Title: Out Of The Mouths Of Babes (1/?)
Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Pairing: Mark/Callie and other canon pairings
Summary: After Callie miscarries, she finds love in an unexpected place with someone who can't really tie his shoes yet.
A/N: This is the epic Mallie fic y'all have been begging for. I don't do kid fics so I probably suck. LOL



~*~*~*~*~

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back. ~William D. Tammeus

*~*~*~*~*~

Two weeks after Callie had a miscarriage she filed for divorce. George was openly dating Izzie and had not bothered to come and tell his child goodbye. She held the tiny fetus in her hands, hysterically sobbing, and Mark Sloan of all people had comforted her. Callie had handed over the bloody mass with shaking hands and Mark had crawled into the bed beside her, pulling her head onto his shoulder. He had been the one to find her bleeding out in the stairwell and it was her blood that stained his scrubs.

One month after the miscarriage, a four year old boy was brought into the Emergency Room via ambulance. He was defiant and refused to cry, even when Callie set his broken arm and put it in a cast. After it was over, she sat on the edge of his bed and ruffled his shaggy black hair. He pushed her hand away and said that he didn't like her and told her she looked like the Wicked Witch of the West, only less green. She gave him a sucker and waited for his parents to arrive.

They never did.

Social services collected the child and took him back to the group home where he lived. Three months later, he was back. This time with a broken finger. Callie put it in a splint and impulsively kissed it. The little boy sucked in his breath and gazed up at her. "My name is Jack. What's yours?"

"Callie, but a lot of people call me Dr. T."

"I want to call you Callie."

"Okay."

Nine days later, Callie was working on a chart when someone tugged on her lab coat. Jack was there yet again and he held up his thumb, which had been dislocated. She picked him up, carried him to an empty trauma room and said, "Okay, what's going on, kid? Is someone hurting you?"

"No."

"Then what happened?"

"Nobody picked me." Jack looked down at his thumb. "Nobody ever picks me."

"What do you mean?"

"People come to look at the kids and they always pick the babies. They look at me a lot and I smile and make sure my hands are clean, but they never pick me."

"I know the feeling," Callie told him, then pulled his thumb back into place before he knew it was happening. He didn't cry this time either. "So, when they don't pick you ... you hurt yourself?"

"I jump off the roof sometimes. That's how I broke my arm. Sometimes I just slam the door on my hand, though."

"Why?"

"Because." Jack shrugged. "Do you got kids?"

"No."

"Want one?"

Callie sat beside him on the stretcher. "I don't think I'm supposed to have kids. I don't have a husband."

"So? Nurse Beckett at the home has four kids and she don't got no husband." Jack put his hand on hers. "If you do want a kid you can pick me."

She put her arm around him. "I'll keep that in mind."

Two weeks later, Jack was admitted with internal injuries. Callie moved into his room. When she wasn't on duty, she was with Jack. He didn't wake up for five days and when he finally did, she was there. He held up his skinny, bruised arms and she hugged him. He didn't let go. He crawled into her lap and fell asleep with his hand on hers.

Everyone had an opinion. Chief Webber tried to bar her from spending so much time with him. Bailey warned her not to get involved ... as a last resort she invoked Izzie Steven's name and reminded Callie of Denny Duquette. Everyone thought she was depressed, that she was missing George, missing her own baby, but Callie knew better.

Mark Sloan seemed to know better, too, because he encouraged her every step of the way. He introduced her to a leggy female lawyer who was able to expedite the process and when Jack was released from the hospital several weeks later ... he didnít go back to the group home. He went to the house that Callie had paid cash for ... a house with a pool, a big yard, a swingset, and a playroom in the basement that made him squeal with delight.

He had officially and legally become Jack Torres.

Callie embraced being a single parent with both arms.

Jack was all she had in the world.

*~*~*~*~*~

(1)

Mark looked up from his newspaper and watched Callie tape a piece of construction paper to the inside of her locker door. It was something he did every morning. He waited for her to come in and he covertly enjoyed the view. Ever since he had held her during her miscarriage they had been friendly with one another and he looked for new and inventive ways to make her laugh. Lately, she didn't need much prompting; she smiled all day long. It was nice to see considering the hell she had been through.

When she sat down to slip off her shoes, he smiled. She had silly string in her hair. He set the paper aside and got to his feet, tapping her on the shoulder. "Did you have a celebration before work?"

"What?" Callie asked, looking up at him. She wrinkled her nose when she saw that he was gazing at her hair. "Oh my god, I didn't get it all."

"You didn't get it all," he agreed. "Want some help?"

"Sure." She sat still, letting him pull the string from her hair. When he dangled it in front of her face a moment later, she laughed and closed her hand around it. "Thanks. I - Jack is hard to wake up for school so the silly string gets him laughing and it's just easier to have it all over the place than deal with tardies. His school is strict."

"How is the kid?"

"Heís adjusting. The night terrors stopped last week, knock on wood, and heís being so good that itís scary. He literally has a halo around his head. I donít have to ask him to do anything twice."

"Does he like that stuffy pre school youíre sending him to?"

"He despises the tie and everyone there, but he needs the structure and he canít get that anywhere else. Plus itís right across the street so if anything happens ... I can be there in three minutes."

"I saw him a few days ago with his nanny," Mark said, sitting down on the bench beside her. He stretched his long legs out and crossed his ankles. "He ran into me in the hallway and told me to move the hell out of his way."

"I'm sorry!" Callie gasped, looking mortified. "We're working on manners. It's slow going."

"When do I get to meet him?"

"You want to meet him?"

"Well, I did help you get him. And like you said ... heís adjusting. Introduce me."

Callie looked away. She wasnít going to be the kind of woman who paraded men in front of her kids. Her grandmother had done that to her father and he had spoken with her at length about it when she took Jack home to meet her family. He had made it very clear that it damaged a child to watch a revolving door of men and she couldnít go there. Not considering how many revolving doors Jack had already seen in his short life. Changing the subject, she pointed at her locker. "Before school yesterday he accidentally broke a plate and told his teacher he needed to apologize to me in a card."

Mark leaned a little closer to her so that he could see the artwork. She smelled good, like clean cotton and ... vanilla. He forced himself to gaze at the card instead of her cleavage. The little boy had traced his hand in the center of the paper. Scrawled in crayon, he had written 'Im Sori' and at the bottom it read 'I wil b gud I luv u'. "Damn. Heís text messaging you on paper."

She grinned. "He has definitely learned in just a few short weeks how to make me roll over. When we went shopping for his bedroom, I was going for functional and now he has a bed shaped like a car and a climbing wall."

Mark laughed. "And you don't mind at all."

"I really don't." She glanced over at him, then bit her bottom lip. "Oh my god, you so don't want to hear about the joys of single parenting."

"I'm still listening." Mark pointed at the photo of Callie and Jack that was in the top corner of her locker door. It gave him a reason to sit so close to her. "It's amazing that he actually looks like you. You do know that, right? Black hair, brown eyes, and you'd probably tell me to move the hell out of your way, too."

She gave him a knowing look. "I think I did during the one, two, yep, three dirty times that you had your way with me."

Mark had to fight hard to contain his shock at her words. He cleared his throat and said, "I still maintain that it was cheerful."

"Cheerful has never bruised me before," she told him, her eyes twinkling. She was enjoying his discomfort far too much and she was enjoying being flirtatious even more. She was a single mother ... she wasn't dead. Before she could continue, her pager went off and she made a face, lifting it from her purse. "It's going to be one hell of a day."

Mark watched her wordlessly.

He would embarrass himself if he stood up at the moment.

When she finally disappeared behind one of the many changing curtains, he got to his feet and buttoned his jacket to hide the fact that talking about the joys of single parenting had an unexpected effect on him that he never saw coming.

*~*~*~*~*~

In the lunchroom at noon, Mark paid for his food and picked up his tray. A table full of nurses sat to his left and Callie sat alone to his right. Several of the nurses waved at him, smiling invitingly, and he nodded at them, then glanced back at Callie. She had been on his mind the entire morning and their one, two, yep, three admittedly dirty sexcapades they had shared had caused him to need a chart in front of his crotch every time he walked down the hallway and she was near. He felt like there was a magnetic field around her and the butterflies that had suddenly appeared in his stomach were all made of steel. He was drawn to her and his body wouldn't let him shake it. He walked across the cafeteria and stopped beside her. "Is this seat taken?"

She looked at him then at the many empty seats around them. Her gaze landed on the nurses who were glaring at her with the heat of a thousand lightning bolts. He either wanted to make someone at the table jealous ... or her flirty banter that morning made him think she would drop her panties for him again. The latter wasn't actually such a bad idea. Maybe she could lure him into an on call room for a little afternoon delight. It's not like she could date and she was definitely tired of self pleasure. "What's so special about this spot, Sloan?"

"It's next to you ... and God, I really just said that." He cringed at the look she shot him. "Can I sit down or what? My tray is loaded."

"Knock yourself out." She grinned, thinking of what else appeared to be loaded beneath the tray.

Mark tugged the chair beside her with his foot and flopped into it. "What are you reading? Parenthood?"

She closed the magazine and grinned at him. "Try again."

His eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw the cover of Playgirl and the hot young guy who was wearing a stethoscope and not much more. He took it from her and flipped through it, shaking his head. "I can't even pretend to be shocked."

Callie stole a fry from his plate. "You really want people to see you looking at man boobs and artfully displayed penises?"

He closed the magazine so fast that he earned a papercut for his efforts. He put it under his tray and bit into his corndog. "Youíre a pervert."

"Youíre the one looking at naked guys and biting into phallic shaped food."

Mark choked and glared at her. "Youíre are gonna pay for that."

"Promises, promises." She snuck another fry and dipped it into his ketchup. "So, whatís up? Which nurse are you avoiding?"

"All of them." He shrugged, watching as she chewed the potato. Who knew that it could be so erotic. "Would you ... have dinner with me?"

"Er ... huh?"

"Dinner. You know, sorta like what we're doing now only at night and -"

"Hey, Mister! Who the heck are you?"

Mark turned at the sound of the voice and smiled down at Callie's son. The little boy stood just behind his mother with his hands on his hips. His tie was covered in mud and his navy blue blazer looked like it had been run over by a bus. He was tapping his foot and his nostrils were flaring as he waited for Mark to answer. "Hey, Jack." Mark held out his hand. "Iím Mark Sloan."

"You're in my seat." Jack glanced at Mark's hand, then crossed his arms over his chest. "Mom, why is he here?"

"Why are *you* here, kiddo?" Callie asked, pushing her chair back and opening her arms. Jack hopped up into her lap and laid his head on her shoulder. She felt his forehead, which was cool to the touch. "Where is Gertie?"

"That old nag? She's probably at home watchin' her television and fartin'." Jack looked up at Callie, trying to appear apologetic. "She dropped me off at school and the teachers kept being stupid so I left at recess."

Callie's mouth dropped open. "Did you walk here!?"

"No, I flew like Superman. All the way across the street." Jack sat up in Callie's lap, his attention on Mark again. "You're still here? How come?"

"You be nice and shake his hand, Jack! You're in enough trouble already." Callie nudged him in the back. "Go on."

Jack held out his hand and let it lie limply in Mark's large one. "Mark Sloan, can you tell my mom that it's okay to miss school when it's the last freakin' day?"

"How old are you?" Mark asked the little boy, trying hard not to laugh.

"Nearly five." Jack leaned back against Callie's chest again. "Preschool is for babies anyway. If you finger paint once then why should you have to do it again? It's damn stupid."

Callie prayed for patience. "You know, Jack, I pay a lot of money for you to go to private school and -"

"Apparently they let kids vanish during recess," Mark told her. "You need to roll a few heads for that, Callie. And save your money by getting his tuition for free next year."

Jack smiled up at her. "Yeah, save your money. You can buy me an air rifle so I can join the Army instead."

Mark laughed outright now. He couldn't hold it in another second. It forced Jack's attention back on him and Mark was struck again by how similar mother and child were. The little boy arched his eyebrow the same way Callie did and when he cocked his head to study Mark, Callie was doing the same thing.

"Don't encourage him," Callie told Mark. "He's cutting class before he's even in a *grade*."

Jack watched his mother pull her phone from her bag and snatched it from her hand, stuffing it under his shirt. "Don't call Gertie! She smells like feet and she'll make me sit right beside her while she watches those people kiss on the t.v. and I'll fall over dead from it. I really will."

To prove his sincerity, Jack slumped forward in a very fake faint. Callie was forced to shift in her seat to hang onto him. She looked at Mark and rolled her eyes. "We've got a temporary nanny until the agency can find someone suitable and he doesn't like her."

"She's horrible," Jack chimed in, still dangling weightless in Callie's arms. "Her arms are hairier than my head."

Mark reached down and put his hand on Jack's shoulder. "I think I may have a solution, little guy."

Jack looked up hopefully. "What?"

Mark met Callie's eyes. "Dr. Bailey needs one more signature on the petition for the hospital nursery and after school program. Do you want to sign it or should I?"

"What's that?" Jack asked, riveted by possibilities he didn't fully understand.

Mark explained the concept and when the little boy realized that he would be able to stay at the hospital and see Callie as much as her schedule would let him, he leaned forward and took the pen from Mark's front pocket. "I'll sign it too. I can do my name, just not in joined up letters yet."

"Show me." Mark pulled a napkin from the holder and held it firm on the table while Jack wrote on it. The child's tongue stuck out between his lips and his brow was furrowed from the concentration. He was literally straining to make it perfect and when he finished, he looked at Mark expectantly. Mark picked up the napkin, turning it different ways to examine it from all angles. "It's a little messy," he finally pronounced.

"Nuh uh!" Jack shook his head. "I was 'specially careful!"

Mark took the pen and wrote Jack's name in cursive below the boy's attempt. Jack took it and rubbed his fingers over it. Mark put the pen back in his pocket and said, "You know where I learned to do that?"

Jack was still looking at the complicated signature with awe. "No. Where?"

"At school." Mark grinned at him. "Where you should go even if it is the last day."

"Oh, maaaaan." Jack folded the napkin and carefully put it into his pocket. "I can't fly any more today. I'm Superman and there's kryptonite on your plate. It made me too sick to go back."

"Kryptonite?" Mark looked down at his food and picked up a brussel sprout. "You mean this?"

Jack clutched his throat and pretended to die, flopping like a fish for several seconds.

"Okay, Superman, weíre walking back to your school. Where I will roll some heads." Callie set him on his feet and gathered her purse before she stood. Watching Mark interact with her son had done strange things to her insides and she needed to get out of his vicinity for a while.

"It was nice to officially meet you, Jack." Mark popped a sprout in his mouth and watched the kid dry heave into a pretend bucket.

"I'll see you later," Callie said, not looking at Mark.

"Wait!" Jack put his hand behind his back when Callie reached to take it. He gazed at Mark with big, bright eyes. "Sorry I was rude before, Mark Sloan."

Mark smiled. The little boy said his first and last name the way most people said Billy Bob or Mary Sue. "You can call me Mark."

"And you can come to dinner at our house," Jack replied. "That's what you were saying before ... it's Thursday. Thatís 'sgetti night and my mom makes real good 'sgetti."

Mark had to smile when Callie quietly covered her face to hide the blush that was spreading through her cheeks. He should have okayed it with her first, but the invitation was too promising to pass up. "I'd love to come. Can I bring anything?"

"Cookies!" Jack declared. "She *can't* cook that."

"Cookies it is."

Jack walked forward and held his arms open. "Hug me bye."

Mark leaned down and gave the little fellow a one armed hug. Both of Jack's arms went around his neck and then he planted a sloppy, wet kiss on Mark's cheek.

Mark's hand was still on the spot when Callie disappeared around the corner with Jack.

*~*~

He arrived at six thirty, balancing a bakery box full of three dozen cookies and a bottle of champagne. Callieís house was impressive. He had heard rumors that she was insanely rich, but he hadnít paid it any mind. Faced with the fact that she was wealthy didnít affect him in the least. Instead, it made him feel better about her tackling motherhood on her own. Not worrying about money was probably a relief for her.

Jack opened the door and hugged Markís leg the second he saw the pink box. "My bedroom is the first door upstairs. Hide Ďem under my bed, Ďkay?"

"No way." Mark eased past him and shut the door. Jack stayed attached to his leg as he looked around the living room. The floors were hardwood, light colored, and the walls were taupe. Everywhere he looked there were large paintings and his eyes widened. He never would have pegged Callie Torres for an art kind of girl.

"My mother decorated it," Callie told him, coming out of the kitchen. "She decided that Megadeth posters, incense, and my college banners would not make the best decor for impressing the social workers."

"It is impressive," he replied, but he was certainly not referencing the house. She was barefoot and had on a pair of jeans that looked painted on. The black tank top she wore was snug in all the right ways and his mouth watered a little when she reached forward and took the cookie box, thanking him.

Callie gasped when she felt how heavy it was. "Holy sh ... crap, Sloan. How many cookies did you bring?"

"A lot." He shrugged apologetically. "I didnít know what kind he liked."

"If it rots his teeth, heíll eat it without complaining." Callie looked down at Jack, who still had one arm around Markís leg and was pushing buttons on his phone with his free hand. "Did you wash your hands yet?"

"No."

"Can you go do it? Now?"

Jack nodded. "Hey, Mark, wanna see my room?"

Mark waited for Callie to nod before he followed his pint sized host up the stairs. The hallway was covered in photos of people who had to be Callieís relatives. He lingered for a while, gazing at a family photo that showed her at probably sixteen. Her hair was chestnut brown instead of jet black and she was so scrawny that she looked sickly.

"Come on!" Jack cried, impatiently bouncing on the balls of his feet.

"Okay, okay," Mark told him, following him through a door that had yellow caution tape across it. The sheer size of the bedroom was amazing. It was larger than two of the rooms at the Archfield and each wall was painted a different primary color.

Callie had not been kidding about the bed. It was shaped like a race car and held a twin sized mattress that Jack jumped on and bounced up and down, ripping the cover off as he leaped. Mark simply shook his head and turned his attention to the rock climbing wall, which took up one entire side of the room. There were rope swings attached with large metal rings and he grabbed one, checking how sturdy it was.

"You can swing if you wanna," Jack told him. "I donít mind sharing."

"Maybe some other time." Mark pointed at the corner of the room where a sheet had been tacked to the wall and the floor, making a one sided tent. "Whatís that?"

"Thatís where my special things go." Jack moved between Mark and the sheet when he stepped toward it. "You have to say the magic word to go in there."

"Oh? Whatís the magic word?"

"Fun."

"Okay. Fun." Mark got onto his knees and crawled under the canopy, stretching out on his stomach in front of a small camouflage box. "Is that your special stuff?"

"Yep." Jack sat Indian style, opening the lid. "My grandpa gave me the box. He said boys have to have secrets."

Mark accepted the four leaf clover that was sealed in a zip lock bag. Jack tapped it and said, "We found that in Papiís yard when Mom took me on the big plane. And this is the plane she bought me in Malami."

Not having the heart to tell him it was *Miami*, Mark simply nodded. "Did you like Florida?"

"It was too hot." Jack reached into the box again. For five minutes he showed Mark everything from a broken jump rope to an empty bottle of shampoo (Callieís). He finally pulled out another zip lock bag. "And this is your napkin that you wrote my name on. Iíve been practicing a lot."

Mark didnít know why seeing the neatly folded napkin made his heart swell so much, but it did. Jack was just like Callie in a lot of ways.

He had gotten under Markís skin without even trying.

After dinner, Callie parked Jack in front of the television with a learning game and headed back into the kitchen to clean up. Mark was standing at the sink, scraping out their leftovers. "Iíve got this," she told him, finishing off her one and only glass of wine.

"I donít mind." Mark smiled at her. "Itís been so long since I had home cooking or a kitchen to clean that Iím enjoying the hell out of it."

"Are you ever going to move out of the Archfield?" she queried, lifting a cookie from the box.

"Why bother?" he asked, rinsing out the sauce pan before he put it in the dishwasher. "Thanks for having me tonight, by the way."

Callie hopped up on the counter. "Adult conversation. I had forgotten what it felt like."

He chuckled and reached past her to grab the baking sheet. Her scent, that same cottony clean smell from the locker room, invaded his senses and he met her eyes, still leaning over her lap. "Your skin. I have *not* forgotten what it felt like." He reached up, brushing a cookie crumb from her mouth. "Or what it tasted like."

Callie licked her lips. Jack would be in bed soon and ... no ... no, she couldnít let that happen. Her fatherís warning flashed through her head. She closed her eyes and exhaled. "I canít."

He didnít back away. "Why not?"

"Mom!" Jack cried suddenly. "The damn television wonít work!"

"Thatís why."

"So, youíre going to be celibate until heís eighteen?" Mark watched as she slipped from the counter and walked from the kitchen. He finished up and joined them in time to fix the television, which Jack had somehow autoprogrammed with the remote control so that most of the channels had been deleted.

Callie didnít look at him or talk to him very much after that. He showed Jack how to make it to the next level of Mario Brothers and then said that he should go. Jack held his arms up and Mark leaned down to receive another wet kiss. "Seeya, Jacko."

"Are you coming to our next Ďsgetti night? Itís Thursday. Itís always Thursday." Jack looked at him, then at his mom. "He can, right? You said I can have friends over this summer and heís more fun than Tuck."

"I - I donít -"

"Iíd love to." Mark shot her a playful look and when Jack started to cheer ... he knew that he had at least *one* person on his side.
~*~*~*~*~
Four weeks and four Thursday night Spaghetti dinners later, Callie and Mark stood side by side at the glass window of the Seattle Grace nursery watching Jack play with Tuck. He was gentle with the smaller boy and obviously protective because when a rowdy little girl knocked Bailey's son off his feet, Jack told her off with much animation and finger pointing. Mark grinned, nudging Callie on the side. "Now I *know* that he's your son through and through. You did that to me the other night when I gave him a video game."

"You gave him a video that's rated 'T', Mark!" she replied. "But I've been enjoying the hell out of it so thanks."

"You are horrible." Mark studied her profile, fighting the urge to reach up and brush a strand of hair off her cheek. She had certainly been nice to him during their dinners, but she made no further mention of their past indiscretions. As a matter of fact, she had not flirted with him at all. He didn't get it. She treated him like a co-worker whether they were at work or not and that bothered him more than he liked.

Callie's peripheral vision was in working order. She knew that Mark was watching her again. He had been doing it a lot the past few weeks. Every Thursday he showed up with a carb filled treat of some kind and a movie (all G rated which was destroying her brain cells)and ate pasta. He sat as far away from her as possible and talked more to Jack than her and usually left the minute the credits rolled on the DVD. He never made any excuses ... he simply said good night. She had stopped trying to make sense of it. "Jack's birthday is coming up," she said.

"I know. Am I getting an invitation after the whole video game thing?"

She smiled, meeting his eyes. "Absolutely. He would kill me if you weren't there."

Jack ran up to the window, smiling at the two of them. He put his palms against it and Callie covered one of them with her own. Jack looked at Mark, wiggling the fingers of his other hand. Mark laid his against the glass and chuckled. Jack moved his hands a little higher and Callie and Mark followed with their own. It was a game for about ten seconds and then Jack moved his hands together and Markís and Callie's collided. They both pulled away as if they had been burned.

Mark crossed his arms. "Uh, so I'll be there at six thirty tonight. I'll bring cookies again even though -"

"You shouldn't come." Callie's heart hit the bottom of her stomach as she said it. Jack was watching Sloan with a look of complete adoration and she knew that heartbreak was in her sonís future. She needed to stop it now, before he got too attached to Mark.

"Wait, it is Thursday, right?" He pulled out his BlackBerry and nodded. "How about donuts for desert?"

"Mark, no." She shook her head. "When the novelty of this wears off for you ... you're going to find a better way to spend your Thursdays. A way that doesn't involve spaghetti sauce on your shirt or getting drenched after a kid ropes you into giving him a bath. You're going to get tired of -"

"Well shit, Callie. I'm really glad that you've become an all seeing Oracle. Maybe you should take the crystal ball out of your ass before you try to read it because you don't know what you're talking about."

Red, hot fury rose inside her. "I have a child! An actual living, breathing, human being who depends on me. He already has attachment issues and it will devastate him when you get tired of playing house *one* night a week."

"You having a kid is obviously a bigger stumbling block for you than it is me! Youíre the one who is living like a god damn nun and -"

Callie turned on her heel and stalked off. Mark watched her go, swallowing back the apology that almost ripped from his throat against his will. When he looked back into the nursery, Jack was peering up at him and there were tears on his cheek. Mark swore under his breath and pointed at the door, which required a code. Mark put it in and smiled at one of the instructors as he kneeled down to talk to Jack. "What's wrong, buddy?"

"Why are you fighting?" Jack rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes.

"Weíre not." Mark gave him a hug and smiled at him. "It just looked like it. We were talking, that's all."

"Is she gonna cry before we eat now?"

"What do you mean?"

"I think 'sgetti makes her tummy ache 'cause I can hear her crying after I'm in bed."

Mark felt a fluttering in his chest. "She only does that after spaghetti?"

"Uh huh." Jack sniffled. "Every damn time she eats it."

"We really need to work on your vocabulary, Slick."

"Sorry. Every freakin' time she eats it," Jack amended.

"Still bad."

"Shit."

Mark goosed the little boy in the ribs, causing him to giggle. "Behave yourself. You don't want your mom to get angry notes about you using bad words in front of the other kids."

"Little pitchers have big ears." Jack looked conspiratorial. "That's what Mom told the furniture guy when he said she was pretty and asked her to the movies."

The smile on Mark's face was gone in an instant. "What did she say?"

"She said little pitchers have big ears and pointed at me."

"Is she going?"

"Where?"

"To the movies."

"Oh." Jack shrugged his shoulders. "She told me that guys are Ďsposed to bring flowers before they call someone pretty. He didn't have no flowers." Jack put his hands on Mark's shoulders. "I think she was pissed off. She threw things when he left."

"Pissed is also something you need to stop saying."

"If I stop saying everything that's bad then what's left?"

"I think your mother should have your I.Q. tested. Youíre too smart for your own good."

"What's that?"

"Nevermind." Mark hugged him again. It was a daily thing for him to stop by and bring animal crackers just to get a hug. Especially when the day was going to hell in a hand basket. "You go play with Tuck, okay?"

"'Kay."

*~*~*~*~*~

"But where is he?" Jack had pulled his chair against the window and was peering outside, his knees in the seat. "It's almost time."

"I told you, kiddo, Mark's busy."

"Can I call him?"

"No." Callie shut the blinds and picked him up, kissing his neck as she set him on his feet. "Please go wash your hands."

"You made him mad!" Jack accused, stomping his foot. "I know you did!"

"Grown ups sometimes make each other mad."

"When I make you mad you make me say sorry!" Jack darted out of the way when she tried to pick him up. "I'm not eating your stupid shit dinner!"

"Hey!" Callie caught his arm. "What did I tell you about that word?"

"Shit shit shit!" Jack chanted, yanking his arm lose. He ran across the kitchen and picked up the box of garlic bread, throwing it at her. "Shit shit shit shit!"

Callie was stunned. In the months that she'd had Jack, he had never come close to a full blown tantrum, unless you counted his refusal to warm up to Gertie and the dead spiders he had left in her denture bowl ... which prompted her to quit. She gasped when he opened the door under the sink and intentionally slammed it on his hand. "JACK!"

"Shit." He sat down in the floor and cradled his hand. "That hurt."

Bending down, she picked him up and sat him on the counter top. He burst into tears and she was torn by whether to comfort him or examine him. His wails were earsplitting and it scared her half to death. Most people who cried that way had open fractures. There was no blood, however, and she gently cradled his arm, pressing against several bones in his hand. It was red, already swelling, and he jerked away when she pressed the worst of it. "Let me see it, baby," she pleaded.

"I'M NOT A BABY!" he squealed. "LEMME ALONE!"

"Jack-"

"I hate you!" He jumped off the counter and raced past her.

A second later Callie heard his bedroom door slam.

It would have hurt less if he had slapped her in the face, she decided as she retrieved the garlic bread that he had thrown across the room. She opened the box and put the slices on a pan and by the time she finished, she was crying almost as hard as he had been. The doorbell rang as she slid it into the oven and set the timer. Grabbing a paper towel, she wet it and wiped her face before she headed through the living room.

"I know you said for me not to-" Mark began as soon as she opened the door, but he trailed off when he saw how upset she was. Wordlessly, he stepped past her and took her hand, still hiding the bouquet of flowers behind his back. "What happened?"

"Can you watch dinner?"

"Yeah, sure."

"The bread's in the oven and the pasta is probably very over cooked and ... I don't care."

"Callie, what -"

She held up her hand and vanished up the stairs. He went into the kitchen and put the flowers on the table. He drained the noodles, leaving them in the colander in the sink. The bread still had several minutes to go so he headed toward the stairs himself. Jack was sitting on the top of the landing, his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. "What happened?" Mark questioned, noticing how puffy the little boy's eyes were.

"She's giving me back." Jack puckered up and started to cry.

"What are you talking about?" Mark sat down two steps below him so that they were eye level.

"She's gonna make me go back to that place because I can't stop saying bad words," he cried. In a much lower voice, he added. "And I told her that I hate her, but it was a lie so I lied on top of saying bad words. Plus I hurted myself."

"What? Where?"

Jack held his hand out. Mark took it in his own and felt it until he was convinced that nothing was broken. Callie had told him about Jackís penchant for self injury and he had hoped that it was behind him, but it apparently wasnít. "Letís go get you an ice pack."

Mark glanced behind Jack at Callieís closed bedroom door as he lifted the little boy in his arms. "She would never give you back, buddy. Sheís your mom and momís donít do that."

"Yes, they do. Iíve had a bunch of moms."

"Oh yeah?"

Jack nodded as Mark sat him on the island in the middle of the floor. "They call them frosted homes."

"You mean foster homes," Mark corrected. "And I lived in foster homes too when I was your age."

Jack stared at Mark as if he had just told him that Santa Claus was in the front yard. "You did?" he whispered.

"I did. I finally got adopted, but my mom isnít as good as yours. She ... she wasnít much fun. She never woke me up with silly string or let me have a car bed. She didnít get a rock climbing wall or make me spaghetti and it didnít matter to her that I didnít like my nanny." As Mark spoke, he filled a zip lock bag with ice and wrapped a dish towel around it. "I brought you that dinosaur movie to watch. Why donít I start it for you? I need to go talk to Callie for a minute."

"Donít let her give me back."

"Donít even think like that. Itís not happening."

He took the bread out of the oven and wrung his hands as he headed up the stairs.

*~

Mark knocked on her bedroom door and waited a few seconds. He knocked a little louder when she didnít answer and then he pushed the door open, uninvited. She was sitting on the bed, her back to the door. "Callie?"

"Iíll be down in a minute."

"You know he didnít mean it."

"I know."

"Heís terrified that youíre going to give him back. Come downstairs and -"

"I suck at this."

Mark walked around the bed and sat beside her. "You do *not* suck."

"Did you check his hand?"


"Itís fine. Heís got an ice pack and heís watching a movie." Mark did something he had been tempted to do all day. He reached out and pushed her hair back, letting his fingers slide almost to the end of her raven locks. It was soft and silky and he swallowed hard. Never one to pay attention to hair color when it came to the opposite sex, he made the decision in that moment that black hair was the sexiest color a woman could have ... no, he amended, just one woman. "You know I was adopted, right?"

She turned her head, her eyes wide. "No!"

"When I was seven. This wealthy family decided they needed the midlife crisis baby and then realized that a baby would be a pain in the ass. So, they got me instead." He had mussed her hair so he smoothed it back down. As an afterthought, he tilted her chin so that she couldnít look away. "Coming here and spending time with him is not a novelty for me. This is the highlight of my week and I can understand why youíre leery and why youíd want me to stay away, but -"

"You donít have to stay away. Heís crazy about you and so am -" Callie trailed off, pulling away from him. What she had almost said hung thick in the air around them and she started to stand. When he caught her hand, she sighed. "Mark-"

"So am I," he replied softly. "And Iím not going anywhere. Iíll wait."

She didnít know why she felt like an awkward teenager all over again. She was tempted to run, to hug him, to kiss him, to hit him. "Why?" she finally breathed. "Why me?"

"How can it not be you?"

She had to laugh as she ran her free hand over her face. "You know, thereís something behind that whole MILF thing because when you guys see that I have a kid ... you try to -"

"Thatís not a novelty for me either."

"Mom?"

Callie turned and saw Jack behind them carrying a bouquet of flowers. He laid them on the bed as he pulled himself up on it and then he picked them up again as she crawled toward her on his knees. "I wonít say shit no more," he told her in a barely audible voice as he stopped right behind her. He held up the flowers and smiled tentatively. "Iím sorry. And - and youíre pretty. And I love you."

As Mark watched her pull Jack into her arms ... he wondered if she understood that her son had just taken the words right of his mouth.

And his flowers, too.

~*~*~*~
CH 2
Mark was sitting in his usual spot when Callie came into the locker room the following morning. Lost in thought, he didnít notice her at first and then he caught her familiar scent and sat up a little straighter. Instead of going to her locker, Callie sat down beside him and crossed her arms over her chest. He grinned and turned a little in his seat so he could look at her before he spoke. "How did it go with the kid after I left? He didnít eat much, but then neither did you. I confess, my pasta needs work."

"What did you mean?" she asked softly.

"What did I mean?"

"Waiting."

"Hmm?" His brow furrowed. "Care to be more specific?"

Callieís nostrils flared. "You already forgot that you said it!? You - ass!"

"OH!" Mark grabbed her arm as she shot to her feet. He pulled her back down beside him and held onto her. "Waiting! I said Iíll wait! Right! And I meant it!"

She looked like he had just told her that the world was flat and the sky was pink. "Overnight. It completely slipped your mind *overnight*."

"No, baby! It did not sl-"

"I am not your baby!" Callie shoved his arm off and grabbed her bag. "Iím going to change with the interns. I donít know how Iíll keep up since Iím not a toddler yet like they are!"

"That was an endearment, Torres!"

"Not coming from you! Ass!"

Mark had been yelled at for many things in his life.

But never for something as stupid as that.

*~

Forty minutes later, a very angry Callie was summoned to the OR to begin her part of a complex surgery on a trauma patient. Mark was standing at the sink scrubbing in and he glanced at her, but didnít speak. She moved beside him and said, "Why are you here?"

"Because Iím needed."

"Great!" She soaped her hands, scrubbing hard enough to remove all three layers of skin. "Donít talk to me."

"Youíre talking to me!" He turned the water off and backed through the door. "And I donít want you to!"

"Good. Because Iím done."

"Good. Me too."

"Stop talking!"

"I am."

"Shut up, Mark."

"Okay. *Baby*. Get the last word ... such as it is."

Callie snarled behind her mask and followed behind him. Chief Webber had already opened the patient and Callie moved across from Mark to begin working on the broken leg that required pins. The Chief greeted her warmly and inquired about Jack. Callieís response was clipped and her boss raised his brows. "Everything okay, Dr. Torres?"

"You should have stricter rules about who you hire, Chief."

Webber glanced up at the assembled staff in the gallery before he spoke. "If you have a complaint then we should talk about it privately."

"No," Mark snapped. He was working on the patientís face and even though she was at the other end of the table, his anger was surging through him as if they were toe to toe. "That would require maturity on her part and sheís like a scared *baby* who runs from something that could be really, really great."

"Have scalpel. Will kill." Callie held it up to prove her point.

"Have bigger scalpel." He held up his own. "New York City Dart Champion three years running."

"You must be so proud," Callie mocked. "You should be even prouder of the fact that you have a lifelong star in the Male Asshole Hall of Fame!"

"Itís only slightly shinier than yours over at the Chicken Shit Hall of Fame!"

"Thatís enough! Iím officially calling this a no speak zone!" Webber looked back and forth between them. "Zip it! Get your jobs done!"

They worked in silence for ten minutes. Several of the interns who had lined up against the back wall to observe were whispering, no doubt spinning the exchange in much juicier ways. When Mark rolled his neck to break some of the tension, he spotted George OíMalley in the gallery. He met the other manís eyes and the bastard actually *smirked* at him. Actually *smirked*. Mark was tempted to use him as a pin cushion for anything sharp in the vicinity.

"Thatís it!" he yelled.

Webber jumped and almost punctured the liver he was working on. "Sloan!"

Mark slammed his scalpel down on the tray, causing one of the nurses (who he had slept with once upon a time) to jump out of the way. He glared at her, then at the nurses who had assembled in the gallery. "Youíre all pissed at me, ladies, because I donít come around you any more. Youíre all mad that I donít return your calls and I donít sit with you at lunch and I clearly donít give a shit. What I give a shit about is that the person I do want to call and I do want to sit with ... doesnít want me to. Sheís making me pay for another manís mistakes and I alternate between wanting to strangle her and kiss her until she canít breathe. So, either way I win!"

"Mark-" Webber began, glaring at him over his mask.

Mark carried on, undaunted. "Iíve been done in by a woman who has everything I never knew I wanted and sheís DRIVING ME INSANE! Sheís KILLING ME! And she -"

"Sloan, get the hell out of my OR! NOW!" Webber shouted. "Right now! Olivia, page Dr. Keegan to take over for him."

Mark walked to the end of the bed and stopped in front of Callie. "I once told you to talk to someone instead of ruining your career. I guess now I see that when the heart is involved ... a person canít think at all. And my heartís involved, *baby*. So keep that in mind."

*~

After she finished the surgery, Callie went in search of Mark. People were talking about her. She knew that because every room she stuck her head in fell silent the second she appeared. How she managed to not have a stroke was beyond her. She had actually taken her own blood pressure just to make sure her heart was beating at all. She should have been mortified. She should have been pissed and terrified and *angry*.

But she wanted to hug him.

Mark was in the on call room, lying on his back, glaring at the bottom of the bunk over his head. She checked to make sure that bunk was empty before she sat down beside him, her back to him. "Iím sorry," she said. "Iím really sorry."

"For which part? You have so many things to pick from."

"I want to be ready. I need to be ready, but - but Iím not yet. Iím just - not. Jack helped me heal after losing my baby. He canít replace it, but he made it better." She turned her head slightly, looking at him over her shoulder. "George is the first man I ever loved and I did love him. I loved him more than I ever thought was possible and he destroyed me. Jack canít fix that. And neither can you. I have to fix it. I have to heal. So, I want you to call me and sit with me. I want you to show up every Thursday with something to make give my kid cavities ... and I want you to wait. Because I think I could be worth it if you did."

"Callie-"

"I was going to sleep with you a long time ago ... but then ... my heart got involved too and I -"

He sat up behind her and put his hand on her back. She turned and hugged him. "I donít have a right to ask," she said, "but will you please not give up on me yet?"

"Iím not giving up at all. I canít." He pulled back and kissed her forehead. He wanted to kiss her mouth ... no, every inch of her, but the small contact was enough for the moment. "So, weíre having lunch today, right?"

"Yeah. So the nurses can kill me. Dead. You might as well put a target on my forehead."

"Iíve got your back. Youíre safe."

She put her hand on his cheek. "Youíve got more than my back. Keep that in mind."

"Our hearts are involved, but not our bodies. Thatís a first for me." Mark laughed. "And Iím not complaining."

"You complained really loud in the OR, Mark."

"Yeah, my ass will be chewed up and spit out by the Chief."

"Hmm, maybe heíll let me watch if I pay him."

"Youíre evil." His pager went off and he groaned when he lifted it. "Speak of the devil. Webber. See you later."

"I hope youíre in one piece."

"Ha ha."

*~*~*~

At noon, Callie picked Jack up at the nursery and took him to the cafeteria with her. One of the aides had told her that he was withdrawn and sullen, refusing to play with Tuck or any of the other kids. He was on his best behavior in the lunch line though and the fact that he had one arm around Callieís leg the entire time they were choosing their food amused her to no end. When they sat down together, he moved his chair so close to hers that she had no elbow room, but she didnít mind in the least. "Jack?"

He laid his sandwich back down on his plate. Folding his hands in his lap, he said, "Are you taking me back to the group home today?"

"Sweetie, I told you last night that Iím not doing that."

"Things change."

"Do you remember the day that we talked to Judge McCormick and he said that you and I were a family?"

Jack nodded. He looked like he was going to cry so Callie lifted him into her lap and hugged him. "Family is forever. That means that you are going to live with me forever ... or at least until you go off to college and get married. Iím always going to be your mom and Iím always going to love you ... no matter what you say or do."

"Really?"

"Really."

Jack put his hand on her cheek. "I hate school. And girls are grody. I ainít going nowhere."

"I refuse to let you be that geeky guy who lives in his motherís basement." She wrinkled her nose. "Now give me a kiss and stop acting like such an angel."

"Mami said Iím an angel."

"Thatís because you snake charmed your grandma every time she came in the room." Callie put him back in his seat and opened his chocolate milk. "Sheíll be here for your birthday party, kiddo, and so will Papi."

"Yay!" Jack exclaimed, clapping his hands. "Will they swim with me?"

Callie nodded, grinning. "Your grandpa is so much fun in the pool. He used to throw me so high in the air I thought I could fly."

Jack ate most of his lunch, babbling about his party and his fervent hope that there would be a dog, a rifle, a race car, and a space ship for him as gifts. Callie enjoyed her salad and tried in vain to get Jack to try it, but he went so far as to hide under the table when she held out a bite for him. She would have to accept that fruit was as cooperative as he would go with healthy food and continue to hide vegetables in their dinners at home.

Mark set his tray on the table and peered under it. "Are we playing hide and seek?"

"Youíre it!" Jack called. "Sheís trying to make me kill myself."

"What are you doing to him, Cal?" Mark sat down and a second later Jack appeared beside him and crawled into his lap.

"She wants me to eat *that*!" Jack pointed at Callieís plate. "Iíd rather eat a diaper. One thatís been *used*."

"Nice visual for the lunch table, kiddo. Now come back over here and leave Mark alone."

"Heís fine." Mark picked up an ear of corn and took a bite. "Mmm."

"Yuck."

Mark winked at Callie, who blushed and looked away. "Jack, I will give you five dollars right now if you eat this corn."

"I only eat corn for twenty."

Mark pulled his wallet out and laid a twenty on the table. "For this much cash ... you have to try your momís salad *and* eat the corn."

"All of the corn!?" Jack yelped. "Itís poison! It grows on the ground and *ants* walk on it. Ants have germs!"

"Then Iíll keep my money."

"No, no! Iíll eat it! Give it here!"

Stunned completely speechless, Callie watched her son devour the ear of corn and reach for her plate. He finished off what remained of her salad and picked up the money, folding it carefully before he belched. "That was disgusting!" he pronounced. "I bet I ate bugs."

"Nicely done, Sloan." Callie gave him a thumbs up.

"I try," he replied, giving her the patented McSteamy smile.

Callie gritted her teeth when her pager went off. Sometimes being a doctor was a terrible career choice. It stopped you from doing what you really wanted and she wanted nothing more than to watch Mark Sloan finesse her son a little longer. She pulled her beeper from her clip and frowned, then looked at Mark. "Would you mind taking him back to the nursery?"

"Not at all."

"Thank you."

Jack accepted a kiss from his mother and watched her walk away. "My momís real pretty, huh?"

"Yeah, sheís real pretty. And you took my flowers last night so I couldnít tell her."

"You like her, huh?"

"I like her."

"If you wanted to kiss her goodbye ... you should have."

"What?"

"Just now."

"Jack-"

"You looked like you wanted to. When I watched those soap sud shows with Gertie, people would look at other peopleís mouths when they wanted to get kissed and you sure have been looking at her mouth a lot."

Mark pulled out his wallet and said, "Why donít you go buy yourself some cake or something."

"Anything I want?"

"Anything."

*~

Callie was finishing up a consult when her pager went off again. She groaned and glanced at Bailey, who was smiling at her knowingly. "What?" she snapped.

Miranda looked left and right before she spoke. "Now, I wasnít there to see it, but I figure since our kids have weekly play dates while we have coffee then Iím allowed to ask. Did Mark Sloan basically tell the nurses that he wasnít seeing them because heís seeing *you*?"

"He basically told *everyone* that he *wants* to see me ... which weíre not actively doing, by the way. Iím not ready."

"Did he or did he not say that his *heart* was involved?"

"He did."

"Youíre a damn fool, Torres."

"Itís called being *cautious*. Foolish would be to rush into something and -"

"Mark Sloan. Mark *Sloan* just figured out that he has a heart and he wants to give it to *you* and youíre not ready because ..."

"Because heís Mark *Sloan*. And maybe itís not his heart. Maybe itís gas."

Bailey slapped her on the arm. "I hear a lot of things. The reason he said something to those nurses is because heís been brushing them off since right after your miscarriage and theyíre trying to break his defenses with strategic attacks. Mark *Sloan* has gone soft ... in all ways. Even down there."

Callie threw her head back and laughed. "Shut up! Seriously?"

"Seriously." Miranda wasnít laughing at all. "Callie?"

"Yeah?" Callie sobered when she saw Baileyís face. "Oh god, what?"

"Time matters. It does. When youíre hurt ... it takes time for the wound to heal. When youíre lost ... it can feel like hours before you find your way. And time if fleeting, too. Donít waste too much time waiting to be ready." Bailey took her hand. "Because Iíve scrubbed into surgery with Sloan several times the past few weeks and all he talks about is Jack. And you. Time isnít always the best thing in the world."

"CALLIE!" Meredith called, rushing breathless from the stairwell. "Jack. ER. Sick."

Callie sprinted past her and took the stairs two at a time.

Mark caught her around the waist when she stumbled into the pit a few minutes later. She was in the same shape that Meredith had been, completely breathless. "What happened?" she wheezed.

"Itís my fault." He held onto her, looking terrified. "I gave him ten bucks and told him to go buy whatever he wanted for dessert and he ... he spent *all* of it on junk that he scarfed down while I wasnít looking and -"

"WHAT!?"

"I took my eyes off him for five minutes! I swear it was only five minutes and then I heard him throwing up and ... heís okay. Heís fine. Heís got it all out and ... god, Iím sorry." He put his hand over his face. "I was right all along. I would have made a horrible father."

"Thereís a lot of evidence to suggest otherwise, Mark." She grinned at him. "Where is he?"

Mark led her to Jackís room.

And he smiled like an idiot as her words replayed in his head on loop the rest of the day.

*~*~*~*~

The four weeks that led up to Jackís birthday found Mark appearing not only for spaghetti night, but for Mondayís meatloaf, Tuesdayís tacos and Fridayís feeding frenzy. Anything went on Fridays, but Jackís gluttony scare had calmed his desire to indulge so he was content with anything ... even vegetables. He tried everything that Mark asked him to try except sprouts, which he spotted on the table on the Friday before his big birthday party and had a full blown tantrum over it.

"Get them away!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. "Get it off the damn table!"

Mark, who had never witnessed Jackís wraith before, stood with his mouth hanging open as the little boy picked up the bowl and threw it across the room. Callie pulled him from the chair and told him to pick it up and Jack spun, hitting her in the stomach with his fists. Mark reacted before Callie could. He grabbed both of Jackís wrists and shook him one good time. "Stop it!"

Jack stopped yelling and became still immediately. Mark leaned down at eye level and said, "You donít hit girls! Ever! Apologize!"

"I-Iím s-sorry."

Jackís chin trembled and he tried to lean into Mark, but Mark held him firm. "Go pick up the bowl and put the vegetables back in it like your mother asked."

Callie watched as her son slumped his shoulders, dragging his feet as he retrieved the bowl and all the sprouts that had fallen from it. Mark stood and wet several paper towels and when Jack brought him the bowl, he handed them to the child and said, "Now clean it up."

Jack returned to the corner where he had tossed the bowl and got on his hands and knees to wipe up the juice. Mark turned and looked at Callie. "Are you okay?"

"Iím fine. And ... impressed."

"I donít mean to overstep my bounds, but he hit you and - has he ever done that before?"

"Once," she replied. "Right in the face."

"How did you punish him?"

"Time out."

"Why donít you make him stand in the corner tonight?"

"Why donít you make him?"

"I have no problem with that." Mark walked across the room and checked to make sure the floor was spotless. He squatted down so that he was face to face with Jack. "What you just did was wrong. You canít throw things or hit people. Especially not your mom because that hurts her and it makes *me* very angry. You -"

"I said Iím sorry!" Jack yelled. "So you shut up!"

Mark turned him around and nudged him into the corner. "You stand right there and think about how sorry you are and then when youíre very, very sorry ... you can tell us again."

"I will not!"

"Then youíll be here for a while." Mark left him alone and walked back into the kitchen. He pulled out a chair for Callie and nodded at it. "Letís have dinner."

"Mark-"

"Sit down."

"But he -"

Mark moved around the chair and hugged her. Against her ear, he whispered, "If he thinks that weíre having fun without him ... heíll make the connection that tantrums make him feel left out. Heís a smart kid."

It only took four minutes of hearing the two adults laugh to break Jack. He cleared his throat and called, "Mark!"

"Yes, Jack?"

"Iím very, very sorry now."

"Are you ready to eat dinner?"

"Yes, sir."

Callie and Mark looked at one another and fought hard not to laugh. Jack had never been so formal with *anyone*. They took a moment to collect themselves before Mark told him he could leave the corner and join them. The little boy walked in with his hands in the pockets of his jeans. He walked to Callie first and hugged her, giving her a kiss before he turned to Mark and did the same. Mark put his plate in front of him and turned back to Callie, opening his mouth to speak.

Jack took a deep breath as he picked up his fork. "Iím still not never gonna eat those da ... uhm, stupid things. And I am *not* sorry for that."

After Jack was in bed ... Callie and Mark laughed until their sides ached.

*~*~*~

Callieís parents arrived the following morning before eight. They used their own key to enter and quietly crept toward the stairs, intent on sleeping for as long as they could in one of the guest rooms. Jack, who was trying to find something to put in the corner he had stood in the night before so that *he* could not be put there again, saw them and shrieked, "Mami! Papi!"

Alejandro leaned down to catch his grandson as the little boy raced toward him. He threw him in the air and caught him, causing Jack to scream with laughter, then he hugged him. "Happy birthday, Jack Attack!"

Jack kissed him, then reached for Marguerite, who happily took him from her husband and rubbed his back. "Where is your mother?"

"Sheís out back with the men."

"The what?" Al asked, stiffening.

"She got bouncy things for me." Jack pointed toward the back door. "They gotta be blowed up."

"I see." Al crossed the room and peering out the window. His daughter was holding court, talking to a group of workmen who were all dressed in matching shirts. He opened the door in time to hear her laughter and he narrowed his eyes, calling her name.

She entered a moment later and gave him a hug. "Hi, Dad."

"Why was Jack unattended in the house?"

"I didnít know he was awake yet." Callie shrugged and crossed the room, kissing her mother on the cheek and lifting Jack into her arms. "Whatís it gonna be, kiddo? You want chocolate cereal or the one with marshmallows?"

"Chocolate! And chocolate milk, too!"

"You got it." Callie walked into the kitchen, oblivious to the look that her parents exchanged.

A moment later, Jack carried his bowl into the living room and parked himself in front of the television on the floor to watch Saturday cartoons. Margie put a hand over her heart and marched into the kitchen. "Calliope!"

Callie jumped, splashing hot coffee on her hand. "Jesus! What?"

"Sugar for breakfast? And he doesnít even eat it at the table?"

"Itís his *birthday*."

"This is unacceptable," Al said, joining his wife at the island. "He was alone in the house. Anything could have happened while you were flirting with -"

"Here we go," Callie mumbled under her breath. "Always the same. I canít do a *thing* right. Ever."

"Youíve had him for months! You should have the hang of it by now," Margie scolded, her voice echoing loudly through the house. "Children need rules! And a better meal than what heís having right now, Calliope! I taught you better! I never forced you to eat boxed cereal!"

"I like my cereal." Jack had appeared in the doorway and he walked across the room and lifted his arms, waiting for Callie to pick him up. When she did, he looked back and forth between his grandparents. "Donít you yell at my damn mom."

"Iím *her* mother so Iím allowed," Margie said, then she processed his words. "Did he just say -"

"Moms donít yell," Jack said. "Mine donít. Never."

Callie shifted him on her hip and said, "Tell them what you usually have for breakfast."

"Fruit and *oatmeal*. She makes me eat oatmeal even though it looks like someone already freakin' did."

Margie and Al declared that they were going to take a nap a few moments and a few more of Jack's swear words later and Callie smiled at her son.

He actually *winked* at her.

Callie shook her head. Jack had been hanging around with Sloan *way* too much.

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison Forbes-Montgomery was not a childrenís party kind of woman. She just *wasnít*. On the off chance that she received an invitation from someone who didnít know any better, she would usually buy something online and have it sent to the address on the card. She never made apologies for not going and never RSVPíd, but Jack Torres was different. Callie had introduced her son to Addison via web cam and as soon as he flashed his dimples at the camera and called her hot, Addison was a goner. So, when the invitation arrived at the Oceanside Wellness Center, she had not only RSVPíd, she had picked up the phone and called Callie to thank her for the inclusion.

She knew that she was wrong about childrenís parties as she went down the huge air slide with Jack in her lap for the fiftieth time. When she landed at the bottom, it was Tuckís turn and he happily held up his arms. Breathless, Addison reached for him and gazed at the incline she didnít have any faith she could climb again. "This is worse than the elliptical," she told the grinning toddler.

"Want me to take over?" Mark asked her, appearing at her side.

Addison watched as he leaned down to tickle Jack. "We should be the square pegs at this party and weíre playing harder than the kids."

Tuck pulled Addisonís hair and pointed at the slide. "Go!"

"My Ďgoí is broken, Bailey Jr."

Mark reached out and took the squirming child from her arms, setting him on his feet. "Jack, why donít you take Tuck to get some cotton candy."

"Cotton candy!" Jack screamed, taking the smaller boyís hand in his and rushing toward the concession stand.

Addison smiled up at her ex. "Okay, who are you and what have you done with Mark Sloan?"

"Itís been a long time, Addy." He shrugged. "People change. Who knew that you could get a tan and start dressing like a hippy?"

With a frown, she gazed down at her bare feet and denim shorts. "I do not dress like a hippy."

"Your shirt says ĎGo Greení. Youíre a tree hugger, too, apparently."

"California is like a whole other planet." She leaned back against the slide and watched as several little girls gathered around Jack, each vying for his attention. "Heís a great kid."

Mark watched as the little boy shared his cotton candy with all of his admirers. He saw Mark watching him and waved, grinning from ear to ear. "He really is."

"The Steamer has been dried up by a *five* year old." Addison said knowingly.

On the other side of yard, near where a clown was making balloon animals, Callie laughed loudly. Addison leaned forward to look at her friend, who was talking to an incredibly handsome man. "Whoís the stud?"

The smile had faded off Markís face. He leaned down and caught Jack, who had also spotted the man and was heading that way. "Hey, little man, whoís that?"

"Thatís Ethan."

"Ethan?"

"He brought my bed from the furniture store."

Mark let him go and watched him rush toward Ethan and Callie. So *that* was the man who had asked Callie out. Ethan leaned down and caught him, then spun him in a circle. There was a tiger in Markís stomach that was trying to claw its way out. Without speaking to Addison at all, he stalked across the yard toward the Ďcoupleí.

Addison put a hand on her chest, stunned.

It wasnít Jack that taken the whore out of manwhore ... it was Callie.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Hey, Callie," Mark said, slipping an arm around her shoulders. "What are you doing?"

"Oh, hey. I was just looking for you." She smiled up at him. "Mark, this is Ethan. Ethan, Mark."

Mark begrudgingly shook his hand, mumbling a terse greeting. He listened for a few minutes as Ethan finished up a story that was probably supposed to be impressive and funny, and Callie *did* laugh, but Mark was visited with the urge to nudge the man into the pool. And drown him. He was as tall as Mark and was using every single move that Sloan had *invented*.

Callie knew that something was on Markís mind so as soon as Ethan wrapped up his delivery story from Hell, she excused herself and walked into the kitchen to see how the caterers were doing. He followed her and she directed a few questions to the wait staff before she thanked them and headed up the stairs. In her bedroom, she shut the door and said, "Whatís wrong?"

"Why did you invite that smarmy bastard?"

"George is here?" Callie gasped. "I didnít invi-"

"Ethan!" Mark growled.

"What!? He is not a smar-"

"He asked you out! Heís taking advantage of a single mother. He saw that you were just moving in and figured that you were lonely, beautiful, and *rich* so he made his move. That makes him a smarmy bastard and -"

Callie started to laugh. She laughed until she had to sit down on the bed and then she slapped her leg. "Are you serious!? Like ... youíre actually standing there pissed at me because ... because youíre *jealous* of a gay guy?!"

"A gay - what!?"

"Ethan and I go way back, Mark. He tore his rotator cuff a couple of years ago and weíve stayed in touch."

"But Jack said that he called you pretty and asked you to the movies."

"God! Little pitchers have big ears! And even bigger mouths!" Callie chuckled. "He did call me pretty, but thatís because I was saying that no guy would ever want to date someone with a kid and -"

"I think Iíve proven that theory wrong."

"Weíve never had a date. Which proves my point."

"Then maybe we should. I overheard Bailey saying that sheís taking Jack tonight for a sleep over with Tuck."

"Big pitchers have *huge* ears."

He smiled and held out his hand. When she put hers in his, he pulled her to her feet and said, "You are pretty, by the way."

"Youíre about to kiss me, arenít you?"

"Yep."

"Itís about damn time."

He took a step back instead of closer. "Did you or did you not tell me to *wait*?"

"Did I or did I not start inviting you over almost every day? Hello? That was a sign for you to make your move."

"You can make the first move, Callie! Iíve seen you do it!"

Callie closed the distance between them and put her hand on his cheek. "So, what are we gonna do tonight?"

"Thereís a carnival in town and - kissing you now."

The bedroom door flew open before their lips could meet and Callieís father stood framed in it, looking like a rabid dog. "Calliope Iphigenia Torres! What the hell are you doing?"

"Dad-"

"Your son is unsupervised. Again."

"He is not unsupervised! There are fifty people milling around in my back yard and -"

"YOU are his mother. YOU are the one who chose to adopt him so you need to get your ass downstairs and handle him instead of ... handling *this* guy in your bedroom."

"We were just talking."

"Yes, I saw." Al pointed toward the back yard. "Who are all these men? Jack knows them all by name and -"

"Am I only allowed to have female friends, Dad? Why donít you wrap me in a burqa and hire a chaperone!? Jack knows them all by name because he comes to work with me."

"Which is another mistake! You need to hire a decent nanny who can give him guidance and work on his manners and vocabulary instead of sticking him in a room full of other children who-"

Callieís eyes burned with tears and she shook her head. "Are you going to get off my back just *once* today? You have made it very clear that Iím a horrible mother several times now."

"Then change it!" Al shouted. "Before you lose him to your shortcomings. You donít raise your voice at him. You donít discipline him or correct him and you let him behave like a wild animal!"

"Whoa!" Mark, who had only spoken with Callieís father briefly, shook his head. "She is not a bad mother. You canít possibly come here and spend a few hours and think youíre qualified to say something like that to her. You donít see her with him. You donít know anything about it. And just because you obviously have no problem yelling at your kids doesnít make it the only approach. Or the right approach. So leave her the hell alone."

Al blinked and started to turn away, but he paused halfway and said, "Your mother and I will be leaving now, Calliope. Weíd like to stay for lunch, but Iíve had a gut full already."

"Oh my god." Mark realized, as Al stomped down the stairs, that he had just made a horrible, horrible impression on the man. "I am so sorry. Iíll go apologize and -"

"Donít you dare!" Callie caught his arm, awestruck by the fact that Mark had not only stood up for her ... he had stood up to her *father* and lived to tell about it. "Thank you."

"For pissing off your dad? For making him leave?"

"No. For being *that* guy."

"What guy?"

"The one that I kinda thought existed, but wasnít really sure anymore." She squeezed his hand. "I would love to go to the carnival with you tonight."

"Really?" He smiled and moved a little closer. "Where were we?"

"I was about to kiss you," she replied, licking her lips. "But I think Iíll wait."

"What!? NO!"

She smiled sadly. "Itís time for lunch."

"One kiss. Just one."

"Nope." Callie sighed. "But I promise youíll get a good night kiss."

"Okay, you know how I announced to *everyone* that I wanted to choke you or kiss you? Now I just want to choke you!"

"Youíll live. Itís just a few more hours." She walked through the door and into the hallway, glancing back at him as she headed for the stairs. "Are you looking at my ass?"

"Yes."

"Like the view?"

He nodded. "Very much."

"I might even let you kiss *that* later." She watched him come to a screeching halt and instinctively glanced down. His pants had tented in the front and she gave him a knowing grin. "Nice."

He turned on his heel and wordlessly walked into the bathroom at the end of the hallway.

Giggling into her palm, she headed into the basement to make sure that Jackís present still had plenty of food and water.

*~

Her parents had not only left in a huff, they had left without saying goodbye to Jack, who had to be reassured by Callie for five minutes that he had done nothing wrong. She made a mental note to have a tantrum of her own when she talked to her folks again and then she enjoyed plenty of food while she sat next to Addison and chatted about the red headís job in California. Ten minutes later, Mark came out of the house and took a seat on the opposite end of the long table, not looking in Callieís direction.

Addison innocently bit into her hot dog. "Loverís quarrel?"

Callie choked on hers. "WHAT!?"

"Look, I have to fly out of here in *four* hours. Donít make me have to dig this out of you."

"Youíre leaving already?"

"Tomorrow is Peteís motherís birthday and he invited me long before you adopted Jack. Plus ... Iím pretty crazy about him." Addison wiggled her eyebrows. "So, tell me. You and Mark?"

Callie took a bite of her pasta salad as she looked down the table at Mark. He had been watching her, but he quickly struck up a conversation with Ethan when she met his eyes. "He was the one who found me during the miscarriage and he stayed the entire night at the hospital with me. I felt like I was going to blow away in the tornado that was my life and he ... he held onto me. After that we started talking sometimes and then Jack happened and he found the lawyer and Jack eventually met him and insisted that he come to dinner and ... here we are. *Months* later and we havenít had sex or even *kissed*, but Iíve never felt so ... sated ... in my entire life."

"You havenít had sex with him? Why?" Addison looked appalled by that development. "Callie, heís Mark. If you donít do him heíll find someone who will and then youíll get your heart broken and -"

"Heís not having sex either."

Addisonís second hot dog fell into her lap and she scrambled to grab it before it hit the ground. "You believe that?"

"Yes."

"Are you insane?"

"He spends all of his free time at the hospital with me. Or in the nursery with Jack. I go by to peek inside and see them together every day. He has lunch with me, heís been having dinner with us almost every night, and then when he goes home he calls me to say good night ... and then he calls to tell me good morning." Callie looked down the table again and smiled at him, which he returned with fervor. "He says heís not and I believe him."

"Iím happy for you if he makes you happy, but be careful. I wasnít here to help you after George, but when I would talk to you, I could hear how hopeless and broken you were. Iíd cry for hours after we hung up and -"

"Never visited," Callie cut in. "Youíd cry for hours, but you didnít bother flying up to see if I was okay. You didnít even come when the baby died."

"Iíve apologized several times for that, Callie. I - I had just been told that I was probably never going to have a baby. I wasnít ready to come back here and see you like that knowing that you were so destroyed by losing something that I'd never have."

Callie reached over and took her hand. "Iím sorry. I donít mean to put you on the spot like that. I just - it was hard to have no one. I mean, I talk to Cristina Yang all the time and I guess sheís a friend, but itís not like what we had. I missed you more in those weeks than Iíve ever missed anyone."

"Letís make if official then."

"Iím not marrying you, Addison. Iím kinda interested in the male physique. One in particular."

"Well, Iím crushed." Addy grinned. "What I meant, lesbo, is that we should officially get together once a month. I can Jack proof my house so that you can head down to see me with him and I can fly up here, too."

"Whatís a lesbo?" Jack asked, standing behind Callie and Addison.

Callie looked at her friend. "Itís not your house that we need to Jack proof. Itís your mouth."

Addison shrugged innocently. The two friends sealed their plans for Callie to fly out on her next long weekend.

Jack opened his presents a while later. The child had truly been blessed with generous friends for his fifth birthday. His bounty included many remote controlled cars, video games, and to Callieís utter horror ... an air rifle from Cristina. If the look on Callieís face wasnít enough to convince Yang that she was the worldís biggest idiot, what happened next certainly did. Jack grabbed it and shot the slide, causing it to deflate with a sonic boom that startled the younger party goers so badly that the frightened wails were enough to make ears bleed three miles away.

When the mayhem cleared and Mark put the air rifle in the trunk of his car ... pending safety lessons that Yang agreed to pay for, Callie brought a German Shepherd puppy from the basement and handed it to her son. He promptly burst into tears, burying his face in the animalís fur as she tried to hug it and Callie at the same time. She gave him a kiss and asked him what he wanted to name the dog.

Jack dried his eyes, thought for a second, and said, "Sprout."

"Sprout?" Callie laughed at him. "Why?"

"Mark likes Ďem. And this will make me Ďmember not to throw Ďem no more."

"Happy Birthday, Jack."

"Thanks, Mom. Best birthday ever."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie had not been to a carnival since she was a child. Even though the fun was incredibly G-rated (anything else probably would have shocked her into a coma) and there were children rushing left and right, she felt like she was on a deserted island with Mark. One that came with rides. And stuffed animals. Proving that he was very, very good with his hands, Mark had won so many large stuffed animals that they had already made two trips to his car to unload their arms. When he saw a game that he had not yet tried, Callie grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the bumper cars instead.

They were arm in arm when they emerged and ran into Meredith and Derek. Grey looked uncomfortable and kept glancing behind her. Callie eventually realized that she was looking at George and Izzie, who were having a heated argument beside the Scrambler. Their voices carried over the swell of cheesy eighties rock music and Callie heard her name more than once. She rolled her eyes and Mark kissed her temple, telling the others that they were going in search of funnel cake and sno cones.

At the concession stand, Callie called Bailey for the third time to check on Jack. Miranda scolded her and reminded her that she was not a sixteen year old babysitter and told her not to call again. Callie laughed as she hung up. Mark, who was standing behind her, slipped his hands around her waist and leaned his cheek against hers over her shoulder. "I take it Jack's not in traction yet?"

"Heís not in traction. I think she'd tie him up in the closet first." She leaned back against him. It shocked her that she could feel so at ease in his arms ... without actually having been in his arms for over a year. She was about to say something to him when Izzie appeared beside her with her hands on hips.

"Itís not working," Stevens snapped, glaring from Callie to Mark. "You wonít make him jealous enough to leave me."

Callie snorted. "You get that Iíve moved on, right?"

"Everyone knows that you two are just ... pretending. Youíre no Addison, Callie."

Mark tightened his grip on Callieís waist when she tried to move toward the blond. "Youíre right, sheís not. I donít think you were ever threatened by Addison, Stevens."


"You think Iím threatened by *her*?" Izzie scoffed, pointing at Callie. "Please!"

Mark laughed, shaking his head. "Go away. Youíre embarrassing yourself."

George rushed up, grabbing Izzieís arm. "Oh, god. Sheís drunk and -"

"Stupid," Mark finished for him. "You must feel like a true dumbass, OíMalley. You traded the mansion for the shack and all you have to show for it is a public fight at the carnival and a girl who ..." He looked at Stevens, who leaned over and puked on a stroller that contained twins. "Is *that* charming."

Callie wrinkled her nose. "I donít want funnel cake now."

"Letís go, baby." Mark nuzzled her neck and gave George an identical smirk to the one that he had been given that day in the OR. "I can think of much better things to eat than funnel cake."

*~

"I donít get it," Callie said as they left the fairground and pulled onto the main road. "I divorced him. She won. What more does she want?"

"Donít think about them." Mark reached over and took her hand as he navigated through the traffic. "Think about the fact that I called you baby and you didnít kick my ass."

She leaned her head against the back of the seat and gazed at him. She had no doubt that she was giving him that look that always came with cheesy pop music in movies. "Weíve made such huge strides in our relationship, Mark."

"And you havenít even kissed me yet."

"I told you ... Iíll kiss you good night."

"You also mentioned your ass ... so donít forget that either."

"What were you planning on eating that was better than funnel cake?" she asked, fighting hard not to laugh when his jaw tightened. "I canít think of many things better than funnel cake."

His erection had reached critical mass and he kept his eyes on the road. He knew if he looked at her and saw that same sexy, smoldering look that he had seen in her bedroom at the Archfield, he would embarrass himself by getting off right then. In his pants. "Callie, if you ask me to spend the night ... Iíll show you what whatís better ... all night long."

She squirmed at his words, at the silky, husky way he delivered them. "Can I ask you something?"

"Yeah."

"What would happen tomorrow morning if you stayed all night?"

"I guess youíd kick me out before Jack came home so he wouldnít know."

"What if I didnít kick you out?"

"Then Iíd know there was a God."

Callie felt her eyes fill with tears. "Why me, Mark? If youíre serious and this isnít you talking your way into my pants ... why me? Iím no Addison. Iím nothing like -"

"Thatís why." He looked at her, then back at the road. "I donít want another Addison. You lost your baby because your body couldnít sustain it for whatever reason and I lost mine because Addison *wouldnít* sustain it. You know, Iíve still got this Onesie that I bought. I keep it in my locker the same way you keep Jackís things, but a Onesie canít trace its hand or write me a note or hug me in the nursery."

"God, Mark, Iím sorry."

"Jack doesnít just make you feel better about the baby you lost. He makes me better, too." Mark massaged the back of her hand with his thumb. "And you ... you make me forget that *anyone* else exists. And if this was about getting in your pants ... well, I would have given up already. Itís like Fort Knox over there."

She laughed, drying her eyes. "I prefer Fort Bliss."

"Oh, itís definitely that. Iíve been living off memories for months. Memories of pure bliss."

"Youíre getting laid tonight, Sloan. Donít keep pouring it on so thick."

They were silent for a few minutes. Mark broke it by saying, "I wonít hurt you, Callie. Youíre safe with me."

"I kn-"

Tires squealed.

Markís car spun and flipped, t-boned in the driverís side by a truck.

And Callieís words died with the lights on the dash as the Porsche came to rest on its roof in the middle of the busy highway.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 3
Cristina hung up with Bailey and stared down at Callie. Their friendship had shocked her. She wasnít looking for a friend, but after Callie lost her baby and almost lost her mind to boot, Cristina had blurted out during surgery that Callie should move out of the Archfield and in with her. To Yangís shock, horror, and ... relief ... Torres said yes. They were like oil and water at first. Callie was a neat freak and decided to decorate the place with red throw pillows that caused Cristina to develop a nervous twitch. She finally gave them to Goodwill and assured Callie that they had been robbed.

Unbeknownst to her, Callie liked to shop at Goodwill for books and the pillows reappeared within the week. They had laughed about it over a bottle of wine and Cristina helped her clean the apartment while they were both still buzzing high enough to enjoy the staggering, bumbling, drunken idiots they had become while they picked the place up. The apartment stayed neat as a pin after that ... mostly because of Callie. Also because when it was *clean*, Callie didnít feel the need to put anything else *red* in it ... and Yang chose her battles wisely.

Eventually they fell into an easy routine. They most assuredly did not sit and giggle at girly shows on the television, but they did frequently split a case of beer while they watched whatever sporting event caught their fancy. Cristina had the queen sized bed replaced with two twin sized ones and they would lie in the dark at night talking about their fancy upbringing and how money had made them natural cynics. They bitched about men, bitched about work, and talked enough shit about George and Izzie to have special hand signals that could quietly be utilized when either of the assholes were within earshot.

That was particularly fun during the monthly M&Mís.

Callie didnít know it ... but the day she packed up her things to move into her new house with Jack ... Cristina hid one of the red throw pillows and it received a place of honor on the twin bed that Callie had left behind.

Cristina didnít advertise for another roommate.

And she didnít go out of her way to talk to Callie for several weeks. When Callie asked her why ... Yang told her that kids made her vomit. Then Jack had bounded across the lunchroom one day and recognized Cristina, saying that her picture was in their hallway. Yang *needed* to see whether that picture was on a dart board or if it was one of the many that Joe had snapped at the Emerald City Bar.

She invited herself for dinner and was relieved to see that it was a shot of them, framed with a lovely gilded square, at the bar cheering side by side at something on the television. Cristina started going to Callieís every Wednesday and Saturday for dinner after that. The tent in Jackís room had been her idea and she swung from the rope swing like a monkey.

She even made the *sounds*.

Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Cristina shook Callie gently. "Torres, I swear to God, if you donít wake up and say something that makes sense I will smother you to death with something red. And ugly. And filled with down. WAKE UP!"

"Ungh." Callie awoke to the most god awful pain of her entire life. She tried to reach up to see if her face was still attached, but her arms would not cooperate. She had a fleeting thought that she was paralyzed and wanted to ask, but when Cristina swam into view she said, "Whereís Mark?" instead.

"What day is it?" Yang asked hopefully.

"Jackís birthday. Oh my god! Jack!"

"Bailey has him. He wasnít with you, remember? Whatís your middle name?"

"You know my middle name, ĎStina."

"Only Jack can call me that, Iphigenia Vagina."

"Fuck you."

"How do you feel?"

"What happened?"

"Car wreck."

"I canít move."

"Youíre still strapped to the back board. Weíre waiting on your second MRI. You woke up earlier, but you didnít know who you were or what planet you were on so they did another one to make sure they didnít miss anything."

"Mark?" She felt her friend take her hand which terrified her more than anything ever had. Yang only touched Jack and that was because he forced her to. "Cristina, please -"

"He was taken to emergency surgery. We know that his spleen is ruptured and heís got broken ribs and a punctured lung."

"Was he awake when he came in?"

"No."

"Head trauma?"

"His scan was clean. Derek was called in and it looks like it was just a hard lick ... just like what you got." Cristina reached up and blotted at Callieís forehead with a stack of gauze. "Along with a gash that wonít stop bleeding. Lucky for you, you have me in here to work my magic stitchery. I may not be as cute as Sloan, but I think my sutures are better anyway."

"Oh fuck, Yang! Why the hell didnít you do it while I was knocked out?"

"Because your screams will please me and because I wasnít allowed until we knew you were not brain dead. Well, brain dead-er. What are you doing with Sloan?"

"We went to a carnival."

"Thatís so cute I just shit myself." Cristina began to numb the area, trying to do it as quickly as possible. When a tear fell down Callieís face, Cristina bit her bottom lip. She had seen her friend cry enough to last a person a lifetime. "I was in the gallery for Mark's speech, by the way. Howís that star in the Chicken Shit Hall of Fame?"

"I am not a chicken shit! Youíre killing me."

"Cry baby." Cristina smiled at her. "Have you finally had sex with him?"

"Everyone knows my sex life!?"

"Is there one? Is that what Big Daddy Al got so pissed about?"

"Big Daddy Al thinks Iím a bad mother."

"You want me to kill him?"

"Would it help you stop killing me? Ow!" Callie sniffled. "Can you call the OR and ask about Mark?"

Cristina held up her hands, which were full of suturing tools. "Let me finish, Genie."

"I never should have told you my private fantasy."

"Who has a crush on a cartoon Genie, Torres? You ruined Aladdin for me."

"You ruined Big Macs for me. At least I left out the worst of the details. Iíll never look at Ronald McDonald the same way again. You dirty, dirty clown fucker."

"I *can* make you scar, you know? Stop talking."

Callie stopped.

Cristina was pleased to see that she had stopped crying as well.

*~

Chief Webber came in as Yang was securing a bandage to Callieís forehead. Cristina gave him all the information she had and assured him that Callie was finally talking about something other than guacamole that was supposedly on the stove in the corner. He leaned over Callie and shined a light into her eyes. "You have a grade three concussion, Dr. Torres, which explains your earlier confusion. Your spine is not damaged so weíre going to take you off that board and I need you tell me if you have pain as we do so."

Meredith, who had come in off duty with Derek, helped Cristina take the board and sit Callie up on the side of the bed. Callieís clothing had been cut away so she clutched the sheet for modestyís sake. The Chief walked his fingertips over her neck and head and when he moved to the right side and felt the knot where she had hit the window, she cried out. He ordered pain meds and she refused, clutching her chest which had started to burn so badly that it almost took her breath. "No, I want to be awake when Mark comes out of surgery."

"Your headache is going to get increasingly worse as the night goes on." Webber nodded at Cristina, letting her know that she needed to get the meds. "Lie back and let me check your abdomen."

"My chest hurts."

Moving to the other side of the bed, Meredith resolutely slipped her hand into Callieís. It shocked her as much as Cristinaís touch and she worried that they werenít telling her everything. She searched the younger womanís eyes and finally asked, "How bad is Mark? Really?"

"Heís gonna be fine. Derekís in there with him."

"Cristina said that his brain is okay! Is there something I need to know?!"

"We canít release any information, Dr. Torres." Richard shook his head.

"I can. And Iím telling you that heís fine. Derekís only in there because Webber couldnít be and I just talked to him. Theyíve already got his spleen out and they had to take the part of his rib that went through his lung because it was irreparable. Heíll be out soon." Meredith replied, then hissed when Webber pulled back the sheet and Callieís chest was exposed. "The seatbelt did a number on you! Holy shit!"

"Grey," Webber warned.

"Iím not on duty. I can react like a normal person." Meredith smiled at Callie. "Your nose looked broken when we got here. You took the airbag full in the face."

Cristina returned with the medication and drew up short when she saw the deep purple bruise that cut across Callieís chest and lower belly. "Holy shit!"

"My sentiments exactly," Meredith told her.

"Yang, you *are* on duty so do not react like a normal person." Webber finished the abdominal exam, relieved that Callie never had discomfort.

Callie tried to sit up so that she could see the damage for herself. She was only able to see a flash of color before Cristina put her hand over her eyes and gently pressed her down on the pillow again. Webber examined her lower hips, where the seat belt had dug in so deeply that it caused matching cuts and she groaned. "Okay, fine. Give me the shot. But you people better put Mark in my room and -"

"We donít put men and women together." Webber picked up her chart and flipped through it.

"Well, Iíll just get up later on and go stay with him then. And I could *fall* on my way and ... wouldn't that just be horrible?" Callie rubbed her forehead and regretted it instantly. It felt like it belonged on a Klingon and when the medication knocked her out a few minutes later, she was glad to go.

*~

"How is he?" Meredith asked as Derek appeared in the doorway of Callieís room two hours later.

"Heís already awake and demanding answers. The guy who hit them had a blood alcohol level that is double the legal limit and when I told him that ... he wanted to get up and go kick his ass." Derek picked up Callieís chart and nodded. "Her scans looked okay, too. Was she coherent when she woke up the second time?"

"Yes. And sheís waking up every ten minutes now to ask what we know." Cristina adjusted the IV line when the monitor began to beep. "Youíre bringing him in here after recovery, right?"

"The Chief is pretending that he has no knowledge of this little arrangement, but yes, heís going into slot B." Shepherd moved to Callieís side. "Webber said that she had the worst bruising from a seat belt heís ever witnessed."

Cristina stopped him from lifting the sheet. "You canít look at your ex-best friendís new womanís tits."

"Iím a *doctor*."

"You are a neuro surgeon. Tits have nothing to do with the brain. Unless youíre a guy. Which you are. So no." Cristina slapped his hand away. "Iím guarding her modesty because I bought Jack a gun and -"

"You bought him a *what*?!" Derek asked.

"Air rifle. Bad as hell. He killed a slide *and* pitched a fit when Mark took it away from him, so Iím on tit duty. Stay away from hers."

"Heís FIVE!" Meredith yelled. "CRISTINA!?"

Callie woke with a start and sat up, groaning as soon as she was upright. She saw Derek and her eyes widened. "How is he?"

"Damn," Derek replied, putting a hand under her chin to study her face. "Your outsides look worse than his insides did."

She grabbed his lab coat. "HOW IS HE!?"

"Fine! Heís fine! Theyíll be bringing him up any minute now."

Callie, whose brain was still muddled from the pain medication, let him go and took a deep breath. "I need a gown."

"Iíll get it." Cristina hurried into the hallway and returned a moment later, glaring at Derek until he held up his hands and left the room. She waited for the door to click before she eased the cover back and let the rail down. "Come on."

Callie eased her legs off the side of the stretcher and let Yang slip the gown over her arms. Standing was worse than she imagined. The second that she got to her feet, her hips protested and she felt her eyes flood with tears. "How can I take care of Jack like this?"

"Iíll stay with you," Cristina said. "He likes me. Too much. And I do owe you after the gun thing."

"What were you thinking?" Callie asked.

"Heís only been asking me for it every time he sees me!"

"Learn to say no if you stay with me."

"Yeah, we play good cop, bad cop and youíre always the good one, right?" Cristina replied. "I donít think so."

"I need to go to the bathroom, bad cop."

Meredith unplugged the IV and watched Cristina take it. She wasnít sure exactly when her person had become another personís person, but it had happened. It definitely had a lot to do with George and Izzie. Meredithís support of the couple had pissed Cristina off to no end. While they were still friends ... they were nowhere near as close as they had once been and Meredith didnít know how to get it back there.

But she would damn well keep trying.

*~

"How is she?" Mark asked Derek as they wheeled him down the hall.

Derek motioned for Nurse Tyler to stop and leaned against the rail of Markís stretcher. "Sheís pretty mangled. Thereís a gash on her forehead thatís about three inches long, but itís been covered now. Her nose is swollen from the airbag and while I havenít seen ... Iíve heard that the bruising from the seat belt should be photographed for medical journals."

"Nothing internal?"

"Nope. She does have a severe concussion, though. When we first got here, she was talking crazy. Talking about food that was burning and saying something about her treatment making her sick. Webber thinks she hit the window with her head and thatís what broke it, hence the cut."

"Is the mother fucker who did this still in the ER?"

"He was released into police custody."

"Shit. I just needed five minutes."

"How do you feel?"

"Iíll feel better when I see her."

"You really like this one, huh?"

"I really do." Mark met his eyes. "I think Iíve found the one."

"You have a *one*? I better go check your head scan again." Derek smiled, then nodded at Nurse Tyler.

When Mark was wheeled into the room, he looked expectantly at Callieís bed, then at Meredith, who pointed at the bathroom. Nurse Tyler had him settled in and was gone by the time Callie emerged. Mark had to look away. Her face was swollen and the bandage on her head did little to cover the discoloration that still peeked out. He looked back at her when she said his name and put her hand on his cheek. "Iím so sorry, Callie."

"It wasnít your fault." She gave him a small smile. "You scared the hell out of me."

"You scared the hell out of me, too." He held his hand up and she took it. "Are you in a lot of pain?"

"Nah." She shook her head, then grimaced. "Uh, yes."

Mark looked at Derek. "Get her a pump, too."

"I already ordered it."

Turning back to Callie, he said, "Let me see the damage done by the seat belt."

"You just want me to flash you." Callie laughed and her entire body protested. She had to fight hard to keep her tears at bay. "Thereís something to be said for wrecking right after youíve already been beaten half to death by rickety traveling carnival rides. And none of itís good."

"Let me see, baby."

"Weíll wait outside," Meredith said, taking Derekís hand.

"I wonít. Not until sheís back in bed." Cristina crossed her arms, resolutely standing just behind Callie. "Want me to untie your gown?"

"I suppose." Callie took a deep breath. "It looks worse than it is, Mark."

He watched as Cristina made quick work of the strings. Seeing one woman undressing another should have done amazing things to his libido and there was a comment about it on the tip of his tongue, but then the gown slipped down and he swore, trying to sit up. "Oh God, Callie."

Callie moved fast and put her hand on his chest. "Iím okay."

"You need to get back in the bed." Even as he said it, he reached up and brushed the back of his hand over her right breast, which was so discolored he could barely believe it. The seat belt had left a perfect thumbprint on her flesh, from her collar down toward her hip. The untouched part of her skin, however, mocha and cinnamon, took his breath away. "Youíre so beautiful."

"Oh my God!" Cristina peered around Callieís back. "Are you groping her!? Sloan, you absolute piece of shit! She's hurt!"

"Shut up." Callie put her palm against his, which was still facing out. "Iím gonna get back in the bed, but I promised you something and I keep my word."

Callie leaned forward, her free hand against his cheek. After gazing into his eyes for several seconds, she kissed him. It wasnít carnal or overly passionate, but when she pulled back, she had forgotten all about her pain. "I said Iíd give you a good night kiss. Un beso es una declaracion silenciosa de amor."

Mark reached up and wrapped a lock of her hair around his finger, pulling her down for one more kiss. She had just told him that a kiss was a silent declaration of love. "Ya no lo es".

He told her is was silent no more.

Cristina sighed. "Are you freaks, finish with the Spanish foreplay? Callie, your legs are shaking and if you pass out Iíll kick your ass."

Callie eased back into the bed, moving like someone who was three times her age. She had not expected him to understand what she said and the rush of blood to her head made her so lightheaded that she almost *had* passed out. "Good night, Mark."

"Night, baby."

"Night, John Boy," Cristina added, stepping aside for the nurse to set up Callieís pump. "Iíll see you tomorrow, Cal."

"Thanks, ĎStina."

Cristina laid a hand on her leg. "Anytime, Genie."

*~*~*~*~

Mark was watching Callie sleep. He had raised the head of his bed high enough to see over the phone table between their beds and as the sun finally broke through the partially closed blinds, he could gaze at her as much as he liked. And he did like. Her black hair was spread over the pillow and his fingers itched to touch it. She was facing him, on her side with her knees drawn upward and her lips were slightly parted in sleep. Her deep, even breaths sounded like music to his ears and he didnít fully understand why he was thinking about music or about waking up next to her every day for ... forever ... but he was. Even if it had to be like this.

Her entire face was mottled with bruises now. The airbag, while a wonderful invention, could make someone look like they had gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. He hated to even consider how Jack would react to Callieís injuries. Jack had intimate knowledge of physical pain and had purposely injured himself when the emotional pain was too much so he would *understand* to be gentle. Still, seeing someone you loved hurt was more excruciating than anything that could be done to you.

When she moaned and rolled onto her back, Mark held his breath. He had gotten up during the night because she had cried out. He had hit the button on her morphine drip himself, giving her a much needed dosage. After a trip to the bathroom, he had happily hit his own. When she made no further sounds now, he relaxed. His body ached, the incision on his side where they repaired the damage to his lung was burning, but the tiny incisions from the laparoscopic splenectomy didnít phase him at all. Despite the major surgery, he had a feeling that Callieís recovery time would be far more significant than his.

As he settled into watching her again, a startling realization crossed his mind. They had wrecked right after he assured her that he would never hurt her, that she was safe with him. The irony was not lost on Mark, but he didnít view it as a cosmic bitch slap. He viewed it as his wake up call ... he would have to be more careful with her. Instead of hanging onto her with one hand, the way he had in the car ... he would cling to her with both from this point on.

And let her do all the driving.

Callie stretched and almost jumped out of her skin as pain shot through parts of her body that she didnít even know she had. With a half gasp, half sob, she opened her eyes and blinked against the harsh light of day. Her gaze found Markís and she saw that he was trying to let the rail down on his bed. "Iím okay," she whimpered, drawing her legs up against her chest. "Donít you dare get out of that bed."

Mark ignored her. He finally got the side down and gently swung his legs to the floor. A bolt of agony shot through his ribs, one that had been removed and one that was broken, and almost buckled his knees, but he made it to her side and finally touched her hair. Brushing it back, he lowered his head and pressed a kiss to her full lips. As he did so, he pressed her pain dispenser again and smiled down at her. "Good morning."

Callie had never felt so light headed after a kiss in her life. He looked like a handsome, scruffy blur when she tried to focus on him and then she realized that he had given her a dosage of medicine and shook her head. "That was dirty."

"Weíre notoriously dirty according to you," he replied, then reached up and peeled the tape back on the bandage that covered her head. He kept his face impassive when he saw the gash. Scarring would be inevitable. "How do you feel?"

"Well enough to kick your ass if you donít go back to bed." She reached up and touched a scratch on his cheek as he secured the bandage on her head again. "On our next date, weíre staying home."

"I was thinking that our next date could be discovering the joys of public transportation." He sat down beside her and was unable to hide the effort it took to do so.

Callie pushed herself into a sitting position and untied the side of his gown, then lifted it and ran her hand along the white bandage that wound its way around his ribcage. "Which one did they remove?"

He told her, watching her bite her lip as she felt where it had been. Her touch was gentle, skilled, and he grinned at her. "You know, itís kinda fitting that I lost my rib on the day that I finally got you. Adam and Eve are supposedly the greatest love story of all time and he gave up his for her. And you are into bones, Ortho Chick."

"That might be the most romantic and bizarre thing anyone has ever said to me." Callie brushed her thumb over his lip and kissed him again. "I really do -"

The door opened and Bailey appeared, her hands on her hips. She stared at the couple on the bed and shook her head. "Sloan, I donít want to see your naked ass so get that damn gown fastened the right way and *this* right here is why we donít put men and women together."

Mark got back to his feet, making sure that Bailey got an eyeful as he did so. The woman was dressed in her street clothes and he vaguely remembered that she was off for the day and had planned to Jack and Tuck to the aquarium or something. He had only heard bits and pieces. He had been too busy formulating his plans to seduce Callie. "Howís Jack?" he asked, standing still so that Callie could retie the gown.

"I havenít told him much. Heís a perceptive kid, though, so he figured out that something had happened because he eavesdropped on me last night." She looked back at Callie. "Heís in the nursery right now. Heís been demanding to see you since he woke up."

Callie reached up and felt her face. She could feel the swelling and the look Bailey had given her when she first came in was filled with shock. And horror. "I donít want to scare him."

"I can prepare him for it." Markís face was bruised, but nowhere in the same vicinity as Callieís. His stubble covered the worst of it. His face had been turned toward Callie in the car so the airbag caught his left ear and chin for the most part. And he had been further away from it than she had been, to compensate for his long legs as he drove. "You need to set his mind at ease, Cal."

She took a deep breath. "Okay."


"Iíll go get him." Bailey turned toward the door, then stopped and looked at Callie. "Youíre probably going to be here for a couple of days. I think Chief Webber wants to give you maximum pain control. Iíll gladly keep Jack so donít you worry."

"Thanks, Miranda."

When Mark heard Jack in the hallway a few minutes later, he pulled the curtain in front of Callie and eased down into a nearby chair. He was ready to get back into the bed, ready to dose himself as frequently as possible, but first things first. Miranda opened the door and Jack took a tentative step inside. He spotted Mark and looked like he wanted to run toward him, but Bailey said something so low that Mark couldnít hear it and the little boy walked across the floor as if it was full of glass and he was about to be cut to shreds.

"Hey, buddy." Mark took the little boyís hand when he stopped a foot away and pulled him closer. He pressed a kiss to his forehead and said, "Did you have fun last night?"

Jack nodded and reached up to stroke Markís face, his touch feather light on the bruises. "One time at the group home, our van got hitted and it cut my face, too."

"I bet that was scary," Mark replied. He shook his head when Jack tried to crawl into his lap. "I wish I could pick you up, little man, but I canít. I had surgery and my ribs are broken."

"My mom tickles mine Ďtil they break, too." Jack glanced behind him at the curtain. "Where is she?"

"Sheís over there, but I wanted to talk to you for a second." Mark squeezed his hand. "Your mom has a cut on her face, too. Itís scarier than mine and sheís got a lot of bruises, but sheís still your mom and sheíll be back to normal in no time. Okay?"

Jack nodded and Bailey took his hand, pulling back the curtain. Callie, who was trying valiantly to stay awake since the medication had now taken full effect, smiled when she saw her son. He looked at her, bit his bottom lip, and then buried his face against Baileyís hip. Miranda leaned down and picked him up, settling him against her side. He peered at Callie with trepidation as she pulled herself into a sitting position and reached for him.

"Oh, Callie, I donít think-" Miranda began.

"Just ... let him sit with me." Callie patted the bed.

Hearing her voice seemed to help Jack overcome the visuals. When Miranda sat him on the spot that Callie indicated, he climbed to his knees and sat facing her, his hands flat against his thighs. "Mom-"

"Iím okay," Callie reassured him. "It looks worse than it is."

Jack inched closer, his eyes riveted to her face. "I can kiss it better."

Callie put her hands on either side of his slim waist and closed her eyes as he slowly kissed every inch of her face. He touched his nose to hers when he was finished and whispered, "Youíre still pretty."

Mark, who was watching from his seat, had to be pretty suave about drying his eyes.

*~

After years of being a surgeon, Webber had heard every possible argument from patients about why they should be released. By far and away, Callie was the most persistent he had ever witnessed. He flatly refused and gave her all his reasons, particularly his concern over her confusion and disorientation from the previous night. Her grade 3 concussion, while relatively common, was the most severe that he had seen in years and when she suggested that she could sign the paperwork to discharge against her doctorís orders, he didnít have to raise his voice ... Sloan did it very well.

To work the soreness from their limbs and to keep their circulation up, they were given the green light to walk in the hallway. Luckily, Cristina arrived with pajamas for the both of them. The fact that they matched seemed to give her personal satisfaction and she mocked them relentlessly as she took snapshot after snapshot with her camera phone while they made their way into the hall. Callieís gait was even slower than Markís and his was so comical that Derek pointed and laughed, then Ďawwwwwedí over their matching clothing.

After their walk, they were both so exhausted that they fell asleep and didnít awake until their dinners were brought in. Having missed lunch, they were ravenous so talking was at a minimal while they far from enjoyed the patented hospital food. While Mark ate his cake, he asked, "Did someone call your parents and let them know what happened?"

"No," she replied with a shake of her head. "Definitely not."

"Why?"

"My relationship with them, which has never been great," she said, "was irreparably damaged with the whole Vegas wedding and quickie divorce thing. My dad has political aspirations so when and if he does one day run for office then Iím sure my Britney Spears moment will be dredged up for maximum embarrassment and character destruction."

"What does he do right now? Your dad?"

"He golfs. Thatís pretty much it. Heís retired."

"Theyíre millionaires, though. Right?"

Talking about her parentís money not only ruined past relationships, it drove George into Stevenís bed. She set her pie back on the tray, untouched, and met his eyes. "I donít want to discuss that."

"Why not?"

"Because money is the root of all evil."

"Bet my folks are richer than yours," he shot back. "And for what itís worth, my dad liked to yell at me, too."

She grinned. "Did you rush off to Vegas? Get a divorce? Adopt a kid?"

"No, I existed."

Callieís smile faded as she watched him finish off his cake. His admission didnít affect him in the least, but it made her heart ache. "Mark?"

"Hmmm."

"Did he hurt you?"

"Not physically." He wiped his mouth with a napkin and eased back against the bed, swearing as his ribs ached. "That would have required him being near me for longer than an hour a week. And that hour was devoted entirely to shouting."

"And your mom?"

"She lived the socialite life. She was usually jetting off to Europe or some other exotic place to look at fashion. I could probably count the times I saw her each year on one hand."

"Then why did they -"

"Adopt me? It was the cool thing to do and like I told you ... I was their midlife crisis kid. I was fun for a while and then the crisis was over and the *novelty* was gone so I got pawned off on the nanny. Who smelled like Gertie." Mark watched Callie settle back against her bed. "What was your childhood like?"

"Iím the only girl so Iíve always been a constant source of disappointment. Iím the baby of the family and while all my female cousins were entering beauty pageants and shopping for expensive clothing, I was busy reading and watching sports. I wasnít pretty enough, or thin enough, or interested in girly things." She gazed out the window. "I did see my parents a lot and they didnít like what they saw in me. They were very vocal about it. Comb your hair. Lose some weight. Don't do-"

"I saw a photo of you in your hallway. How could they say you werenít thin enough? You were scrawny as hell. With brown hair instead of black."

"Oh, my brown wig."

"Wig?"

"Yeah."

"What happened?"

"I donít talk about it."

"You do now. Come on, tell me. Did you shave your head like Britney, too?"

"Absolutely not. I only did her quickie wedding and divorce thing, nothing else." Her eyes met his and she held them. "I lost my hair because of chemotherapy. Osteosarcoma."

"Bone cancer. That - that scar on your back? It didn't come from a skiing accident, right?"

"Youíre not the only one who lost a rib." She tucked her hands under her cheek. "I was lucky. It had not spread to any organs, but ... it sealed my fate as a social outcast in high school. I was constantly sick and doomed to sit at the back of the class so that my mouth ulcers and gray face didnít offend anyone too much. Plus, it was closer to the door and I was constantly running to the bathroom."

"Why the hell didnít your parents hire a tutor and teach you at home?"

"Character building was more important in my family than being sick." She stifled a yawn with the back of her hand. "I wasnít allowed to cry or complain or give in. My parents viewed it as a test and the fact that I beat it meant that I was destined for great things. So far theyíre not happy with my choices."

"No offense, but I really donít like your family."

"None taken."

Mark watched her close her eyes and drift off to sleep again.

Her parents were right about her destiny being great.

She had saved Jack.

And him.

*~*~*~*~*~

The following morning, Callieís headache intensified and Derek found edema in her brain which required medication to reduce the swelling. It was not life threatening, but it dashed her hopes of leaving that day. Mark had developed a horrific cough thanks to his lung, which required antibiotics by the bag full. By day four of their hospital stay, they knew everything there was to know about one another and they were both in high spirits and ready to be discharged. Jack was brought in by Dr. Bailey first thing every morning, then at lunch, and then after Baileyís shift ended. He cried on what was technically his fifth night away from his mother, begging Callie to let him stay and pleading with her to take him home. Callie held it together, assuring him that it wouldnít be much longer until they were together again and when he calmed down and left with Bailey, she fell apart.

Mark crawled from his bed and into hers, pulling her into his arms. That was where they still were when Webber came in the following morning for rounds. The Chief declared that if they felt like breaking every hospital rule known to man ... then they were ready to be released. Cristina arrived with fresh clothing for Callie and announced that she had taken two weeks off to help her out.

It dawned on Callie in that moment that Mark had no one to help him at the hotel. She knew exactly how lonely the place was. Her heart made the decision before he mind could overrule it. She looked at Cristina and said, "Youíll have two invalids. Markís coming home with me."

"What?" Mark and Cristina asked together.

Callie nodded and looked at Mark. "You canít go home alone and - and the nannyís room off the kitchen is empty so you wonít have to deal with stairs. So ... okay?"

"You canít deal with stairs either, Cal. Your hips are -"

"Itís a queen size bed."

Mark took a deep breath. "What about Jack? It could confuse him and -"

"Iíd rather have him confused than disappointed that his mother keeps polishing her star at the Chicken Shit Hall of Fame instead of letting someone else take the spot." She sighed. "He wonít have to know. Heís a sound sleeper and he never goes into my bedroom at night. Iíll tell him that youíre staying because you need us to take care of you and - he wonít have to know until we -"

"Until we what?"

"Decide if this is what we want."

"Youíre the only one who has to make that decision, Callie. I already know."

"Is this how it's going to be?" Cristina asked, throwing her hands in the air. "You like her. She likes you. The sexual chemistry is choking me and it painfully obvious that it's killing the two of you ... so I'll be the decider and I'm saying ... "

"Let's go home," Callie cut her off. "That's the decision. All of us."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 4
The first week of having Mark as a roommate passed swiftly. Callie spent most of her time napping on the sofa, thanks to a prescription of narcotics, and she waited at least an hour after Jack went to bed before she would creep into the nannyís old room and gently situate herself next to Mark. She always set her alarm for five a.m. and went back to the sofa before Jack could arise, but those few hours spent with Mark spooned against her or her against him ... were the best hours of her life. They spent most of their nights talking, hence the daily naps, and eventually realized that they knew more about one another than they knew about themselves.

One the eighth morning, Mark awoke with a start and glanced at the clock on the end table. It was four thirty and he groaned. He would only have her in his arms for thirty more minutes so he needed to make it count. He kissed her awake and smiled when she narrowed her eyes at him. "Good morning, gorgeous," he said.

"Despite the fact that this is a very commendable wake up call, Iíve only been asleep for two hours because you had to tell me all about your first date. Therefore, I cannot be happy about this."

"Excuse me," he laughed. "Did you not tell me all about yours?"

"My story was funnier."

"Only because you kicked his ass."

"He needed it." Callie reached up and scratched the stubble on his cheek. "You need to shave and this room is entirely too well lit."

"Itís that damned oversized clock. Why donít you just put a neon sign in here."

"Gertie was half blind," she yawned, the snuggled against him. "You know whatís weird?"

"That you hired a half blind nanny who apparently had gas?"

"No, ass," Callie laughed. "That you know every one of my secrets and weíre only *sleeping* together. Literally sleeping. No sex."

"Believe me ... if I was well enough to have sex with you then my wake up call would have been much, much better. I will be so glad when my body cooperates with my brain." He trailed his fingertips down her arm. "Iíve never woken up with the same woman this many times."

"Liar! You lived with Addison!"

"We fought more than we lived. I was usually in the dog house, which in New York is on the sofa, and she was usually locked in the bedroom. And I didnít know *any* of her secrets." He kissed the top of her head, smiling. "Your hair smells like vanilla and thatís so strange considering the color."

"You want me to color coordinate? Would you rather it smelled like chocolate?"

"No, you taste like that." Mark tilted her chin and kissed her, letting his hand travel along her cheek. When they pulled apart, he breathed her in again. "I donít want you to get up."

"I donít want me to get up either."

"You know what?"

"What?"

"If this is all we could do ... stand on first base and keep swinging and never hit that home run ... Iíd be okay with that." Mark trailed his thumb over her bottom lip. "Because I donít have to touch you ... to be touched by you."

She looked into his eyes for the longest time before she spoke. "Were you *always* this guy? Because you never showed that you could -"

"No, I wasnít." He kissed her again. "I am what you made me."

*~

Cristina could not cook. What Cristina *could* do was order take out and Jack decided that Cristina should be in charge of food for the rest of his life. He attacked Chinese, Mexican, Italian and even specialty salads with glee. Anything and everything the adults tried, Jack would usually match them bite for bite and if Mark commented on something being good, Jack would echo his sentiment and ask for more. Jack echoed everything Mark said, repeatedly.

Brussel sprouts reappeared on the table as a test on the ninth day home. Cristina gagged several times just having them in the car, but Callie had specifically asked for it so she tried to suck it up for her sake. The second she put them on the table, the little boy stopped chattering happily with Mark and his eyes widened. Cristina, who had been told all about Jackís tantrum, slid the bowl out of his reach as she sat down across from him.

"Can I go to my room?" Jack asked, his eyes still on the bowl.

"You have to eat dinner," Callie replied, watching him closely.

Jackís hands fisted on the table and he swallowed so hard that everyone heard it. His big, brown eyes filled with tears and he closed them, scrunching his face up. Callie reached over and rubbed his arm, shocked to feel that he was shaking. "Jack? You donít have to eat it. There are a lot of other things that you like so -"

"In the frosted home, when I wouldnít eat sprouts --- they didnít give me nothing else for a real long time. They let the other kids have cereal in the morning --- but sprouts is all they gived me because I wouldnít eat it. I tried to find something else when they were asleep, but they would spank me and make me go back to bed and my stomach always hurted. And then I was so hungry that I did eat it and it made me throw up on the mom --- so she gaved me away." Jack opened his eyes and looked at Callie. "But I didnít cry because I wanted to go away. In the new frosted home they gave me good food sometimes."

Callie blinked, trying to force the tears away. She had suspected, given Jackís penchant for hiding food in his room and stuffing himself to the point of becoming ill, that he had been hungry in the past, perhaps at the group home where the bigger children could have taken his food, but this reality was even worse. That someone could do that to a child caused her stomach to twist and she felt bile in the back of her throat. Her voice was determinedly steady when she spoke and it took everything in her to make it so. "Sometimes people are bad and they do bad things, but thatís never going to happen to you here. You donít have to eat it. Ever. You can have anything else you want and I donít mind. Iíll never mind, okay?"

Jack glanced back at the sprouts, then laced his fingers through Callieís and smiled at her. "Okay."

A second later, Callie excused herself and walked into the bathroom just off the laundry room. She braced herself against the sink for a second, mumbling to herself that she needed to calm down, and then she sat on the edge of the bathtub and surrendered to the tears that were threatening to choke her to death. As an afterthought, she turned on the water in the bathtub so that Jack wouldnít hear.

Mark didnít knock, he simply pushed the door open and closed it behind him. Seeing her tears did strange things to him, things he had never felt in his life and he knew that he had to stop her before it killed him. "Callie, itís okay. Heís already forgotten about it and heís playing around with Yang while he eats. And he is eating. A lot."

"Iím a horrible person," she sobbed. "Iíve seen the way he reacts to those damn things and I still did it again. I purposely asked for them and -"

"Stop it." He lowered the lid on the toilet and took her hands in his as he sat down, their knees touching. "At least now you understand. Donít look at this as a bad thing ... look at it for what it is. Heís at the point where he can trust you with *his* secrets now, baby. He can talk about things that hurt him because he trusts you ... he trusts that youíre a family and nothing he tells you will change that. He finally believes in you."

She sniffled and dried her eyes. "I didnít know that I could love another human being so much."

"Well, heís pretty amazing."

Callie smiled.

She wasnít just talking about Jack.

*~*~*~*~*~

"You look at Sloan like heís ... like youíre ... itís gross." Cristina had waited patiently for the shower to turn off before she spoke her mind. Reaching up, she pushed the curtain back and opened the towel for her friend. "Heís Mark *Sloan*."

Callie took the towel, cringing as the muscles in her chest contracted. "I am very aware of who he is."

"And you still look at him like ... like ..."

"Having trouble with metaphors?"

"You look at him like youíre thirsty in Death Valley and heís a big bottle of water. When, in reality, heís a big bottle of Jack Daniels and the minute you start drinking it youíre ... drunk ... and canít think and then he leaves you the next morning with a hangover and ... pain." Cristina pleased with her speech looked. "Pain, Torres. Do you really want to go there with the big pain again?"

"It would be more painful to not go there."

"Then fuck him and duck him, scratch your itch ... donít let him in your system." Cristina hopped up on the sink and regarded the bruises on Callieís chest. "Itís starting to look a little better. Have you done the deed yet?"

"No, Dr. Ruth, we havenít done the deed yet. I can still barely move and he spends most of the night tossing and turning because his ribs are killing him." Callie grinned wickedly. "But when we *do* ... Iíll gladly have more bruises. When we were together before, I had perfect little dots on my hips and -"

"TMI!" Cristina frantically flapped her hands, trying to cut her off. "So, if heís not feeling you up at night then what are you doing?"

"Talking. Feeling without our hands. He has really good arms for sleeping."

"Having a kid made you soft! Youíre not my hero anymore." Cristina smiled at her. "Youíre good at the whole mom thing, by the way."

"Aww, thanks. Wait ... are you about to insult me?"

"No, idiot. Iím telling you that youíre good at it. If my mom had been like you then maybe I wouldnít be as cynical as I am." Cristina hopped off the sink and grabbed Callieís underwear before her friend could try to dress herself. As they had done every day for ten days, Cristina squatted down and held them out, then slipped them over her legs and hips. "Iím just saying, my life didnít have climbing walls or a mom who played laser tag and hide and seek with me in the house."

"Youíve done an admirable job of taking over for me, Ďstina. So, I think that your motherís numerous shortcomings will make you a better parent one day."

"Iím better as the cool aunt who buys the guns and -"

"You are a *horrible* gift giver."

"As soon as youíre well, Iím buying Mark a genie costume."

Callie grinned. "Okay, I take that back. You are a gift GOD."

Cristina helped dress Callie in green and purple Eeyore pajamas, grumbling the entire time that the sweetness was giving her a toothache. After she brushed Callieís hair, bitching non stop that she should cut four feet off it, she dried it and put her hands on her hips. "Do you see what youíve done to me, Torres?"

"Uhm, no?"

"I am *not* the kind of girl who brushes another girlís hair or plays Army with a little boy who talks into a fake walkie talkie, but ... look at what youíve done."

Callie stood up and hugged her. She didnít get punched. "You may not be the kind of person who brushes another girlís hair very *well*, but you are the kind of person who answers back when a little boy talks into a fake walkie talkie. And that makes you one hell of a person, Yang. And one hell of a friend."

Cristina gave her a one armed hug, clearing her throat as she pulled away. "My mother didnít let me have an imagination growing up. I - I think Iíll buy him real walkie talkies when I go pick up dinner."

"Iím going to miss you when you go back to work."

Cristina didnít look at her. "Then itís a good thing Iíll be stopping by every night."

*~*~

On Cristinaís first day back at work, Callie was feeling much better. She had woken up early to say good bye to Jack, who was heading for the nursery with Yang. He had been given the option of staying or going and he had decided immediately that he wanted to go play with Tuck. Cristina would be bringing him back home after her ten hour shift ended, assuring Callie that it was better for him to go than stay underfoot and be bored all day.

The soreness in Callieís body was finally starting to become bearable. It had been over three weeks since the accident and time, like Bailey had once told her, could mend a lot of things. During Callieís follow up visit, Miranda had found a hairline fracture in her hip which explained the agony of walking. There was nothing to be done for it and a walker really wouldnít help after so much time had passed, so Callie lived with the pain and took enough anti-inflammatory medication to control it. Mark was mending as well. She had changed his bandages herself for the first few days and now he didnít need anything except the stabilizer around his ribs.

They would both be returning to work the following week and Callie thought, as she made two cups of coffee, that she would miss the stolen moments with him once he went home. Neither of them had mentioned his inevitable departure, but they both knew he was already well enough to leave. Turning, she headed for the bedroom and stopped when she saw him leaning against the arched doorway, watching her. "I thought you were still sleeping."

"Smelled coffee. Real coffee. Not that instant shit that is Yangís specialty."

Callie gave him his cup. "She doesnít understand the finer art of using a French press."

Mark sipped it and smiled heavenward. "Ahhh, thatís perfection."

"Are you hungry?" she asked. "I could -"

"Let me." He put his cup on the counter after one more sip, then trapped her against the sink, one hand on either side of her. "Not only am I a dart champion, my French toast is good enough to make you cry."

She put her palm on his bare chest, rubbing lightly over the muscles there. It was something she did without thinking. She fell asleep every night in the crook of his arm, smoothing her hand over his chest, feeling his heart beat, touching his skin as it rose and fell with his breaths. She had never slept better in her life and she doubted that it had *anything* to do with the narcotics. Bailey had also been right about time being fleeting ... and Callie refused to let another minute go unused. "I donít want you to go," she whispered.

Mark almost lost his balance due to the immense feeling of relief that rushed through him. "Then ask me to stay."

She gazed up at him, her insides spinning with the possibilities. "Weíd have to keep it the way it is. Weíd have to let Jack think that you were sleeping down here and I was sleeping upstairs and - and he couldnít know. Not - not yet."

"Ask me to stay, Callie."

"Will you ... move in with us?"

"Iím in."

"You are?"

"All the way." He brushed her hair back and kissed the scar on her forehead, then her mouth. "Now, get out the kitchen so I can cook or Iíll burn every damn thing."


Mark had not lied about his breakfast skills which shocked and amused Callie to no end. After they ate, they climbed back in the queen sized bed to enjoy a pay per view movie, R-rated thank you very much, but they didnít watch much of it. Callie accidentally brushed her hand against his thigh thirty minutes into the film and he had responded by crushing her mouth with his. The flavor of the syrup and the confectioner's sugar was still all over their tongues and it was the sweetest kiss, literally, either had ever had.

By the time they pulled apart, breathless from the heavy petting and many, many kisses, the credits were rolling and Callie stared at her watch, stunned. "Oh my god," she said, "we just spent an hour and a half on second base."

"Groping someone never felt so good," he replied, kissing her shoulder. "And I havenít even moved past your pants yet so come back under here and letís go for third."

"Are you sure?" Callie raised a brow. "Youíre still -"

"Iím positive." He leaned forward, licking her bottom lip. "Actually, letís go past third and see what happens."

She nodded and waited patiently while he untied her pants, then she lifted her hips and eased them down, leaving them bunched up at the foot of the bed as she pulled her feet free. Mark sat up, pushing the cover back so the view was unimpeded. He let his hand skim the creamy flesh of her inner thigh, licking his lips when his thumb rubbed around her neatly trimmed thatch of curls. Wasting no time, he slid his finger along her slick folds and opened his mouth to tell her that she was beautiful when they heard the front door open and the sound of high heels on the hard wood floor.

"Calliope!"

"SHIT! Itís my *mother*!" Callie hissed, using her feet to grab her pants. "I am clearly never, ever going to get laid! Ever!"

Mark helped her pull her pants up as quickly as possible, amazed that his raging hard on had gone away so quickly. He watched as Callie straightened her shirt and rushed out the door. He put on his pajama shirt and eased back into the bed, unsure of whether or not he should join her.

*~

"Mami?" Callie called, peering around the doorway like a teenager who had just been busted in her parentís bed.

Margie came down the stairs, radiant in a sun dress and strappy sandals. She opened her mouth to speak, then her hands flew to her mouth when she saw Callieís face. "You look dead!"

"On the plus side, though." Callie bit her bottom lip. "It looks a lot better than it did."

"What on earth happened!?" Margie rushed forward, pushing her daughterís bangs off her face, tilting her head from side to side. "I knew something was amiss. What have you done now?"

"It was a car wreck, Mother, and the only thing that is amiss is the fact that you left my son hanging high and dry on his birthday and thatís not cool. Even for *you*."

The front door opened again and Al came in pulling a suitcase behind him. He didnít look at Callie as he slipped the handle back into the suitcase. "We thought weíd come out and take Jack off your hands for a few days before he starts school and --- oh my god --- what happened to you?"

Callie sighed. "Car wreck. And Iím fine, thanks for asking. Both of you."

"Shall I purchase you a new vehicle?" Al asked. "Was it totaled?"

"I was with a friend. Uh, he was hurt pretty badly so he is actually -"

"Where was Jack?" Margie asked.

"He was at a sleep over." Callie narrowed her eyes when her parents glanced at one another. "Is that bad, too? That *he* has friends? Should we just barricade ourselves in the house and have no contact with the outside world?"

"Pehaps," Al said. "Because when *you* have contact with the outside world you wind up eloping, divorcing, losing your promotion, and adopting an ill mannered child who you pawn off on other people. Who were you with?"

Mark had been eavesdropping and he had heard quite enough. He walked into the living room and squared his shoulders when Margie looked at him like he was covered in her daughter's blood. He put his hand on Callieís shoulder and took a deep breath. "She was with me. We were T-boned by a drunk driver. She had a horrible concussion and swelling in her brain and this right here ... this is why she didnít call you. In case you were wondering."

"Young man," Al said, "that is the second time now that you have insulted me. There wonít be a third time."

"Youíre right," Mark shot back. "Because youíre not going to give me a reason. This is Callieís house and youíre going to respect her in it."

"Like you apparently respect her," Margie snapped, nodding at his pajamas. "Itís almost noon and neither of you have bothered to get dressed. Is this really the lifestyle that you feel is suitable for your son, Calliope?"

"Heís at the nursery."

"Oh, of course he is!" Margie cried. "Youíve sent him away for the day so that you can play house with this ... rude and inconsiderate gigolo who -"

"Thatís enough!" Callie shouted, then clutched her chest as her breath caught from the pain. "God dammit."

The reactions of Al and Margie Torres to their daughterís choice of wording would have been comical if it played out on the big screen instead of in a living room happening in real life. Margie crossed herself, praying so quickly that Mark thought she was talking in tongues. Al turned beet red and kicked the sofa three times since it was closest thing to him. When he reached for Callie, Mark put a protective arm around her and led her to the couch to sit down. He reclined on the arm of the sofa and resolutely crossed his arms over his chest, making it very clear that he would not back down.

"Why are you here!?" Al shouted at Mark. "Are you two living together? Are you? In front of a child!?"

"Mark was injured in the accident and I let him stay in the nannyís room because he had no one to take care of him." Callie couldnít help but feel elation. No one in her entire life had ever spoken up in her defense the way he had. "Iíve explained it to Jack and he understands. He understands that when a friend needs you that you help out and -"

"Really?" Margie shot her daughter a skeptical look. "Where were you when I came in? Were you in your *friendís* room?"

"Itís none of your business," Callie said, her tone laced with ice. "Iím an adult and the way I choose to live and raise my son is none of your concern."

"What has happened to you?" Al asked. "Where is the girl who scored a sixteen hundred on her S.A.T? You are so much smarter than this, so much better than this."

"Dad, can you please just -"

"No, honey! You wanted us to accept your marriage and we did. You wanted us to accept your divorce and we did. You wanted us to welcome Jack into our family and we did. When are you going to give us *anything* in return?"

Jack suddenly barreled through the front door, followed by Dr. Bailey who was laughing. He planted a kiss on Callie, hugged Markís legs and then raced into the kitchen. Miranda smiled at Callieís parents and greeted them warmly, having met them both at Jackís party. She turned to Callie and her smile faded a little as she saw the terse expression on her face. "Callie, he got bored at the nursery and decided that it was time to come home. Lucky for him I was heading out for lunch. I tried to call, but there was no answer. We saw work trucks so I guess thereís something with the lines."

"Thank you, Miranda. I appreciate it." Callie said, flinching as Jack opened the back door and screamed for Sprout, his German Shepherd, at the top his lungs. He had ignored his grandparents entirely and she made a mental note to give him extra dessert that night. The puppy, who was growing in leaps and bounds, could be heard clumsily racing across the back deck and then Jack scooped him up a second later, grunting in his efforts, and carried him upstairs to his bedroom. Callie glanced at Bailey. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"Your son exhausted me so if you have a bottle of water I would love you for life."

Callie started to get to her feet, but Mark said, "Iíll get it."

"Are you in town for long?" Bailey asked Margie, smiling up the stairs when they heard Jack singing loudly and off key to Veggie Tales.

"No," Margie replied, forcing herself to be polite. "Weíre meeting friends in Alaska in a couple of days and stopped by to see if Jack would like to accompany us."

"Oh, that should be fun!" Bailey accepted the bottle of water that Mark held out. "I better go. Tucker is meeting me for lunch and Iím already late."

"Thanks for bringing him home." Callie got to her feet and walked Bailey to the front door. "I really do appreciate it."

Miranda glanced behind her. "Is everything okay?"


"The only daughter of excessively Catholic parents, recently married, recently divorced, and now caught in the act of living in sin. No, itís not okay."

"Stick to your guns, girl." Bailey squeezed her hand. "Iíll call you later."

Callie nodded and shut the door before she returned to the sofa. Upstairs, Sprout was barking and Jack was laughing and the radio was so loud that the walls vibrated. Al glanced at the stairs, clearly irritated. "Calliope, are you going to do something about the noise?"

"Heís having fun." Callie took a deep breath and exhaled. "And no, he canít go to Alaska. I have a lot to do with him before school starts. I still have to get him fitted for his uniform and buy his supplies. Plus, I promised him weíd go to Fun Forest and I always keep my word."

"No, you donít," Al snapped, pointing toward the source of the noise. "Do something about this! He didnít even speak to us!"

"Why should he? You left his party without speaking to him!"

"He is a *child*. He needs manners!"

"Youíre an adult! Lead by example!"

A moment later, the music stopped and Jack hopped down the stairs into the living room, Sprout hot on his heels. With a screech, the little boy leaped onto the sofa, causing Callie to almost jump out of her skin when he accidentally kicked her in the side. The dog attacked her a second later, climbing over Jack to plant both paws on her while he licked her face. Mark lifted the puppy and scratched it on the head as he put it back outside. Jack crossed his arms over his chest and said, "Thatís rude, Mark. Thatís my damn dog and I donít want him to go out freakiní side."

Callie laughed. She couldnít help it. With her head in her palm, she giggled like a man woman, prompting Jack to tap her on the shoulder. "Mom?"

"What, kiddo?" she asked, still chuckling.

"Thatís how you laugh when Mark tickles you under the cover in Gertieís bed."

"Oh! Okay!" Mark held out his hand. "Letís go fix you some lunch, buddy."

Jack bounced off the couch, clutching Markís hand with both of his. "Can I have peanut butter and jelly? I really, really want it."

"Sure."

Callieís heart skipped several beats as she waited for her parentís to say something. She didnít know how Jack could possibly know that she had been anywhere near the nannyís bedroom or that she definitely spent hours laughing at Markís many stories and jokes. She cleared her throat and stood, indicating the suitcase her father had brought in. "Youíre welcome to stay in the guest room and -"

"We much prefer the master bedroom, Calliope," Margie replied, her tone harsh. "I take it you are no longer sleeping there."

"Mark and I are not having sex," Callie said. "I know itís a shock and you probably donít believe me, but weíre not."

Al rubbed a hand over his face. "Weíll be staying at a hotel tonight and flying out in the morning."

Callie watched as her dad struggled with the handle on the suitcase and finally pulled it free. "I get why youíre pissed at me. Okay? But I only made one real mistake and that was marrying George. It wasnít a mistake to divorce him. And as for Jack ... Jack is the best thing Iíve ever done." She glanced at her mother. "I look at Jack and I think that Iíd do anything in the world to make him happy. Donít you want the same thing for me?"

"Of course I do," Margie replied.

"Then leave me alone. Let me make my own choices and even if you donít agree with them ... know that theyíre mine and *I* have to live with it. Not you."

"Not us?" Al asked. "Not us!? We donít have to live with your mistakes? Who do you think paid George OíMalley hush money to quietly sign the papers? Who do you think-"

"Al, stop." Margie sighed, reaching out to touch Callie on the cheek. "When children are little ... they walk on your toes. When theyíre adults, they walk on your heart. You have been walking on my heart for a while, but this year was too much. You eloped, you divorced, you -"

"Had a miscarriage," Callie cut in. She had not called them for that either. The prospect of hearing how it was *her* fault was just too much. "Yeah, I lost Georgeís baby and he was already living the cliché with his mistress and didnít come ... even when they told him. You know who was there? Mark. He picked me up off the floor of the stairwell where I was screaming in pain and he sat beside me while I said goodbye to my baby. Heís the reason I have Jack and he makes me happy. He makes my son happy and if you could try to look past *my* shortcomings and get to know him ... I think youíd be surprised."

"How could you not tell us this before now!?" Al cried. "We could have come! We could have - honestly, Calliope, this was our grandchild, too!"

"Because I already felt bad enough. I didnít need your help. And you would have done exactly what youíre doing now. You would have made it my problem and -"

"Weíre going!" Al roared, taking Margieís hand. "You donít want us in your life thatís fine! Thatís just fine! I wonder how youíll feel with none of our money!"

Callie watched them slam out of the house before she returned to the sofa and sat down.

Mark sat beside her and held out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. "I guess itís a good thing Iím rich, huh? You wonít miss their money at all."

"How in the *hell* did Jack know?" Callie asked, putting the sandwich down on the table. "How!? We were so careful."

Fighting hard not to laugh, he said, "Well, I asked him that very thing. He said that he had forgotten that he had put spiders in Gertieís bed and as soon as he remembered it ... he had to save me. So, he came down to play the hero and heard us laughing and figured you had found them instead and was helping me get them all up. I assured him that was the case."

"What did he say?"

"He asked me if I kissed you yet."

"What?!"

"He told me I could weeks ago."

Callieís jaw dropped. "Between the two of you ... I never had a fighting chance at all, huh?"

"Nope." Mark leaned forward and kissed her. She stiffened at first, but a second later she relaxed into him.

When they broke apart, Jack was kneeling beside the coffee table eating Callieís sandwich while he watched them with an innocent smile on his face. Callie sat up straight and said, "Jack, we need to -"

"Do you know who kisses moms? Dads." Jack looked at Mark pointedly. "If youíre going to tickle my mom and kiss her then I have to call you dad."

"Oh, god." Callie wanted to hide under the sofa. She suddenly felt guilty for every embarrassing thing she had said in front of her parents.

Mark simply took the other half of the sandwich and bit into it. "Thatís fine with me, buddy."

"Thanks, Dad."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie and Mark did not have a chance to be alone again and even when they were ... kissing was the most they could do because Callieís period arrived with a vengeance. Jack didnít want to go back to the nursery and Cristina stopped by nightly, bringing take out and playing with him. She also commented every time the new couple shared a kiss within his eyesight and Jack corrected her every time, saying that its what parents did. Cristina simply grinned, shaking her head at the scarlet blush that spread through Callieís tanned face.

Taking Jack for his uniform fitting turned out to be an adventure and the little boyís colorful commentary about the clothing caused both adults to step into the hallway to laugh. Afterward, they bought his school supplies and then headed to the hospital for their respective final check ups before they could be cleared for work. They left Jack at the nursery and Callieís heart skipped several beats when Mark casually took her hand in his as they walked toward the clinic. She held her head a little higher when several nurses drew up short and the smile on her face was nothing short of cocky. She didnít see it, but Mark did the same thing to George, who ran into the wall when he saw their laced fingers.

Cleared for work, they retrieved Jack and took him to the amusement park, where they sat side by side on various benches and enjoyed popcorn while they talked about nothing. And everything. Their easy banter and playful discussions were funny and unpredictable and they enjoyed every second of it.

Derek arrived that weekend and officially moved Mark into Callieís house. She had been in the pool with Jack when they arrived with Markís boxes and she quickly wrapped a towel around herself and hurried inside. Instead of putting the boxes in the nannyís room, she directed them to hers and when Mark leaned down and kissed her, her toes curled. He joined them in the pool a little later, laughing when Jack cannon-balled right beside him, causing Callie to freak out.

"Iím fine," he assured her, pulling her against him. "Perfectly fine remember? No pain at all."

"Bailey said not to rush it."

"I heal fast." He touched her forehead, which had not scarred nearly as bad as he had expected. "Bailey said the same thing to you. Are you - how do you feel?"

"Yes, Mark. Tonight is the night. I had your things put in my room for a reason." She smiled devilishly. "As soon as the kid is in bed ..."

"How many hours is that?"

She glanced at her watch. "Eight? Possibly nine."

"I can last that long."

Callie kissed his neck. "I canít believe itís time to go back to work already."

"On the plus side," he said, "we have plenty of on call rooms and Iíll be paging you to covert locations all day."

"Oooooh, I knew I loved my job."

Mark laughed when Jack, who was swimming underwater, grabbed his leg. "Looks like somebody wants to play."

Callie moved back as Mark dived under and grabbed the little boy. When they emerged, she smiled as he tossed him in the air the same way her own father had done when she was a child. Jack laughed that same innocent laugh she had laughed ... full of wonder and innocence ... when the only important things in life were how far your father could throw you and what it would feel like when you came down.

Jack reminded her that laughter was the best medicine.

And Mark reminded her that coming down into his arms was the safest place in the world.

*~*~*~*~

After a dinner of spaghetti, which completely shocked Jackís system since it was Sunday night, they watched a movie together. Jack fell asleep with his head in Markís lap and his legs over Callieís and both adults laughed when he snored lightly. He had already changed into his Superman pajamas so Mark carried him up to bed and Callie tucked him in, kissing him softly on the forehead. Sprout, who had taken to house training with ease, followed them up and settled on his puffy bed in the corner. Callie rubbed the dogís head before she shut out the light and headed into her bedroom.

She was suddenly terrified.

For months, she had walked a line with Mark that was flirtatious and charged with sexual friction and tonight ... tonight was finally the moment they had waited for. She turned to face him when he walked in and shut the door. She bit her lip when he locked it. "I - Iím gonna take a shower."

"Okay." He watched her walk into the bathroom. Unless he was much mistaken, she was a nervous wreck.

Toeing off his shoes, he slipped his pants off and tossed his shirt on top of them. Left in his boxers, he sat down on the bed and gazed at the empty boxes he had yet to break down. There werenít many ... living in the Archfield had been space limited, but seeing them there, completely put together, made him feel like they were waiting for him to repack. And leave.

He got to his feet and made quick work of them, flattening each and sliding the stack under the bed. Heíd get rid of them as soon as he could and then --- Callie was singing. He walked to the door and laid his head against it, listening. The steam from her shower rose around his feet and he opened the door, stepping into the sauna and shaking his head. The doctor in him wanted to remind her that hot water was horrible for the skin, but then he caught a glimpse of said skin, reddened from the heat, and he couldnít think of anything at all.

Callie was still happily singing when she felt his hands on her waist. She grinned and looked back at him over her shoulder. "Is it my singing that lured you or did you come in here to tell me to shut up?"

He reached up and adjusted the taps. "Your singing is beautiful, but that wasnít the lure. I canít wait another second, Callie. I just - I canít."

She turned to face him and he stepped back, sitting down on the wide ledge that had a separate set of jets to massage the back. When she took a step toward him, he held up a hand. "No. Just - let me watch for a minute."

"You want to watch me wash my hair?"

"Yes."

She shrugged and stepped under the spray, wetting her hair again. When she leaned over him to get the shampoo, she let her breasts rub against his thighs and smiled up at him. He probably wouldnít last through a lather, rinse, *repeat*, but it would be very fun to see just how far she could push him.

Mark looked at every inch of her. His parents had a Peter Paul Rubens painting in their drawing room, one that he used to sneak in to gaze at for hours at a time. It depicted Adam and Eve, standing at the tree of knowledge and they were both nude. Eveís ample hips and slightly rounded belly had caused Mark many sleepless nights and he used to pull his fatherís favorite chair under the artwork and reach, trying to touch her. Eventually, he was tall enough to touch with needing the chair and he would trace the contours or her curves with his fingers ... marveling that such beauty could be caught on canvas.

If the woman on that painting had been walking and breathing in this day and age ... it would be Callie. Her thighs were muscular, but sleek and her breasts were high, firm and rounded. They were the perfect size in contrast to her hips and Mark knew that he couldnít have constructed her any better. He palms itched to cup the roundness of her belly, to trace the slight love handle on her back. What most women would call imperfections ... looked just right on her as far as he was concerned.

She turned away from him and he studied her backside. His mouth was so dry when she bent down to retrieve the lid of her shampoo bottle that he couldnít swallow, could barely breathe at all. He watched her rinse her hair, watching the soap run through the ends of her hair, over her buttocks and down her thighs. When the water ran clean, he pushed himself to his feet and ran his hand over her midnight black locks ... following down her back to where the ends rested against the top of her backside. He had not realized how long her hair was when there was no curl.

"Callie-" he whispered her name like a prayer, full of hope, full of longing. "I think you should know that Iím in love with you."

Callieís eyes filled with tears and she nodded, looking up at him. "I think you should know that Iím in love with you, too. So ... be careful with me."

He kissed her, long and hard. His hands tangled in her hair and she pulled him flush against her body, clinging to his waist as she held onto him. They kissed until they were breathless, weak kneed, and panting for more. He eased her toward the ledge and she sat down when she felt it against the backs of her legs. Mark leaned down, still kissing her, then he kneeled before her. She instinctively covered her stomach and he pulled her hands away, whispering, "Youíre beautiful."

He moved his hands over her belly, then down her thighs, which he pushed apart. Cupping her behind the knees, he pulled her to the edge of the seat and lowered his head, kissing her naval, her ribs, then the curls between her legs. When he slipped his tongue against her center, her head fell back and she gasped his name. He had been right. She may go about her day smelling like vanilla, but she definitely tasted like chocolate. He didnít know how or why, but it was addictive and he couldnít get enough. Her body was sweet and smooth and he ravished her like she was the only sustenance to be found.

He teased her relentlessly, bringing her to the edge several times, forcing her to beg for release. He knew that he was tormenting her, that she was not the kind to plead with anyone and she was certainly not the kind to submit, but something held her there, forced her to let him have his way. It turned him on more than anything in the world to know that she was at his mercy only in that she *allowed* it, that she *would* allow it. She had taken charge the night in her hotel room and he had been nothing more than an amorous rag doll as she rode him into oblivion. And ride him she had.

It was his desire now and not hers that finally caused him to cave to her pleas. Before he acquiesced, he slipped two fingers into her and curled them upward, stimulating her G-spot as he latched onto her clit and hungrily sucked. He added a third finger a second later and smiled against her as her mouth dropped open and she clamped down on him.

Callie put a hand over her mouth to keep from screaming at the top of her lungs. Never, in her entire life, had an orgasm felt like *that*. Multiple quakes rocked through her as he continued to stroke her with his fingers and she didnít know if she should knock him backward on the shower floor and straddle him or lie limply against the shower stall and beg him to keep going. He made the decision for her when the hot water ran out.

Mark pulled her to her feet and when she stumbled, he picked her up in his arms. This was also a new experience for Callie. Most of the guys she had dated were not only shorter, they couldnít lift much more than a coffee cup. She buried her face against his neck, hugging him as he headed into the bedroom. She fleetingly thought that they should dry off, that they would soak the sheets, but then she was on her back and he was kissing a path up her legs and she didnít care if they flooded the entire house ... she needed him.

The moment he entered her, Callieís world came to a screeching halt. It spun off its axis and hung there, not rotating, not doing anything. Her eyes met his and she was stunned at what was reflected there. He had felt it, too, and when he pulled back slightly and entered her again, she was certain that their hearts had the same rhythm as their bodies and they were beating as one. It was perfect, it was calm and unhurried and when her back arched like a bow as another orgasm rocked through her, she didnít want to scream, she wanted to cry.

Mark picked up the pace, his eyes never leaving hers. The feel of her, the taste of her, the way she sighed his name ... it was his undoing. He had never, ever wanted a woman more than he wanted her and now that it was here, it was better than he had imagined. She molded against him, a perfect fit, and when he felt her spasm around him, he groaned her name, thinking that he could never get tired of saying it. Not in a million lifetimes. A moment later he collapsed against her, breathing that he loved her against her neck and he meant it with everything in him.

When he felt her shake beneath him, he pushed himself to his elbows and started to ask if she was cold, but the tears on her face suggested otherwise. "Oh my god," he said, trying to pull away. "I hurt you -- I was too-"

"No." She caught him, holding him with both arms. "You didnít."

"Youíre crying." He wiped her cheek, praying that she didnít regret it ... or the things they had said to one another. "Why?"

"Because," she replied, her voice shaking. "For the first time in my life ... someone touched my soul."

"Is that what it was?" he asked, kissing her softly. "Because mine felt the same thing."

She took a deep breath. "Iím scared. I didnít expect to fall."

"You didnít fall," he told her. "I caught you before you could and weíre in this together."

"It looks that way." Grinning through her tears, she said, "Well, it wasnít dirty or cheerful this time. What would call it?"

He flashed her the smile that she called his toothpaste commercial one. "Iíd call it perfect. And just the beginning."

Neither got much sleep that night.

The following morning, when Callie went into the bathroom to get dressed ... she saw that the bruises she had anticipated were not only there ... they were many and varied.

*She* had taken control the third time.

And she imagined that the scratches on his back and chest would remind him all day exactly what he had to look forward to that night.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 5
Mark was at his locker, taping a photo of himself, Jack, and Callie, to the inside of the door, when someone tapped on his shoulder. He turned, saw George OíMalley standing behind him and decided to leave the door open long enough for the shorter man to see the photograph clearly. It was a great picture, taken at Fun Forest. Jack was holding an ice cream and had just given Mark a bite and Callie was looking up at them, smiling broadly. He saw OíMalleyís eyes on the photo and smirked a little, pleased with himself.

"What can I do for you, OíMalley?"

"I found Callieís son hiding in the menís bathroom a few minutes ago and sheís in surgery." George tore his gaze away from the photo and looked at Mark. "He wonít come out with me because Iím a stranger so I was hoping you could -"

"Which bathroom?"

"Lobby."

Mark nodded and left the room.

George looked back at the photo, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he did.

*~

Chief Webber stood in the restroom trying to talk to Jack through the stall door when Mark arrived. Sloan could hear the little boy sobbing softly and his brow furrowed when he heard him whimpering for his mother. "Hey buddy," Mark called, stopping just outside the door. "Your momís working right now. Can you come out and talk to me?"

"Dad?"

"Whatís wrong, Jack?" Mark asked, ignoring Chief Webberís raised eyebrows and shock the Jackís choice of words.

The door opened and the little boy peered up at him. "I did a bad thing. My ass is going straight to hell. Sister Mary Hazel said so."

Mark squatted down next to him. "What could you possibly have done in less than an hour on your very first day?"

Jackís bottom lip trembled. "I got real mad because they didnít start with finger painting like last time so I threw the paint at the teacher to remind her."

Callie had told Mark about the importance of not changing the routine too much for Jack. He needed things a certain way at all times, hence Monday meatloaf, Tuesdayís tacos, and all the other repetitive aspects of his life. He could usually handle small amounts of change, like take out for dinner or Spaghetti (his favorite food) on a Sunday instead of Thursday, but too much at once would usually cause a temper tantrum the likes of which the world had never seen. Jack had to be prepared, very well, for anything that was altered in his schedule. Taking a deep breath, Mark took his hand and said, "That wasnít very nice. Did you apologize?"

"No. When it popped all over her head and made her blue ... I called her a damn smurf. And then I hitted her with red so she would look like Optimus Prime instead. So I ran here while she was still blind."

"First of all, you canít just leave school. Second, youíre going to apologize to your teacher and you are never, ever going to do that again. Do you understand?"

"I want my mom," Jack wailed.

Mark pulled him against his chest and hugged him tightly, rubbing circles on his back as he did so. "Your mom would want me to take you back to school, Jack-o. And sheíd want you to say youíre sorry, too."

"Canít I just see her for a few minutes. Just a few? I want her."

"Her surgery should be over by now," Webber interjected. "Why donít you page her, Dr. Sloan."

"Yeah," Jack said, leaning back to gaze at Mark. "Why donít you page her?"

"Okay. Letís go call." Mark picked him up and Jack put his head on his shoulder, hugging him.

As luck would have it, they ran into Callie in the elevator and she panicked the moment she saw her son being cradled against Markís chest. He had to reassure her quickly because she was frantically tearing at the childís clothing trying to find the source of his tears. "Heís not hurt," Mark said, handing the little boy off to her. "He did a bad thing. I was going to handle it, but he insisted on seeing you."

In the conference room, with the blinds wide open for everyone to see, Jack told his mother what happened. When she angrily informed him that he was grounded to his room for three days, he slumped back in his chair with his arms crossed and the gaggle of co-workers who walked by to peer in at the little boy would later swear that a mini Callie was in their midst, his expression and body language so much like hers that it was frightening.

They both walked him back to the school, where Jack submissively apologized and left with the paint spattered teacher (who looked at him like he was a juvenile Jack the Ripper). Callie lost her temper with the staff, shocking Mark with her choice of words and the harsh way she delivered them. She made it very, very clear that if her son wandered off the premises again she would file a lawsuit for negligence and then she stormed out, Mark hot on her heels. He took her hand in the parking lot of the hospital and felt her stiffen. "Hey, are you okay? Cal?"

"Always page me when itís about Jack. Always."

Her tone forced him to stop walking. He still had her hand so she stopped with him. "It wasnít an emergency. I was taking him back and -"

"Iím his mother."

"I understand that, but - well, you were kind of hard on him, werenít you? Thatís not your thing."

"Whatever." She pulled her hand from his and glared at him. "Apparently watching people in the shower is *your* thing."

"What?"

Callie took a step back when he reached for her. "Olivia and Elise were my nurses today during surgery. They were talking about you and how you liked to watch them in the shower and -"

"Whoa!" Mark closed the distance between them and put his hands on her hips, holding her close. "My past is my past, Callie. Itís there. You know all about it so donít get pissed at me today for it."

"Theyíre acting like -"

"I donít care. And neither should you." He moved one hand up to her face, cupping it. "It has been almost a year since you miscarried. Almost a year since the day that I touched anyone."

"Why?" she asked, dumbstruck.

"Because condoms are not one hundred percent. Watching you lose your baby made me realize that I couldnít handle another child of mine being aborted so ... I stopped. And I knew that you werenít ready yet so I waited until you were."

"You really expect me to believe that? You couldnít even go sixty days with Addison." She saw the shock on his face. "Yeah, she told me."
"Well, youíre no Addison. I had no trouble waiting at all for you."

"Are you actually going to stand there and tell me that you knew you wanted to be with me since my *miscarriage*?"

"Have you not asked yourself why Iím keeping a locker in the residentís lounge instead of with the attendings? Why I was sitting two feet away from your locker every single morning? Why I went out of my way to find reasons to talk to you and why ... when I saw that you wanted Jack ... I found the best lawyer in town?" Mark spread his feet a little and ran his hand over his chin. It was something he did when he was agitated. "I donít understand why I need to justify anything with you after last night. Callie, what we shared ..."

"I was the butt of the joke for weeks after George left me. People laughed at my expense and acted like *I* had done something wrong. I donít want to be the butt of the joke again, Mark."

"You being pissed at me for something that happened *months* ago? Thatís a joke."

"You letting me think that last night was something special? Thatís an even bigger one! You didnít do anything with me that you havenít done with half of this hospital. The shower, picking me up and -"

"Youíre wrong!" he snapped. "I did something with you last night that I have *never* done! I made love!"

"I bet you say that to all the girls. Especially the ones who-"

"FUCK YOU!" Mark spun on his heel and stalked back into the hospital, leaving Callie standing alone with her mouth hanging open.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Is - is your son okay?"

Callie glanced up from the pin that she was inserting into a wrist and met Georgeís eyes. It was the first time he had spoken to her since the carnival and even longer since he had bothered to look at her. She nodded. "Heís fine."

"Heís a good looking kid."

"Thanks," Callie replied, looking back down as she began to screw the pin into place. "I didnít have anything to do with that, but thanks."

"I found him this morning. Crying, I mean. He wouldnít come out and talk to me because I was, as he put it, a damned stranger."

Callie chuckled behind her mask. "I donít know what to do about his foul mouth. Iíve tried everything."

"Do you give him an allowance?" George asked, shifting a little to hold the sides of the incision back.

"Yes. Probably too much."

George smiled. "Make him put money in a jar every time he swears. It only took me a week to realize that my choice of words cost me a bundle so I stopped."

"How old were you?"

"Oh." Georgeís brow furrowed. "Thirteen or fourteen."

"Heís *five*."

"Try it anyway. If he likes money heíll get it fast enough."

Callie nodded and lifted the final pin, glancing back up at him. "Howís your mother?"

"Sheís fine."

"Tell her Ďhií for me."

George watched her work for a few seconds before he spoke again. When he did, his voice was so low that she stopped using the device in her hand and leaned closer. "What?" she asked.

"I said I didnít know. About the miscarriage. I - I didnít get the message."

"You didnít get the message?"

He shook his head. "We were out of town. She - she erased it, Callie. She listened to it and erased the voicemail. I - you have to know that I would have come. I would have been here in a -"

"That was months ago. Iím over it."

"Iím not." George shifted his hand slightly, his pinky touching hers. "She made me think that you didnít call, that you didnít want me around. I only found out about the message the other night during a fight."

Callie moved her hand away. "That sucks for you."

"No, it sucked for you. Iím sorry you were alone and -"

"I wasnít alone. Mark was with me." She looked back at him and felt a surge of happiness at the hollow look in his eyes. "So ... was it worth it?"

"What?"

"You left a woman who loved you enough to want you there while she was having a miscarriage, a miscarriage I might add that was brought about by stress ... you left her for a woman who could hide the fact that your child, *your* child, George, was dying." Callie took a step back and pulled off her gloves. "You got the blond, stacked supermodel. You get to go to bed with the dream and wake up to the nightmare. You must be so proud. Stitch him up, Dr. OíMalley. Iím done."

George watched her go.

And his eyes were so blurred with tears that it took him three times as long to suture the patient.

*~*~*~*~*~

Mark was in the nursery with Jack when Callie arrived to pick him up. She stood gazing through the window, watching as Mark helped him write something on his homework. Her son was listening intently to whatever Sloan was saying and when he bent his head over the paper to concentrate on the task at hand, Mark glanced up and met her eyes and the smile faded from his face. She took a deep breath. It was going to be a long night. Sloan had avoided her all day and had not met her for lunch.

Jack saw her open the door and dropped his pencil, racing into her arms. "I didnít do nothing else bad all day. Can we have a takeout instead of meatloaf?"

The last thing Callie wanted to do was reward him for his behavior, but the prospect of cooking after the day sheíd had was just too much. "Sure."

"McDonalds?"

Callie shook her head. "No junk."

"That sucks." Jack raced back to the table and gathered his bookbag, one that Mark had helped him pick out (Superman). He messily crumpled his papers into the side and hefted it onto his back, holding out his hand to Mark. "Letís go home, Dad!"

Callie rolled her eyes when Mark sailed past her without so much as a word. She followed behind them, listening to Jack ramble on and on about his music class and when he announced that he wanted to play drums, she had to fight hard not to groan. In the car, Jack talked so much that he didnít seem to notice that the adults were only speaking to him. Callie called ahead, ordering Chinese and when they arrived, Mark went in to get it.

"Mom?"

"What, Jack?"

"Are you still *real* mad at me?"

"Iím still *kinda* mad."

"Do I still have to go to my room?"
"Yes."

"Hell."

Callie bit her bottom lip. "From now on, when you say a bad word, Iím taking a dollar from your piggy bank."

"Every time!?"

"Every time."

"Well, damn! I donít got that much money in there, Mom! That could be a trillion, zillion dollars."

"Right now you owe me two." Callie turned in her seat to look at him. She had to smile at the look of abject horror on his face. Her son liked money more than a stock broker. "If you donít say anything else bad then Iíll give it back to you with your allowance on Friday."

"If I donít say nothing bad at all then I should get double my allowance."

"Donít push it."

Jack stared at her for a few seconds. "You got sad face. Is it Ďcause I hit that old nun-bat with the paint?"

Callie laughed. She shouldnít have laughed, but she had called the nuns at their local convent nun-bats growing up as well. She was still laughing when Mark opened the door and set the food in the floorboard. He followed her gaze and grinned at Jack. "Whatís so funny, buddy?"

"Itís okay to call the teachers at my school nun-bats, but I have to pay for cussiní. Donít that beat shit?"

"Three dollars, Jack."

"THREE DOLLARS!?" the little boy squealed. "DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH CANDY I CAN BUY WITH THAT!?"

"Then stop swearing."

Jack sighed. "I swear this sucks! I donít gotta pay for that!"

*~*~*~*~*~

By the time Jack went to bed, he owed Callie seven dollars and he sat sobbing on the bed when she took it out of his bank. When she put the large glass pig back on his dresser, he leaped out of the bed and grabbed it, taking it under the covers with him. He refused to kiss her goodnight and didnít speak to Mark on principle alone. Fifteen minutes later, he was sound asleep when Callie checked on him and she sat next to him, kissing his face one time for every dollar she had taken.

Mark was not in their bedroom when she closed Jackís door. She walked downstairs to make sure the house was locked and then saw the light on in Gertieís old room. She sat down on the window seat in the breakfast nook, grappling with her tears. Their first real argument as a couple and he was already avoiding her at work, at home, and not sleeping with her. It took every ounce of her strength to do so, but she got to her feet and walked into the bedroom without knocking.

He was lying under the cover reading a book and she had a mental image hitting him hard enough with it that the spine would break over his head. Glancing at her briefly, he said, "Is Jack okay? I canít imagine that being forced to sit in his room and watch his mother rob him is a great feeling."

Callie held up her hand and started back out the door. "Nevermind."

"Wait." He put the book down and crossed his arms over his chest. "I donít mean to crawl your ass about him. I just ... I missed him after dinner and hearing him cry because of the money -"

"Heís only grounded for three days. Iíve grounded him before."

"The money thing is new."

"George suggested that -"

"OíMalley!? Youíre taking parenting advice from OíMalley! The same OíMalley who left you hanging at the hospital when your baby died?!"

"He told me today that Izzie erased the message and he didnít know."

"Oh! Is that why youíve stopped talking to me? Is that why you started such a bullshit argument with me today? You want me to get pissed and go so you can start fresh with -"

"What I came in here to say to you is that Iím sorry. Youíre right. I knew all about your past and I still wanted to be with you. I still *want* to be with you, but Iím scared. You made me feel things last night that Iíve never felt before and Iím terrified. Itís not your past that upsets me ... itís your future." She shrugged and the tears that had burned her eyes fell down her cheeks. "Because I *know* that I donít want to spend one night sleeping without you and here you are ... completely fine without me."

"Iím not fine," Mark replied, pushing the cover back and getting to his feet. "Iím as far from fine as a person can be. The only reason I am in this room instead of yours -"

"Ours."

"Instead of ours," he amended, "is because Iím scared, too. Iím new at this. And ... having you kick me out of *our* bedroom was not something else I could hear today."

"Something else?"

"You basically told me that you donít believe anything Iíve been saying to you all these months."

"No, I didnít."

"Yes, you did." Mark crossed the room and stood before her. "You did. You let two bitchy nurses get under your skin and youíre stronger than that. *We* are stronger than that and-"

"What did you just do when I mentioned George!? You automatically assumed that I was trying to kick you out for him! You saw the mess he made of me and as bad as that was ... living it was worse! I donít want him! I want you!"

"Iím not remotely concerned about your ex-husband. I think you know the difference between a man and a child and you know what you need." He smiled his cocky, come hither smile. "What I need is for you to trust me more than you fear me."

"I do trust you. I do."

"Then letís go to bed, baby. Weíll call this one a draw."

"You have to still sleep with me after a fight ... even if you're pissed. You have to still talk to me ... even if you don't want to because anything less than that -"

"I get it, Callie. I will."

The phone rang suddenly and shrilly, causing Callie to jump and look at her watch. She raced into the kitchen and lifted the cordless. "Hello?"

"Callie?"

"ĎStina?"

"I just beat Izzie Stevens within an inch of her life and, well, thatís an exaggeration, but she looks way worse than me and now Iím in jail. Come get me," Cristina replied.

"WHAT!?!?"

"Big Mama Morton is looking at me funny. Can you hurry your ass up before someone makes me her bitch?"

"Iím on my way."

"Thanks."

Callie hung up and buried her face in her hands. A second later, Mark hugged her and she took a deep breath. "Can you keep an eye on Jack?"

"What happened?"

She told him.

Mark swore and followed her upstairs, watching her dig a pair of sneakers from her closet. When she reached for her purse, he caught her arm and pulled her against him. "Iím sorry, too."

"You shouldnít have yelled Ďfuck youí at me."

"Hence the apology." He leaned down and kissed her. "Our first day back at work officially *sucked*."

"Maybe Iíll be back home before midnight and we can salvage it."

"Iíll be here." He kissed her again. "For good."

*~*~*~*~*~

Sex didnít happen. Callie wound up wriggling through red tape at the police department until five in the morning. By the time she dropped Cristina off and drove home during rush hour, there was barely time to shower and dress for work. Mark took care of Jackís breakfast and his snacks while she rushed around the house in a sleep deprived daze. After leaving him at school with strict orders to stay there and to stay out of trouble, they headed to work.

Callie spotted Izzie right off the bat. Cristina was right ... she looked much worse and considering the reason behind the fight, Callie was overjoyed. Apparently Yang had asked Izzie point blank about the phone message telling George that Callie was losing their baby and the blond had not denied it. Izzie had *laughed* and said she doubted Callieís pregnancy at all. So, Cristina had given her an old school beat down in the parking lot at Joeís.

Cristina joined Callie in the hallway, shocking everyone who saw her by looping an arm through her friendís. Izzie cleared her throat and said, "I wonder who the man is in their relationship. Callieís taller, but Cristina has the emotional handicaps."

Dr. Hahn appeared, flipping through a chart and ignoring the laughter around her. She was oblivious to the fact that Callie was physically holding Cristina back or that Izzie looked like she had gone two rounds with a mack truck. Hahn cleared her throat and said, "I have open heart surgery in thirty minutes. Who wants in?"

There was a chorus of Ďmeí from all directions and then Izzie stepped forward and said, "I did really well on the last one, Dr. Hahn. You said youíd request me again and Iíve been reading up on everything. I think Iíll go into cardio."

"Youíre in," Hahn replied, still not looking up.

Callie cleared her throat, stepped forward, and tapped Hahn on the shoulder. "Youíre either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid."

Hahn slammed the chart and glared at the black haired woman. "Excuse me? What did you just say to me?"

"Youíre taking Izzie Stevens ... willingly taking Izzie Stevens ... into a surgery that deals with a heart?" Callie raised a brow. "I realize that you havenít been here very long, but surely you realize that your star pupil here is the one who stole the heart for Denny Duquette."

"Iím sorry? Stole?" Dr. Hahn studied Callieís face. "You canít steal a -"

"You can falsify medical records, though." Callie glanced at Izzie, who was frozen in one spot. "She cut his LVAD wire to make him *appear* sicker than your patient, the rightful recipient, by the way. She was in love, though, so that excuses it ... in her head at least. Your patient died, right? Left behind a family?"

"WHAT!?" Hahn screamed, turning to glare at Izzie.

"Itís true," Cristina blurted. "I was there. She wanted Duquette at the top of the list and your patient was technically sicker so she took matters into her own hands."

Izzie took a step back, staring into the faces of all her peers. She saw nothing but disdain reflected back at her, even from the crowd she had entertained with stories of how she had gotten bruised. Dr. Hahn stalked across the room toward her, chart dangling at her side. "Stevens, I refuse to call you a doctor from this point on. I donít know how or why you have a job here, but as far as Iím concerned youíre a janitor! Donít approach me for surgery and donít speak to me at all."

"But, I -"

Hahn held up a hand, right in her face, and looked at Cristina. "Yang, youíre in."

"Thank you," Cristina replied, her tone calm and gracious. She watched Hahn stalk down the corridor and smiled up at Callie. "You really do kick ass."

"You donít do so bad yourself," Callie said, nudging her.

"What the hell?" Meredith asked, nostrils flaring as she glared first at Callie, then at Cristina. "You were supposed to keep your mouth shut! You were supposed to not talk about it! Ever!"

Cristina got toe to toe with Meredith and Callie put an arm between them. "Stop," Callie said.

Cristina shoved her arm down and sneered, "You know how we all kept saying that George was a bastard for not coming to see Callie while she miscarried? Well, that *thing* that you seem happy to defend," Cristina pointed an accusing finger at Izzie, "That *thing* who almost got us all fired ... she deleted the message after she listened to it and went about her vacation like she didnít have a clue! She kept it from George, Meredith! She purposely kept him in the dark so her perfect little fairy tale would not be cut short. He had a right to know! He had a right to say goodbye to his baby and -"

Meredith spun and looked at Izzie. "Is that true?"

Izzie looked left and right. All around her, people were whispering and looking at her the same way the rich girls had looked at her on the school bus when they saw where she lived for the first time. Saying nothing, she turned on her heel and walked through the crowd.

As soon as she was clear ... she ran.

*~*~*~*~*~

Mark glanced at the clock. It was twelve thirty and Callie wasnít in the cafeteria. She was also not in surgery. He paged her again and frowned. Surely she wasnít still angry at him. Having already finished his lunch, he got to his feet and walked to the table where Cristina and Meredith were in deep discussion. "Hey, jail bird, whereís Callie?"

Cristina smiled up at him. "Aww, did she stand you up?"

"No, inmate six six six. Have you seen her?"

"She was sleeping in the second floor on call room earlier," Meredith supplied. "Sheís exhausted."

Mark poked Cristina in the arm. "She needs better friends. Ones that don't keep her out all night."

Yang shrugged. "I did it all for her."

"Iím sure sheís grateful."

He headed to the second floor on call room, stopping to buy a rose from one of the candy stripers in the front lobby. Whistling, he made small talk in the elevator and grinned when he pushed the door open. That smile faded fast, however and he squeezed the rose so hard that the thorns broke the skin of his palm.

George, who had been kneeling beside the bunk watching Callie sleep, shot to his feet. "I - I was just -"

Mark saw the way that Callieís scrub shirt was up, revealing several inches of her stomach and his mind went wild. Surely the other man had not been *groping* her in her slumber. He tossed the rose in the corner and stalked forward, grabbing George by the labels of his hideous corduroy jacket. "Stay the hell away from her!" he barked, slamming him back against the wall.

Callie gasped and sat up, disoriented. She blinked when she saw Georgeís dangling feet and shot out of the bed, hurrying forward. "Mark! Mark, put him down!"

Mark dropped him. George stumbled and almost fell, but caught himself against the bunks at the last minute, then he darted out of the room without a word. Taking a deep breath, Mark turned to face her and was shocked to see her smiling. He was braced for her wraith. "I think he was taking advantage of the fact that you werenít awake to feel you up."

Callie looked down and gasped, pulling her shirt the right way. "Go after him and kill him."

Mark started toward the door, but she caught his hand. She was about to say something funny when she felt how sticky it was. Turning it over, she gasped when she saw the blood. "Oh my god. Maybe you already did."

He shook his head and retrieved the rose, handing it to her. "Itís not the most suave flower delivery, but there you go."

She brought it to her nose and breathed deep, smiling at him. "Nothing says Iím sorry I was an ass quite like a red-"

Reaching out, he caught her behind the neck and pulled her forward, planting a kiss on her that left them both breathless. It was her turn to throw the flower and she did just that when he picked her up and urged her legs around his waist. Gripping his broad shoulders, she held him close. She grunted when her back roughly hit the wall, but he didnít break the kiss, didnít ask if she was okay. And it drove her wild.

He slipped his hand under her shirt and shoved her bra upward, angrily tweaking her nipple. She tightened her legs around him as her head fell back and he latched onto her neck, nipping and biting. Her hands moved to his head, but only for a moment. He pushed her legs from his waist and turned her, forcing her face first against the door. Callieís breath caught when he reached around her waist and untied her scrub pants. "Mark-"

"Shhh." He shoved them and her panties down her legs, stopping at mid thigh. Kneading the flesh of her ass, he pulled her hips back slightly and bent her forward just a little. Her palms were flat against the wall when he lowered his own pants and slammed into her. This time his name was a harsh cry and he put a hand over her mouth as he drove against her.

Callie scratched at the door, looking for purchase as he fucked her harder than she had ever been fucked in her life. One of his hands stayed on her mouth as her cries intensified and the other moved around her, fondling her swollen clit until she came so hard that all she could do was bite down on his hand. She was momentarily grateful that it wasnít the bloody one and then he was doing something inside her that caused her to come again, faster than the first time and it took all of her control to keep standing at all.

Mark came with a growl and tugged her hair, urging her head around so he could kiss her over her shoulder. It was wet, as sloppy as their joining had been. They both moaned their displeasure when he slipped from her wet center and grabbed a box of tissue. He cleaned her up himself, kneeling down in front of her to kiss her stomach and her hips as he did so. When he stood again, she was smiling at him.

"What?" he asked.

"Youíre completely forgiven."

"You are, too."

She retied her pants and said, "That was really, really good, Mark."

"You like it rough. I havenít forgotten." He pinned her back against the wall again and devoured her lips in a kiss that held the promise of things yet to come. "If you donít kick your ex-husbandís ass ... I will."

"Iíll handle it," she promised, pulling him back down.

Both their pagers went off a moment later and Sloan made a face. "God help the patient if we both have to scrub in on this. My mind will not allow me to do my job if youíre in the vicinity."

Callie stood on her tiptoes and whispered, "Having you in the vicinity doesnít mess with my mind so much as my body. Think about that."

"You are nothing but trouble."

"You can handle it," she replied as she opened the door.

"Youíre damn right I can. And I will just as soon as we both catch a break again."

*~*~*~*~*

Callie didnít get the chance to "handle" George for the next three weeks. Cristina wasnít sure where he had gotten off to, but he was definitely not working and Izzie was not saying a word to anyone. By the time OíMalley reappeared, the incident in the on call room was the furthest thing from Callieís mind. Between shopping for Markís new car (an SUV, thank you very much) and dealing with Jackís utter hatred of all things academic, she was having trouble concentrating on how to spell her own name and had no time for drama. So, when George approached her looking like a kicked puppy, her first instinct was to ask him what was wrong instead of punching him for possibly groping her.

"I broke up with Izzie," he told her, looking like he had just informed her that her lottery ticket was worth twenty million bucks. "Thatís what I wanted to tell you the other day when Mark tried to choke me."

Callie simply glared at him.

"So, Iím not with her," George continued. "I just wanted to let you know. You were right ... about the nightmare."

"And I care because?"

"Maybe we could talk?"

"What do we have to talk about?"

"I could use a friend right now and we -"

"Were never friends." Callie shook her head. "Iím sorry that Snow White turned out to be Snow Wart, but I donít care."

"All Iím asking is for you to-"

"No." Callie gathered up her chart. "Iím with Mark. With him, George."

"Are you in love with him?"

"Yes," she replied instantly. "Iím in love with him. My son is in love with him. Weíre a family and weíre happy. So ... I donít care."

"No one talks to me anymore, Callie! No one! I donít have anyone else."

Callie took a deep breath and looked at him. He seemed so much smaller, greasier, and spineless than she remembered. "No one talks to you because the *you* that left me for her isnít George OíMalley. Youíre not the heart in the elevator guy or the family guy or the lovable sidekick anymore. Youíre a man who cheated, a man who said nothing to his then wife when he came back and found out that she had lost his baby, and youíre a man who - no, you know exactly what youíve become. And I donít want to know you."

She turned on her heel and started to walk away, but she turned back toward him. He looked hopeful and she almost laughed in his face. "By the way, itís creepy as hell for someone to watch you while youíre asleep so donít come near me when Iím napping in the on call room again."

"Callie-"

"And if you had *anything* to do with my shirt being up ... bend over and kiss your ass goodbye."

"I didnít pull your -"

"Oh, Gimpy Smurf is back in our midst," Mark said, sliding his chart across the station to the nurse on duty. He put his arms around Callieís waist and kissed her neck. "I guess it was too much to hope that Gargamel had finally caught one, huh?"

"No more television for you, Sloan," Callie told him. "Youíre worse than Jack with the cartoon references. My brain needs adult conversation."

"Okay, I can do adult," Mark replied. "It looks like the suicidal mother fucker is back in our midst. I guess it was too much to hope that he had taken care of it himself so ... hereís my warning, dumbass, you talking to her? Death wish. Keep walking."

"That was harsh," Callie said, watching George slump down the hallway. "And nicely done, babe."

"Thanks, gorgeous." He put his mouth against her ear so that only she could hear him. "My body needs adult stimulation so how about you duck into the closet with me and -"

"Dr. Sloan," Chief Webber called, stepping out of the elevator. He glanced down at Sloanís hands, which were dangerously low on Callieís belly and cleared his throat. "I could write you both up for inappropriate touching."

"This would be inappropriate." Mark moved his hand and groped her breast, causing her to smack his hand and Webber to look at the ceiling. "Aww, Chief, are you blushing?"

"I need to hire an uglier staff." Webber glanced back down at them and relaxed when he saw that they were merely holding hands. "Sloan, I need you to do a consult for me."

"Whoís the patient?"

"Me," Richard replied. "Itís - er - private."

"Going." Callie turned and gave Mark a quick kiss. "Our plane leaves at seven so if you canít make it to the airport, Iíll smooth it over with Jack."

"I still donít understand why you have to go see Addison for *three* days."

"Because Jack only has three day weekends few and far between."

"Fine, fine," Mark replied, giving her another kiss. "Iíll be there, by the way. To see you off."

"Okay."

Webber tilted his head to the side, watching Callie walk away. Sloan was doing the same thing and when her laughter carried back to them as she stopped to talk to Dr. Yang, Chief Webber grinned. "She's happy."

"She is," Mark replied, his gaze still pinned to her. "So am I."

"Her son is calling you 'dad'."

With a grin, Sloan nodded. "Yep. He is calling me dad."

"You have to be extremely careful when there are children involved, Mark. Because if you hurt her then you hurt him by default."

"Not happening." Mark shook his head. "I'd die first."

"Well, don't die before you remove this damn triple nipple. I'm getting divorced so if I plan on dating the ladies ... I need two nipples and not three. And I don't want scarring, either."

"Great. Triple nipples and no scarring. Just what I wanted to do with my life."

*~*~*~*~*~

"You're wearing the shirt I bought you, Dad!" Jack cried, jumping to his feet in the chair and holding out his arms.

"I sure am," Mark replied, hugging him. The shirt in question was hideous, covered in train engines and colorful enough to be Hawaiian, but not quite making it. He wore it all the time because Jack always noticed and always had the same proud grin on his face when he saw it. Callie had offered to 'accidentally' bleach it, but he had staunchly refused. Jack had spent *his* allowance on something for Mark instead of himself and that was priceless. "Will you please be good on the plane?"

"Yep. Look, Mom bought me a book that she's going to read to me!"

Mark accepted the copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. He raised a brow at Callie. "Isn't he kinda young to be as weird as you?"

Callie smiled at him. "Just because I made you wait in line with me at the Sci-Fi convention to get a Weasley's autograph ... doesn't make me weird."

"No, the fact that you dressed like a witch made you weird. Actually, I guess not because everyone was dressed like that. Freaks." He leaned forward and kissed her. "You were the hottest witch, though."

"You were a hot muggle." She winked at him. "Are you going to miss us?"

"I already do. You sure I can't change your mind?"

"I'm sure." Callie got to her feet when their flight was called. "Mark?"

"What, baby."

"Be good."

"You know I will." He caught her around the waist. "I love you."

It was the first time he had said it outright. He had said 'I'm in love with you' and 'I love being with you', but never simply stated it as fact. She took a deep breath, enjoying the effect it had on her. "I love you, too."

"I love us all!" Jack said, hugging both of their legs. "Family!"

"Family!" Mark agreed, lifting him up and tossing him into the air. "You mind your mother and remind her to call me when you land, okay?"

"'Kay!"

Setting the child back on his feet, Mark hugged Callie one last time. "*You* be good."

"If I can't .. I'll name it after you," she replied innocently.

"Watch me not laugh."

He stood at the window long after their plane had disappeared into the darkness.

*~*~*~*~*~

Chief Webber sat beside Derek at the Emerald City Bar. Richard peeled the label on his bottle of water as he watched the door. Sloan had agreed to meet him at eight thirty, but it was rapidly approaching nine fifteen and he was getting antsy. "I don't know how to do this whole dating thing," he said.

Derek asked for another beer and turned, gazing out at the female patrons of the bar. "Do you want to have sex or a meaningful relationship?"

Richard choked on his water and grabbed a napkin, blotting his mouth. "I just want to buy someone a drink. And talk."

"You're a dying breed."

Mark joined them at the bar a moment later, ordering a double shot of tequila. Derek leaned forward, gazing at him in shock. "Hard liquor? Callie loosened the ball and chain tonight?"

"She's flying to Los Angeles to see Addison. For three days."

"Ooooh. The current and the ex." Derek held up his beer bottle. "Once they compare notes you're a dead man."

"Shut up," Mark snapped, draining his shot and asking for another double.

Richard raised his eyebrows, glaring at Sloan. "You're off tomorrow, right?"

"Yep."

"Do you have a designated driver?"

"You," Mark told him, motioning for another refill. "I'll help you score a date and you help me get home safe."

"How are you going to help me score a date if you're drunk?"

"Oh, right." Mark turned on the stool and gazed out at the crowd of women. "Slim pickings."

Erica Hahn made the mistake of meeting his eye and he beckoned her to the bar. She glared at him the entire time she approached. "What?" she snapped.

"Chief Webber wants to show you how to dance."

Erica looked at Richard, who was staring at the liquor bottles behind the bar. "Is Chief Webber suddenly mute?"

Mark nudged his boss so roughly that he almost crashed into Derek. Webber choked again and turned, smiling at the blond. "Good evening, Dr. Hahn."

"If you want to dance with me you have to call me Erica." She held out her hand and waited for the other man to take it. "Don't grope my ass, don't grind any part of your body against mine and try to keep up."

"Damn," Derek and Mark said together as Webber followed Hahn onto the dance floor and put everyone around him to shame.

An hour later, Webber and Hahn were slow dancing and Mark was tipsy as hell. For the fifth time, he checked his cell phone and realized that it only felt like time was moving at warp speed. "I'm sure they've landed and are on their way to Addison's," he assured Derek for lack of anything better to do.

Derek clapped him on the shoulder. "If you start crying, you're on your own."

"It's just three days. Two nights alone." Mark grimaced suddenly. "Two nights alone. In our bed. With her smell and --- I'm sleeping on the couch."

"She really is the one, huh?"

"She really is the one." Mark grinned.

"Because I can't imagine you'd wear that shiteous shirt for just anyone."

Smoothing his hand over his chest, Mark shook his head. "This is for Jack. And I make it look good."

"Dr. Sloan?"

Mark turned and stared blearily into the face of someone he vaguely recognized. "Elise, right?"

The woman didn't reply. Instead she stepped between his legs and planted the biggest, wettest kiss on him he'd ever received. It was disgusting and whatever fruity alcoholic beverage she was drinking gagged him when her tongue met his. He pushed her back, rougher than he should have, and Webber caught the woman before she could bust her ass. She giggled maniacally and took off back to the table of nurses in the corner. Derek narrowed his eyes when they all put their heads together.

Mark was too drunk to realize it right now ... but Derek had no doubt that his previous conquests were up to something.

Big.

Ch 6
They cry in the dark, so you can't see their tears
They hide in the light, so you can't see their fears
Forgive and forget, all the while
Love and pain become one and the same
In the eyes of a wounded child
Because Hell
Hell Is For Children
And you know that their little lives can become such a mess
- Pat Benatar

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison arrived at the airport ten minutes late. Jack and Callie already had their bags and the little boy was hopping up and down begging for a t-shirt that had Mickey Mouse on it. Callie was trying to hang onto him, carry their luggage, and check the shirts for his size when Addison walked up and plucked the shirt from her hand. "Thatís my job, Callie. I am the spoiling aunt."

Callie was so glad to see her that she hugged her for a full minute. "He was so good on the flight and now heís bouncing off the walls."

"I brought reinforcements," Addison replied, winking at her friend. "Cooper Freedman, this is Callie Torres. Callie, this is Cooper ... one of the premiere pediatricians on the west coast. He loves kids."

Callie happily shook the manís hand. "Hi, Cooper."

"Hi, beautiful. I knew that when Addison said a friend was coming that you would be hot and well, you are." Cooper laid on the charm until Addison elbowed him in the stomach. "Sorry. I am here to entertain The Jackman."

He kneeled down and poked Jack in the belly. "Hi, dude. How are you?"

"Ahhhhhh!" Jack screamed in a way that should have shattered all the surrounding glass, hiding behind Callie. "Stranger danger! Stranger danger!"

Callie pulled him from behind her and said, "Heís not a stranger! Addison just introduced him!"

"Not to me!" Jack informed his mother, crossing his arms over his chest as he regarded Cooper. "Well?"

Addison smiled. "Iím so sorry, Jack. This is Cooper. Heís a friend of mine and -"

"Do you kiss him, Addy?" Jack asked.

"No!" Addison wrinkled her nose, saw that Cooper was watching her and said, "I - I mean, I would, but -"

"You would?" Cooper asked hopefully.

"Iím with *Pete*," Addison replied. "Like, officially *with* Pete."

"My mom ainít gonna kiss you either!" Jack said matter of factly. "She only kisses my dad."

"Dad?" Cooper got to his feet, glancing from Callie to Addison. "I thought you said she was single?"

Addison looked as intrigued and baffled as Cooper. "I thought she was single, too."

"Long story," Callie replied, pointing at the t-shirt Addison held. "I can get that."

"Nope!" Addison headed into the shop to pay, leaving Cooper and Callie standing alone as Jack trailed after her, announcing that he needed candy, too.

"That child is unbelievable." Callie shook her head when Addison bent down and picked up several types of sweets. "Heís a natural manipulator."

"Itís a glimpse of the man heíll become. We all did it as kids. Men, I mean." Cooper grinned at her. "Listen, since youíre a friend of Addisonís Iíd be happy to give him a checkup while youíre here. My waiting list is several weeks out ... I mean, Iím not bragging, but well, Iím just saying Iíd be happy to do it."

"He is due for a checkup and he doesnít like the doctor that I found." Callie returned his smile. "That would be great, Cooper. Thank you."

"And just to put it out there ... if you find yourself without Jackís dad ... you can call me anytime. Day or night or whatever."

"Iíll keep that in mind."

*~

Callie tucked Jack into Addisonís guest room and glanced at her cell phone again. No missed calls. She finally dialed Markís number and frowned when it went straight to voice mail. She left him a message, telling him that she missed him, she loved him, and couldnít wait to see him again. When she turned back toward the door, Addison was leaning against it. "Hey," Callie said. "I was coming back downstairs."

"Itís Mark. Right?"

Her palms began to sweat and Callie nodded, walking past Addison and back into the living room. Her friend followed behind her and Callie sat down in the spot she had vacated and picked up her glass of wine. "Itís Mark," she finally said.

Addison tucked her feet under her and took a deep breath. "Jack is calling him Ďdadí and heís not running?"

"Weíre living together. Heís the dad. He helps with the homework and the baths and the discipline. Heís ... dad."

"When did this happen, Callie?"

"After the car wreck. I mean, we were kinda together before that, but the wreck made me realize that I canít be scared. You know? If I fall off the horse I can either run for cover or get back on and do it better. I think weíre doing it better." Callie chewed her bottom lip nervously. "I decided to tell you in person instead of on the phone. Donít make me regret that."

"Iím fine, Cal. I just - I donít want you to get hurt. A personís track record is a pretty good indicator of what lies ahead."

"So, if you get remarried ... youíre destined to cheat?"

"Touché." Addison flipped her a bird. "Are you happy?"

"Yep."

"Then Iím happy." Lifting her glass, the red head smiled. "And if he hurts you I happily volunteer to kill him or at the very least help you dismember and burn the evidence."

"Youíd have to stand in line. Cristina went to *jail* for me. What have you done for me lately?"

"Shut up! What did she do?"

They talked until one in the morning.

When Jack announced at five thirty that he was freakiní starving and wanted waffles, Callie made sure that Addison woke up and suffered along with her until they departed for Disneyland.

*~*~*~*~*~

Mark had trouble prying his tongue off the roof of his mouth. The heavenly smell of vanilla was all around him and he smiled, reaching for Callie. He encountered nothing but the sheet and sat up fast, her name on his lips. Thatís when he spotted her open closet and the many empty hangers and for the briefest moment ... he thought she wasnít coming back, and then he remembered her weekend trip. He frowned and picked up his cell phone. Somehow, someway, it had been turned off.

He waited impatiently for it to power up and saw that she had called. Once. The previous night. Feeling like a total ass, he listened to her voice mail and smiled like a blubbering idiot the entire time. He called her back, sitting on the edge of the bed. She answered on the fourth ring, laughing, and he had to laugh with her. "Having a good time?"

"Jack has decided that Disneyland is better than his birthday," she replied. "Heís like a little spider monkey on everything. Weíre taking a ton of pictures."

"How are you?" he asked.

"Exhausted. Hang on. Cooper, will you grab him before he tries to get back in line?"

Mark sat up a little straighter. When Callie spoke to him again, he said, "Who is Cooper?"

"A friend of Addisonís."

"IS SHE TRYING TO FIX YOU UP WITH SOMEONE!?"

"She didnít know about us. Remember? Now she does."

"And youíre with this guy anyway!?" He had to grab his thigh when he heard Jack squealing Cooperís name and screaming for him to put him down. "What is he doing to him?!"

"Heís tickling him." Callie laughed at something and then Jack was begging for Cooper to take him on the ride. "Theyíre playing rock, paper, scissors to decide who gets the kid next. Who knew that grown men could become ... hang on ... DELL! What are you doing?! Oh my god! Freak!"

"Now youíre talking about men in the plural! Did she bring along multiple choices for you?!"

"Co-workers," Callie told him. "Hey, I called you last night."

"Yeah, Iím sorry. I went out for drinks with Webber and Derek and well, I got a little drunk."

"What!?" Callie cried. "Why?"

"Because I miss you. I hate this. Come home early."

"Weíre coming home tomorrow. I canít believe you got drunk."

"I canít believe youíre at Disneyland with a male harem."

"This jealousy thing is pretty hot, Mark."

"I am definitely not jealous. I trust you. Just - remember that your personal bubble is about three feet around so if anyone gets in that area - itís assault and you can kill them." When she laughed, a rich, tinkling sound, he smiled. "I really do miss you."

"I miss you, too."

"Is Jack around?"

"Yep, hang on."

A second later, the little boy was on the phone. "Dad! Guess what?! Sam took me on a water ride and Nomi took me on the submarine and Cooper rides *everything* and he screams more than me and Mom and Addy had waterfights on the water thing and itís so much fun. Can you come too?"

"I wish I could, buddy, but Iíve got to work tonight. Iíll see you tomorrow night, okay?"

"I miss you."

"I miss you too, Jack."

"I love you! Bye!"

Before Mark could reply, Callie was back on the phone. "Weíll see you tomorrow."

"Callie, call me tonight. Anytime."

"You call me. It makes me feel important."

"You are, baby. You are."

"I love you."

"I love you, too. Be safe."

"Seeya."

"Bye."

Mark waited for her to hang up first. He closed his phone when she disconnected and looked at the clock. Disgusted with himself, he actually counted the hours until theyíd be home. There were far too many.

He decided to go into work anyway, even though he was technically not on the schedule.

And he wore the shirt Jack had given him again.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Are you *sure*?" Callie asked for the fifth time.

Sam nodded at her. "I have a thirteen year old, Callie. She was five once and sheíll be here, too. She baby-sits all the time. Go and have fun."

Stepping to her left, Callie gazed at Jack who was sitting next to Maya playing video games. "Heís very ... he can lose his temper at the drop of a hat and -"

"I can handle that, too." Sam looked at Addison for support. "Can you please tell her that a sleepover isnít the end of the world?"

Addison put an arm around Callieís shoulder. "Itís girlís night out, Cal. Come on. Sam has all of our numbers."

"Okay," Callie replied, nodding her head. "Iím going to go without telling him goodnight. He may be upset or -"

"Bye, Mom!" Jack called.

"Not." With a sigh, Callie thanked Sam and followed Addison out to her car. She didnít speak for the first five minutes and then she looked at her friend and said, "Are you sure that Samís okay?"

"Callie! For Godís sake! He was my best friend in college. Heís not a serial killer."

"Okay, okay," Callie replied. They stopped to pick up Violet and Naomi, who catcalled when they saw Callieís attire.

"Nice outfit!" Naomi told her.

Callie shifted uncomfortably. The low cut red shirt had been Addisonís idea and the jeans she wore were skin tight. She should have avoided the mall at all costs with Addison in tow. "Thanks."

"So, Cooper will be there," Violet said, spreading lip-gloss over her mouth. "He overheard me talking about it and -"

"Peteís coming, too. And Dell." Naomi grinned.

Callie turned in her seat to look at Addisonís best friend. "You do get that Dell has a thing for you, right?"

"What!?" Naomi feigned shock. "Heís *three*."

"Heís also madly in love ... or lust. Whichever. Whatever it is ... it happens whenever youíre near him." Callie raised an eyebrow. "And considering your outfit ... I think you already know that."

"Whatever, girl!" Naomi giggled like a schoolgirl.

The club they had chosen was nice, upscale. A large dancefloor with different colored lighted tiles dominated the center of the room. Tables lined every inch of available space and a horseshoe shaped bar was already crowded with people. They took a table near the dancers and Callie grinned when Cooper, who was apparently intent on proving that white men couldnít dance, threw up his hand at her.

"Poor guy," Violet said, watching him wave his arms. "He looks like heís in a swarm of bees and heís being stung all over."

As far as assessments went, that one was fairly accurate. All the women laughed and when he danced up to their table, they all declined his offer of cutting a rug. After six shots, however, Callie happily obliged him and after ten minutes of her instruction, he not only danced with her ... they danced the hell out of several songs in a row.

Completely drunk four hours later, Callie was led upstairs by Cooper and Dell, who kept laughing their asses off at her dry sense of humor. It became more pronounced and hysterical the drunker she got. There was evidence of this on several video phones and Dell, who was great at editing, promised Addison that he would have a great clip put together soon.

The following morning, Callie was so hungover when they arrived at the Oceanside Wellness Clinic that Cooper took one look at her and gave her pain medication for the flight home. The little boy answered all of Cooperís questions with animation and ease. Addison and Callie sat nearby, flipping through magazines as they half listened.

"My mom fixed my arm when I broke it."

"How did you break it?" Cooper asked, checking his reflexes.

"I jumped off the roof of the group home."

"Oh? Why is that?"

Jack shrugged. "Cause when nobody would pick us to take home with them ... the bosses would scrub us in the bathtub until our skins hurted and then they would hit us. Sometimes. If I hurted myself first then they left me alone."

Cooper looked at Callie, who was no longer reading her magazine. He questioned her with his eyes and she shook her head. She had not known. "Did they hurt you a lot?"

"Nah." Jack picked up the end of Cooperís stethoscope and breathed into it. "I didnít never cry when they hit me or scrubbed me so they didnít do me much. I did cry when they put me in the devil closet, though. It was bad scary. They said that the devil was in there with a pitchfork lookiní for sinners in the dark and that I was the biggest damn sinner alive."

Cooper watched the little boy clap both hands over his mouth. "Jack?"

"That didnít count, Mom! You canít make me pay for that one."

"Okay," Callie said, not smiling. "You get one free today."

Jack rubbed the metal end of the steth unaware that Addison had reached over and took his motherís hand or that Callie was trying hard not to cry. "My momís a real good mom. Iím glad she picked me. Only I sorta picked her first."

"You did?"

"Yep. I knew she could love me." Jack nodded. "She wonít let nobody hurt me no more."

"Is there anything else you want to tell me?" Cooper asked softly. "I really like hearing stories about your life."

Jack looked thoughtful. "Hmmm. I guess that Mr. McDeaver used to take pictures of us in the showers. He used a camera that would spit out the pictures instead of putting it on a Ďputer like my momís. He has a secret box like mine and he keeped Ďem in there."

"Where did he put his secret box?" Cooper asked.

"On his book bin in his office. Whenever I was in trouble he would close up the box and put it with the books. I seen Ďem, though. The pictures."

"Did he ever touch you, Jack? In a way that made you feel bad?" Cooper pushed.

"Only when he used his wood paddle on my ass. Iíd rather give Ďem my allowance than that!" His eyes widened and he looked at Callie. "I didnít mean ass! I meant ... rump! Or butt. Yeah, butt."

"Itís fine." Callie forced herself to smile at him before she got to her feet and stared out the window. Addison walked to the phone and discreetly called Violet before she joined Callie at the window and talked softly to her.

Jack pulled the stethoscope off Cooperís neck and put it around his. "Iím gonna be a doctor, too. But I ainít helping kids. Kids suck."

Cooper smiled and ruffled his hair.

It was going to be a very long day.

*~*~*~*~*~

Mark was scrubbing out of surgery when he got the call from Callie. By the time he arrived at the group home with every intention of killing anyone he saw ... the police had already arrived with a search warrant and confirmed to him, off the record, that the lock box of photographs not only existed, they contained more than just shower pictures.

Mark did get to see one thing with the help of two friendly police officers who assured him that they understood his pain ... they both had kids at home.

He got to see the ĎDevil Closetí. It was painted red on the inside and had jagged pieces of wood glued to every inch that would make it impossible for a child who was locked inside to lean against. If they did lean against he ... he had no doubt that their imaginations went wild with thoughts of devils and pitchforks. God only knew how many hours Jack had stood in the horrible little space. He hated to imagine it.

After emptying his stomach of itís contents, Mark headed back down the hallway. Social services had arrived to take the remaining children into custody and he watched, painfully reminded of the orphanage in New York where he had spent the first seven years of his life when he wasnít in foster care. It was still the same, he noted. Children were lined up like cattle and not given the benefit of an explanation. They were simply told to get their things and go with strangers.

His hands fisted so hard at his sides that he could feel his nails digging against his flesh. Feeling dizzy, he leaned back against the wall. A second later, something tugged on his pants and he looked down to see a little brown haired girl gazing up at him. She was smaller than Jack so he guessed that she was three or four at the most. "Itís okay," she told him. "They canít keep you. Youíre all growed up."

Mark squatted down. "Hey there."

"Hey." She glanced behind her and beckoned him forward. "Are you a cop?"

"Iím a doctor."

"Did you tell on them? Did you make them let us go?"

"No." Mark shook his head. "Are you happy to go?"

She lifted up the end of her faded, too small dress and showed him the bruises on her leg. "Maybe they wonít do this no more where weíre going."

Mark had to look away. She tugged his collar suddenly and said, "I like your shirt. Itís colory like a clown. But you ainít a clown Ďcause clowns smile."

"Iím not a clown," Mark agreed. He didnít feel like he would ever smile again. "Whatís your name?"

"Emily. Whatís yours?"

"Mark."

"Bye, Mark."

She kissed him on the cheek and stuck her thumb in her mouth as she followed the last of the kids out of the building and into the waiting vans. Mark got to his feet, still staring at the corner she had disappeared around without so much as a look back. He didnít have to question that either. Kids like this, like *him*, didnít make it a habit of looking where they had been because it wasnít worth it. You kept your eyes straight ahead and you learned to expect the worst, but hope that maybe the sun would shine a little brighter at your next destination.

"Iím telling you I ainít done nothing wrong!"

Markís jaw tightened and he turned. A short, fat man with a bald head was running down the hallway. One hand was cuffed and it was apparent that he had run out on his arrest. Mark stepped in front of him, effectively blocking him as two officers arrived behind him. "Are you Mr. McDeaver? The owner of this place?"

"Yeah, what of it?"

The two cops that Mark had spoken with earlier glanced at one another, nodded, and took a step back. They let Mark get three good licks and one kick in before they stopped it and hefted McDeaver back to his feet. One of the officers stayed behind and Mark braced himself to be arrested.

But the officer simply shook his hand, tipped his hat, and smiled before wishing him a good night.

Mark had been in many clubs growing up, but the brotherhood of men that consisted of fathers was by far and away the most gratifying. And the one that gave him the biggest sense of pride.

*~*~*~*~*~

After leaving the home, Mark hired a lawyer for Jack. He didnít know what was coming, but there was little doubt in his mind that Jackís life could be sent into a tailspin and he wanted someone there to advise them every step of the way. The attorney let Mark pay for the retainer, but Callie would have to make the ultimate decision as Jackís legal guardian. His second stop was at the hospital to have his hand X-rayed and when he was given a clean scan, he headed to the airport just in time with Cristina in tow. Yang wanted to blow up the group home for good measure, but agreed to quell her inner una-bomber when Mark told her that sheíd need to drive Callieís car home.

His heart literally ached when he saw Callie. She was pale and so close to tears that he felt his own eyes blur. Jack spotted him and pulled from Callieís grip, racing as fast as his legs would carry him. Mark caught him and tossed him in the air, causing the little boy to announce that his dad was more fun than Disneyland. Mark clung to him for several seconds, then handed him off to Cristina who led him into the candy shop.

As soon as Callie stepped into his arms ... she let go. He led her across the lobby and sat down with their backs facing the candy shop so Jack wouldnít see it. He clung to her as she told him everything she didnít want to share on the phone and Mark silently hoped that the kick to McDeaverís ribs had shattered them. The old man had certainly screamed like it had.

"Weíre going to get through this," Mark assured her. "Jackís okay, Callie. He is."

"Whatís going to happen now?" she asked, accepting the tissue he held out. "I mean ... they wonít release his name or anything because heís a minor, but what if they make him testify? What if -"

"Baby, weíll deal with that when it happens. Listen, I actually put a lawyer on retainer today and heís going to cover everything. Jack doesnít have to talk until weíre sure heís ready and we can be there for it. The attorney even said that he can push for Jack to testify via closed circuit television to keep him out of the courtroom." Mark kissed her forehead. "The police already have the photos and theyíve moved all the kids."

"You went there?" Callie gasped, then her eyes widened. "What did you do?"

"What any man would do." He held up his hand, which was bruised, but not bad enough to require any bandage.

"Oh my god." She took it into her own. "Mark, you can get into so much trouble and -"

"Cristinaís got the jail thing covered. Itís okay."

"Did you make him cry?"

"I made him squeal like a pig." Mark cupped her cheek. "Itís going to be fine. I promise."

She dried her eyes and smiled up at him. "I love you. I really do."

"I really love you back." He kissed her softly, rubbing his thumb against her chin. "Cristina said she would take him home and stay with him while we go to the lawyerís office. Are you up for that?"

"Why do I have to go?"

"Well ... youíre his only guardian. I - I canít do anything."

She heard something in his tone, in the way he told her that broke her heart. He *wanted* to take care of it and couldnít.

She would have to see what she could do about that as well.

~*~*~*~*~

Chief Webber readily agreed to give both Callie and Mark the rest of the week off. He seemed as devastated by the child abuse that took place as they were and practically insisted that they take the week, even two if needed, to handle what needed to be handled. The children from the group home were being seen at the clinic and there were psychologists on hand to discuss their experiences. All of it was documented in front of court appointed officials and after talking to Cristina about it, Callie was grateful that she had missed it.

Jack went to school every day as if nothing was amiss and they kept the television off when he was home because of the news coverage. So far, no one knew which child had finally come clean and that suited Callie just fine. The less that Jack had to relive it, the better. On Violetís orders, they were not talking to Jack about it and for his part, Jack didnít seem interested in revisiting it.

Four days after the news broke, Callie called her parents and told them what had happened. Her father wanted blood and Callie assured him that Mark had taken care of that. Al seemed to be very pleased with that development and actually inquired about Markís well being and personal life. It was a small step, but a step nonetheless. Jack asked to spend the night with Cristina that night, Friday, and Callie reluctantly agreed. Letting him out of her sight for school was hard enough on her, but Yang was persistent and informed Callie that she had Jack-proofed the apartment and Jack would love the movies she had rented.

And Mark had asked Cristina to take him, but Callie didnít have to know that. Anyone with eyes could see how close she was to breaking.

After a nice dinner at a new restaurant that had just opened, Callie turned down the offer for a movie and asked to go back home. Mark was concerned for less than minute, however, because she leaned across the console and informed him that she had heated the pool to just the right temperature for the cool, autumn night and she felt like skinny dipping. He was tempted to break the sound barrier getting home. They had not been intimate since before her trip due to the stress.

Mark checked the phone messages while she grabbed towels from the hallway closet. Addison had called to tell Callie to check her email for a little cheering up and Cristina and Jack announced together that everything was fine on their end. Smiling, he left them both there for Callie to listen to and then his eyes widened when she walked down the steps in nothing but a towel.

"Youíre overdressed," she told him.

"I was getting the wine," he replied, holding up two glasses and said bottle. "Weíre celebrating us."

"Ooooh, fun." Callie made sure the front door was locked and set the alarm before they headed through the sliding glass door and down to the pool. Callieís house sat on several acres and two of those had been closed off with a privacy fence that was over nine feet tall. Even though there were no houses in the vicinity or neighbors who could spy, the fence made her feel safer, less vulnerable to peeping toms. When she dropped her towel and looked over her shoulder at Mark, he was watching her so intently that he was overfilling the wine glass he was working on.

"Uh, Mark," she said, pointing.

He tore his gaze off her and swore, quickly filling the second glass. He handed her one and smiled sheepishly. "Oops."

She clinked her glass to his, smiling. "To making child abusers pay."

He leaned down and kissed her. "And to being happy while we do it."

They both sipped their wine and then Callie bent down, depositing her glass on the edge of the pool. "Are you getting naked or what?"

"Oh, I thought Iíd watch."

"Not fucking likely," she replied, unbuckling his belt herself. She pulled it from the loops and tossed it aside. "Youíre going to lose buttons if you donít hurry."

Mark tugged his clothing off and when she smacked his bare ass, he gently nudged her into the pool and followed behind her. It was like being submerged in a warm bath and he sighed with contentment when he broke the water and she swam into his arms. He moved a little deeper, making sure that their shoulders were covered because the night air had gotten much cooler than he anticipated.

She put her legs around his waist and grinned when she felt him throbbing near her center. "Sex in a pool? Mind blowing."

"Iím pretty sure Iíve blown your mind in a couple of places."

"Iím pretty sure youíll be amazed at how long I can hold my breath."

"Wha-" His eyes widened when she unlatched her legs and went under. A second later, she had taken him into her mouth and his entire body trembled. He looked down, feasting his eyes on her billowing hair and had no idea how she was doing it, but God, it looked and felt incredible. He wanted it to last forever, but the fact that she was holding her breath was too much for him. He pulled back and went under with her, smiling as he gripped her under the arms and pulled her up.

"I wasnít finished!" she cried, leaning back to wet her hair away from her face. "That wasnít even a minute and a half. I can go *three*."

"If you had done that for three minutes ... Iíd be in a coma." He reached between them, stroking her sensitive flesh. "You know what?"

"What?"

"Weíre doing it on the couch next."

"The couch?"

"And then the shower and the kitchen table and -"

"Your new car?"

"Yes. In my new car." He nodded his approval. "Because we havenít had a chance to do this right since I moved in. We have to christen everything."
"By having sex on it?"

"Pretty much." Pulling her forward, he kissed her, his tongue dueling with hers as he slid his fingers into her tight, wet passage. She moaned against him and it was his undoing. He pulled his hand free, gripped her hips, and pushed up into her.

Callie was right.

Sex in the pool was so mind blowing that they did it three times before they emerged.

*~

Callie was panting in the floor of the office when Mark asked her about the Disneyland photos. He wanted to see a shot that Callie kept talking about ... a perfect capture of Jackís awe and reverence as he gazed up at Eeyore. Addison had taken it and Callie was sure that her friend was mailing her the attachments. Mark remembered the message on the phone and got to his knees to turn on the computer. Smiling, he kissed her stomach, then her sides as he moved between her thighs again.

"No way!" she told him, pulling him up for a kiss. "I have to *walk* tomorrow. Without a limp. These legs have to close."

"For how long?"

"Are you seriously this insatiable?"

"Baby, I could go all night." He nuzzled her neck. "You drive me crazy."

"Iím not doing anything." Callie smiled innocently before running the sole of her foot up the back of his leg. Biting her lip, she shifted slightly and watched him narrow his eyes as she lifted her hips just a little, just enough.

"Callie -"

"What?"

"Donít tell me no and then do *that*."

"This?" She raised her hips again.

They forgot about the email for thirty more minutes.

Boneless and limp, she stumbled into the bathroom afterward and cleaned up with the help of the shower head. The pulsating water renewed her lust and she groaned. Death by fucking wasnít really such a bad way to go. After she dried off, she walked back into the office and frowned when she heard slurred words and laughter coming from the screen.

"What are you doing?"

Mark turned and glared at her, moving aside so she could see herself clearly in the media player. The red top she wore was pulled to one side, revealing the red strapless bra underneath. As Cooper and Dell helped her into the bedroom, she tugged it over her head and threw it across the room, then hugged Dell, ruffling his hair. For his part, Dell rubbed her back and gave the camera a thumbs up. Cooper was next and his hands lingered over her hips as he gave her a hug. When he finished, he kissed her on the forehead and tugged off her shoes, then helped her with her jeans when she almost toppled over, leaving her in pair of red boyshorts and her red bra. Callie wriggled under the cover and then threw her bra at whoever was filming the show.
Addison appeared on the camera, laughing hysterically. "And this is why you are going to be limited to *six* shots and not six*teen* next time, Callie! You were so much fun! We canít wait to see you again!" The camera panned back and everyone at Oceanside waved, shouting that they missed her, that it had been great to meet her.

"Mark-" Callie began.

He slammed the keyboard drawer back under the desk and got to his feet. "Where was Jack? Where was he!?"

"He spent the night with Sam. You know Sam ... Naomiís ex-husband."

"Yeah, I know Sam. What I donít know is what possessed you to dress like that and ... and *undress* like that! Callie, what the fuck!?"

"I - I donít remember any of it."
"You missed the part where you were dry humping one of them on the dance floor and his hands were all over you!"

"Thatís Cooper and we were just having -"

"Did you sleep with him?"

"WHAT!? NO!"

"So you let anyone touch you like that!?"

"This is insane! What are you -"

Mark stalked past her and into their bedroom where he yanked a pair of jeans from the hanger and stepped into them. "I - I have to get out of here."

"No, no you donít." Callie closed his closet and leaned against it before he could retrieve a shirt. "Nothing happened."

"You canít know that! You were practically - you were acting like a slut! Whoís to say that they didnít - that you didnít -"

"I got my period at Disneyland, Mark. And Addison was *not* drunk. She was our designated driver and those guys ... they wouldnít have done anything anyway because I made it very clear that Iím happily involved with you."

"You didnít say shit to me about you going to a club!"

"You didnít say shit to me about you going out for drinks with Derek and the Chief! Until after the fact!"

"Oh, so this is how you pay me back? I can assure you that your payback is over the top because I didnít do a fucking thing, Callie! I didnít do shit!"

"Neither did I."

"Thereís a *seven* minute video in there that would suggest otherwise. I canít fucking believe you! *This* is why you looked like shit the day you came home?! It wasnít because of Jack! It was because you were so hung over after your drunken gang bang that you -"

Callie slapped him. The second she did it, her hand flew to her mouth and she gasped. "Oh my god! I am so sorry. Mark, Iím sorry! I didnít meant to-"

Mark pushed her out of the way and grabbed a shirt from the closet. Without another word, he stalked out the door, pausing only to pick up a pair of shoes. He squealed tires out of the garage and angrily dialed Addisonís number as he headed toward town. "Addison!" he yelled as soon as she answered. "You did this shit on purpose! You canít stand that weíre happy, that weíre-"

"Mark?"

"Maybe you think that fucking video is hilarious, but -"

"Ohhhh!" Addison said. "She showed it to you, huh? God, that was priceless. She was so drunk I donít know how she didnít pass out."

"How could you let them grope her? How could you let them undress her!?"

"The did *not* grope her! And Cooper helped her get undressed because she had spilled a drink on her pants and she probably would have fallen head first out the window if we had left her to her own devices. I was laughing too hard to do anything."

"Itís not funny!" he bellowed. "We just broke up over this shit!"

"WHAT!?" Addison yelled. "You are such as asshole! Do you know why she got drunk? Do you? We kept buying her drinks because she wouldnít stop talking about missing you! God, you donít deserve her! You donít! Because you do shit like this and totally fuck it all to hell and back!"

"This is not my fault!"

"Did you notice the lack of sound on the video, dipshit? Yeah, Dell edited out all the comments about you and since that was *all* she talked about, he made it music instead." Addison sighed on the other line. "Donít blame her for this. It was my fault, Mark. I asked them to help me get her home and I was filming it and it was ... it was stupid and I was egging them on. Okay? I told her to strip and she was so drunk that she did it."

"Addison -"

"For reasons unknown to me ... she loves you. And I warned her. I told her that you cannot have a relationship with anyone but yourself and now thereís a kid involved. A kid who calls you dad and -"

He hung up on her and did a U-turn, ignoring the many horns that blared. He didnít bother parking in the garage. Instead he parked in the driveway and raced up the stairs two at a time. He *was* an asshole, he decided, as he fumbled with the keys. Callie would not have cheated and she would not have left Jack with anyone who wasnít fine. He was so determined to find her that he forgot to bypass the security and it beeped at him as he raced toward the bedroom. He had to leap down the stairs to shut it off before it could activate the alarm.

When he finally made it back to the bedroom he was breathless. That breath caught in his throat when he saw her lying in the floor, her knees against her chest, crying like he had never seen anyone cry. She had not dressed and the towel that had been around her during their fight was still there, but it was opened, exposing her in a way that was vulnerable and ... broken. He squatted down and lifted her in his arms, hanging onto her tightly.

"Callie-"

"Iím sorry," she sobbed. "Iím so sorry."

"I know."

"I didnít -"

"Shhh." He could feel her trembling in his arms so he laid her on the bed, pulling the cover up over her. She sat up, hugging him and he rubbed her back. "I talked to Addison. She - she told me what happened."

Callie eased back, tears streaming down her face. "She did?"

"Itís not okay."

"Mark, please. Please donít-"

"You shouldnít have put yourself in that situation and being drunk doesnít excuse it. Thatís a bullshit cop out. And Iím a jealous bastard, Callie. Iím jealous as hell and ... itís not okay." He wiped her cheek. "But it will be. Jack was right ... weíre a family. So, when you fuck up ... I forgive you. And when I fuck up ... you forgive me. But I donít forgive easily so donít ask me to. Not yet."

Callie couldnít stop the tears. She tried valiantly, but it was no use. "Iím sorry I hit you."

"My life has taught me how to forgive *that* very easily."

"What do you -"

"Iím sleeping downstairs."

She watched him go and curled up on the bed.

He stood outside the door, his head against it, as he listened to her cry. The walk down the stairs was the hardest journey he ever made.

But he did it.

*~*~*~*~*~

The lawyer called on Saturday morning to tell Callie that the prosecutor wanted to meet with Jack. The prosecutor, Jeffrey Davidson, was amenable to location and had even suggested Callieís house. She told her attorney that Jack had to see his child psychologist first and if she cleared him, Callie would be happy to meet with the man. When she hung up, Mark opened the door and leaned against the jamb. She looked away fast.

"Who was that?" he asked softly.

"Philip," she replied, referring to their attorney.

"And?"

She told him what she knew and climbed out of the bed, gathering her things for the shower. He watched her closely and said, "I was thinking of cooking French toast. You in?"

Callie shook her head and walked past him, grabbing towels from the linen closet. When she started back into the bedroom, he lifted an arm and blocked her path. She didnít speak, still didnít look at him.

"Have breakfast with me, Callie."

"Iím not hungry."

"This is me trying."

"I have to get ready. I need to pick up Jack in an hour."

"I can do it. Do you want me to -"

"No. Iíll do it."

"I can come with you and maybe we could go to the pa-"

"No thanks."

"Are you going to look at me at some point?"

"Not yet."

He shook his head. "Youíre throwing my words back in my face, Callie."

"Iím too exhausted from my gang bang to think of anything original."

"Oh, there it is. Go ahead and get it out your system."

She finally looked up at him. "Itís out. All of it. Even you."

He blinked. "What?"

"You should stay. For Jack. Because thatís why youíre really here. Itís not for me and Iím not going to hang onto something thatís not for me. Iím just not. Not again. I canít."

"Youíre trying reverse psychology. You want me to think that if youíre pissed at me then Iíll stop being pissed at you. Right?"

"No. Mostly I want you to get your things out of my room and put them downstairs where you slept last night." She pushed his arm down. "And make sure itís done before I get home."

Mark followed her to the bathroom. "This is not going to work! Do you hear me? Youíre not winning this one. Youíre not. I have a right to be pissed!"

"Then be pissed." She shut the bathroom door in his face and a moment later the shower came on.

He stalked downstairs, grabbed his wallet, and left.

Once again his tires burned rubber as he peeled away.

*~*~*~*~*~

Derek glanced up from the bar as Mark walked in. He had been watching the news coverage of the child abuse scandal that rocked Seattle and he put a hand on Markís shoulder when he sat down. "Howís Jack? For you to be at the Emerald City Bar before ten a.m., it must be pretty rough."

"Heís hanging in there," Mark replied, gazing up at the television. McDeaverís mug shot flashed across the screen and he felt instant gratification at the purpling bruises and swelling in his face. "I think Callie just broke up with me."

"What? Why?" Derek put his beer on the bar, gazing at his friend. "Because of this mess with Jack?"

"No. I got pissed at her because she got drunk in Los Angeles and Addison filmed her doing some pretty stupid shit."

"Like what?"

"Like ... dancing. And ... two guys helping her to her bedroom."

"Two guys?"

"Friends of Addisonís."

"And Addison was filming it?"

"She was the designated driver."

"Addison knew them?"

"Yeah." Mark glanced at him. "Itís not as mild as it sounds. She took of her shirt and then one of the guys helped her take her pants off because she had spilled a drink on it and ... then she went to bed and -"

"Alone?"

"Of course she was alone."

"Then whatís the problem exactly?"

"The problem is she put herself in that situation, Derek. She should have had an ounce of restraint and -"

"Okay, you do remember that you got shit faced the other night donít you?"

"Itís different. I didnít have two girls helping me to bed."

"No ... you had one girl. One girl who climbed between your legs and planted a kiss on you that was hot enough to melt the -"

"WHAT!?"

"You donít remember it?"

"NO!"

Derek simply lifted his beer. "You put yourself in that situation. You should have had an ounce of restraint."

"I donít even ..." he trailed off, then put his head in his hand and said, "... remember it. And neither does she. Oh, god. Iím such a dick. Yesterday was the perfect day and she needed it after this whole mess with Jack and -"

"Go home, Mark." Derek sighed. "Go home."

"Thanks, man."

"Anytime."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie didnít bring Jack home until after dark. She had picked him up at ten that morning and had taken him horseback riding, out to lunch, to see a movie and then out to dinner. He asked about Mark the entire time, but she had simply said it was Mom Only day and Jack happily went along with it. She kept her telephone off the entire day as well. Her son was sleeping soundly when she unbuckled his seat belt and hefted him into her arms.

When she quietly closed the car door and turned, Mark was standing a few feet away. "Iíve been calling you for hours," he told her, his voice barely above a whisper.

"Sorry." She shifted the sleeping child in her arms and walked past him.

"You want me to carry him?"

"Nope."

Feeling like an outsider, he followed her upstairs and watched her take Jackís shoes off. He was wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt and she left them on him, tucking the cover around him instead of trying to put his pajamas on. He was exhausted and quickly rolled onto his side, gathering the blanket in his arms. She brushed his hair off his face and kissed his temple, smiling as she did so. He smelled good ... like the outdoors and happiness. She could breathe him in all night.

"We need to talk." Mark held out his hand and waited for her to take it.

"Iím tired."

"Itís important."

Callie got to her feet and headed into her bedroom. She glanced at his closet, but the door was shut. She couldnít tell if his things were gone or not. Sitting down on the bed, she slipped her shoes off and tried to pretend he wasnít in the room at all. "You donít have to explain it," she finally said. "Just go."

"Iím not leaving."

"You can still see him. Anytime you want."

"Iím not just here because of Jack. Donít get me wrong ... I adore that kid and every time he calls me Ďdadí ... I feel like Iíve done something great." He moved around the bed and sat next to her. "Iím here because I love you. Iím here because the thought of not having you in my life is too much for me to even contemplate. I want this life, Callie. I want it with you."

"I really didnít mean to hit you. I have never been so ashamed of anything in my life."

"That is a low point for us, but ... I shouldnít have said what I did." He reached over and took her hand. "Youíve been through hell and back this week and Iím sorry I added to it."

"I really donít know what the hell I was doing on that video. If you had met those guys, though, youíd know that -"

"I donít need to meet them to know that I trust you." He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "I didnít move my things, by the way. If youíre upset and you want me to go back downstairs then I will, but -"

"No." She leaned her head against his shoulder. "I canít sleep without you and Iím so tired that -"

"You donít have to say anything else. Come on." He helped her to her feet and pulled back the cover, then he turned and tugged her shirt over her head. A few minutes later, he spooned against her, letting his hand rest against her stomach. He held onto her, not speaking, simply listening to her breathing. The anger he felt was simmering and no longer boiling over, but it was still there. Another man had touched her and he didn't care how innocent it may have been, he wanted to choke him. And her.

His mind flashed to what Derek had told him about the woman at the bar and he closed his eyes. "Callie, thereís something I need to tell you."

She didnít reply.

She had fallen asleep and he sighed ... thinking it must have been a sign for him to keep it to himself.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 7
Jack pushed open his parentís door and peered at their sleeping forms. His momís head was on his dadís chest and he smiled, crawling up over the footboard to get a better look. They were like movie parents, he thought, always hugging, always kissing and it made him feel safe. It made him believe that families really did exist ... and not just in make believe. Creeping softly over the comforter, he lowered his face just a few inches in front of Callieís. Reaching up, he touched the freckles on her nose and whispered, "Mom, I didnít sleep in my pajamas. Does that mean I can go out and play before breakfast? Because Sprout wants me to and I think I should."

Mark had woken up the second the door opened and he smiled. Jack waited patiently for Callie to answer and when she didnít, he slowly put his mouth right next to her ear. "MOMMMMM!"

Callie almost jumped out of her skin. She sat up, clutching the sheet against her chest. "Jack, are you trying to give me a heart attack?!"

"Can I go outside?"

"You have to eat first."

Jack gazed at her bare shoulders over the sheet. "How come youíre not wearing a shirt?"

Mark sat up beside Callie, who had been rendered speechless. "Good morning, buddy." Reaching forward, he scooped the little boy into his arms and said, "I missed you yesterday."

"It was mom only day," Jack chirped. "We went to ride horses and saw a movie and ate lunch with Chuck E. Cheese and had dinner with the roller skate people. They bring it to your car!"

Mark looked at Callie. "Mom only day, huh? And junk for lunch and dinner. No wonder you didnít bother calling me. All day."

"Donít start," she snapped. "I donít want to hear it."

"You donít want to hear a lot of things," he shot back.

Callie ignored him and addressed her son. "Cristina put your new movie in my purse. Why donít you go watch it while I cook breakfast?"

The expression on Jackís face made it very clear that he could feel the tension between them. "You didnít kiss me good morning."

Callie leaned forward and kissed him, hugging him close. He watched his mother for a few seconds, not moving. "You didnít kiss dad good morning either."

"I will," Callie assured him. "Now go watch your-"

"Do it now," Jack said.

"Jack-" she began.

Jackís chin trembled as he gazed from his mother to his father. "You donít never have mad voices to each other. Why are you mad?"

"I told you, kiddo, sometimes adults make each other mad." Callie rubbed her fingers over her forehead and frowned. "Plus, I have a really bad headache and -"

"Dads can kiss it better."

"Yeah, they can." Mark put his arm around Callie and pulled her closer, kissing her head. He tilted her chin next and kissed her lips, softly and quickly. "See, buddy? Weíre fine."

Jack looked skeptical, but he nodded. "Can you make toast for breakfast? That kind with the sugar, Dad?"

"Sure." Mark set him off the edge of the bed, ruffling his hair. "You go downstairs and start your movie."

"ĎKay." Jack blew Callie a kiss and smiled when she caught it. He shut the door behind him on the way out.

Callie flopped back against the bed, rubbing her forehead again. "Would you mind watching him? I donít feel well."

"Were you serious about the headache?" He reached over and felt her head. It was cool to the touch.

She nodded, then rolled away from him and pulled the cover up over her shoulder. "Iíll be down soon."

As far as dismissals, Mark thought, that was a pretty good one.

*~*~*~*~*~

After stuffing themselves with French toast, Mark and Jack headed into the backyard together. They tossed a football for a while and then Jack pulled him all the way to the back of the property where a copse of trees sat near the fence. With one hand on his hip, Jack pointed upward. "Do you think you can build me a tree house right there?"

"A tree house?" Mark scratched the side of his face as he gazed up at the trees. The limbs intersected, looking sturdy and strong enough to hold up a fort of some kind. Of course, what Mark built the very best were breasts ... perfect, round breasts, but Jack didnít need to know that. "I donít know, slick. Iíve never done that before."

"Youíve never been a dad either but you do it okay."

"I do?" Mark grinned down at him.

Jack happily nodded, patting Sproutís head. "You make me toast and you make sure there are no monsters in the closet. And you got real good arms for throwing me."

"Well, youíre a great-"

"But you ainít a very good friend for my mom."

Mark watched the little boy sit down and run his hands over a lush patch of clover. He sat down across from him, mimicking his actions. "What do you mean, Jack?"

"She donít smile too much no more."

"She had a lot of fun with you at Disneyland. I bet she smiled there."

"She missed you. She said so." Jack plucked a clover and his eyes widened, then he tossed it aside. "Thought it was a four leaf one. Mom likes Ďem."

The past week had been so stressful for Callie that she really had not smiled much. He hated that Jack had noticed or that he thought Mark had anything to do with that. Her unhappiness had been all about the child abuse scandal and the little boy was blissfully unaware. Mark took a deep breath. "I love your mom, kiddo. I really love her, but sometimes when you love somebody ... itís easier for you to hurt their feelings and thatís what happened. I hurt her feelings and Iím very sorry that I did that but ... your mom and I ... weíre okay."

"So youíre not leaving us?"

"No."

"Sometimes at the frosted homes the parents would scream at each other. They had mad voices all the time and ... it doesnít feel too good."

"It doesnít feel good for us either, Jack."

"You gotta be a better friend, Dad. You gotta make her not upset because yesterday for mom only day ... she cried at the movie and it ainít even sad. She donít even laugh no more and you made her laugh before you got mad with her."

"Iíll do better," Mark assured him, his voice thick with emotion. He looked away, back up at the trees in an attempt to keep from crying himself. "I do love your mom. And I love you, too."

"I know," Jack replied. "At school, they said that love can build a bridge. Can it also build a tree house?"

Mark laughed and pulled the child into his arms, tickling him and then ... simply hanging onto him. If someone had told Mark Sloan that he would be content to sit in the cool Autumn air with a dog licking his hand and a kid chattering in his ear he would have laughed.

Instead, he stretched out on his stomach to help Jack search for an elusive four leaf clover to give to Callie. They found it almost an hour later and Jack decided that Mark should be the one to give it to her and make the wish.

Markís wish was simple.

He wanted Callie to laugh again. And for Jack to see that he could make her happy.

It was lunchtime when they returned to the house and Mark asked Jack to play in his room for a while. When he complied, Mark headed across the hallway and was shocked to see that Callie was still asleep. He walked around the bed and looked down at her, then frowned when he saw the pill bottle on the end table. He lifted it, shocked to see the label. It was one of the most powerful narcotic pain pills on the market and it had been prescribed by Cooper Freedman. The prescription had been for fifteen and Mark opened the bottle, pouring the pills in his hand. Thirteen remained and the fact that Callie was sleeping like the dead indicated that she had taken one. Or two.

He put the bottle back on the end table and started to turn, but she rolled onto her back and mumbled something that he couldnít understand. He sat beside her and pushed her hair off her cheek. It was wet and so was her face. She was crying in her sleep.

Mark leaned down and kissed her softly on the lips.

He didnít know how he would do it but he would somehow make it right.

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie didnít wake up until the following morning. She glanced at the clock and thought it was nine p.m.. Groggily, she got to her feet and shuffled into the bathroom where she brushed her teeth and pulled her hair back so she could wash her face. While she was drying her skin, she glanced out the window and saw that the sun was shining brightly. Stunned, she headed across the hallway and saw that Jack wasnít in his bed.

"Heís at school," Mark said, stopping in the doorway beside her. "I took a the week off to be with you. I wanted to be there this afternoon at the psychologistís office and -"

"Did I sleep the entire day? And night?"

"Yeah." He reached up and rubbed her cheek. "I tried to wake you up for dinner or just to drink some water, but you were out of it. Howís your headache?"

"Itís fine." She waved his hand away. "Iím sorry that I left you with Jack all day."

"I didnít mind. I just - I missed you. We both did." He put his hands in his pockets. "That prescription you have, the pain med ... that dosage would be too strong for you even if you cut in half. Why do you have it?"

She sighed. "It started out as a couple of pills for the hangover and -"

"He prescribed *that* for a hangover. What kind of quacks work out there with Addison?"

"I *asked* for it. I get stress headaches. I always have and it takes a lot to handle the pain. This whole mess with Jack is ... well, I knew it was coming. The headaches."

"Well, itís too much. It knocked you out for twenty four hours, Callie. If you need something for the headaches then see Derek, but donít -"

"I have a medical degree too, Mark. I know what Iím doing."

Callie turned and headed down the stairs. She grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator and sat down in the breakfast area, her head in her palms. Every nerve in her body felt frayed and she was so close to crying that her eyes burned. Every aspect of her life had fallen into a tailspin and she was convinced that it would never be the same again.

Mark sat down beside her, watching her closely. Her body language prevented him from touching her, something he wanted to do more than anything. "Are you hungry?"

"No." She leaned back in the chair and opened her water, taking a few sips. She nervously played with the bottle lid as she stared at a spot of discoloration on the wood table.

The tension finally got to Mark. He put his hand on hers, forcing her to drop the lid. "Are you going to look at me at some point?"

"I need to go take a shower and -"

When she started to push her chair back, he hooked his foot around the leg and pulled her toward him instead. "We canít live this way, Callie."

"I know." She looked down at her lap, where he had put his hands on hers. "Maybe weíre trying to hold onto something that -"

"No! No, donít do that. Look at me." Mark waited patiently for her gaze to meet his. She had the most expressive eyes he had ever seen and the pain he saw in them now cut him to the bone. "What weíre trying to hold onto is forever. Thatís why itís so hard to do."

"Nothing lasts forever."

"We can. We will." He reached up and traced her jaw with his thumb. "Iím not mad anymore, baby. I just want to forget that anything happened and go back to how it was. I want you to be happy and I think I can help with that."

Tears spilled down her cheeks and she looked away again. "Why would you want to? Donít you get what I did?"

"Callie, nothing happened. You didnít do anything with those men and I know that. I know that -"

"I hit you," she replied softly. "Thatís worse than anything else I could have done. And Iím not looking at you because it kills me to look at you and think about what I did. I had-"

"Stop." Mark was stunned. He turned her face back to his and said, "Iím bigger than you and I was in your face calling you a slut. Iím surprised you didnít crush my windpipe and my dick. Youíre not the first woman to hit me and -"

"I donít want to be like your other women."

"Well, you already have one distinction that none of them had." He smiled at her. "You have my heart."

Callie opened her mouth to reply, but Mark kissed her words away. He also kissed her tears away and pulled her into his lap. She wrapped her arms around him, her face against his neck. He rubbed her hip and said, "Itís okay. Weíre learning this thing as we go and weíre bound to make mistakes. So, letís call this a lesson learned and move on."

"I love you, Mark."

"Oh god, baby. I love you, too. And I didnít think you would ever say that to me again."

"Iím always going to feel it and I have a tendency of saying exactly what I feel." She kissed him, then got to her feet. "Iím gonna go take a shower and - do you want to go out for lunch?"

"Sure." He hugged her again, holding her tightly against him. "We need to go to Home Depot, too."

"Why?" she asked, looking up at him.

"Well, our son roped me into agreeing to build him a tree house and heís not very patient so he may kill me if he comes home and doesnít see that Iíve done *something*." Markís smile faded when he saw the look on her face. It was an expression he had never seen before and he didnít know what to make of it. "Uh ... but if you donít want me to do that then -"

"You called him *our* son." She wondered if she was looking at Mark with the same awe and reverence that Jack had looked at Disneyland with. Because she knew thatís what she had to be feeling. "I mean ... I know he calls you dad, but ... youíre really in this now. Youíre really in our lives. All the way."

She gave him the most beautiful smile heíd ever seen in his life and he nodded at her. "I think I may have mentioned that once or twice."

"Do you want to take a shower with me?"

"Absolutely, but Iím not going to watch this time."

"No?"

"No."

Grinning, she headed into the bathroom and pulled off the robe she wore. She was naked beneath it and before she could get the water adjusted comfortably and step inside, his hands were skimming her waist and his breath was hot against her back. She reached up to take the clip from her hair, but he beat her to it and removed it himself, burying his hand in her curls as he kissed her neck.

A moment later, she felt his erection against her backside and turned, glancing down at him. "Did you yank your clothes off as you came up the stairs, Sloan?"

"Duh." He rubbed his palms over her breasts. "Did you not hear me almost fall. Thereís something to be said for trying to climb with your pants around your ankles."

She laughed and stepped under the spray of water, pulling him with her. When she leaned her head back to wet her hair, it was his hands, not hers, that smoothed it away from her face. Their eyes met and she licked her lips. His eyes were drawn to her mouth and he lowered his head, kissing her slow and deep. When he pulled away, she frowned until she realized that he was soaping his hands. "What are you doing?" she asked.

"I told you ... Iím not watching this time. Itís hands on."

Wordlessly, she let him take her arm and soap it. Her skin tingled and it had nothing to do with the exfoliating beads or the warm water. It had everything to do with the way his flesh slid against hers and the way his hands kneaded every inch of skin that he came in contact with. Her eyes were hooded by the time he dropped to his knees and, still using just his hands, washed her legs ... and mostly tickled her feet. She gasped when he parted her thighs and his slippery fingers washed the highly sensitive bundle of nerves at their apex.

Standing, he took the shower head down and changed the setting, letting it thump against her back and shoulders and he massaged the soap away. He grinned devilishly a moment later and lifted one of her legs, holding it over his hip as he positioned the stream of water just right. Callieís mouth fell open as the water pulsated against her clit. Her fingernails dug into his shoulders and she narrowed her eyes at him when he chuckled.

A second later, he leaned down and told her, in explicit and amazingly vivid detail, what he was going to do to her. His voice was low, rumbling and sexy and that, coupled with the water, was enough to send her over the edge. She got off hard, shocking both of them and then she lowered her leg and took the shower head. "Last time we were in here ... I thought about throwing you on the floor and ... well, Iím not going to throw you, Mark, but Iím telling you to -"

She didnít have to get the words out. He lowered himself to the floor and leaned back against the tiled bench that ran the length of one wall. She put her feet on either side of his legs and started to sit down, but he stopped her and leaned forward, kissing her still quivering cleft of Venus. He ran his tongue the length of her and slipped a finger inside ... just to make sure she was ready. When he felt how slick with need she was, he gripped her hips and pulled her down, lifting his own hips to meet hers as she straddled him.

Callie definitely had strong, muscular thighs and she put them to good use as she rocked against him, slow, then fast, then slow again. She moved her hips in a circle and smiled when he groaned her name against her neck. The position they were in allowed her nipples, rock hard and sensitive to the slightest stimulation, to rub against his chest. She didnít know what felt better ... the friction of his chest or his fingers digging into her flesh, but all of it felt *right*.

Shifting slightly, she moved off her knees and wrapped her legs around him. Leaning back, she braced her palms on his legs and when his head fell back, she knew that she had him. Clenching her vaginal muscles, she used her legs to pull back against him and her hands to pull away. He apparently liked it as much as she did. He met her eyes and lowered his thumb to her clit, rubbing in a fast and furious circle.

Just before she got off, she picked up the pace as the orgasm rocked through her ... she reached behind her and cupped his balls, massaging, rolling. He came so hard that he scratched *her* hips and back and she made a mental note to leave the clippers on his end table. Smiling, she wrapped her arms around his neck and listened to his heavy breathing. His heart thumped against her breasts and she said, "Youíre either getting old and out of shape or you liked that. A lot."

"I am never ... ever ... just watching you again."

"Showers. Itís the new contact sport, but you didnít just watch me last time either." Callie kissed his cheek, then his ear. "By the way, have you ever built a tree house?"

"No." Mark ran his hands over her legs. "But Iím a man and these things are just ingrained in our DNA. Who do think built the caves for the cave women?"

"Uh ... God?"

"Hmm." He looked thoughtful. "Okay, who do think built the pyramids?"

"Those arenít made of wood. And this thing you build has to be sturdy enough to not collapse with *our* kid in it."

"Trust me." Mark kissed her. "Iíve got this one. Iíll get Derek and maybe even Webber to come over and work on it with me."

"Three heads are better than one."

"Do you doubt my skills."

"You have many, many skills, Mark, and Iíve enjoyed several of them, but you are not Bob the Builder ... no matter how many times you sing the theme song."

"Jack loves that damn show."

"He didnít like it at all until you moved in so I think youíre to blame." She studied him closely and when he looked away, she gasped. "Did you watch that shit before you moved here!? Alone!?"

"Porn got old."

She threw her head back and laughed.

Mark couldnít wait for Jack to hear it, too.

He had kept his word.

*~*~*~*~*~

The child psychologist was named Rita Monroe. Callie had done her best to prepare Jack for meeting a new person, but the little boy hated the doctor on sight and resolutely crossed his arms over his chest to glare at her. The first thirty minutes of the meeting passed without Jack saying one word at all. Every time Dr. Monroe asked him a question about the group home, he would put his fingers in his ears and sing something from Veggie Tales.

Callie had to admit that the psychologistís approach left a lot to be desired. Monroe didnít attempt to reassure or comfort Jack in the least. Markís rigid posture as he sat next to Callie implied that he did not care for the tactics being utilized either. When Monroe stated that Jack was not being a very good boy, Mark said, "Thatís enough!" before Callie could.

Rita glanced at Mark. "Perhaps you should wait outside."

"Perhaps we should go," Callie interjected. "Because weíre not going to sit her and let you berate him for being scared."

"Iím not scared," Jack said, gazing out the window. "But the bosses said that telling the secrets to strangers would let the devil out of the closet and I donít want to get dead or make them other kids get dead."

"Nothing can hurt you," Dr. Monroe told Jack. "And you already told Dr. Freedman about it. In California."

"Who is that?" Jack asked.

"Cooper," Callie told him. "Remember? You talked to Cooper and Violet about the group home."

"They ainít strangers!" Jack cried. "Violet gave me ice cream and Cooper played with me for a real long time. The bosses said we canít talk about it to *strangers*. Stranger danger!"

"Iím not a stranger, Jack," Dr. Monroe told him, leaning forward and patting his leg in the first outward sign of affection she had shown thus far. "Youíve known me for forty five minutes now. And Iíd really like to know what happened to you."

"I donít care what you like," Jack replied haughtily. "Youíre old and ugly and you smell funny."

"My physical attributes aside," Monroe said, smiling a little. "Who were the bosses, Jack?"

"Mac and Jane."

"Jane?" Monroe flipped through her notes and said, "Mr. McDeaverís wife?"

"She wasnít no wife." Jack shook his head. "Macís wife was Stella because she wore a ring like his and called him Ďdearí."

"Who was Jane?"

"She was the naked girl that Mac brought to live there and it made Stella cry and leave. Stella was real nice to us and when she left Jane was a boss and then it got real bad."

"I donít have any paperwork on Jane." Rita looked at Callie and Mark for guidance, but they were in the dark as well. "Iíll make a few phone calls when weíre done today and find out where she is."

"Sheís gone." Jack put his foot in the chair, untying and retying his shoe the way Mark had taught him. "Me and Emily seen her bleediní in the devil closet. She didnít scream no more after a real long time."

"Was Jane a little girl?" Rita asked. "Was she a child?"

"No. She was a growed up lady, but when her belly got too fat Mac would hit her more in it. He called her a bastard when he hit her there." Jack turned in his seat and looked at Callie. "Sorry, Mom. Bastard ainít got a better word like ass. Ass has butt."

"Youíre okay." Callie smiled at him. Mark tightened his grip on her hand and she laced their fingers and took a deep breath.

Theyíd get through it.

Together.

After sending Jack into a playroom that had a two way mirror for them to observe him, Rita announced that she would not recommend Jack meeting with the prosecutor yet. She didnít think that talking so much about his past at once was good for Jack and would make that very clear to the police involved. Callie agreed and scheduled another appointment for the following week.

She made sure that it was a day that Mark was off early as well.

*~*~*~*~*~

A few days later, Meredith, Cristina and Callie sat side by side on a blanket, watching The Three Stooges plus child try to erect a tree house. They sat several feet away from the action and were taking it in turns to complain about their stomach aches as they tried to hold their laughter in. Mark had fallen off the ladder. Twice. Webber had only gotten halfway up it before he decided that it was too high and Derek was alternating between measuring the wood and studying the crude drawing he had put together on a piece of paper. Watching him being dragged across the yard by the chain saw was like watching Jason from Friday the Thirteenth do a macabre ballet.

The men had set two wooden beams vertically the day before into concrete that would anchor the floor and they had dried perfectly straight. What they had failed to do in the two hours they had been working, however, was anything else. Derek and Webber began to argue about the measurements for the first cut and after another ten minutes, Derek picked up the tape measure and meticulously drew a straight line across the wood.

Callie crossed her ankles when Mark fell for the third time. She belly laughed and he shot her a look, but she couldnít hold it in another second. "I am seriously going to piss my pants."

"Iím sure I just did," Meredith gasped, flopping onto her back while she clutched her sides. "Oh my god! I built my first fort when I was *ten*. It had nails and everything!"

"I was about that age," Cristina replied. "I lost my virginity in that damn tree house when I was sixteen."

"Shit." Callie stopped laughing and glared at Yang. "You just turned Jackís happy place into a den of debauchery for me!"

"Did you have a tree house?" Meredith asked her.

"My brothers and I built a huge one in the woods behind our house. My parents never found out where we were hiding when they were pissed at us." Callie grinned. "I was the designated tree climber."

Derek started the chain saw again and got dangerously close to Chief Webber before he got the saw under control and split a piece of wood completely down the middle instead of on the line he had taken five minutes to draw. Shaking her head Cristina got to her feet. "I canít watch this any more. I like carnage as much as the next person, but we have to learn medicine from these idiots. How much can they teach us if theyíre in traction or decapitated?"

Callie stood and pulled Meredith to her feet. "Letís go show these guys a thing or two."

"I call chain saw," Cristina announced.

"I call the climbing," Callie replied.

"I will be the wood carrier," Meredith said with a grin. "I can swing the hell out of the hammer, too."

Thirty minutes later, Cristina had a stack of wood cut evenly for the floor and Callie was dangling over the limb, screwing a bolt into what would be the frame. Meredith climbed the ladder behind her and swung out like an agile monkey, plopping down on the crevice across from Callie. "They have wounded pride," she told her.

Callie glanced at the blanket where the three men were sitting, looking like dejected little boys. "Even Jack is avoiding them."

"Yep," Meredith grinned when Jack leaped up below her, trying to grab her foot. "Heís decided that Cristina is god."

"She is freakishly scary with a chain saw. Okay, letís put the floor in." Callie sat up, straddling the limb. "Maybe we can let them do the walls."

"You want this thing done before Jack graduates, right?"

"Oh, right."

The floor was in place within the hour and it was Mark who carried up the last wall that Cristina and Meredith had framed. He slid it across the floor to Callie, who was on her knees putting the final screws in place on the third piece. She grinned at him and held out the power drill. "You want the honors?"

"How in the hell do you know how to do this?" he asked her.

"Because while you were busy watching Bob the Builder ... I was busy watching actual home improvement shows." She crawled into his arms and kissed him. "Plus ... I have four brothers and Iím the oldest so to maintain my cool big sister credo I helped them build the fort to end all forts."

"Itís impressive."

"And a little bit emasculating?"

He sneered at her. "I was leaving that part out for a reason."

"Youíre not the only one with mad skills, Mark. I have a few of my own."

"Mmmm. And I canít wait to let you show me every one."

"We do have to christen this place."

His mouth dropped open. "Are you suggesting that we defile a childís clubhouse with -"

"We have to make sure that itís strong enough to withstand ... oh, you know, jumping and leaping and ... we can achieve that by thrusting and grinding."

"Iím in."

"Thought you would be."

*~*~*~*~*~

The following week, Callie returned to work wearing a heavy sweater and grumbling the entire time about the cold. Halloween was only two days away and she knew that sheíd have to dress Jack in thermal underwear under his costume which would not be easy to do. He had taken to wearing his Superman ensemble everywhere. She had even gotten a call from the school to say that he had changed in the boyís bathroom, climbed on top of the book shelf, and jumped onto the janitorís back while screaming ĎDie, Lex Lutherí at the top of his lungs.

She was still smiling at the memory when she opened her locker and pulled off her scarf. There was a folded note stuck in one of the slats and for the briefest moment she was back in high school and the note was a reminder that she would never fit in. She took a deep breath and pulled it free, gazing down at it before she unfolded it.

It was worse than the notes in high school.

There was a photo inside.

A photo of Mark kissing one of the nurses and her heart stopped beating entirely for a moment.

His locker was right behind hers so she turned and tapped him on the shoulder. The smile on his face faded when she thrust the paper in his hands. "Callie -"

"I canít wait to hear you explain this."

Mark knew exactly when it had happened though he had no memory of it, but his mouth refused to let him confess. "That was before you."

"Oh," Callie replied as if that cleared it all up. "So, you picked out a shirt just like the one Jack gave you? I donít know which is worse. Your taste in women or your taste in clothes."

"Okay, itís a funny story and one that youíll really - Callie? Callie, where are you going? Wait."

*~

Derek was in the elevator when Callie stormed inside. She took one look at him and punched him, hard, on the arm. He rubbed it, mouth agape, and said, "Did Meredith tell you about the snoring video? She wouldnít believe me. I had to document it. Itís not my fault if Alex Karev found it and showed it after rounds this morning."

"No," Callie snapped. "How could you just sit there and let him kiss Elise?"

"Ohhhh," Derek took a step back, out of her range. "He told you about the drunken bar kiss, huh?"

"No. There was a picture of it in my locker. Like, who does that? Who puts a picture in someoneís locker like itís tenth grade all over again!?"

"Iím going to go with Jealous Bitches for two hundred. Come with me." The doors opened and Derek caught her arm, pulling her toward the stairwell.

Callie didnít protest, but she crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him as he launched into the tale of what transpired at the Emerald City Bar the night she flew to Los Angeles. Five full minutes after Derek finished the story, she took a deep breath. "He really shoved her?"

"Richard caught her. You can ask him. Hahn saw it, too." Derek smiled at her. "And before you can ask ... yes, he spent the entire night talking about you and how he missed and how much he loves you."

"He did?"

"Callie, he has told me that youíre Ďthe oneí. While completely drunk *and* sober so I think heís telling the truth."

"Did he go home alone?"

"Yep. Richard drove him to your place. I think that the nurses are just ... angry that he isnít around to ... service them anymore. Theyíre going to take it out on you."

"Well, unlike my high school days ... now I fight back."

"Donít do anything stupid."

"Stupid? Try evil and sinister and blood curdling."

Derek watched her stalk down the hall.

Things were going to get very interesting at Seattle Grace.

*~

Mark sat in the darkened conference room trying in vain to reign in his emotions, but it was no use. He blew his nose and rubbed at his eyes with the tissue. He was losing his family ... the first family he had even truly been a part of. Derekís had been close, but what he had with Callie ... that was the dream. And the image in his mind of her face when she had handed him the photo ... that was a nightmare.

She was probably hiring movers at that very moment to get his things out of the house. He blew his nose again and realized that the tissue was gone. The box was empty and so was his heart. He had blown it, obliterated it and she was ... peering in at him from the hallway.

A second later she opened the door and crossed the room. "Are you crying?"

"Yeah, Callie, Iím crying."

"Mark Sloan has tear ducts?" As soon as the words were out and she saw his eyes well again, she dropped the charade. Sort of. "Iím not like you. *I* am going to give you the benefit of the doubt. What happened?"

Mark babbled for close to twenty minutes, assuring her that he didnít know exactly what transpired and had only heard about it from Richard and Derek. He gave her a litany of reasons why he didnít tell her that ranged from it slipping his mind to him not being able to hurt her. He cried the entire time and finished his speech by begging her not to leave him over something out of his control.

Callie took a deep breath. "This is the part where I call you a hypocrite. You broke up with me for something very similar and -"

"I didnít break up with you. I was mad, but I came back." His eyes implored her. "I know that you would be perfectly justified in kicking me out or making me go back to the downstairs bedroom, but I promise you that I didnít cause this."

"Yes, you did." Callie ran a hand through her hair. "People canít outrun their past. Look at me. I lived in the *basement* to hide from my parentís money. And Jack ... Jackís being forced to relive his past and -"

"I donít want my past to cost me my future. Youíre out of the basement now and Jack may be reliving his past, but he doesnít have to stay there." Mark tentatively reached out and took her hand. "I love you. For the first time in my life I know what I want. Who I want. And I -"

"Okay."

"Okay?"

"I can learn from my past, too, and I would never make you feel the way you made me feel over that stupid video. So, I believe you."

"I can get Derek to tell you what happened, too. Or ... Richard."

"No. No, that's not neccessary. Youíre enough. Itís fine. I trust you."

He pulled her into his arms and held onto her. "Youíre twice the person I am."

"No shit."

The lights came on and Derek peered in at them. Mark hastily dried his face and looked at his friend. "She found out about that fucking nurse who kissed me and -"

"I know," Derek assured him. "And I just explained everything to her so you owe me. I need you to go manhandle Karev until he gives up the tape of Meredith snoring. He plans on showing it at lunch and sheíll kill me."

Mark looked at Callie. "Iím enough, huh?"

She shrugged innocently. "Oops."

He actually smiled at her, something he thought was impossible mere moments ago. "You are officially the most evil person Iíve ever known."

"We have that in common." She leaned forward and kissed him, then got to her feet. "Oh, it's going to be a lovely, lovely day."

He watched her leave the room and looked at Derek. "She going to kill the nurses ... one at a time."

"Nah, sheís too smart for that. Sheíll just put them in traction."

"Why do you need me to manhandle Karev? Whatís wrong with your hands?"

"Meredith will put *me* in traction if I beat up her roommate. Callie wonít let her damage you."

"Fine."

"Thanks, man."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 8
Halloween came and went without incident unless you counted the temper tantrum Jack had when Callie refused to let him sleep with his candy. He had gotten so angry that he threw the entire bag and since they had stopped by the hospital with him first ... it was filled to capacity. Mark simply looked at Jack and the little boy hastily picked up every piece, apologized, and left it on the table while he changed into his pajamas. Callie assured Mark that his newly found Ďdadí face was strong enough to rival her own fatherís and he seemed to enjoy that knowledge.

Taking down the nurses was an ongoing process. Callie decided to not give them any satisfaction the first two weeks. She saw them watching for a reaction from the photo and the only one they got was her not sitting next to Mark in the cafeteria ... she sat on his lap most of the time and sickened Cristina by actually feeding him grapes one day. Because Yang wanted the madness to stop, she agreed to help Callie up the torture and by mid-November, the nurses were being terrorized so badly that they had taken to walking the hallways in packs.

Spiders appeared in lockers. Real ones, not fake and Nurse Tyler loaned his eight foot pet python to Callie, who curled it up in the shower of the nurseís locker room and stood outside, listening to the screams while she held the door closed to prevent the terrified people from leaving the room. Mark stood a few feet away shaking his head as he watched her. She had a sweet, solemn smile on her face as she listened to the cries and it was endearing. And terrifying as hell.

Three days before Thanksgiving, two nurses threw in the towel and approached Callie in the lunch line to apologize. And beg her to stop. Callie glanced down at the stack of papers they carried and raised a brow, holding out her hand. She flipped through the most amazing photoshopped gallery she had ever seen. "Wow. Impressive. Much more impressive than your photo abilities."

"That was real!" Olivia said. "You pasted my head onto a woman doing ... farm animals!"

"I have better things to do than that. It wasnít me," Callie replied with a shrug.

"You did this!" Elise said, half sobbing as she held up a picture of her face attached to the naked body of a ninety year old man. "My *mother* visited me today and saw these!"

"She must be so proud," Callie told her. "Is she still around? I can show her your other modeling capabilities. You know ... where you try to dangle from the lips of someone in a committed relationship?"

"It was Oliviaís idea!" Elise cried. "I just did the kiss because she was scared to."

Callie looked at Olivia, whose face matched her hair. "Syph nurse was scared to *kiss* someone? Damn, girl. If you kissed more and screwed around less you wouldnít have track marks on your ass from all the antibiotic injections."

"You win!" Olivia shouted. "Ha ha. The jokeís on us and you win! So leave us alone!"

"Oh, you didnít get the memo?" Callie asked, looking serious. "Because everyone else knew that I won *weeks* ago. *Months*, really. I got the guy. I got the guy that is making you idiots crazy enough to keep making asses of yourselves. But I really appreciate the entertainment. Mark and I laugh a lot at your expense."

Olivia and Elise glared at her and stalked off, throwing furtive glances over their shoulders at her. Behind her, Cristina took a deep breath and said, "Is it finally fucking over?"

"I think so," Callie said, nodding her head. "Did you photoshop them?"

"Negative. Iím the spider girl, remember. Pacing the hallways looking for arachnids is time consuming. So, can I stop now?"

"Sure." Callie nudged her with her shoulder. "Weíre insanely cool, ĎStina. We are not squeamish around spiders, snakes or ... well, anything."

"Iím squeamish when you sit in Sloanís lap so please stop the insanity, sit in your own chair, and let him feed himself. I know itís a lot to ask, but Iíd rather be blind than deal with the fluffy bunnies that pop up every time you do that."

"You need to get laid."

"Your place or mine?"

"Well, *now* is a fine time to proposition me! I spent weeks sleeping three feet from you!"

Cristina watched her friend sit down beside Mark and plant a kiss on his mouth. She wrinkled her nose and slumped into the seat beside his, narrowing her eyes when Sloan insisted that Callie try something on his tray and actually *fed* it to her. Happiness wasnít a horrible thing ... Cristina just wondered when it would be her turn for a little of her own.

She got her answer that afternoon when Erica Hahn hand picked her for a triple bypass that led to a more extensive procedure.

Cristina had all the right answers and anticipated what Hahn would ask for before the older woman could open her mouth an request it. Erica let Cristina take over halfway.

They had drinks that night ... a lot of drinks, even by Yangís standards.

And woke up together in Hahnís tiny studio apartment.

Cristina had no idea what to say and when the other woman leaned over and kissed her, she reciprocated. They spent the entire day together, laughing, eating, and flipping through the channels on Hahnís satellite dish. When Cristina realized that he blond was watching her closely, she shifted uncomfortably and said, "What?"

"I thought you were hung up on Torres," Hahn said simply.

"Weíre *friends*."

Hahn looked skeptical, but let it go. "You know, I donít think you were sleeping with attendings to get ahead now. I think attendings were sleeping with you ... because you make sense."

"Is that one of your famous backhanded compliments?" Yang asked.

"No. Not at all." Hahn reached over the pillow and took her hand. "Would you have dinner with me tomorrow?"

Cristina took a deep breath and studied the other womanís face. Her lips were not plump and full. Her hair was not crazy long and black as sin and when she smiled, she didnít have a perfect row of teeth that drew your attention and forced you to smile as well ... but she was there. And she was asking.

And Yang needed someone to take care of her for a while.

"I donít want anyone to know. For a while." Cristina took a deep breath. "Because you put the rumor out that I was sleeping my way to the top and well ... I donít want people to think I really am."

"I understand." Hahn leaned over and pushed a lock of Cristinaís hair behind her ear. "Your hair ... the way it curls, the color ... itís intoxicating."

Cristina simply nodded.

She knew how that felt, too.

A certain bonecrusherís hair had the same effect on her.

*~*~*~*~*~

Thanksgiving blew Jackís mind. While the dinner was not a huge ordeal, having so many visitors definitely was and he wound up needing a nap to calm him down after he was thoroughly spoiled and thoroughly stuffed with turkey. Getting him to lie down was akin to holding him in scalding water and he kicked Mark so hard that a bruise would be on his thigh for the remainder of the week. Callieís parents arrived that same afternoon with her two youngest brothers in tow. Dezi and Diego, twins, had just turned twenty one and they attacked Callieís liquor cabinet with gusto. It was a move they would both regret later that night, but no one attempted to stop them. Sometimes growing pains were amusing to no end.

Al and Margie were very nice to Mark, who turned on the charm with Margie so much that Callie had to laugh. Just like she had, her mother fell under his spell and was eating out of the palm of his hand by the time Dezi and Diego began to vomit all over themselves and the hearth. Callie hauled them to their feet by their ears and planted them outside in the cold with trash cans between their knees. She locked them out of the house for good measure.

The next morning, she laid on the guilt trip so thick that they were both near tears. Their only nephew had witnessed them so intoxicated that he had cried thinking they were sick enough to die. The twins spent the remainder of their visit playing with Jack in his tree house and Callie didnít let them take any Motrin for their headaches. Every single time Jack shrieked in the backyard ... she hoped it went straight through their heads. And the matching expressions they wore when they apologized and left with Al and Margie later that afternoon was proof positive that it had worked.

Even though it was early in the season, Mark and Callie took Jack shopping for a Christmas tree that night. They chose a large one that hung off the front and back of the roof of Markís SUV. It was a madhouse as they pushed through the shoppers who had seized the day after Thanksgiving sales, but by the time they arrived home, their noses red and their arms full of decorations, it was worth it.

Jack had never experienced a real Christmas in his life and he questioned everything: the lights, the bulbs, the tinsel and the wreath on the door. They had let him pick the decorations, mostly cartoon characters, and after Callie kneeled beside him in the store to explain what the many tree toppers signified, he had chosen an Angel, saying that she looked like his mom. Mark carried the little boy up the ladder once the tree was covered in ornaments and lights and held him out to put the Angel in place.

Jack declared that it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in his life and sat beside the tree for close to an hour, watching the lights twinkle while Sprout slept beside him. When he saw the extra lights that had not been utilized on the tree, he crawled into Markís lap with them and asked if he would hang them in his bedroom. Mark not only hung them ... he used thumb tacks to make a star and read the final chapter of Harry Potter to Jack, who threw another tantrum because the book ended. It got so bad that Mark had to physically restrain him and it took Callie twenty minutes to doctor the scratches on Markís hands.

After Jack was asleep, Mark and Callie sank into the round garden tub facing one another. The room smelled like a botanical garden thanks to the scented bubbles she had poured into the tub. He appreciated many things about Callie and as he let his gaze wonder over her bare shoulders, he realized that the bronzed quality of her skin was one of the best. Against the stark white tub and bubbles, she looked like she had been sunbathing in Hawaii for months.

"What are you staring at?" she asked him, nudging him with her toe.

He tugged her foot onto his chest and massaged it. "You really are a beautiful woman."

"What have you done?" she asked, pinning him with a gaze that could make Jack stop, drop, and roll.

"Fallen a little deeper."

"Really? And why is that?"

"Jackís not the only one experiencing a real Christmas for the first time."

Her smile faded. "Your parents -"

"Were Jehovahís Witnesses. They didnít believe in holidays or birthdays or ... anything."

"Oh crap." Callie put a hand over her face, covering it with bubbles. "I didnít even think to ask you if you were okay with all this."

"I said my *parents*, Cal. I remain ever steadfast in my belief that thereís no higher power." He picked up a wash cloth that was dry and folded neatly on the ledge of the tub. Sitting up, he brushed the soap from her face. "What about you? Your mom was talking about it. She said that you really got into the church as a kid and was shocked that you werenít taking Jack."

"I broke up with God."

"When?"

"When he gave me bone cancer." She rubbed his bicep absently. "It was like he put a big target on my back that only assholes could see and ... it was bad. I mean ... I became a bone doctor so that I could break what broke me."

Her brow creased and he kissed it, saying, "Kids were pretty mean to you, huh?"

She bit her bottom lip. "Mean doesnít begin to describe it."

"Tell me about it."

"No. Thatís the last thing I want to talk about tonight. Not after Jackís tantrum. God, itís getting worse with him."

"Itís because heís being forced to talk about what happened at the group with Dr. Monroe. Thatís all it is." He dried his hand on the wash cloth and cupped her face. "Iíd like to hear about *your* childhood."

"Pick another topic." She forced herself to smile at him even though her stomach was clenched in knots at the thought of revisiting her past. "Anything."

"First boyfriend. Tell me about him."

"Rick Sanchez. I met him in college." She laughed at the shock on his face. "I was a late bloomer. Contrary to what you see on Lifetime or after school specials, boys really donít want to date girls who have no hair and I didnít really grow it back until my senior year. I met Rick my first week at Duke. He asked me out and because I was still at the point where I didnít know if remission would last ... I moved into his apartment about three weeks later. If Ďmoving fastí had an entry in the dictionary ... my face would be there."

"I bet your parents loved that."

"They didnít know for almost six months." Her eyes met his. "My car was in the shop and I needed to go to the library so I took his Camaro while he was asleep. I wasnít used to driving it so I hit a telephone pole and ... I wasnít worried because I knew I could get it fixed, but he ... he had a temper."

"He hit you?" Mark growled.

"I was in the hospital for two weeks."

"Oh, baby." Mark took her hands in his. "So, your dad killed him, right?"

"I didnít tell my parents right away. I didnít even call to tell them I was in the hospital. I did tell the police and he went to jail." Callie smiled at him. "I was in that bed for fourteen days getting more and more pissed with every second that passed. The day I was released I went to our apartment and packed my things and the girl across the hall told me that Rick was out on bail and would be home soon. The second he parked and got out of the car, I put mine in drive and I turned our street into a demolition derby. I crashed into his car until they were both totaled. I went to jail so I had to call my parents."

"Holy shit."

"I know it sounds crazy, but in *that* moment Rick was cancer and I couldnít let it beat me." She shrugged. "Thatís why I was so mortified when I hit you, Mark. Iíve *never* done that to someone that I care about and ... knowing how it felt -"

"Itís not even close to the same thing so stop thinking it is." He kissed her. "Where is this guy at now? Iíd love to talk to him. I mean ... until I cut his tongue out."

"Aww, thatís so sweet. He went to jail for almost a year and I donít know where he is now."

"What happened to you?"

"My dad hired a kick ass attorney who said that I had post traumatic stress or something and I got community service. And the joy of irreparably damaging my relationship with my parents. They never trusted my judgment after that, but I did. Well, until George anyway."

Mark pulled her into his lap and ran his hands over her legs, then her hips. The water was cooling off rapidly so he reached behind her and turned on the hot, letting a little drain out as he did so. "Just in case your parents didnít say it enough, Callie, Iím proud of you."

"Proud?"

"I am." He laid his hands on either side of her waist as he gazed up at her. "Youíre the strongest person Iíve ever known."

"Only when Iím with you." She leaned down and kissed him, shivering slightly. "Itís cold in here."

Mark slipped his hand between her legs. "Bet I could warm you up."

"Do it now."

He did.

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie had to work on the twenty second of December and Mark had the day off. He was at home when the call from the school came in. He was told that Jack had violently attacked a teacher and would be suspended for the remainder of the day and the first three back from their winter holiday. The first thing Mark did was call Callieís cell phone. It went straight to voice mail and a quick inquiry at the hospital confirmed that she was in a long and tedious surgery. He demanded that her operation be interrupted and waited by the phone for the less than five minutes for her to call back. She told him to go and get their son and to let her know what had transpired.

Jack was sitting in the principalís office when Mark arrived. Just like he had done in Dr. Monroeís presence, he lifted his foot into the chair and began meticulously untying and retying his shoe. Kneeling down next to the chair, Mark said, "You want to tell me what happened?"

"Not really," Jack replied.

Principal Hayman motioned for Mark to take a seat and crossed his arms over his chest. "It would appear that Jack took great offense at a conversation he overheard between two teachers."

"What kind of conversation?" Mark asked.

"Sisters Mary Hazel and Mary Francesca were discussing Santa Claus and pondering aloud the choice that some parents make to ... foster the belief in a ..."

"They said Santa wasnít real!" Jack cried suddenly. "Mary Hazel *yelled* that my mom lied to me about Santa."

"And thatís not all," Hayman replied, raising a brow at the little boy. "Tell your father what else you said. And did."

Jack covered his face and looked at Mark through his hands. "Am I in big trouble?"

"I donít know yet." Mark pulled his hands down. "What did you do?"

With a deep, exaggerated breath, Jack said, "I called Mary Hazel a stupid bitch whore and because Mary Francesca tried to grab me ... I punched her a bunch of times in her fat belly and called her a bastard."

Mark shifted uncomfortably. Jack had seen McDeaver do the same thing to Jane, whoever that was. So much of Jackís past was a shaded mystery. "What have I told you about hitting women?"

"They ainít women! Theyíre nun-bats!"

Mark glared at the little boy until he looked away and then turned his attention back to the principal. "Mr. Hayman, Iím really sorry about this and Iíll make sure that it doesnít happen again. With that being said, however, it is not up to the staff at this school to Ďponder aloudí what parents choose to allow their children to believe. We pay tuition fees for you to teach our child ... not to pass judgment and certainly not to contradict us."

"Yes, sir," Mr. Hayman replied, nodding. "Be that as it may ... we have a zero tolerance policy on violence and if an outburst like this occurs again then we will be forced to act accordingly."

"Oh? And how might that be?"

"We donít have to accept Jack at our school. I can assure you the tuition you pay will not make or break us."

"Youíre right." Mark tilted his head to one side. "Itís my understanding that most of my colleagues send their children here as well. Iím sure theyíd be very interested in the fact that Santa Claus was enough of a problem that Mary Hazel felt the need to shout at a five year old child. And call his mother a liar. Iím sure youíd miss the tuition of oh ... twenty children."

Mr. Hayman swallowed hard. Mark got to his feet and held his hand out to Jack, who took it and crawled out of the seat. "Tell Mr. Hayman that youíre sorry, buddy."

"Iím sorry," Jack said softly. "But Santa *is* real and your old nuns *are* bats."

"Have a good day," Mark told the old man, leading Jack from the room.

In the hallway, Jack stumbled over his feet and hefted his backpack a little higher. "Are you gonna tell my mom?"

"Yes."

"Crap. I said about fifty eleven cusses and sheís gonna take all my money," Jack looked up at his dad. "Howím I gonna buy presents if she keeps getting it out of my bank?"

Mark smiled down at him. "You want to spend your money on presents?"

"Yep!" Jack replied, hopping down the steps instead of walking. "I even been finding change in the couch and dollars in the wash machine, too. ĎStina was Ďsposed to take me shopping, but she hadda work."

Envisioning the shirt that Jack had purchased for him, Mark gritted his teeth. "You want me to take you? Iím off today."

"If I let you take me will you not tell my mom?"

Mark picked him up for the walk across the street to Seattle Grace. He put the backpack over his own shoulder and said, "Okay, I wonít tell her."

"Yay!!"

"Youíre going to tell her."

"Boo!" Jack gazed up at the hospital. "Can I leave out the bad cusses?"

"Nope."

"Damn."

*~

Callie took the news remarkably well. She was stuck at work for several more hours and scrubbed out of surgery long enough to handle Jack, who burst into tears when she asked him if he understood that hitting was wrong. He sobbed pitifully, his head on the conference room desk, and after he swore that heíd never do it again, Callie hugged him and turned him over to Cristina, who was waiting anxiously in the hallway to talk to him. Callie was convinced that she was giving him pointers on better ways to torment the nuns as their heads went together and they both spoke at once.

"What are we going to do?" Callie asked as Mark walked her back to the OR. "These meetings with Dr. Monroe are doing more harm than good. Heís angry all the time now."

Mark shook his head. "Some things have to get worse before it gets better."

"We canít hold the prosecutor off any longer, Mark. He wants to talk to Jack right after Christmas."

"Damn it," he said. "Have you talked to Philip? What does he say?"

"He says that we need to get it over with." Callie rubbed her forehead. "I hate this."

"Is your head hurting again?" Mark cupped her face when she nodded. "Thatís the fourth one in two weeks."

"Itís stress. I used to get them all the time."

"Iím going to get Derek to take a look at you."

"Mark-"

"Humor me."

After kissing her goodbye, Mark took Jack home to get his money and then took him to the mall. They walked around aimlessly for two hours before Jack found Cristina a red pillow. He told Mark that she liked red pillows and only had one. It was satin with black cherry blossoms adorning the corners. Afterward, Jack wandered toward the jewelry store and peered at the array of sparkling jewels, his little hands flat against the glass. He made two rounds in the store before he tugged Markís pants legs and said, "My mom would like that."

Mark squatted down and gazed at the large engagement ring. It looked antique. The diamond was square and surrounded by a border of smaller diamonds. The white gold band was covered in stones as well. It was certainly prettier than the necklace he had already bought to give Callie on Christmas morning.

Jack tapped him on the shoulder. "Moms are supposed to have rings. Dads too."

"Well, you certainly have good taste."

"I want to buy it for her," Jack said, digging into his pocket and pulling out the eighty four dollars that remained of his allowance. "I can, right?"

Mark watched the little boy meticulously straighten his cash, smoothing out the wrinkles against the glass. Looking back at the ring, Mark took a deep breath. "You canít, buddy, but I can."

"You can?" Jack asked, his voice full of hope. "I sure do like it."

"I sure do like it, too." Mark got to his feet and motioned for the clerk to come over. His hands were shaking as she handed him the ring and he studied it for a long while. It would be perfect against her skin. He noticed his son peering up at him and held it out. "Wanna see?"

Jack gingerly took the ring and slipped it onto his thumb, looking at it from every angle. "Itís like our Christmas lights! Itís sparkly!"

"It sure is." Mark picked him up and held onto him. Callie had never implied that she wanted to get married again. Her divorce had almost killed her and he had no idea if she would be receptive. The thought of her saying no was enough to give him heart failure.

Jack seemed to sense his hesitation. "Donít you want to marry us, Dad?"

"What do you know about marriage?"

"The dad tells God that he wonít never leave. So itís telling us, too."

Mark plucked the ring off Jackís thumb and held it out to the girl behind the counter. "Weíll take it."

"Heís good," the woman said, nodding at Jack.

"Tell me about it." Mark grinned like he had never grinned before.

*~*~*~*~*~

Christmas Eve found Mark and Callie getting dangerously tipsy on egg nog as they assembled Jackís bicycle. It took forever, since they kept getting carried away with making out. By the time the bike was finished it was close to one a.m. and she was yawning so much that he took pity on her. Pulling her to her feet, he gave her a kiss and said, "Letís go to bed."

"You have to eat the cookies that he left out for Santa."

Mark picked up one of the gingersnaps and smiled at her, taking a bite. He grimaced and said, "Jack wasnít lying about you not being able to make cookies. It tastes like shi-"

She smacked him on the ass and darted up the stairs when he chased after her. He caught her and fell back onto the bed with her in his arms, rolling fast to pin her. With a coy smile, she batted her eyelashes at him. "If you let me go Iíll give you an early present."

"Blackmail?"

"The last time you held me down ... you tickled me until I almost wet my pants. You have no stopping sense."

"What kind of present?"

"Let me go and Iíll show you."

He did as she asked and watched her get to her feet. "Does it involve you covered in anything edible?"

"Reign in the hormones, lust puppy, thatíll come," she replied, taking a deep breath. "I could give this to you later tonight, well - technically today, but I have a feeling that Jack will be in overdrive all day and ... Iíd rather do it while weíre alone."

"Well, now Iím more curious than lust stricken." He sat up and smiled at her. "Can you at least get naked before you give it to me?"

"Nope." She opened her closet and dug into the back of it, then returned to the bed with a package the size of a shirt box. Holding it out, she sat beside him and said, "I couldnít think of anything I wanted you to have more than this. I mean ... you have other gifts under the tree, but this ... this is a big one."

"And you really want me to open it right now?"

"Yep." Callieís heart was pounding so hard that she thought it would crack through her rib cage.

She watched him tear into the festive paper and break the tape that held the box lid in place. Holding her breath, she waited for him to peel back the tissue and glanced at his face as he revealed the photo of Jack. When Mark lifted it, her eyes filled with tears. Behind it was an envelope with a red ribbon around it. He leaned the photo against his chest and opened it.

A petition for adoption was inside ... already signed by her ... and Jack for good measure. She took a deep breath and said, "He learned cursive for you. Actually, he traced that damn napkin you wrote his name on so many times that he ripped it and cried for hours."

Mark looked up from the paper, his vision so blurred that he could barely see her. "You - youíre letting me adopt him?"

"If you want to."

"If I want to. *If*?" He looked back down at the photo and smiled when one of his tears dropped onto it. "Youíre the only woman who has ever made me cry, Callie."

"Well, I promise not to abuse that."

"Does Jack know? Did you explain it to him?"

She shook her head. "No."

"Why not? Wait, you were afraid Iíd say no?" He looked aghast. "That should have never crossed your mind."

She grinned at him. "I didnít tell him because I thought youíd want to. And I didnít know if he could keep a secret."

"He can."

Callie eyes widened. "Has he been keeping secrets for you?"

"He helped me pick out one of your gifts."

"Ooooh, can I have it now?"

He shook his head. "Itís from both of us and heíd kick my ass if I didnít give it to you in front of him."

"Damn."

"But Iíll give you something else." He pulled her to her feet and pulled the belt on her robe. Putting his hands on her hips, where festive red bikini panties with the candy canes rested, he grinned at her. "How about an orgasm in less than a minute."

"You really have a lot of faith in yourself, Sloan."

He pushed her robe over her shoulders and into the floor, then tugged her red tank top over her head. "You made a believer out of me."

*~*~*~*~*~

"SANTA CAME!" Jack screamed, barreling through his parentís bedroom door. "I knew heíd come! I wasnít *too* bad!"

Callie groaned when Jack leaped onto the bed and started to jump. "Is it even daylight yet?"

Mark peered out from under the cover with one eye and shook his head. "Not enough."

"Get up! Get up! Get up!" Jack screeched, still hopping up and down. "Get! Up!"

"Okay, okay," Callie grumbled, shoving back the cover. She had anticipated Jackís very rude wake up call and had pulled on her pajamas after all was said and done. "Note to self ... less than a minute in Mark Sloan time is *three* hours."

Mark lifted his head and glared at her. "You werenít complaining last night."

"COME ON, DAD!!" Jack wailed, pulling back the cover. "You can even open your present first."

It took a lot out of him, but Mark got to his feet and followed Callie and Jack out of the room. He stopped in the office to retrieve the video camera and then sat down beside Callie to watch the little boy dive headfirst under the tree. A few moments later, after Jack had grunted and pulled out a small box, Mark opened his gift from his son. It was a pen set and there was no doubt at all that the gold trim was real. "Thanks, buddy."

Jack pointed at the smaller pen that was next to the standard sized one. "Thatís one that I can use while you teach me joined up writing some more. I used it to put my name on some papers that Mom got from Philip. It made it real good."

Mark smiled down at him. "You know what those papers meant?"

"What?" Jack asked.

"Theyíre adoption papers," Mark told him, watching his face closely. "If you say itís okay ... Iíd like to use this pen and sign them. That means youíd -"

"Iíd be yours?" Jack looked from Mark to Callie, who nodded at him. His eyes filled with tears. "Youíre giving me away?"

"No!" She picked him up and settled him in her lap. "It just means that Mark would be your dad in every way."

"He already is."

Mark kissed him on the forehead. "You bet I am."

"You can have me, Dad. You can use your pen on the papers." With a nod, Jack hugged him. "Uhm ... can I ride my bike now?"

Callie narrowed her eyes at him, then glanced behind her where Jackís bicycle was hidden under a red tarp. "What makes you think you have a bike?"

"You said I couldnít peek until Christmas!" Jack laughed. "I waited a real long time! And Santa donít like your cookies neither. If he broke his teeth off I bet he wouldnít have left me a bike."

Mark threw his head back and laughed. "Heís just like me."

"God help me."

Jack made quick work of his presents, stopping only to watch Mark and Callie exchange a few of their own. He tolerated the clothing that his grandparents had sent him, but liked the robot they had sent ten times better. He was so enamored with it that he didnít want to open his final gift, but Callie assured him that heíd want to. Cristina had insisted on getting him a large remote controlled air plane and for a second, Callie was sure that her son would faint from sheer joy.

"Oh man oh man!" he cried rapturously. "Can I fly it now? Can I, huh?"

"Not yet." Mark pointed under the tree. "You have to give your mom what you got her."

Rushing back to the tree, Jack lifted a long, narrow box and presented it to Callie. He grinned when she struggled with all the tape that was on it and laughed when Mark had to get the scissors. "I wrapped it my own self."

"I can tell." She eventually got into it and gasped when she opened the box and saw the necklace inside. It was beautiful, white gold, with a large ruby on the end, Jackís birthstone.

"Put it on!" he cried.

Callie held out the necklace to Mark and lifted her hair. He fastened it on her neck and kissed it for good measure. She kneeled down and hugged her son, hanging on tight. "I love you, Jack."

"I love you, too!" Jack took a step back and held up another box, this one unwrapped. "Your turn, Dad."

Mark decided that he shouldnít have become a surgeon. His hands were shaking so badly again that he almost dropped the velvet box when he took it from the little boy. Holding it in his palm, he looked at Callie. "Last night you gave me one of the two greatest gifts on the planet. You gave me a child. A lot of people would probably say thatís enough and that I shouldnít ask for more, but I know what I want. What I need.

"I need you. And I have no doubt that Iíll need you for the rest of our lives and Iíll love you that long and a million years after that." He dropped onto one knee and opened the box. "So, Iím asking you to marry me because thatís the only thing in this world that I still need. To be complete."

Callie closed her eyes. The room was spinning ... spinning ... and her ears were ringing. Images flashed, unbidden, unwanted in her head. George on his knees. George telling her that he loved her. George telling her that he had cheated. George sitting across from her at the final meeting with the attorney, not bothering to look at her after he scribbled his name on the divorce papers.

And then she saw her baby, nothing more than a tiny, bloody clump ... the final part of George that had been wrenched from her womb the same way Izzie Stevens had wrenched her husband from her heart.

The word formed in the back of her mind and as she remembered the way her palms had sweat at the Church of Elvis, the way the garishly dressed preacher had snarled his way through the ceremony pretending to be the King, she shook her head. And the word took flight. "No."

Jack burst into tears.

Callie fled the room.

And Mark stayed on his knees wondering if he would ever be able to rise again.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 9
*~*~*~*~*~

It was the running that humiliated Callie more than anything else.

In elementary school the pretty blond girls liked to pull her black hair and call her a Ďwitchí. Mild as far as insults could go, the term eventually wore her down and she would run when she saw her classmates coming her way. They replaced Ďwitchí with Ďscaredy catí and Ďwussí, but Callie ran anyway, going as fast and far as her Nikes and the teachers would permit. It was never far enough to escape their taunts, however, and she finally spent her recesses and lunchtimes hiding in the bathroom with her feet lifted so no one could see her.

In middle school, those same girls began to develop breasts and walked around the school looking like centerfolds. Callieís mother tried to take her to shop at Saks and Neiman Marcus for clothing, but Callie stuck close to Hot Topic and hid behind blacks and plaids. In seventh grade, the supermodels held her down and painted her face green like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz, but she refused to cry for their amusement. She ran down the hall during a class change and everyone saw her, everyone laughed at her.

Her breasts were slow to come, but Callie grew six inches between the seventh and eighth grade and towered over the girls who were suddenly too afraid of her appearance to taunt her in person and relied heavily on the slats in her locker to leave hurtful notes. When the cancer made her the sickest, they would sketch her, bald and hideous, and display their artwork prominently in the hallway. Being different was a punishable offense in school, but being ill was a death sentence. She beat the cancer, but her soul died in little pieces every time the homeroom bell would ring and she would head to her first class. If Callieís mother ever noticed the black stains on her pillowcase, where her dark eye makeup had run with her tears every night ... she never mentioned it.

Callie didnít run again until high school. Her parents decided that she was too withdrawn, too dark and depressed, and insisted on a sweet sixteen party that would rival anything that the senior prom could come up with. Her mother took it upon herself to invite hundreds of Callieís classmates and purchased the pinkest, frilliest, most frou frou dress ever to grace the window displays on Rodeo Drive. The bow on the ass weighed more than Callieís backpack. Her father rented out a hot nightclub in Miami for the event and was able to book Bon Jovi for an entire hour. Much to Callieís horror, the RSVPís began to pile in almost immediately. She tried to hide them, burn them, or bury them, but was always caught in the act. Being a social outcast was akin to murder in her familyís eyes.

Her mother spent hours bemoaning the fact that she had put on the weight she had lost during the worst of her battle with cancer and when the horrible dress was cinched at the waist, Margie told her not to eat her birthday cake. Broken, Callie didnít put up much of a fuss when the tiara was pinned to her wig, making it uncomfortable, and didnít complain when the dainty pink slippers painfully reminded her that she would never fit the mold that her parents wanted to force her into. She smiled at her enemies, she engaged in conversations with the very people who had stained her face and soul and pretended to enjoy the canapés and pink cake. Inside she was dying.

Later, in the bathroom, after Bon Jovi had performed and everyone had eaten their fill ... the girls who had taunted her for most of her life attacked her. They ripped the dress from her body, made fun of the few extra inches of weight around her middle, slapped her belly to watch it wiggle and didnít stop until she ran, in her underwear, back through the club. Everyone saw it, everyone laughed and pointed and snapped pictures, shouting ĎTitless Torresí in a horrific chant. Callie made up her mind in that moment to never be ashamed of her body again ... no matter how much extra weight she carried. She was so glad that she could finally eat again and not vomit it back up that every bite made her feel like she could win the battle against the cancer.

Later, Callieís mother told her that she was disgraceful and her father had accused her of rebelling against the party. She showed him the claw marks on her back, where perfectly manicured nails had raked her skin while they ripped her dress to shreds and her father had been enraged enough to want to withdraw her from school and send her to a different one. A private school.

But something had snapped inside Callie the night of her party and she knew that she would never run again. Instead, she got revenge in her own way and held her head a little higher when the taunts would become deafening. She graduated with honors as class valedictorian and the topic of her speech was how people who spend all their time and energy hurting others never really succeed in life. She had smiled bigger than she had ever smiled before when they all stood up and clapped for her --- they were too stupid, even then, to realize that she was talking about them.

She never ran again.

Until Mark had kneeled in front of her and asked her to marry him.

So great was her mortification that she stayed hidden away in the bathroom under the guise of getting ready for Mirandaís dinner party. She eventually heard Jack laughing in the backyard and the unmistakable sound of the airplane that Cristina had given the tyke. Her heart ached the same way it had in school, when she knew that sheíd have to face the day no matter how much it killed her inside.

Sitting in the floor, Callie took a deep breath.

"Yes," she said softly, the word that she had wanted to say bubbling from deep inside.

But no one was there to hear.

When she finally emerged, wearing fitted black slacks and a red v-neck sweater, Mark was helping Jack tuck his shirt in. She bit her bottom lip and waited for either one of them to speak to her. Jack finally took pity on her and told her she looked like a checker board because of the black and red attire.

She certainly felt like she had been playing a checker game all day.

One that had taken her months to lose.

*~*~*~*~*~

Miranda Bailey loved hosting Christmas dinner. She loved the hustle and bustle and the colorful faces that sat around her table. Diversity was a wonderful thing and embracing diversity was even better. As she glanced at her friends, she had to smile. Her husband leaned against her and asked what was amusing. Bailey looked behind her, where Tuck, Jack and her two nieces sat at a plastic picnic table just behind the grown up table and said, "Friends become our chosen family."

Later on, after desert had been devoured and far too much egg nog had been enjoyed, Miranda stood beside Callie at the sink. "Are you going to tell me why you looked like your dog just died?"

Callie sighed. "Mark asked me to marry him."

Bailey glanced down at her friendís left hand. "And you said no."

"I said no." Tucking the last plate into the dishwasher, Callie dried her hands and leaned back against the counter. "He asked me in front of Jack."

"Ouch." After she started the washer, Bailey nodded at the back deck, which was being kept warm with an outdoor fireplace. It was thankfully vacant and Callie sat down near the flames, gazing at the crackling logs. Miranda sat beside her. "You donít want to marry him?"

Callie pondered her response carefully, trying to find the right words. When Bailey put a hand on her arm, she said, "I didnít mean to say no. It just ... it came out."

"It came out?"

"He - he just shocked me. Seeing him on his knee and -"

"He even got on his knee?" Bailey gasped. "Girl!"

"I know. And he said everything that I could ever hope to hear, but as soon as he dropped to the floor ... all I could think was George had done the same thing and then I thought about the baby that I lost and -"

"Okay, you do understand that there are more than just physical differences between Mark and George, right? Theyíre not the same person."

"I know."

"For instance ... you thought that OíMalley was your white knight and he turned out to be a cheating jester. And Sloan has only ever been cast as the whoring stallion and now heís prince charming and -"

"Uh, Miranda?"

"Shut up. Tuckís going through a phase where he only wants to watch jousting knights and lovely maidens."

"Oh! Tuck called me a saucy wench." Callie leaned forward, warming her hands. "I thought he called me a sucky bitch."

"What are you going to do, Callie? About Mark?"

"Thatís the million dollar question, isnít it? Heís not talking to me, not even looking at me."

"Did you give him the adoption papers?"

"Of course I did," Callie said. "Would you believe he actually cried when he saw it?"

Miranda glared at her. "You know what? I never thought in a million years that Iíd be championing Mark Sloan, but how would you feel if he had told you no when you gave him your son?"

Callie bit her bottom lip. "Itís not the same thing."

"Itís exactly the same thing. Youíre giving him Jackís life, but not yours. Iím the last person alive who would sit here and tell you that marriage is easy. Itís not easy, but it *is* a bed of roses. You get the sweetest, softest petals and the roughest thorns in one spot ... but itís a beautiful thing. Something to be admired."

Derek stepped onto the back deck, smiling when he saw the two women sitting by the fire. "Sorry Iím late. Surgery went a little long."

"Is Meredith with you?" Callie asked hopefully.

"Sheís not. She got roped into working tonight by Cristina."

Callie looked confused. "Why would Cristina need tonight off? She hates Christmas."

"I donít know. Neither did Meredith," Derek replied, he pulled a chair up by the fire, gazing at Callie. "We need to talk."

"Thatís my cue," Bailey said, getting to her feet. She patted Callie on the arm as she walked past her. "Hang in there."

When the door closed behind her friend, Callie took a deep breath. "I didnít mean to tell him no, Derek. It just - it came out and then I couldnít take it back and -"

"You told him no?!" Derek looked appalled. "Callie! Why?"

"Wait, you didnít want to talk to me about Mark?"

"Not until right now! You said no!?"

"Off limits," Callie scooted her chair closer to the fireplace. "What did you need to talk about?"

"I got your test results back. Your scan was clean." Derek sat back, watching her closely. "Have you been feeling sick lately?"

"No," Callie replied. "I mean, the headaches make me nauseous and I feel lethargic afterwards, but - itís nothing new. I went through these things all through high school and -"

"Were you pregnant then?"

"Huh?"

"Because youíre pregnant now."

Her mouth fell open. The words bounced around her head, not sinking in. She started to stand, but only made it halfway before she sat back down. One of the logs in the fireplace cracked loudly and she almost jumped out of her skin. Pregnant? Her hand went to her stomach and she shook her head. "No ... no, I canít be."

Derek enjoyed her reaction a while before he spoke again. "I bet you really regret saying no right about now, huh?"

She got to her feet and glared down at him. "Donít."

"I took the liberty of calling Addison. Iím hesitant to prescribe anything for the headaches so sheís coming down tomorrow to see what we can do." Derek caught her arm as she started past him. "Are you going to tell Mark?"

"Not until I talk to Addison."

Jack opened the back door, his eyes finding Callieís. "Can we go home now? Iím tired."

"Me too, kiddo." She leaned down and scooped him up, carrying him back through the house.

Everyone noticed that she was close to tears.

Everyone except Mark.

And heíd had enough egg nog to not really know who she was at all.

*~*~*~*~*~

"I havenít told Mark," Callie informed Addison the moment she stepped into her arms at the airport. "So, donít mention it."

"You told him *no*?" Addison swatted her friend on the arm. "Dumb ass."

"Does *everyone* fucking know!?"

"Mark told Derek, who told Meredith, who apparently gossips more than she whines. Alex told me." Addy shrugged and pointed behind her. "And I brought reinforcements."

Callie smiled and hugged Pete, who was wrestling with Addisonís Louis Vuitton bag. "Iím glad she dragged you along."

"I volunteered." Pete shrugged. "You need pain management and I can take care of it without the drugs."

"Lovely. A traveling witch doctor. Are you going to shake a rattle snake over me?"

"Apparently everyone from Seattle hates alternative medicine."

"No, honey," Addison replied, patting his arm. "All *doctors* hate alternative medicine because it fucks with real medicine."


"There are no snakes," Pete told Callie, ignoring his girlfriend. "How far along are you?"

"No clue." Callie sighed and pushed her hair behind her ears. "I donít think Iím pregnant. I havenít missed a period and -"

"Thatís not uncommon." Addison looped her arm through Callieís. "Morning sickness?"

"None."

"Tender breasts?"

"Not really."

"Letís stop by the hospital first," Addison said. "I want to get an ultrasound and measurements and -"

"Iím not pregnant."

"Weíll see."

*~

An hour later, Callie casually reclined on a stretcher in the imaging center, grumbling as the red headed she-devil squirted ice cold gel onto her stomach. She crossed her ankles and pillowed her head on her arms as she waited for Addison to confirm what she already knew. She was *not* pregnant. The last pregnancy had caused projectile vomiting every time she moved. She had experienced every text book side effect and had not even needed the test she took. She had simply known.

"Okay," Addison said, sliding the ultrasound over her belly. She smiled and picked up the Doppler. A moment later the unmistakable sounds of a strong, glorious heartbeat filled the room. "I didnít know if seeing would be believing so ... the children of the night ... what beautiful music they make. Or whatever that movie says that you like."

Callieís eyes widened when Addison turned the monitor and she could see it. The ringing in her ears effectively blocked out the babyís heart beat and her eyes couldnít look at the little blip on the screen enough. Part of her was insanely happy that the babyís heart seemed to be beating hard enough to sustain her own lack of one. "Oh my god."

"Congratulations. Looks like Jackís getting a little Mallie."

Shaking her head, Callie swallowed back the bile in her throat. She had seen the monitor the night she miscarried. She had seen the still form of her child and had screamed long and hard enough to be hoarse for days. Mark had been beside her then, smoothing her hair back, whispering in her ear for her to calm down. He had taken her bloody hands in his and held them over her head when they performed the dilation and curettage to remove every trace from her that the baby had left behind. It had been Mark who insisted that they give in and let her hold the unidentifiable mass and Mark who had climbed into the bed and held her when no one else was there.

And it was Mark who had been left devastated by her refusal to give him the only thing she could keep him from taking. Her. He had offered her the world and she had thrown it back in his face, crushing him with the weight. Callie burst into tears and the nausea that rumbled through her came so swiftly that she vomited into the floor before she knew it was happening. "I canít do this. God - I - I canít!"

"Stop it." Addy wet a wash cloth and wiped Callieís face. "You want kids! This is all you used to talk about!"

"You donít understand," Callie sobbed. "Everything George took from me ... *everything* ... Mark gave me back and I told him *no*."

"Itís the dumbass in you. I already confirmed that."

"Heís not talking to me. And he got so drunk last night that he thought the ceiling fan was a helicopter landing in our living room."

"Two dumbasses under one roof then." Addison moved the ultrasound around a little. "Youíre about ten weeks along."

"Almost three months!? How!?"

"Well, the guy puts his thing in the girlís thing and they wiggle around until itís all happy."

"Fuck you."

"That probably would have kept you out of this. Unless I had a turkey baster and a whole bunch of sperm."

"I always pegged you for a lesbian."

"I always pegged you for one, too."

Callie's smile faded suddenly and she burst into fresh tears. "Holy God, Addison! I've been drinking all this time. I had plenty of nog on Christmas Eve. I was tipsy! What if -"

"Callie, people drink all the time before they find out they're pregnant. The fetus looks fine. We'll do more comprehensive tests tomorrow. It's okay." Addison tried to reassure her, but is was futile. The black haired woman continued to sob.

Cristina pushed the curtain back and gazed back and forth between the two women. When she saw the tears on Callieís face and the ultrasound, she crossed the short distance and took Callieís hand in hers. "I thought that was you crying. I - I heard it for weeks."

"Iím *pregnant*." Callie clung to her hand. "What am I gonna do?"

"Youíre going to stop crying because you and me ... we donít cry. Weíre not squeamish and we donít cry. Weíre cool like that." Cristina looked at Addison and said, "Is that freakiní dude with the potions and elixers one of your moon bats?"

"Excuse me?" Addison asked, eyebrow raised.

"Because if heís one of your California Crazies then you better go claim him. He just told Baileyís patient that surgery should be her last resort and that there were *alternatives*. Bailey will gut him. And I wonít repair him so donít ask."

"Shit. Excuse me," Addison quickly replied, darting from the room.

Cristina picked up the ultrasound and slid it over Callieís stomach. She landed on the baby and smiled. "Letís hope it looks more like you than Sloan."

"He asked me to marry him."

"And you said no. Meredith has a huge mouth. Huge." Cristina set the instrument aside and picked up a towel, gently rubbing the gel off Callieís skin. When it was clean, she tossed the towel behind her and laid her palm over the spot where the baby rested. "If marrying Sloan is too much for you then donít do it. But if not marrying him is going to make you miserable again -"

"Iím scared."

"Of Mark? Screw him. You can tell him itís mine."

"Turkey baster?" Callie chuckled a little. "Addison has dibs on that."

Cristina reached down and smoothed her hair back. "This is what you want, Cal. You were put on this earth to be a mother."

"Itís just so complicated now."

"Why did you say no?"

Callie took a deep breath and let Cristina help her into a sitting position. "I said no because Iím a coward. I love Mark. Iím so in love with him that I canít stand it. I never thought Iíd feel this way again. And Iím terrified that wedding vows will make him insane. Iíve seen it happen."

"Because of George?"

"Who do you think?"

Cristina took both of her friendís hands in hers. "I have known George OíMalley a little longer than you and I can assure you that youíre wasting your time judging other men by him. He is not a good scale for you to use because he is still a kid. Mark Sloan? Thatís a man."

"I know all this." Callie began to cry again.

"I know you do." Reaching up, Yang cupped Callieís face in her hands and leaned forward, kissing her on the forehead.

*~

Erica Hahn had been searching for Cristina for close to an hour and she chose that moment to open the door, having been pointed in that direction by Meredith Grey. All she saw was the woman she had been involved with for weeks kissing The. Other. Woman. Stalking forward, she pulled Cristina away from Callie and got into the Latinaís face. "I donít know what you have going for you that makes people follow you around coddling you, but you stay away from Cristina."

Callie had stopped crying now. She hopped off the table, easily towering over Hahn. "What is it with blonds and their territorial bullshit? Can you only have one friend at a time?"

Cristina jumped between the two women. "Stop! Erica! Sheís pregnant."

"Oh, I bet you love that!" Hahn sneered. "Your dream girl is knocked up!"

"Wait - what?!" Callie cried.

"Yeah," Hahn snapped. "Sheís got a big old yen for you."

"Shut your mouth!" Cristina growled. "Now!"

Hahn ignored Yang. "Yeah! I spilled a drink on your stupid red pillow and she yelled at me for ten minutes."

Callieís eyes were like saucers when she looked at her best friend. "Youíre gay now?"

"Sheís bi-sexual!" Hahn corrected.

"I DONíT RECALL ASKING YOU!" Callie shouted. "Get out before I call security."

"You two deserve each other. Pregnant and Pompous. Oooh, or Pregnant and Pathetic." With that, Hahn yanked the door open and stormed out.

Cristina looked like she wanted to sink through the floor. Callie watched her for a few seconds and before she spoke. "Youíre sleeping with *Hahn*!? You hate her!"

"Sheís convenient."

"Youíre not - you donít - Cristina! How did I not know this!?"

"Which part."

"Any of it. All of it." Callie gasped. "Oh my god! You were with her for Christmas!"

"No. I was avoiding her for Christmas."

Callie chewed her bottom lip, tilting her head as she studied Cristina closely. "Why would you think that - that I - you kept my pillow?"

"I know itís crazy." Cristina shrugged. "You were leaving and I didnít know if you would ever --- be the same after you left. And I - I didnít know if Iíd be the same either."

Grinning suddenly, Callie crossed her arms over her chest. "You have a girl crush on me!? You waaaaant me!"

"Shut up."

"Iím really hot, right? Even in my pregnant state."

"Shut up."

Callie punched Yang playfully on the arm. "You get that I like the boys, donít you? Well, one boy. Whoís really a man."

"Stop talking."

Leaning forward, Callie kissed her friend on the cheek. "But you are the only woman Iíd ever go gay for."

"Donít tell. Anyone."

"Our secret." Callie hugged her. "And I love you, by the way. In a Ďyouíre my best friend with no benefitsí kinda way."

"Shut. Up."

Callieís smile suddenly faded. She looked furious. "Wait ... did you get a crush on me while I was Chief Resident? Because you *are* attracted to power."

Cristina grinned. "Maybe."

"YOU DID!"

"Just a little, but not much because you sucked at your job."

"God, now I hate you."

Cristina leaned back against the wall, sighing. "Is it going to be weird between us now?"

"Is is ever anything but?"

"You have a point ... just ... I donít want it to be ... different."

"You are Jackís godmother. And youíll be this babyís godmother." Callie took Yangís hand. "And you will always be my partner in crime ... and my everything else."

"Okay, youíre supposed to be making this easier to walk away from," Cristina pointed out. "You really love him."

"I really do."

"Then fight for the family, Callie. The normal family you deserve and ... be happy. Because Markís a great dad and he made you smile again."

"Yeah." Callie nodded at her. "But you took me in when I had no one else. And Iíll never forget that."

"Neither will I."

"HOW COULD YOU STEAL MY PILLOW!?" Callie suddenly shrieked. "You gave the damn things to Goodwill, Ďstina. I should smack you!"

"Please donít. Iím into that. Itíll just make me horny."

"Duly noted."

"Good."

Callie hugged her. "What the hell are you going to do about Attila the Hahn? Sheís freakishly scary."

"Yeah."

"I heartily disapprove."

"So do I. I think sheís sleeping with me because my surgical technique is better than hers. She wants to keep me close. I keep thinking sheíll break my hands in my sleep."

"Restraining orders really are a great and wonderful thing."

"Iíll keep that in mind."

*~*~*~*~*~

Mark was in the driveway watching Jack ride his bicycle when Callie got home. He called the little boy out of the way and and picked him up when Callie eased into the garage. The minute Addison climbed out of the car however, Jack scrambled down and rushed into her arms. Markís eyebrows went up when Pete slipped out of the backseat. "Hey," he greeted Addison.

"Mark, this is Pete. Pete, Mark." Addy glared at Mark, telling him with her eyes that her new boyfriend didnít know anything about their past.

The men exchanged pleasantries as they unloaded the luggage from the trunk. Mark showed Pete the guest room and exited quickly when Addison arrived and shot him a look that he neither understood or enjoyed. He found Callie in the kitchen fixing Jack something to eat. "Hey," he said quietly. "You were gone a while."

"Yeah," she replied. "Addy wanted to stop at the hospital."

Mark frowned when she turned to face him. "Youíve been crying."

"We need to talk."

His eyes found Jack, who was watching the adults curiously. Taking a deep breath, he said, "Can it wait?"

Callie was tempted to rush into his arms and announce her pregnancy, but she solemnly nodded instead. It was the first time Mark had acknowledged her. "Yeah. Sure."

"I told the Chief that I would help him install a dishwasher in his new place. So ..."

"Okay."

"Iíd ask Pete to tag along, but -"

"No, itís fine."

"Iíll see you later."

Callie nodded. He walked away without a backwards glance, oblivious to the fresh tears that stung her eyes. Jack looked up at her and said, "I donít think he loves you no more."

"Eat your sandwich," Callie replied softly, holding out his plate.

"Can I eat in my room?"

"Go ahead."

When Jack left the kitchen, Callie grabbed a paper towel and blotted her eyes. Addison appeared a moment later, took one look at her, and hugged her. "You gotta get it together, Callie. This is not good for the baby and -"

"He said he had to leave. I didnít get a chance to tell him."

"Then tell him when he gets back."

"What am I supposed to say, Addy!? Do I look him in the face and say ĎOh, I know you hate me right now, but guess what? Iím pregnant so get over it and pretend that I didnít kick you while you were literally on your kneesí Yeah, that would go over really, really well."

"Mark wants a baby. I mean - he was devastated when I had the abortion."

"I donít know. I think heís -"

"Callie, this is his baby. And youíre the woman he loves. Heís going to be so happy that heíll forget all about you ripping out his still beating heart and squashing it. Like a bug."

She didnít laugh at her friendís humor. "I just - I cannot believe Iím pregnant. Weíre having a baby."

In the living room, Jack put his untouched sandwich down and wiped the tears off his face. People always gave the kids back when the babies came. Babies were cute and cuddly and were picked all the time. He walked to the front door and quietly slipped outside. Sprout would probably want to go away with him, but Mac had killed the other dog that Jack had found wandering around the yard so he left his puppy in the backyard. Gathering his bike from the stoop, he climbed on and looked back at the house.

Leaving hurt.

But it was better than being thrown away.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Whereís Jack?" Pete asked, joining the women at the dining room table. "Iíd love to see the plane that he told Addy about."

"Heís probably watching a movie. He asked to eat in his room." Callie got to her feet and headed upstairs, calling for her son. The silence suggested that he was sleeping so she eased the door open and peered inside. The smile on her face faded when she saw the empty room. The movie had been paused and he was no where to be seen. She checked his bathroom, then her own for good measure.

"Come out, kiddo. I donít want to play games today," she called.

"Is he a hider?" Pete asked.

"We play Hide and Seek religiously. He can fit into the most unlikely places."

"Weíll help you search for him," he replied, calling for Addison.

An hour later, the adults had turned the house upside down. Callie was a basket case and called 911, barely able to relay that there was a problem at her house. She called Mark next, but she was crying too much for him to understand her. Addison took the phone and explained, then walked into the front yard. When she returned, she said, "His bike is gone. We didnít even think to check."

"What!?" Callie cried, reaching for her purse. Her blood was racing through her veins so fast that it made her dizzy. "Itís pouring rain outside and thereís a freeze warning!"

"Iíll go." Pete gently took the keys from her shaking hand. "You donít need to drive. The police will be here soon."

"You donít know the area."

"Iíll find my way." Pete headed for the door. "Iíll call you if I find him."

By the time the police arrived it was dark outside and so cold that Callie couldnít shake the chill, even when Addison wrapped her in a blanket. Callie found Jackís sandwich and realized that she had forgotten to cut the crust off. She did just that as soon as the police left with Jackís photo and clothing description. The bread was already hard when she cut the crust and she glanced at the clock, wondering how long he had been gone.

"I have to go look for him," Callie said, startling Addison by speaking up loudly in the deafening silence.

"You have to stay here. They told you to stay here."

"I canít just sit here and do nothing! This is my child!" The phone rang and Callie grabbed it. "Hello?"

"Itís me," Mark replied. "Anything?"

"No."

"Iím going to go try the group home. He likes the playground there."

"Please find him. Please, Mark."

"I will, baby. Itís going to be okay." Mark could hear her sobs. "Calm down, Cal. Kids do this. I did this a million times."

"Why would he leave?" she cried. "Why would he-"

"Shhh," he soothed. "I donít know. He seemed fine today. Did he say anything?"

"Just that you didnít love me anymore."

"Well, he was wrong about that," Mark assured her. "Listen, Iím at the home so Iím going to go look for him on foot. Iíll call you if I find anything."

The phone went dead and Callie hung up. She sank to the floor where she stood, no longer able to hold herself upright.

*~*~*~*~*

Pete was empty handed when he returned. He had not seen the little boy anywhere, but the heavy police presence in the area reassured him. Everyone was looking for Jack. When he walked into the house, he heard the sounds of someone being sick and he took the stairs two at a time.

Addison looked up when he walked into the bathroom. She was holding Callieís hair back while she vomited. Her eyes filled with tears as he shook his head. "She needs something to calm her down. And for the nausea."

"Iím on it."

Less than fifteen minutes later, he was working his mojo and Callie was no longer sick.

She was a zombie, however, as she sat on the sofa gazing straight ahead.

The world was a blur around her.

She was vaguely aware that one of the officers had returned and was asking questions about Jack, about his bicycle, but she didnít open her mouth and reply. Letting Addison take over seemed natural and she allowed it without a word. Her hand rested on her stomach and she closed her eyes, remembering the way the tiny heartbeat had sounded. She concentrated on breathing, on living.

When all she wanted to do was give in, curl up, and sob.

*~

"Jack!" Mark called, walking around the group home for the tenth time. He had no doubt that Jack would return to the place where he had lived longest. Whatever had happened at this place ... Jack would still think of it as home. It was always the same for children in the system. Home was rarely anything but hell, but when it was all you knew ... you embraced it. As he headed back toward the playground once again, he saw that his instincts were correct. The blue bicycle they had purchased for Jack rested against the slide and Mark cupped his mouth, shouting for his son. "Answer me, Jack! Right now! Youíre not in trouble!"

The rain was falling so fiercely now that Markís entire body was numb from it. He could only imagine how Jack felt. "Jack! Come on, kid!"

"Go away, Dad."

Mark spun on his heel just in time to see the little boy disappear onto the roof. Sprinting, Mark climbed the same haphazard trellis that Jack had scaled and carefully picked his way across the slippery roof. Jack was standing on the edge, which wouldnít have been very alarming since it was only one story, but the way he was crying certainly was.

Kneeling down beside his son, Mark took his jacket off and put it around the trembling child. He held onto him to keep him from sliding. "Whatís wrong, baby?"

"I AM NOT A BABY!"

"Okay, okay. Iím sorry. What happened?"

"Mom has a baby in her belly so she donít want me no more."

Mark almost fell off the roof. A stiff breeze could have sent him flying headfirst to the ground. He didnít know whether to laugh from the joy or cry because Jack didnít share it. Callie was pregnant? There was a light at the end of the tunnel after all. "How do you know?"

"Addison said so. And so did my mom," Jack wailed. "She donít want to tell you because you hate her."

"I donít hate her, Jack. I love her. I told you that." Mark picked him up and headed back the way they had come. Jack started to scream in agony, kicking and punching as they went. Thrown off balance, Mark stopped walking and grabbed Jackís arm. "Stop it! We have to get out of the rain!"

"Let me go! I want to stay here! I want my old room!"

Mark did something he had never done before. He set Jack on his feet and shook him, hard, getting in his face. "Jack, you belong with us! We are your parents! Your old room is gone!"

"Where is it? Whereís Mac? And Emily?"

"Mac is gone for good. Heís a very bad man and Emily -" Markís brow furrowed as he remembered the little girl who had comforted him. "I donít know where she is. Iím sorry. But your mom is at home and sheís worried about you and -"

"She donít want me! If she wanted me she wouldnít have no stupid baby!"

"Letís go." Mark moved to pick him up again.

"WAIT!" Jack screeched. "Who will watch her now if Mac ainít here no more?"

"Who? Watch who?"

"Jane."

Markís stomach sank so suddenly that he could barely breath. "Where is Jane, son?"

Trembling from the cold and maybe something more, Jack lifted his small hand and pointed out into the night. "Mac put her under the tree so she could watch us in the playground. She comes out if someone is bad and takes them under the dirt with her. Thatís why I like the roof. She wouldnít never come up here to get me before she hid under the ground. She was scared of it."

Mark picked up his son again. He was trembling now as well. He had to make the little boy understand. "Listen to me, buddy, Mac canít hurt you ever again. And neither can Jane. Theyíre gone and you have a new life with us. A better life. Weíre a family."

"You didnít kiss mom goodbye. I thought you was leaving forever." Jack hugged him. "Are you sure she wonít give me away?"

Mark squeezed him tight. "No matter what you might think ... you are our baby. Our first baby ... and thatís a special, special thing to be."

"It is?"

"No one can replace you. Youíre part of us. Your mom didnít carry you in her belly, Jack, but she carries you in her heart all the time. And so do I." Mark made it to the trellis and carefully climbed down. "Hang on tight now. Weíre going home."

When they made it to solid ground, Mark hurried to the car and strapped his son in. He hefted the bike into the back of the SUV and quickly started the engine in the hopes that it would still be warm. He made sure the back vents were pointed toward Jack before he turned and looked at him. "Youíre grounded, by the way. No bike, no television and -"

"Oh, hell! But I only just got my bike! And movies for my T.V. and -"

"Donít you *ever* leave the house without permission again!"

"Dad-"

"I mean it!"

"Yes, sir."

Mark called Callie as he drove the three miles back to their house. Addison answered, screamed that Mark had found him, and then Callie was on the line. She sounded strange, he thought, hollow. It was odd. If Jack was right, Callie was anything but hollow.

She carried their baby inside her.

He promised to hurry and hung up when he turned onto their street. A moment later, he pulled into the drive and saw her standing in the front door. His gaze instinctively went to her stomach and he had to stop himself from yelling when she raced down the stairs. If she fell ... his mind flashed back to the blood that wet her thighs when she miscarried with OíMalleyís baby. That had almost killed Mark ... watching her suffer, watching a childless mother beg to hold what remained of her baby. He shook his head to shake the vision.

Callie snatched the back door of the vehicle open and gathered Jack into her arms. His skin was like ice against hers and when he buried his face against her neck, she could hear his teeth chattering. She nodded at Mark, who briefly cupped her cheek, then she raced up the stairs with her son. Addison already had the shower running to help warm the little boy up and Callie stepped inside with him in her arms, letting the warmth bathe them both.

Mark had followed and he looked at Addison. She squeezed his arm and left quickly. Toeing off his shoes, he stepped in behind Callie, fighting hard not to groan as the hot water finally chased away the cold. He pulled Callie back against his chest and felt her sobbing. "Itís okay, Cal," he whispered, his face against her hair.

"Why? Why did you do this, Jack?" she cried.

Jack eased back, looking up at her. His eyes met Markís over her shoulder. "You tell her."

"No. You tell her," Mark replied, his hands tightening on her hips. He wanted her to know that he knew ... that he was happy, that he was *there*.

The boy gazed up at her. "I got real upset when you told Addy that you was having a baby and I thought youíd make me go away, but I donít want to. I promise Iíll be a good brother. Okay?"

Callie closed her eyes in embarrassment and ... fear. This time she didnít see any reminder of the past. All she could see was the future and it was breathtaking. Mark kissed her neck and prompted her to speak, "I will never want you to -"

"I know. Dad Ďsplained it. Iím sorry."

"Youíre in trouble," Callie said. "Big trouble. You scared me and -"

"He Ďsplained that, too. Do I really gotta be grounded?"

"Yes," Mark replied before Callie could. "You really do."

"Shit."

"Jack-"

"Mom! I donít even got no dollars to give you right now!"

Addison knocked on the door and walked in with three large towels. She pulled the curtain back and said, "Can I take him? Pete built a fire and we ordered pizza. I can get his pajamas on and -"

"Pizza!" Jack crowed. "Can I go?"

Callie didnít want to let him go at all. She was going to protest, but Mark scooped the child from her arms and handed him off to Addison, who hurried from the room with him. Callie started to follow, but Mark blocked her. Saying nothing, he pulled her into his arms and held on tight, rubbing her back. He breathed a sigh of relief when she wrapped her arms around his waist. "Weíre pregnant," he stated softly.

"We are."

"Baby, this is amazing." She didnít meet his eyes so he put his hand under her chin and lifted it. "When did you find out?"

"Derek told me last night. At Mirandaís, but I didnít believe him. I - I havenít had any symptoms or -"

"What about the headaches?"

"My scan was clear," she replied, touched that he had asked about her at all. "Pete agrees that itís tension."

He reached up and rubbed her hair back, kissing her forehead. "And heís here to treat you for it?"

She nodded.

Mark slowly lifted her shirt, pulling it over her head. He let it fall behind him and kneeled down, kissing just below her belly button, then above it. His hands spanned her stomach as he peppered kisses over it and when he smiled up at her, there were tears in his eyes. "How far along are we?"

"Ten weeks." She put her hand on his head. "I - Iím sorry. I -"

"What!? Callie, this is great news! It took both of us and -"

"No, I mean - I didnít - Iím sorry that I said no."

"Oh." He glanced back down at her belly.

"And - well, if I said yes now youíd think it was because of the baby and I know that - but - well, Iím sorry. You just - you caught me off guard and -"

Mark looked back up at her. "Itís not like it has an expiration date. Itís a forever offer."

"Really?"

"Really. I love you, Callie."

"I love you, too."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 10
*~*~*~*~*~

As much as she would have liked to indulge in make up sex with Mark for hours, Callie simply could not do it. After Jack had eaten his dinner, she scooped him up and carried him to the master bedroom, where they crawled under the covers and she clung to him. To his credit, Jack let her cry on his shoulder while he played with her hair and repeated that he was Ďawful sorry real badí eight hundred times.

When Mark joined them a little later, Callie had stopped crying and looked expectantly at him. He nodded, confirming that he had called the police and told them about Janeís burial in the back yard of the group home. "Tomorrow?" she asked softly.

"Tomorrow. The prosecutor will meet us at ten in the morning." Mark touched her face when her eyes welled with fresh tears. "Itís gonna be okay, baby."

"What are we going to do?"

"The best we can." Mark rested his hand on Jackís stomach. "Are you ready for bed, buddy? I already checked your closet for monsters and -"

"No." Callie shook her head. "Heís staying here."


Mark watched her pull the little boy closer. "I set the alarm. He canít get out, Cal, and -"

"I wonít go nowhere." Jack hugged her. "I promise a whole lot."

"Youíre sleeping here," she told him, rubbing his hand.

Mark spooned against her back, his arm resting protectively against her belly. Jack dozed off in no time, warm in her arms, and the adults amused themselves by suggesting one hideous name after another for their child. Mark easily won the horrific battle of names by suggesting Agatha Muriel for a girl and Garth Leander for a boy. Callie told him that he was not allowed to get near the babyís paperwork until *she* had made a name official.

Despite the circumstances, they both drifted off with contented smiles on their faces.

*~*~*~*~*~

The following morning, Jack woke with a start, sitting upright so quickly that he jarred his parents out of their slumber. Clearly disoriented, he rubbed his eyes. "Whyím I in your bed?"

"Because you ran away yesterday and scarred me for life," Callie replied with a yawn, tugging him back down and pulling the cover over them.

"What does that mean?"

"Never mind." Callie kissed him on the head. She felt Mark stir behind her and glanced over her shoulder. "Hey, you."

"Morning, beautiful." He pushed himself up on his elbow to kiss her, then tickled Jack, who laughed and kicked out, catching Callie in the stomach. Markís hand was a few inches away and he caught the little boyís ankle. "Whoa, buddy! Thatís where the baby is. Be careful."

Jack pushed himself back into a sitting position and moved the cover down, gazing at Markís hand. "Can I touch it too?"

"Sure." Callie lifted her pajama top, exposing her belly. "Go ahead."

Delicately touching her ribcage, Jack said, "Is the baby here?"

Mark led his sonís hand to the correct spot. "Right about there."

Callie grinned when the tiny tips of Jackís fingers rubbed against her flesh. He was being so careful, barely touching her, that she almost laughed out loud. She lost it completely when he put an ear against her stomach and closed his eyes. "What are you doing?"

"Listening." He held his breath, then his eyes popped open. "That ainít no baby! It growled at me!"

"Thatís because someone skipped dinner." Mark shot Callie a pointed look. "You want French toast?"

"Your one and only specialty? Sure." Callie grinned at him, then at Jack, who was whispering to her belly. "Now what are you doing?"

"Telling it to be a boy."

"You donít want a sister?" Mark asked him.

"I got one of them already," Jack replied, his ear against Callieís stomach again. "I miss her."

"You have a sister?" Callieís eyes widened. "What -"

"Her nameís Emily. We got the same mama. Not you, Mom. The one that put us in her belly," he said.

Mark listened to Callie question the little boy. It took him a few moments to make the connection. "You know, now that I think about it, she looks like Jack. Her hair is lighter, but they -"

"You met her?" Callie asked, stunned.

"Yeah, I think so." Mark nodded. "Cute kid. Big heart. Talked to me at the home when McDeaver was taken into custody."

"Whatís custody?" Jack questioned. "Did Emily want to come see me?"

Mark chose to answer the latter. "I donít think she knew that I was your dad."

"Oh." Jack rested his chin on his fists, still gazing at his mother exposed stomach. "How do babies get into your belly?"

"Oh... god." Callieís eyes were so wide it was comical. "Uhm ... thatís something that Dadís explain. When youíre older. So ... I need to go take a shower and - yeah."

"Dad, can you tell me now? I really need to know."

"Gee thanks, Cal." Mark smiled at her when she slipped from the bed.

Neither could know it ... but they were both thinking of Jackís sister.

And wondering where she was at that moment.

*~*~*~*~*~

The prosecutor was a jovial, good natured man with a plush white beard that made Jack take an instant liking to him. When the man told him that Santa Claus was his brother, Jack climbed into his lap and asked that he thank Santa for the bike and apologize for his motherís cookies. Some moms just couldnít make cookies, Jack explained, and his mother definitely could *not*. Mr. Sims, the prosecutor, smiled at Callie and promised to relay the message, then spent thirty minutes making small talk with Jack.

When Sims finally brought the topic around to the group home, Jack was happily rambling on and on. Jack gave him a few details about life at the home, then suddenly slipped from the manís lap and climbed into the chair next to Callieís. Sims slid his own chair a little closer and began talking about Christmas again, listening intently as Jack listed every single present he had received. He even told about the kinds of candy in his stocking. Another thirty minutes passed before Sims finally asked a direct question about McDeaver.

Jack shook his head. "I donít want to talk about it no more today. Okay?"

Sims glanced at Callie, then up at Philip, the attorney. "Jack, can you just tell me what you know about Jane?"

"No."

"Where is she now?"

"Can we go?" Jack asked Callie. "Iím hungry."

"You can go," Sims interjected before Callie could, "just as soon as you tell me where Jane is. Can you be a good boy and do that for me?"

"You promise?" Jack asked.

Sims nodded. "Where is she?"

"Sheís under the tree in the playground. The big one with the kite stuck in it." Jack untied his shoelace and set about knotting it. "Can we leave now?"

"How do you know sheís there, Jack?" Sims pushed.

"I answered your stupid shit question," the little boy cried. "You promised we could go."

"Can you please tell me?" Sims put his hand on Jackís shoulder. "I know itís scary and itís hard to talk about it, but itís important. Janeís mother may be wondering where she is."

"Jane gots a mom?" Jack looked up at Callie, clearly remembering her reaction to him being missing. "Mac put her in the Devil closet for a real long time. She kept asking for water then she didnít ask no more. Me and Emily seen him carryiní her like a baby and she smelled real bad. Then he digged a hole and rolled her in there. We seen him do it from the roof."

"The roof? Why were you on the roof?"

"Thatís where we went to talk to the moon man and look at stars. Emily likes stars a whole bunch. And the moon. Mac didnít never look for us on the roof." Jack crawled over the arm of his chair and into Callieís lap. "Can we leave now? Please?"

Philip cleared his throat. "I think heís had enough."

Sims got to his feet and extended his hand to Philip. "Thank you for working with us. Do I have all of your contact information, Ms. Torres?"

"Yes," Callie replied, getting to her feet. "You can also talk to Mark. He filed the formal paperwork this morning to adopt Jack."

"Congratulations," Sims replied, shaking Markís hand. "Heís a fine boy."

"Yes, he is," Mark agreed, scooping his son out of Callieís arms. "As you can see, discussing this is very hard on him. If we can keep his involvement as minimal as possible and not push him too much ... that would be great."

"I have a grandson his age," Sims replied, taking Callieís hand briefly. "I understand."

"Thank you." Mark put an arm around Callieís shoulder as they headed for the door. "Youíll let us know about Jane?"

"Certainly. Wait one moment please." Sims walked across the room and took something from his desk drawer. He held it behind his back until he reached Jack, then he pinned a toy badge to the front of his sweater. "Jack Torres, you are officially a deputy."

"WOW!" Jack cried, rubbing the plastic star. "Can I put bad guys in jail."

"You already have." Sims winked at him, ruffling his hair. "You be a good boy."

"Yes, sir! Thank you!"

In the elevator, Philip addressed Callie. "He did better than I expected."

She nodded solemnly. "Do you think itís enough?"

"Well, they recorded it with your permission. I canít think of anything else theyíd need at this point."

"Will they want him to testify anyway?" she asked.

Philip took a deep breath. "He witnessed a ... m.u.r.d.e.r." He spelled the word for Jackís benefit. "He will probably be required to speak via closed circuit television."

The elevator opened and Callie took Philip aside, telling Mark she would join him in a second. When they were out of earshot, she took a deep breath. "Can you get me in to see McDeaver?"

"You want to visit him at the jail?"

"I do."

"Can I ask why?"

"I need to appeal to any part of him that remains human, which may not be much, but someone needs to remind him that these kids are going through hell because of him." She glanced at Mark, who was watching her curiously. "I mean, he *killed* someone, Phil. I donít want this to drag on for years."

"As your lawyer, I have to advise against it." Philip squeezed her hand. "But as your fatherís friend, I understand that you come by this honestly. Iíll do what I can."

"Thanks."

"Congrats, by the way." He pointed at her belly. "Jack told me."

"Jackís telling *everyone*." She smiled. "Hey, can you find out about a girl at the home named Emily? Jack says that they have the same mother. I asked McDeaver about any siblings when I adopted Jack, but he said Jack was an only child. Jack says that sheís his sister, though. Blood sister."

"Iíll look into it."

"Thanks."

*~*~*~*~

They took Jack to eat at Chuck E. Cheese, not because they wanted to, but because he squealed like a pig when he saw the sign and begged for four blocks afterwards. Sitting across from one another, Mark and Callie held hands while they watched their son scurry back and forth, playing with the other children.

"What did you need to talk to Phil about?" Mark asked.

"I want to see McDeaver."

"What?!" Mark looked at her like she had grown two heads. "Why?"

"Because I think I can reason with him."

"Absolutely not! Out of the question!" Mark told her. "You are *pregnant* and you donít need to -"

"Oh jeez," she groaned. "Are you *that* guy?"

"What guy?"

"The one who acts like pregnancy is a terminal illness." She smiled at him. "Iím having a baby, Mark. It doesnít render me incapable of -"

"It most certainly does." He tightened his grip on her hand. "You had a miscarriage, darliní, and no one knows why. So, weíre going to proceed with caution. You can have Addisonís quack put peppermint oil on your head or stick pins in your ass, but youíre not going to the jail. If it makes me *that* guy then so be it."

She forced herself not to laugh. "You really donít mind if Pete puts pins in my ass."

His eyes widened. "Wait ... that wasnít literal. Is he - did he - that bastard!"

"Youíre so cute when youíre jealous."

"Youíre not cute at all." He narrowed his eyes at her. "Promise me you wonít go."

"Whatever." She sipped her water, then took a deep breath. The events of the past few days had left her with a dark cloud hovering over her. She hated the way she felt inside. "Iím worried, Mark."

"Why?"

"Because I drank on Christmas Eve. Addison said itíll be okay, but-"

"Donít. Donít say it, donít think it." He leaned over and brushed her hair behind her ear. "Addison knows what sheís doing. What time are we meeting her?"

"Three." Callie glanced down at her watch. "Which will give us enough time to eat and pry Jack out of the building. He loves this place."

Mark traced the back of her hand with his thumb. "I hope the baby gets your skin tone."

"I hope the baby gets your eyes," she replied. "Theyíre amazing."

"No." He shook his head. "Brown eyes are better. And black hair."

"Yeah, your hair is turning gray, sweetie."

"Hell, I wonder why. A certain woman comes to mind." He nudged her with his foot. "You know what? Iím excited. While you were hiding under the cover with Jack last night, I sent a text message to my entire phone list telling them that I was going to be a dad. Again."

"You announced Jack, too?"

"You best your sweet ass I did."

She reached out and touched his face. "Are you sure youíre okay with this? Youíre happy?"

"Iím beyond happy. When do you think it happened?"

"Considering that we have sex at home, at the hospital, and in the car ... who knows?" She shrugged. "Iím usually so careful with my pills and -"

"It was meant to be."

"Itís so weird." Callie glanced at Jack, who was laughing loudly. He waved at her and she waved back, smiling at him. "When I was pregnant before ... I stayed sick. All the time. I couldnít eat. I couldnít sleep because my boobs ached and I knew. I didnít even need the test. I just *knew*."

"Every pregnancy is different."

"This different?" Callie asked. "Mark, Iíve been having a period. Nothing is sore on me except my head and I havenít had any morning sickness."

"Then count your blessings."

She chewed her bottom lip. "Can I tell you something?"

"Absolutely."

Looking back out at Jack, who was now feeding tokens into a game that would let him win a stuffed animal, she took a deep breath. "I feel guilty."

"Guilty?"

"It hasnít been *that* long since the miscarriage and -"

"Itís been over a year."

"Thatís not enough time. I feel like I didnít wait long enough ... I didnít mourn long enough."

"You almost mourned to *death*, Cal." He lifted her hand and kissed it. "And the wait is long enough. We didnít do this wrong."

"Thereís more."

"Okay."

"And this is the really bad part," she said. "There was this one time, right after I married George, that he thought I was toxic. Like, he thought I was literally making him ill ... violently ill."

"WHAT!?"

"It wasnít me. It was that woman with the toxic blood, but he still assumed that it was our marriage or a panic attack or something and -"

"Iím going to kill him for that. Is there no end to how that dipshit hurt you?"

"Just ... listen."

"Okay, sorry."

She tried valiantly to gather her thoughts before she spoke again. "This pregnancy is completely different. I canít deny it. I keep thinking that the baby I carried *knew* that George and I were complete failures. That we were *toxic* because of each other and -"

"OíMalley is toxic. You are not toxic."

"I feel guilty for thinking that *our* baby is somehow more ... right. It doesnít make me sick or sore or ... anything. And itís wrong. I shouldnít feel this way."

"Do you know why you feel that way?"

"No."

He got to his feet and slipped into the booth beside her, hugging her. "Youíre trying to justify it when you donít need to. Youíre trying to make sense of something that never makes sense at all. You think if you rationalize that the baby you lost was somehow *wrong* then you wonít have to worry about the timing."

Her eyes searched his. "I donít think it was *wrong*. I just think it was ... doomed. Everything I had with George was doomed and ... I wanted that baby anyway."

"I know. I was there. And you donít have to feel anything except happy right now. You can celebrate, you can smile, you can laugh and make plans and it doesnít diminish the other babyís memory. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Mom! Dad!" Jack screeched. "Come play with me!"

"Letís go play." Callie touched her nose to Markís.

"Uh, no. *I* will go play and you be a spectator. There are tons of kids for you to trip over or -"

"You are begging me to kick your ass."

"Iím *that* guy. Remember." He put his hand on her belly. "Humor me. Youíve got precious cargo on board."

Callie shook her head.

And enjoyed watching the two men in her life run around like idiots.

That afternoon, Callie reclined on the stretcher as Addison finished up her exam. Mark and Jack were in the hallway, waiting impatiently to see the sonogram and hear the heartbeat. Addison tossed her gloves into the trash can and issued a litany of strict verbal orders that she promised to write down, email, and call daily to verify that they were being followed. As much as she hated to do it, Addison confirmed that she was flying back to Los Angeles early because of a special case that Naomi requested her expertise on. She would be leaving right after the sonogram and had already called a cab. Callie was saddened, but Addy didnít let it last long. She promised to visit again in two weeks to monitor the babyís growth and pointed at the bag of Pete's mojo in the corner. He had left Callie with plenty of treatments for her headaches.

After confirming once again that Callie was roughly ten weeks along and the baby was healthy and thriving, Addison opened the door and let Mark and Jack come in. Callie thought Mark looked as nervous as a virgin at the prom. He was wringing his hands ... something Jack apparently thought would help the situation because he was doing the same thing. Addison picked Jack up and sat him on the foot of the bed so he could see the monitor clearly and waited for Mark to join Callie before she picked up the ultrasound. "There it is," she told Jack, pointing at the screen as she rolled the device over Callieís stomach. "Thatís the heart right there."

"Itís ugly," Jack said, squinting at the monitor. "It looks like E.T."

"Thatís very rude," Mark told him, leaning down to kiss Callie as their babyís heart beat filled the room. One of his tears dropped onto her cheek and he stood up in time to see Addison roll her eyes. He simply grinned at her and demanded photographs from every angle. "The entire hospital knows, Cal."

"What? How?"

"Jack decided to tell everyone who would listen that his mother was getting her baby photographed." Mark held out his hand to accept the first of many, many pictures that Addy was capturing. "And his voice is like a megaphone so -"

"Great."

"I want pictures, too!" Jack wailed.

Thirty minutes later, the happy family emerged. Jack was riding on Markís shoulders and waving two photos back and forth while he sang a song about the baby that he made up on the spot. Callie was laughing at him when she saw Cristina, who glared at her from the far end of the hallway. Her elation over the baby diminished slightly when her friend flipped her a bird and waltzed into the on call room. Callie excused herself and quickly followed. She opened the door and stalked inside, ignoring the two sleeping doctors who were inside.

"What the hell is your problem?" Callie hissed, sitting beside Yang on the bottom bunk.

"What the hell is *your* problem?" Cristina shot back. "Oh, wait. I know the answer to this. Addison. Addison is your problem. She comes to town and you only have time for her."

"What!?"

"Itís funny that you accused Hahn of something very similar."

"Now youíre pissing me off."

"Feels like shit, huh?"

"What did I do, Ďstina?"

Cristina half laughed. It was a bitter, cruel sound. "Did it ever occur to you that maybe Iíd like to be there for the sonogram?"

"You were there! Yesterday! You were there for all of it!"

"Yeah, but Jack wasnít. It would have been nice to see his reaction. He is my godson, right? Or is Addison doing that now, too?"

"I thought you were off today."

"I am off today. I came here to see what time you were scheduled since you didnít call me ... and lo and behold, you were already done."

"Why are you in your scrubs, then?"

"Because far be it for me to deny someone my medical expertise, Iphigenia Vagina! I thought if I looked bored and available someone would oblige me and need surgery."

"Donít call me that! Iím sorry. I am a bad, bad friend. Itís just - we had to see the prosecutor today and Jack ran away last night and -"

"RAN AWAY!?"

"Shut up! God!" The person in the furthest bunk called.

"Piss off, jackass!" Cristina called. She raised herself a little higher to glare at the bleary eyed young doctor. "Youíre an intern! Iím pulling rank! Go find a better place to shirk your duties or Iíll tell your Resident you fucked up charts."

"Damn, Cristina," Callie said as the man rushed from the room. "Youíre a bitch."

"Explain, Torres."

"Jack was upset about the baby," Callie whispered, mindful of the person sleeping over them. "He was gone for a couple of hours. We had to get the police involved and Mark finally found him."

"God dammit, Callie! Is a phone call too much to ask!?"

"Would you calm down? Pete gave me a treatment and I zoned out."

"Of course he did! Now youíre becoming an *alternative* medicine person and-"

"Not living an *alternative* lifestyle, right?" Callie watched her friend closely. "Thatís what this is really about, isnít it? Because we -"

"No! Itís because weíre supposed to be family!"

"We are!"

"Then you have to call me! You have to tell me -- you called me when Jack scraped his knee because you wanted a second opinion. He was fine, but you still made me drive over in the rain to make sure." Cristina finally lowered her voice. "You said it wouldnít be weird between us, but it is. Youíre leaving me out. No pun intended."

"No, Iím not!" Callie said, her eyes welling with tears. "Can you put yourself in my shoes for a second? The perfect guy asks you to marry him and you say no. Then you find out youíre pregnant because God clearly gets bored and has to liven things up. And then your kid tells you that he witnessed a murder and -"

"Jack witnessed a murder?"

"McDeaver killed someone," Callie replied, rubbing her face. "Jane. I think he had an affair with her and she was pregnant. At least thatís what weíre gathering from Jack."

"Iím sorry." Cristina took her hand. "I just - I miss you. You know?"

"Iím right here." Callie assured her. "Youíre my best friend and from now on Iíll call you no matter what."

Yang looked down at Callieís finger. "You still didnít say yes?"

"Not yet."

"But you are."

"You told me I should, Ďstina."

"Iím not being in the wedding."

"I did it for you."

Cristina wrinkled her nose. "Would you be willing to let me take Jack tonight? I didnít get to see him for the holiday and ... well, he ran away so I need to spend some time with him."

"Yeah, sure. Heís still got your Christmas present and heís dying to give it to you. Plus ... I need to have sex. Lots and lots of sex."

Cristina shuddered, making a face. "I - uh - Iím not with that *person* anymore, by the way."

"Are you coming on to me?"

"No, whore." With a grin, Yang punched her. "Iím telling you that I took up for you and I shouldnít have because you totally left me hanging for your flip flop wearing floozie."

"California *is* changing Addy."

"Why do you think I moved out of Beverly Hills?"

Callie put on her best upset face. "Are you still mad at me?"

"Just a little."

"Want a picture of your new goddaughter?"

"Goddaughter? Itís too early to tell and -"

"Itís a feeling."

Cristina took the photo and held it up to the light streaming through the window. "Sheís the cutest mass of cells and tissue Iíve ever seen."

"Jack called her E.T. and said she was ugly."

"Heís just like me. Donít name her something stupid, okay? Calliope almost put me off talking to you."

"Whatís your middle name?"

"Grace, but donít do that to a kid either."

"Grace. Hmmm, I like that."

Clearly touched, Cristina beamed at her, then whispered, "Okay, fine. Iím not mad. Weíre friends with *no* benefits and *no* weirdness."

"Partners in crime." Callie leaned a little closer, her voice barely audible now. "Mark is being *that* guy and acting like Iím a delicate flower. I need you to cover for me next week. Philip can get me in to see McDeaver so I need you to give me an alibi."

"You canít kill McDeaver!"

"I know, dumbass!" Callie growled. "Iím going to *talk* to McDeaver. I think I can get him to confess or at the very least get him to cop a plea."

"This is why you need to be banned from Law & Order repeats." Cristina shook her head. "Granted, you are persuasive, but this is a bad idea."

"Can you come along?" Callie asked. "Weíll tell Mark that we have to shop or *something* because he will kill *me* if he finds out that I did this after he told me not to."

"I dunno. You didnít tell him about that ... about my thing ... for you, right?"

"Hell no! Mark is a jealous bastard." Callie chuckled. "Are you still jonesing, Yang? You lurrrrve me."

"I thought we werenít talking about that anymore."

On the top bunk, directly over Cristina and Callie, Izzie Stevens smiled.

Callie was such an easy target.

And was dumb enough to continually load the gun herself.

*~*~*~*~*

"And then there was silence." Callie stretched, arching her back. Her body tingled in ways she never imagined in a million lifetimes. "There is something to be said for sex so good it makes you feel like youíll never walk again."

"I did outdo myself, didnít I?" Mark pulled her into his arms and kissed the top of her head. "Youíre sweaty."

"That was quite a workout."

"Pregnant sex? Best thing ever," he replied.

"Letís see if you still think that when your arms wonít fit around me." She laughed.

"Itís not my arms that need to fit, baby."

"Pervert."

"You know it." He took a deep, contented breath, absently running his palm over her breast. "In case I didnít mention it ... Iím sorry for getting so drunk on Christmas night."

The smile on her face faded. "You earned it."

"I was also unnecessarily rude to you and I apologize for that, too."

"I deserved it."

"No, you didnít." He shifted so that he could prop his head on his palm and look down at her "I should have talked to you about the whole marriage thing before I asked."

"Mark-"

"It doesnít have to be a big conversation, baby. I just want you to know that Iím okay with it."

"Iím not," she replied. "Iím stupid to fear you."

"You fear me?" Pulling her a little closer, he rested his hand on her hip, gently rubbing her soft skin. "I wasnít expecting you to say *that*."

She looked away from the intensity of his gaze. "Maybe fear isnít the right word. I - I know I love you. I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I also know that people change. What you feel today may not be what you feel tomorrow and I really donít have another divorce in me."

Mark forced her to meet his eyes. "Iíd never do that to you. Or to our kids."

She shook her head. "Staying and being miserable would be worse."

"Then Iíd stay and be happy."

"You canít know that. You canít."

"Do we really know anything?" he asked. "People die every day in car wrecks, but we still drive. Planes crash, but we still pay too damn much to be strapped in and fly. Life is about risk, Callie. Itís a gamble. Sometimes it all works out."

"And other times?"

"If youíre lucky you live and learn."

"Iíd like to think that I learned with George."

"Weíve already been together longer than you were with George." He kissed her forehead. "Iím not going to pressure you or push this. I told you that the offer still stands and if you decide that you want to get married you just tell me where to meet you. Say the words and Iíll be there."

She wanted to say the words.

She even opened her mouth to let them fly, but all that escaped was a yawn.

"You are as rude as JACK!" Mark cried, poking her in the rib. "Donít let my boring conversation keep you awake."

"I can think of something better than conversation to keep me awake."

Callie pushed herself to her knees and swung one leg over him, straddling his waist. Grinning, she leaned down and kissed him, grinding against him as she did so. Within moments, he was rock hard and she reached between them, guiding him into her. "Oh, God," she groaned.

"Oh, God," he agreed. "You could pretty much make a believer out of me."

*~*~*~*~*~

A week later, Callie tried her best to be calm, cool, and collected as she nodded at Cristina, who was standing in front of the fireplace. Mark came down the stairs behind her, talking to Jack, who was heading to the nursery for the day instead of school. His suspension for violence against Sister Mary Hazel was still in place, but he didnít seem to mind.

"I still donít get why you have to go to *Oregon* to pick up a present for Cristinaís mother." Mark shook his head. "You can probably get it delivered and -"

"Nah," Callie smiled at him. "Weíre looking forward to the road trip. Iíll call you, I promise. Iíll be back in time for dinner."

"Can you make Ďsgetti!?" Jack bellowed. "I want it!"

"Absolutely." She winked at him. "You be good today."

"I will. Bye, Ďstina!"

"Bye, Jackalope," she replied, bending down to accept his hug.

Mark and Callie kissed and then he smiled at Cristina. "You drive safe."

"I know, I know. Precious cargo or whatever."

"Damn straight."

An hour later, the women arrived at the jail right on time. Philip had arranged for Callie to visit McDeaver early in the morning, before the prisoners would be rambling in the yard or the office staff would be milling about. He thought it would be less stressful for her. Callie was nervous nonetheless when she was escorted into a small room just off the front lobby. There, she met a female officer who went over several rules and regulations while she *prepared* Callie for the meeting. Cristina, who would be waiting in the hallway, kept attempting to give her friend a pep talk, but finally gave up.

After what felt like an eternity, Callie took a seat in an even smaller, windowless room, and breathed deep. This was it. She could either make or break the case and the stress was making it hard to breath. The pressure of it all had settled somewhere in the vicinity of her lower back and as she mentally prepared herself, she hoped that she had made the right decision. The door opened and she felt her heart lurch in her chest, but it was only Philip. He smiled at her and took the spot beside her. "What are you doing here?" she asked.

"Making sure you donít do anything stupid."

"I wasnít -"

The door opened again and this time it was McDeaver. The old, round man was led inside by two armed guards. His wrists and ankles were shackled and he scowled at Callie as the bigger of the guards forced him into the seat. "Youíre the reason these bastards woke me up? It better be good!"

Callie wrinkled her nose. Mac smelled like raw sewage and looked as if he hadnít washed his greasy face and hair in months. She didnít speak until Philip nudged her, then she said, "Do you remember me?"

"Youíre that big shot doctor that took Jack. The one who was waving around her money."

"I asked you if Jack had any siblings and you told me no."

"I know what I said."

"Why didnít you tell me about Emily?"

"I donít like rich bitches." He cocked his head to one side. "What do you want?"

"We canít find her. Emily, I mean."

"That ainít my problem."

"You do realize that they know all about Jane, donít you?" Callie watched the manís face fill with color. "Despite everything I know about you ... I donít think youíre an evil man. I think youíre a sick man and you have the ability to stop this mess and stop making these kids -"

"Donít you dare tell me what I can do!"

Callie tried to recall all the points she had written herself on index cards. They were in her purse, which had been left with Cristina. "Child abuse is bad enough on its own, but forcing these kids to relive it and talk about it ... thatís a new degree of Hell. You were all they knew, Mac. You and your wife ... you were their parents and -"

"I ainít done nothing wrong!"

"Jane died because of you."

"Jane was an accident! She went crazy and was beating on Emily when -" He trailed off suddenly as if realizing where he was for the first time. "Nevermind."

"Please ... go on."

McDeaver shifted uncomfortably, his beady eyes going back and forth between Callie and Philip. "She hated Emily. Jane did. Because my Emily looks like her mama. Jack didnít get her eyes or her-"

"I thought you said Jackís parents were dead."

"Their mama *is* dead."

"Who is their-"

"It donít matter."

"It matters to me!" Callie snapped. "Jackís happy! I donít want his father reappearing one day and -"

"Heís in jail," Mac said softly. He raised a brow at Callie, nodding slightly.

She gasped. "Youíre - youíre their -"

"No comment, lady."

"But ... who was their mother!?"

"She died in childbirth. She was real young to be birthiní twins."

Callieís jaw hit the floor. "Theyíre twins?"

Mac nodded. "Their mama was a good girl."

So much made sense at once that Callie almost choked on the bile of realization. "You - she was one of the - you nasty old pervert! She was one of the girls at the group home! Wasnít she?"

"She was in love with me!" Mac snarled. "I was gonna marry her! She was fifteen when she had them babies and I was trying like hell to divorce Stella!"

"She was a child!" Callie shouted. "And you kept Emily because she looked like her mother, but you gave Jack away!"

"Jack wanted you! He made it real damn plain."

"What about Emily?"

"I wanted her."

Callie looked disgusted. "Iíd hate to think how you wanted her."

McDeaver shot to his feet, spittle and sweat flying as he tried to launch himself at Callie. The guards reacted quickly and Philip moved in front of Callie. A second later, the old man was being held back in his seat by the guards and was looking at Callie like he wanted to choke her. "I love that girl."

"Yeah, itís so obvious." Callie pulled Philip back into his seat.

"What the fuck do you want from me?" Mac yelled.

"I want you to confess! I want you to stop making these kids suffer! Do something right for once! You have the ability to stop this!"

"Whatís in it for me?"

"Maybe you can actually sleep at night."

"I donít have no trouble sleeping."

"Hmm." She looked thoughtful, even innocent, as she went straight for the jugular. "You donít see Jane? You carried her in your arms to the back yard where you put her in a rough, horrible grave that you had already dug. You tossed her in there and put a blanket over her and then you covered her with your bare hands. You didnít use a shovel."

Macís rheumy eyes widened. "How did you know -"

"There were witnesses." Callie crossed her legs. Her demeanor was so relaxed she could have been having tea with friends in the English countryside. "Several witnesses. Iím pretty certain that when the autopsy results come back, theyíll find out that she was pregnant. And it wasnít yours. I donít think you knew that when you kicked your wife out for her. Jane carried what you considered a bastard and thatís why you beat her in the stomach when it got bigger."

"It was a bastard! She deserved to die!"

"What about Janeís family? The babyís father? Do you ever think about them?"

"She wasnít nothing but a hooker. A damn hooker! A gutter slut! She ainít got no family."

"Everyone has family, Mr. McDeaver. Youíve proven that much," she sighed. "You had a wife. Then you had two beautiful children and you destroyed them. You continue to destroy them."

"Jack ainít nothing but trouble."

"I beg to differ." She looked him up and down. "I canít see a single part of you in him."

"Well, thatís what you know!"

"Do you know what happens to child abusers in jail?"

"I ainít worried."

"Then God help you." She pushed herself to her feet and thanked the guards. When she was halfway across the room, she looked back at the old man. "Iíll never tell Jack that youíre his father. Heíd be ashamed. I will say this, though ... heís one hell of a kid and if your DNA had anything to do with that then I thank you. You gave me the greatest gift of my life. You sit in here and think about that ... what youíre missing out on, what you gave up. And when you canít stand it any more ... itís really easy to knot your sheet and hang yourself. I encourage you to do just that."

"Fuck you."

"Oh ... it would the last thing you ever did."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie met Mr. Sims in the hallway. He shocked her by hugging her tightly and she cried out when the wire she wore bit into her flesh. The set up had been well executed. It had been her idea to involve the prosecutor and Sims had readily agreed. McDeaver hated officials in any capacity and dried up like the desert whenever he was questioned, exercising his right to remain silent from the moment the first word was spoken to him.

"How was it?" Callie asked, rubbing her chest.

"We can use it. Parts were like a confession and thatís good." Sims squeezed her hand. "Are you sure youíre not a cop?"

"Iím sure. I just come from a long line of bullshitters." She smiled at him. "What happens now?"

"Well, Iíll go to his attorney and try to get him to push for a full confession or at the very least take the plea bargain. At this point itís more important to keep the kids out of it. I could still make sure he dies behind bars."

"Thank you, Mr. Sims."

"No, thank you." He opened the door that led to the dingy room where she had gotten the wire attached earlier. The same female police officer removed it and escorted Callie to a conference room.

Callie bade her goodbye and stepped inside, grinning at Cristina. "I did it! Granted, he tried to kill me, but -" She stopped talking when she saw the look on her friendís face. It was comical and freakishly scary at the same time. "What the hell is wrong with -"

"Whatís wrong with her?" Mark asked, pushing away from the wall where he was leaning. The look on *his* face was unmistakable. He looked at her with enough fire to melt steel. Without another word, he snatched out a chair and nodded at it. The moment Callie sat down, he stalked back across the room like he couldn't bear to be near her. "You have some nerve, lady!"

"Mark-"

"Is it true?"

"Is what true?"

"The two of you!" He pointed at the women. "You had an affair? And now youíre doing it again?"

"What!? NO!" Callie cried, shaking her head. "Who told you that? Did Hahn say that-"

"Stevens," Mark snapped.

"And you believed it?!"

"She also told me you were here and I didnít believe that either, but check it out." He put his hands on his hips. "Hahn confirmed it, though. She said she saw you two kissing the other day and -"

"Wrong," Yang supplied.

Mark spun and looked at Cristina. "When did you decide to be gay!?"

"Bi, actually."

"And you have feelings for Callie?"

Cristina glanced at her friend. "We worked it out and -"

"Worked it out!?" Markís voice was an octave higher than usual. "How?"

"Thatís private," Callie replied.

"Well not anymore!!" shouted Mark. "Stevens told everyone and now they think that *this* is why you told me no! They think youíre leaving me for a woman! And what are you doing here, Callie!? You promised me that you wouldnít do this!"

"No ... I actually didnít."

"You know what? Fuck it! And fuck you, too!" Mark shouted, storming out of the room.

Callie laid her head on the desk. "This is a brand new low for me."

"He called me an Ellen Degeneres wannabe," Yang sighed. "Why couldnít he call me Margaret Cho?"

"Heís not big on lesbian pop culture?"

"Can you bail me out of jail again?"

"Youíre going to attack him for calling you Ellen?"

"No, Iím going to attack Izzie. And this time ... Iím breaking her bones."

"I can show you how."

*~*~*~*~

Callie headed into the hospital to pick Jack up at the nursery. She didnít want to leave him there all day and, truthfully, she needed him. She had called Mark from the car, only to get his voice mail ... and what a voice mail greeting he had recorded. Since she could only bear to listen to it once she had thankfully not memorized it, but the colorful vocabulary mixed with her name had been enough to prevent him from dialing him again. He was beyond pissed. It was a horrible feeling.

What felt worse, however, was being told that Mark had picked their son up earlier. Callie checked her watch and frowned. Mark was supposed to be in surgery for the remainder of the afternoon. Heading back through the hospital, she paused in front of the surgical board and her legs went weak. Sure enough, Mark was currently operating. Who then, had picked up Jack.

Running, she launched herself into the observation deck. Her entire body was shaking when she saw that Mark was standing next to Meredith, instructing her as she held the reigns to the surgery. Callie flipped on the microphone and said, "Mark!"

He didnít look up at her, didnít reply. Instead, he pretended that he couldn't hear her, pointing something out to Meredith.

"Mark, where is Jack!?"

Something in her voice prompted him to speak. "He asked to spend the night with Bailey and I agreed."

"You didnít ask me!"

He finally met her eyes. "You didnít ask me about going to the jail."

Throwing her hands up, Callie stalked out of the deck and down the stairs. When she emerged in the hallway, Mark breezed out of the operating room, yanking off his gloves and protective glasses. He crossed his arms over his chest and said, "Donít you *ever* make it seem like I have to *ask* you for anything when it comes to my kids!"

"Donít you *ever* make it seem like I have to *ask* you to go somewhere!"

He narrowed his eyes at her, squaring his shoulders. "That baby youíre carrying is half mine! I have some say in where it goes!"

"Oh, thatís just wonderful, Mark! Now youíre territorial! You want to drop trou and piss on my leg?"

"Didnít Yang do that already?"

Her jaw dropped. "Go to hell!"

He gripped her arm and spun her to face him when she tried to walk away. "Did you sleep with her?"

"No."

"Never."

"No! Never!"

He looked skeptical. "Did you kiss her?"

"No, Mark. I did not kiss her. Weíre friends and -"

"Sheís a friend who wants you. Stay away from her, Callie. I mean it."

Unbidden, another conversation flashed through her mind.

//She has feelings for you. She wants you. Thatís what this is about. Thatís why she hates me.//

Shaking her head to clear it, Callie said, "You canít be serious. This is Cristina, Mark. *Cristina*. Jackís godmother. My best friend."

"Yeah, you're just like George and Izzie," Mark growled. "Only now ... Iím *you*."

"Itís not the same thing!"

"I canít deal with this, Callie! You fucking handle it or I will."

She gasped. "I did handle it! She knows that I love you! She knows that Iím happy with you and -"

"Then marry me."

"What!?"

"If this has nothing to do with Cristina ... if you are not involved with her or trying to spare her feelings by keeping me at armís length ... then marry me."

"Are you -"

"Iím not kidding, Callie!"

"Fine!"

"Say *yes*."

"Yes, ass. Yes. God, you are so infuriating and -"

And there, in front of several coworkers who had stopped to watch the argument, Mark kissed her like there was no tomorrow.

*~*~*~*~*~

The New Year came and went and Jack headed back to school after his three day suspension for fighting. Callie escorted him inside to give Sister Mary Hazel a piece of her mind and left the nun in tears, earning cheers from a group of teenage students who had heard the entire exchange. She looked back briefly, in time to see one of the taller boys lifting Jack in the air. Her son was beaming with pride as he blew her a kiss. She caught it and pressed it against her heart.

She walked into the Denny Duquette Memorial Clinic with a smile on her face as she sidled up to the nurseís station and nudged Bailey, flashing the ring on her finger. Her friend gasped and grabbed her hand. "Damn, girl, youíre gonna get tennis elbow lifting this big rock every day."

Callie gazed down at the diamond. "It is excessively large."

"Are we talking about Sloanís ego again?" Cristina asked, putting a chart behind the counter. "Heís posturing all over the building. Heís decided to stop calling me Ellen and now heís calling me ĎButchí, which is only slightly better than Ďbull dykeí which is how Hahn addresses me in surgery."

Meredith hopped up on the counter, putting her own chart on the pile. "You are kinda butch. You had better taste in men, Cristina. Atilla the *Hahn*. Seriously? Eww."

"Yíall need to leave your sex lives out of it." Bailey glared at the two women, then at Callie. "So, whenís the date?"

"YOU SAID YES!" Meredith crowed, grabbing Callieís hand. "Oh my god! This ring is obscene!"

"Iíd rather hear about sex." Cristina said, picking up a new chart. "Iím going to mend sickness. Bye."

"Is it true?" Meredith asked Callie when Cristina vanished behind a curtain. "Did she actually have a crush on you?"

"She had a crush on my title of Chief Resident."

Bailey choked on the water she was drinking. "She better not come sniffing around here. I ainít got time to play with crushes or ... at all."

"So, when am I getting an invitation?" Meredith asked, effectively changing the subject. "Ooooh, do you need a bridesmaid? Iím retired as maid of honor. For life."

"Weíre going to the courthouse," Callie replied, leaning against the wall.

"You canít wear a ring like that and then get married at the courthouse! God would strike you down!" Bailey shook her head. "Itís tacky."

"I prefer trashy." Callie pointed down at her belly. "Iím already knocked up."

"You need a real wedding," Meredith said. "One with friends."

"Where am I supposed to have it, Einstein? I want to walk down the aisle... not waddle. Time matters. Iím not getting any less pregnant."

"Did you get your marriage license already?" Bailey queried.

"Yep."

"And have you told your family?"

"Nope."

"Torres!"

"Miranda! I can only handle so much. My parents? Not at all. They donít even know Iím sperminated."

"You suck as a daughter," Meredith told her. "Since we have that in common ... I can say it."

All at once, the doors of the clinic burst open and George came rushing in, breathless and out of sorts. He took one look at Callie and put on a burst of speed, grabbing her arms. "News."

"What?"

"OíMalley, donít dangle off pregnant people!" Miranda scolded, prying his hands off her. "What the hell is wrong with you."

Steal trying to breath, George gestured at the television in the waiting room. "News. McDeaver."

Callie spun and saw McDeaverís mug shot filling the screen. She hurried into the waiting room and turned up the volume, watching in shock as the image faded and the news anchor began to speak.

"If youíre just now joining us, Quinton McDeaver, known as Mac to the children who resided at the group home he founded in nineteen seventy one, was found dead this morning in his jail cell. McDeaver hung himself in his cell and attempts at resuscitation failed. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He was being held without bail for possession of child pornography and child abuse, but we were just informed before the break that he was charged late last night with murder. The body of Jane Simmons-Schultz was exhumed a few feet from the group home and while their names are being withheld, we do know that several of the children there were witnesses to the crime and -"

The remote fell from Callieís hand as realization began to sink in.

She had told McDeaver to kill himself.

She had even told him how to do it.

And he had listened.

Dimly aware that the remote control had fallen from her hand and clanked to the floor, Callieís vision tunneled and then there was silence.

The world around her faded to black.

She never felt herself hit the floor.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 11
*~*~*~*~*~

"So, have you set a date yet?" Chief Webber asked Mark.

They were working together on a construction worker who had fallen three stories. Webber was only getting started on repairing the internal damage, but Mark was already putting sutures in place on the manís face. Smiling, Mark shook his head. "We almost did it yesterday. We took Jack to the park and drove past the courthouse. She said we could stop, but ... you know ... Iím still hoping that sheíll plan a wedding and invite people."

"Iím sure she has her reasons why she doesnít want to do that."

Mark concentrated on the worst of the laceration, frowning slightly as he attempted to keep the scarring minimal. A second later, the door flew open and he almost gave the patient a brand new cut. Scowling, he glanced up at the intruder. "Well, well. If it isnít ĎButch Cassidyí. What do we owe the pleasure, Indigo Girl?"

"Itís Callie." Cristinaís hands were shaking as she held her mask in place. "She collapsed. Sheís in the clinic."

Chief Webber cleared his throat. "Dr. Yang, scrub in and take over for Dr. Sloan. Mark, go."

Cristina hurried back through the door and grabbed the soap. Mark joined her, snatching off his gloves. "What happened?" he snapped. "What -"

"McDeaver committed suicide this morning," Cristina replied, rubbing her flesh so hard that it stung. "It was all over the news and she saw it. I - I tried to catch her before she hit the ground, but I didnít make it. She hit her head on one of the tables in the waiting room and -"

"How bad is it?" he asked as he stripped off his surgical gear.

"Sheíll need stitches." Cristina rinsed her arms and looked up at him. "I know that you hate me right now, but can you please send someone to update me? I - for the first time in my life ... I donít want to operate. I want to be there."

Mark nodded, his eyes on hers. In the time that he had known Yang, he had never seen her so close to tears. "Yeah, Iíll keep you posted."

"Thank you."

Hurrying from the room, Mark almost busted his ass. He reached down and yanked off his shoe covers. So much for the theory that they were non-skid. Chucking them into the trash, he punched the elevator button, but an eternity seemed to pass so he used the stairwell instead. He practically jumped down each set of steps and when he finally burst through the clinic doors, there was a small crowd milling around that consisted entirely of doctors and a handful of nurses. He didnít have to wonder who was behind the closed curtains. It was something they did, the hospital family. When one of them was hurt ... they grouped together in defiance that sickness or tragedy would dare strike one of them.

Meredith stepped forward and took his hand. "Sheís not awake yet."

"The head injury?" he asked.

"Itís not severe," Meredith replied. "Itís superficial and Derekís actually stitching her up."

"Derek canít stitch!" Mark snapped, trying to push past Meredith, but she put her hands on his chest and shook her head. He looked down at her. "Is there something else?"

"Sheís spotting. Not a lot, but enough. Weíve called Addison and -"

Mark moved around her with such force that she jumped out of the way. He pushed aside the curtain and almost tripped over his own feet. Callie was pale. Her face had been haphazardly wiped Ďcleaní but there was drying blood around her nose and on her chin. Derek had stitched the small cut on her temple and was currently checking her pupils. He didnít look at Mark when he said, "You need to wait outside."

"Not happening." Mark leaned down and brushed Callieís hair off her forehead, studying her closely. His heart did somersaults in his chest when he felt how cold and clammy her skin was. "Sheís sweating."

"Her blood pressure was pretty high," Dr. Bailey told him. "We think itís a one time thing brought on by stress, however, and not an underlying problem. Weíre waiting on some blood work to check her insulin levels as well."

"And the baby?"

Bailey flipped a switch behind her and the sounds of the babyís heartbeat filled the small area. The low conversation on the other side of the curtain ceased entirely. Mark could have sunk to the floor with relief, but he leaned his head against Callieís, whispering softly in her ear instead. A moment later, her eyelids fluttered open and her hand went protectively to her stomach. "Mark-"

"Itís okay." He laid his hand on top of hers. "You hear that? The babyís fine. How do you feel?"

"What happened?" She cried out in pain when he shifted, no longer blocking the light. It hurt all the way through her head.

"This will help," Derek said, putting a cool cloth over her eyes. "Callie, can you answer a few questions for me? I need to hear your response so that Iíll know your brain is -"

Callie massaged her brow through the cloth. "Two and two is four. Itís Thursday. We have an alleged president called Bush and youíre probably going to hold up three fingers and ask me to confirm that."

"Sheís good," Derek said, smiling at Mark.

"Tell me about it." Mark glanced up when a gray haired man pushed the curtain aside and nodded at them.

"Hello, Callie," the elderly man said, putting a hand on her leg.

"Paul?" Callie lifted one side of the cloth and peered at him. It was a move she immediately regretted and she quickly shut her eyes. "What are you-"

"I was here to visit a friend and heard about what happened to you. Would you like me to take a look?" Paul asked gently. "Iíd be happy to help."

"Is something wrong with the baby?" Callie sat up so fast that the cloth dropped into her lap. A wave of dizziness washed over her and she grabbed hold of the bed to anchor herself. The nausea came next and it took everything in her to swallow back the bile that rose in her throat. "Oh ... god."

"You have a mild concussion." Derek eased her back against the bed. "Itís better for you to stay on your back for a little while. Okay?"

"But the baby-"

"Iíll take care of it," Paul assured her. The old man smiled at Mark and said, "Callie has replaced both of my hips and my rotator cuff. She keeps this old skeleton up and running so coming out of retirement is the least I can do."

Paul Sheffield had been the premiere west coast ob/gyn in his day. Rapidly approaching eighty years old, he was still agile and graceful as he performed the examination on Callie. He spoke at length with Mark, telling him everything that he found. He finally concluded that the baby was fine and the spotting was nothing more than a cervical irritation that could have been brought on by heavy lifting or intercourse.

Mark looked away guiltily. He had woken Callie up that morning by going down on her and the sex that ensued had been adventurous enough to cause one of the slats to fall out from under the bed. When the old man left and Callie was wheeled to a private room for observation, Mark followed along beside her, saying nothing. He was mentally exhausted and ashamed of himself for not being more careful with her. That would change.

Unfortunately, the television was on in the room and Callie glanced at it when they mentioned McDeaver. She had apparently forgotten because she sat up again, shocked, and this time she ignored the dizziness completely. Mark flipped the television off and joined her on the bed. "You heard what Derek said. You need to lie still for a while."

She gazed at the blank TV, holding her ground when he tried to urge her against the pillow. "Turn it back on."

"No, baby."

"Itís my fault." Her chin trembled when she finally looked at Mark. "I told him to kill himself. I even told him how to do it. He - heís Jackís *father* and I -"

"*I* am Jackís father." Mark rubbed her leg. "Callie, listen to me ... you have to stay calm. You have to think about the baby."

"How will I tell Jack?"

"He never has to know," Mark replied, reaching up to wipe the tears off her face. "Please donít do this. You need to relax. Your body is already stressed from the pregnancy and your blood pressure was way too high. So, think about the fact that there wonít be a trial now."

"BECAUSE I TOLD HIM TO KILL HIMSELF!" she sobbed. "I DID IT!"

"People kill themselves because theyíre cowards. This has nothing to do with you."

"Eighth grade," she said, fresh tears running down her face. "Someone put a note in my locker telling me to kill myself and not to wait for the cancer to do it. They told me to cut my wrists and I tried. I tried to do it in the garage so the mess could be cleaned up easily, but my parents came home and caught me. They called me a coward, too, but being dead was better than being terrified to live. I shouldnít have said that to him, Mark. I know how it felt! His blood is on me now and -"

"Stop this." Mark hugged her. She had told him few details about her childhood and as she trembled in his arms, he didnít have to wonder why. He had envisioned many scenarios in his head based on what little she had shared, but the reality was a million times worse. "Theyíre going to sedate you if you keep this up and you know that it could hurt the baby. There are side effects with the growth and development of the fetus at this stage and-"

She leaned back and looked at him, angrily swiping at the tears on her face. "Stop doing that!"

"Stop doing what?"

"I *know* what will hurt the baby. You act like I would intentionally do something and -"

"No. No, I donít." Mark looked at the wound on her temple. "Iím just a man, Callie, I canít imagine what it feels like to carry a baby, but Iím also a doctor. So youíll have to forgive me if I slip into doctor mode when it comes to you and our child."

"I donít need a doctor right now, Mark. I just told you something about *me* that Iíve never told anyone and you didnít even acknowledge it."

"What do you want me to say? Iím sorry that kids were cruel to you, but there comes a point where you just ... get over it. Your past has nothing to do with whatís going on right now. No one is telling you to hurt yourself ... instead Iím sitting here begging you not to."

"Youíre not concerned about me!" she cried. "Donít pretend that you are. Ever since you found out that Iím pregnant you have become an overbearing ass. You tell me where I can go, what I can do, what I can eat -"

"Someone has to!" he shouted. "You donít take care of yourself! If you had listened to me and not gone to the prison to begin with -"

"HOW DARE YOU!?"

"I DARE BECAUSE I LOVE YOU!"

"No, you dare because Iím the incubator that you canít keep under your thumb!"

"Callie-"

"Get out."

"Letís get something straight," he snapped. "Iím not the bad guy here. Iím worried. Iím worried because you had a miscarriage and youíre under a lot of strain right now. I donít think you could handle losing another baby and I know that I couldnít handle losing either one of you."

"Iím not having this conversation."

"Donít you ever accuse me of treating you like an incubator or ... or not caring for you. In case you knocked the memory out earlier ... I asked you to marry me before you got pregnant. You only said yes because you are."

"That is not true!"

"Like hell itís not! You got pregnant and it scared you and -"

"I said yes because you were browbeating me over Cristina!"

"Then give me back the ring!"

She snatched it off and threw it at him. "Leave! I always knew you would! Itís what men do! Just like I said!"

The door opened and Bailey stepped into the room. Judging by the look on her face, she had heard the shouting. Instead of mentioning it, she quietly took Callieís blood pressure and shook her head. "Itís climbing again. Lean forward a little, Cal."

Callie did as she was told and gasped when Bailey crawled into the bed behind her. "What are -"

"You just breathe," Bailey told her, rubbing her back. She increased the pressure after a few seconds, deeply massaging the stiff muscles in the other womanís shoulders. "I had hypertension when I was pregnant. I couldnít take anything for it, but this helped. It always helped. Tucker has the best hands for massaging ... and he never raised his voice."

Mark had to look away from the evil look that Bailey was giving him. For the first time in his life, he felt like a scared intern who had just broken every hospital rule. And she was the Chief Resident, the Nazi, who could get him kicked out of the program. "Iím sorry, Callie," he whispered. "I donít mean to -"

"No talking!" Bailey snapped, narrowing her eyes at him. "If you want to stay in here you keep your mouth shut, Sloan!"

"Okay."

Closing her eyes, Callie concentrated on her breathing. A second later, Mark took her hand and she clung to him, feeling the tension begin to leave her body.

She was fast asleep by the time Addison arrived, curled on her side with her ring free hand under her cheek.


*~

"Reiki?"

"Reiki." Pete crossed his arms over his chest as he glared at Mark. "Do you have a better idea?"

"Iíve never heard of it. What the hell is it?" Mark stood a little taller so that he had a couple of inches on the other man. "Will it hurt her?"

"No more than sheís already been hurt." Pete raised a brow to remind Mark that he had just left Callieís room, where she was filling Addison in on *everything*. "You may need it as well ... when Addison gets done with you."

"What *is* it?" Mark repeated through clenched teeth.

"Itís a Japanese technique that helps with stress reduction, relaxation, and promotes healing." Pete shifted his bag on his shoulder. "It will take me about ninety minutes. Make sure weíre not interrupted."

"I canít do that. Iíll be there for it."

"Thatís not advisable, actually." Pete shook his head. "I donít think sheíll relax with you in the room."

"And why is that?"

"Because she just called you every name Iíve ever heard and then she repeated them in Spanish." With a shrug, Pete took a step back toward Callieís door. "Whatever you did -"

"Donít you worry about what I did," Mark snapped. "Which was nothing!"

"Ninety minutes," Pete said, disappearing into her room.

Mark slumped against the wall, crossing his ankles. He had left the hospital long enough to pick up Jack at the school. It had felt awful to lie to his son and tell him that Callie was performing surgery. Jack had asked to go into the viewing deck to wave hello, but Mark had distracted the child with candy in the vending machine, buying him two of his favorite kinds. When he had left him in the nursery, Jack was happily working on his homework while Tuck looked on.

"You look about as bad as you should," Bailey told him, coming to a stop beside him. "How in the hell can you scream at a woman who -"

"Miranda, please. Not right now."

"She was going to tell you yes before she found out she was pregnant. She told me on Christmas night that she didnít mean to say no." Bailey slumped down into a chair and nodded at the one beside her. "Donít forget that I was in the hallway when you browbeat her into agreeing to marry you, Sloan. You were holding the Yang thing over her head and making it seem like she had to choose between the two of you."

Mark sat down, his head in his hands. "I told her the only reason she said yes was because she was pregnant."

"I heard that too. This whole floor did."

"She thinks I only care about the baby." He looked over at her. "Do you know how that feels?"

"Probably as bad as she feels."

Callieís door opened and Mark got to his feet, stuffing his hands in his pockets when Addison walked out carrying the chart. His fingers ached to grab it and see her lab results for himself. "Well?"

"Number one, youíre an asshole. Number two, youíre an asshole who needs to be smacked and number three, how in the *hell* could you make her give you the ring back?" Addison drew back to punch his arm, but Bailey beat her to it. "Thank you, Miranda."

"Ow!" Mark cried, grabbing his bicep. He moved out of the small womanís range. "How is she?"

"How do you think she is?!" Addison bellowed. "You spineless dick! Gutless-"

"I *know*," he snapped. "Can you try to be professional and tell me what the prognosis is!?"

"Her prognosis is fine. The babyís prognosis is fine. You ... on the other hand ... you need a lobotomy."

Mirandaís pager went off and she excused herself, leveling Mark with a glare that was still on her face when the elevator doors closed. Mark looked at Addison and sat back down, his shoulders slumped. "You donít understand everything that -" he began.

"No, you donít understand." Addison sat beside him, moving her chair several inches away. "Callie and I had a lot of talks before you. Hell, before George. We became friends while all the guys ... no, while all the *cool* guys ... were on that camping trip that hurt Walter. You remember? You werenít invited."

"Letís play Ďkick Mark while heís downí, shall we?"

"Turnaboutís fair play." Addison laid the chart in her lap. "She told you about the cancer, but I donít think she told you that her mother blamed her for it. Like it was something she caused, something she wanted. Her mom was a drama queen who didnít really like having a daughter. She felt like she had to compete with Callie and nothing Callie did was right."

"That hasnít changed."

"I know. Thatís why youíre an asshole for treating her the way her parents do. They treat her like sheís stupid, like she canít think for herself. They accuse her of things that are so outlandish and ridiculous that it hurts her." Addison took a deep breath. "Because of that, because of the cancer and the abuse she took off her classmates, she closes people off. George was the first person she ever let her guard down with and he destroyed her. Sheís scared, Mark.

"She has a son who was abused and his biological father just died. Sheís carrying a baby in a spot that was left vacant by another baby ... a baby that she wanted, that she loved and needed. George had left her, her family was pissed at her for the marriage falling apart and when that baby died ... parts of her died with it. And itís been over a year now, but her brain, her body, doesnít know that. Her body was carrying a baby and her brain wanted it. Just because the baby died ... it doesnít mean that she let go of that.

"So, even though itís been a while since she lost her baby ... she is still mourning it. She loves your baby, Mark. She loves you, but I donít think she can let her hopes get built up right now because I think she believes that this baby wonít make it. Sheís bleeding like clockwork every month, she has no side effects, no morning sickness or *anything*. So I donít think itís as real for her as it will be when she starts to show." Addison reached out and touched his hand. "And the Cristina thing ... itís harmless. I had a crush on Callie, too."

Mark looked at her, speechless for several seconds. "Fuck! All this time Iíve been thinking I need to kick every manís ass who gets near her, but itís the women I need to worry about."

"You donít need to worry at all. She adores you."

"She hasnít told me much about her past. Just that ... you know ... her classmates were mean to her and suggested that she kill herself."

"They also tried to kill her. Not literally, but figuratively. They spit at her, theyíd tug her wig off, theyíd beat her, kick her. They cut the tires on her car and bashed the headlights. They burned her with cigarettes. They locked her in a closet and sheíd cut herself so that the pain would be tangible and not inside." Addison regarded him. "Youíre shocked. You didnít think it was that bad?"

"No." He shook his head. "I thought it was the normal stuff that kids do to each other. Why did they - why her?"

"She was rich and they were jealous. Then it wasnít about the money. Her brother ... the one who is just a year younger than her ... he took their dadís car out for a joyride and wound up killing two football players who were tossing the ball in the road. He was only fourteen at the time and Callie was fifteen. She was sick with the cancer by then and she was supposed to be in charge, but she couldnít because the chemo made her so sick that she lived in front of the toilet. Her parents blamed her. And Gustav, her brother, went to juvenile home and since he was the first born son ... her parents blamed her."

"How could she not tell me this?"

"Because youíre the guy who tells someone to Ďget over ití when they try."

Leaning his head back against the wall, Mark rubbed the tears out of his eyes. "You think a dozen roses will be enough?"

"She hates roses."

"So ... wildflowers?"

"She likes stargazer lilies. The florist beside the Archfield has them year round."

"Right." He got to his feet and rubbed his palms over his jeans. They were sweating profusely. "Iíll be back by the time heís finished doing rapey or whatever his voodoo is."

"Itís called Reiki and it works. He does it to me all the time."

Markís nostrils flared. "I donít want him doing anything to her that he does to you! Addison, go in there and -"

"Youíre being an asshole again."

"Fine." He gave her a one fingered salute and headed for the elevator.

Cristina was standing inside with her hands on her hips. "Thanks for keeping me posted, Sloan."

"Shit. I forgot." He caught her arm when she started to exit the lift. "Want to go on an errand with me?"

"I want to go see Callie."

"Peteís doing Reiki right now."

"Heís doing what?"

"Donít ask. Itís Japanese. You should know about that."

"Iím *Korean*, but I canít even pretend to be shocked that you just assume that every Asian person is Japanese. I guess I have it coming since I think that every male plastic surgeon is in it to look at boobs and naked women."

He hit the button to close the doors. "This is me extending the olive branch!"

She leaned back against the wall. "Where are we going?"

"To buy Callie flowers."

"God, Iím in hell."

"So am I. Thanks for the company."

*~*~*~*~*~

By the time Pete finished the Reiki treatment, Callie was a believer. There was no tension in her body and the pain in her head was completely gone. When he helped her to the bathroom, she experienced no dizziness or nausea from getting to her feet and she was smiling from ear to ear when she returned to the bed. He explained that he would be able to send Reiki to her from Los Angeles and she nodded, so relaxed that she couldnít speak. He patted her leg and excused himself, leaving the room

Addison grinned at her, taking her hand. "Feels orgasmic, huh?"

Callie shook her head. "Nothing feels that good."

"Slut," Addy replied, sitting beside her. "So, the good news is your blood pressure is back down. The bad news is that youíre anemic so weíll need to change your vitamins and get you more iron."

"Thanks for coming all this way. You didnít have to. Paul Sheffield examined me and -"

"THE Paul Sheffield? Callie!"

"He came out of retirement for me."

"Oh my god. I *need* to meet him."

"Heís living at the Whispering Pines Rest Home. Iím sure heíd be thrilled to have a visitor." She stifled a yawn with the back of her hand. "Whereís Mark?"

"I think he ran out to get Jack some dinner."

"When can I go home?"

"Well, Derek has you under observation for twenty four hours. That lick you took was no laughing matter." Reaching up, Addison gingerly touched the bruise on her temple. "Youíll have a shiner, I think, but since you still wear your eyeliner like a raccoon no one will notice."

Callie laughed at her. "I miss you."

"I miss you, too."

There was a light knock on the door and Cristina walked in. She carried a pink bakery box in her hands and was beaming. "Turtle cheesecake. Your favorite."

Addison got to her feet and said, "Iíll leave you two alone and -"

"Are you kidding?" Cristina replied. "I brought three forks."
"Count me in." Addison accepted the plastic fork and raised the head of Callieís bed. Cristina pulled up the rolling table and sat down across from Callie. Addison sat beside her and smiled when the younger woman pulled the cheesecake out of the box. ĎGet Well, Iphigenia Vaginaí was written on the top. "Iíve never had vagina pie."

"Vagina *is* pie." Cristina smiled when Callie dug in. "Mark stopped calling me all variations of ĎButchí, by the way."

"He did?" Callie raised a brow. "What does that leave?"

"Heís calling me Ďstina, which Iíll let him do if it means that he gives up on the lesbian references." Cristina took a huge bite of the cheesecake. "Besides, I have a date with Chief Webber this weekend."

Callie and Addison both choked on their cake. "What!?" they mumbled together.

"Look, it wasnít planned," Cristina replied. "I was forced to perform surgery in Sloanís place and apparently Sloan had agreed to feed him lines to woo some random nurse. And ... well, Webber became a bumbling idiot. I swear, he wasnít even speaking a language. It was grunts and spasms. But, I got the gist of it and reminded him that we already had plans. He was so grateful he almost cried."

"Are you really going out with him?" Callie asked.

"Weíre going to see ĎDisney on Iceí," she replied with a shrug. Looking back and forth between the two women, she wrinkled her nose. "Okay, now I have NO secrets. I like Disney. I like figure skating. And ... well, Iím *bisexual* so men in tights and women who spin and show their ass? Thatís my kinda date."

"Plus ... heís the Chief." Callie took another bite.

"There is that."

"Power whore."

"Iíve pretty much reverted to form."

"Plus, once you go black -" Addison began.

"It was too tacky for me to say it," Callie interjected.

"I confirm it," Cristina supplied. "Though I will not be sleeping with the Chief."

They all looked at one another and burst out laughing then they ate so much of the cheesecake that all three of them were miserable when Mark arrived. Addison and Cristina quickly gathered the cake and made themselves scarce. Callie tilted her head to one side, staring at the biggest bouquet of flowers she had ever seen. Mark held it in front of him and the stalks still almost rubbed the ceiling.

He waited until Addison shut the door before he set the flowers on the table. "Iím sorry."

Callie smiled a little, staring straight up. "Nothing says Iím sorry like a centerpiece that would be too big for the Governorís mansion."

"I had to leave my car at the florist and walk this thing back here. It wouldnít fit." He leaned down and kissed her, lingering over her lips. "How do you feel?"

"Iím ready to go home. Addison said that Derek wants to keep me overnight and - well, I donít want to stay."

"Iím staying with you. That may not be the best news youíve heard, but ... Iím not going anywhere, baby."

"Thatís actually the best news I heard all day." She reached out and took his hand, lacing their fingers. "I donít want to fight with you anymore."

He kissed her again. "Me either. I need you to understand something though."

"Mark-"

"I love you. I love you more than Iíve ever loved anyone in my life. Youíre the reason I was put here. I donít have faith in many things, but I have faith in you. I know that youíd never hurt this baby or ... me." He trailed his thumb down her cheek. "If I have ever made you think that youíre just an ... incubator ... then clearly I donít show you enough what you mean to me and thatís my fault. Iím sorry. It wonít happen again."

"I shouldnít have said that. Iím sorry, too."

"Iím not finished." He kissed her again when her face fell. "You shouldnít Ďget over ití. Your past, I mean. I want to hear it all, even the horrible parts, because I want to know how you became who you are today. Because who you are amazes me. I wonít dismiss it again, Callie. I may get pissed as hell on your behalf, but I want to hear it anyway."

"One day," she replied. "Iíll tell you everything."

"But not today?"
"Not today." She watched as he reached into his pocket and pulled out the ring. "Not today for that either."

"Baby, I didnít mean-"

"When I wear that ... I donít want either one of us to have any doubts *why*."

"I donít ... do you have ... Callie, donít have doubts."

"I promise you that I will marry you. Just ... not yet."

"Please? Wear it. We can have a long engagement or -"

"Not *today*." Callie hugged him, her nose very close to one of the lilies. The smell, something that she usually loved, was suddenly cloying and overwhelming. She pulled away, cupping her hand over her nose. "Oh god."

"Whatís wrong?"

"Iím gonna be -"

And just like that, she leaned to one side and threw up in the floor. When she had emptied her stomach of the cheesecake and sat back up, her eyes were watering from the intensity of her sickness.

Mark rushed into the bathroom and wet a cloth, rubbing her face. "Are you -"

"Iím *pregnant*," she replied with an enormous grin. Something flashed across her face and she laid a hand on her belly. "And those flowers really, really stink."

He picked up the bouquet, hurried across the room, and opened the door. Addison was standing just outside and she took the flowers without a word. "Can you page housekeeping?" he asked.

"Sheís sick?"

"The smell got to her."

"I thought it might." Addison smiled knowingly. "And sheís happy?"

"She is."

"My work is done. I should charge you double."

*~*~*~*~*~

Three weeks after being released from the hospital, sex was killing Callie. Rather, lack of sex was killing Callie. Mark had taken it upon himself to decide that too much of a good thing was ... too much of a good thing and actually Turned. Her. Down. several times. He finally informed her that their sex life was the culprit in her spotting and when they did make love ... he was slow and easy and so aggravating that Callie found herself with her own hand in her panties more often than not.

Her heightened sense of smell wasnít the only new pregnancy symptom she found herself dealing with. Her hormones were all over the place and she craved sex every waking moment. So, after they dropped Jack off at school on a Monday and headed back home to enjoy their off day, she put her plan into action. He was exhausted and sleepily returned to bed, throwing his hands over his head as he stretched out beneath the cover. She seized the moment and cuffed his wrists to the headboard.

When he looked at her with wide eyes, there was no sign of his fatigue. "What are you -"

"Iím *pregnant*," she told him. "Iím *pregnant* and you have forced me to go to the sex shop to buy handcuffs."

"I can see that." He rattled the cuffs and sighed. "Okay, very funny. Take them off and -"

"Mark, I need sex. I need the kind of sex that weíre famous for. Dirty and *painful*. I need it to be so dirty and so *hard* that -"

"No." He shook his head. "As soon as you have this baby and we live celibate for six weeks ... I will *fuck* you until you canít close your legs, but until then weíre gonna take it easy."

"I will *die* if you donít stop this." She grabbed the waistband of his boxer briefs and tried to slide them down, but he pressed his backside into the bed, holding them on. "I was prepared for this, Sloan."

"For wh-"

She picked up a pair of scissors and took advantage of his shock to quickly cut one side of his underwear open. Smiling, she dropped the scissors into the floor and pulled her shirt over her head. She was not wearing a bra and when she stood to push her pants down, she knew that Mark was following her every move. In the short span of time that she had cut off his boxers, his cock had gone from lying against his stomach to standing full at attention and she grinned when she climbed back onto the bed.

Mark lifted his knees when she started to straddle him. "Callie, this was really cute and really amusing, but -"

Leaning down, she took him in her mouth and he bucked upward. His legs fell back to the bed and she seized the opportunity to move between them, letting her hair skim over the tight muscles of his thighs. Gripping him tightly in her hand, she pumped him hard, sucking and nipping until he warned her that he was going to come if she didnít stop. With a smile, she slid up his body and started to lower herself onto his cock, but he shook his head.

"Sit on my face."

"Niiice." She pulled the pillow from under his head and eased his hands further down the brass pole of the headboard, which she held onto as she did as he requested.

He was not gentle or easy as he attacked her aching flesh. She fell back, her hands on his chest as his tongue did things to her that left her head spinning. He shifted a little, gazing up at her. "Take the cuffs off."

"Nope," she panted. "Donít stop."

"Take them off so I can touch you."

"You are touching me."

"Iíll stop." He gave her a look that meant business so she pushed herself upright and unlocked the cuffs with the key she had left on the edge of the bed. "If you donít make me scream ... I swear to God -"

He pulled her back to his mouth and roughly shoved two fingers into her, curling them. She cried out and when he latched onto her clit, her fingers dug into the headboard. He brought her to the edge time and time again only to deny her at the last possible minute. She gripped his hair when he tried to prolong it further and held him in place. Feeling him laugh against her was enough. It vibrated in just the right spot and she got her wish.

She screamed.

Mark didnít give her much time to enjoy the orgasm. He sat up, forcing her to fall back against the bed. She screeched when his fingers returned to her wet center, this time three instead of two, and he sucked her nipple. When she felt his teeth, she arched her back and he slid his hand under her, flipping her onto her stomach.

He kissed her the small of her back, licking a path up and down her spine as she wriggled beneath him. Without warning, he slapped her on the ass and grinned when her hand flew to cover it. He slapped the other cheek, then bit the rounded globe as he pulled her to her knees. When he slammed into her, his fingers bit into her hips so hard that it hurt *him* so he had no doubt that it was exactly what she wanted.

Callie liked it rough.

She liked to wear the scratches and bruises of their coupling like a badge of honor.

Pulling her upright, he yanked her hair to one side and sucked on her neck, leaving a hickey there the size of a silver dollar. He continued to nibble as his hand moved lower, back to her center where he rolled her clit between his thumb and forefinger. His other hand guided her to and fro as he slammed into her with everything he had.

"Oh.. fuck..." she cried. Her hands dug into his as she got off again.

He let her ride the waves of that one for a few moments.

But just a few.

When he pulled back and drove into her again, it was hard enough to knock her forward. She gripped handfuls of the bedclothes as his hips pumped at a frenetic pace. He came with a growl of her name, tangling his hand in her hair. Leaning down, he kissed her back again, forcing her down against the cover.

The friction of the comforter against her clit pushed her over the edge again and she found her release for the third time. He chuckled against her neck as she clamped around him. His lust was renewed and he knew that they would not be enjoying a morning nap.

He barely moved as he lifted the handcuffs from the pillow and slipped them onto her wrists. "My turn."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie didnít start to show until the latter part of her fifth month and even then it was barely noticeable. She recovered *almost* completely from the fall. The only lasting side effect was her refusal to wear the engagement ring again. Mark asked her daily and she shook her head every time, whispering Ďnot todayí. Addison flew out every two weeks to monitor her friendís progress and promised Callie that the pregnancy was progressing smoothly. Pete always came with her and always gave Callie Ďalternativeí treatments for her headaches, which were now occurring only after long surgeries.

The baby proved to be much less of a exhibitionist than its parents. It kept its legs firmly closed every single time they tried to determine the sex. Neither Mark nor Callie knew where the child got *that* from. Both of them were comfortable baring all at the drop of a hat. They got Jack involved in the name game and he suggested everything under the sun, including ĎSuní and ĎMooní and ĎStarí. When he decided to call his little brother or sister ĎGreen Beaní, they bought a baby name book and read it to him every night.

As she began her sixth month, Callieís back protested the extra weight and her boobs had gotten so big (which Mark loved) that she wore two sports bras because she was so self conscious. Her stomach was officially preceding her arrival into any room and her friends and co-workers had taken to rubbing it for luck before surgery. When she was paged to the clinic after a consult one day, she assumed that someone wanted to get their rub on. What she found was a little girl with tangled, ratty hair who was backed into the corner like a wild animal, lashing out at anyone who got near her.

"Possible wrist fracture," Miranda said, handing her a chart. "And her face needs stitches. Iíve paged Mark, too."

"Whereís her mother?"

"Outside smoking. Again."

Callie put the chart on the nearest table and glanced at the gaggle of interns who stood watching nearby. She pointedly gripped the curtain and closed it, blocking their view. Bailey stood just behind her and watched as she kneeled down. "Hi, sweetie. Iím Dr. Torres. Whatís your name?"

"Lemme alone!"

"Can I take a look at your arm? Iím a doctor who fixes bones and -"

"You are?" the little girl asked, looking curious now. "Are you Callie?"

"Uhm ... yeah."

"You fixed my brotherís arm. Are you Jackís mama now?"

Callie almost swallowed her tongue. "Are you Emily?"

"Uh huh. He told me all about you when you fixed him. Kept hurting hisself to come see you again."

"Did you hurt yourself?"

Emily shook her head, using her uninjured hand to push her brown hair out of her eyes. "Mean old Miss Pratt, the mama, she throwed a basket of clothes on me Ďcause I didnít want to fold none. I hurted my arm on account of her so I told her she was a beaver faced bitch and she brung me here to keep from strangliní me. Least thatís what she said, the sow."

Callie smiled at the little girl, trying hard not to laugh. Emily was smaller than Jack by a long shot, but she had his spirit and speech patterns down to a science. Now that Callie could see the little girlís face clearly, she could see the resemblance to Jack. They shared the same brown eyes, almond shaped and sparkling and their smiles were crooked and sweet. "Will you let me look at your arm, Emily?"

The girl nodded, then slowly walked toward Callie with her arm held out. "Donít hurt me none," she whispered. "Please."

Callie made a move to pick her up.

"CALLIOPE TORRES!" Mark shouted. "YOU CANNOT DO *ANY* LIFTING AND -"

He trailed off when the child looked up at him with a look of reverence. "DOCTOR MARK!"

"Emily?" He kneeled down beside Callie and the little girl rushed into his arms so fast and with such force that it knocked him onto his back. He clung to her as he pushed himself upright and settled her on his leg. The cut on her cheek had started to bleed again and he frowned, looking at Callie. "What happened to her?"

"Apparently abuse doesnít just happen at the group home," she replied, struggling to her feet. Bailey hurried forward and helped her. Callie put a hand on the small of her back as she did the pregnant waddle to the supply closet and grabbed what Mark would need to suture the little girl.

When Callie turned, she drew up short. Mark was cradling Emily against his chest and the child had both of her skinny arms around his neck. Callie met Markís eyes and took a deep breath. They had already talked about it at length. They had agreed that Jack needed his sister and vice versa. She was going to nod her confirmation before Miss Pratt stormed into the room and launched into a tirade at the little girl, but hearing it was all the prompting that she needed.

When the short, overweight woman wrenched the child from Markís arms and plopped her on the stretcher while announcing that they needed to Ďhurry the hell upí, Callie calmly put the supplies on the table and said, "The blow to her face was a significant one. Sheíll need to stay here for a few days."

"What?!" Miss Pratt cried, glaring at the little girl. "Now look what you done! Well, I ainít coming to see you until they let you go. I got too much on me as it is. You better not make them call me to tell me youíre acting up neither. You understand, girl?"

"Yes, maíam," Emily replied, wringing her hands the same way Jack did.

The woman didnít hug Emily or tell her goodbye. She paused only to cast an admiring look at Mark, who regarded her the same way a person would regard a cock roach in their soup. When they were alone, Emily looked at Callie and said, "Jack was right. Youíre awful nice."

"How would you like a sucker?" Callie asked.

She would worry about dental care when the paperwork was officially signed.

*~

Three hours later, Emily had talked with the police and the same social worker who had helped Callie adopt Jack was on the scene. Vivian Morse rubbed Callieís belly and smiled at her, politely inquiring about Jack. Callie made small talk and then asked the three million dollar question. "Why did your agency not tell us where she was? Weíve been calling every week to see if there was information on her yet."

"We were not prepared for what happened with McDeaver. So much of the paperwork was given to the police department as evidence." Vivian ran a hand over her weathered face. "And Emily is her middle name. She was filed under Gillian instead of Emily. Her last name didnít match Jackís, either. Iíve personally searched for her myself for you. Iím so sorry that it has taken so long."

"What will it take for us to adopt her?" Callie asked softly.

Vivian smiled. "Willingness. I went through her file when you called. Thatís how I found out about her name. I had to locate her in Miss Prattís file. Emilyís on her sixth foster home since the group closed. Sheís a great kid, but sheís damaged."

"Weíre all damaged," Mark told her, his arm around Callie. "Our attorney said that since Jack is her only living relative we should be able to expedite the process. We donít want her to go back into the system. At all."

With a nod, Vivian said, "Your attorney is correct. Since Callie has already adopted and we have all of her information already, I should be able to get through the red tape fairly quickly."

"How long?" Callie said.

"A week. Possibly two." Glancing down at Callieís belly again, Vivian added, "Do you understand what youíre about to do? Emily does have behavioral problems and youíre bringing her into a family that will have a newborn in just a few short months. There could jealousy issues or anger and who knows how sheíll react."

"Itís a bridge weíre prepared to cross," Mark replied, looking through the glass window of the childrenís ward where Emily was sitting on her bed. The little girl met his eyes and waved at him and he waved back, smiling because she did. "Is there anything we need to do?"


"I canít release her into your custody because youíre not foster parents. So," Vivian said, "until we get the petition signed on the dotted line ... you should try to find a reason to keep her hospitalized."

Callie nodded. "That wonít be a problem."

"Are you absolutely certain that weíll be able to do this with no problem?" Mark asked. "Because weíll want to tell Jack and we canít do that and get his hopes up unless weíre sure."

"Tell him," Vivian said, picking up her briefcase. "And give me *one* week instead of two."

"Thank you." Callie accepted the hug the woman gave her and walked her to the elevator.

When she returned to the glass window, Mark was watching Emily again. Callie reached down and laced her fingers through his. "Thank God our house has four bedrooms."

"Weíll have to take the computer to the basement. Iíll hire contractors to finish it. We need a playroom and an office." He gazed at Emily as she accepted a coloring book and crayons and leaned over, scribbling in the book. "Sheís beautiful."

"She really is." Callie looked up at him. "Weíre really doing this."

"We really are." He kissed her on the forehead. "Are you okay?"

"Iím fine. Iím just ... I woke up this morning thinking that we had one point five kids and now we have two point five."

"MOM! DAD!" Jack cried, barreling down the hallway. Mark leaned down to catch him and rose in time to see Sister Mary Hazel stalking toward them in his wake. "SAVE ME!"

"What did you do?" Mark asked in a low voice.

"Not a damn thing," Jack replied. "She wants to beat my ass for nothiní!"

The wiry nun stopped in front of Mark and crossed her arms. "This child could make me take back all of my vows ... every last one of them. Do you know what heís done? No? Iíll tell you. One of the other kindergarten children, a little girl named Holly, brought a baby doll for show and tell and *your* son tried to ... put it in her belly."

"How?" Callie asked, aghast.

Mary Hazelís eyes dropped to Callieís pregnant bump. "Well, not the way you may be guessing, though nothing would surprise me at this point."

"Watch it," Callie told her, putting her hands on her hips. "Tell the story without the judgment or your vows will be the least of your problems."

"Violence! He comes by it honestly, I see." Mary Hazel clutched her rosary beads in her hand, waving them. "He lifted Hollyís shirt and tried to shove it through her belly button."

"Is she okay?" Mark questioned.

"She found it quite as amusing as this," Mary Hazel pointed at Jack, "devil child found it."

"It takes one to know one, horse face," Jack snapped. "Youíre an evil old-"

"Jack!" Callie gave him her patented mom-face and he pouted handsomely, his lips pursed.

"Arenít going to reprimand him?" Mary Hazel cried. "Did you hear what he-"

"You called him a name first," Callie shot back. "Devil child? Thatís twice now that youíve pissed *me* off and youíve been here for three minutes."

"Unmarried filth. I shouldnít have expected anything else. The wages of sin are easy to earn when -"

"The wages of sin is death," Callie replied. "And since it happens to us all ... unless you have the fountain of youth shoved up your tight ass ... Iíd say that your just as shit out of luck as the rest of us."

"Ooooooh!" Jack called. "You gotta pay two dollars, Mom."

Mary Hazel gathered her skirt and turned in a huff, muttering under her breath. Callie watched her disappear into the elevator and looked at Mark, who was losing his battle with laughter. "Mark-"

"I told you that school -"

She grinned at him, then reached up and removed Jackís tie. "Are you ready to try another school, kiddo?"

"Heck yes! One that ainít go no -" His voice trailed off and he straightened in Markís arms, peering past Callie. "Em? Emily!?"

Because the door of the childrenís ward was closed, Emily couldnít hear her brother calling her. Callie watched as Jack pushed against Mark, struggling to get to his feet. He rushed to the window when Mark put him down, pulling himself up a little so he could see inside. A second later, he started to cry and dropped back to the floor, frantically pointing. The words wouldnít come at all, but his face said everything effortlessly.

"We found her, buddy," Mark said, kneeling beside him.

Jack began to cry in earnest. He hugged Callieís legs, then Mark, then fought with the doorknob. "Let me in!"

"Wait a second," Callie said gently, turning him around to face her. She squatted down in front of him, her leg muscles protesting the entire way. "We canít take her home yet. Sheíll be here for a few days like you were when you were hurt. Remember?"

"I want her," Jack sobbed. "Please!? Please!?"

Mark tugged the little boy into his arms and rubbed his back. "Sheíll be home soon, but not today. She is coming, though."

"Donít cry, sweetie," Callie soothed her son, pushing his bangs off his forehead. "You might scare her and you donít want to do that."

"Is she sick?" Jack turned and looked at his mother, drying his eyes the way she had asked him to. He sniffled and stood on his tiptoes to see into the ward again. "Whatís wrong with her?"

"Sheís not sick. She hurt her hand, but itís not broken," Callie replied. "Sheís got a bandage wrapped around it, though, so be very careful that you donít hurt her."

"And her face has a cut like the one your mom had that time." Mark took his hand, squeezing it reassuringly. "But -"

"Sheís still pretty. Like mom was, right?" Jackís breathing hitched. "Iíll be careful. I promise."

Mark got to his feet and reached for Callie, but it was Jack who grabbed her hand and tugged her upright. Mark helped by gripping just above her elbow and he smiled when she moaned. "Not quite as agile as you once were, huh?" he asked playfully.

"I think I proved otherwise in the car this morning," she shot back.

"LETíS GO!" Jack screeched.

Callie put the code in the door and swung it opened. Emily looked up, throwing the crayon she was holding into the air. "JACK!"

"EM!"

They met halfway, their arms tangling as they tried to hug every inch of each other. Both children were crying, both were talking at once, and then Jack was kissing his sisterís face and her hand and telling her that he had missed her. Emily clung to him, shaking, and when she looked at Callie, she whispered, "Your mom is crying, Jack."

"*Our* mom," he whispered back. "I told you weíd adopt you, too. I promised, 'member? We're taking you home real soon."

"You are!?" Emily screamed. She broke away from Jack and ran toward Callie. Mark intercepted her and it suited the little girl just fine. She kissed him again and again on the cheek, then reached for Callie.

Mark tried to prevent Callie from taking her, but it was no use. She scooped her from his arms, frowning at how light she was, and held onto her. Jack stood a few feet away, grinning from ear to ear. When Mark held out his hands, he raced forward and hugged him with all of his strengh, then he put an arm around Emily for good measure.

At the window, Cristina wiped her eyes and accepted a tissue from Bailey, who noisily blew her nose. "Theyíre Brangelina! That's so gross!"

"What?" Bailey asked.

"You know, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They adopted Maddox, then Zahara, then they had Shiloh, who is theirs. And then they adopted Pax, who-"

"Girl, donít jump ahead. Theirs is still on the way!" Bailey put an arm around Cristina and squeezed. "You big softie, Yang."

Cristina sobbed, trying to mask it as a laugh. "Iím not soft. We just donít get to see many miracles in our lifetime and -"

"Weíre *doctors*. Weíre miracle workers with better pay," Bailey told her.

Smiling through her tears, Cristina shook her head. "Medical miracles donít even compare to this. This is *better* that heart surgery."

Bailey watched her for a few seconds before she looked back at Callie with dawning comprehension. "You - you were really in love with her, werenít you?"

Cristina shrugged. "I was in love with the idea of her. Now Iím in love with the whole family and Iím just grateful to be a part of it."

"You are a big softie."

"Donít tell."

"Hell, arenít all bisexuals soft?"

"Are you bi?"

"Walking away now."

Cristina smiled as Bailey disappeared around the corner and when she turned her attention back to Callie and the others, Jack was standing in a chair on the other side of the glass. He motioned for her to come in, pressing his lips to the window. She tapped his nose and put the code in.

She met Emily and when the little girl held up her arms to her ... she knew that she was a goner.

She had to steal some of Callieís tissue before all was said and done.

*~*~*~*~*~

CH 12
It took six days for Vivian Morse to make good on her word. She arrived at the hospital with the formal adoption papers and informed Callie that the adoption hearing would be in three weeks. In the meantime, she had secured a legal guardianship order that would make it possible for Mark and Callie to take Emily home. Callie was so excited when she headed into the observation deck to tell Mark that she ignored everyone around her. She flipped on the speaker and said, "Hey, you."

He looked up at her. "Hey, baby."

She unfurled the papers and held it up to the glass. "Guess whoís coming to dinner?"

Because he was in teaching mode and not holding a life in his hands, he punched the air and shouted, "Yes! Meet me in the hallway. Yang, take over."

Callie walked down the stairs as quickly as she could. He met her halfway, kissing her belly, then hugging her. "Letís go tell the *kids*. Plural. As in more than one."

"Let go." She took his hand and they walked to the nursery. Emily had gotten tired of the ward and after Jack told her all about Tuck, she begged Mark to let her go play as well. He had escorted her himself three days prior and she had fallen into sync with all the other children, calmly playing and sharing easily.

She was sitting beside Jack at one of the long tables when she saw the two adults. Saying something to Jack, she rushed to the door and waited patiently for it to open. The second Mark keyed in the code, she flew out and giggled when he snatched her up and tickled her. Jack hurried after his sister, lifting the front of Callieís shirt and shouting, "HEY, GREEN BEAN!"

"Jack, for Heavenís sake!" Callie subconsciously tugged her shirt over her burgeoning belly and glanced around. The only person nearby was Izzie Stevens, who was watching their every move. "Letís go to the conference room."

"After you," Jack replied, gesturing down the hallway.

"I think the new school is working well," Callie said when her son held open the door and pulled out her chair. "Either that of youíve done something."

"No, maíam." Jack crawled into the seat beside her and propped his chin on his fist. "Miss Elliot, my teacher, she said that manners is very, very important and that we have to treat people with aspect."

"Thatís REspect," Callie corrected. "And Miss Elliot is right."

The new school was private, but there were no nuns on staff and religion was not being taught. Jackís new uniform consisted of a polo shirt and slacks and in the one week he had been there, he had gotten a note sent home saying that he was attentive and agreeable and had been asked to be a classroom helper. He happily pinned his note on the refrigerator. And because the classroom star sticker on his chest was curling at the edges ... he *glued* it to the fridge. Callie and Mark had left it there. They had also put a crisp twenty dollar bill in his piggy bank and since that moment, he was acting like the perfect child.

One of the aids in the hospital nursery, Belinda Greer, had agreed to move into Gertieís old room and work as the childrenís nanny full time. Her resume was impressive and since she had been living in a small apartment all alone for years, she happily jumped at the opportunity. Jack loved the older woman and she was crazy about him *and* Emily. Any concerns that Callie may have had were laid to rest when Belinda intervened during bath time on her first night there and told Jack the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. The woman changed it up, making it seem like the beanstalk grew from the dirt behind the fictitious Jackís ear and the little boy ran to the bathtub without argument after that. Even Sprout had taken to the woman, choosing to sleep in her room every night.

Since she was working out a two week notice for the hospital, Belinda was with the children all day and took Jack home with her early to prepare dinner each afternoon. Callie heartily approved of her cooking as well. Belinda was from the heart of Georgia and could fry chicken better than Callie had ever eaten and since she was craving it non stop, she decided the woman was an angel.

Mark sat down across from Callie at the conference table and Emily climbed into his lap. He tugged her pig tail playfully and laughed when she pulled his ear in retaliation. Callie slid the papers across the table and put her arm around Jack, who laid his head on her shoulder, one hand on her belly.

"You want me to tell her?" Mark asked, shocked. He swallowed hard when Callie nodded at him.

Emily reached for the papers when Mark didnít. She opened them and spread them flat in front of her, her long, dainty fingers tracing the raised lettering at the top. "Whatís it say, Doctor Mark?"

"It says that you can go home with us tonight." Mark pulled the papers a little closer, the lump in his throat making it hard to speak. "It says that you will be our little girl forever and that youíll never have to go away again. It says that no one can hurt you or take you away from us and ... it says that weíll always love you."

"It says all that?" she asked, her eyes wide when she looked across the table at Callie, who smiled at her. The little girl pointed at a particular group of gold letters. "What does that say?"

Mark leaned his head against hers. "It says that you can call us mom and dad if you want to and that ... family is forever. Thatís what we are, Em, weíre a family."

"Do I have to call you dad?" she asked.

"No," Mark assured her. "You can call me-"

"I like Daddy." Emily beamed up at Mark, touching the stubble on his cheek. She looked back at Callie and said, "And Mommy, too."

"Whatever you want," Callie told her. "Itís fine with us."

"Only babies say mommy and daddy," Jack told her.

"I *am* a baby," she shot back. "You always say so!"

"Thatís because youíre a *girl*." He stuck his tongue out at his sister.

Emily giggled into her hands. "You said that *some* girls can build tree houses and play video games. You said that some girls are bad asses."

"She donít got no money yet, Mom," Jack quickly stated. "Iíll pay for her."

"You need to pay since you said it to her," Callie replied.

"That ainít too fair. If she can say it for free then so can I!" Jack looked up at his mother. "Did my papers say all that, too?"

"They sure did." She hugged him a little closer, kissing his head. Across the table, Emily giggled again and touched her nose to Markís.

Callie could only grin.

Emily was already a daddyís girl.

And Mark was eating out of the palm of her hand.

*~

"WOW! ITíS REAL PRETTY! IS THAT MY BED!? IS THAT MY DESK!? I GOTS MY OWN TV!?!?" Emily screamed, her voice so shrill that Callieís eardrums ached.

The room was mostly purple, a color that Jack assured them was his sisterís favorite thing. On one wall there was a mural of the moon and stars and the canopy bed sat just below the white orb. The purple bed covering matched the walls and the little girl pulled a star shaped pillow off the bed, hugging it, resting her cheek against it.

"Emily, look!" Jack cried, pointing at the far wall. "I got a climbing wall and you got that. Donít even ask me to play dolls, though."

The girl had the same look on her face that Jack had at Disneyland as she hurried forward and climbed the few steps into her life size doll house. It had working windows, working lights, and a slide that landed the child in a sea of foam pieces a moment later. She climbed out of it with Jackís help.

Mark and Callie stood side by side in the doorway, watching as Emily explored her surroundings. They both laughed when she opened the door to the bathroom she shared with Jack and ran through to Jackís room. A second later, they heard both children shrieking with joy.

"We did it," Callie said. "So far so good."

"So far so loud." Mark put a finger in his ear, wiggling it.

She narrowed her eyes at him. "You once told me that you only liked kids depending on how loud they were."

"Itís different when their yours." He leaned down and kissed her. "You look tired."

"That last surgery today kicked my ass." She pulled him down for another kiss and smiled against his lips when someone tugged her pants leg. She pulled away and smiled down at Emily.

"Shame, shame!" Emily ran one of her fingers over the other, pointing at the adults. "Mark and Callie sittiní in a tree ... K.I.S.S.I.N.G."

"Get used to it," Jack said, wrinkling his nose as he draped his arm over his sisterís shoulders. "They do it all the time."

Belinda called upstairs that dinner was ready and Jack yelled, "ĎSGETTI, EMMY! OUR FAVORITE!"

The two kids ran from the bedroom and down the stairs with such passion that Callie had to shake her head. "Youíd think that boy never gets a meal. Never."

"Cal?" Mark caught her hand when she started to follow the children. "Do you want to wear the ring yet?"

"Not today."

"Do I have to beg?"

"Not at all." She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. "Today is *their* day. Ours will come."

Belinda announced that she was going to play Bingo with several of her friends and quickly kissed both children on the head. They thanked her for dinner and waved goodbye. The woman winked at Callie as she gathered her purse and hurried out the front door. "What was that about?" Mark asked.

"She knew we needed time alone with them tonight." Callie started to scoop the pasta onto the plates, but Mark grabbed it before she could. She gladly sat back down and rubbed her belly. The kids were chattering nonstop, asking question after question and laughing gaily at the inventive ways that Mark answered.

A moment later, Callie cried out and Mark dropped the platter of garlic bread. Kneeling beside her, he said, "What is it? Are you -"

"Sheís moving." Callieís eyes filled with tears and she slid her hand aside so that Mark could feel their baby. "Oh my god."

He put his hand against her stomach and met her eyes when the baby did what felt like a somersault. "What does it feel like?"

"I donít know. Maybe butterflies or -" She frowned. "Or ... ouch ... like sheís kicking my bladder. Excuse me."

"We wanna feel!" Jack said, scurrying around the table before his mother could get to her feet. He put his hand on her stomach then jerked it away when he felt a direct hit. "Whoa! Green Bean gots legs!"

Emily crawled under the table and popped up beside Callie. "Can I touch it too?"

"Of course you can."

The baby continued to perform and both children were amazed. Callie finally convinced them to eat their dinner before it got cold and headed upstairs to the bathroom, where she sighed with relief as she peed. At the sink she gazed down at her belly while she washed her hands. The tight, long sleeved t-shirt she wore left nothing the the imagination and she smiled when she saw it ripple slightly.

"Okay, kid, get it out of your system now because when the lights go out ... I want to sleep."

Emily was fascinated with the way Mark used a spoon to wind his spaghetti around the fork and tried valiantly to do the same. Everything went smoothly

until she spilled the contents of her fork into her lap. The new yellow dress Callie had bought for her was covered in sauce and Emily clapped a hand over her mouth. Everyone watched in shock as she vanished under the table.

Jack sat back in his seat, gazing down at her. "Emily, they donít got no devil closet here."

Mark leaned down, reaching for Emily, but she shook her head and pushed his hands away. "Come on, sweetie."

"Iím bad. Bad kids gots to sit on the floor until the closet comes open."

"Youíre not bad," Callie told her, peering under the table. "Accidents happen. Why donít you come back up here and weíll show you another way to eat your spaghetti. Jackís favorite way."

"Like a dog?" Emily asked, making a face. "I donít like to get dirty."

"Not like a dog." Callie grinned at her. "And speaking of dogs, Sprout will want to meet you soon. We canít bring him in until after dinner because heíll try to eat everything."

"Am I in trouble?" Emily asked softly.

"No," Mark replied.

The little girl ran her hand over her soiled dress. "Can I have somethiní cleaner?"

"If you donít let her change ... sheíll get real pissed," Jack said softly, touching Callie on the arm. "Mac wouldnít never let her get dirty so she wasnít allowed to play or nothing and ... well, when she did get dirty theyíd put her in the closet until she didnít do it no more."

Emilyís stunned face appeared over the side of the table. "YOU CANíT TELL NOBODY THAT! MAC WILL SKIN YOU DEAD WHEN HE FINDS OUT, JACK!"

"Macís gone," Mark told her, reaching out and lifting her into his lap. He dabbed at her chin with his napkin, then cleaned the worst of the mess from her dress. "Heíll never hurt *anyone* again. Do you think maybe because spaghetti is so messy that you can wear this until youíre done?"

Emily looked down at her dress and took a deep breath. "You promise I wonít get in trouble? Itíll stain."

"I promise."

"We donít get in trouble too much here, Em," Jack announced. "Nobody never yells and we get to play all we want until itís bedtime. He ainít lyiní."

Looking at Callie, Emily said, "Moms yell though."

"I donít," Callie told her.

"She only says ĎJACK!í when I been real bad." The little boyís voice rose slightly over his name.

"Okay," Emily said. "Iíll wear it."

"Good girl," Mark replied, depositing her back into her chair.

Jack showed her the Ďpoliteí way to eat her spaghetti and dinner passed without further incident.

That night, Jack fell asleep on the sofa and Mark put him to bed while Callie helped Emily change into her nightgown. The little girl gazed at herself in the mirror before she threw her arms around Callie and thanked her for helping her. Then she thanked her for loving Jack, saying that nobody ever loved him except her.

Mark came into the room in time to hear the last part of the conversation and opened his mouth to speak, but stopped when Emily kneeled beside her bed and clasped her fingers together.

"Dear God, thank you for Jack and for family. And for Ďsgetti, which is my favoritest. And for my bedroom. And for not letting Sprout bite me. And for purple paint. And for the moon and stars. And for making good people. I didnít think they was real. Amen."

Callie had to look away. Her eyes were burning with tears. Mark tucked Emily into her bed and kissed her forehead. "Weíre right across the hall," he told her. "And your nightlight will be on all night."

"Itís pretty," Emily told him, looking at the star shaped light against the wall. "I ainít scared though."

"Good. Because you donít have anything to be afraid of," Callie said, leaning down to kiss her. "Are you comfortable?"

"I feel real good!" Emily replied, wiggling under the cover. "Cal - uhm - Mommy?"

"What, baby?"

"Is it okay to love you?"

"Absolutely."

"Will you love me too? One day?"

Callie kissed her again. "I already do."

Emily looked expectantly at Mark.

"I already do, too." He patted her stomach, smiling at her.

"Goodnight," she said, yawning widely. "Jack said youíll make toast tomorrow. With sugar."

"You got it," Mark replied.

They watched Emily curl onto her side and close her eyes before they left the room. Quietly, they shut her door and went to their own room. Callie sat down on the long bench at the foot of their bed and took a deep breath. Mark sat beside her and took her hand. "Are you okay, Cal?"

She gazed at the far wall. "Yeah."

He studied her face a moment before he reached out and touched it. "Youíre pale."

"Iím exhausted."

"You havenít been sleeping much. You didnít nap today at all, huh?"

"No."

"Somethingís on your mind. Want to tell me?"

"Theyíre trusting us, Mark, to not let them down and it terrifies me that we will. I donít want them to ever think for a second that weíd hurt them or let someone else hurt them." She looked over at him. "I never want them to feel the way that I felt growing up. I want to be the opposite of my parents."

"Callie, you couldnít be further from the way your parents are." He put an arm around her and pulled her against his chest. "And weíll never let them down."

"How do you know?"

"Because I canít fail when Iím with you and I donít think you know how to fail."

She smiled at him, then jumped and put her hand on her stomach. "This baby is going to kick its way out."

Mark slipped off the bench and kneeled in front of her. Lifting her shirt, he kissed her stomach, then said, "Go to sleep, Green Bean."

"Oh my god. Not you too," she laughed.

"Green Bean is a great nickname." Mark pressed his lips to her belly again and the baby kicked him in the mouth. Hard. He sat back and said, "Okay, maybe she doesnít agree."

"Who would?" She leaned down and hugged him. "I canít believe how much I love you. Who would have thought that a dirty one night stand could become something so great?"

"It was a *cheerful* one night stand and I thought it. Why do you think I pursued you like I did?"

"I dunno, Sloan. You were playing it pretty close to the chest. I didnít even know that you were interested."

"It took a certain little boy inviting me to dinner to make you realize what was right there all along." He rubbed her leg. "Letís go to bed."

She got to her feet and stretched, groaning when her back popped. "Iíve wanted to do that all day."

"Want a massage?"

"Do you even have to ask?"

She was asleep within ten minutes.

But he continued to rub her soft, silky skin anyway.

It had taken Mark a lifetime of looking ... and never really believing in it ... to find out that families did exist. He had spent many first nights like the one Emily was currently spending and he had looked at his foster parents with the same raw hope that she looked at them with. He had walked a million miles in her shoes ... and Jackís ... and he decided that it was a trip worth taking.

Not matter how hard the journey had been.


Because it had landed him here.

He had come full circle.

*~

Emily wasnít in her bed the following morning. Callieís heart sank and she hurried to Jackís room. Her son was still sleeping soundly, tangled in the covers. She went back to Emilyís room and checked under the bed, then she opened the window of the doll house, only to find it empty as well. The same feeling of desperation that she had experienced when Jack ran away sent chills through her.

Rushing back across the hallway, she threw the door to the master bedroom open and finally breathed. Emily was curled in the floor on Markís side of the bed, her star pillow under her head and the dirty dress she had worn the night before spread over her like a blanket. It was cold in the room due to the ceiling fan and Callie hurried forward, bending to scoop the little girl up.

Markís eyes flew open when Callie rested her palm against the bed to help her as she kneeled down. He sat up and opened his mouth to speak, but he saw the sleeping child and swung his legs over the edge of the bed instead. He picked Emily up and put her in the warm spot he had just vacated, then helped Callie back to her feet.

They watched as Emily burrowed under the cover, disappearing completely. "What was she doing in the floor?" Mark asked.

"I donít know," she replied. "But we keep it too cold in here and-"

"Were you gonna pick her up?" Mark demanded suddenly, putting his hands on his hips. "What have I told you? How many times do I have to say -"

"Sheís light as a feather."

"I donít care! If you do that again, Torres, Iím going to kick your -"

"Stop." Callie inclined her head toward the bed, where Emily was peering out at them over the covers.

Mark smiled down at the little girl. "Good morning, cutie."

"Are you gonna kick her ass?" Emily asked quietly. "ĎCause that would suck."

He looked back at Callie, who crossed her arms over her chest, giving him a look that was half amused and half interested in his answer. "No, Iím not."

"Itís mean to say that," Emily pointed out. "You ought not to do it."

"Why were you in here?" Mark asked her.

"I had a bad dream." Emily sat up and pushed her hair back. It was straighter than Jackís but so long that it tangled at nothing. "I dreamed that you wasnít real and I wasnít here no more."

"You can wake us up next time," Mark replied.

Emily gazed at her new fatherís bare chest, then at his boxer briefs. "If itís so cold then how come you sleep in just your panties, Daddy?"

"Oh ... I ... uhm ... Callie?"

Callie raised a brow at him. "Iím not explaining."

"You are e.v.i.l." Mark scratched his chin, looking back at the little girl. "Do you want to help me make French Toast, squirt?"

"I can help!?" Emily shoved the cover completely off and got to her knees. "Iím a good cooker."

"Then you can help." Mark grabbed his robe and put it on, smiling at the ingenious way he had changed the subject of the conversation. "You ready?"

"Daddy?"

"Hmmm?"

"How did you put the baby in mommyís tummy?"

Mark was still stuttering when he carried their new daughter into the kitchen.

He finally distracted her with Hershey Kisses.

For breakfast.

*~*~*~*~*~

Callieís seventh month of pregnancy passed quickly. She was so busy with Emily and Jack that there was barely time to breathe. They formally adopted the little girl three short weeks after taking her home and celebrated with a party Chuck E. Cheese that several of their co-workers enjoyed more than the children did. Seeing Derek Shepherd going head first down a slide with Emily on his back had sent camera phones into overdrive and he had done it several times. Meredith had entertained the children by being pulled out of the audience to dance on the stage with animatronic animals and Cristina stuffed her mouth so full of pizza that every child was amazed.

It was Cristina who convinced Emily to cut her hair and Cristina who took her to the salon to have it done. When the little girl came home, she announced that her hair was going to make a wig for sick kids and demanded that Callie put her new shoulder length hair in pigtails. Callie obliged and Emily spent the remainder of the day gazing at herself in the mirror. Even Jack liked the cut and offered to brush it that night before bed.

The behavioral problems Emily had didnít begin to show up until she got comfortable with Callie and Mark. The agreeable little girl who had loved everything during the first few weeks soon made it very clear that she only liked *certain* things. She didnít like dolls with blond hair and either removed their heads completely or cut their hair to the scalp with scissors. She also didnít like pink. At all. Any pink clothing that was in her closet found its way to the trash can or ... unfortunately ... into the toilet which caused quite a commotion when Emily tried to flush them away.

For the most part, Emily was easy going. Jack had been right when he said that she never cried. She never shed a single tear. When she was angry, her arms went across her chest and sheíd tap her foot while she steamed. When she was upset, sheíd sit in the floor with her face hidden against her knees and when her temper got the better of her ... she would head into the closet in her bedroom and lie flat on her back. She didnít hit or scream ... she simply went into the dark.

And stayed there for a while.

Her mood, after she would hide away in the closet, usually stayed dour for at least two full days. During that time she would only speak when spoken to and wanted to eat her dinner under the table. Callie and Mark stuck to their guns and refused to give an inch where this particular habit was concerned. Eventually, the child got the picture and didnít even attempt to sit under the table when she was upset. Or any other time.

Emily was enrolled at the same school Jack attended and quickly caught on to the routine and structure of private school. She enjoyed drawing and Callie was stunned when the little girl presented her with a horse sketch that looked like a professional had done it. Callie had asked her to draw another one for Mark and watched with wide eyes as Emilyís hand flew over the paper. They decided to pay for additional art classes.

Jack, who had decided to join the band after all, settled on the violin and spent hours upon hours screeching out ĎTwinkle Twinkle Little Starí. Mark and Callie enjoyed listening at his door ... not for the quality of music, but because every mistake was met with swear words that would make a sailor blush. And he tried to sing along and incorporated the swears completely in tune as he played. Their personal favorite rendition was:

ĎTwinkle Twinkle Little Star
Dammit ... kiss my ass you freakiní whore
Shit ... Up above the world so high
Crap ... Like you have bullshit in your eye
Twinkle ... holy hell ... Twinkle little star
PISS ... how I wonder why I play this freakiní thing when it hurts my damn fingers. Argh!í

As Callie entered her eighth month of pregnancy, the baby decided to be agreeable and presented an open legged display of wonder. When Addison officially confirmed that it was a girl, Callie was so excited she could hardly stand it. Mark felt the same and after the ultrasound, he showed her the ĎDaddyís Princessí onesie he had in his locker. It was neon pink and the ugliest thing that Callie had ever seen, but when Mark laid it over his shoulder and patted it, she told him it was gorgeous.

And prayed that the baby liked pink more than Emily since Mark apparently did.

They worked together on the nursery, which was now fully stocked thanks to a surprise baby shower that Miranda planned at the hospital. Bailey timed it so that Addison could be there and no one complained when the hen party was crashed by all the roosters. Mark didnít enjoy the fact that George appeared and dropped off a swing and highchair that he claimed his mother had sent, but he held his tongue for Callieís sake. The babyís room took shape, complete with dark furniture, sage green walls, and Disney themed *everything*, thanks to Jack, who decided that the baby should experience Disney like he had.

The school year came to a close and the weather turned so hot that Callie grumbled nonstop about entering her final weeks under record high temperatures. She cursed Mark Sloan relentlessly. Her breathing was labored just walking to the mailbox and she stayed so hot that her scrubs would be soaked after an hour long surgery. The only great thing about being pregnant in the blistering heat was *everyoneís* willingness to bring her ice chips, which she craved nonstop.

As she began to prep for Jack and Emilyís sixth birthday, Callie innocently told her parents that they didnít have to make the trip out for it. They still didnít know that she was pregnant *or* that she had adopted another child. Her hormones were already out of whack and the last thing she needed was the Ďunmarried with a child on the wayí speech. She had gotten a similar one when her marriage to George fell apart. There she was, pregnant and unwanted, and they had made it clear that divorcing while pregnant was a mortal sin as far as they were concerned.

When she lost the baby and filed anyway ... they hung up on her. They didnít even say they were sorry for her loss.

*~

Emily wanted a princess party and Jack wanted anything as long as it involved horses and violins so Callie hired a medieval party planner who erected a jumping castle, provided mimes, wenches and jousters, and turned their backyard into a renaissance faire. There were parrots, monkeys, and ponies (who smelled so bad that Callie had to avoid the area they were utilizing) and two glorious princesses who were dressed as Snow White and Cinderella that captivated Emily so much that she shadowed their every move.

Callie spent a majority of her time with her feet propped in a chair. She had been dealing with a persistent stomach ache since she awoke and between the heat and the dull pain, she was nothing short of miserable. She listened only half hearted as Addison and Cristina debated whether or not California should be kicked out of the United States. When the pain graduated from a minor annoyance to a full on aggravation, Callie got to her feet and headed to the house to take the one of Peteís herbal remedies.

Halfway through the festivities, Margie and Al Torres showed up bearing gifts for Jack. Callie was in the kitchen, her head buried in the freezer because of the heat, when her mother walked up behind her and announced that she had gotten Ďfat as hellí. With a grimace, Callie shut the freezer and turned, her hands on her belly. Her mother screamed, clutching the cross necklace she wore and her father actually crossed himself since he didnít have a prop to work with.

"You are pregnant!" Margie shouted.

Callie looked down at her stomach as if seeing it for the first time. "Is that what it is!? I thought it was gas!"

"CALLIOPE, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!?" Al cried. "ALREADY A SINGLE MOTHER AND NOW LOOK AT YOU! TWO FATHERLESS CHILDREN!"

"I can assure you I didnít knock myself up," Callie replied. "Mark and I are still very happily together and everythingís fine."

Emily raced in from the party, the front of her purple dress covered in grass stains. "Lookit what Jack done! He made me fall down!"

Callie picked her daughter up and sat her on the counter. "Are you hurt?"

"Worse. Iím *dirty*."

"You want to put on another dress or your new shorts?" Callie asked her.

"DRESS! Duh! Iím the princess! I gotta wear the damn dress!" Emily lifted her arms. "Come on, pokey. Help me change!"

Callieís father hurried forward and tried to pick the little girl up before Callie could. Emily wasted no time slapping him, hard, in the face. "Who the hell are you, Mister?"

"Who the hell are *you*?" Al replied, trying to hide his smile as he massaged his cheek.

"Emily Torres Sloan." She tiled her head to one side. "Why are you talking to my mommy?"

Margie simply shook her head. "Calliope, tell me you didnít - that this isnít - what have you done!?"

"Emily," Callie said, ignoring her mother. "These are your grandparents. Thatís Mami and thatís Papi."

"I gots grandparents!?" Emily crowed. "Kick ass!"

And just like that ... all hell broke loose.

Emily refused to go outside and play. Even when the yelling reached a fevered pitch, she clung to Callie and would not obey when any of the three adults told her to leave the room. For her part, Callie tried to maintain her cool, but when her mother suggested that she needed a psychiatrist and her tubes tied in no particular order, she lost it completely. Lifting Emily into her arms, she shouted at her parents to get the hell out.

A searing cramp rushed through her abdomen then, something that Callie had not experienced thus far. She stumbled in mid stride and one arm shot out to grab the back of the chair as the other cradled Emily. She cried out, breathing deep, and a moment later she felt a gush of fluid as her water broke.

Emily looked down at the hardwood and said, "Holy crap, Mommy! You peed in your panties!"

Another pain hit Callie, this one hard enough to buckle her legs and she landed on her knees, sobbing as she went. "Oh god" she whispered. "Go get your daddy, baby."

"Whatís wrong?" Emily put her hand on Callieís shoulder. "Why are you cryiní?"

Callie choked on her own scream then. It was a horrible, brutal sound, and Emily burst through the back door yelling ĎDaddyí at the top of her lungs.

Mark knew something was wrong the second he turned. Emily *never* cried, but she was nearly hysterical. He dropped the football he had been tossing with Derek and met her halfway. "Whatís wrong?"

"Mommyís hurt!" Emily shouted. "Sheís hurt so much she peed on the floor."

Addison dropped the hot dog she was eating and almost tripped over Cristina, who had made a mad dash for the house as well. Every doctor in the backyard knew exactly what was happening and they all rushed forward except for Meredith, who Emily out of Markís arms and tried to corral the other children as best she could.

By the time Mark got to Callie, her father was kneeling beside her while her mother paced the length of the kitchen. Addison pushed Mark out of the way and said, "Somebody call 911!"

"Addy-" Callie shook her head. "Sheís early."

"Sheís not *that* early."

Cristina arrived with the first aid kit from Callieís bedroom and opened it, handing Addison a pair of gloves. The red head slipped them on and lifted Callieís dress. Miranda held up a towel for modestyís sake and told everyone who wasnít needed to get the hell out when she saw the blood on Callieís thighs.

Addisonís face remained impassive as she examined Callie. "How long have you been contracting?"

"Just now. I - I mean Iíve had a few dull aches today, but childbirth is supposed to hurt right and this is - AHHHHH!"

Mark pulled Callie into his lap and held onto her as the scream was wrenched from her. "Breathe, baby," he told her, rubbing her belly. "Pick something out and look at it the way they taught us."

"SHEíS EARLY!" Callie yelled. "Sheís not coming yet! Sheís canít come yet!"

"Youíre already dilated to nine." Addison slipped her hand free and looked up at Bailey. "Tell Pete to come in."

Bailey nodded and opened the back door. Pete arrived a moment later and squatted down beside his girlfriend. "What do you need?"

"Pain control. This baby is coming and sheís not going to wait for the ambulance."

"NO!" Callie cried. "NO! Addison, itís not time!"

Miranda put her hand on Callieís leg. "You canít hold her in. Trust me, Iíve tried that before."

"Itís okay, Cal," Mark pulled her a little closer. "We can do this."

"We donít even have a name yet," she whimpered. "And - and -"

Pete grinned at her. "Donít you want to meet her before you name her?"

"MOM!!" Jack suddenly screamed, pounding on the back door. "LET ME IN! DAD, PLEASE!!! MOVE OUT OF THE DAMN WAY, MEREDITH! I WANT MY MOM!"

"Iíve got him," Bailey said, pushing herself to her feet.

A few seconds later, the pounding stopped and Addison grinned at Callie. "Three kids who all share a birthday. Iíd say that makes you lucky. Three birds with one stone or whatever."

Another pain hit Callie and she was convinced that her insides were being ripped from her. She even looked down to see if Addison had a knife in her belly. Her eyes caught Cristinaís, who gave her a reassuring smile, and then the urge to push was so strong that she couldnít help herself. She was vaguely aware that her father had gone out into the back yard and that her mother had taken his spot beside her head, but all that mattered in that moment was pushing.

And she pushed with everything she had.

The paramedics arrived at the same moment that Callie and Markís daughter made her debut. Addison accepted the scissors from one of the medics and held them out to Mark, who was sobbing. "Get your shit together, Sloan, and donít cut anyone!"

Mark snipped the cord and let the scissors clatter to the floor when Addy laid the baby on Callieís chest. Reaching down, he touched the trembling infant, rubbing her back and she instantly quieted. He had gotten at least one of his wishes. The baby had as much jet black hair as her mother and her lips were a perfect Cupidís bow, full and plump.

"Thereís too much blood," Addison said softly, grabbing one of the many towels that Derek had brought into the room. Reaching up, she lifted the little girl into her arms and handed her off to Cristina, who headed into the living room with her. "Callie? Callie, can you hear me?"

Mark finally realized that Callie had not responded at all to their little girl. She was lying heavily in his lap and his heart stopped. "Cal?"

Addison reached back between her friendís legs and said, "Inverted uterus."

"What - what does that mean?" Margie asked, finding her voice for the first time.

"It means her uterus has turned inside out," Pete replied, snatching the stethoscope that the paramedic was holding in his hand. He listened to Callieís chest, then felt her wrist. "Start an IV. Now."

"Maíam," the medic said to Margie. "Youíll need to move."

"Whatís wrong with her? Why isnít she -"

"MOVE!" Mark yelled.

In the other room, the baby had begun to cry again.

And Mark joined her, clinging to the woman he loved as if his arms could keep her alive.

~*~*~*~*~*~

"Have you heard anything?" George asked Meredith, handing her a cup of coffee. "It's from the vending machine. Sorry."

"Thanks." Meredith blew the coffee before she sipped it, then she reached down and took his hand in hers. "Addison's the best at what she does."

With a nod, George leaned back against the wall and glanced at Mark, who was sitting beside Derek with his head in his hands. He had seen that same identical pose on a man once before ... when Meredith had drowned and Derek sat forlornly in the hallway. "The baby's gorgeous," he said. "Looks just like Callie. Where are the other kids? Jack and ... Emily, is it?"

"They're in the nursery," Meredith replied, watching as Derek put his arm around Mark. "We should have heard something by now. There - there was so much blood. It was like ... "

The door to the waiting room opened and Addison walked in. She nodded politely at Meredith and George, then walked across the room and kneeled down beside Mark, who hadn't heard the door open at all. "Mark?"

He looked up fast, reaching for her hands. "Is she-"

"She's gonna be fine." She smiled when Mark pulled her into his arms. She patted him affectionately and pulled away, getting to her feet. Taking a deep breath, Addison spoke loudly for everyone's benefit. "She needed a blood transfusion. I was able to repair the inverted uterus with no lasting damage. Because her cervix opened so quickly for the birth ... she had a tear that we had to go in and suture, but she's fine. She's perfect."

Getting to his feet, Mark squeezed Derek's shoulder in gratitude and said, "Can I see her?"

"You bet you can. She's already asking for you."

Mark glanced at Callie's parents, who had also gotten to their feet. "Just give me a few minutes."

"Take your time," Al replied. "We'll wait."

Mark headed to the recovery room. Addison pointed at a curtain and he thanked her, slowly easing behind it. Callie was lying on her side. Wordlessly, Mark laid his head on her chest and listened to her heartbeat. It was strong and steady and he cried from relief and ... happiness. A second later, he felt her hand on his head. "Welcome back, baby," he said.

"I wasn't quite ready to go," Callie whispered, running her fingers through his hair. "I need to marry this great guy because I can't live without him."

His head shot up, unashamed of the tears on his face or the fact that fresh ones were falling. "Is today -"

"Today's the day." She grinned at him, her eyes hooded. "Yes, I'll wear the ring and I'll marry you anytime you want, but first ... I'm dying to see the person who tried to kill me."

Cristina pushed the curtain back. In her arms, she carried five pounds seven ounces of perfectly healthy baby. She had stayed with the little girl since the moment she came into the world. Mark helped Callie sit up and braced several pillows behind her back as she reached for their child. Cristina happily surrendered her and cleared her throat. "Your other two kids are waiting in the hallway. They're yanking on Derek hard enough to pull his shoulders out of the socket. Can I bring them back?"

"Give us five minutes," Mark replied, his eyes never leaving Callie, who was stroking the baby's cheek.

Nodding, Cristina left them alone. Mark reclined against the pillow beside his *fiancé*, leaning his head against hers. "She's tiny. Only seventeen inches."

"Should she be out of the incubator? Should she-"

"She's healthy."

"Did you hold her the entire time I was in surgery?" Callie asked. "Because I'm jealous."

"No." Mark shook his head. "I haven't held her at all."

"Why?" Callie asked, stunned.

"Because my hands were full."

"Your hands were full? Of what?"

"You. You may not have felt it, but I was carrying you this. I was there every step of the way."

She brushed a tear off her cheek. "I only thought I couldn't love you more."

"Do you love me enough to hand her over?"

Callie nodded and he took the little girl, cradling her against his chest. The baby grunted and stretched and he laughed, patting her softly on her backside. "What are we calling her?"

"MOM!" Jack bellowed, cutting through the silence in the recovery room. Someone shushed him and he said, "I AIN'T WAITING NO MORE! MAMA!"

A moment later, the little boy peered behind the curtain, pulling Emily in behind him. He opened his mouth to speak, then his eyes landed on the baby in Mark's arms. "GREEN BEAN! HOLY SHIT! SHE'S LITTLE!"

"You owe me a dollar," Callie told him, patting the bed. Cristina appeared and picked up Emily, then Jack, easing them onto the bed with a stiff warning to be still. "You can't say bad words in front of your sister."

Emily regarded Callie with a look of apprehension. "You was screaming. You scared me real bad."

"I'm sorry, squirt," she replied, tucking a strand of Emily's hair behind her ear. "I didn't mean to. You did a good job by getting your daddy for me, though."

"Can I hold her or what!?" Jack snapped. "I didn't even get to ride the ponies!"

Mark smiled, nodding. "Sit down flat on the bed."

Jack complied and held his arms out. Mark kept the baby steady as Jack held her, stroking her fingers, her ears. Then it was Emily's turn and she was fascinated with the thick, dark hair on the infant's head. "What's her name?" the little girl asked softly.

"We don't know yet."

"Well, *we* do," Jack replied. "Me and Emily done decided."

"We're not naming her Green Bean." Callie shook her head.

"We know," Emily said, crossing her arms over her chest when Mark lifted her baby sister from her lap. "We're naming her Amelia"

"Amelia?" Mark asked curiously.

Jack nodded. "She was a baby at Mac's house. Me and Emily liked her, but somebody adopted her."

"Plus Amelia was the first girl to fly a plane on the ocean," Emily told Callie. "That's what 'Stina told us when we asked her if she liked Amelia."

"Amelia Earhart," Cristina replied. "One of the bravest women who ever lived."

"Duh," Mark told her. "I like it."

"I like it, too." Callie said, grinning up at her best friend. "Amelia *Grace* Sloan. Named after the *two* bravest women who ever lived."

"Who's the other woman?" Jack asked.

"Your Godmother. Cristina *Grace*."

"Literally," Mark said under his breath.

Callie shot him a look and he grinned, kissing Amelia on the head. "Welcome to the family, baby girl."

She threw up on him in response.

It was true love.
CH 13
~*~*~*~*~*~

"You were so brave," Al said, gently sitting on the bed beside his daughter. "Calliope, sheís beautiful."

Callie smiled as Amelia stretched in Margieís arms. "She really is."

"How could you not tell us?" Margie asked softly, stroking the babyís hair. "You didnít have to hide this. Or Emily."

"Your reaction today would suggest otherwise."

"We were shocked," Al replied, taking her hand. "We came to one birthday party and wound up celebrating three. Your friend Meredith filled us in on the circumstances surrounding Emilyís adoption. What these children went through -"

"Made them amazing," Callie interrupted. "I always thought that Jack was the best thing I could do, but now I know that my *family* is the best thing. And thatís what we are. It may not be your idea of perfect, but itís mine."

"Theyíre wonderful kids." Al reached up and brushed an errant strand of hair off Callieís cheek. "And they certainly love you. Emily is so angry at your mother and me that she wonít have anything to do with us."

"She told me I wasnít much of a mother," Margie said, lifting Amelia to her shoulder when she began to fuss. "Sheís got a sharp tongue, that one."

"Sheís truthful." Meeting her motherís eyes, Callie took a deep breath. "Iíve spent a lot of years wondering if you didnít want kids ... or if you just didnít want *me*, Mom."

Margie gasped. "That is a *horrible* thing to say."

"No, thatís not horrible," replied Callie. "I could never look at Emily and tell her that sheís fat. Even if she was. Iíd never blame any of my kids for being sick no matter how much it inconveniences me when they are. And Iíd know ... and try to help ... if one of them cried themselves to sleep every night because the people at school tormented -"

"You werenít the only one crying every night," Al spoke before his wife could. "Your sickness hit a little too close to home for us and we handled it poorly."

"What do you -" Callie began.

"You had an older sister, honey," he replied. "She was three when they found the cancer in her brain and she died while Margie was pregnant with you."

Margie wiped a tear off her cheek and concentrated on the infant in her arms while she spoke. "I had just buried a little girl and when you finally came, Callie ... I was petrified to love you because I thought youíd leave, too." She finally looked at Callie. "And ... and I guess I resented you. I punished you because it felt like God sent you to replace your sister and I didnít want a replacement."

Her eyes filling with tears, Callie shook her head. "Why didnít you tell me?"

"It was our pain. Not yours," Al said, still clinging to her hand. "Losing a child-"

"I lost a baby too, Dad, but I still love -"

"We still love you," Margie cut in. "Never doubt that."

"Iíve spent a lifetime doubting it. Why stop now?" Callie shrugged. The simple act of drawing her shoulders upward sent a bolt of pain through her midsection. "Oh god. This sucks."

"You want something for the pain?" Al softly asked.

Callie nodded, then motioned for Margie to give her back the baby as her father hurried from the room. "I want to hang onto her until the shot knocks me out."

Margie surrendered her granddaughter and watched through teary eyes as Callie kissed the little girl on the forehead. "Iím sorry, sweetheart. For everything."

"Mom-"

"What you feel right now when you look at her ... it took me a while to feel it with you, but I did feel it. And the reason I forced you to go to school and pretended that the disease didnít exist was because I wanted you to be strong enough to beat it."

"Sending me to a place where I was tormented every second of the day didnít really make me want to live."

"No, but it made you a fighter." Margie sat down beside her on the bed, facing her. "It turned you into a *woman* who isnít afraid."

"You think Iím not afraid?! I fear everything."

"No, you donít. Your classmates tormented you, but you still stood up on graduation day and insulted them right to their face with your Valedictorian speech. Your first boyfriend beat you almost to death and the second you were released from the hospital ... you fought back. And look at you now. Your husband cheated on you, you lost your baby, and instead of letting it beat you ... youíve started over and youíre in a better place." Margie cupped her daughterís face, smiling sadly. "Maybe my methods left a lot to be desired, but I donít think Iíd change it, Callie. Because ... youíve become everything I ever wanted you to be."

Mark and Addison arrived before Callie could respond. He scooped Amelia out of her arms and kissed her as Addison gave Callie an injection for the pain. Margie helped her daughter settle back into the bed and smiled down at her. "You didnít tell us, honey. Whatís her name?"

"Amelia Grace."

"Oh my God." Margie turned and looked at Al, who was standing in the doorway.

Al smiled at Callie. "Your sisterís name was Grace. Gracie."

Callie wanted to reply. She wanted to tell them that she understood now. That she wasnít *really* angry at them anymore.

But the shot was potent.

Before she drifted off to sleep, she saw Mark kiss Amelia on the head and Callie smiled.

She honestly believed that there was more than just one baby in the room at that moment. Maybe Gracie was there.

And maybe the baby she had lost was hovering nearby, not really missing the family she *could* have had ... because she would always be a part of it anyway.

*~*~*~*~*

Callie did not get released from the hospital immediately. For two days, she ran a fever close to one hundred and three and spent most of her time sleeping under a mound of cover. The baby thrived, however, and on the third day, Callie found the strength to walk her up and down the hallway, bouncing her lightly in her arms. Addison didn't care for this particular habit of Callie's and told her she was moving too fast, but Callie wouldn't listen. Not listening caused an infection that put her flat on her back for five full days. Webber wouldn't let Addison sign Amelia's release forms however and suggested that she be moved into Callie's room full time. Having the baby nearby was better medication than the antibiotic and Callie bounced back quickly.

Cristina arrived the day that she was being released and dropped a bombshell on her. "Izzie accepted a residency in Maine. She's officially gone."

"Shut up!" Callie said so loudly that she woke up the baby, who made her annoyance loud and clear. Callie soothed her and stared at Cristina. "How's George?"

"Honestly, I think he's so relieved to breathe again that he probably would have packed her shit onto his back and walked it across the country." Cristina held her arms out and took the baby while Callie dressed in her sweatsuit. "How do you feel?"

"Ready to get home."

"I made sure everything was ready. Belinda put me to work when I stopped by to take Jack and Emily some movies."

Callie heard something in her friend's voice and looked at her. "She's off limits, Yang."

"You think I'm trying to sleep with your nanny!? Please! She's in her *forties*."

"And that's stopped you when?"

"Her fried chicken is really good." Cristina grinned.

"That better be the only thing you *ever* figure out is good about her."

"Awww, Torres, are you jealous of me and the babysitter?"

"You're onto me."

Meredith knocked on the door and waltzed in. Without a word, she scooped Amelia out of Cristina's arms and cradled her against her chest. Cristina nudged her friend with her foot. "Did I say I was finished with her, hog?"

"Shut up. You practically live at Callie's place. You get her all the time." Meredith breathed the baby's scent in. "I need to have a kid."

"Oh fuck." Cristina groaned and put her face in her hands. "I'm just saying ... too many little people will result in like ... Children of the Corn or something. Did you *see* Village of the Damned? They'll outnumber us and we'll be doomed."

"My kids are perfect," Callie told her, easing down onto the bed. She was sore in places she had never been aware of before. "Except for Amelia and something tells me that she's going to be a handful. She literally split me apart coming out."

"How are your stitches?" Cristina asked, studying Callie's face.

"I don't know, 'stina. I haven't put a mirror between my legs to look."

"Want me to -"

"If I thought you could do it without wanting to comfort the broken 'pie' ... I'd let you go there." Callie laughed when Cristina blushed profusely. "As it stands, Sloan will be doing all the examining *and* comforting."

"I thought I made it clear that I am over you. I saw the ripping and tearing ... therefore I don't want you that way."

"And that's why I know you never loved me," Callie replied impishly. "It's all Mark can talk about. Sex, I mean."

"Yeah, he was beside your *head*. I was where all the action was," Cristina pointed out. "And platonic love can be just as fun as dirty love."

"George wouldn't agree," Meredith said, bouncing the baby when she started to cry. "According to him he's swearing off all women."

"The gays don't want him either. Someone should tell him that." Cristina stood up and reached for Amelia. "You don't know how to make her happy. Give her here."

"I can make her happy," Meredith groused, pushing the woman's arms away.

Amelia's screams reached a fevered pitch and Mark sailed into the room looking furious. "Why is she crying?"

Cristina rolled her eyes. "Because after we dropped her on her head, we spanked her for being peeing in her pants."

"Very funny," he growled, taking his daughter from Meredith. His huge hand spanned her entire back as he rubbed up and down her little body. Within seconds, Amelia had calmed down and was sucking on her fist. "She's hungry," he said.

"She is not hungry. She just ate. She wants her pacifier." Callie held it up to him.

He put it in Amelia's mouth and watched her latch onto it. "Why do babies like these things? All that work for nothing."

"It's too easy. I can't go there." Cristina held up her hands.

"Don't talk dirty in front of the baby," Mark snapped. "Little pitchers have big ears."

Callie chuckled. "It only matters if they understand what they're hearing, love."

"Love?" Cristina pretended to gag. "That's my cue to leave."

"Mine, too." Meredith lifted the diaper bag from the floor and put it on the bed. "Derek and I will be stopping by tomorrow to see you. Okay?"

"Sure," Callie replied. "Anytime."

Mark watched the women leave before he leaned down and kissed Callie. "You called me love."

"And I meant it."

"Want to stop at the courthouse on the way home, Cal?" he asked, only half joking. "I'm in if you are."

"Not today."

He narrowed his eyes at her. "Don't you *dare* start that shit again."

She got to her feet with a groan. "When I marry you ... and believe me I'm going to ... I plan on having so much honeymoon sex that we may nearly die from it. And we can't have sex yet. That is *all* that's stopping us."

"So you'll marry me in six weeks?" he asked hopefully.

"We'll see."

"Where are we going on our honeymoon?"

"Where do you want to go?"

"I've always wanted to see Italy."

"You want to go to another continent and leave our kids on this one?"

"Baby, by the time you actually marry me ... they'll be in college."

"Oh ye of little faith." Callie reached for the bag, but he smacked her hand. "No lifting."

"Don't you dare start that shit again."

"I do know where the handcuffs are. Don't make me use them."

"Think we could get them through international security?"

"If not we'll pay them back by joining the mile high club on whatever airline we use."

"I like the way you think."

*~*~*~*~*

Mark had many favorite things when it came to Callie. He loved the way she smelled after a shower while her skin was still dewy. The way her hair curled against her cheek while she slept mesmerized him. Her laugh, so rich and vibrant, always brought a smile to his face when he heard it ... even if he was across the room. The way she looked their children in the eye when they spoke to her and the way she understood their plight amazed him. By far and away, though, his favorite thing of all was watching Callie feed their baby.

Derek and Meredith had given them an antique rocking chair and Callie would sit in it, slowly rocking Amelia, while she sank to her in a soft, sweet voice. When she sang a particular Spanish lullaby, Markís heart would swell until he was sure it would pop in his chest. He never let Callie know that he was watching. It was her time with the baby, a special moment for mother and child, but it touched him. And he loved her more than he ever dreamed he could.

Emily and Jack only had to be told once to keep their noise level down. They seemed to understand that the baby needed as much sleep as Callie did and would quietly play in their bedrooms for hours. The only time they truly got upset was when Amelia cried and for three weeks thatís all the baby did thanks to a bout of colic. It cleared up fast thanks to Pete and Addison working together and by the fourth week, Amelia would sleep in her swing while her older siblings took turns making sure her pacifier stayed in her mouth.

Amelia truly was a gorgeous baby. Of course, their friends agreed, but random strangers would approach Mark and Callie when they took her out in public to confirm it. Her brown eyes were shaped like Callieís and her black hair stuck straight up on top, prompting Cristina to nickname the child Ďspider monkeyí. Mark retaliated on his daughterís behalf and called Cristina Ďeggrollí which stuck. Soon Jack and Emily were calling Yang that as well, but she took it in stride and answered to it every single time.

If Amelia was fussy, a warm bath would soothe her immediately and she was usually fast asleep by the time they dried her off. To the absolute amazement of her parents, she began to sleep straight through the night by her sixth week ... which caused Mark and Callie to almost kill themselves the first morning after a full nightís sleep. They raced down the hallway to check on her, only to find her bright eyed and gazing up at her silent mobile.

That day, Cooper Freedman made the house call with Addison. He had flown in for a few hours to do Ameliaís six week checkup. Jack, who remembered ĎCoopí from Los Angeles, wrapped himself around the man like a fur stole and Emily followed suit within ten minutes. Mark, who recognized the man from the infamous video, did *not* enjoy the visit as much as his children did. When Cooper hugged Callie and dared, actually DARED, to touch her hair ... Mark had to put his hands in his pocket to keep from throttling him.

Ameliaís check up was perfect, but Callie was informed that her cervix was inflamed again. Addison prescribed strong antibiotics and fretted over Callieís weight loss, which was impressive and *severe*. Callie assured her that she was eating more than enough, but chasing after two six year olds and dealing with the demands of an infant was more exercise than she had ever gotten in her life. Addy didnít buy it and privately gave Mark a tongue lashing for letting Callie starve. Which wasnít true, but it still made her feel better about it.

Nine weeks after Ameliaís birth, Callie was finally given the all clear. Sex was within reach. Instead of hurrying to tell Mark the good news, she headed to Baileyís house. She called Mark from there and reminded him that he was supposed to arrive after work as well. When Mark got there, everyone was wearing suits and dresses and Derek took him aside, showing him the suit that was hanging on the closet door.

"I knew youíd forget that it was formal."

"I didnít forget!" Mark rubbed the back of his neck. "Why are we doing this again?"

Derek sighed. "For the fifth time in as many days, Chief Webber wants a photo of the staff in the front lobby of the hospital. And you *know* that he finds reasons for us to get dressed up."

Mark grumbled the entire time he changed. There were no words to describe how exhausted he was and nothing sounded better to him than going home, curling up beside Callie, and hoping that the kids let them sleep. When he sat down to pull on his black dress shoes, Derek sat beside him and said, "Whatís the best part about being a father?"

Smiling, Mark glanced at him. "The unconditional love. They adore you no matter what and they tell you so without saying a word."

Derek cleared his throat, staring pointedly at his friend. When Mark didnít take the bait, Derek rolled his eyes. "Ask me why I want to know."

"Uh ... okay. Why do you-"

"Because Iím going to be a father in ... oh ... seven months. Meredithís pregnant."

"DUDE! Congrats!"

The men got to their feet, embracing tightly while they clapped each other on the back. Cristina walked in while they were still hugging and she wrinkled her nose. "Man love. Power to the gays!"

"Shut up, eggroll," Mark shot back. "Are you here to break the camera? Who invited you?"

Cristina shrugged. "The same person with such low standards that theyíd allow your ugly mug in the frame."

"Touche." Mark adjusted the sleeve of his jacket and held his arm out toward the woman. "You want an escort?"

"Sorry. Not so much," Yang replied. "But you and Derek make a sweet, sweet pair."

Derek pointed his finger at her. "*He* is the one who called you Ďbutchí. Donít blame me. Like you ... I love the gays. In a platonic way."

Webber appeared behind Cristina and tapped his watch impatiently. "None of you have a concept of time."

"All this for a photo," Mark groused, following Derek into the hallway.

Derek turned in front of the patio doors and looked up at his friend. "By the way, Callie had a message for you. She said that itís time for you to be the one whoís put on the spot."

Mark frowned. "What does that mean?"

"No idea." But the knowing smile that Derek had suggested otherwise.

As soon as they stepped into the back yard, Mark knew something was going on besides a photo. There were roughly fifty white folding chairs and a majority of those were filled with coworkers. When Markís eyes landed on Margie, he *knew*. He wasnít here for a photo. He was here for a wedding.

His own.

The smile that spread across his face was huge and the relief outweighed the shock. This was it, their wedding day. It wasnít a church or a big affair, but it wasnít the courthouse either and that was enough. He turned and looked at Derek, who simply nodded at him and then Jack was there beside him, wearing a suit. He tugged Markís pants leg and said, "I gots momís ring, Dad, but I canít give it to you until they ask for it. Emily has yours."

Mark squatted down beside him, his heart pounding in his chest. "Whereís your mom?"

"Addyís fixiní her hair." Jack tugged at his collar. "Mom said I can be your best man. Okay?"

"Youíre always my best man," Mark replied, hugging him. He leaned back and straightened his sonís tie, then turned the collar down on his jacket a little neater.

"Are you surprised?" Jack asked quietly.

"Your mom told me that she would marry me one day."

"You look surprised. Maybe even scared." Jack touched the vein in his dadís throat. "Momís neck is moving a whole bunch right here, too. She said itís cause sheís scared."

"Iím not scared, buddy. Iím excited. And Iím happy."

"Weíre happy, too. Me and Emily and Amelia, even though she canít say it yet. She was smiliní." Jack hugged him again, holding on a little longer than he usually did. "I love you, Dad. Weíre gettiní *married*."

"I love you, too, kid." Mark patted him on the back.

"Itís time," Derek interjected. "She kept it small. Jackís standing up for you and Emilyís standing up for her."

"And Amelia-"

"Sheís the bouquet," Jack informed him. "Her dress is all flowery and she has a ugly flower thing on her head."

Mark got to his feet, taking Jackís hand. Jack felt the trembling and looked up at his dad, grinning. Then he winked and Mark had to laugh. His son may not have his DNA, he thought, but he was a Sloan through and through. Within minutes, Emily was heading down the backyard wearing a purple dress that matched Jackís tie. She stopped in front of Mark and crooked her finger, giving him a hug and kiss when he bent down.

"Do I look pretty?" she asked quickly.

"You look beautiful, squirt," he replied, tugging her hair.

"Mom does, too," replied Emily, pointing behind her as she stepped off to one side.

Callie was walking toward him, dressed in a beautiful ivory dress and Amelia was indeed the only thing she carried in her arms. Al walked beside her, beaming with pride and he shook Markís hand before he gave him Callieís. Mark leaned down to kiss her, but the minister behind them cleared his throat and Mark stood up again with a look on his face that caused everyone to laugh.

The ceremony was quick. Callie may have put him on the spot with the surprise wedding, but she did not make him think on his feet. They spoke traditional vows and then the children were giving them their rings and both adults were fighting hard not to cry. Amelia decided to wake up when they finally did kiss and she laughed out loud for the first time when the minister announced Mr. and Mrs. Mark Sloan.

Apart from hearing Callie say ĎI doí ... it was the sweetest sound Mark had ever heard. He took the baby from his wife and held onto her as everyone got to their feet and applauded.

And just like that, the Sloan family became legal in every way, shape, and form. But only on paper. Because in their hearts ... they had been all along.

- Finish

.

.

.



Epilogue

- Ten Years later -

"MOM!" Emily cried, racing up the stairs into Callie and Markís bedroom. Her parents were reclining on the bed, kissing, and she rolled her eyes. "Jackís got my car. Can I borrow yours?"

"Why does Jack have your car?" Callie asked.

"Because he thinks heís funny." Emily crossed her arms over her chest. At sixteen, she was breathtaking. Her brown hair had finally been tamed by being cut into a sophisticated bob and she accentuated her brown eyes with shiny metallic eyeshadow. "Itís PROM NIGHT! Iím the only sophomore to be asked by a senior and -"

"Jack was asked by a senior," Mark pointed out. "Thatís my boy. Getting older chicks to dig him."

"Dad! No one says Ďdigí anymore." Emily shook her head, smiling. "I used to have cool parents."

"You still have cool parents," Callie told her, climbing out of the bed to retrieve her purse. She dug her keys from the depths. "Youíre just going to the salon, right?"

Emily nodded, catching the keys when Callie tossed them. "Amelia said sheíd keep an eye on Christopher and Aiden."

As if on cue, their youngest son Aiden, six, sped into the room and rushed behind Callieís legs. "What did you do now, trouble?" she asked him when he peered out at Christopher, who was eight.

"He broke my damn video game. Again." Chris held up the broken joystick and swore when it fell apart in his hands. "Jackís going kill you harder than me, Aiden, because he was on level seven!"

Aiden, who was the spitting image of his father, covered his hazel eyes with one hand and started to cry. Mark sat up on the side of the bed and rubbed his back. "Weíll go buy a new one."

Amelia waltzed into the room and with all the wisdom of a ten year old, she said, "Let him get his ass kicked, daddy. Thatíll show him."

"Why do our kids swear like this?" Callie asked Mark.

They both looked at Emily at once and she laughed behind her hands ... the way she had always done. "Jack's worse than me, you guys."

Amelia, who looked so much like Callie it was scary, put her hands on her hips and glared at Aiden. "Why are you crying?"

Aiden came out from behind Callie and opened his mouth to speak, but Jack appeared in the hallway next to Emily, easily towering over her. His black hair was long and shaggy and the hours that he had spent working out with Mark had given him broad shoulders and a six pack that had more than just the senior girls chasing after him. All the girls chased after him and called so much that Callie continually threatened to have the phone taken out. In his hands, he carried two drink holders and he gave one to Emily. "I got you and ĎMelia strawberry. That chocolate one is momís."

"Youíre a god," Emily replied, kissing his cheek as she gave her little sister her milkshake and held out the chocolate one for Callie.

"Thanks, kiddo," Callie told him, watching him hand out the drinks on the other tray.

Aiden started to cry again when Jack gave him his vanilla. "I broke the game stick."

With one arm, Jack picked his little brother up and goosed him in the ribs. "Well, that ainít worth crying over. Cry over the big stuff, Little A, donít sweat the small."

Chris held up the broken joystick again. "IT IS BIG STUFF."

"That one didnít work half the time anyway," Jack said, ruffling Chris's black hair. "Who wants to help me pimp my ride? Iím picking up Maria in four hours."

"Oh, sheís the Latina girl," Mark said, eyeing Callie as he said it. "I approve."

Callie shook her head. "I donít. Sheís *eighteen* and because I am a Latina, I know what she's up to and -"

"Mom," Jack said, putting his arm around her. "Sheís just like you. Sheís sweet and funny and ... she likes dumb movies."

Mark grinned at his eldest son. Jack stood two inches taller than him and when he met his eyes, Mark said, "God help you if sheís like your mother. Youíll fall in love the first time she kisses you."

"Okay, ew," Emily said, but she laughed again. "Mom, can I still drive your car? Itís cleaner than mine and I donít want to get dirty."

"Go ahead," Callie replied, walking across the room to hug her.

Amelia popped up beside them and gazed at her big sister with longing. "Can I go? Please?"

"Sure," Emily said. "You can keep me entertained while they do my nails."

"Can I get my nails done?" Amelia looked up at Callie. "I *am* ten, you know?"

Mark pulled money from his wallet and gave it to her. "Donít get something crazy, sunshine."

"Thanks, daddy," Amelia hugged Mark, then Callie and followed her sister from the room.

Christopher sighed when Jack tossed Aiden into the air. Out of all the Sloan children, Chris was the loner. Aiden had Jack, Amelia had Emily, but Chris stayed just on the outside. He was smart academically and enjoyed anything electronic, but he hated sports and refused to participate in school clubs. While Aiden and Jack could usually be found kicking the soccer ball or throwing a football, Chris could be found taking apart his computer and upgrading it.

The phone rang and Mark got it, then looked at Chris. "Eggroll wants to know if youíre ready."

"Wait, where is Cristina taking you?" Callie asked her son.

"Weíre going to the science museum." Chris smiled from ear to ear as he reached for the phone. "Hey, Ďstina. Yeah, Iím ready. Okay. Okay. Bye." He looked up at Callie and said, "Weíre also going to eat at the Japanese Steak House. I think I can catch the shrimp in my mouth this time."

Jack laughed. "I hope so. You almost lost an eye last time. Maybe you need bigger glasses, Professor."

Chris took a deep breath and walked out of the room. Aiden demanded to be put down and chased after him. Callie swatted Jack on the arm. "Heís sensitive!"

"Heís *gay*." Jack grinned at her. "I know you know it."

"Jack!"

"Iím sorry, Mom. Heís either gay or a geek and I refuse to believe that we could have a geek in our family. So ... heís gay. And thatís okay. We still love Ďstina, right?" Jack gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Will you help me with my tie later? Damn bowties. I hate dances."

"Of course I will," she hugged him and watched him saunter from the room.

Mark swallowed the mouth full of milkshake he had been holding in his mouth since Jackís pronouncement. "Do you think Chris is gay?"

"Heís *sensitive*," Callie repeated, then saw the expression on her husbandís face. "And so are you apparently. So what if he is? Heís -"

"I donít care if he is," Mark said. "I just - how do we let him know itís okay with us if he - if thatís - I mean, we canít just say Ďbe gay, be happyí. We have to find out if he really is and -"

"Heís *eight*, love," Callie told him. "Weíve still got a little while before we have to have that talk. You made Jack wait for it until he was *eleven*."

"And he knew more about it than I did." Rubbing the completely gray stubble on his face, Mark sighed. "Iíll do it when heís ten. And this is where I remind you that *Emily* did most of the talking when you had to explain the birds and bees to Amelia."

"I was rendered speechless at Emilyís knowledge." Callie stretched and yawned. "We are going to be kid free tonight, Sloan."

"We are?" he asked, smiling from ear to ear. "What, pray tell, will we do with ourselves?"

"Ask not what we can do for *ourselves*, but what we can do to each other."

The End