a soft smile. She didn't know what to expect. How do you behave around a person when you know this is the first and last time you'll ever see them?
But Callie seemed to relax after witnessing the softness in Arizona's voice and offered her a huge smile.
"Addison! What did we say about bringing pretty girls into this room when I look like crap?!" she teased.
"You don't look like crap," Arizona was quick to say, "I didn't even expect you to have…" but she never finished the sentence, realizing the inappropriateness of her comment. Instead, she stood in front of Callie frozen, with expression of horror on her face.
Callie snorted, understanding exactly what was happening.
"You didn't expect me to have what?" she asked, raising an eyebrow, "hair?" she offered, challenging the other woman.
Arizona's face got fifty shades of red as she appeared like she wanted the ground to swallow her.
"Well, I think everything is under control here. So I'm gonna leave you to it!" Addison said and bolted out of the room before Arizona had a chance to stop her, or Callie the chance to thank her.
And grateful she was. Because she was a fan of Arizona Robbins for years. The woman on more than one occasion being the subject of her fantasies. Not that she was going to mention that out loud. Dying or not dying.
Arizona swallowed and searched Callie's eyes. The woman seemed tired, but there was still something there, a spark, and Arizona had a feeling she was about to become the prey of a very amused woman.
"Don't feel bad," Callie said softly, breaking Arizona's inner struggle. "It surprises everyone, but… you know, there isn't much to do anymore, so they let me keep it. I believe it's called dying with some dignity," Callie replied sadly.
"I'm really sorry. I didn't even introduce myself, and the first thing that comes out of my mouth is…" Arizona groaned in embarrassment.
"Clearly, you don't need to introduce yourself," Callie offered with a smile and gestured the chair next to her bed. "Sit with me? Please?"
Arizona didn't miss a beat before making a beeline to the chair.
"You're kind of awkward, aren't you?" Callie teased with an air of laughter to her voice.
"I've never done anything like this before," Arizona admitted, "and so far I'm failing."
"It's not really something you can win at," Callie said softly.
"Stop trying to make me feel better," Arizona smiled, "it's supposed to be the other way around isn't it?" she asked, making Callie smile as well.
"Well, your presence is very appreciated. How are you even here?"
"Addison called my manager," Arizona shrugged.
"That simple, ah?"
"Hmm… yeah, that and…"
"The dying part," Callie deadpanned. When Arizona said nothing she added "I'm sorry. I kinda enjoy seeing you squirm."
"So that's why I was called here, ah?"
"I believe you were called here because Addison knows I think you are ridiculously hot."
"You sure are forward," Arizona said, flushed yet trying to hide it.
"I'm dying. It's almost like liquid courage, but the buzz isn't as fun," Callie explained.
Arizona finally took in the full sight that was Callie Torres, noticing how deeply brown Callie's eyes actually were. She could guess the pale body was tan under normal circumstances. And the hair, yes, it was short, but it was dark as night. Callie was beautiful, Arizona suddenly realized. That is, in better days, Callie was probably a gorgeous woman.
"You're very talkative for a dying person," she finally said.
"Yes, because I'm dying, not dead just yet," Callie teased.
"And putting a brave front," Arizona noted, making Callie's smile disappear.
"I learned that's what people want to see," she said quietly, somewhat deflated.
"And what do you want?" Arizona asked, not sure where her boldness came from, but figuring two could play this game.
"I want to rest," Callie admitted. "It's been a long, unfortunate ride."
Arizona didn't reply. Well, I had to ask.
"I'm just glad you came before I get my rest," Callie added. "It's a nice visual for the last leg of the journey."
Arizona smiled sadly, and took Callie's hand in hers, not sure why. The moment just seemed to have required some physical comfort.
"Tell me about your life, Callie."
"Hmm, no. Tell me about yours."
"Well, I think you know about my life," Arizona defended.
"I think I know about a very selective version of your life," Callie countered, making Arizona laugh at the truth of the words.
"Okay. What do you want to know? But you have to promise me the classified info doesn't leave this room!" Arizona teased dramatically.
"I'm taking it to the grave," Callie winked and Arizona slapped her arm, finally falling in line with the dark humor the other woman seemed to possess in abundance.
"You're awful. But fine. You get five questions."
"This isn't a dating game, Arizona. You're here granting my dying wish. The questioning will be over when I say it is," Callie demanded teasingly.
"Can you, like, be at least a little bit star struck? It might make you behave," Arizona teased right back.
"You need not know that I'm actually flailing inside. Instead, let me play it cool."
"Fine, Calliope, whatever," Arizona said and Callie's eyes widened in shock.
"How the hell did you know that was my name?" Callie asked with an adorable pout.
"Addison mentioned it. Oh, now that I think about it, I believe her exact words were 'and no matter what you do, don't use her full name,' then I asked what it was and she told me. Oops? World – 2, Robbins – 0," Arizona rambled, shock covering her face.
Callie burst into laughter, unlinking their hands.
"What?" Arizona whined.
"Nothing, you're just… you're cute."
"Aren't you supposed to ask me questions?" Arizona said, trying to hide her blush.
"Okay, let's see. I'm trying to recall all the things I always told myself I'll ask the mighty Arizona Robbins if I ever met her, but of course, now I'm coming empty handed," Callie chuckled, earning a smile from Arizona.
"My favorite color is purple," Arizona offered, trying to help.
"Nope," Callie said.
"Okay. Hmmm… I like flower arrangements and cakes."
"Oh, come on Arizona. This is boring," Callie protested.
"Did you just call me boring?"
"No, of course not. And what you like does matter. But I want the juicy stuff."
"Like what?" Arizona asked in dread.
"Like, do you have a girlfriend? Who's your arch nemesis in the industry? Are you happy?" Callie spoke enthusiastically.
"Do you really want to know all that?" Arizona asked in astonishment.
"Of course! I think you're amazing. You never hid who you were. Everyone always knew you were gay, you never tried to hide it and your career still exploded. It's very admirable. You are very admirable," Callie said, unknowingly making Arizona feel guilty about some of the authenticity she had lost.
"Come on," Callie pleaded, "let me live vicariously through you."
"You wouldn't wanna have my life," Arizona said quickly, without thinking.
"I wouldn't be so sure," Callie said, making Arizona realize what she just did.
"World – 3, Robbins – 0," Arizona said instead of apologizing, knowing by now that Callie wouldn't want her to.
"So, you aren't happy?" Callie asked sadly.
"I don't have a girlfriend, no. I don't have an arch nemesis because I mostly keep to myself, and I'm not… unhappy."
"Very convincing, Arizona," Callie noted and made Arizona chuckle.
"It's just… my brother told me to do this as long as it's still fun. And it is. I love it. I love acting. But the rest… what comes with it, isn't always fun."
"Yeah, sometimes they even make you go to depressing hospitals and spend time with the less fortunate," Callie added with a sarcastic tone.
"I told you, it's the first time I do something like this. And no one made me come here. If anything, they tried to prevent me from doing it."
"I don't know, maybe they knew how fun you'd be," Arizona offered and winked, earning a bright smile that made her feel really good.
"But then why did you come here?" Callie asked curiously.
"I don't know. Is that okay?" Arizona asked in concern.
"Yeah. Yeah it's more than okay. Whatever brought you here, I'm glad I had this chance."
"So am I," Arizona admitted, taking Callie's hand in hers again. She really is beautiful, what a shame.
"So what do you do for fun?" Callie finally asked.
"I paint," Arizona admitted.
"You do? Are you any good?"
"I'd like to think so."
"Why have I never seen anything you have painted?"
"It's usually a form of therapy. It's very private. Not many people know that I do it," Arizona explained lost in thought.
"Do you have anything on your phone?" Callie asked, hopeful.
"Oh, come on, Arizona, to the grave. Remember?" Callie prodded.
"Fine," Arizona growled under her breath. "Everyone's a critic."
"What was that?" Callie teased.
"Nothing. You're very manipulative, you know that?" Arizona asked and Callie pouted. With a sigh, Arizona took her phone out of her pocket and chose the relevant album, passing the device to Callie who started to flip between the photos immediately, voicing the occasional "ohhh," and "wow."
"Who is that?" she asked suddenly, showing a portrait of a young man to Arizona. "I guess I should've asked if you have a boyfriend instead, I just assumed…"
"That's my brother Tim…"Arizona said, cutting Callie off. "He died." She wasn't sure what made her say these words, give away the information. Maybe because Callie opened up to her in the most vulnerable way earlier. Maybe because when she asked hard questions, Callie answered.
"What happened?" Callie asked, squeezing Arizona's hand which she was surprised to find was still in hers.
"War. He was a marine," Arizona supplied meekly. "It's not something people know, either."
"I'm so sorry he died. Now I'm going to die, too. Valar Morghulis," Callie said dramatically, hoping to lighten the mood and making Arizona groan.
"Please tell me you haven't been walking around saying that to people."
"I'm bedridden, so no, I haven't been walking around saying it to people."
"Mostly, I've been saying it to Addison. It drives her crazy."
At the mention of Addison's name, Arizona figured she might've overstayed her welcome.
"Am I keeping you?" she asked in worry. It's been so long since she enjoyed a conversation so much, she didn't want it to end, but she knew it had to, in more ways than one. How come this conversation, which brought up death so many times, was so easy? How come Callie now knew about her more than most people did?
"No. You're fine. Addie can honestly use the break. She's been here with me for weeks."
"What about your parents?"
"Oh, my parents have loads of issues with good ole bisexual me."
"Even with cancer ridden good ole bisexual you?" Arizona asked in shock, being dragged into Callie's sarcastic humor, to the other woman's delight.
"I'm sorry," Arizona said honestly. She got nothing but support from her family when she came out.
"Don't be. They are old fashioned, and traditional, and anyways, it's not your fault. Be sorry for that awful movie you did two years ago. That was your fault," Callie said, making Arizona roar in laughter. She knew exactly which flop Callie was referring to.
"To be fair, it was the director's and writer's fault," Arizona defended, "but I am the one who agreed to do it."
"That's what I'm saying!"
They sat like this for hours with Arizona ignoring her silent vibrating phone, and Callie ignoring Addison who occasionally walked in unnoticed by Arizona. Callie saw her though, and Addison knew Callie's ignoring of her was Callie's way of telling Addison to remove her presence for a while longer.
After a five hour long chat, a nurse finally came in to say that visiting hours were over. Both women were shocked at just how much time had passed. Resigned, and saddened, Arizona stood up, wondering what were the last words that she was going to say to the beautiful, funny, smart, direct and very much dying woman.
"Bye, Callie," she finally blurted, realizing nothing will be good enough, "feel better," she added, knowing that Callie won't as a matter of fact, feel better. Callie knew it too.
"Thanks, and thank you for coming," Callie said to the grateful Arizona. The woman who took time out of her busy life, to come and see a stranger. The woman who spent five hours talking to Callie freely about everything and anything.
Arizona turned away and walked out of the room, thinking about just that. About how personal were some of the things she shared with Callie.
Because Callie was supposed to die.
But she didn't.