Broken Butterflies II
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Trying to ignore the pandemonium, Callie ushered students out the side door to safety. Several police officers had entered the lunchroom, followed by a handful of paramedics who were strapping the kids with massive injuries to gurneys for the journey to the hospital. After Callie assured the medics that the blood that covered almost every inch of her was, in fact, not hers, they began wheeling the kids from the room one by one. Carefully walking on the gore-slickened floor, she tapped an officer on the shoulder and said, "What about the kids in the hall? And the classrooms?"
A gun shot caused both of them to jump and the officer shook his head. "We canít go out there until the situation has been contained."
"Contained? Those children, *children* who were fine an hour ago, will bleed to death if they havenít already." Callie raked a hand through her hair and cringed when she realized that it matted with sweat and blood. "We have to do something."
"Going out there will get us killed."
"And sitting here is getting them killed." She shook her head. "There has to be a way to get to the others. I took an *oath* to help people."
"So did I! And we wonít be able to serve, protect, or *help* if weíre in matching body bags." The officer took his hat off and stared at her for a second. "Maíam, I understand where youíre coming from. My little girl is somewhere in this school right now. But it will be a bloodbath if we open those doors and act without a plan. Now why donít you hitch a ride back to the hospital?"
"Hell no. Iím a doctor. You *need* me here. These victims need me here."
"Youíre brave." Tipping his hat at her, the officer actually smiled a little. Just a little, but it was there. A sliver of light in a blackened tunnel. "Too damn brave for your own good. But I respect it."
"Good. ĎCause Iím staying." She turned her back to him and strode back across the room where she tied a ripped t-shirt a little tighter around a girlís leg. "Someone will be here for you soon," she said, laying a hand on the sobbing childís arm. "I know it hurts."
"Itís okay to be scared. You just hang in there until the medics come back and theyíll get you taken care of. Okay?"
Callie spotted a boy who was sitting with his back against the wall and his knees drawn up. He had been shot in the hand and the mangled remains of it had been bandaged to the best of Callieís abilities. She squatted down next to him and said, "I thought I told you to get on the bus."
"Thatís my girlfriend." He pointed at the prone form a few feet away, at the girl who had died from the shot to the head. "I leave when she does."
"I understand. I really do. But it could be hours, maybe even a day before they finish up the investigation and start moving the bodies."
"Sheís not a body!" the young man cried. "Thatís Juliana. Her name is Juliana."
"Juliana would want you to save your hand."
"Fuck it!" the boy cried, leaping to his feet. "Iím going to kill those guys!"
"No!" Callie grabbed him as he rushed toward the cafeteria doors and he spun, punching her hard in the face. Twice. Stars exploded behind her eyes and she recoiled. She felt her teeth cut into her lip and enough blood to rival a severed artery spilled from her nose. Police officers grabbed him and wrestled him from the lunchroom and into a waiting squad car. Callie tilted her head back, pinching the bridge of her nose as she growled every variation of every curse word sheíd ever heard.
The officer who had a daughter inside the building handed her a lunchroom towel and she mopped at her face, saying, "This is the part of the dream where I wake up. Any minute now. Iím ready to wake up. I have had enough of this day! This entire week!"
"Maíam, you need to calm down." He laid a hand on her arm. "Just breathe."
"I canít breathe! My airway is rapidly swelling shut!" she snapped, then threw the towel into the floor. "We canít just keep doing nothing!"
The loud crackling of a police radio silenced the officerís response and Callie listened as the SWAT team was given the order to enter the building. She heard someone comment behind her that it was "showtime" and she closed her eyes for just a second, sending up a silent prayer. Shadows of several armed men moved past the stained glass windows of the cafeteria doors and she held her breath a second, waiting to hear gun fire. When nothing happened, the officer nearest the door said something into his radio and lifted his arm, motioning for the other officers to follow him out into the corridor.
"Iím coming with you." Callie grabbed the officer by the arm.
"Whatís your name?" he asked her.
"Dr. Callie Torres."
"Dr. Torres, there are armed people out there and you donít have any protective gear on. Go outside and wait in the cruiser."
"Whatís *your* name?" she asked him.
"Sergeant Harrison Dean."
"Well, Sarge, I am a doctor and I donít give two shits about what I am or am not wearing. Patients are out in that hall and patient trumps shooter."
"Do you get that you could die!?" he shouted, clearly agitated by the fact that she was holding him up.
"Do you get that one life is no more valuable than another?"
"Fine!" He shook her hand off his arm. "But you stay out of the way!"
Callie pulled up the rear, accompanied by a gaggle of paramedics. Nothing could have prepared her for the macabre scene around her. It felt like something from a horror film and she rushed into action, kneeling next to the first patient, who had a thready pulse and shallow breathing. The damage to the childís throat was extensive and Callie glanced up at the medic, saying, "She needs a breathing tube!"
"Get a straw from the cafeteria!" Callie snapped, and within minutes of being handed a bendy straw, an incision had been made in the girlís throat and an emergency tracheotomy was complete.
Two more victims were dead and several more had minor flesh wounds. More medics had arrived on the scene and Callie moved further down the hallway, listening to the shouts of the SWAT team just ahead. They had not located the gunmen yet and it was unnerving. She opened a classroom and several students screamed. Holding up her hands to show that she was unarmed, she told them to stay where they were. Too many fallen children occupied the floor of the hallway and if she could spare their classmates seeing it, she would do her best.
"What the hell are you doing, Dr. Torres?"
She jumped, laying a hand over her heart. "Checking for victims, Sarge," she snapped. "What the hell are *you* doing?"
"You had your panties in a twist to get out here so why are you peeking behind closed doors?"
"Look, it took you long enough to your ass out here so why don't you find something cop-like to do instead of harassing me?"
A whisper of a smile passed over his face. "Keep in this end of the building. I mean it. We're securing the rest of the school and you do *not* come any father up this hallway until we give the all clear. Understand?"
"Do your job and let me do mine."
"I mean it!"
He retreated down the hallway and she shook her head. Her hand was on the doorknob of the second classroom when several shouts followed by a flurry of gunshots rang out. Dropping onto her stomach, she pressed herself as close to the wall as she could. It seemed to last an eternity, but finally it stopped and she lifted her head in time to hear two words that anyone would dread hearing. "Officer down."
In her gut she knew who was down. She prayed that she wasn't right ... because she had goaded him into leaving the safety of the cafeteria.
Pushing herself to her feet, she raced down the hallway, elbowing through the crowd. Sergeant Dean was on his back, thrashing and reaching helplessly into the crowd. The bullet proof vest he wore had not afforded him the necessary side protection and from the looks of things, the bullet had entered just under his left arm. Dangerously close to his heart.
"Help me get this off him!" she cried, pulling at the Velcro of the vest. Two sets of hands joined hers and they quickly pulled it from his body. Using the stethoscope she had worn into the career day meeting, she listened to his heart and could hear the blood that was filling his chest cavity. He could die within minutes. As she listened, his heart stopped.
She helped load him on the gurney and jumped on top of him, straddling his body as she began chest compressions.
As a rule, emergency rooms are chaotic. Any doctor who takes a position in an emergency room must have two things: nerves of steel and a stomach of iron. The four interns who stood huddled together waiting for the next round of patients to arrive appeared to possess neither. Christina was hugging herself, her arms wrapped tightly around her mid section as if she had a stomach ache. Alex was a little green around the gills and had absolutely nothing to say. George and Meredith were both staring into space, pale and drawn.
Usually, the sound of an incoming ambulance wailing in the distance would cause Christina to bounce up and down on the balls of her feet in anticipation. However, as the siren drew closer, she sighed and said, "How many more can there possibly *freaking* be?"
Alex shrugged. "God only knows."
The ambulance came up the drive fast and the back doors were open before the vehicle came to a complete stop. A police cruiser squealed to a stop behind the ambulance and three officers jumped out, each of them carrying their hats instead of wearing them. The interns rushed forward and were stunned to see Callie, sitting astride a police officer doing compressions. If there was an inch of her that was not splattered with blood, it couldnít be seen with the naked eye.
The male EMT began to fire off the patientís stats as they literally ran with him into the hospital. Once inside, Chief Webber, who had just lost a patient in the operating room, took control of the situation and began issuing orders. If Callie heard him telling her to back off and let Olivia take over the compressions she didnít acknowledge it. A fresh stream of blood was running from her nose and sweat was pouring from her, the dried blood making it run in pink rivulets.
George stepped forward, laying his hand on her arm so that Olivia could maneuver in front of her. "Callie? Theyíve got this under control. Youíre hurt. You need to come with me."
His voice seemed to jar her back to her senses and she looked around, as if realizing for the first time that she was at the hospital. Glancing down at Sergeant Dean, she gasped. He couldn't die. She couldn't let him die. Strong hands gripped her arms, as she reached back up to begin compressions again, and she slipped from the gurney. She pulled away, walking out of the room and into the hallway where several of the school children who had escaped unscathed came rushing up to her. She stumbled over her own feet and the jock in the football uniform grabbed her, keeping her on her feet. She was vaguely aware that George had followed behind her and was yelling at the kids to give her some room. She heard herself telling the kids that it would be okay and that they needed to wait in the lobby, then turned and picked up a chart. "Don't shout at these kids, George! They've been through hell."
"What are you doing?" George asked her.
"There are so many patients. I have to help."
Dr. Bailey, who had been standing at the nurseís station gently took the chart from Callieís hand and laid it back in the rack. "Dr. Torres," she said gently. "You canít see patients when youíre covered up in someone elseís blood and from the looks of it, some of it belongs to you. Let OíMalley make sure youíre okay and then hit the shower."
"Sheís right," George told her, staring at her face, at the steady trickle of blood that still ran from her nose. He reached up, touching her swollen lip and said, "What happened?"
The images from inside the school cafeteria flashed through her mind and she shook her head in an attempt to clear it. "I - I got punched."
"Order a head CT, OíMalley, and make a chart for her. Now." Bailey finished the chart she was working on and looked at Callie. "You did good, Dr. Torres. All these kids have been singing your praises and-"
"How much will they sing my praises when they find out that Sergeant Dean is in there because of me? Because of *me*!" Shaking her head, Callie turned on her heel and hurried away.
George got sidetracked by two sets of parents who were rapidly approaching hysteria when he tried to follow Callie. When he had calmed them as best he could, he began looking for her in earnest. He searched the bathrooms and showers, the break room, and the courtyard to no avail. Recalling her story about September 11, he headed to the roof and called her name. He was about to page her when he realized that he knew exactly where she had gone. He rushed down the stairs into the basement and pushed open the doors of the back room that she had called home for so long.
He was relieved to see her sitting in the floor, her back against the wall, in the same spot that her air mattress had been. His happiness at finding her was short lived, however, when he realized that she was sobbing. She had her arms wrapped around her knees and her face buried, but he heard her and kneeled down next to her. "Itís okay," he whispered, placing his hand on hers. "Itís over."
"Leave me alone."
"Talk to me." He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand. Several long minutes passed with nothing but the sound of her sniffling. Finally, he shook her a little. "Come on. Youíre getting this cat scan."
"Weíre not debating it. Get up." He tugged on her sleeve. "I mean it!"
"I thought I had seen everything," she cried, finally lifting her face to his. "Those kids! Oh my god..."
He pulled her against his chest, unable to stare at the pain that was etched on her battered face. "I know."
"It happened so fast. One minute I was talking to them and the next - the next - Some fine example I was. I hit the ground and covered my head while those *children* were mowed down!"
"What were you supposed to do? Jump between everyone?"
"I should have done *something*."
"Stop it! Youíre not the Defender of the Universe. Youíre human! You could have been killed, Callie. And then you couldnít have helped anyone."
She closed her eyes, breathing in the familiar scent of his cologne. She turned, wrapping her arms around him as if clinging to a life line. Wrapped in a cocoon of safety, she let it go. She cried, letting her pain rip from her very gut, safe in the knowledge that he was catching all of it for her and that he would put her back together.
George felt the lump in his own throat as he held her even tighter. He could hear himself whispering nonsense, telling her that it was okay, that he had her, to let it go. And then, surprising himself with his honesty, he said, "God help me, Callie, I love you. I love you so much."
If she heard his words she didnít let on.
He didnít repeat it.
But he held on as if heíd never let go again.
"Thatís three that we lost in surgery. Itís always threes or sevens." Addison set a cafeteria tray full of hot chocolate on the counter of the nurseís station. "Dig in, people! Get your JuJu right here."
Alex picked up a cup and took a sip. "How many more are still in surgery?"
"Two. But more victims could arrive any time. Three hours after the shooting and they still havenít found the last gunman!" Addison leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes. "This is a nightmare."
"How is Torres?"
Addy shook her head. "I only got to see her for a second, but she was pretty broken."
"Did she go home?"
"No. Sheís on the fourth floor." Addison took a sip of her own cocoa. "Chief Webber is making her stay overnight. Iím pretty sure he signed off a pretty potent cocktail to help her sleep."
"She needs it." Alex studied Addyís face, noting the dark circles under her eyes and the way her hand shook as she brought her cup to her mouth again. "You okay?"
"Iím really not." Her eyes filled with tears and she set her cup down. "Granted sheís my *new* best friend, but Callie could have *died*."
In the hallway, in plain view of anyone who wanted to look, Alex took a step forward and hugged her in a loverís embrace. He tightened his grip when she gasped and tried to pull away. "Stop, Addison."
"We already covered this once. Itís Alex. You like to call me that when you co-"
"Dr. Karev, what the hell are you doing?"
Alex quickly stepped away, trying to appear nonchalant as Bailey put her hands on her hips and stared from one to the other. One of her eyebrows danced upward and she shook her head. "What is wrong with you fools? All of you act like this is Booty Call Central." She stared at Addison. "And what did I just tell you the other day? About not needing a man?"
"Karev isnít actually a man." Addisonís cheeks were as red as her hair.
"Ouch!" Alex glared at her. "But I got the damn job done. Twice. Didnít I?"
"Too much information, Karev." Bailey crossed her arms. "You better go find something to do before I find myself in a bad mood."
Alex walked off, shooting a knowing grin at Addison before he opened the door to the stairwell. Bailey watched him go, eyes narrowed, then hit Addison on the arm with a chart when he had vanished behind the door. "Addison Montgomery-Shepherd! Are you out of your mind?"
"Yes!" Addy massaged her bicep, frowning. "I would have to be because I actually *like* him."
"Iím sorry. I must be hearing things. Did you just say that you *like* him? The same him that possesses the attitude that has had you whining to me for weeks? The same him who you just told me three weeks ago that you wanted to string up and fillet? That him?"
When Addy didnít answer, Miranda crossed her arms. "Or is this your way of getting back at Derek? Your very own intern to play with?"
Her jaw almost hit the floor and Addison gasped. "Iíll have you know that I havenít thought of Derek or his beloved intern once since Alex and I-"
"Because if that were the case, Iíd have to tell you that Alex Karev may act like heís a world class ass, but heís one of my favorite interns and if you are using him-"
"I am not listening to this!" Addy snapped, tossing her hands in the air.
Alex was waiting in the stairwell when Addison shoved the door open and stomped inside, growling her frustration through clenched teeth. He grinned and caught her arm. "I donít know which feels better ... that Iím Baileyís favorite or that you *like* me."
"Eavesdropping is rude!" She shoved him away from her. "And wipe that smug little smile off your face!"
"Sorry, it just feels so damn good."
"She said you were *one* of her favorites. Everyone knows that OíMalley is the teacherís pet!"
"You like me. You really, really like me." Alex clasped his hands under his chin and batted his eyelashes at her. "And you told *me* not to fall for *you*."
"Iím not falling for you. I am not even leaning far enough in your direction to stumble."
"Yeah. Okay." He crossed the distance between them and kissed her, one hand digging into her hip and the other tangling in her hair. When he pulled back, he saw that she was flushed and he smiled at his handiwork. "Youíll stumble, Addison. Youíll stumble and fall and when you do Iíll be waiting."
Callie stared at the IV in the back of her hand. She was *fine*. She had the cat scan results to prove that she was fine. No amount of arguing on her part had prevented the Chief from signing her Ďadmití orders. Observation, he had said. She had worked at Seattle Grace long enough to realize that Ďobservationí was usually code for Ďweíre going to sedate you because we donít know what to do with you and youíre scaring usí. She sighed and fingered the tape that was holding the IV in place, seriously considering yanking it out before they could administer any medication.
There were things that she needed to do. She wanted to go to the observation deck and check on Chief Dean and then she wanted an insanely large bottle of Hennessy. Making up her mind, she peeled the tape back and removed the IV. Her door opened at that moment and she swore. George had only been gone for a few minutes, heading out on a mission for fried chicken. It was a relief to see Addison strolling in with her chart. Her elation was short lived, however, when she took one look at the red headís face. "Oh god. What now?"
"Are you okay?" Addy blew an errant strand of hair out of her face when Callie scowled at her. "Okay! Bad question. Youíre miles from okay."
"Looks like we both are. What happened to you?"
"Why is your IV out?"
"Are we playing twenty questions?" Callie swung her legs over the side of the bed. "Iím not staying. I have a change of clothing in the locker room. Would you get it for me?"
"Oh no!" Addison shook her head. "Absolutely not. Iím already in hot water."
"Bailey knows about Karev. And for his part, Karev is now pursuing me like Iím a broodmare."
"A broodmare? Well, he is a horseís ass. Like to like or whatever." Callie grinned at her. "Baileyís not going to tell anyone."
"The ass probably will." Addy opened the chart and scanned through it. "The good news is that youíre going to be sleeping like a baby as soon as the nurse comes in with your meds."
"Iím escaping. Remember?" Callie stood, wrapping the sheet around her body, including her head, leaving her face exposed in the oval. "Howís this? No one can tell it's me."
"Yeah, thatís so incognito. No oneís going to raise an eyebrow." Laying the chart on the lunch tray, Addison marched around the bed and pushed her back onto it. "Youíre staying. If I have to raise the alarm I will."
"Youíre not fine." Addison sat down next to her, nudging her with her shoulder. "I actually prayed for you. Me and the church had a falling out right around the time I cheated on Derek and became a pariah with the congregation. But I went to the chapel earlier, while you were at the school, and I prayed for you. On my knees and everything."
"Iím touched. Iíd be a lot more touched if you would go get my clothes!"
"OíMalley was in the chapel. He was *crying*."
Callie pushed the sheet off her head and exhaled. "He told me he loved me."
"Hence the great escape? I thought thatís what you wanted."
"He only said it because I was upset at the time. And maybe because I could have died."
"Yeah, that argument would make sense if he hadnít told me the same thing HOURS before the school thing."
"George told you he loved you?"
"And you think you donít need to spend the night in the hospital?" Smiling a little, Addison nudged her again. "He told me that he loves YOU, idiot."
Callie grinned. "Really?"
"Really. And if we could please stop sounding like Izzie and Meredith Iíd appreciate it."
"You started it." Callie let the sheet drop back down to her waist. "So, Alex thinks youíre his little filly?"
"Stop with the horse metaphors!" Addison laughed a little. "Weíre doctors! We are medical professionals and we sound like girls at a slumber party!"
"Want me to braid your hair?"
"Want me to put your IV back in so no one knows what you tried to do?"
"Oooh! Friends with medical benefits!" She sighed, then nodded. "Looks like Iím going to be drugged for the night."
Five minutes later the old IV had found its way into the trash and the new one had been placed not far from the original site. Addison was just securing the tape when the nurse entered, carrying quite a few bottles and two syringes. "Oh, Debbie," Addison flashed her a brilliant smile. "She snagged the tape on the blanket."
Debbie hurried forward, depositing her loot on the table. "Does it feel okay, Dr. Torres?"
"It just pulled a little." Callie shrugged. "Itís okay."
"If you get any burning just tell me. Okay?"
"You got it."
George opened the door, loaded down with food and huge stuffed bear, and smiled. "Looks like Iím just in time. Hopefully you can eat before that knocks you out."
Debbie frowned at him as she administered the first shot. "I ordered dinner for her."
"Youíve eaten at the hospital, Deb. We want her to live." Addison plucked a chicken leg from the bucket that George held out to her and took a bite. "Mmm, thank you! And I have to go. You need anything?" she asked Callie.
"Can you check on Sergeant Dean?" Callie said quietly, watching the medication going in.
"Heís out of surgery and the prognosis is good. His family is with him. And his daughter is fine." George finished scooping cole slaw onto a paper plate and sat it down in front of Callie, grinning from ear to ear. "The chicken is crispy. Just the way you like it."
Conflicting emotions flashed over Callie's ravaged face. Relief sparred with guilt -- survivor guilt and oh-lord-I-pushed-that-cop-too-hard guilt -- and the guilt won. She dissolved into tears.
"Hey now. Itís okay." George pushed the table away so he could sit down on the bed, facing her. "Thatís good news."
"Itís my fault."
"We had this discussion already. Itís *not* your fault." He took her hand, brushing her hair away from her face.
"Heís right," Addison said, moving a little closer to the bed as Debbie quietly left the room. "You canít blame yourself."
Callie opened her mouth to reply, but shut it quickly. It felt like her mattress was floating in the air. She gripped the blanket, trying to steady herself and blinked several times in a futile attempt to focus. Georgeís face danced in front of her and she laid her hand on his cheek. "You have pretty eyes. Big. Poodle eyes."
"Oooo-kay." George smiled at her, then at Addison. "I think itís safe to say that Callie has left the building."
"Big, big eyes," Callie mumbled as he urged her further down into the bed. "And good hands. Strong, good hands. They saved the heart guy in the elevator."
"Thatís right." He pulled the cover up, tucking it under her chin.
"Donít forget to save me, too."
George watched as she closed her eyes, heard her breathing deepen. He picked up her untouched plate of food and begin scraping the contents back into the containers. Addison cleared her throat behind him and he turned, glancing at her. "You want some dinner?"
"No." She shook her head, watching him for a few seconds. "She needs you."
"She doesnít need you the way that Izzie needed you after Denny died, George. She needs her *lover* to love her through this. Donít just hold her hand. Hold her heart."
"Iíll have to hold hers. Sheís got mine."
Addison nodded and left the room.
It was after midnight when Addison plopped down on a stool at The Emerald City Bar. She picked up a peanut and cracked the shell, but she didnít eat it. Instead, she let it drop to the floor beside her and rested her chin in the palm of her hand. She sighed when Joe stopped in front of her, wiping a few tiny remnants of the shell away with a rag. With a sigh, she said, "Hennessy. One shot. For Callie."
"How is Callie?" Joe asked. "It was all over the news."
She told him while he poured the drink, but she didnít lift it when he set it in front of her. She trailed her fingertip around the rim of the glass. "I hate this," she finally said.
"Then why did you order it?"
"Not the drink! This!"
"This not knowing!" she snapped, as if he should have known all along. "Life is unpredictable. Isnít it?"
"Yeah." Joe nodded, letting the towel rest over his shoulder. He had dealt with enough patrons to know when someone needed to talk. "That it is."
"I mean, we donít know whatís going to happen tomorrow. We donít know if our friends will be hurt or if we canít control ourselves and will have sex with absolutely the wrong person. And we donít know if life will go the way we planned it or if weíll fall for someone who is so repulsive and gross that it makes you sick to think about it."
Joe watched her for a second. "Have you been drinking already, Addy?"
Alex suddenly sat down on the stool next to her and picked up her shot, downing it smoothly. "No. And she isnít going to start now. Itís not pretty when she imbibes."
Addison rolled her eyes. "For the love of God!! Is it not enough for you to stalk me at the hospital?"
"Nope." With a grin, he cracked open a peanut and tossed it in his mouth.
"Go away, Karev."
She turned, glaring at him. "What do you want? What?"
"You promised me dinner."
She gestured around them, at the bar. "Sorry, but my idea of dinner isnít some sleazy dive with watered down liquor and peanuts! So go away."
"Hey," Joe said, glancing up from the glass that he was wiping down. "This may be a sleazy dive, but I donít water down a thing."
"You keep eavesdropping like that and theyíll have to offer you a job at the hospital," Addison told Joe. To Alex, she added, "You want to take me to dinner? Give me one good reason to let you."
"I already gave you two very powerful, toe curling reasons." He smiled, enjoying the way her brow wrinkled when she narrowed her eyes at him. "Okay, okay. Because Iíve waited patiently for you to realize that Derek is a piece of shit and you deserve better. I want to be the man, Addison. Give me a chance to deserve you."
His words were toe curling on their own. She collected her thoughts, touched to the core by what heíd said. "You get that weíve had *one* romantic encounter. *One*." She held up a finger. "You canít possibly know -"
"Did it ever occur to you that I keep complaining about working with you so youíll keep me. Out of spite?"
She lowered her hand and shook her head. "I wasnít keeping you out of spite. I swear to God, Iíll kill you if you mock me, but I like having you work with me. You annoy the hell out of me ... but you also challenge me."
"You mean I donít take any crap."
"Precisely. You call me on *everything*."
"Weíre good together. In *all* ways." He leaned forward, pushing her hair over her shoulder. "You know it, too. So why fight it?"
"Itís just so soon after Derek and -"
"Why would you let Derek dictate the terms of your happiness when itís clearly over with him?"
"I -Iím not letting Der-"
"What? You afraid of the intern jokes youíll hear about me? Afraid that since Iím a little younger people will talk?"
"No. And you are not *that* much younger."
"Then what are you waiting for?"
"What are you asking me for, Alex? It was supposed to be dinner ... not a marriage proposal."
"How about an indecent proposal instead?" He took her hand in his, letting his fingers trace her palm. "You donít have to sleep alone tonight. Thatís all Iím saying."
She sighed, staring into his soft hazel eyes. "Do you know that your eyes change color with your mood?"
"The color they are right now? Thatís horny."
Addison punched him lightly on the arm. "And my hair matches my temper."
"It matches other things, too." He let his hand slide up her thigh, enjoying the way she gasped, but didnít stop him.
"Okay, get a room!" Joe leaned against the bar, staring from one to the other. "Because Iím going to have to make the jukebox play cheap porno music if you keep this up. Go! Pay me later!"
"My place or yours?" Alex asked innocently, sliding off the stool.
Addison, her face burning brightly with a fire that only he could fuel for some reason, wordlessly followed him.
A nightmare, violent and shocking, jarred Callie from her slumber. She gasped, springing upright in the bed. The sun was just starting to rise and she watched the explosion of color through the window as she waited for her heart rate to return to normal. As the room lightened, she realized that George was sprawled out on a cot just a few feet away. He was sleeping on his stomach, one arm dangling toward the floor and she smiled a little, despite the remnants of the dream that she couldnít quite shake. As quietly as she could, she disconnected the IV, and walked into the bathroom.
Her reflection was every bit as horrific as she had anticipated it would be. For nothing to be broken in her face it certainly had presented with varying shades of black and blue and her top lip was easily twice its usual size. She gingerly brushed her teeth with the tiny toothbrush the hospital supplied, hissing in pain when her lip protested to being asked to move. Even though she had showered the night before, she felt a hundred times better when she washed her face and pushed her hair into something that resembled normalcy.
George was standing just outside the door when she emerged. "You okay?" he asked softly.
"Iím sorry. I didnít mean to wake you up." She studied him, the way his hair stuck up on one side, the way his shirt had come untucked from his pants, and her heart flipped in her chest. She was so in love with him that it hurt. Reaching out, she straightened his collar which had turned under.
He caught her hand and pulled her forward, wrapping his arms around her. Kissing her neck, he hugged her even closer, whispering, "I do love you, Callie."
"You donít have to-"
"Iím not." Easing back, he shook his head, staring into her eyes. "Iím sorry I didnít say it sooner, but it doesnít change the fact that itís there. And itís real. Itís been real for a while now and Iím just a big idiot who-"
"Look, all Iím asking you to do is think about it. Think about us. Think about giving it another chance. I know itís-"
He straightened as if she had slapped him. "I -"
"I have something to say to you."
"Okay," he replied, then pointed at the bed. "You should sit down."
"Iíll feel better if you do." He pushed her back toward the bed.
She resisted at first, but he eventually won and she waited patiently for him to reconnect her IV. "I donít really need that."
"Chief Webber hasnít released you yet. Youíre stuck." He smiled nervously and sat beside her. "Iím all ears. What do have to say?"
Swallowing hard, she turned to face him. "I shouldnít have tried to make you choose between me and your friends. I was wrong to do that and it shouldnít have upset me as much as it did. Truthfully? The way you treat the people you love is one of the things that attracted me to you in the first place. I shouldnít have-"
"I should have told you what happened in Dennyís room. I should have included you more."
"Your friends donít like me."
The look on Georgeís face confirmed that her words were true. He squeezed her hand and said, "They just need to get to know you better. Which they will."
She wasnít convinced, but she didnít comment further about it. Instead, she said, "Iím also sorry that I moved at warp speed."
"Stop. I already told you that I shouldnít have said that to you."
"You shouldnít have said a lot of things to me."
"And I should have said quite a few other things."
"I hate that you have this power over me. I donít want to want you like I do." Her tears spilled over and she angrily swiped them away. "I donít know how to make this work with you. I have no idea what Iím supposed to do!"
"You havenít told me you love me in a while now. Maybe you should start there."
"Donít hurt me, George."
Leaning forward, he kissed her forehead. "I wonít."
She hugged him and softly, barely whispered, "I love you. I really, really love you."
"Knock knock!" Izzie poked her head in the room and drew up short when she saw the tearful embrace taking place. "Iím sorry! We can come back."
"No, itís okay," Callie replied, sniffling as she dried her eyes. If there was an olive branch to be extended it may as well start now. She was genuinely shocked when she realized that Izzie and Meredith were both carrying huge bouquets of flowers.
Izzie grinned at her, putting the gigantic rose bouquet on the window seat. "These are from me and Meredith."
"Wow. Theyíre beautiful. Thank you." Shell shocked, Callie smiled as best she could with a lip the size of a golf ball.
"And these are from the police department," Meredith told her, setting a large arrangement of wildflowers next to it. "Itís a madhouse downstairs. Be glad you got knocked out."
"Did you sleep okay?" Izzie asked, sitting down on the cot that George had used. "I peeked at your chart. Iím surprised youíre not in a coma."
"I pretty much died," Callie replied, still trying to wrap her head around the fact that Izzie Stevens was regarding her with something other than contempt. To Meredith, she said, "Howís your mother?"
"Better. She asked for you. By name. Well, she called you Dr. T., but still, sheís never lucid long enough to remember anyoneís name."
"Callieís memorable," George said, smiling at her. "So, whatís going on downstairs?"
"Chief Webber is getting ready for the second press conference in the last twenty four hours." Meredith glanced at the clock. "Actually, the second one in twelve hours. Heís been up all night."
"How many deaths were there?" Callie asked. "Altogether?"
Meredith and Izzie both looked at George. He took a deep breath and said, "Twenty six."
"But," Meredith offered. "We successfully treated over thirty wounded kids here. Thatís not even counting the victims that went to other hospitals."
"I heard all about the emergency trach you did," Izzie said to Callie. "Did you really use a bendy straw?"
"Yeah. I watched someone do it on 9/11."
"She made it, by the way," George said. "The girl with the bendy straw."
"And so did the boy who mangled your face." Meredith grinned and shook her head. "He was asking about you in recovery. That was the first thing he said when he woke up. ĎHowís that hot doctor I punched?í."
"Did they save his hand?" Callie asked.
"No. They amputated it below the wrist."
"Iíll go see him as soon as someone letís me out of here. He - he didnít really know what he was doing." With a sigh, Callie reached up and touched her nose. "Or maybe I should wait. I donít want to scare him."
Everyone chuckled. Izzie leaned forward, her elbows on her knees. "Those officers wanted to come up and bring you the flowers themselves, but Bailey wouldnít let them. They- they told us what you did."
"What I did?"
"Yeah," Meredith said. "You ran right into the line of fire to save Sergeant Dean. Two other officers got hit in the leg while you were working on him. They said that there were bullets whizzing all around you, but you ignored it."
The mention of the Sergeant brought back a boat load of guilt for Callie and she massaged her forehead, trying to forget the conversation that led up to the shooting. "The last thing I remember was hearing gunfire and someone screaming that an officer was down. If - if there were gunshots after that I have thankfully repressed it."
"Your IV isnít working." Izzie stood, fussing with the tubing until it began to drip freely again. "What nurse attached this? You should complain. They didnít even start the drip!"
"That would be me." George shrugged innocently. "In my defense, though, I almost lost the woman I love so Iím not all here."
"That is exactly why weíre not allowed to work on the people we love." Meredith said, then frowned at Izzie, realizing what she had said. "Uh-"
"Itís fixed. Oh! They killed the gunmen. Finally," Izzie said, trying to pretend that she hadnít noticed that the tension could suddenly be cut with a knife. "Gun*boys*. All three of them were fifteen years old. Raunchy little bastards."
"Whatís happened to the world?" Meredith asked the room at large. "When I was fifteen I was thinking about makeup, parties, and boys. I never thought about guns."
"Thatís because youíre pretty." Callie said, then swallowed hard. "I just mean when youíre not pretty the world is an entirely different place. When I was fifteen I was thinking about the best way to avoid having my glasses broken for the millionth time or choked with the wire around my neck that was attached to the horrible braces. The football team actually held me down and shaved off my eyebrows once. The coach stopped them after he laughed his ass of and offered me a job as the mascot." She shrugged. "I never thought about killing my classmates, but I do on occasion picture someoneís face when Iím a breaking a bone."
"They shaved your eyebrows off?" George asked her, stunned.
"Oh god, that wasnít even close to the worst thing. I was locked in the boiler room for four days, and shot with paint balls on several occasions, most notably during the homecoming dance. But my personal favorite was being duct taped to the bottom of the bleachers during a football game. I was stuck there until the next morning."
"Oh my god!" Izzie said, scandalized. "What did you do about it?"
"Stuck my nose further in the books and graduated early." Callie shrugged. "My mother tried to complain, but Iím weird. I admit that Iím weird. People pretty much figure you deserve what you get when don't fit the cookie cutter image."
Before anyone could reply, Chief Webber came in, chart in hand, and said, "I think Iím going to admit myself as soon as Iím through discharging you."
But no oneís heart was in it.
Callie stood in the stairwell, staring down the hallway at the small gang of uniformed police officers who had gathered outside Sergeant Deanís room. She had showered and changed into fresh clothing. She had even given herself a pep talk in the mirror and had left the locker room feeling like she was ready to face anything, but as she rested her hand on the door knob she realized that her knees were knocking. It had been foolish to tell George that she wanted to do this alone and she contemplated calling him for a second before she shook her head, lifted her chin, and squared her shoulders. George had not been a part of what happened inside that school, hadnít witnessed the aftermath, and would never fully understand it.
To Hell with it, she thought, smoothing back her ponytail. She was going to open that door, walk down that hallway, and apologize to Sergeant Dean. Any minute now. It would be done!
She promptly moved away from the door and sat down on the steps, burying her face in her hands. "I canít do it!"
"Canít do what?" Addison asked, plopping down next to her. "I have chocolate. And since you look like you just saw a Dementor out there I think you need it."
"You read Harry Potter too?" Callie broke off a piece of the Hershey bar and took a small bite.
"Religiously," she replied. "So, whatís going on?"
"Thereís a day to face. And even though my current one is mangled I should make with the facing."
Leaning back, Addison nodded. "Itís not that bad. It looks like a collagen injection gone wrong. Remind me to tell you about the time Mark Sloan convinced me to let him do that to me. I looked like I had kept the vacuum hose on my lips for a month."
"Eww." Callie frowned. "And thanks for making me feel oh so much better about it."
"I do what I can." She held out the candy bar again. "It doesnít have carbs or calories if you help me eat it."
"I donít want it, but thanks." Resting her head against the wall, Callie sighed. "What did you do last night?"
"Again?" Callie wrinkled her nose. "You should skip the chocolate and go straight for the liquor at this point."
"But you like him."
"I shouldnít like him. And that fact has been percolating in my alleged brain all day. But my hormones have pretty much taken over." Addison finished off her candy bar and wadded the wrapper. "Itís going to be a bumpy road, I think."
"If he hurts you I can legally break his bones."
"If OíMalley hurts you I can - well, I was going to say give him a hysterectomy, but that would be rude. Letís just say that Lorena Bobbit has nothing on me."
"Weíre kinda pathetic."
Addison smiled at her. "*You* are. Iím not the one in a deserted stairwell having conversations with myself."
"Iím not the one with percolating hormones!"
"Stop quoting me unless you can do it right." She grinned, then pushed herself to her feet and held out her hand. "Come on."
Callie put her hand in Addisonís and let the red head tug her to her feet. She was shocked when Addison wrapped her in a tight hug. She exhaled, feeling the tension diminish slightly as she hugged back. "Thanks, Addy."
"If you need me Iíll be right outside the door." Addison pulled back, grinning at her. "All those cops and Iím on my lunch break."
"And youíre hoping that Alex sees you flirting."
"He can percolate in his own juices."
"We need new verbs. Stat."
Addison chuckled and pulled the door open. Callie walked past her, into the hallway and drew up short. Thunderous applause greeted her and she almost turned and rushed back into the stairwell, but Addison caught her arm and pulled her along beside her. The police officers were clapping, whistling and cheering. She felt herself blushing like an idiot, but tried to lose the Ďdeer in headlights lookí she knew she was sporting. Pulling her lips into a semblance of a smile, she reached out, shaking the first of the hands that were extended toward her.
She caught their comments in disjointed fragments as everyone was speaking at once. Finally, one of the older officers shouted for people to shut up. He put his arm around her shoulders and said, "Dr. Torres, my name is Chief Barker. But you can call me James."
"Callie," she replied. "How is Sergeant Dean?"
"Feisty as hell! Refuses to eat hospital food. Thinks we owe it to him to go find him a roast beef sandwich."
"You think heís up for another visitor?"
"For you? Absolutely. He ran us out." He pushed the door open and nudged her inside. "Tell him his food will be here soon."
Visiting with patients was something she had done a million and one times, but as she pushed back the curtain and gazed down at him, she felt her heart flip in her chest. "Hi," she said softly.
"You better be glad that Iím attached to all this equipment, Doc, because if I was able to get out of this bed youíd be across my knee in a heartbeat."
"Huh?" she asked, then felt foolish at how juvenile she sounded.
"What did I tell you? I specifically said for you to stay behind the group. And to stay out of trouble!"
"Which one of us got shot?"
"I damn well had on protective gear!"
"And boy it worked really damn well!" She picked up his chart from the foot of the bed. "Will you look at that? They havenít ordered an attitude adjustment so maybe I can just pencil that in!"
"I will heal, you know?" he told her. "I think Iím going to make it my mission to give you a ticket every chance I get."
"I can totally stop your pain meds."
"Or you could come around here and let me give you a hug."
Her throat constricted a little and she swallowed hard. Moving to his unbandaged side she leaned down and hugged him. "Iím really sorry about those things I said to you, Sarge."
Callie sat down on the bed next to him. "It - it was my fault that you got shot. You were aggravated that I was being so-"
Reaching out, he lifted her hand in his. "You have got to be kidding me! I was telling Chief Barker this morning that you missed your calling as a cop. You were brave and strong and stupid as hell, but you saved my life."
"After I got you shot."
"Iím sorry. I didnít notice that you had a gun that day. Those *boys* are the reason I got shot." He reached up, brushing away the tear that dropped onto her cheek. "Of course, Iím getting my ass ribbed really good about a *girl* saving me, but I figure if a girl had to do it ... you were the best one for the job."
"I think Ďwomaní was the term you were looking for."
"You remind me of my daughter. Sheís strong like you."
"Iím not that strong."
"If she grows up to be just like you I wonít complain." He smiled up at her. "I bet your father is so proud of you."
"I wouldnít know. He left my mom when she was pregnant with me."
"Then I bet your mother is proud enough of you for both."
"Actually my mom died on 9/11. I donít have any family."
He studied her, his eyes misting a little. "You do now."
Alex narrowed his eyes when he saw what held the interest of several police officers. Addison had seated herself on the ledge of the nurseís station. She was happily swinging her feet back and forth while she laughed far too loudly at something that probably wasnít very funny to begin with. He narrowed his eyes and forgot that he was supposed to be checking labs for Bailey. Moving closer to the station, he pretended to be absorbed in a stack of papers behind the counter.
"Iím telling you itís true," a young cop said, smiling up at her. "He was butt naked and walked right up to me and asked if I had the time."
"What did you do?" Addison asked, glancing to her left at Alex, whose jaw muscles were so tight that she figured there would be dental work in his future.
"I told him he could get the time off the ticket I was giving him for indecent exposure."
"Dr. Montgomery," Alex said. "Iím working on an important case and I could use your help."
"Oh?" She turned a little, smiling at him. "What kind of case?"
"Uh- well, itís - itís a - uhm - man who - who needs a second opinion about a - uhm - procedure."
She held up her badge. "Gynecologist. It says so right, *uhm*, here."
The officers laughed and Alex felt his temper bubbling to the surface. "But youíre also an attending and I canít find anyone else."
"Unless your patient grows a vagina-"
"Unless you want me to complain to the chief -"
"Oooooh, anything but that." She held up her hands and started to slip off the side. Several of the cops came forward and the quickest one put his hands around her waist and lifted her down. "Thank you," she said, smiling up at him. "Tom, right?"
"Whatever you want to call me, gorgeous."
She winked at him, then gasped when Alex shouldered his way through the little crowd and gripped her upper arm. When they were out of earshot, she jerked free and said, "What was that?"
"Anger!" he snapped. "You spent the night with me, Addison. I thought that meant -"
"Meant what? I thought we were taking it slow!"
"Taking it slow with each other! Iím not going to watch you do other guys!"
"No! Forget it. Weíre done."
She cocked her head to one side. "You donít get to break up with me."
"Youíve made it very clear that there is nothing between us."
Addison caught his arm as he started to turn away. "Yes, there is. Okay? I said it. I want to be with you."
Alex narrowed his eyes at her. "You better not be playing me."
"Because I donít do this, Addison. I donít fall like this." He held his arms out. "But here I am. Take a good look. Iím falling for you and Iím giving you the power to destroy me. And hoping that you donít."
The hallway was crowded, but Addison didnít care. His words moved something inside her. She reached forward, grabbed him by the lapels of his white jacket, and kissed him. Hard. Everyone would know about them now.
And she couldnít care less.
George followed Callie into her hotel room and smiled when she quickly picked up a bra and threw it into the closet. He had invited her back to his house, but she had declined. He knew that she was still hurting from the way he had blasted the fact that he didnít want to live with her. He pushed the door shut behind him and watched as she toed off her shoes and rolled her shoulders. The tension that she felt had been evident in the car and he stepped forward, helping her as she shrugged out of her jacket. He put his own coat over hers on the back of the chair and took a deep breath. "You hungry?"
"Iím really not."
"You didnít eat today. And you didnít have dinner last night."
"George, if you want to play food police then go monitor Izzieís baking." She closed her eyes for a second and shook her head. "God, Iím sorry. I -"
"I know." He hugged her, pulling her close to him. "And Izzieís on her own. This is our time."
She wrapped her arms around him, hanging on as if he were a lifeline. "Thank you."
He breathed deep, inhaling the sweet vanilla scent that was hers alone. Tangling his fingers in her soft hair, he kissed her neck, then her cheek. Gently, he pressed his lips against her swollen ones, then smiled at her. "Youíre beautiful. That night you wrote your number on my hand I could barely believe it. You smiled at me and my entire body tingled. And I was terrified."
"Why?" she asked softly.
"Because I couldnít understand why *you* would want *me*." He put his hand on her waist and the other cupped her cheek. "I made a mess of things because I was scared, but Iím not scared now."
Her eyes filled with tears. "Show me."
"We donít have to-"
"Show me," she repeated, softer now. "Please?"
He nodded, barely. Moving behind her, he swept her hair aside and kissed the back of her neck, enjoying the little shiver that raced through her. He nipped the sensitive skin on her shoulder and put his arms around her, slowly unbuckling her belt. "I love the way you smell," he whispered against her flesh. "You smell like the calm after a rainstorm."
He let his thumbs trail over the smooth flesh of her stomach as inch by inch he lifted her sweater over her head. Still standing behind her, he let his fingers skim up her side, smiling when he felt the gooseflesh. He kissed her bare back and unhooked the clasp on her bra. She brought her hands up to remove it, but he said, "Ah ah ah! Iím doing the showing. Remember?"
She smiled and let her hands fall back to her sides. She bit back a moan when he cupped her breasts, reaching under the bra tweaking her nipples. "George-"
"Hush." He pushed her bra down over her arms and let it fall to the floor. Kneeling, he kissed the small of her back, then urged her to turn around. "God, youíre beautiful," he said, his voice hoarse, as he traced her belly button. "Your skin drives me crazy. I love the feel of it pressed against mine. How warm you get when you sleep. Youíre so hard and tough ... you shouldnít feel this soft."
She opened her mouth to reply, but George stood and kissed her again, feather light. "And your eyes? God, your eyes. You get this little crease right here," he touched her brow. "when youíre looking at x-rays. He pushed her bangs aside and pressed a kiss to the spot he had touched. "I could look at you all day."
He unbuttoned her pants and slid the zipper down, bending to push them over her hips. When he stood, he smiled at her, but the smile quickly faded when he saw the tears sliding down her cheeks. "Hey-"
"Iím not hard and tough." Callie chewed her bottom lip. Sheíd never had body issues, but she felt completely exposed, like her nerve endings were raw under his gaze. "I just pretend to be."
"You donít have to pretend with me. Ever." He rested his hands on her hips and pulled her against him. "I love you. All of you. I swear to God."
"No one has ever loved me."
"Iíll love you so much that you wonít even notice anyone else." He brushed the tears away with his thumbs and pulled her toward the bed. Easing her down against the colorful comforter, he watched as she lay back and he knew that he would never be the same again. She had given him strength, courage, and the words to speak what his heart had silenced for so long.
He placed his palm against her chest, letting it rise and fall with her breaths. He had run the gamut of emotion in the past twenty four hours and he took a deep breath, leaning his head down over her heart. The steady beats throbbed against his cheek and he closed his eyes. She could have died. She could have left him. "Never leave me," he whispered.
Callie ran her fingers through his hair. She had regained composure of herself, but at his words, she lost the battle. Tears streamed down her face. "How could I?"
He moved lower, kissing the flesh of her belly, the curve of her hip. When she felt his hot breath on her center, she threw her head back and arched up against him. He captured her legs with his arms, holding her against him as his tongue danced against her aching core. "George-" she babbled, her hands fisting in the cover. "Oh god..."
The taste of her was something that he could never grow tired of. He brought her close and moved away, concentrating on nipping her thigh. She gasped, surging upward. "Please," she moaned. "Please please please."
He ignored her cries and moved to the other thigh, tracing a path with his tongue. She tried to sit up and he splayed his fingers on her stomach, holding her down. Smiling, he blew across her tingling flesh and she fell back again, her hips undulating. He took pity on her and slid two fingers along her cleft and into her. Fastening his mouth against her again, he pushed her over the edge and chuckled a little when her legs locked on either side of his head.
She was panting when he removed his clothes and her eyes were tightly closed when he joined her on the bed. He rubbed his palm over her erect nipple and took the other in his mouth, laving it with his tongue. He kissed her neck, her ear, and then stared down into her eyes as he entered her. Her mouth opened slightly, her cupid bow lips forming a perfect Ďoí as he filled her. "I love you," he whispered.
Her eyes were glazed with lust, but she nodded, her fingernails digging into the flesh of his back. "I know."
Their bodies merged, becoming one and their hearts spoke to one another with a pounding message that transcended time. They made love with their souls and their bodies and the magic of it was more powerful than anything they had felt before. When she came the second time, he joined her, calling her name as he strained against her. Spent, he collapsed on top of her, his fingers winding through her hair.
"Now Iím hungry."
He smiled. "Didnít you tell me they delivered dinner here? We are *not* going out."
Three weeks had ticked past since the school shooting and Callie had been able to avoid the glare of media cameras. Until today. All the major networks were present on the lawn of Liberty High School and she was still seeing spots from the flashbulbs that had assaulted her moments before. Two seats had been reserved at the very front for her and a guest and she slipped into hers, nervously opening the program she had been given. She skimmed over the pages, but nothing registered so she closed it and shifted uncomfortably. "Thanks for coming with me," she said, flipping it open again.
Addison took the program from her. "Would you stop fidgeting?"
"I hate this. I purposely avoid situations like this." It was surreal to be back at the place where so much innocence had been lost. She purposely avoided looking at the cafeteria and focused on the officers who were taking seats on stage. She caught Chief Barkerís eye and waved at him. He winked at her in response. It did little to alleviate the apprehension she felt. "It was bad enough having to relive it in the interrogation room."
"I still canít believe they kept you there for six hours."
"It was a long story to tell."
Nodding with sympathy, Addison squeezed her hand. "I bet OíMalley was *pissed* that he couldnít get time off work to come with you."
"The hospital is so understaffed. With Izzie still at home and Meredith - well - "
"Meredith is on a cruise with my husband. Soon to be ex." With a shrug, Addison smiled at her. "Ask me if I care?"
"The fact that the walls of our apartment are not quite thick enough is all the answer I need. You may as well move Karev in with us. He never goes home." Callie crossed her arms over her chest. "Did you bring tissue? I know Iíll need it."
"George spends quite a bit of time at our place. And I stole Kleenex from the hospital."
"Oooh, youíre the original outlaw." Running a hand over her forehead, she took a deep shaky breath. "Iím scared, Addison."
Addy put her arm around her, leaning close. "Of what?"
"Of life. How fragile it really is." She put her head against Addisonís for a second, then sat up again. "I mean, we see death every single day in the ER and it hurts, but we can shut it down and be doctors first. I canít shut this down. I dream about it. I think about it at the craziest times. I hurt down in my soul and I canít make it stop."
"What you went through in that school house was not something that *anyone* should have to experience. Weíre doctors, sure, but weíre human beings first and you were a human being in a war zone." She rubbed the darker haired womanís arm. "A war zone created by *children*. Donít try to approach it from a medical perspective. Approach it from the heart."
"How did you get so smart?"
"I needed something going for me besides extremely good looks and poor judgment."
Callie started to reply, but applause broke out and the schoolís choir began to sing a haunting tune about triumph. She held Addisonís hand, trying to convince herself that crying this early in the program would be unwise, but as white doves were released at the end of the song she knew that they represented each death and she felt the first tear fall. Addison handed her a tissue and she dabbed at her eyes, grateful that she had purchased water proof makeup after all.
After the doves were out of sight, the Mayor took the podium and spoke at length about the loss of lives and the memorial that would be donated by the city council. Then one by one, he read the names of the children and teachers who had perished. When Juliana Payne was announced, someone sobbed in the crowd and she didnít need to turn around to know who it was. She had visited the young man who had punched her, Philip Dunning, several times and he had been broken over the loss of his beautiful young girlfriend. She wanted to turn and pick him out in the crowd, but she couldnít, wouldnít allow herself to go there. He had tearfully apologized to her, clinging to her every time she visited. He didnít need to see her face and be reminded of anything else.
She concentrated on the ground, watching as a colorful butterfly made its way across the lawn. She wondered why it didnít fly, why it didnít push away from the earth and soar above the crowd. Its slow, arduous progression kept her attention long after the last of the names were read and Chief Barker had taken the microphone. When he said her name, she was jarred back to the present and listened as he spoke about her actions and the lives that she had saved. She could feel herself blushing profusely and tried to appear calm and cool.
"Youíre cutting off the circulation in my hand," Addison whispered.
Callie eased the pressure, but didnít let go. The lump in her throat was back when Sergeant Dean, flanked on his uninjured side by the Mayor, took the microphone. "My name is Sergeant Harrison Dean and Iíve been with this police department for twenty nine years. I have seen and experienced many things during those years, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw at this high school or the unbreakable spirit of a doctor who threw herself in the middle of hell to administer first aid and usher wounded children to safety.
"When Dr. Calliope Torres pushed open those cafeteria doors and told the uninjured children to escort the victims to safety, she not only gave us a way into the school, but she risked her own life to do so. I watched her bandaging children, drying eyes, and saving lives. She eventually saved mine. I told my wife the other night that God had called several Angels into Heaven that day, but he left one behind. Mine. And countless other children who benefited from her on site medical attention.
"Dr. Torres, I would like to say to you that you have shown more bravery and kindness than anyone Iíve ever seen and it is a great honor for me to present you with the key to the city and an honorary badge of courage." He smiled down at her. "Iím putting you on the spot because I owe you one. Come on up here."
"Holy hell," she muttered, trying to force herself to sink into the ground. Addison nudged her and she rose on shaking limbs, trying to breathe as the sound of the applause literally made her cringe. Two officers had come down from the stage and took her arms. There was no getting away. Bulbs began flashing again and she saw stars, but somehow made it up the stairs without stumbling.
Sergeant Dean wrapped her in a tight hug and whispered, "I figure this is better than the spanking you had coming."
She returned the hug and relaxed a little. "I know exactly how much pressure it takes to snap a neck."
"I look forward to having you try." He winked at her and pinned the badge on the jacket of the swanky suit that Addison had picked out. "Now that looks just right."
The Mayor stepped forward, shaking her hand as he held out a velvet box to her that held a large, brass key. She accepted it, commenting that she was honored and didnít feel that she deserved it. He pulled her to the microphone and she froze for a second, but only a second. "Thank you," she said into the mic. "I - uh - wasnít expecting this so I didnít prepare anything to say so Iíll just - speak from the heart."
Laying the key down on the podium, she gripped the sides and stared out at the faces, hoping that she could find the words. You could have heard a pin drop, but she spoke loud and clear. "One of the first things weíre taught in medical school is to distance yourself from your cases. Doctors face some truly horrific things on a daily basis. I wasnít just a doctor here, however. I was a witness, a victim, I was scared, I was frantic, and I was heart broken. I want you to know that I will never be able to distance myself from what happened here because I was a part of it and I see your children every single night in my dreams. Theyíre all-" Her voice broke a little and she tried to steel herself against the overwhelming hurt that she felt. "Theyíre all a part of me."
The butterfly on the ground caught her attention again and she watched for a second as it lifted, then fell back down. She took a deep breath and said, "I think we all come into this world as broken butterflies who never learn to fly. We crawl through tragedy and dance through ecstasy, but we donít use our wings until we take our last breath. And then we soar." She smiled through her tears and nodded at the crowd. "Theyíre soaring. I find a little comfort in that every night. Thank you very much for this undeserved and unexpected gift. I - I really donít know what else to say. Thank you."
She was shaking like a leaf when she was escorted back to her seat. Addison wrapped her a tight hug and she could feel people patting her on the back. The worst was over. She sat down, clutching the velvet box in her hands. "God, did I sound like an idiot?" she asked in a quiet voice.
Addison shook her head. "I think you should have been a motivational speaker instead of the bone crusher."
Callie smiled at her friend.
Life was unpredictable. It was scary, confusing, and heart wrenching at times, but it was also beautiful. Despite the setting, despite the sad song that started to play, she felt fine. Wonderful, actually. Addison was like the sister she had never had and Alex, who was surprising her by proving himself to be very good boyfriend material, was fun to have around. And George. Sweet, fun George. Their relationship had crossed boundaries and ignited into something she had never dreamed possible. Every second she spent with him was like magic.
It felt good to be loved.
And even better to love with all her heart.
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