So Sudden and So Sweet
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners
'So you're saying no?'
'No. Not no. Just...'
'Not yes,' Callie finishes, smiling sadly.
'Not anything, Cal. I need time. This is...big, really big.'
'But you'll think about it?' Her whole face is lit up with hope and I feel sick about the thought of taking it away. I've seen this coming of course, a moron could have predicted this conversation. Last month I caught her looking at photographs of houses in the suburbs and pretended not to notice. She's started going to daycare at lunch to play with Grey and Shepherd's daughter. Our Tivo box is full of 'Babies: Special Delivery' and 'Secretly Pregnant'. All of which has brought us to tonight and the fact that she's just told me that she wants to have a baby. With me. 'No' is my automatic reaction, followed swiftly by blind panic and dread. But this is Callie.
'Yes, I'll think about it,' I reassure her.
As if I'll be able to think about anything else.
'How uh, how would you want to...you know,' I twirl my hands around each other in that universal gesture of trying to convey what you don't know how to talk about. We're on our way to work, waiting at the stoplight.
'We could use a donor,' she says tentatively. Delight at the subject of conversation flickers briefly over her face before she determinedly makes an effort to be casual. Usually a coherent sentence is a challenge for her at this time of the morning. Except when I want to talk about babies apparently.
'Not...Sloan?' I ask, voicing my worst fear.
'What?' Her head swivels towards mine in disbelief. 'No! What would make you think...' She tails off and I'm immensely relieved to see the distaste on her face. 'No. A thousand times no. Worst idea ever.'
'It just seems like the kind of thing he'd offer to do.' I know she's told him about this, she tells him everything.
She looks uncomfortable and my suspicions are confirmed.
'I told him no,' she says very firmly. 'Straight away. He was probably joking anyway.'
'Well. Good. Raising the spawn of Sloan would border on horror movie territory.'
It's a weak joke which doesn't make either of us laugh. When I see the fake smile pasted on her face I want to tell her not to bother, resentment would be less painful than seeing her force herself to be pleasant to me.
'I just want to be pregnant once in my life,' she tells me softly. 'I want to feel my baby kick and go to those stupid lamaze classes and eat crazy pregnant woman food. Can you understand that?' Her hand reaches over to grab mine and I hold on for dear life.
'Look,' I blurt out. 'That's all normal. You're normal. I know that. But no, I don't understand. I have never wanted to be pregnant. Can't you see why that worries-'
'But that's perfect!' She interrupts, notes of desperation slipping into her voice. 'You don't want to be pregnant, I do. So I'll do it. It's so simple.'
'Callie-' I try, unable to look at her.
'Is it the donor thing? You want to be biologically related to the baby? That's fine, we'll use your egg. I don't mind. Actually, I'd like that.'
'You...what?' My head is reeling from that twist in the road.
'Well, why not? It would be more equal. And I would love to know that I was carrying your baby. You can't get your head around that?'
Coward that I am, I go for the scientific flaw in that plan.
'Callie, you know how old I am. My eggs are...that window has passed.'
'We could go to Addison's practice. She could help us. Or her friend- Naomi. Addison says she's practically a miracle worker in getting people pregnant. We could try. It's hardly impossible, people your age get pregnant all the time. Webber's wife got pregnant and she's got at least ten years on you! You look after yourself, you're healthy, you're telling me they couldn't harvest one viable-'
'Callie,' I cut her off as gently as I can. 'That's not it. I don't have a problem being not related to the...'
'Baby? You can say the word, Erica,' she snaps and it's almost a relief. I can take her anger, I deserve it.
'Sorry,' she mutters and slumps in her seat. We've arrived at the hospital. It's not even light yet and the day's already ruined.
'You don't need to be sorry.' I get out of the car, incapable of facing her anymore, and start walking to the employee entrance. I'll try and stay out of her way today, she probably won't be able to stand the sight of me. How I'll be able to look at myself in the mirror is beyond me.
'Erica!' She catches me up and her hand closes around my arm, pulling me back to her. I see the first tear fall to the ground and feel like crying myself. 'I'll do whatever you want, okay? Whatever makes you comfortable with this. You just have to say.'
'You don't need to do anything! It's me, this is my problem, not yours. I want to say yes, I do.'
'So say it.'
'Don't say no,' she whispers. 'Please.'
'I can't say that to you either,' I tell her shakily and I step away again because I've done enough damage for one day. She needs to be away from me.
'Okay,' she says, and tries to collect herself, wiping her face with trembling hands. 'I won't bring this up, okay? You can, when you're ready. Take as much time as you need. Just don't ...don't say no, okay? Let me think that you'll change your mind.'
She walks away.
So we don't talk. Unfortunately this doesn't mean the subject is dropped, it just means that it's not spoken about out loud. It turns out you can say a lot with silence, awkward pauses and loaded looks. I start working more, almost obsessively- covering shifts, teaching skills labs until I'm practically living at the hospital. Webber eventually corners me in the lounge and tells me he's cutting me off.
'Hahn,' he says, 'If I see your face in the next twenty four hours I'm calling security. Go home.'
What kind of person's heart sinks when they're told to take a day off work? What kind of person is disappointed when they check the schedule and find out their partner's got the same day off as them? Callie's already asleep when I get in, having procrastinated doing paperwork for as long as humanly possible, or at least pretending to be. But now it's the next morning and the day stretches ahead with nowhere to hide.
I use the guest bathroom. Mine and Callie's bathroom has a ridiculously expensive shower that lights up like a seventies disco and has a hundred different settings. I love it. Somehow though I feel more comfortable using the bathroom that I make Yang use when she and Callie go on a tequila bender and she can't make it home. It's got a crappy shower that doesn't make me feel clean or awake or anything except pathetic that I'm creeping around my own home like a stranger. I wrap myself in a towel and check my watch. 8.37. God, how am I going to get through this day?
A knock on the door.
'Erica? Can I come in?'
'Uh yeah, sure,' I say, grabbing a comb to busy my hands. Look normal, look normal. Behave like a normal human being.
'Hey,' she says, opening the door. She's wearing my Hopkins Med t-shirt. I never really got why men love women wearing their shirts until I came home one night and she was sleeping in it. For a while she half-heartedly made noises about giving it back but now it's pretty much de-facto hers. Wyatt would probably have some theory about the territorial nature of it. My woman wearing my clothes and all that. 'Is our shower broken?' she asks, snapping me out of my reverie.
'Oh no. I just didn't want to wake you.'
'Oh. Okay.' And there it is again, the painful silence. Surely the conversation should break twenty words before we run out of things to say?
'You want me to get the back?' she says, gesturing awkwardly at the comb.
'Yeah, thanks.' Standing behind me is better, the mirror's still all steamed up so we won't have to avoid eye contact.
'You want breakfast? I could make you pancakes or french toast. Just forget you're a heart surgeon for five minutes. Okay fine,' she says playfully, mistaking my silence for disapproval. 'I'll make you eggs. Egg whites. Whatever you want.'
'You don't have to do that.'
'I like doing things for you. And you must be dying for a decent meal, when's the last time you ate something that wasn't from the cafeteria?'
'I've had a lot on at work,' I offer lamely, hearing the gentle reproval loud and clear.
'Right.' She sighs and puts the comb down. I'm just about to try and think up an excuse to leave when her arms steal around my waist. She's hesitant, giving me the opportunity to shrug her off but I don't. I can't. Instead, against my better judgement, I lean back into her embrace. Her lips are on my shoulder, tasting my damp skin.
'I miss you.' Her voice is whisper soft, heavy, laden.
'You...you know the job,' I manage to say, once I've stopped myself saying what I really want to say which is 'I miss you too.'
'Yeah, I guess.' She pauses and I wonder if she's going to confront me properly but apparently she thinks better of it. 'So, what do you want to do today? The weather's kind of crappy but we could go and see a movie maybe. I don't know what's on. Or we could go to yoga, we haven't done that in a while. Not the kind in the room that's an oven though. Or,' she swallows and presses herself fully against me, her hips surging forward. 'Or we could just stay in.'
Her hands are suddenly underneath the towel, on my stomach, my hips, and then, tortuously, tracing patterns on my inner thighs.
'Callie,' I gasp. Stop is what I should say but somehow my mouth is forming more instead.
She spins me around to face her and before I can be disappointed that she's not touching me anymore she's pinned me against the sink and her leg is between mine, pressing right there. Her eyes sweep over me, taking in the rapid rise and fall of my chest and when that appreciative smirk spreads slowly across her face I can't help it, I press back, down, into her. There's something like relief in her eyes when she leans into kiss me but all too soon she's pulling away, leaving me frustrated beyond belief.
'Come back to bed, corazon,' she says laughing and pulling me towards our bedroom. 'You're so tense, I'll give you a massage.'
Images explode in my head; the sweet pressure of Callie on top of me, her hands on me and both of us slick and moving against each other...it's overwhelming how much I want her. But even as I feel my control slipping away a sense of unease comes over me. It's the nickname, I realize.
She'd called me it offhand one day and then nearly killed herself laughing at my pronunciation when I attempted to repeat it. 'My heart!' she'd said dramatically. 'It's appropriate, don't you think? Unless you prefer something else? Amorcito? Vida? Cariño?' I'd told her that corazon was fine if she was going to insist on being sappy. 'Yeah, I am,' and a kiss on the cheek was her response. Hearing her call me it today, so easily and affectionately, just feels wrong. Like I'm unfit for it.
'Erica?' She says softly when I hesitate. Uncertainty creeps over her face.
'I...' My voice fades away into nothing and I can only shake my head. Her hand drops mine like a stone.
'I told myself I was imagining things,' she murmurs, her voice catching in her throat. 'I tried to convince myself that you were spending all your time at work because you needed to do extra research to get the Harper fucking Avery or whatever. Every time you didn't come home I told myself it wasn't me. And then...then I couldn't lie to myself anymore because it was obvious that it was me. So I thought, okay, it's my fault that we can't talk anymore, I asked you for something that you can't give me. We can't talk but I thought maybe...maybe we could connect this way. But now I find out that I want to hold you and touch you and love you and you...what? You want me to fuck you on the bathroom floor? Why are you doing this? Why won't you let me-'
'I'm trying to make it easier for you, keeping my distance!' I shoot back. 'If I'm not around you don't have to pretend that everything's okay. You don't have to try not to hate me!'
She looks at me, completely stunned and appalled.
'You think I hate you?'
'I hate myself,' I admit.
'Erica,' she says tersely. 'I love you. Even though you're making it pretty damn difficult at the moment. Even though you won't let me. I love you all the same. And I won't stop.'
'I'm sorry,' is all I can say and it's nowhere near enough.
'I'll go out. I'll go to Yang's or Mark's and tomorrow we'll go back to work and it'll all be okay.'
'One of the interns told me you were down here. I told him to go and get some sleep because he was clearly hallucinating but here you are. You are in my clinic.'
I don't even glance up from the charts I'm signing off on.
'Yes Bailey, here I am. I am in the clinic that I've been volunteering in since I first started working here. I also give to charity and recycle. All of which falls right in the category of 'none of your business''.
'Mmm hmm. Where would you like to go?'
That gets my attention. For such a ridiculously short person she's quite talented at staring people down.
'You want to talk? To me?' I repeat, just to make sure I heard her right. 'Is this about a patient?' I ask, fervently hoping that it is. 'I'm not on the board today Bailey, page Altman or whoever's on call.'
'Oh I wish it was about a patient. And no, I don't want to but I have been seeing things, things that need talking about and so we are going to talk.'
'Bailey, I really don't have time for-'
'Torres is moping. I thought I recognised the signs and then I realized the last time I saw her like this was when O'Malley cheated on her with Stevens. Oh I know you're not doing that,' she says impatiently when I open my mouth to deliver some righteous indignation. 'You think I'm an idiot? Anyway, I got nervous. Then I notice that you're not doing that goofy little thing you do whenever Torres comes into the room, you know when you look at her all adoring and worshipful, in fact you are hiding from Torres and living at the hospital like some junkie intern. Unfortunately, unfortunately I am not the only one who has noticed this. Apparently you and Torres are some kind of aspirational couple for us all to try and emulate. So now I have Kepner wringing her hands and telling me that if you and Torres can't make it there's no hope of her ever finding love. I've got Lexie Grey inhaling anything chocolate flavored because she is just so damn worried about you two. Shepherd has invented a special concerned leaning stare that he uses exclusively in connection to you and Torres. Now, you think I need all this?'
Fully aware that the rhetorical question is just an opportunity for Bailey to draw breath, I remain silent.
'I don't,' she confirms flatly. 'You two are obviously incapable of working through your problems yourdamnselves so I have dispatched Sloan to find Torres and do his work husband thing and you are going to talk to me because, frankly, everyone else is afraid of you. We are going to solve this as a team. Now, if you want to have this discussion here then that's fine with me but considering your admirable commitment to keeping your private stuff private, I suggest you be at my office in ten minutes with a mocha latte and a chocolate muffin. Okay?'
She stalks away without waiting for a response from me and, once I've recovered from her rant, I tell myself that I'm not going. Screw Bailey and her preaching. Screw what everyone else thinks of me. So I'm pretty pissed off with myself when I'm knocking on her office door exactly ten minutes later like I've been summoned to the principal's office. What I'm furious about though is that I've actually brought her the damn mocha latte and the muffin.
'Put the coffee down there,' she commands regally when I've been given leave to enter. 'And the muf-' Her eyes narrow. 'That's blueberry.'
'I like blueberry,' I say stubbornly.
Her eyebrows shoot up an impressive distance.
'You think I'm sharing this?'
I can't help myself, I laugh, more from tired irony than actual amusement, but still. It has come to this.
'Alright then,' she says, taking an appreciative sip of coffee and settling herself in her chair which looks considerably more comfortable than mine. 'Begin.'
And really, how can telling Bailey make this intolerable situation any worse?
'Callie wants to have a baby. With me. She wants us to have a baby together.'
'Hardly going to have one with anyone else, is she?' She fires back at me, tone dry as dust, but then her face softens and she gestures for me to carry on.
'I...don't think it's a good idea.'
'Why?' When I pause she prompts me in her teaching voice. 'Explain the reasons that lead to your conclusion, Hahn. Okay, this is even more excruciating than I thought it would be. Imagine we're discussing a treatment plan for a patient,' she tells me when I remain silent. 'And we're disagreeing- shouldn't be too hard to picture- and you are convincing me that your treatment plan is best. Go.'
'I don't know children,' I begin in a rush.
'You'll be living together, the two of you will get to know each other pretty well. Next.'
'I don't know what children like! What would I do with it?'
'Well, firstly you'll want to stop referring to your child as 'it'. Then you're going to ask yourself if you could keep a puppy entertained and if the answer is 'yes' then you can also keep a child entertained. Children like fresh air, eating, discipline, boundaries, repetition, brightly colored things...making a mess of your damn house, love, they like being told how good and clever they are. It's not complicated.' She ramps up the force of her sardonic gaze from mild to full force. 'You think you can look after a puppy, Hahn? Think you're capable of that?'
'Um, yes...I suppose.'
'That's what I thought. Next?'
'I have...nice things. Nice clothes and breakable things. And...art! Art that they would tear off the walls and crayon on.'
'Oh no,' she says, shaking her head disapprovingly. 'You're not shallow. You're vain, sure. Got an ego bigger than some continents. Maybe even bigger than Burke's which is no small achievement. But you're not shallow. Baby sick on your silk blouse is not what this is about. And hang your art higher, what is it on the floor or something?'
I scowl at her but she's undeterred.
'Is that all you've got?'
'I work too much,' I try.
'At the moment you do. When you were acting like a member of the human race instead of a surgical robot you worked five days a week like the rest of the world. There's daycare. And babysitters. Also the fact that your kid knowing that Mom saves lives for a living would be no bad thing. You might even give them something to look up to.'
'They might be bullied. Having same sex parents might-'
'Hahn. Your child. Being bullied. Come on. After you teach them your death ray stare?'
'Didn't invent the name. Just the messenger. Anything else for me? Any real reasons?'
I stare at my hands for a few seconds, debating whether to voice what I've been thinking ever since Callie brought this up for the first time.
'I would be a terrible mother,' I admit, finally. 'I'm not cut out for it, okay? Callie should have a baby. Just not with me.'
When I look up at Bailey again I don't know what I want to see. Agreement? Disagreement? I can't make out either, she just looks considering, like she's giving my opinion a fair hearing.
'Hahn,' she says eventually. 'You think Torres wants to have a child with some black souled, emotionally closed off, aloof ice queen?'
Okay, I knew Bailey watched everyone like the all seeing eye but I did not realize her powers extended to mind reading.
'Exactly,' she cuts in before I can tell her that's precisely why it can't happen. 'She does not want to have a child with that person. She wants to have a child with you. Obviously she sees something in you that makes her want to create life with you. And I think, if you want to know what I think?'
I nod, reluctantly.
'I think you should try really hard to see what she sees before you say no. Can you do that for me, Hahn? Can you do that for me and all the rest of the staff who are rooting for you two crazy kids?'
'Yes, O Wise One,' I mutter sarcastically, glad that mine and Bailey's exchange of feelings is over.
'I'm not saying it wouldn't be amusing seeing you raise a child. It would be sitcom material. You'd be like Jar Jar Binks at the Battle of Grassy Plains. But think okay, that child is going to get Torres's genes. The crazy Torres lives in the basement, elopes to the chapel of Elvis, likes to crush bones genes. Someone needs to save that child from itself. No reason why it can't be you. Dismissed, Hahn. Let's never do this again.'
Two days later I'm pretending to write a journal article in my office when Callie pokes her head around the door.
'Hey,' she says awkwardly, hovering on the threshold uncertainly. 'I saw Altman reading Burke's article in JCTS and I figured you'd be in here plotting his downfall or trying to write something better.'
'I will write something better,' I say, arching my eyebrows and she smiles. I can still make her smile, that's something.
'Right, of course. Burke will be forced to lead a parade in your honor and throw flowers at your feet when he reads your next submission.'
'That's better. You can come in you know, you don't have to cower in my presence like my medical student groupies.'
Another smile. Even a laugh. Things that are like endangered species these days. She sits on the couch and, after a small internal battle, I go and sit with her. We used to have lunch in here all the time before this whole mess. 'Lunch at the palace today?' she'd ask mockingly, referring to the fact she shared a supply closet size office with another ortho attending and I got treated like royalty with the couch and the coffee table and a computer that worked more than 30% of the time. 'I am royalty, Torres,' I told her grandly, once. 'And you're the royal carpenter. Now, back to your workshop, go and carve me something.' My next birthday she presented me with a piece of wood the size of my hand. After much close inspection it revealed itself to be a heart, roughly hewn, with dangerously sharp edges. 'By commission of Her Majesty,' was written on the back. She thought I was kidding when I said I'd keep it in my desk but it's in the third drawer down on the left, the one that locks. I want it back, the jokes and the easiness and the closeness. I want it all back.
'So, I had a weird conversation with Bailey just now,' Callie starts, laughing nervously. 'She um, pounced on me in the scrub room and yelled something about Robbins being too sad to wheel herself around anymore and I had to go and make you see before people started crying in the halls. She said she'd know if I hadn't talked to you, which from anyone else I would have thought was crap, but...she's Bailey. Oh, and she told me to tell my 'damn girlfriend' that next time she gives you an order for baked goods you bring what you're told to bring.'
'Did she now?' I say, rolling my eyes.
'Do you have any idea what she was talking about?'
'I...yes. Bailey and I had a little talk the other day.'
'A talk? About-'
'Our feelings, yes. Actually, just my feelings. She forced me to!' I stress when Callie's jaw drops in surprise.
'Wow. Wish you'd have thought to get that on video.'
'Ha ha. Callie,' I say, summoning up my courage. 'You need to tell me why you want to have a baby with me. Not just why you want a baby but why you think I would be any good at...motherhood. Because I have a very big and very real fear that I would screw up a kid-'
'Erica, no-' she starts to say, shaking her head but I cut her off.
'Callie, it's not enough to just tell me I'm wrong. You have to tell me why I'm wrong. And I'm pretty damn stubborn so you're going to have to be really convincing.'
She looks at me as if she can't believe what she's hearing and then she actually laughs which doesn't exactly encourage me to keep pouring my heart out.
'This is a cardio thing,' she says, mostly to herself.
'Always needing to be complimented. Anybody would think you people are needy and self-conscious.'
'What? No, that is not what this is-'
'Erica. I can't believe I actually have to tell you this but you're the best thing that ever happened to me. You have never let me down and you never will. When you promise me something you do it. Every single time. You don't screw me around. I trust you completely and...really do you have any idea how hard I find it to trust people? You are always happy to see me. Whenever I have a crisis you help me through it. You protect me, you look after me. You tell me that you love me and that I'm beautiful all the time and if you never told me that you loved me again I would know anyway. Your love is the most certain thing in my life. I was a mess before I met you, my whole life I was insecure. And I'm not anymore. Because of you.'
'I like that you don't make a big deal of us at work. I like that you're not feeling me up in the on call rooms. Because it means that you've got nothing to prove. I get a part of you that no-one else does. And that's the part...' She breaks off momentarily and looks me straight in the eye. 'Erica, if I was pregnant you wouldn't even let me pick up a piece of paper. I'm not saying you'd fuss over me but you would just do everything for me. When I wanted pickles with peanut butter or whatever you would laugh at me and pretend to be grossed out but you'd buy them for me. I would freak out about everything going wrong and you would be calm and talk me down. You would read every damn book about parenting so you could be the best for our baby. I wouldn't have to worry about the crib not being assembled or the stroller not having arrived because you would just take care of all that. You would want to do that for me.'
'And then when the baby was born, God they would be so safe with you. They would never be late for anything. They would never be unprepared for anything. They would never be disappointed by you. I think about all the little things you would do with them, Erica. How you would read to them every night and take them to the bakery to buy pastries for me on a Saturday morning before I was awake. I see our kid running around the house with your stethoscope on and saying this bear needs a valve replacement and this one just needs angioplasty. Our baby would love you, Erica. They would love you.'
'H-how do you even expect me to respond to that?' I stutter when I've regained the power of speech. 'I treat you the way that you deserve to be treated, that doesn't make me special.'
'Hey, I answered your question, okay?' she says, with a big smile on her face. 'I think you're wonderful, I can't tell you that?'
I shrug and blush, most likely making myself look like a complete idiot in the process.
'Look,' she says softly, lifting her hand to stroke my cheek. 'If you still decide that it's not what you want then I will be...really disappointed, I can't lie about that. But I made a life with you first. I'm not about to just throw that away. I don't need an answer on this now. What I do need you to promise me is that you'll stop running away from me. Because it's not easier. It's kind of awful and unbearable. So promise me, okay?'
I drive past the hardware store four times before I work up the nerve to go in. I'm in there less than fifteen minutes, just enough time to storm through the paint aisle, grabbing sample cans in what I hope are appropriate colors. At home I paint a neat square of each on the wall and sit looking at them, waiting for her. I rehearse what I'm going to say over and over again but as soon as I hear her key in the door my mind empties and all I can hear is the tumbleweed rolling around in there.
'Erica? Are you home?'
She appears in the doorway, takes the situation in with one glance- the paint on the wall, me sitting on the floor in our guest room looking like I'm about to face a firing squad, the brush in my hand, ready to begin- and she comes silently, sits next to me and laces her fingers with my pastel colored ones.
How to begin, I wonder wildly. Tell her something easy.
'I tried to be open to pink or blue. But the names- they made me want to hurl. Could you sleep in a room that was 'Fairydust' or 'Pink Sugar' or 'Heavenly Haze'? Because I couldn't. I'd get an ulcer from the lameness of it. I think this one's my favorite,' I say, passing her the can. 'It's yellow.'
She reads the name. 'Sunrise.'
'Or I guess I could live with purple. Not lilac. This kind.'
'Belladonna? Maybe not.'
'Oh, okay. But anyway, we should...buy a house, definitely. We shouldn't rush though because we'll want to live there forever. And until we find our house...they will need somewhere to sleep. So I will paint this room. Sloan can help. You'll have to tell Yang that she's going to have to sleep it off on the couch from now on because this room is going to be...occupied.'
She still doesn't say anything, just leans her head on my shoulder, smiling.
'I never wanted this,' I hear myself say. 'I like my life, I am panicking about this. But if you trust me to do this with you, if you think I can, then...'
'We're only having one.'
'I will not carry them around strapped to my chest like some...smug hippy.'
'I do not puree things.'
'Promise me we will still have sex.'
'Then...let's buy some sperm.'
'Your great-grandfather was German, right?'
'Yeah,' I look up from my book, a little confused as to where that question came from.
'Okay, so do we want specifically German or or just general Western European? Oh! Was he Swiss German?'
'No, he was German German. From Munich. Why?'
She turns the laptop around so I can see the screen and I sigh. She's on the sperm bank website again.
'I'm American,' I remind her.
'Right. There's no box for 'American' though,' she says, frowning. I take a closer look and see 'blond hair' and 'blue eyes' already entered as search terms. 'General European? Or just Caucasian?' she muses.
'You...want the donor to look like me?'
'Well, yeah.' She shrugs like it's the most obvious thing in the world. 'Don't you? Ooh, this one has a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry, you've got that too!'
My obvious lack of enthusiasm finally prises her attention away from 'Adam' who is apparently intellectual, athletic and loves to travel. I'd thought that donors were just numbers and, to be honest, that was a relief. I don't want to be able to pay $10 for a baby photograph or an audio interview, payable via , Amex, MasterCard, VISA or Discovery. It just makes me feel less involved, like this donor is more important than me.
'Is something wrong?'
'Putting aside the fact that purchasing DNA based on eye color and intelligence is veering dangerously close to eugenics, don't you think it might be easier if the baby isn't light skinned and blond? For your family, I mean.'
Callie's family. Not a subject that either of us care to bring up very often seeing as how they are always capable of spoiling your mood, despite the fact that they live 3000 miles away. Her father at least calls me Erica. Her mother and I are still at Dr. Hahn and Mrs Torres. I've stopped bothering telling her to call me by my first name, she's never once mentioned that she has a first name to me. They visit once a year and I start dreading them arriving about six weeks in advance. Callie cleans the apartment obsessively even though I know full well, and she does too, though she won't admit it, that they're not setting foot in here as long as we're sharing a bed. I offered to sleep on the couch a few visits back but Callie cried and started yelling stuff like she hated them and she was going to tell them not to bother coming if they didn't start treating me better. I knew she didn't mean it and I wasn't going to be responsible for her cutting ties with her family so I told her to forget it. So they stay at the Archfield, usually only for three nights. It feels like a year.
They're not openly hostile. Not to my face and not in English, anyway. I don't even bother worrying about what Callie's mother says in Spanish about me to Callie, I know it's bad because Callie's always furious with her but I don't ask and she doesn't tell. It's the little things that stick in my throat, her mother touching the necklace Callie's wearing and saying it's beautiful, Callie telling her that I bought it for her and her mother pulling her hand away like it's been burned. Or the fact that they needed to borrow a car once and when they found out that Callie was offering them my car they got a rental instead. Whenever they're here Callie spends 90% of the time apologising to me, and I spend 90% of the time telling her that it's not her fault.
There's always one excruciating dinner at an obnoxiously expensive restaurant which we're all forced to suffer through. Last time it had actually been going fairly well, we'd managed to strike up a conversation about something mundane and inoffensive. That was until Callie mentioned that she'd gone to mass last weekend, obviously thinking this would please her mother. Instead Mamá looked like she'd just swallowed broken glass and said in her best judgmental voice:
'You didn't take communion did you?'
That's the closest I've come to losing my temper with her, the only thing that restrained me was the fact that she looked straight at me, daring me to. Callie managed not to cry until we were in the car, going home. I'd always thought people who said that they 'cried themselves to sleep' were being melodramatic but she did and I had to watch. My murderous rage didn't even start to fade until a week after they'd left.
Lucia's finest moment so far came when they were waiting at the nurse's station for Callie to go to lunch with them one time. I was standing at the board with my back to them, they didn't know I was there or maybe they did, who knows? Yang was at the desk, looking at a chart. I was planning to sneak away before they saw me but then I realized what they were talking about.
'Father Kevin says she can repent at any time. We just have to be waiting when she finally comes to her senses. It's not too late for her.'
I'll admit, hearing that they were just biding their time until Callie, the woman that I loved an unbearable amount and would have died for, saw the light and went rushing home to salvation, was enough to pierce even my skin, which I would have sworn was impenetrable. All I could salvage from the situation was how incredibly fortunate it was that Callie hadn't had to hear that.
'Let's go and wait for Calliope in the cafeteria. Could you tell her where we are, Dr. Yang?'
'Yes sir, I'll tell her.' I thought I heard an undertone of disapproval in Yang's voice but I quickly told myself I was imagining it.
'Thankyou, dear.' This was said with more warmth and affection than she had managed to summon up for me in three years. I heard them walk away and then Lexie Grey's voice.
'Are they Callie's parents?'
Yang raised her voice just enough to be certain that I'd hear her.
'Yeah, Carlos and Lucifer.'
Lucifer. It made me feel better. Shouldn't have done but it did.
A few seconds later she walked past me on her way to the ICU.
'I won't tell her.'
And that's the situation. Callie goes to Miami once a year too. When she's booking the flights we always go through a little ritual where we both ask each other a question.
'Do you want to come with me?'
'Did they invite me?'
Maybe one day we'll both be able to say yes to each other.
'My parents aren't racists,' Callie says, frowning.
'That's not what I meant. I just think they might find it hard to take if the baby looks like me. Wouldn't it just be simpler if-'
'It doesn't matter what my parents think,' she lies. 'They'll have to get over it.'
'Look, you don't have to pretend like you don't care. I'm not angry with you for loving your-'
'Your parents won't care that you're raising a Hispanic child. They won't even care that you're not biologically related to them. They'll just tack them on to the number of grandchildren that they have and love them, like the rest.'
'Yes,' I admit.
My parents love Callie. Whenever I call them they want to speak to her. They demand that I bring her home with me when I go to visit. My brothers love her, my nephews and nieces love her, she is universally adored by everyone who is important to me. When I tell my Mom that Callie and I are going to have a baby she will probably combust with excitement.
'I love being here,' she told me once when we were at my parents for Thanksgiving. 'But it makes me so ashamed of my family.'
'If your parents can do that then mine can handle the baby possibly having blue eyes,' she insists stubbornly.
'Can they?' I raise my eyebrows, still sceptical. 'Because if it hurts you to see them treat me like dirt, imagine how you'll feel when-'
'Erica! Leave it, okay? I don't want to talk about this now.'
Sometimes we get teased about getting married. It's not important to me, not really. We have all the paperwork, we own the apartment together and she's my official next of kin. Getting married wouldn't change anything, it would be a totally symbolic gesture. Except that I know that getting married is important to Callie and it bothers her that it can't happen in a church and that, barring a miracle, her family wouldn't come. There's a part of me, a small, completely irrational part, that wonders if she'll come back when she goes to Miami or whether this phone call to her mother will be the one that convinces her that our life together is wrong. That's the part of me that wants to make a totally symbolic gesture.
'Do you like this donor?'
'He sounds delightful,' I say, unable to stop the sarcasm dripping from my voice.
She looks a little wounded and turns back to the screen, muttering under her breath.
Let it go. Let it go.
'What was that?'
My Mom's fond of telling me that I could have an argument with a brick wall.
'I said that you could take a little more interest, considering that this could be-'
'What? The father of your child?'
'Our child,' she corrects me coldly. 'And they're the donor, not the father.'
'Well Callie, at the moment it doesn't feel like our child. It feels like yours and his.'
Even as I'm talking I'm more than aware of how petulant I sound. I am jealous of sperm.
'What?' she questions. 'What are you talking about? The donor's like...the appendix! No-one misses their appendix!'
'Right,' I say, not really understanding her little metaphor. 'You seem to be pretty invested in making sure that our kid has a nice...appendix, considering how much it doesn't matter.'
'Erica, we need this person now. That doesn't mean that they're going tomatter further down the line. As soon as I see the plus sign on a pregnancy test it's just you and me all the way.'
'Then why are you telling me about his degree in biochemistry like it's predestined? When our kid's a genius I want people to say it was because of me and you, not him.'
'A genius, huh?' She says, smiling.
'Naturally,' I confirm. 'Or a star athlete. Maybe both, who knows?'
'When our son wins the Harper Avery, I guarantee people will say 'That's Erica Hahn's son.'' Callie says easily, blatantly stroking my ego. It works. I am a surgeon after all.
'I won't need him to look like me to be proud of him,' I reiterate. 'If you want some rugged European donor then by all means, go ahead, but it really doesn't matter to me. I don't care what the donor's like. I want a blank slate.'
'Okay,' She's still smiling and I know she's imagining something to do with babies. I try it too, I try and imagine seeing my child winning the Harper Avery. I imagine rubbing it in Burke's face when his kids become dermatologists. It's kind of nice.
'That reminds me, we need to find a clinic where you can be...you know.' I can't bring myself to say 'inseminated', that word belongs in science fiction novels. 'Addison can probably recommend somewhere, do you want me to call her? What?' I ask because the smile's slid off her face and she's looking at me like I've said the wrong thing. 'Do you want her to do it? Because I guess she could but we'd have to take vacation days to fly down there and we should probably save them up for...oh,' I realize. 'You want me to do it.'
She raises her eyebrows. 'Dr. Hahn can't handle a syringe?'
It's what's going to be in the syringe that's the problem. I don't want sperm in my house, I don't want to look at it, think about it, put it anywhere but I'm fully aware that I'm being ridiculous so I don't say that to her.
'No, I can. Of course I can. You know success is more likely if we go to a clinic though, right?'
She sighs. 'Look, if it doesn't work out then we can try and do it that way. But before I start getting crazy hormone shots and sitting in the stirrups can we try it the nice way first?'
I am at a total loss as to what the 'nice way' is and it must show on my face because she laughs at me.
'Erica,' she says, in her best seductive tone, which is pretty damn effective, 'I want to make our baby here. In bed.'
'You...oh!' Understanding dawns on me. 'Really?'
'You don't want to,' she states, pouting.
'I will, if that's what you want,' I reassure her. 'But won't it be...you know, kind of a moodkiller?' Personally I can't think of anything less sexy.
She looks at me as if I've thrown down a gauntlet.
'We'll see, won't we?'
'Hey guess what, Hahn? Torres is ovulating!'
This is announced to the entire lounge as I walk in the door after an eight hour surgery that started at 4am. Luckily, we're the only three people in here but I wouldn't be surprised if they heard in Oregon, the volume Sloan speaks at.
'Congratulations,' I say to Callie as I collapse on the couch.
'Two lines,' he announces authoritatively, waving the ovulation test in my face. I swat it away but he's undeterred. 'She took her temperature, too. Don't worry, I didn't help with that. We've consulted the chart and it's game on, ladies!'
'You have a chart?' I ask, disbelievingly.
Callie shrugs but she's practically bouncing with excitement. I blame Sloan.
'Do you want to see?' He gets out his phone and starts pressing buttons.
'That's fine, Mark. You two seem to have things covered.'
'You know, I still can't see why you two didn't want my sperm but never mind. I'm going to be Uncle Mark!' he says, puffing out his chest like a neanderthal and strutting around.
'Mark,' Callie giggles, obviously delighted. 'Calm down.'
'I'd like to put myself forward for godfather. Just something to think about.'
'Don't push it, Sloan,' I warn him, already knowing full well that he will end up being godfather, because Callie will beg me. I draw the line at Yang being responsible for my child's spiritual welfare though.
'Alright then, I'm going to go and get you some supplies,' he says, with a lecherous grin on his face. 'I'll give them to Torres and I'll want a full report tomorrow morning.' Over my dead body. 'Oh, and Hahn?'
'Make sure Torres crosses the finish line. Our research shows that's very important. Shouldn't be a problem for you though, according to Torres.' He winks at me and makes a swift exit, before I get a chance to throw something heavy at him.
'Beat it, Sloan,' I yell after him. I'm not even really angry with him, the years have made me less and less sensitive to his crassness.
'He needs a baby of his own,' I say wearily to Callie who comes over and rubs my shoulders for me.
'Surgery run long?,' she asks sympathetically.
'Mmm, yeah. So tonight, huh?'
'Yeah.' Her hands still and I can feel the anticipation running through her.
'Did the...stuff get delivered?'
'Yes!' She laughs at my wording. 'It arrived yesterday and I hid it so you wouldn't freak out.'
'I wouldn't have...' I start to protest weakly but I can't summon up the energy to lie convincingly.
'You would have. But it's okay. What time do you finish today?'
'Okay, so I'll get everything ready before you get home. And then...'
'It could be tonight!' she blurts out. 'We might make a baby tonight!'
'Maybe,' I say carefully, pretty sure that we've both got butterflies. Except hers are excited butterflies and mine are verging on hysteria with trepidation butterflies. Like when I realised Callie was going to kiss me for the first time.
'I know, I know, it won't happen the first time. But you never know, right?' Wouldn't it be just my luck if it did. 'Oh, I have to go! I'll see you tonight?' she says, kissing me quickly after making sure that we're still alone
'Yeah, see you tonight.'
Of course I don't get home until ten. I'm exhausted and starving, in danger of falling asleep on my feet and ready to just get it over with and then sleep for several days.
'Hey,' I call out. 'I'm so sorry that I'm late but I'm ready to g-'
The words die in my throat when she appears in the doorway of our bedroom wearing red lingerie. Fire truck red. Blood red. In my pre-Callie naivety I had dismissed red lingerie as tacky and cheap. Now I see the error of my ways. And her skin...I love the color of her skin.
'Mark called and said you got tied up with an emergency.'
'Mmm...yeah. Emergency. It was emergent.'
I tell myself sternly to stop gawping like a moron but I'm afraid she's some sort of sleep-deprived hallucination and I'm going to wake up in the on call room any second.
'You like?' she asks teasingly, obviously enjoying my reaction.
'Yes. Very much. Very much indeed. Which is not to say you should feel hesitant about taking it off.'
'Come here and take if off for me.'
'I'm gross,' I protest, even as I move forward, unable to stop myself. 'I've been in surgery all day. I shouldn't touch you. I'll taint you.'
She rolls her eyes affectionately. Behind her I can see flickering lights that indicate either lots of candles or a very large fire. My feeble brain deduces that it smells too nice to be fire.
'I ran you a bath. Well, it's not just for you. You want to take a bath?'
'Oh yes. But wait,' I remember suddenly. 'Don't we have to-'
'Don't think about it. Just get in the bath, this outfit may be pleasing to your eyes but it is not comfortable.'
The nice way is very nice as it happens.
It doesn't work the first time. Or the five times after that. My reaction veers between insane relief and awful disappointment when I see how devastated Callie is every time that plus sign doesn't appear.
She pages me to the clinic ten days after the seventh attempt. Lucky number seven she said. She's in one of the cubicles, sitting on the bed. It's before official opening time so the place is deserted.
'Hey, can you draw some blood for me?' she asks. 'I was going to ask whoever was down here to do it but it's Heron and her voice is annoying enough without her putting a needle in my arm as well. And I guess it's pointless telling the interns not to mutilate themselves if they catch me taking my own blood.'
I grab the supplies from the cart and swab her arm with alcohol. She looks nervous and I can feel her pulse racing when my hand brushes her wrist.
'I bet it's a long time since you did something as mundane as taking blood, huh?'
'I think I still remember how.'
'Oh yeah, I barely even felt that. Excellent blood taking skills, Dr. Hahn,' she remarks as the vial fills.
'Have I ever told you that you have beautiful veins?'
'No. And it means so much coming from such an aficionado of the circulatory system.'
'Best veins I've ever seen.' I press gauze to the tiny wound. 'Do you feel okay? Do you feel-'
'No. I do not have a single physical symptom, no matter how hard I try to convince myself that I do. But I just feel different and I know I'm being ridiculous and I should probably wait and pee on the stick like a normal person but I'm a doctor so I can't.'
'It's okay,' I try and reassure her.
'Really? Because you're looking kind of pale.'
'What? No, come on...'
'I'm scared too,' she confesses, squeezing my hand. 'We can be scared together. Worked out pretty well last time, right?'
'It did,' I agree. 'I think I'm more scared this time though.'
'Me too. We can be terrified together?'
'Deal.' Somewhere in my mind I note that if the test is positive then yes, I will be terrified beyond belief, but I will not be horrified. This revelation only ramps my fear levels up higher. 'So, I will take this to the lab. I'll put it in under Jane Doe?'
'Yeah. Tell them it's your patient though, I want you to be the one to tell me.'
'-not to get my hopes up, right.'
I attempt to distract myself for the next few hours but I'm not scheduled to be in surgery today and disappointingly few traumas roll into the pit. Time passes excruciatingly slowly and however much I try to immerse myself in paperwork my mind just won't stop churning with anticipation. I'm considering stealing one of Yang's surgeries just to give myself something to do when I see one of the junior residents assigned to the cardio service heading my way.
'Dr. Hahn, lab results on your Jane Doe. All normal except that their hCG level is 35. I guess they're not a good candidate for heart surgery.'
Normally I would bite the head off any resident who had the misfortune of making such a dumb, obvious statement in my presence. Instead I drop the chart I'm holding, like his idiocy is infectious. Someone hands it back to me before I have the opportunity to retrieve it myself.
'A little clumsy today, Dr. Hahn?' Bailey's inscrutable face stares up at mine. I open my mouth a few times but no sound comes out.
'Which room are they in, Dr. Hahn?' the resident's saying, apparently oblivious to my reaction. 'I'll go and tell them, they probably don't even know. What procedure did they have scheduled?'
'Um...um,' I will myself to form words but none come. Bailey's head swivels between us like she's at a tennis match, her facial expression growing more suspicious by the second.
'What's this?' she asks the resident.
'One of Dr. Hahn's patients is pregnant.'
'Oh they are, are they?' She narrows her eyes at me and I know then that she has used her powers and she knows.
'Um, yes. Ma'am.'
'Alright Carson, Dr. Hahn and I will handle this. Run along and see if Yang will let you scrub in on her aneurysm repair. Forget all about this.' She snatches the paper with the lab results on and shoos them away. 'Go!'
Once they're out of sight she wordlessly hands me the results and there it is in black and white. I stare at it until the numbers swim on the page.
'Yes. No. Maybe. Probably.'
'Mmm hmm. Go and tell Torres.'
I check my watch, Callie's going into surgery in five minutes. Before I even get the chance to wonder whether it would be better to wait until afterwards Bailey decides for me.
'Tell her now. She won't be thinking about anything else anyway. Unless you're going to faint or vomit. Then you should wait until I've made you pull yourself together.'
'No, no. I'm...good. I'm fine. How?'
''You're pregnant' is usually very effective. Very concise. Get out of here!'
I sprint to OR2 and catch Callie in the scrub room just before she goes into surgery. Thankfully she's alone.
Her eyes widen when she sees me, out of breath and out of sorts, the only part of her face that I can see above the surgical mask.
Somehow I resist the urge to say something wildly inappropriate like 'there is a parasite growing inside of you.' I settle for just one word.
'Yes.' I show her the lab results, my hand making the paper shake just a little. She laughs, a breathless, exhilarated sound that makes me smile.
'Yeah,' I agree, still smiling for absolutely no reason.
Her hands move slowly down to her stomach but at the last moment she remembers that she can't touch anything and they hover over space that will be filled in a few months time. She looks at me, my hand reaches out and, just for a second, covers the spot where a bunch of cells are dividing rapidly. A person. With my hand resting on her stomach I feel weirdly possessive of those cells, like they're important. Like they have potential.
The automatic door hisses behind us and we jump apart. It's Hunt.
'Ladies,' he says in that pleasant, oblivious way of his. 'Are you scrubbing in, Hahn?' he asks as he turns the faucet on. 'I didn't see your name on the board.'
'No, no. I guess I should leave you guys to it. I'll see you at home?' I say to Callie, doing my best to tamp down the inexplicable desire that I'm feeling to touch her.
'Yes. Home. Where we go when we're not at work. I will see you there.'
Hunt looks a bit perplexed by her babbling but doesn't question it.
'Callie? Drive carefully.'