Title: Ready For A Fall (1/?)
Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Rating: R
Summary: Callie finds out about Gizzie and finds an unlikely ally who is actually on her side.
A/N: I have been wounded and scarred by the recent eps of Grey's Anatomy. I don't know if my muse will ever come back to finish Kissing Chaos. Certain aspects of the show are not sitting well with me.


"How long does it usually take for the newlywed sex to stop?" Callie asked, setting her lunch tray opposite Addisonís.

Addison glanced up from her newspaper and shrugged. "Derek and I got caught all over the hospital the first two years of our marriage. Is George doing the sex machine thing again?"

"George and I havenít had sex in over a week."

"Is he still sick? He looked pretty bad while your dad was here."

"He was hungover, Addison. Not sick. Based on the smell alone, I think he probably drank enough to intoxicate twenty men, but it should be out of his system by now." Callie took a sip of her soda and sighed. "Somethingís going on."

"Yeah. All the interns are about to be testing for the residency program. Thatís pretty scary."

"Itís more than that."

"Have you talked to him?"

"Every time I say anything he tells me that itís all in my head." Callie took a bite of her sandwich and added, "And Izzie Stevens is suddenly acting scared of me. She actually backed away from me earlier when I was asking her to present a case. Itís totally weird. Sheís usually all over the chance to insult me."

Addison sat up a little straighter and glanced across the cafeteria at Izzie. The blond was shooting what could only be called a Ďguiltyí look at Callie. As Addison watched, George entered the cafeteria, took one look at Izzie, then the back of Callieís head, and turned on his heel. The signs were all there. Izzie Stevens had confessed that she had slept with a married man the day that Callieís father arrived. Addisonís stomach sank all the way to her toes as she put two and two together. George had slept with Izzie.

And Izzie thought it was Godís plan.

Callie pushed her barely touched food away and rested her chin in her palm. "Maybe itís me. Maybe heís still reeling from me telling him that Iíve got money. He was really upset about it."

When Addison didnít reply, Callie looked back at her and gasped. Addisonís eyes were flooded with tears. "Oh my god! Are you okay?"

"They slept together," Addison blurted, the clapped a hand over her mouth.

"What?" Callie reached across the table and pulled her friendís hand away from her face. "Who?"

"George and Izzie. Izzie told me that she slept with the wrong guy the night before your father came and I just realized who the married man is that she was talking about."
Frowning, Callie let her hand go and sat back, shaking her head. "That- thatís insane. George - he wouldnít -"

"As someone who cheated ... I know the signs." Addison dabbed at her eyes with a napkin. "Iím sorry to tell you this way."

Callie pushed her chair back roughly and stood. Her gaze found Izzie, who was looking at her with wide eyes. Callie stalked toward the blond and Izzie bolted, sending her chair crashing to the floor as she raced from the cafeteria. Any doubt that Callie had was suddenly gone. She fought the urge to sink to her knees as she felt soul deep pain that she had never experienced in her life. Addison rushed forward as Callie bent at the waist and held her steady.

"Come on." Addison tugged at her, but Callie shook her head. "Callie, people are looking. Donít give them anything to talk about. Come on!"

"I canít breathe," Callie choked out before the onslaught of tears began. "I - Iím dying."

"No. No, youíre not. Letís go."

"He cheated. George cheated on me with the girl who has made my life miserable for months." Callie shook her head, angry now. "After he told me that he didnít have a chance with her because she was a blond, stacked supermodel."

"Letís go to the lounge."
"No. Iím going to go kill both of them!"

Addison chased after Callie as she stalked into the hospital. She attempted to rationalize with her, attempted to physically stop her, but Callie plowed ahead like a freight train. When the dark haired resident slammed open the door of the internís locker room, George glanced up at her. He was eating his lunch alone and he smiled when she appeared, but the smile quickly faded when he saw the tears on her face.

"What happened?" he asked, wiping his mouth and setting his lunch aside. He stood and reached for her, but she knocked his hands away.

"You slept with Izzie. You slept with Izzie the night that we fought. Didnít you?"

"Callie-"

"Didnít you!?" she screamed.

"I - I was drunk and I didnít know what I was doing, but, Callie-"

"Shut up!"

"It didnít mean anything to me. It was a mistake and Iíve been trying to find a way to tell you, but I-"

"I want your things out of my room in one hour."

"No!" George took a step toward her, hands outstretched. "No. Please! We can -"

"We? There is no Ďweí anymore!"

"I can - I can fix this."

"No. No, you canít!" Callie cried. "Weíve been married less than three months! And you cheated on me with the one person that you knew hated me! That girl has done nothing but brutalize me since I met you and you-"

"Iím sorry." George grabbed her hand and attempted to tug her into his arms, but she yanked free.

"Donít touch me!"

"I love you. I love you more than I have ever loved anyone in my life and -"

"George, if you value your life at *all* then stop lying to me. You never loved me. I was just too stupid to realize it." She started to turn away from him, but he caught her arm and tried to hug her. She shoved him, roughly, and shook her head. "Weíre done."

"Let her go," Izzie spoke up from the doorway.

Callie turned, took one look at the woman who had trespassed on what was hers, and punched her with everything she had. Izzieís head rocked back and she slid down the door, landing in a heap on the ground. Callie started to grab her, but Addison got between them, and then Alex Karev had Callie around the waist and was pulling her out of the locker room entirely.

*~*~*~*~*~

Fifteen days.

It had been fifteen of the longest days in Callieís life. Just fifteen days since she learned the truth and fled Seattle as if the hounds of hell were after her, but if felt like a lifetime. She had taken a leave from work ... a leave filled with alcohol, vomit, and tears. She had flown to North Carolina, driven into the mountains, and barricaded herself in a small cabin. No cell phone, no television, no internet. Nothing. Her thoughts were more than enough to keep her distracted and she silenced them as much as possible with hard liquor.

Chief Webber had been understanding. She had the presence of mind to call him from the plane. And Addison as well. Addison had promised to make George pack his things and begged to know where Callie was going, but Callie hadnít replied. She needed time alone, time with Jack Daniels, time with the pain. Unfortunately, the cabin wasnít available for as long as Callie really needed and on the sixteenth day she found herself sucking down champagne in first class on a flight back to Seattle.

The seventeenth day found her hung over and squinting at the scrawling text in a chart. "Who wrote this crap?" she finally snapped. "It looks like a blind man played with a broken pen!"

"That would be me," Alex replied, walking toward her. "And Iím all yours."

"Pardon?"

"Bailey told me to get out of her sight before she sharpened her scalpel on my ass so here I am." He grinned, spreading his arms wide. "Itís your lucky day or something."

"Just great," Callie groaned. "Rule number one, Iím not your baby sitter. You either make yourself useful or make yourself scarce. Iím not going to hold your hand, wipe your nose, powder your ass, or deal with any of your little intern drama. Got it?"

"Are they running PMS through the water here?" Alex asked, but didnít wait for her answer. "I went ahead and had the OR prepped for this guy. Heís gonna need femoral and tibial traction pins."

Callie cocked her head to one side. "Well, arenít you just the smartest little man ever?"

"Thereís nothing little about me other than the size of my patience and youíre wearing it very thin, Torres."

"*Doctor* Torres, Karev." Callie slammed the chart and glared at him. "And for future reference, I happen to be the one in charge so you donít get to tell me what my patient needs."

"Then by all means, *Doctor* Torres, tell me what he needs."

"Femoral and tibial traction pins." Callie narrowed her eyes. "Not one word, Karev."

"Told you so."

"I said -"

"That was *three* words."

"Go find someone else to work with."

"Everyone has an intern."

"Even Sloan?"

"George is with him."

Callie felt her left eye twitch. "Rule number two ... do not mention that name in my presence if you are attached to your various appendages."

"This bitterness is going to eat you alive."

"Rule number three ... youíre not a psychologist so donít act like one. Keep your opinions to yourself. Got it?"

"Why did you go into ortho?"

"Because unlike you and your merry band of misfits, I actually knew what I wanted going into med school."

"But why bones? Itís just so boring."

Callie fought the grin that was building when she said, "Keep that in mind the next time you get a stiff one in your pants. Itís just so boring."

"Hey-"

"Zip it, Karev."

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison slid her lunch tray onto the table and sat across from Callie. The last time they had lunch together had been a horrific event rivaled only by the projectile vomiting incident a few months prior. She narrowed her eyes as she watched the dark haired woman tinker with the lime green Ipod in her hand. After a few seconds, Addy cleared her throat. "Are you ever going to eat again?"

"Iím fasting." Callie took a sip of water and shut the Ipod off. "Lack of food nourishes the mind."

"But hard liquor is okay?"

"Itís a liquid."

"Iím worried about you." Addy rested her chin on her palm as she studied her friend. Callieís coloring was usually so vibrant and healthy, but now her face was grey, ashen. "George asked me to tell you that heís living at the Crestview Motel and wanted me to make sure I mentioned that the roaches are big enough to carry him away. He said to remind you how he feels about roaches."

"He should embrace them. He's the same breed after all."

"Maybe you should just talk to him."

"Because I have so much to say?"

"Because he does."

"And I should care?"

"Cal, heís still your husband and heís really sorr-"

"Do not tell me that heís sorry, Addison. And donít call him my husband. That stopped the second he slept with another woman."

Addison exhaled the breath she had been holding. "Have you seen him lately? He looks worse than you which is saying something."

"I donít care. I genuinely do not give a good god damn."

"But-"

"You sympathize with him because you are a cheater, too. The two of you are on the same plane of wrong. I donít sympathize. I canít. We were *married*. We spoke actual vows that I actually honored and he didnít. As far as Iím concerned George died with our marriage."

Stung by those words, Addison pushed her lunch tray to one side, untouched. "Let me tell you something - people make mistakes. You slept with Mark Sloan and-"

"I wasnít married. I didnít have a husband or even a *boyfriend* at the time because I broke up with George before I did it."

"Iím not just a cheater!" Addy finally snapped. "I happen to be-"

"Oh, really? Because the story that I heard is that you werenít faithful to Derek."

"I slipped, but that doesnít make me a horrible person!"

Callie nodded. "I know that. Youíre a great person, an amazing friend, and kickass doctor, but youíre a shit wife. And George is a shit husband. Donít defend him to me because itís not possible." Callie put her ear bud back in and flipped through her Ipod again. "Tell George I hope the roaches are warmer than the dead carp he cheated on me with."

"Iím not your freakiní telegraph service."

"But youíre his?" Callie could only shake her head. "This topic is officially off limits from this point on, Addy. I like you. I really like you and I love that weíre friends, but one more mention of George in anything other than a Ďlet me help you hide the bodyí capacity is going to seriously ruin what we have."

"Fine!" Addison snapped. She wanted to relish the anger she felt at Callie, but one look at the dark circles under her friend's eyes prevented it. Reaching out, she took the Ipod from Callie and yanked the earpiece from her. "I have something else to tell you."

Callie frowned a little. "What?"

"Izzieís hair is green." The redhead smiled devilishly. "Does that help at all?"

"Green? How? Why?"

"She got into a hot tub at the spa and it did her in."

"So I guess sheís not a natural blond."

"Sheís dumb enough to be."

"And mean enough."

"She was crying in the bathroom. Someone called her an elf or something."

Callie shook her head. "I wish thatís all I had to cry about."

"You wouldnít cry if you didnít still love him."

"Addison-" Callie warned.

"He also asked me to tell you that he misses you and he misses your infamous hotel bubble - whatever that means."

Wordlessly, Callie stood and tossed her water into the trash. Without a backward glance, she stalked away, ignoring Addison when she called her name.

*~*~*~*~*~

Alex heard someone crying in the residentís lounge and paused outside the door. He was technically not supposed to trespass on sacred resident turf but who was he to comply with hospital policy. Quietly pushing the door open, he found the source of the noise and stepped inside. Callie was sitting on the window seat, her legs pulled up to her chest and her face was resting against her knees. She was crying hard enough to alarm him and he clenched his fists at his sides when he considered what could have brought on the onslaught. He still could not wrap his head around Izzie and George - no - it was nauseating to even contemplate it and he had just eaten.

He shut the door behind him and smiled apologetically when the loud click caused Callie to jump and look his way. "Hey," he said softly. "Are you okay?"

"No," she admitted, her voice trembling. "Addison has suddenly decided that she is Georgeís biggest fan and his personal mouthpiece and she wonít shut up about it."

"But on the plus side - Izzie has green hair."

"So I heard."

"It almost matches the still greenish bruise on her eye that you gave her." He pulled an apple from his jacket pocket and said, "Want half?"

"No."

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

"You want to put us all out of work?"

He shrugged, still holding it out. "Come on. Eat the apple."

"No, Satan. I have enough knowledge. Too much, actually."

Alex hopped onto the window seat next to her and smiled. "What are you doing tonight?"

"Sleeping? Drinking? Crying? Moping?" Callie watched as he polished the fruit and bit into it. She saw for the first time exactly what it was about him that kept Addison up all night. She watched with wide eyes as he licked a trickle of juice from the ripe, red skin and felt her toes curl in her shoes. No, she thought, donít go there. Ever. Itís so wrong that wrong fears it. You're lonely and sad and broken and he's - forbidden. Forbidden fruit. That's why he's eating that. Metaphors. Signs. Read the signs, idiot.

As if he hadnít just molested the apple, Alex continued the conversation. "Because theyíre having two for one night at Vinnieís Italian Bistro and I thought you could tag along."

"Whatís the catch?"

"Thereís a catch now?" Alex chewed thoughtfully and swallowed. "Iím tired of eating alone. And Iím cheap as hell so if I can drag a friend with me and she can eat for free then who am I to deny her?"

"Weíre friends now?"

"Arenít we?"

"Is there alcohol at Vinnieís Italian Bistro?"

"We can bring our own."

Callie thought of her very empty, very silent hotel room. The prospect of facing it any sooner than absolutely necessary was too much. "Fine. Iím in, but whatís in it for you?"

"The company?"

"Because we get along so well or something."

"Or something." He gave her a little smirk that caused a dimple to appear in his cheek. "Any more questions, Torres?"

"*Doctor* Torres, Karev," she corrected. "And I donít have any more questions but I want to make something clear. We are not going to talk about George."

"Or Izzie," he replied.

"Or marriage."

"Or Addison," he said.

"Why not?" Callie asked. "I could tell her how much you want her."

"No," he shook his head. "That ship has sailed."

"And youíre not going down with it?"

"Iím too busy trying to stop you from going down with yours."

Callie shrugged. "I can swim."

"So can I."

"And I donít want to be saved."

"I didnít say that I wanted to save you. I said I wanted to stop you. From drowning. Which is what youíre doing."

"If I wanted to drown Iíd be dead right now."

"Youíre mostly dead."

"Oh my god. Did you actually just quote ĎThe Princess Brideí?"

Alex shook his head. "Inconceivable! Iíd never watch that!"

"Alex!"

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Callie laughed. She actually laughed from the gut and it shocked her. "Youíre so weird."

"Itís a good movie!"

"Chick flick," she replied. "You like a chick flick."

"Well, Mr. Man, whatís your favorite movie?"

Without missing a beat, Callie said, "ĎThe Gooniesí."

Alex lifted an eyebrow. "Seriously?"

"Seriously. Chunk rocks. I see a lot of myself in that kid."

He snorted. "Yeah, right. Hot ortho doc or short, fat boy... parallels ... not so much."

"Iím fat. And that was so me as a kid - trying like hell to fit in. And my mouth gets me into trouble and -" She trailed off, then added. "George called me Ďcurvyí. Right after he waxed poetic about how perfect Izzie is. Stacked, blond, supermodel Izzie."

"You *are* curvy, but believe me when I say that theyíre in all the right places." He openly eyed her chest, not caring that it was so obvious. "And not for nothing, but Izzie is not all that. She has horrible flaws inside and out."

"Inside maybe. Outside -"

"Green hair," Alex told her.

"Can be bleached."

"Wonky European teeth. And her back gets zits."

"Oh heavens! An actual chink in the beautiful armor?"

"And did I mention the self-absorbed, self-involved cruelty thing she has going for her. You know thereís something wrong with a chick who starts all her sentences with ĎIí and usually ends them with Ďmeí. Plus, she falls in love with the wrong people every time she gets the chance. Denny, George-"

"So sheís in love with him? I knew it."

"What I donít understand is why." Alex tossed the apple core into the trash and turned back to her. "How could OíMalley -"

"Please donít question why Miss Wonderful would fall for him. Okay?"

"What I was going to say," he replied, "is how could OíMalley find love, actual love, with you and then toss it away for the bargain basement rebound thing that Izzie used him for. Thatís all he is for her. A rebound. Heís a surrogate Denny. A surrogate Denny who doesnít even want her."

That got Callieís attention. "Heís not with her?"

"He wonít have anything to do with her. You had all of his things sent to Meredithís and Izzie unpacked it all into her room and he repacked every last box that same night. He took a lot of it to his parentís place. Heís staying at that dingy little motel called-"

"Weíre not talking about George."

"Fine. Weíre not talking about George."

Callie nodded. "Why isnít he with her though?"

"Why would he trade for a Pinto when heís had the Rolls Royce?"

"You donít have to badmouth her for me, Karev. I know that you two had a thing and sheís your friend and-"

"Actually, I do have to badmouth her. She put me through hell for cheating on her with Olivia. She said that it hurt her more than sheís ever been hurt and she judged me, hated me, and made me miserable for a long time because of it. Now sheís a mistress and sheís trying really hard to smell like roses and be the victim, but she canít."
"You were with Olivia, too? God, you and George like to run in the same sex circles, huh?"

"Maybe." Alex openly appraised her again. "But unlike George - I know a good thing when I see it."

"Are you attempting to flirt with me?"

"Why? Is it working?"

Her pager beeped loudly and she almost jumped out of her skin. She checked the number and made a face. "Emergency room. I guess we should go."

"As you wish."

She chuckled as she hopped down. "Are you on pit?"

"The pit of despair."

"Stop with ĎThe Princess Brideí quotes! Letís go!"

"Hey, you rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles."

"How many times have you seen that movie?!"

"Enough to know the sword fight step by step."

"Never, ever show me."

"But you should see my sword..."

"I didnít hear that."

Alex followed after her.

She wasnít crying anymore.

He really was a miracle worker.
Ch 3
The chapel at Seattle Grace was small and nondescript. Six pews sat on either side of a small aisle and the floor was covered in burgundy carpet. An altar with several lit candles stood at the front of the room and every pew had several boxes of tissue handy. Alex had hidden in the small room to avoid the latest couple claiming to be Avaís parents. There was just no way the loud, obnoxious and rude people could have parented Ava. He was deep in thought, contemplating DNA tests and anything that could be done to jog Avaís memory when Callie rushed into the room and promptly collapsed a few feet away from him.

He grabbed tissue first, but discovered the box was empty and tossed it aside. Wasting no time, he grabbed another and then kneeled beside her, instinctively wrapping his arms around her. She smelled good, like honeysuckle and roses. Or maybe cherry blossoms. He wasnít sure, but it was soft and sweet. When she stiffened, he spoke quietly, reassuring her that it would be okay. She mumbled something about her ring and giving it back to George and when he saw that her left hand was bare, he understood what had happened.

Her tears eventually subsided and he helped her to her feet, sitting next to her on the front pew. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"I donít think so." She dabbed at her face and sniffled. "Being kidnapped isnít very fun."

"Kidnapped?"

"George followed me into the elevator, hit the stop button, and wouldnít let me start it again. He kept saying-"

"He stopped you from leaving when you wanted to?"

"Well, yeah. He wouldnít let me go."

"Iíll kick his ass for that."
"Alex-"

"No. This is a *hospital*. He canít be stranding the elevators or holding you hostage or -"

"You sound like Bailey."

"Thatís a good idea. Iíll tell Bailey and *she* can kick his ass. God, she would kill him."

Callie nodded. "I gave him back the ring."

"Good. You deserved better than that anyway."

She shook her head. "I really loved it because it came from his heart. You know? He went out on his own and got it the first night we were in Vegas. I was fine using a ring that I already had, but he insisted. He was so proud."

Alex heard her voice choking up again and put an arm around her. "Heís not worth crying over."

"I honestly wanted to be married to him, Alex. I did. I really loved him and now I canít believe how much I hate him. I genuinely, really, and truly loathe him."

"Thereís a thin line between love and hate." He squeezed her hand, but didnít let it go. "The best thing you can do is ignore him."

"I have been." Callie sighed and rubbed her stomach as it gurgled loudly.

"Youíre hungry."

"Iím thirsty. The whole rule about not drinking while we practice medicine is wrong, so wrong. We do have the most stressful job on the planet."

"No, we donít. Crab fisherman do."

Callie gasped and looked up at him. "You watch ĎDeadliest Catchí?"

"Duh! Half the fisherman live here in Seattle, Cal. Havenít you seen Sig Hanson at Joeís?"

"Shut up!" Her eyes widened, but Alex simply nodded at her. "Youíre serious?"

"I donít lie about crab fishing because crab, while I canít really afford it, is my favorite food." He grinned at her. "Let me buy you a sandwich."

"Thank you, but I canít."

"Why not."

"Iím avoiding the cafeteria. He takes his lunch break around this time and -"

"And letís give him something to talk about." He stood and held out his hand. "You in?"

"In what?"

"Turnabout is fair play, wouldnít you say?" He cocked his head a little. "I canít think of anything that would bother George more than me hanging out with you. And it will piss Izzie off, too, since Iím one of the planets that she thinks is supposed to revolve around her. So, two birds with one stone, right?"

"Youíre insane."

"I love to get under peopleís skin. It makes my day so much happier."

"Well, God forbid I should stop you from finding a happy place."

When she stood, he took her hand in his and grinned at her. "Ready for our shocking debut?"

"Debut of what?"

"Who knows? Letís keep them guessing."

*~*~*~*~*~

Izzie was sitting next to Meredith, self consciously poking strands of green hair under her scrub cap. Cristina slid into the seat across from her and gave her a look that was both mocking and full of glee. Izzie glared at her and said, "What? I have an appointment in two days to get it done!"

"Two full days?" Cristina snorted a little. "Miss Clairol, Izzie. Every drug store has it."

"I need a professional," Izzie replied, then brightened a little. "Oooh, thereís George." She leaned back and frantically waved at him.


Meredith and Cristina exchanged looks when George turned away and sat on the other side of the cafeteria. "Maybe he didnít see you." Meredith told Izzie, trying to sound sincere.

"Are you kidding? He looked right at her." Cristina took a bite of her sandwich. "You made it weird, Izzie. The drunken sex? Thatís even worse than Georgeís singing and I really doubted that he would show his face after that."

"Shut up," Izzie snapped and dug into her chocolate cake. She devoured it in about four bites and then asked Meredith for hers. She was enjoying it thoroughly when someone laughed, loudly, behind her.

Alex was sitting next to Callie, leaning unbelievably close to her, and whatever he was saying to her was apparently amusing her to no end. The three female interns watched with interest as she playfully punched him on the shoulder and he caught her hand, then whispered something in her ear. Cristina was the first to notice George, who had stood up. She tapped Meredith on the arm and pointed at him.

"Oh crap." Meredith bit her bottom lip.

"Bambi is about to get his ass kicked." Cristina pushed her plate away and fished a twenty dollar bill from her pocket. "My money is on Callie."

Izzie slowly got to her feet and took a step forward, only to be yanked backwards by Meredith. "But-"

"But nothing." Mer held her arm firmly. "Iím the one who had to x-ray your face to see if any bones were broken the last time you got near Callie and remember, I am tiny and she can hurt me, so Iím not jumping in between you two."

"Me either. I think you deserve it." Cristina took a bite of her own cake and stood so she could have a better view. "Itís like watching a little virgin about to be sacrificed."

*****

"Callie?"

Callie was still chuckling at the way Alex had changed the words to ĎYou Belong To Meí to ĎYouíre A Dog With Fleasí when George stepped up beside them. She felt Alex put a reassuring hand on her thigh and took a deep breath, keeping the smile on her face. "Dr. OíMalley, I would prefer it if you addressed me as Dr. Torres at work."

George could see exactly where Alexís hand was and he felt his own hands fist at his sides. "What are you doing?"

Callie glanced around, then down at the untouched fruit tray in front of her. "Well, weíre in a cafeteria. Iím on a break. Thereís food in front of me. Iíd say Iím having lunch."

"What are you doing with *him*?"

Alex plucked a grape off Callieís plate and tossed it into his mouth, the smirk never leaving his face. "Iím having lunch, too."

George narrowed his eyes at Karev. "Youíre not going to get under my skin."

"Is that why you look like your about to have a stroke?" Alex pointed as his own face and said, "Youíre all red, dude."

Ignoring him, George spoke to Callie. "Can you please come and talk to me?"

"No."

"Callie, please? I - I feel like Iím dying."

"Not yet." Alex plucked another grape and nudged her with his leg. "It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead."

Callie, who had taken a sip of her soda, almost blew it from her nose as she started to laugh. She laughed hard, she laughed in a way that a few days ago she had considered an impossibility. "Stop with the Princess Bride quotes!" she wiped at her mouth, still grinning. "You mock his pain."

"Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is obviously selling something." Alex chewed the grape thoughtfully as he looked up at George. "Besides, he caused his problems himself. You made your bed, Georgie, so you can sleep in it."

"Could you shut up?" George glared at him, then put his hand on Callieís shoulder and tried to turn her to face him. "You will-

Alex caught his hand at once and stood, twisting the shorter manís arm behind his back. "Donít touch her and while I have your full attention let me make one thing very clear to you ... the next time you lock her in an elevator or a room or a closet or within five feet of yourself ... youíre going to need the ICU for about six months."

Callie got her feet just as George swung his right fist at Alexís face. It clipped her in the nose and she half stumbled into Alex, whose face was now even redder than Georgeís had been. He grabbed her, tilted her chin, saw the blood and, still clutching Georgeís left hand, slammed him face first onto the table. Callie intervened before Alex could do it a second time and pulled him away. She felt her own blood dripping from her nose, over her lips, and cupped her face.

George, who finally realized who he had punched, reached for her. "Oh my god. Callie, I didnít mean-"

Alex stepped around Callie and shoved him hard, causing George to land on his backside. "Stay the FUCK away from her!"

George scrambled back to his feet and glared at Alex. "You slept with her! You slept with my wife! My WIFE!"

"George!" Callie, who had been wrestling the napkin holder with shaking hands finally gave up and threw it on the ground in front of her. "I am not your wife! I stopped being your wife when you cheated on me with that - that good for nothing, white trash, trailer park dwelling, Anna Nicole Smith wannabe! You can have her! You deserve each other!"

"I married you!" George plucked up several of the napkins that had fallen out of the holder and held them out to her. "Iím sorry. I didnít mean to hit you."

"Oh?" Callie slapped his hand away and then drew back and putting her weight into it, hit him with a right hook that spectators would claim for weeks actually lifted him off his feet. "I just meant it enough for both of us."

And with that, she turned on her heel and left the cafeteria with her head held high.

Thirty minutes later she was sitting in one of the smaller trauma rooms with an ice pack on her hand while she waited for the X-rays to come back. She knew that nothing was broken in either her nose or her hand, but Alex had insisted and because he gave her a choice of letting him check her out or strangling George with IV tubing, she agreed to the tests. The nurse finally arrived with the films and she watched as Alex tacked them to the lightboard and studied every inch of them.

"Nothingís broken," he finally announced and shut the light off.

"Told you."

"Where did you learn to fight like that anyway?"

"I grew up in Miami and I already told you that I was the designated whipping post at school. My older brothers taught me how to fight before I was potty trained."

Alex lifted the ice pack off her hand and held it in his own, massaging it, warming it. "Remind me not to piss you off."

"You havenít so far."

He lifted one brow. "Thatís not entirely true. You were pissed last night when you found out where I lived."

"I was more shocked than pissed," she replied. "What were you doing in the chapel earlier?"

"Hiding."

"Hiding?"

He explained about the people who claimed to Avaís parents while he slowly wrapped her hand in an ace bandage. After he secured it, he said, "Have you met her?"

"Not really. I consulted with Sloan about the bones in her face, but didnít work the case." She studied him. "Why?"

"I think youíd like her."

"Do you like her, Alex?"

"I like her."

"Do you *like* her, Alex?"

"You know," he said, sitting next to her on the stretcher. "Itís weird. When I pulled that pylon off her face and looked down at her I saw my mother."

"Your mother?"

"I know it sounds insane because Ava is clearly younger than me, but the first real memory I have of my mother is me pulling a chair off her. My father had beaten her into unconsciousness. I couldnít have been more than six or seven. Maybe younger. It was Christmas Eve and my dad was pissed because she didnít have enough money for beer after she bought a turkey and stuff for a real dinner the next day.

"She had put me to bed early, telling me that Santa would come, but since he never did and my father liked to tell me I was a fucking bastard every chance he had, I wasnít holding out much hope for Santa. But I went to bed anyway and her screams woke me up."

Saying nothing, Callie put her bandaged hand on top of his. He laced their fingers gently to avoid hurting her as he continued. "That whole night I kept talking to her and she wouldnít wake up so I did the only thing I could think of. I put cookies beside the fireplace and a glass of milk, the way the kids at school said they were going to do, and I kneeled down and prayed that Santa would bring my mother back. Then I got a blanket from my bed and slept next to her on the kitchen floor."

Alex smiled a little. "Santa came that year. My mom woke me up that morning and she had tried to cover the bruises and the blood had been cleaned up and when I saw the used bicycle in front of the tree I knew that Dadís beer money had bought that for me and the beating she took was so that I could have a present."

"Iím sorry," Callie whispered.

"Iíve never told anyone that story." He sounded shocked and glanced at her. "Ever."

"Then thank you for sharing it." She smiled a little. "And for not letting it break you."

"We are not our past, Callie. Weíre our present and Iím okay." He glanced over at her. "Are you? Your nose could light up the sky, Rudolph."

"He was aiming at you."

"Donít do that. Donít make excuses for him."

"Iím not."

"You are." Alex glanced up at the big clock on the wall. "Our shifts are up. Want to get out of here?"

"What did you have in mind?"

"Want to go see a movie?"

"Sure." Callie grinned at him. "Can I pick?"

"As you wish."

"Johnny Deppís new one is out."

"I take it back."

"Now now, donít go back on your word."

"Dammit." He made a face as he hopped off the bed and helped her down. "I pick the next one."

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison called Callieís cell number again and frowned. She had left no less than six messages and had called at least six more only to hang up when it clicked over to voice mail. Her little black dress was clinging to her body in all the right ways and she had splurged on the Prada pumps that she had been eyeballing for weeks. She pushed her freshly washed hair over her shoulder and picked up the hotel phone, asking to be connected to Callieís room. When there was no answer, she hung up and grabbed her purse.

In the parking garage, she noted that Callieís car was not in the usual spot and got into her own. Her hunger had reached critical mass so she quickly left the hotel in search of food. She wasnít exactly dressed for Joeís but the man could make a great club sandwich and with any luck, she would find Callie there. She pulled into a spot near the entrance and ignored the catcalls that a group of men sent her way as soon as her long leg emerged from her convertible.

Once inside, she scanned the bar for her friend and took a seat at the bar. Joe appeared at once and set a glass in front of her. "Hey, Ads! Howís it going?"

"Good, you?"

"Busy night."

"I see that." Addison scanned the crowd again. "Have you seen Callie? We were supposed to be meeting for dinner."

"I havenít seen her, but after everything Iíve heard today Iím not shocked."

"What do you mean?"

Joe leaned forward, bracing himself on his elbows. "Everyoneís talking about it. Apparently George accused Alex of sleeping with Callie in the cafeteria because those two were all over each other and then Alex and George started to fight, George accidentally hit Callie, and Callie punched him so hard that the latest estimate is that he went two feet into the air, but Yang says it was more like four feet."

"What?" Addison was scandalized. "He hit her?"

"Everyone says that he didnít mean to do it, but she had a bloody nose and Alex played the dashing prince and fought for her honor." Joe glanced toward the small group of interns at the table in the corner. "Izzie said that Alex and Callie were having foreplay right in the middle of the food court and that the only thing stopping it from being sex was the fact that they had their scrub pants on."

Addison blinked several times. "Callie and Alex? *Karev*?"

"I know, right?" Joe shook his head and stood up a little more. "Karev gets around! It was what? A few weeks ago that I saw the two of you kissing in this very spot."

"They were kissing?" She could feel anger bubbling from somewhere deep inside. "Are you sure?"

"Well, I donít know how many other ways you can have foreplay in public that wouldnít get you banned from the hospital." He shrugged. "What can I get you, kiddo? You want food or spirits?"

"Uh, neither." Addison shook her head and got to her feet. "I - I gotta go."

When she grabbed her purse and turned, George was standing behind her. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy and his lip was so swollen it looked like he had an entire package of chewing tobacco tucked behind it. His jaw was mottled with bruises and he stared at her, his eyes accusing. "Did you know?" he finally asked, and his voice was hoarse from the apparent tears that he had shed. "Did you know about her and Alex?"

"No." Addison shook her head. "Joe just told me."

"Heís sleeping with her."

"Did they tell you that?"

"They didnít deny it." George ran a hand through his hair, making it stand on end and it completed the look of a man who was completely broken. "I - I just - my dad was right, you know? He said that she was the one for me, that she got me, and that I would be crazy to let her get away and I didnít see it. I didnít see it, Dr. Montgomery. I didnít see it until she was gone."

"You're drunk," Addison said, digging through her purse for a tissue. "You didnít drive here did you?"

"Iím living in my car now. Can't afford a decent place and the roaches finally got to me." George blew his nose. "I canít go back to Meredithís and my mother would choke me to death with her bare hands if I showed up on her doorstep and had to tell her what happened between me and Callie."

"When was the last time that you ate?"

"I dunno." George looked heavenward, his eyes tearing again. "She wonít even talk to me. I - I made a mistake that I donít even completely remember so I donít think I even liked it."

Addison met Joeís gaze and the bartender shrugged. "Come on, studmuffin." Addison put an arm around his shoulder and led him toward the door. "You can sleep on the sofa at my place and weíll order enough room service to soak up all that liquor."

"Iím never eating again."

"I know." Addison patted him on the back as she led him to her car, where she buckled him in and tried not to notice that he was in the exact same shape she had been the night Derek had left her.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Admit it." Callie took a sip of her frozen drink as the credits rolled and the lights came up. "You liked it."

"Not in a million years."

"Liar." She grinned a little as he tilted the bag of popcorn back and finished it off. "Do you have someplace that you need to be?"

"Nope."

"Iím hungry."

His eyes widened. "Itís about damn time."

"Johnny Depp. ĎNuff said."

"Bull shit. It was the smell of this buttery popcorn that you refused to even try."

"I know a great place and theyíre open late."

"Lead the way."

Thirty minutes later they were being seated outdoors at a swanky seafood place that overlooked Elliot Bay. The lighting was dim and there were two small tea candle lanterns on either side of the scrubbed wooden table. Callie ordered a glass of wine and urged Alex to do the same, telling him that it complemented the king crab legs perfectly. He figured that he could put his credit card to good use and agreed, scanning the food prices on the menu.

The manager brought the wine himself and addressed Callie by name, asking for her order. She introduced Alex and said, "Crab. Lots and lots of crab, Nate."

Bowing slightly, the manager hurried toward the kitchen and Callie beamed at Alex. "Itís your favorite food on the planet."

"Itís also the most expensive on the planet which is why I only eat it once a year."

"Then consider yourself lucky because George hated seafood of any kind and Iím rich enough to buy this restaurant, this street and probably half of Seattle."

"Huh?"

"Oh, you didnít hear? I thought everyone knew."

"Youíre rich?"

"Very."

He finally said, "Uh, how rich exactly?"

"Do you like the wine?"

"Itís actually the best Iíve ever had."

Callie lifted her hand and a waiter appeared. "Weíd like the bottle, please."

She waited until the waiter was out of earshot and said, "You trusted me this afternoon and told me about your mom so Iím gonna return the favor. No one knows this either. I mean, George knows that I have money, but he has no idea how much. My family is old money. My mother is Greek and her family is one of the wealthiest in Greece. My dad is technically Cuban, but he was born here in the states. His parents had inherited millions years ago and my dad, being as business savvy as he is, put a ton of stock in the computer craze and his money quadrupled in a matter of years. Now he dabbles in real estate and oil and he has resorts and villas all over the world that turn over billions of dollars every year."

"Billions?"

"Billions." Callie leaned back in her seat as the bottle of champagne was brought to the table in a beautiful wine chiller. She plucked it out, looked at the date, and said, "Thatís why paying four thousand dollars for a bottle of wine or twenty five hundred a week to stay at the Archfield really doesnít matter to me."

Alex choked on his wine, his eyes round. "Four thous- Callie! Four thousand dollar for a bottle of *wine*?"

"Itís good. You said so yourself."

"Oh my god."

Callie bit her bottom lip as she watched him stare out over the bay. "Are you freakiní out?"

"Why? Do most people freak out?"

"Yes. My bank account has cost me every relationship Iíve ever had and was the catalyst that drove George into Izzieís bed. Well, that and the fact that sheís his ideal woman. His Venus. His dirty whore. God, I hate them both."

"Now whoís freakiní out?"

"Iím not freakiní out."

"You look like youíre freakiní out. If you hold that glass any tighter youíll shatter it." Alex reached across the table and took it from her. "Any more secrets?"

"Only that Iím dying."

"Come again?"

"Iím dying."

"You want to explain that one a little better?"

"When my family finds out that Iím going to be divorced theyíre going to kill me. My mother claims that she already wrote me out of her will for eloping and so this? Iím signing my own death warrant by signing the divorce papers."

"How about an annulment?"

"Same difference really. My family is very religious and very old fashioned. My mother especially."

"Tell her that Jesus would not want you to stay with a cheater."

"Oh god no." Callie shook her head, her eyes wide. "If my dad or my brothers caught wind of what George did to me ... that would be signing his death warrant. Iím the baby of the family and the only girl so that makes me special."

"Thatís not what makes you special."

Their food arrived and Callie reached for a piece of bread, which she savored for a while. She watched as Alex cracked into the crab legs and instead of putting them on his plate, he filled hers first, digging out the meat for her. No one had ever done that for her and she smiled as she finished off her wine and refilled her glass, then his. Their conversation was light while they ate. They joked, mostly about their weirdest patients, and finally Callie leaned back and rubbed her stomach. "God, Iím full."

"You barely ate!" He pointed at her plate, at the mound of food still there.

"You gave me ten freakiní pounds." She scraped what remained into his plate, which was empty.

Not missing a beat, he dug in. "God, this is good. Not for nothing, youíre a damn good dinner date."

She nodded and then her mouth dropped open. "Holy hell!"

"What?"


Digging through her purse, she turned her cell phone on. It immediately beeped and she saw that Addison had called. Several times. "I was supposed to have dinner with Addison tonight."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. We were supposed to get all dressed up and look pretty and -"

"Well, you got most of it right without her. You look very pretty."

"Now I know youíre flirting with me."

"What would you say if I was? Really?"

She took a deep breath. "Iíd tell you that you probably shouldnít because Iím a little tipsy from the wine and youíre looking better and better to me and it wouldnít be fair to either one of us to pursue something right now."

"Why not?"

"Because I like you. I genuinely like you and I donít know whatís going to happen in the next few weeks with George or my family or at work once Webber gets wind of what happened today so-"

"Iím a big boy. I can take it."

"It wouldnít be fair to you, Alex. Donít you get it?"

"Youíre not ready."

"Iím not ready."

"But if you were -"

"We would have already been back at my room and halfway there," she stated bluntly.

"Youíre wrong."

"Am I?"

"You wouldnít be halfway there. You would have been there several times and weíd just be getting started good."

She swallowed hard and licked her lips, glancing down at her hands. Her ring had left an indentation in her finger that refused to go away. Closing her eyes, she remembered the way Georgeís hands shook as he slipped the simple, silver band over her finger. He had never taken his eyes off her and she believed him when he spoke his vows in a strong, succinct voice. Her eyes found Alexís again and she shook her head. "Iím sorry."

"Itís okay." He leaned forward and used his thumb to wipe away a small amount of butter from her cheek. "You canít blame a guy for trying, though."

"Youíre good at trying."

"Iím even better at waiting. And I will wait."

*~*~*~*~*~

Alex dropped her off at the hotel and slowly meandered the residential streets until he pulled into Meredithís driveway. The moon was full and seemed to hang directly over him, bright and shiny. Making a mental note to joke with Callie the next morning about werewolves, he grabbed his duffel bag, which contained his soiled scrubs, and headed into the house, whistling. Meredith was sitting on the bottom of the stairs, a cup of hot cocoa in her hands.

"Hey," he said, shutting the door behind him. "Youíre up late."

"Cristina is sleeping in my bed again. She flails."

Alex glanced into the living room, but Derek wasnít on the sofa. "And Shepherd?"

"Weíre in an off phase. He met a woman."

"Thereís a lot of that going around." Alex dropped the duffel at his feet and sat down next to her.

"What are you doing with Callie?"

"Trying to keep her mind off OíMalley."

"Donít you think you should stay out of it?"

"Not really. Sheís my friend."

"Since when?"

"You know - Iíve listened to all of you at one time or another bitch about her. Izzieís the fucking worst, but all of you have said things. George made a mistake. He rushed into something with her. Sheís not good enough for him. Sheís a bitch, sheís a whore. And you know what?"

"We were wrong?"

"Exactly. And she genuinely loved him. And sheís genuinely hurt in the most horrible way possible. I saw what I did to Izzie when I slept with Olivia and we werenít even technically together at the time. Callieís hurting and she doesnít have anyone on her side."

"Itís not that weíre not on her side, Alex, but George - George is one of us. Weíre the interns!"

"Is that really something to be proud of though? One of us? Look at the mistakes weíve made. And when you really think about it, it shouldnít be us against them, because weíre going to be one of them one day very soon."

"Thatís true." Meredith sipped her cocoa and sighed. "But a little bit of friendly advice? If youíre sleeping with her you should stop. If you havenít, you shouldnít. Sex complicates everything and solves nothing."

"Iím not sleeping with her. I wanted to, but I didnít. She wouldnít."

"Really? I just figured that since she was with McManWhore-"

"See, youíre wrong about her again."

"Thatís not all we were wrong about," Izzie said, walking down the stairs behind them. She sat behind Meredith and wrapped her arms around her bare legs. "George does love her. He loves her and not me." She glanced up at the ceiling and her eyes brimmed with tears. "God, it sounded different out loud than it did in my head."

"Most things do," Meredith offered, then handed Izzie her cup. She watched as the blond took several sips, handed it back to her, and dried her eyes. "Things will work out. They usually do."

"Since when are you Polly Sunshine?" Cristina joined them, her hair sticking out like curly horns and her eyes puffy from sleep. She grabbed the mug of chocolate and drained it, then crossed her arms. "Itís either too late at night or too early in the morning to be having a bonding moment."

"Why are you awake then?" Alex asked.

"Because Bethany Whisper over here has been playing the same sad shit for the past forty minutes and crying off key. Which apparently means that Bambi isnít in her bed for a change."

"It was *one* time!" Izzie shouted. "Once! And it was a big deal to me because it was right after ... right after Denny died and it felt right."

"Everything feels right when youíve had enough bourbon." Cristina rubbed her eyes. "I once sutured my own leg at a frat party and didnít even realize it for two days."

"How did you cut it open?" Alex asked.

"I didnít." Cristina glared at him. "I was practicing my technique. And in case you failed to notice I do have the best suturing technique in our year. Yours usually look like loose shoe strings."

"How long is she going to be living here?" Alex asked, glaring at Meredith.

"Until Burke stops being an ass."

"Burke is always an ass."

"Then I guess sheís here to stay."

"I really gotta find a place," Alex said. He stood and picked up his bag.

"Alex?" Izzie asked softly.

"Yeah?"

"Is she okay? I mean, Callie?"

"How do you think she is?"

"Not good," Izzie replied.

"Would you sleep better if I told you that she cried her heart out and wants to die?"

"No!"

"Fine, Iíll tell you the truth. Sheís strong and sheís okay. This isnít beating her and sheís not going to hide under the bed or let either one of you get to her because sheís better than that." His eyes met Izzieís and he added. "Sheís better than you and itís no wonder George would rather have her. Wouldnít we all?"

Izzie jumped to her feet and rushed back up the stairs, her sobs hanging in the air. Cristina sighed and said, "Iím sleeping on the sofa."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 4
*~*~*~*~*~

Callie made a quick pit stop by the vending machine in the lobby of the hotel. She didnít have much experience with female friends but one language was universal in female and that language was chocolate. With her arms laden and her belly full for the first time in days, she rode the elevator to Addisonís room with a smile on her face. She had to knock on the door with her foot and after a few minutes, the redhead opened it and peered out.

"Hey." Callie nodded at the wine glass in her hand. "Whatcha drinking?"

"Rum."

"Is the rum gone?"

"What are you doing?"

"Sorta quoting ĎPirates Of The Caribbean', which you loved as much as me."

"Oh." Addison watched her closely, trying to gauge whether or not Callie felt remotely guilty for what she had done. "So, what *are* you doing?"

"Nothing says Iím sorry like carbs and Iím really sorry that I missed dinner." Callie moved her arms a little and almost dropped a package of donuts. "Ack! Can I come in?"

"Sure. Why the hell not? I should just leave the door open all the time."

Callie glanced at her, noting the way she slurred her words, before moving past her and dropping the assortment of goodies on the table nearest the door. Taking off her jacket, she turned and smiled at her friend, opening her mouth to speak. That smile slowly faded when she saw that Addison was not alone. George was curled up on the sofa, a blanket pulled around him like a second skin, his knees drawn upward. His snore broke the silence and pulled Callie from her shock. "What the fuck, Addison?"

Addison drained her glass, shut the door behind her and crossed her arms. "Well, I can only imagine, seeing as how I wasnít there to witness it myself, that him seeing you and Alex Karev making out in front of the entire hospital hurt his feelings. I imagine his feelings arenít nearly as hurt as his face, though. Nice job being mature and grown up, Callie."

"Wait!" Callie held a hand up. "Wait. WHAT!?"

"This is your *husband*, Callie. Your *husband* and he made a horrible mistake. What you did today, though? That was on purpose. You intentionally broke him."

"I didnít do anything!"

"You didnít hit him?"

"He hit me first!"

"Did he mean to?" Addison took a step forward. "Did he mean to hit you? Or was he aiming at someone else?"

"Someone else."

"Who?"

"He was aiming at Alex," Callie replied.

The redheadís eyes widened and she put a hand on her chest. "Really? And why is that?"

"Why is what?" Callie questioned.

"Why were you with Alex?"

"Gee, I donít know, Addison. Could it possibly be because we had lunch together?"

"Is that what it was? I heard that you were practically having sex with him on the cafeteria table!"

"Who told you that!?"

"Joe. He heard it from Izzie."

"OH! OH! Of course he did!" Callie shouted, throwing her hands in the air. "Of course it has to be the truth! Because Izzie fucking Stevens is apparently a walking prayer book. We already had a Virgin Mary. She can be the Virgin Whore."

"What are you doing with Alex? Trying to make George jealous? Look at him! Heís living in his car, heís been drinking himself into a stupor every night, and he loves you! I know that he loves because-"

"Because you have been in his shoes! I know!"

"I was going to say that weíve had a lot of conversations while you were gone and Iím really getting tired of you throwing my past in my face." Addisonís hands were shaking so she shoved them into the pockets of her robe. "Were you with Alex tonight?"

"Yes, mommy. After being punched in the face, humiliated beyond belief, and finally finishing my shift I went to see a movie with him and then we had dinner. And the night before that we had Italian food."

"Thatís where you were!? I - I knew it! I told you that Alex had apparently met someone and you just stood there acting like you had no clue!"

"You told me that you and Mark, remember him, the guy you broke *your* marriage apart for, were getting back together because he loved you!"

"So then you *are* with Alex!"

"No, I am not!"

Addison shook her head, her eyes narrow. "I know that you donít have many female friends and I really donít have to wonder why now, but let me school you a little just in case some other unsuspecting girl comes along and *tries* to like you. When you know that your friend, that would be me, has been fantasizing about someone, in this case that would be Alex, and they confide that in you ... YOU DO NOT FUCKING DATE THEM, BITCH!"

Callieís jaw dropped in anger. And shock. It took all of her resolve to keep from lashing out. She took a deep breath and turned, clutching the back of the chair so tightly that her fingers hurt. She gathered her jacket in her fists and exhaled slowly before facing Addison again. Her tears were hot on her cheeks when she said, "Youíre drunk. And because of that Iím going to go and Iím going to pretend that you didnít just say that to me."

"Truth hurt?"

"Stop."

"Get the hell out of my room." Addison glared at her, then opened the door for and with a tilt of her head, made it very clear that Callie was being dismissed.

Callie walked to the door, and since she was as tall as Addison, looked her right in the eye. "Iím sorry to bring your past up again, because youíre clearly in denial about it, but if weíre going to talk about schooling someone then let me tell you one thing. I was Team Addison. I protected you from the raunchy prom sex that I walked into." She saw the shock on Addisonís face. "Oh yeah. I didnít say a word because I didnít want to see you hurt and I didnít even know you at the time. I have never judged you and I have never questioned your decisions, but now? Now Iím walking around in Derekís shoes and I know exactly what it felt like for him when he came home and saw you and Mark together in his bed. Now some people may say that you were hanging around Seattle and were about to pick things up with Mark again because you know how much that would hurt Derek, but-"

"Thatís a -"

"Thatís a lie? Wow. That sounds like the exact same lie that Izzie told about me and Alex. Heís my friend, Addison. And itís really nice to know that I have one left." She looked back at the sofa, where George rolled onto his side and snored again. "Have fun with your little brother. Apparently you trained him well."

"Callie-"

With her jacket over her arm, Callie stalked toward the elevator and didnít look back.

*~*~*~*~*~

At noon the next day, Callie was reclining in a lounge chair beside the pool. Her sunglasses, fashionably overlarge and far too expensive, hid the puffiness in her eyes. Untouched magazines were on the ground next to her chair and her Gameboy, well charged from lack of use, lay against her thigh. She watched with mild interest as a couple of women walked past and flopped into vacant seats a few feet away. Two weeks ago, Callie and Addison had been in that same spot doing exactly what they were doing: gossiping, laughing, and enjoying a day off.

Callie picked up her Ipod and stuck the bud in her ear. After ten minutes of changing every song choice, she gave up and made a mental note to replace every stupid love song with angry girl music. She adjusted the strap of her red bathing suit and attempted to get comfortable. She was close to dozing when a shadow fell across her.

"What? You canít nap in your room?" Mark Sloan took the empty lounger to her left and flopped out on his stomach. "Want to put sunscreen on my back?"

"And decrease your chances of catching skin cancer? Never!"

He held the tube up and said, "I already did my front. Come on, please?"

"No."

"Why not. Afraid that the memories will be too much for you?"

"Shut up."

Resigned to the fact that she was not going to help him out, Mark made a big show of rolling over and putting his arms behind his head. The Speedo he wore would have been ridiculous on anyone else, but the way he wore it was anything but. "So, what are you doing?"

"The same thing you are."

"Iím looking at your boobs. Are you looking at your own boobs, freak? Is that why the glasses are so big?"

"There are about thirty empty spaces out here, Sloan. Why donít you move? Iím trying to enjoy my day off."

"Hell. So am I."

"Hush."

Callie enjoyed the silence and attempted to relax again, but her cellphone vibrated for the millionth time and she picked it up, gazed at the number, and laid in back on her lap where it continued to vibrate.

"You canít really expect me not to mention the fact that you are purposely letting your phone vibrate *there*." Mark rolled onto his side and propped himself up on his elbow. "Is that your husband?"

"I donít have a husband."

"You didnít have a boyfriend either. Funny thing, that. Because I would swear that you eloped with your *boyfriend* not long after we hooked up."

"Am I gonna have to call security?"

"No." Mark grinned at her. "I saw your non husband pounding on your door earlier. I think heís still sitting up there."

"Great." Callie pulled her glasses off and pinched the bridge of her nose, which was aching more today than she would have liked. Several Tylenol had not stopped it and neither had the three White Russians she had enjoyed for lunch.

Mark saw how red and swollen her eyes were and said, "Wanna talk about it?"

"Negative."

"For what itís worth ... Addison looks worse."

She put her glasses back on and stared at him. "What does she have to do with anything?"

"Well, she drunk dialed me at midnight, crying her eyeballs out because you two had a fight. I had to go round up Kleenex, with aloe of course, and hold her hair while she puked all night. And the Prince Charming who isnít your husband slept through it like a baby."

Callie sighed. "I need a vacation from my life. And I need to get out of this hotel."

"Addisonís finally asleep, by the way."

"Good for her."

"You get that she was drunk, right? Anything she said-"

"Wow. That excuse has become so popular. Sleep with your best friend? Itís supposed to be okay because they were drunk. Call your best friend a bitch and Iím supposed to just overlook it because someone canít hold their rum."

"She loves you. Youíre the best friend sheís ever had and -"

"Did she send you down here?"

"She suggested that maybe I could run interference. She wanted me to remind you that sheís got a temper to match her hair," he said. "What did you guys fight about anyway?"

"Not really your business."

"She wouldnít tell me either."

"Then stop nosing around." Her phone vibrated again and she checked the number.

"Why donít you just talk to him?"

"Mark-"

"Look, I really donít want to catch Frodo on Addisonís sofa again. I have a plan where sheís concerned and while Iím sure your little man could stand to learn a thing or two Iíd rather not have an audience. So take one for the team and suck it up!"

"Jackass."

Callie stood, grabbed her sarong and shoved her feet into her flip flops. Saying nothing, she gathered her belongings and stormed past him. It wasnít until she saw George sitting outside her hotel room that she remembered that Mark had given her fair warning. She tried to turn, but he saw her and jumped to his feet. "Callie! Wait!"

Mumbling every swear word she had ever heard and a few that made no sense, she turned and purposely held her head up as she walked past him and unlocked the door. The room was a mess and the suitcase that she had taken with her to North Carolina was upended and the contents were scattered around the floor. She had done that the previous night and made no apologies for the carnage as George followed her into the room and softly closed the door behind him.

She went to the closet and grabbed a pair of jeans, which she slipped over her swimsuit and hastily buttoned. Next, she yanked a white button down shirt from the hanger and tied it at her waist. When she finally turned to face George, he was leaning with his back against the door, watching her. "Are you planning on blocking me again?"

"No."

Callie was glad that she still wore her sunglasses because seeing George in this state, no matter how much he deserved it, got to her. It reminded her, as he drew the back of his hand across his eyes, of his fatherís funeral. As they had made their way, hand in hand, to the open casket for the first time he had leaned close to her and whispered, ĎStay close to me.í

And she had.

Anger quickly erased the memory and she turned to the window, refusing to look at him. "Addison said that she made sure you got all your things from the room."

George sniffled a little. "No, I left something."

"Then get it and go, George."

"All right." Suddenly he was behind her and his arms were around her waist. "Iíve got it, but I donít want to go."

She bit her bottom lip when his chin rested against her shoulder and his cheek pressed against hers. She stiffened and he moved one of his hands so that it was resting over her heart. "I love you," he said and it was the cracking of his voice that stilled her, that prevented her from pushing him away. "Callie, I really, really love you and Iím sorry. I know that doesnít mean much, but you have to believe me. I mean, you see that Iím here. You see that I havenít been within five feet of her since-"

"Stop." Callie shrugged him off and turned to face him.

"Talk to me."

"You want me to talk to you? Fine."

"Just tell me what youíre thinking."

"Iím just - Iím just done, George. You know? Iím done. Iím tired. Iím tired of doubting you and chasing you and begging you for your time. Iím tired of feeling like someone you settled for -"

"Thatís not how I feel."

"Stop it!" she shouted. "That is exactly how you feel. You stood in that exact spot and told me that Izzie didnít have feelings for you. You *laughed* at me, George. You laughed at me for telling you the truth and then you put me down! Sheís the supermodel and Iím the curvy nothing who was too stupid to realize that nothing would change after we got married."

"But-"

"You asked me to talk to you and bygod, Iím not finished." She held up her hand to stop him. "As hard as it is to hold my head up at the hospital when I know that everyone is laughing at my expense ... that pales in comparison to how dumb I was to believe you when you came here and asked me to marry you. That is the humiliating part because youíre the bad guy who cheated, but Iím the complete moron who actually thought that some great guy could love me. Me, George. Not my money, because you didnít know about it. Not my fatherís big business, because you didnít know about that either. Not because I was ahead in the program and aced the intern exam and you could cheat off me. You were on your knee asking *me*. And I fell for it."

"Is that - have guys done that to you before? Dated you for you money? Because of who your dad is?"

"I already told you that. Remember? You were too busy yelling at me for not telling you about my money that you didnít pay attention to the part where I said that it had cost me every relationship Iíve ever been in."

"Wait." George shook his head. "You told me that I was the only guy youíve ever loved."

"Which is true. Which clearly illustrates that Iím better off in a string of dead end relationships than chasing after one that I can never have."

"You have me. All of me. Callie, donít - donít you remember? Remember when we had lunch with your dad and he spilled the drink on my lap."

"Mmm, I should thank him for that." She grabbed an elastic band and piled her hair in a pony tail. "I have to go."

"Listen to me!" He grabbed her, forcing her to look at him. "At lunch that day, with your dad? Thatís when I remembered. When he spilled the drink on me. I didnít even remember it until then which is what Iíve been trying to tell you."

"It took a glass of cold water on your crotch to make you remember?"

George nodded, wide eyed. "That ought to tell you something. And I still donít - I mean, I only remember bits and pieces. I was so drunk that I donít even know how I did it."

"Well, you did." Callie shrugged. "And this isnít something that I can just deal with. This changed everything."

"Are you sleeping with Alex?"

She laughed. It was a cruel, hateful sound. "You donít get to ask me anything about my sex life after what you did."

"Are you? Just --- are you?"

"Itís none of your business."

"Youíre my *wife*."

"Not for long." She grabbed her purse and put it over her shoulder. "Iím seeing a lawyer next week."

"No - no, donít do that."

"Donít worry, George. You wonít have to go empty handed. Iím sure that the fact that I paid off your student loans wonít really matter. Youíll still get plenty."

"What?!"

"Oh, right. That was gonna be a surprise." She glared at him. "Yeah, I paid off your student loans and I was going to give that to you for your birthday so you wouldnít have to worry about it while we looked for a house. But now youíll be able to buy a house anyway because Iím sure that your lawyer will take at least half of everything I have and then you can spend it all on your bestest friend."

"I - I donít want your money! I want you!"

Callie said nothing for a while, just gazed at him. Finally, she said, "Donít you see what youíve done? Iíve lost respect at the hospital. Addisonís on your side. My family will disown me once I shame them with a divorce and Iím stuck here for at least two more years. I have to see your face for two years, until Iím done with my Residency. Until I can get the hell away from you."

"But-"

"You donít want me, George!" she yelled and the severity in her voice shocked both of them. "Youíve taken all I have! I have nothing left to give!"

She purposely bumped her shoulder against his as she stormed past him. The door slammed behind her and she stalked down the hallway, not sure where she was going, but convinced that she had to go.

George sat down on the bed, his face buried in his hands. And he cried.

Twenty minutes later the phone rang and out of habit he picked it up. "Hello?"

"OíMalley?" asked a man.

"Uh, yeah?"

"Is my daughter there?"

"Who?"

"OíMalley, how many women do you live with?"

"Right, uh, hello, Mr. Torres."

"My child is not returning any phone calls. Would you happen to know why?"

"Iím sorry. I donít," he lied. "I - I know sheís been really slammed at the hospital."

"Well, tell her that her mother has arranged the wedding party for the two of you and since we understand how your schedules are weíll be bringing it to you."

"Excuse me?"

"Roughly one hundred of our friends and family members as well as anyone she wants to invite there. Melaina, that would be Callieís mother, has made arrangements for the grand ballroom there at the Archfield. Mark your calendar for not this Saturday, but the next. If memory serves that was a date that Callie implied would be free for both of you. Weíve chartered the flights already so donít let her change the date. Iím sure youíve seen by now that sheís stubborn as hell so tell her that itís concrete and if she backs out she will not like the results. Okay?"

"Yes, sir."

"And Mr. OíMalley?"

"Sir?"

"My wife is not nearly as kind as I am so youíll want to make a better impression on her than you did me."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 5
*~*~*~*~*~

Callie was leaving the liquor store when her cell vibrated against her hip. She checked the number and smiled a little before she answered. "Rickís Pool Hall. Eight ball, speaking."

"Howís my favorite twin?"

"Iím your only twin, Cam." Callie put the bottle in the back seat of her open convertible and leaned against the car. "Howís my favorite brother?"

"Oooooh," Cam replied. "Iím telling Loukas and Stavros that you said that."

"We shared a womb. You wouldnít do that to me."

"I was born first, little sister."

"With all the wisdom and knowledge that six whole minutes gave you," she laughed. "Why donít you tell me whatís new?"

"Why are you screening your calls? Our mother is so pissed at you that she has taken our family photo down from the mantle and put one up of Loukas and Stavros from before we were born."

"Jesus, Cam. What did you do to piss her off?"

"Well, Iím still gay. And Iím bringing Blake to your elopement party."

Callie started to laugh and then her face fell. "To my what?"

"Elopement party. The one that she has been planning for weeks now."

"What? When?"

"This is why you shouldnít screen your calls. Not this Saturday night, but next. Mom has three jets bringing our dearest and most annoying relatives, but my invitation was lost in the mail apparently. Blake predicted it would be. Dad went behind her back and put us on the last flight out. Theyíre on the first."

"Thatís only two weeks! We have to stop it."

"Yeah, because Mama running us through with her grandfatherís sword would be a pleasant way to die," Cam chuckled. "Besides, Dad said that he talked to your husband and ... do you know how weird that is for me? You have a husband! Anyway, he talked to him a few minutes ago and heís okay with it."

"Daddy talked to George?"

"Yeah. I guess heís not screening *his* calls."

There was a long pause and Cam finally added, "Hey, are you okay?"

"Yeah ... Iím fine."

"You sound upset?"

"No." Callie swallowed hard and wiped the tears off her face as if he could somehow see them. "I - allergies or whatever."

"Hereís the part where I remind you that I know you better than I know myself. Now, talk."

"Rough week."

"Whatís wrong? Married life isnít all itís cracked up to be?"

"Something like that."

"You want me to beat him up?"

"I already did that." The tears were coming a little faster now. "Cam?"

"Yeah?"

"I made a mistake. I - I shouldnít have married him."

"What happened?"

"He doesnít love me."

"Well, now thatís not humanly possible. Does he know you? Has he seen you? Of course he loves you," he soothed. "Look, Iím no expert on marriage and since our entire lack of a President refuses to let me marry Blake then I canít really comment on your marriage, but relationships ... I know relationships. And theyíre hard and itís a constant struggle."

"He cheated on me." When there was no reply, Callie put her head in her free hand and said. "Cam? Cambyses Torres, you cannot tell. You canít tell Daddy. Heíll - heíll kill him."

"No. Heís not going to get the chance. Iím flying out tonight."

"No! Donít! Okay? My life is complicated enough right now. I canít - I canít do this. Iím gonna see a lawyer and - and get a divorce or -"

"Oh my god," he said. "Mama would forgive you for murder before she forgave you for that! You know how she is! Do you remember when we stole Uncle Kakistosís boat and sank it?"

"You mean his yacht and how could I possibly forget almost dying to save your flailing ass."

"There could have been sharks."

"Iím sure you scared them off with said flailing."

"My point is that she buried our pictures in the back yard, Callie. She made Loukas and Stavros dress up for a funeral and pretended we were dead for eighteen months. She didnít speak to us, she refused to eat with us, and told everyone that we were on vacation in Italy even though we standing right there for introductions."

Callie had to smile a little at the memory. "She called us hired help."

"And we were only ten. Sheíll never talk to you again. Are you sure this is what you want to do?"

"Yeah. And no. I mean - I hate him and I want to strangle him with my bare hands ... and I also love him so much it hurts." She didnít try to hide her sobs now. "I canít - I canít even look at him and not want to let him apologize and make it better and fall asleep on his shoulder like I always do. Like I did. I mean, talking about us in the past tense is killing me and he keeps crying and begging and saying heís sorry and God I want to believe it and I keep falling into him every single time he looks at me and I canít - I canít breathe when Iím near him. And Iím choking to death without him. What do I do? What am I supposed to do, Cam?"

"Oh, sweetie," he replied, his voice soft. "Only you can decide what you want to do. I canít - I donít know what to say. I can only tell you Mama has thrown herself into planning this party and you know that she had your wedding planned from birth so this is all she has. She pulled out all the stops, Cal. Itís gonna be huge. She hired a band, catered in enough food to feed a third world country, and sheís determined to accept this elopement thing. If you tell her that itís off itís gonna hurt her and I donít always like our mother, but I do live in the same zipcode as her and I saw first hand how much it hurt her when you broke the news that you had gotten married to begin with. Sheís taking a huge step by doing this."

"So, you think I should pretend to be happy and smile and pose with him for photos and act like Iím not dying inside."

"Honestly? Yeah, I do. Itís one night. What you decide to do after that is up to you. And I really want to see you and the only way Dadís letting me off is if Iím coming there for the party."

"Okay."

"Iíll still beat him up if you want."

"Nah, just promise me the first salsa."

"Are you kidding? I claim the first and last salsa." Cam sighed a little. "I love you, kid."

"I love you, too. Donít tell anybody. Okay?"

"I promise."

They said their goodbyes and Callie closed the phone. Drying her face, she opened the car door and the lone bottle of bourbon she had purchased caught her eye. With a determined nod, she closed the door and headed back into the liquor store to buy the biggest bottle they had. She was drowning anyway. Miserable. Lost. Her tears were coming and she couldnít stop them.

But maybe she could delay them for a while by swimming to the bottom of the bottle and she knew that when she was there ... nothing would hurt anymore.

Fifteen minutes later, she parked her car in her designated spot in the deck beside the Archfield. It was hot and humid inside the cement walls after the afternoon shower that had come and gone earlier. The top was down on her car and she left it running, letting the air blow into her face as she opened the smaller of the two bottles, took a deep breath, and drank down over half. She grimaced, gagged a little, and drew the back of her hand over her mouth. Before she could change her mind she tipped the bottle again and in less than fifteen minutes, the bourbon was gone and the second, larger bottle, was giving her a hard time. After three tries, she finally got it open and took a few pulls.

Thirty minutes later the car was spinning and the only logical allowance her brain would concede was to crawl into the backseat and lie down.

It never dawned on her that the engine was still running.

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison pulled her tongue away from the roof of her mouth and grimaced. Something had woken her up and as she opened her bloodshot eyes and looked around, someone pounded on the door again. She rolled onto her back, her arms flung wide and stared up at the ceiling. Whoever was at the door was persistent and she groaned when her feet hit the floor and she attempted to lift her head off the pillow. It was heavy, so heavy that her neck protested angrily and then her stomach muscles joined the chorus and gave her a stark, visual reminder of the marathon projectile vomit that she had managed the night before.

She smiled a little. Sheíd have to tell Callie about the - And then the memories of the night before hit her like a sledgehammer. She looked at the sofa and saw that it was empty and there was no sign of the blanket George had used. She could have imagined it, but as she stood and saw the array of junkfood Callie had arrived with she knew it was not her imagination at all. With a groan, she put her hand over her mouth and shook her head.

"Addison?" Mark knocked again, harder now. "I can hear you. Open the door."

She stumbled across the room and let him in. "I have to go talk to Callie."

He caught her around the waist as she started past him and said, "You may want to talk to the mirror first."

"What?"

He pointed at the floor to ceiling mirrors on the far wall. Addison turned and gasped. She wore a tanktop and panties, her usual sleeping gear, but her hair was plastered to her cheek and her make up had not only run, something that looked suspiciously like vomit had dried on her chest. "Damn," she said and slowly crept forward for a closer look. "What did I do?"

Mark pulled the cover back on her bed and wrinkled his nose. "Where do you put it all, Addison? Because for five hours I watched you puke so how you managed to do it again is beyond me."

"Ugh," she groaned again. "My stomach is killing me."

"You turned it inside out. It should." He stripped the sheets off and picked up the phone, leaving a message for housekeeping. "Go take a shower."

"Did you talk to her?"

Mark didnít have to ask who the Ďherí in question was. "Yep. Sheís pissed as hell."

"What did she say?"

"Not a lot. She wouldnít tell me what the two of you fought about either."

"It was too stupid to ever mention again."

"Look, if you ladies want to fight over me I can understand."


Addison shot him a look and pretended to vomit. "You wish."

"Then you must be fighting over OíMalley. I guess she wasnít thrilled to see you taking care of the enemy."

"Stop trying to figure it out, jackass."

"Ohhh, thatís exactly what she called me." Mark sat down at the table and opened a package of donuts. "Iím starving. Will you go get ready?"

"For what?"

"You need to eat. And the fact that I am brave enough to take you out after witnessing firsthand that you canít hold anything down should prove to you that I really do love you, Addison."

"I hate love!" Addison snapped, yanking her closet open. She dug through until she found a pair of slacks and a shirt and then turned to face him again. "You stayed last night."

"Through it all. The hair holding. The consoling. I can take care of you. Iím not just good in bed -- Iím a good best friend."

"Callieís my best friend."

"I donít think sheís seeing it that way right now." He watched as Addisonís face fell, then stood and took her hand in his. "Thatís not to say she wonít come around. The sooner you get a shower we can go and you can call her. Iíll even play referee if you want."

"Do you really mean it, Mark? When you say that you love me?"

"I havenít had sex in twenty seven days. And last night when you crawled into my lap in the bathroom floor and I put my arms around you ... it felt like coming home. Iíve loved you for a long time and youíre the only person in the world that makes me want to be the person you think I should be." He pulled a string of matted hair from her face, and cupped her cheek. "I love you. Youíre the reason Iím here, the reason I stayed, and the woman that I want to spend my life with. Of course, I prefer the cleaner version, but Iíd take you this way if it was the only way youíd come."

She smiled a little and said, "I donít know if that was sincere or sexual, but it was nicely done."

"It was both. Want some company in the shower? Maybe I can take care of those hard to reach areas."

Addison bit her bottom lip and hated the way he smiled at her, hated the way his hand traced her chin, hated the way he smelled so familiar and safe. She nodded her head before her mouth could protest and turned, knowing that a decision had been made and she prayed it was for the right reasons.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Holy Mary Mother of God. Stop ringing! Hello?"

"Callie?"

"Who said that?"

"Itís Alex. Are - what are you doing? Are you crying?"

Callie sniffled. When she finally spoke it was a sob. "Why am I not in a coma yet? Stop waking me up now. Okay. Bye."

"What!? Donít hang up! Where are you?"

"In my car. Iím gonna run out of gas."

"Whereís your car, Callie?"

"Archfield."

"Iím on my way. Gimme fifteen minutes."

"Donít bother."

"Is that your car running that I hear?"

"Donít worry. I havenít died in an hour of trying so itís not likely to happen in fifteen minutes. Jesus hates me." As an afterthought, she added. "Fuck clean air."

"Turn the car off."

"Okay."

"Do it now."

"Okay." Callie, who was sprawled face down in the backseat of her car made no attempt at moving.

"You didnít do it, did you?"

"Not really."

"Iíll be right there." Alex hung up and called Addisonís cell.

Moments later Callieís car was turned off and she felt a hand on her back, then her hair was pushed away from her face. Even in her drunken stupor she recognized Addisonís red hair, although the face was a blur. "Not funny, God. And Iíve been praying, too! Damn it."

"What the hell are you trying to do?" Addison shook her, hard. "Get your ass up."

"Stop driving in a circle, Addy. Itís rude. And there are speed bumps!"

"Jesus." Mark opened the passenger door and sat down, peering into the backseat with Addison. "How much did you drink, Torres?"

It was work, but Callie managed to wrestle the empty bottle from beneath her and she held it out. Her eyes were out of focus when they landed on Mark. "Hey! I did die! Iím in hell and Satanís here, too."

"Sheís toast." Mark took the bottle from her and said, "Did you drink all of this."

"That was my second bottle, right? Was it two? Didnít even breathe! Just choked it down." Callie nodded, then she belched and found it so funny that she practically rolled off the backseat.

"Thatís too much alcohol too fast. She needs to throw up," Addison said.

Mark pushed the seat forward and gripped Callie under the arms. She put up a good fight and by the time Mark had her out of the car he was winded and she had slumped onto the pavement. Addison, who had joined them, kneeled down beside Callie and felt her skin. "Sheís cold."

"Donít you call me any more names, Addison!" Callie growled, pushing her hands away. "I would punch you in the eye if you would be still. You are a very, very bad friend and I hope your tits sag."

"There is nothing wrong with my tits and your very, very bad friend is going to stick her finger down your throat to help you out." Doing just that, Addison tilted the younger woman forward and waited for her gag reflex to kick in.

When three attempts yielded nothing, Addison frowned. It took a split second for it to dawn on her that Callie wasnít moving, wasnít struggling, and she pulled her upright, slapping her face. "Sheís not breathing. Mark, sheís choking!"

Mark moved fast. He pulled Callie from Addisonís arms, pinned her back against his chest, and began the Heimlich maneuver. Callie spasmed, coughed and vomited, effectively clearing her airway which had been blocked. "We have to get her to the ER."

Alex squealed to a stop a few feet away from them and leapt from his jeep. "How is she?" he asked, tilting her head back. She was still in Markís arms and her head lolled from one side to the other. "What did she drink?"

"A fifth of bourbon for sure. She mentioned more." Addison reached for the second bottle and drew up short. There was an empty pill bottle lying in the back seat. She picked it up, glanced at the label, and said, "Get her in the car."

"What?"

"Get her in the car! NOW!"

Alex and Mark both saw the empty bottle at the same time and Alex grabbed Callieís feet, helping Mark lift her over the side of her convertible, which was thankfully open. Alex jumped into the driverís seat and sped away with her as Addison and Mark climbed in Alexís jeep to follow. Alex ran two red lights, almost hit a parked car, and took the entrance to the hospital fast enough for the tires to protest loudly. He slammed to a halt at the entrance to the emergency room and was relieved to see that there was a stretcher waiting. Someone must have called ahead.

"Possible overdose." Alex said, as he lifted her out of the car and deposited her on the gurney.

Dr. Bailey gasped and looked down at Callie. "What the- Karev? What did she take?"

"Fifth of bourbon and -- and, shit, I donít know! Addisonís bringing the bottle."

He helped Bailey push her inside and yanked his jacket off. Without being told, he started an IV and drew her blood himself. He was vaguely aware that Izzie was on duty and that she had been shouted at by Bailey to move her ass. He took a step back as Cristina and Meredith answered the same page that had apparently summoned Izzie. "Meredith?"

"Yeah?"

"Call George," Alex said softly, running a hand over his hair.

"I already did."

"Callie? Callie, open your eyes and talk to me." Bailey slapped her cheeks a couple of times. "Unresponsive. Her skin is blue, clammy. Whatís the temperature, Stevens?"

Izzie rattled off a number that was incredibly low and Bailey began barking out orders to the three female interns. Meredith was sent for warming blankets. Cristina rushed out for a gastric lavage kit and Izzie was sent running to the lab with Callieís blood. Addison arrived in the middle of the chaos and said, "Percocet. Prescription was for forty. Prescribed to Harold OíMalley."

Bailey nodded and began the insertion of the tubes into Callieís nose. Callie choked then and it took Mark, Alex, and Addison to hold her down. The vomiting began almost instantly and they rolled her onto her side, watching as she retched and heaved. Then, before anyone could stop her, she pulled the tube out and her nose, which was still swollen and bruised, and blood began to pour from it and her mouth. Alex stared at the monitors as they began to beep and said, "Oxygen level is at eighty five."

"Damn it. Thereís too much blood in the airway." Bailey snapped. "Yang, weíll need a breathing tube before we try to lavage again."

Cristina was on it. She tilted Callieís head back, inserted the breathing tube on the first try and began to pump the bag, watching as Callieís levels rose into the nineties. "Clear."

"Letís do this again." Bailey opened the second kit, which Addison had grabbed from the hallway and covered the hosing in lubricant. "Hold her down this time, people. Hold her down! On three now. One, two, three."

Callie didnít gag this time.

She didnít respond at all.

"Grey, rush the fluid." Mark said, taking the stethoscope from Meredithís neck. "Get an EKG in here. Stat," he barked at Izzie, who had returned.

"Addison, get on the phone with the lab," Bailey said, leaning down to examine the bile that Callie had vomited onto the floor. "I donít see anything solid. Yang, howís the suction."

"Second collection. First was liquid, no solid."

Bailey stood and shook Callie, leaning close to her. "Callie! Did you take any medication?" She spoke again and again, but Callie didnít move. Checking her blood pressure, Miranda swore under her breath. "Where is that EKG, people!?"

"Her blood alcohol is point thirty-three," Addison said, hanging up the phone. "So far they havenít found anything else."

"Point thirty-three? What in the world-" Bailey began.

"Callie?!" George shouted from the hallway.

"Keep him out of here." Bailey looked at Alex, but it was Addison who intercepted him.

"George, I need you to stay here with me," she said, her hand on his chest.

"No. NO! What happened?"

"Listen to me," Addison snapped, holding up the empty bottle. "What do you know about this?"

He took the bottle and read the label. "It - it was my dadís. It was in a box of his stuff that I brought home after - after he died."

"Was it empty?"

"What?"

"The bottle, George. Were there any pills in the bottle?"

"I donít know. I-" Georgeís eyes widened as comprehension dawned on him. "What did she do? What did she do?! Dr. Montgomery?!"

"Right now we know that she has alcohol poisoning. Weíre waiting on the toxicology. This bottle was with her in the car."

"In the car?"

"Yeah. In the car. In the car that was running in the parking garage of the Archfield." Alex, who had lingered in the doorway to hear what George had to say about the medication, glared at the other man. "What the hell did you do to her now?"

"Shut up, Alex. And go call the lab again!" Addison pushed George out of the way as the EKG machine was rolled past them.

George leaned back against the wall, his hand over his mouth. "How bad is it?" he finally asked.

"Her B.A.C. is point thirty-three."

"No. No. That canít be right. That - that can be fatal. Addison, that can be fatal." He shook his head emphatically as if his own denial could make it untrue. "Are they-"

"Theyíre doing everything they can. You know they are."

"Whoís working on her?"

"Sloan and Bailey."

"Is she breathing on her own?"

Addison shook her head, then caught him as he tried to rush past her. "You canít do anything."

Meredith joined them in the hallway and said, "Dr. Montgomery, you can go back inside. Iíll stay with him."

Grateful, Addison nodded and squeezed Georgeís hand before hurrying back into the room. Meredith leaned against the wall next to George and leaned her head against his shoulder. "Sheís strong. Sheís strong and sheíll come back."

"You donít know that."

"Iíve been there, George. Sheíll come back."

"Theyíre breathing for her."

"Only because she pulled the tube out and compromised her airway."

George looked at her. "Sheís awake. So sheís responding?"

"It - it was instinct. To pull it out. Sheís unconscious."

"But - what about her heart and was she - didnít she -"

Meredith took his hand in hers and squeezed it. "Should you call someone? Do you think you should call her parents?"

Callie had told him enough about her mother and father to force him to shake his head. She would be mortified if, no ... when she woke up and found them there. He needed to call someone, though. He needed to hear someone who would not judge him, not be angry at him. Taking his cell phone from the pocket of his jeans, he called home.

Louise answered on the first ring. "Hello?"

"Mom?"

"Georgie?"

"Mom," he began to cry and sank down the wall, his back against it. "Callieís in the hospital. Can you - can you come?"

"Iím on my way."

Meredith kneeled beside him and put her arms around him.

When Derek walked past them a few minutes later and went into Callieís room, neither had to wonder why.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 6
"How long was she without oxygen?" Derek asked, checking the EKG readout.

"Seconds," Addison said. "She only stopped breathing for a second. She was choking and Mark ... he did the Heimlich."

Derek glanced from Addison to Mark, but said nothing to the other man. Instead, he turned to Bailey and watched as she lifted the fourth container that had been taken from Callieís stomach. "Is she clear yet?"

"No."

"Thereís no sign of narcotics. I checked with the lab." Derek confirmed and leaned down, doing a sternum rub on Callieís chest. She made no move to push him away. "How long has she been unconscious?"

"Sheís been in and out of it since we found her," Alex said, stepping up beside the bed. Without even realizing it, he had taken Callieís limp hand in his. "What about the fumes? From the car?"

"Itís a big garage," Mark pointed out. "And itís well ventilated."

"Fumes? Why am I just now hearing about fumes? Was this a case of too much to drink or a suicide attempt?" Bailey stared from Alex to Addison. "Well? Which is it?"

Alex looked down at Callie. There was blood still trickling from her nose and he reached down, wiping it away with his thumb. "It was just an accident," he finally said, even though his conversation with her replayed in his head. "Thatís all. Just a stupid mistake."
"After sheís clear go ahead and use the charcoal." Derek took the chart from Izzie and glanced through it. "Sheíll need an MRI. That much alcohol-"

"Donít say it. Donít even think it," Addison snapped. "There is nothing wrong with her brain. She -"

"Sheís one of us. Weíre going to run every test that we have," Derek replied, scribbling a couple of notes before he shut the chart. "Draw some more blood and see where weíre at with the alcohol and check her ALT and AZT, we need to keep an eye on her liver. Page me when the results are in."

Izzie moved around the bed, pulling on a pair of gloves and grabbing an empty vial. Alex, who was still holding Callieís hand, snatched the vial from Izzie and said, "Iíll do it myself."

"Karev," Dr. Bailey warned. "You are not on duty. You are a visitor."

"Sheís not touching her." Alex filled the vial and handed it off to Izzie, glaring at her. "You must be so happy. Youíre living the dream. You get to reap what you sowed first hand. You get to watch her fall."

"Shut up, Alex," Izzie growled.

"I do have to give you a little credit, Iz," he replied. "Iím surprised youíre not cutting *her* wires and tubes just to make sure sheís completely out of the picture. Thereís one lesson that apparently stuck."

"Okay, thatís enough!" Bailey pointed at the door. "Stevens, get that to the lab right now. Karev, go wait outside."

Cristina, who had collected the fifth container, said, "Sheís clear."

"Start the charcoal," Bailey told her. "Iíll go talk to OíMalley."

George had been coaxed into an empty seat behind the nurseís station. He sat with his head resting in his palms and when Miranda touched his shoulder, he jumped to his feet. "How is she?"

Miranda explained as best and as gently as she could and then said, "George, do you think she did this intentionally?"

"We had a fight. I - I shouldnít have let her go. She was upset and - and did she take those pills, Dr. Bailey? Did she?"

"No. She didnít."

"Are you sure?"

She nodded. "We checked her stomach contents and Derek confirmed it with toxicology."

"So itís just alcohol?"

"I wouldnít say *just*, George. It was a lot of alcohol and apparently no food at all, but her heart looks good and sheís getting plenty of oxygen. Weíre going to take her down for an MRI and then we just have to wait."

"Can I see her?"

"Yes." Bailey stopped him as he moved away, her hand resting on his arm. "She looks bad. Be prepared for that."

George swallowed hard, his eyes on hers. He nodded his head slightly, then walked across the hallway and entered Callieís room. He was vaguely aware that Addison and Mark left the room and glanced only briefly at Cristina as she continued to administer the charcoal. The steady beeping of Callieís heart should have reassured him, but the blood on her face and the color of her skin was more than he could handle. Tears blurred his vision as he let the rail down and sat next to her. He brushed her bangs aside and leaned forward, kissing her forehead softly, breathing her in. His cheek lingered next to hers and he whispered, "Come back to me. You have to come back. Please donít go. Donít do this."

His pleads remained soft for a few moments, then he laid his head against her chest and began to cry in earnest. And his prayers were loud enough that most of the ER staff heard them.

*~*~*~*~*~

Doctors are required to have a certain level of desensitization. Theyíre forced to deliver bad news with a professional and courteous attitude and they canít become emotionally involved. Ever. As Addison stood in the hallway listening to George, she felt her own resolve break and mumbled something to Mark about getting coffee. The look she gave him implored him not to question and when he nodded his understanding, she walked slowly down the corridor.

She headed out into the fresh air and tried to swallow the lump in her throat. When she blew her nose a moment later and turned to throw the tissue in the trash, she saw Alex sitting a few feet away. She joined him on the bench and said, "When you called me you said you thought Callie was trying to kill herself in the basement of the Archfield."

"Yeah."

"So, why did you tell Miranda that she wasnít?"
"I was scared when I called you," he replied.

"That doesnít change what she did."

"She told me where she was, Addison. If she wanted to die she would have hung up the phone."

Addy chewed her bottom lip, then nodded. "I guess thatís one way to look at it."

"Thatís the only way I *will* look at it," he said. "It wouldnít make sense otherwise. She was fine. She was doing so much better."

"Itís my fault, I think. We had a fight. Last night. It was bad. It was really bad." Addison sighed. "It was about you."

"Me?"

"You and her."

"What?"

"I think itís wrong for the two of you to do what youíre doing. Whatever it is."

"You donít know what weíre doing, but you feel qualified to tell us itís wrong?"

"What *are* you doing?

"Weíre friends."

"Are you, Alex? Youíll have to forgive me if I feel the need to remind you that you never even talked to her until your ex-girlfriend slept with her husband. I could be wrong, but it seems pretty evident to me that youíre trying to hurt Izzie Stevens. If thatís the case then youíre using Callie and I donít like that one bit."

"I like Callie. I like hanging out with her and if I get the added bonus of driving Izzie insane by doing it then youíll have to forgive *me* for not really caring."

"Stevens left you for Denny. Thatís what I heard."

He nodded.

"You were in love with her."

He nodded again.

"You still are."

He shook his head. "No. Iím in love with who she used to be. Iím in love with the optimist, the pretty girl who gets in your face, tells it like it is, and demands that you respect her for her brain. The goofy girl who laughs at funerals and cries at weddings. That person died with Denny. I donít know who she is anymore."

"So, what are you doing with Callie?"

"Making her feel better."

Addison studied his profile. "Why?"

"Because I can." Alex finally looked at her. "Iím not going to do anything to her, Addison, if thatís what youíre worried about."

"She still loves George, you know."

"Why do you think I made sure Meredith called him?" He shrugged. "It wasnít because I wanted the guy around."

"Just be careful, Alex. Okay?"

"What do you mean?"

"A woman who has had her heart broken is usually very easy to take advantage of and most of the time they welcome the relief. Donít let her think that you feel anything for her if you donít."

"Itís not like that."

"Really?" Addison arched an eyebrow. "Do you usually come rushing up on the white horse to save the damsel the way you did tonight?"

"This particular damsel is a special case," Alex replied. "She knows my secrets."

"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Finding someone that you can talk to about anything is rare. I trust her."

"So, thatís it then? Sheís a confidante?"

"Why are you pushing this?"

"You kissed me."

Alexís eyes widened. "No, you kissed me and I thought I made it very clear that I wasnít interested. I hate following the crowd and Yang and Gray already have the whole intern and attending thing down."

"Yeah, but-"

"And correct me if Iím wrong, but didnít Mark Sloan answer your cell phone when I called?"

When Addison looked away, Alex smirked a little and stood up. He looked down at her and said, "If I was a betting man Iíd say that having your cake and eating it too isnít all itís cracked up to be."

"Youíd probably win that bet."

"Iím going back in. You coming?"

"In a minute," Addison replied, watching as he walked away. She leaned forward after a minute, buried her face in her hands and said, "God, this sucks."

"Private conversation? Or can anyone join?" Derek sat down next to her. "How are you holding up?"

"By a string," she admitted. Her chin trembled at the confession and she exhaled slowly. "Itís bad, isnít it? Worse than-"

"No." Derek shook his head. "Itís not the worst Iíve seen and itís certainly not going to kill her."

"Thereís always a but."

"But you know that the liver and the brain, all of it, could be affected," Derek watched her for a second. "When did you become such good friends with Torres anyway?"

"After she slept with Mark. We bonded over the horror of it all. Itís funny, you know, I should have been angry or hurtful to her, but I couldnít be. I needed a friend and there she was."

"And if you hated every woman that Mark has slept with that wouldnít leave many females for you to bond with."

"Thatís very true." She smiled a little, then looked at her ex-husband. "Do you think itís possible for a man to change? A man like Mark?"

Derek considered the question thoughtfully. When he finally spoke, it was with sincerity. "I have known Mark my entire life. Youíve heard about his past, but I lived it with him. I remember him climbing in my bedroom window because the yelling was so bad at his place. Hell, we could hear it. You know, his father was sick and his mother constantly had men coming and going."

"You told me."

"You would have to see it to understand exactly how horrible it really was. You asked me if I thought it was possible for him to change and the answer is yes, but thatís not really the question you should ask."

"What should I ask?"

"Are you the one who *can* change him?" Derek shrugged. "Do you want to?"

"I want to believe that my marriage didnít fall apart for nothing. I want to believe in something. I want to want him without being afraid of what it will do to me if I have to worry where he is every second. I want to trust him. I mean, I need to trust him again. And I really canít yet." Her expression changed suddenly. "And that is exactly how Callie feels about George and I am the biggest ass on the planet."

Derek laughed now. He genuinely laughed and Addison found that she couldnít help but join him. "Life is cruel and disturbing," she finally said.

"Yes," he replied. His pager went off and he stood. "Labs are in. Letís go check on your friend."

*~*~*~*~*~

Izzie saw Louise first and her stomach dropped a little. She felt like someone who was being sent to the principalís office. George was undoubtedly going to tell his mother what had happened and Louise, well, Izzie didnít want to think about that. She tried to duck into a linen closet, but the older woman spotted her and hurried forward. "Dr. Stevens! Oh, thank heavens! Have you seen Callie? I canít find George and-"

"Heís in one of the family rooms. I - Iíll show you."

"What happened to Callie? He - he said that sheís sick, but no one wants to tell me anything."

"Uh, George needs to explain it, Mrs. OíMalley, I canít really give you any information."

"But, Iím family. Dr. Stevens, sheís my daughter in law and we talk all the time."

"I understand, but-"

Cristina and Meredith came around the corner pushing the gurney that Callie was lying on. Louise drew up short and gasped, instinctively reaching out and stopping them. "Oh my god, Callie? Honey?"

"Mrs. OíMalley, you need to come with me." Izzie put her hand on the older womanís shoulder.

"Whatís happened to her? Was it a car wreck? Thereís blood. And why is that tube in her mouth? Harold - Haroldís esophagus was-"

"Mom?" George rushed forward and put an arm around his mother. He didnít let his gaze linger long on Callieís face because to do so would have finished him off, he was certain of that. "Theyíre bringing her back from an MRI. We just - we have to wait for Dr. Shepherd to tell us what they find."

"Oh, Georgie, did you call Melana?"

"Who?"

"Her mother, son. Her mother needs to be here. Oh, sheíll be devastated. Weíve been planning the party together and sheís so excited to meet you and see Callie and-"

"Youíve been talking to Callieís mom?"

"Oh, every day. Sheís a wonderful lady and Callieís her baby, her only little girl."

"Mom-"

"We have to call her."

"We will."

Izzie watched as Louise leaned over the stretcher and gave Callie a kiss on the cheek, then let George lead her away. She glanced at Cristina, who was staring at her. "What?"

"Was that as awkward for you as it looked?" she asked. "You know heís gonna tell her, right?"

"Letís just go," Meredith said, pulling on the gurney. "Izzie, can you let Derek know that the MRI is done?"

"Whatever." Izzie stood in the hallway a moment longer, watching as Callie disappeared back into her room.

*~*~

"What happened to her, Georgie?" Louise had taken a seat and watched as George paced the length of the room. "Sit down, son. Youíre going to need your rest."

"Itís my fault. She did this because of me."

"Did what? Georgie, youíre scaring me."

George flopped into the seat beside her and leaned his head back against the wall. "Iíve ruined everything."

"What do you mean?"

"She said sheís divorcing me and-"

"What?! Honey, you two just got married and itís new and -"

"I slept with Izzie," he cut her off. He couldnít bring himself to look at her, couldnít bare to see the look of shame that was undoubtedly on her face. When she didnít reply, he said, "I was drunk and she was drunk and it just happened. Callie and I had been fighting and I left and - God, I should have stayed, Mom. I shouldíve stayed and worked through it, but I didnít and now - now sheís - Callieís miserable and she could die."

The minutes dragged past. Louise said nothing and the silence was deafening. George finally cleared his throat and said, "This is the part where you tell me that you raised me better than that and Iím a huge disappointment and -"

"What happened to her, George? What happened to Callie?"

"Sheís got alcohol poisoning. Enough to kill her. Enough to damage her brain. Enough to - enough to leave me and I canít stop her this time. I canít chase after her like I always do and even if I could ... Iíve given her nothing to come back for."

"Alcohol poisoning," Louise repeated. "But Jerry had that after a few beers and he-"

"They think it was intentional." George finally looked at his mother and the hurt on her face caused him to crack. "And so do I. What I did to her - Mom, Iíve already killed her she was just taking care of the rest."

Louise watched her son fall apart and finally put her arms around him, holding him close. They cried together and were still hanging onto one another when Ronnie and Jerry arrived. Louise didnít tell them much and when George shot her a look of gratitude, she winked at him and gave him a little smile. It had the effect she hoped it would. He calmed down and sat next to her again. She patted him on the arm and excused herself.

In the womenís bathroom, she made one of the hardest phone calls of her life. She could tell that she had woken the other woman and had not even given the time difference a second thought. "Melana? This is Louise?"

"Oh! Goodness, hello!" Melana replied sleepily. "I hope you are well."

"Iím fine." Louise took a deep breath and said, "Iím sorry to call you like this, but well, Iíd want to know if
it were me."

"Know what?"

"Callieís been admitted to the hospital. Sheís very ill. You may want to come."

"Κύριε έλέησον!" Malana exclaimed in Greek. "Raphael! Raphael, wake up! Something has happened to Calliope."

A moment later, Raphael Torres was o
n the phone and Louise, who had not spoken with him much at all, found herself practically shaking at the third degree he issued. He gave her his cell phone number, took hers, and informed her that they would arrive within seven hours. She didnít have to wonder how he could make that happen. The air of authority with which he spoke would likely have caused God himself to blanch at the idea of not being able to catch a flight out. He thanked her, wished her well, and ended the call. Louise closed her phone and rejoined her sons.

The minutes stretched into an hour, then two. During the fourth hour, Dr. Bailey came out and assured them that they were not forgotten, but they were still running tests and had no additional information. Jerry eventually dozed in the corner and Ronnie went in search of food. He came back with sodas and cakes and handed them out. The rustling of Louiseís bag eventually woke Jerry up and he kicked Ronnie for not bringing him anything. "You were asleep, dude," Ronnie said. "And with your stomach? You better not eat or drink anything unless youíre waiting in the car."

Jerry responded by taking the food out of Ronnieís hand and slapping him on the back of the head. "The only thing wrong with my stomach is that youíre around."

"Boys!" Louise scolded. "Stop it!"

Twenty minutes later, Derek walked in and George jumped to his feet. "Dr. Shepherd?"

"Have a seat, George." Derek introduced himself to the rest of the OíMalley family and sat opposite George. "Iím sorry itís taken me so long to speak with you. Unfortunately something like this is a waiting game and weíve been monitoring everything very closely. The good news is that sheís is responding well to treatment. Her heartís strong and her B.A.C. has dropped to point zero seven. Thatís better than I had hoped for at this point and I think we owe that to Mark and Addison. They forced her to vomit, which purged her system of some of the toxins. The bad news, George, is that the level of alcohol that we pulled out of her system would have been fatal if it had gone untreated. She ingested enough to kill someone double her size and thatís a problem. We have a problem. Itís very important that you tell me the truth. Is she binge drinker?"

"No." George shook his head. "No, sheís never had more than a couple of drinks with me. Occasionally at dinner she has wine or a mixed drink, but sheís never even gotten tipsy."

"Just as a precaution Iím going to have Psych take a look at her."

George had expected it. "Okay. What - how about her breathing? Is she breathing on her own?"

"Well, weíre going to check and see. We canít take her off the respirator unless you give us permission to do so. Dr. Bailey put the tube in as a precaution because with Callie slipping in and out like she was she could have stopped breathing at any time. Weíre going to take her off the machine when and if thatís okay with you, youíre welcome to be with her, and see how her oxygen levels stand. If she can maintain into the nineties on her own then weíll take the tube out." Derek stood. "We wonít know until she wakes up if there are any other issues."

"Do you have to do this right now?" Louise asked Derek.

He shook his head. "No. Itís a big decision and not one that should be taken lightly. Feel free to discuss it and then let me know what you decide."

"Her parents should be here soon. Theyíre one the way." Louise looked at George and said, "You should wait for them. Just in case."

"You called them?" George asked her. When she nodded, George swallowed hard and looked back at Derek. "Has she regained consciousness at all?"

"Sheís coming around. A few minutes ago she pushed my hand away when I did a sternum rub and thatís a good sign. Sheís also fidgeting and -"

"I donít want her to wake up with the tube, Dr. Shepherd. Thatíll scare her and I donít want her scared."

Derek glanced at Louise, then back at George. "She could wake up any time."

"Then take her off. Do it now. Do it before she wakes up and realizes that she might not be able to breathe." George slowly got to his feet and turned to his mother. "Do you want to come with me?"

"Of course."

George walked into the hallway and waited for her to follow. Ronnie and Jerry were both abnormally quiet and he wanted to thank them, to tell them that it was a nice change, to make a joke. Anything to lighten the mood, but he couldnít. He said nothing, even as Ronnie clapped him on the shoulder and said that theyíd be waiting for him. As his mother emerged and he took her hand in his, it crossed his mind to invite his brothers into Callieís room, but he just couldnít. If she - no. He couldnít.

Addison and Alex were standing on one side of Callieís bed. Addison was holding her friendís hand and she smiled a little when George and Louise walked in. "I think sheís trying to wake up," she told George. "She keeps lifting her hands."

George hurried across the room and looked down at her. "Callie?"

Derek moved behind George and flipped a switch, effectively cutting off the support of air and then stepped back into the shadows to wait. George looked at the monitor, his eyes never wavering from the oxygen level that was currently at ninety-nine. The seconds ticked past and the number dropped four points, then five.

"Derek?" Addison commented as the number dropped into the eighties.

"Wait for it," Derek replied.

A pin could have dropped and startled the entire room. Nobody moved, no one seemed to breathe, least of all Callie. The number plummeted further still and Derek glanced at his watch. "Thirty more seconds and weíll turn it back on."

"Please, Callie. Breathe, baby." George, who had taken her hand in his, squeezed it. "Come on! You can do this!"

"Fifteen seconds," Derek said.

"SHIT!" Addison cursed so suddenly and with such force that everyone jumped. "Callie? Callie! YOU BETTER BREATHE, GOD DAMMIT!" Addison shook her, hard, gripping both of her shoulders now, practically climbing on top of her. "BREATHE! I WILL KICK YOUR ASS IF YOU DONíT BREATHE! DO YOU HEAR ME? IF YOU DIE I WILL KILL YOU! AND MAKE IT HURT! YOU WILL PAY!"

Alex grabbed Addison around the waist and pulled her back. And Callie took such a deep breath that it seemed to suck the air out of everyone else. Her eyelids fluttered open and she reached her free hand up, feeling the tube in her mouth. Addison grabbed her hand and said, "Leave it alone."

"Oxygenís at eighty-eight." Alex put a hand on Callieís leg and said, "You can do better than that, Torres. What the hell?"

The machine eventually stopped beeping as Callieís number slowly climbed out of the danger zone. George was crying and he wiped his face and leaned down beside her. "Good job," he whispered, kissing her temple.

She groaned then and pushed at him. George moved back a little and she held a hand up shaking her head no.

It was very clear that she didnít want him near her.

*~*~* ~*~*~
CH 7
Addison cleared her throat and tried her best to make the awkward situation bearable for George, whose face had fallen when Callie pushed him away. She watched as his mother put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, but George didnít step forward again. "Hey," she finally said, rubbing Callieís arm. "Want us to take that tube out?"

Derek looked from George to Addison and moved a little closer. "It could be premature. We should monitor her for a little while longer. She was slow to respond."

Callie shook her head and pointed at the tube again. When Derek opened his mouth to speak, she grabbed his jacket and pulled him a little closer. Her word, though muffled, was unmistakable. "Now."

"No. No no no. Donít try to talk," Addison told her and reached up, smoothing a strand of her friendís hair back. Callie pushed her hand away and shook her head, reaching for the tube again.

"Iíll put the restraints on. Donít make me," Derek said, stopping her. "Iím going to ask you a number question and I want you to show me with your fingers what the answer is. Okay?"

Callie rolled her eyes and nodded.

"Whatís five minus four?"

Callie flipped him a bird.

"Sheís fine," Alex said, laughing a little.

Callie nodded, put a finger on her nose, and pointed at Alex, who beamed at her and said, "I rock at Charades."

Derek looked at George again and said, "OíMalley, it's your call."

Georgeís gaze was still on Callie. She had not met his eyes once and it was killing him. He glanced at the monitor and saw that her oxygen was in the nineties and nodded. "Take it out."

"You may want to wait outside," Derek told Louise, who nodded and headed into the hallway.

It only took seconds to remove the tube, but it was still hard to watch. Callie was restrained by George and Alex and gagged and coughed as Derek pulled it free. He sat her up instantly, handing her a basin as she gripped it, spitting out the blood that collected in her mouth. Addison rubbed her back and said, "How do you feel?"

"Whereís my chart?" Callie rasped after a couple of seconds, barely audible. Her words were slow, drowsy sounding.

Alex handed her a tissue and said, "You probably shouldnít be talking yet and -"

"Get it," she interrupted, taking the tissue and blotting her mouth.

Alex looked at Derek, who nodded, then retrieved the chart from the door. He held it out and watched as she opened it and flipped a few pages. "Itís not here," she finally croaked.

"Whatís not there?" Derek asked her.

"DNR. Iím DNR." Callie closed the chart and stared at Shepherd, her eyes bloodshot and bleary. "A freakiní breathing tube. What were you thinking? Youíre not supposed to save me!"

"Cal, donít." George reached for her hand, but she pulled it away. "You donít mean that."

"Get out," she growled. More blood bubbled from her throat and she spit again. "Get out now, George."

"But!"

"GO!" she shouted and promptly burst into tears as she grabbed her throat.

"Yeah, that hurt like a bitch didnít it?" Derek asked her. He cupped her chin and said, "Open. Let me see."

"Iím fine," she sobbed and grimaced when she tasted more blood in her mouth. "Get him away from me."

"George, man," Alex said. "Maybe you should do what she wants."

"No." George shook his head. "She is-" He stopped in mid-sentence and grabbed Callieís face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. "You are my wife. You are my wife and I love you and Iím not leaving this room. Do you hear me? Do you understand?"

She closed her eyes, tears falling faster now. "Let me go. George, let me go."

"I canít! Donít you see that? I canít! Iíve never been able to let you go. Never!"

"Donít."

Wordlessly, George pulled her against him and held onto her. He held on even though she struggled. He held on with both arms and refused to surrender. Whether it was sheer exhaustion that eventually stilled her protests or the fact that he was crying into the crook of her neck was unclear, but finally he felt her arms around him and no matter what else happened in that moment ... it was all that mattered.

They were still hanging onto each other, still crying, when Alex walked out of the room. He stalked down the hallway and into the internís locker room. Izzieís shift would be ending soon and sure enough, she stood before her locker staring into it, but not moving.

"Where is it?" he asked her.

Izzie jumped a little, startled from her reverie, and looked at him. "What?"

"You took care of her chart. Where is it?"

She swallowed hard and shook her head. "I donít know what you mean."

Alex crossed the room at once and pinned her back against the locker. He caught both of her hands in his and held them over her head and with his free hand, he patted her pockets. The paper rustled in the back pocket of her scrub pants and he pulled it out and opened it. He knew instinctively what it was, but he had to see it for himself. Callieís signature was on the ĎDo Not Resuscitateí paperwork that had been scanned into the computer five years before. It was part of the paperwork that every intern had to fill out, they had to make their wishes known. He looked up from the paper, wide eyed.

Izzie wrapped her arms around herself and stared at him. "Go ahead. Go turn me in."

"Why did you do this?"

"It was in her chart." The defiant look faded from her face and she blurted out, "Iíve been trying to make her go away for months and then she was really about to and ... I had to give her back to George. Okay? I had to give her back."

"Isobel Maria Stevens!" He grinned at her and ripped the paper down the middle. Her eyes widened and he grabbed her around the waist, lifting her into the air. "You are the most amazing human being alive."

He set her back on her feet and without thinking, kissed her. It was brief, almost chaste, and then he pulled away and gave her back the torn paper. "Shred it."

"What - youíre not going to tell?"

"Tell what? I didnít see a thing."

"But-" She watched, dumbstruck as Alex headed for the door. "What-"

He held up a hand to stop her from continuing. "Welcome back, Iz. I missed the hell out of you."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie pulled away from George and dried her eyes. She noticed that they were alone and wondered how much time had passed, wondered where Addison had gone. Finally, she met Georgeís gaze and her heart ached in ways that she hadnít imagined possible. His eyes were bloodshot, swollen. His face was pale and wet with his tears and she reached up, rubbing her thumb across his cheek. He caught her hand and kissed it.

"Why?" he finally asked her. "Why did you do this?"

"George-"

"WHY?" he shouted, then hugged her again when she flinched. "I donít - dammit, I donít mean to yell at you. I just need to know if you did this on purpose."

She waited until he let her go, then shook her head, her eyes downcast.

"Callie, you almost died. It takes a lot of alcohol to kill someone and you were in a garage with the car running."

"No," she said, the pain in her throat making her grimace. "It just ... it was just .. I miscalculated."

"How?"

"I donít know, but I did."

"Baby, please tell me the truth."

"Because you know what that is?"

"This isnít about me right now."

"It never is." She shook her head. "Think what you want. I - I didnít do anything."

George rubbed his eyes before looking at her. When he did, he said, "I donít believe you. Iím sorry, but I donít."

"It was an accident."

"How? You accidentally thought it was water?"

"I didnít mean to. I just - I wanted to stop thinking, stop feeling. I didnít think it would - I drank more than this when I went to North Carolina." She choked a little and swallowed again. "God, Iím never putting a tube in anyone again. Ever."

"Is that where you went? When you left me?"

She nodded and cleared her aching throat. George handed her the bottle of water that had been his and watched as she took a few sips. He waited for her to go on. Finally, she said, "It was me and a cabin and Jack Daniels. And I didnít have to think about what you did for fifteen days. I just - I wanted to not remember for a while. Today - today was bad."

"Yesterday," George reminded her. "You were gone for a while, Callie," he reached out, taking her hand. "What happened yesterday? Was it me? Was it because we fought?"

"It was part of it." Callie bit her lip as she watched his eyes brim with fresh tears. "I talked to my brother. He - he told me about the party and said that Daddy talked to you. And I told him what you did to me and he still said we should have the party anyway and I just didnít know how. I didnít know how to do it and I wanted to sleep and not think or hurt or feel. I just wanted to sleep for a while, George. Thatís all." Her throat ached too much to go on.

George wanted to reply, but his mother knocked and stuck her head in. "Hi," she said, smiling brightly.

Callie looked at George, clearly agitated. "Louise," she croaked, her voice practically gone. "You didnít have to come."

"Well, thatís nonsense if Iíve ever heard nonsense." Louise closed the door behind her and walked to the bed. From behind her back she pulled a stuffed bear that said ĎGet Wellí and held it out to Callie. "I couldnít watch them take out the tube and I couldnít stand to eavesdrop so I went shopping."

Callie took the bear, muttered her thanks, and then Louise engulfed her in a tight embrace, pushing George out of the way. He took a step back and watched as his mother fussed over Callie, making her lie down, insisting that he get a wet cloth to clean her face. Any protest Callie attempted was quickly shot down and within minutes, Callie was tucked into the bed and Louise was gently dabbing the dried blood away.

"Go get her some fresh water, George. With ice. Lots of ice. Thatíll help the sore throat." She practically shoved him out of the room and turned back to Callie, who was now watching her with a wary expression on her face. Louise went back to the bed and took a deep breath. "Are you sober?"

"Iím thinking Ďunfortunatelyí is probably the best word to answer that."

"He told me what happened with Dr. Stevens."

Callie pursed her lips together and looked away. Louise continued, undaunted, "And youíve made him pay. You broke him last night. You destroyed him. Youíre even. I know this hurts like hell, honey, Iíve been there, but-"

Stunned, Callie looked up at her. "What?"

"Harold was a good man, a decent man, and I loved him very much. But we got married young and I think he resented me in the beginning. He still wanted to go and drink with his friends and I didnít know how to stop it so I stayed home and tried to be a good wife. Then he told me that he had been unfaithful and I was devastated. I was pregnant with George at the time and I left. I went home to my mother and I cried so much that it hurt all over. So I know. I know.

"Harold finally broke, Callie, the way that George did last night. And I never once regretted our life together after that."

"Sheís in love with him."

"Dr. Stevens assured me months ago that she didnít have any feelings whatsoever for George. She was very convincing," Louise dismissed. "And she was drunk. They both were."

"That doesnít make any difference."

"Really?" Louise raised an eyebrow. "Are you telling me that you were in complete control of yourself last night when you almost killed yourself with alcohol? I bet that you didnít know what you were doing after a while. You donít even remember most of it. Do you?"

Callie shook her head and she knew that doing so was conceding defeat.

Louise softened a little and took her hand. "Iím not making excuses for him. What he did was wrong and he knows that. Heís horrified that it happened and he loves you. He really loves you. Heís feeling worse than you, Iíd wager."

"I donít care how he feels."

"You really arenít a good actress." Louise sat down on the bed, still holding Callieís hand. "Iíve been talking to your mother a lot."

"Oh my god."

"Sheís a character."

"Sheís crazy."


"She told me that you clearly love my son enough to risk dying for him because you knew that she would kill you for eloping. Now *she* is a good actress. I almost drove to your place just to make sure you were still alive and well." When Callie didnít smile, Louise said, "Honey, look at me."

Callie exhaled and finally met her eyes again. "Please tell me that you didnít call my mother and tell her what happened."

"Your parents are on their way. I told them just enough to get them here. Itís up to you to decide what to say to them once they arrive."

"Itís not gonna work! Whatever you think youíre doing with my mom. You canít fix this, Louise."

"I know my son. I wonít have to fix it. He will."

George came into the room cautiously, carrying a pitcher of water and ice chips. He looked from one to the other and when neither spoke, he filled a Styrofoam cup full of water, put a straw in it, and held it out to Callie. When she took it, her hands were shaking, and he frowned and covered them with his own. "Are you cold?" he asked, as she took a couple of small sips.

When Callie nodded, Louise said, "Iíll go round up a blanket."

"Iím sorry," he said, when his mother was out of earshot. "I needed her here. I was going crazy and I called her. Whatever she said to you --- Iím sorry."

"Fight your own battles, George." She lost her own battle with tears and it made her throat ache even worse. "That was really low."

"I didnít tell her to say anything. Give me just a little bit of credit and -"

"The last time I gave you credit you cheated on me. Remember? You said ĎCanít you give me a little credit that maybe Iím on your sideí and then-"

"And then you threw me out! And I was pissed off! You threw me for the loop with the money thing and you crawled my ass for being thrown."

Her next words were muffled with a sob. "You called me *curvy*."

"You *are* curvy. The first night we slept together, in the freakiní basement, I told you that you should wear a warning sign that said Ďdangerous curves aheadí. Your body is mind-blowing. I -"

"Shut up."

"We made up after that fight. Itís done. Itís over. Let it go! You apologized to me and I apologized to you and-"

"You left out the part where you slept with her!"

George dug his fingers into her thighs to keep from shaking her. "I made a mistake. I made a horrible, awful mistake. When have I paid enough? When? What do I have to do? Do you want to move away from here? Do you - do you want to start fresh somewhere else? Iíll go. Iíll never speak to her again. What else do you want from me?"

"You canít undo it. Thatís what I want from you and you canít undo it!"

"But I can prove to you that I love you and I will."

Saying nothing, she rolled away from him and pulled the cover up over her shoulder. Louise could bring a thousand blankets and never chase the chill away. Callie was frozen, inside and out, and as she closed her eyes she wanted nothing more than the world to end. And take her with it.

But on the plus side, her mother would probably make sure it did.

*~*~*~*~*~

Raphael and Melana Torres arrived via helicopter, landing atop Seattle Grace with all the pomp and circumstance of royalty. The pilot had called ahead and George, who had left Callie sleeping in her room, trudged to the roof to collect them with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had not slept, hadnít eaten, hadnít showered or changed his clothes, but he really wasnít concerned about first impressions at the moment. He also didnít know if Callieís brother had told what he had done. As soon as he opened the door to the rooftop, the helicopter was leaving and he stared, wide eyed, as Mr. Torres escorted his wife across the helipad.

Melana Torres was an older version of Callie. Her body was shaped like an hourglass and she wore a clinging black dress that accentuated her waist and hips. The dress scooped at the neck, displaying a cascading necklace of diamonds that disappeared into her ample cleavage. She was tall, taller than her husband, and as she approached, George realized that the extremely high heels she wore were the likely cause. As the woman drew nearer, George could see that her hair, jet black and curly, was slightly shorter than Callieís, but styled similarly. She was, for lack of a better word, breathtaking.

And she clearly knew it.

A few feet from George, she lowered her round, dark sunglasses and adjusted the insanely large Louis Vuitton bag over her shoulder. George stood a little straighter as she appraised him and held out his hand to Callieís father "Hello, Mr. Torres," he said, then turned to Callieís mother. "Itís nice to finally meet you, Mrs. Torres. You look so much like Callie."

"How is my daughter?" Melana took his hand in hers and firmly clasped it. "Your mother was rather vague."

"Sheís okay. Sheís sleeping now." George indicated the bag on her arm. "Would you like me to carry your bag?"

"No, he wouldnít like that," she replied. "Strangers can be unsettling."

George balked a little. "Excuse me?"

"Could you please explain to us exactly what happened?" Melana indicated the door behind George. "And could you please escort us into the building? This wind is unbearable and Gucci hates to travel."

"Uh, okay. Sorry." George opened the door and waited for them to enter. He watched as Melana took off her sunglasses and stowed them in a case, which she dropped into the side of the large bag. Mr. Torres cleared his throat and George said, "Do you want to see her now? I mean - Iím sure you do. That was a stupid question. Itís just - long night. You know?"

"Let me see your eyes." Melana beckoned him forward and pressed his cheeks with her palms. She stared at him for a long span, then nodded. "Kind eyes. Heís not at all the vulture you described, Raph. Heíll do."

"Melana," Raphael warned, then turned to George. "I demand to know what happened. Your mother indicated that she had food poisoning?" Raphael tilted his head a little. "I assume it was something you cooked."

"No. No, sir, I mean. It wasnít food poisoning. My mother was probably trying not to scare you." He glanced back and forth between them both. "Callie, uh, she drank a little ... too much and, uh, had an adverse reaction to it. They pumped her stomach and - well, weíre still waiting to make sure that her liver enzymes stabilize and that her body is strong enough to, er, bounce back without any serious side effects."

"My daughter doesnít drink," Raphael snapped. "She hates the taste of alcohol."

"Yes, and sheís also a virgin saint who flitters about her day with angelís wings." Melana glanced at her husband and rolled her eyes, her expression so much like Callieís that it was unnerving. "Perhaps, Raphael, you should consider taking off your rose colored glasses before we see the damage for ourselves." To George, she added, "My husband feels that his daughter can do no wrong. This will be your fault somehow so brace yourself."

George had no idea how to respond, so he indicated the elevator behind them. "Sheís on the fifth floor. Uhm, Dr. Shepherd, he was the attending on duty last night, has gone home for the day, but Chief Webber has taken over Callieís case and theyíre really pulling out all the stops. You know, sheís one of us."

"Not quite," Raphael replied, looking him up and down. "You are still an intern. A poor, first year intern. And my daughter-"

"Oh for Heavenís sake," Melana exclaimed, her attention still on George. "No one is good enough for her. Ever. He would find fault with Jesus if she brought him home. She brought home a wonderful boy from Mexico who Raphael said was too low class. She brought home a handsome young man from her university and Raphael said that he had no table manners and his mother was that famous woman who teaches etiquette. Calliope brought home musicians and-"

"Musicians are *scum*!" Raphael told her. "I was not going to stand by and watch our only daughter, the very same one who aced her SATís, get involved in that business."

Melana ignored him and continued to talk to George, who hit the elevator button as he listened. "Have you heard her sing yet? I wanted her to sing at Carnegie Hall one day. I wanted her to act on Broadway in ĎEvitaí. She was so good, always cast as the lead in the plays during her summer breaks, and then she graduated high school, an agent wanted to sign her, and Raphael says no. He says she has to go to medical school and then she chose her specialty simply because itís where all the cute boys were. Honestly, breaking bones? Sheís a *girl*."

"Mel," Raphael said. "Can we please not?"

"I gave you two sons. You could have let me have my little girl."

"I thought Callie had three brothers," George said.

"Tell him what happened to your other son, Mel." Raphael waited, looking at her innocently.

She said something in Greek and hit the button to the elevator again. "If we had been brought here because we were injured we would now be dead. Why is this elevator so slow?"

"My wife has very old fashioned beliefs." Raphael regarded her for a moment, then told George, "Cambyses is gay. This is a fact that Melana cannot overcome so she refuses to acknowledge his Ďdifferenceí."

"Heíll grow out of it. Itís just a phase."

"A phase that heís had since he was fifteen?" Raphael asked.

Melana waved a hand and said, "If *your* daughter can stop dressing like a gangster then Cam can beat this affliction as well."

The elevator finally opened and George indicated that they should enter first. It was thankfully empty. He saw that Melana was still regarding him and he squirmed a little and said, "I didnít know that Callie could sing."
"Well, have you seen her pitch a tantrum yet?" Melana asked. "Her singing is just as impressive."

George smiled. "Now that, I have firsthand knowledge of."

"Iím sure you deserve whatever she dishes out," Raphael told him. "How much alcohol are they alleging she drank?"

"She was unconscious when she was brought in," George admitted.

"What!?" Raphael roared. "Ay dios mio! How? How did this happen? You did this! You!"

"Told you," Melana said to George, then looped her arm through his. Her face was strained now and her worry for her daughter was evident. She valiantly patted Georgeís hand. "Ignore him. Heís gruff as a bear, but stings as hard as a butterfly."

The doors opened and George indicated that they had arrived. He led them down the hallway and paused outside Callieís door. It took everything that he had inside to say what came next. "Look, Iíd rather you hear this from me than anyone else. This is being treated as a -"

Chief Webber emerged from Callieís room and almost ran into Raphael. He glanced up from her chart, started to apologize, and then saw Melana. "My god," he said. "If I hadnít just been in to see Callie Iíd think that she was wandering the halls. Iím Chief Webber."

George made the introductions and said, "I was just about to explain Callieís situation when you came out. Maybe you should - you know, be unbiased, Chief Webber."

Webber looked at George, who had been unable to hide the desperation his voice. "There are privacy issues, Dr. OíMalley."

"No, thereís not." George pointed at Callieís chart. "She signed off on a medical waiver when she first started. She lists them as medical contacts and agreed to full disclosure."

"We are her parents." Melana looked back and forth between the two men. "This is our child. Please- is she okay?"

Webber indicated an empty conference room across the hall and said, "Please have a seat and weíll be right in."

Callieís parents hurried into the room and Webber closed the door, leaving himself and George in the hallway. "Do they know what transpired between you and Dr. Stevens?"

"Iíd be in the ER in they did." George ran a hand through his hair. "And how do you know?"

"Itís my business to know. Iím not judging you, I canít, but theyíre going to eventually want answers that I will *not* give them."

"I know." George nodded. "I - I should probably go check on Callie."

"Dr. Karev is with her. And youíre coming with me."

George looked back at Callieís door and shoved his fists in his pockets. Anger, hot and fiery, raced through him. Alex Karev had found her. Alex Karev had moved into Georgeís territory and Callie was doing nothing to stop it. He refused to imagine what was taking place in Callieís room. A tearful reunion? A kiss? "Fine. Letís get it done."

Melana and Raphaelís joined hands were on the table and Raph stood a little when the doctors came in. Chief Webber nodded at him and took a seat directly across from him. George sat across from Melana and nervously twisted the silver wedding band on his finger. No one spoke for a moment and Chief Webber laid the chart on the table, opening it. He rifled through a couple of pages and said, "Callie was unresponsive when she was brought in. Bloodwork confirmed that she had a potentially fatal amount of alcohol in her system. Because of her breathing, she was put on a respirator and -"

"Is she breathing now? On her own?" Raphael asked.

"Yes." Chief Webber replied. "We took the tube out this morning, but thatís not the most worrying aspect. Weíre treating this as a suicide attempt. We have every reason to believe that your daughter purposely tried to end her life last night. Now, she says that she didnít and-"

"Then she didnít," Raphael stated calmly. "I want to see her."

"Let him finish, Raph." Melana looked crestfallen, crushed. "George, what do you think?"

Her face was a mirror of Callieís face the day she had learned the truth and her dark eyes, while creased on the edges where Callieís were smooth, were imploring him. He looked away quickly, unable to stand the reminder. "I - I donít believe her. I think she wanted to die."

"And why is that?" Raphael demanded. "What the hell did you do to her, you little bastard? What?"

George took a deep breath. "There are circumstances that youíre not aware of and itís - itís up to her to decide what she wants to share."

Raphaelís eyes narrowed. "You donít believe her yet you hide information for her? You want us to think that sheís the guilty one. I see what youíre doing. You want us to believe that sheís weak and I know my daughter. I know her. She would never do this. Never."

"Please, Raphael." Melana dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. "Dr. Webber? Is - is my child okay?"

George stared at the wall and spoke no more.

He didnít need to.

The Chief was in charge and someone had to be.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 8
*~*~*~*~*~

"I put the top up on your car last night. It corners like itís on rails."

"Okay. Now youíre quoting ĎPretty Womaní. You really are the perfect man."

"Well, yeah."

Callie pointed at his arm. "And youíre carrying my purse."

"Oh! This has been in my locker all night." Alex handed Callie her black leather bag. "Itís not really my style, but I think I could make it work."

"I know I have something for pain in here."

His mind raced back to the empty bottle Addison had found. "What kind of something?"

"Tylenol. Extra strength. A sledgehammer would do in a pinch." She dug through every compartment and sighed. "My head is going to blow off. Iíve had intimate relationships with hangovers before, but weíve never been sadomasochistic in our endeavors."

"Thereís a difference between nearly dead and hungover."

"Oí death, thou comest when I had thee least in mind." She gave up the search and looked at him. "You know, everyone thinks I was trying to murder myself. Webber is actually saying things like ongoing counseling and mentioned a monitoring anklet like Iím Lindsay *freakiní* Lohan."

"Thatís insulting. You? So much better looking. You want me to talk to him? Put in a good word?"

"You donít agree with him?" Her eyes widened. "You believe me?"

"I believe you."

"Really?"

"I think that if you were going to put your own lights out youíd be a little more creative." He leaned forward and smiled at her. "And you did tell me exactly where you were."

"I thought Addison and Mark-"

"No, I called you. You answered," he said. "People who want to die donít generally answer the phone. Even when the ring tone is as annoying as yours. Seriously? Marilyn Manson?"

"Iím gonna change your tone to ĎPretty Womaní," she said, laughing a little. Then she hissed and grabbed her head. "Shit. This sucks."

"That bad, huh?"

"That bad. Oh! I didnít tell you," she replied, massaging her temple. "George has been professing his love all day and as an added bonus, he got his mom to plead his case and tell me a story about how Harold ... *Harold*, Alex, had cheated on her. And the moral of the story was that they were happy anyway."

"Oooooh, mom scores for the dirty win." Alex sat down beside her. "You think she was telling the truth?"

"Who knows? Mothers have a tendency to protect their kid. Well, except mine. I have no doubt she would throw me to the wolves and then stay to monitor the scoreboard." She shrugged, then her face fell. "And my mother is on her way. I can't repress it anymore. Think you could help me out of this bed?"

Alex shook his head. "No. Youíre right where you need to be. And as much as Iíd like to grab you and go -"

"I just need to go to the bathroom." Callie held up a comb and a small bottle of hairspray that she pulled from her purse. "I should probably fix my hair before the Devil comes calling."

"Is she really that bad?"

"Sheís me." Callie nodded. "On ten. And you've only seen me on *four*."

"Holy hell. That is scary. Come on." He lowered the side of the bed and untangled the wires on the IV and heart monitor. The monitor was small, portable, and he laid it on her lap. He pulled the pulse oximeter from her finger and silenced the machine before it could protest. Finally, he stepped up beside her and gently eased her legs from beneath the cover.

"Alex?"

"Yeah."

"Iím not broken."

He looked down at her then and realized that he was handling her like a newborn. "Are you sure about that?"

"Well, my voice barely works and my throat feels like Iíve been swallowing fire, but on the whole Iím in one piece."

"What about your heart?"

She looked away. "Iím a big girl and you donít have to use kid gloves with me."

"Iíd never insult you by doing that. You know I tell you exactly how it is." Alex helped her stand and waited while she adjusted her gown for modestyís sake. "They cut your clothes off, by the way."

"I bet you loved that."

"Youíd be proud of me. As much as I was tempted to watch, I didnít."

"Wonders never cease." Callie walked into the bathroom and was pleased to see that someone had set out a few toiletries. She couldnít wait to wash her face, brush her teeth, and pull a comb through her hair. She glanced at her reflection and drew up short. "Holy shit! I did kill myself. Iím a zombie."

"Not quite zombie. More like the walking wounded." Alex joked and closed the door. He straightened her bed and sat down. The rumors were flying in the hospital. Everyone was speculating about who and what had caused Callie Torres, the ĎBonecrusherí, to crack. Gossip, especially in a place like Seattle Grace, spread faster than wildfire and before Alex had gotten up to the fifth floor he had heard no less than three different first hand accounts of what had transpired. By people who had not even been on duty.

None of it painted Callie in a nice light and that, despite any evidence to the contrary, would keep him firmly on her team. He refused to even entertain the thought that what people were saying could be possible. He may not have known Callie very long, but she knew how to play the game, and she wasnít likely to just stop batting before the last inning was finished.

He stood when the bathroom door opened and met her halfway. "Where are you hiding the magic wand? You look like yourself again!" He wolf whistled and leered at her, but she didnít smile. "Hey? What are you thinking?"

"Iím not this person."

"What person?" He waited for her to reply and when she didnít, he lifted her chin. "What person, Cal?"

"Iím not that girl. I donít let a guy make me crazy. I just donít. I never have. And last night-"

"What about it?"

"I became that girl. I became that idiot who canít think straight because the only guy she ever loved is an asshole so she takes it out on herself. This is *not* my fault. My brain just stops working when heís around or when heís not around at all and I just happen to think of him and then I want to tie him to an anchor and drop him in the ocean. And then die rescuing him. BECAUSE I AM AN IDIOT."

"Thereís a simple explanation."

"Iím going with the idiot thing. I should get that put on a little round pin and wear it on my scrubs so that all doubt is erased and the next guy who wants to screw me over will just do it up front. At least theyíd be open about it."

"Youíre talking way too much. I donít mind, but your throatís not getting any better." Alex shook his head. "And the reason your brain stops working is because you still love him. And as hurt as you are, youíre not ready to let him go."

"I could be. Maybe I am."

"Liar."

Callie groaned and laid her head against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin against her soft curls for a long while. "What I am gonna do, Alex?" she finally said.
Neither realized that they had an audience.

"Youíre going to explain yourself. And you will do it now, Calliope."

"Son of a bitch." Callie cringed, took a step back and looked at her parents, then at George, who was glaring at her with his arms crossed. "Perfect timing as usual, Mom. Hi, Daddy."

Melana crossed her arms over her chest and stared back and forth between Callie and Alex. Raphael started toward his daughter, but his wife stopped him. "Do you know what theyíve been telling us, Callie? What your *boss* has told us about you?"

"Go ahead. Get it out of your system, Mom. Iím listening."

"I gave you the life that you have! And the only one of us who gets to take it is *me*!" Melana snapped, her eyes blazing. "What is it with you and Cambyses? I think sometimes that the two of you conspired against me in the womb together while you were stretching me half to death! Do you know what itís like for a parent to get this kind of news? Do you even care what you put us through? All your life you have been pampered, spoiled, and this is how you thank us? How you thank me?"

Callie simply looked at her. Melana took a step forward and pointed her finger at her daughter. "Are you going to explain? Are you? Who is this man? And what the hell are you doing?"

"Is that it?" Callie asked her. "Are you done? Or do you want me to wait while you load the other barrel."

"YOU ARE TRYING MY PATIENCE!"

"You confused me a little, Mom! You usually jump straight into the condemnation, then the guilt trip, and *then* you threaten to kill me. You did it backwards this time."

"Raph, will you do something about your child?"

Raphael moved around his wife and hugged Callie. Behind them, Melana began to curse, very well, in Greek *and* Spanish, but Raphael ignored her and gave his daughter a kiss. "Mija, your voice. You donít need to explain anything right now." He glanced at Alex and extended his hand. "Hello, Iím Raphael."

"Alex Karev." Alex, who had been staring at Melana with wide eyed wonder, turned to the older man and shook his hand. "Callieís told me all about you. Itís so nice to finally meet you."

"Who is he?" Melana asked George, who was standing next to her. "This man with the shifty eyes and smooth tongue?"

"Iím a doctor. I work with Callie." Alex extended his hand, but the woman simply glared at him.

"Donít expect her to be nice, Alex. You saved my life. She may push you off the roof later on as punishment." Callie pushed Alex's hand down. Her mother looked shocked. "Yeah, Mother, as usual you know nothing about everything."

"You saved her?" Melana asked Alex. "You were with her?"

"Well, I - I brought her to the hospital." Alex barely had the words out before Raphael had him in a bear hug. He patted the older man on the back, clearly uncomfortable, and waved away the gratitude. "I was just in the right place at the right time, Mr. Torres. It was my pleasure."

"Oh, Iím sure it was," Melana said, eyes narrowed. "Callie, are you so generous with your affection with all of your co-workers?"

"What is that supposed to mean?" Callie growled. "Usted es muy loca en la cabeza!"

"English is your first language, Calliope. I saw to that," Melana pointed out. "And donít pretend you donít know what Iím suggesting. Youíre being purposely obtuse or perhaps you really are as ignorant as your behavior last night would imply."

"Okay, thatís it," George said, watching his wifeís face fill with color. "Callieís not ignorant and I canít imagine that calling her names is going to make either one of you feel any better, Mrs. Torres. So, why donít we let her get back into bed, where she needs to be, and everyone try to calm down."

Melana spun around to face George. "You had us sit in that room and listen to the Chief of Surgery tell us that our child could have died during the night. You had him tell us that it was by her own hand and you agreed with him. You will have to forgive me if I donít understand how that could possibly happen to a girl who called me weeks ago to tell me that she was married, that she was happy, that her life was perfect. I want answers and I want them now."

"Iím gonna go." Alex reached over and squeezed Callieís hand. "Iíll come back later and -"

"You will stay where you are." Melana moved a little closer to Alex. "And tell me what you were doing with her last night. She claims you saved her, but I wonder how much you contributed to the problem. I see the way you look at her, Alex Karev. My daughter is married. Leave her alone."

Raphael glared at Callie. "Mija, are you - is this - are you being *unfaithful*?"

"No! No! That is absolutely not the case," Alex replied before she could. "Weíre friends. Thatís it. George, you better say something, man. Because Callieís not going down like this."

"What do you mean?" Raph glanced at George who looked away. "What the - OíMalley, what did you do to my daughter? I warned you! I got in your face and I -"

"STOP! Ow! Oh my god!" Callie clutched her head because of the pain that shot through it. "Stop. Just stop."

"Why arenít they giving her anything for the headache? Why is she suffering?" Raphael demanded.

"Perhaps to teach her that moderation is the perfect measure for everything," Melana said.

"Mom, for the love of God!" Callie shouted, then began to cry as she clutched at her throat. "Iím suffering. Okay? Iím suffering enough without your help so just enjoy the view in silence because I canít *take* anything else. Iíve had enough. You win. Iím miserable. Inside and out! Iím miserable!"

Melana covered her mouth as Callie completely broke down. Her eyes widened in shock. Never, in Callieís entire life, had she cried the way she was currently crying. It cut through Melana, wounded her to the bone. Looking at Raphael, she saw that he was as shocked as she was, so she took a step forward, pushing George, who had started toward Callie, out of the way. She pulled her daughter into her arms and held her tight. Very tight. "Oh, baby," she said softly. "Iím sorry. Whatever it is, whateverís hurting you, Iíll take care of it."

Callie sniffled against her momís shoulder. "My head. Can you start there?"

"I- Iím sure I have something in my purse," Melana took a step back and patted Callieís face. She lingered for a moment, then pressed a kiss against her cheek. "Let me see what I can find."

"No." George stopped her. "She canít take anything yet, Mrs. Torres. The liver testing is -"

"But, I have just the thing. Just the right medicine." The older woman shifted a little and unzipped her bag. She clicked her tongue and out jumped a small black and white monkey, more tail than body, and it raced up her arm and settled on her shoulder. It blinked several times, using tiny hands to rub his eyes. Then it spotted Callie and opened itís mouth wide, revealing enough deadly teeth to be intimidating.

"Who are you smiling at? Come." Callie grinned through her tears, held out her arm and the little monkey leaped and whistled, landing gracefully on her wrist. She straightened the denim covered diaper the animal wore and gave it a kiss on the head. It scampered up to her neck and ducked under her hair, peeking out at everyone from between the two handfuls that it clung to. "Yeah, Iíd hide, too, if I could," she softly said. "Now stop pretending to be bashful, old man. Say hello."

The monkey came out from under her hair and waved at Alex, who stood closest.

"You canít just watch ĎPirates of the Caribbeaní? Now you have to get a matching monkey," Alex said, taking a step back as the monkey Ďsmiledí again. "Itís all teeth."

"You told me you slept through the movie, ass!" Callie told him. "And I had Gucci first. Before all the cool kids were doing it."

"Why is it looking at me? Is it going to bite me?"

"Only if I tell him to."

Alex held his hand out and the little monkey grabbed his finger and lifted it up and down. "Is he shaking my hand?"

"Monkeys are much more civilized than people. Especially my people." Callie stroked the monkey on the back and he turned into her, hugging her around the neck. She cradled it like baby and glanced at her mother, who was glaring at her. "You had that one coming, Mom. Now, this is Alex. Heís one of my best friends and later on youíll meet Addison. Sheís the other one."

"You always have to get the last word." Melana reached out and shook Alexís hand. "Thank you, Dr. Karev. For whatever you did."

Alex shook her hand and glanced at George, who was watching the exchange with a stricken look on his face. "No problem. As weird and amusing as all of this has been ... I really need to head out. So, it was nice to meet you both. Callie, Iíll see you later." He walked across the room and paused next to George. "Can you come outside for a second?"

George took a deep breath. Callie was ignoring him again, openly, brazenly. He watched as her mother helped her into the bed and pulled the cover over her lap. "Yeah," he finally said.

Alex led him across the hallway into the same empty conference room that Chief Webber had used. He waited for George to enter and then closed the door and leaned against it. "Listen, man, I told the truth in there. Nothingís happened between me and Callie."

"Really? You didnít kiss her? You didnít touch her?"

"I know this is hard to believe because sheís cool as hell, but all weíve done is hang out so far. Thatís it."

"So far? So far!? I will kill you, Alex! Dead! Stay away from my wife!"

"Nah, I don't think I will. Now that Iíve gotten to know her I can tell you that she is one hell of a woman and youíre an idiot."

"You think I donít know that?"

"No. I donít think you do. I told you once before that she was out of your league. Sheís hot. Sheís smart. Sheís our boss. Sheís *fun*. She's the kind of girl that you wake up with, twenty years from now, and she *still* makes you forget every woman you ever had in your entire life."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"I like her. A lot. And if you donít hang onto her with both hands then sheís fair game and Iím going to swoop in and do what you should have."

"Oh? And whatís that?"

"Grow up. Be a man." Alex smirked at him. "I leveled the playing field, see. Izzieís your best friend and now Callieís mine. And Iím just as demanding as Izzie is. Weíre gonna hang out. Me and Callie. And Iím telling you upfront that Iím interested. So, all the times that I call her or you see us together in the cafeteria or she chooses me over you ... you better not say a damn thing to her. Because turnabout it fair play."

"Alex, I swear to God-"

"How does it taste? Your own medicine, that is." Alex raised his eyebrows and opened his arms, shrugging a little. "What youíve been feeling the past couple of days? What youíre feeling right now ... knowing that I want her, knowing that I'm ready to go for it. Thatís how sheís felt for months. Think about that."

"Get out."

"Oh, Iíll go, but Iíll always be around."

*~*~*~*~*~

"Youíve lost weight since the last time I was here," Raphael told his daughter. "Quite a bit."

"Yeah."

"More than you should."

"You can never be too thin."

"Itís unhealthy, mija."

Callie played with Gucci, feeding him ice chips and hiding his favorite toy, a marble, in the folds of the cover. She was aware that her parents, who were standing on either side of the bed, were watching her every move. Feeling very much like she was about to spanked, she looked up at her father and said, "I - I didnít try to kill myself, Daddy"

"Of course you didnít, darliní. I know."

Callie bit her bottom lip, trying not to cry, but it was futile. Tears rolled down her face and she added, "I donít want to be a disappointment to you. To either one of you." Callie looked at her mother. "I just - I need to admit something to you."

"Baby." Melana put a hand on her shoulder. "You can tell us anything."

Nodding, Callie took a deep breath and pulled Gucci a little closer. She rubbed her nose against his and took a deep breath. "I didnít try to kill myself, but - but I wouldnít have minded dying all the same."

She looked up in time to see her parents exchange a look that made her break completely. "Iím sorry. Iím sorry, Mama. Daddy, please donít be mad at me," she sobbed.

Raphael leaned down, kissing her cheek. "I have never been mad at you. What makes you think Iíd start now?"

"You always taught me self respect."

"What you did last night - Callie, that doesnít strip your self respect or -"

"Thatís not what I mean." Callie looked into his eyes, drawing strength from him. "I want to stay married to a man who cheated on me. I want to give up the self respect you taught me and take him back. And Iím scared, Daddy. Iím so scared that heíll do it again and Iím terrified that Iíll just look the other way if he does because I love him that much. And Iíll never have any dignity again."

Raphael yanked off his jacket and began rolling up the sleeves on his shirt. He looked at his wife and said, "Youíll need to keep a straight head, Melana. Iím sure the bail for murder will be very high and Iíll need you to post it quickly, arrange a flight out of the country, and weíll take Calliope and go."

Melana visualized a few of the more painful ways to kill a human, then her jaw tightened and she ground her teeth as Callie buried her face in her hands. "If she wanted to be a widow, Raph, she would have taken matters into her own hands."
"She did!" Raphael snapped. "Do you not see what sheís doing? Sheís punishing herself for his mistakes."

"Quiet!" Melana pointed at her husband. "You always do this. You always try to rescue her."

"He hurt her!"

"Sit down, Raphael, before one of us has a stroke." Melana glared until he acquiesced, then put a hand on her daughterís leg. "Look at me, Calliope." She waited until she had her daughterís full attention, then said, "If God had intended love to be a dignified affair then heíd keep the heart out of it. He made it very clear that love was a battlefield."

Callie blinked at her mother. "No. That was Pat Benatar."

"Whatever." Melana sat down beside her. "What Iím trying to say to you is that your father and I could never be disappointed in you just for falling in love. Never. And itís not your fault if heís unworthy. Itís not your fault that heís a piece of sh-"

"Mom, heís not unworthy." Callie covered her motherís hand with her own. "And thatís the problem. I want to hate him, but I canít. He keeps begging and pleading with me. And he keeps crying and telling me how sorry he is and I want to believe him. I do. I need to believe him. I just want him, you know. I just want him back."

"Iíll give him back to you one piece at a time, mija."

"Raphael, that is enough!"

"I wonít abide it, Melana! He-"

"You canít understand this, Raph. You are not a woman!"

"I donít need a vagina to know how to treat a woman!" Raphael shouted. "And I will not see her like this for another moment! Itís over! Calliope, itís over. You will end this marriage and you will hold your head up while you do it."

"And this is why women have the babies." To her husband, Melana said, "God created women to carry love. Iím not just talking about carrying a child in your womb, Raphael, Iím talking about the way love stains a womanís soul. It gets inside of her and blinds her. It hurts her, amazes her, and makes her hold on with both hands. You canít fix this with violence. Only Calliope can do this."

"You just said love was a battlefield, Mel! I'm killing him."

"Stop fighting!" Callie said. She looked up at her mother and said, "You get it. You really get it, donít you? You get *me*."

"If you feel that this is something that you can live with, weíll support you. If you feel like itís something that you want out of, Iíll call the lawyer myself and make sure it ends." Melana saw the shock on Callieís face. "I know what Iíve always said and that should prove to you that love makes us all lose a little self respect. I love you, honey. Divorce is ugly, but itís uglier to stay where youíre unhappy. I wonít judge you for this and I'll be there every step of the way, regardless of what you do."

The door opened and George walked in, carrying a tray from the cafeteria. He sat it on the rolling table in the corner and pushed it to the edge of the bed. "You really do need to try and eat something, Callie. I got everything that you like and - and I brought extra fruit for the - the monkey."

"Oh, thatís right." Melana picked up the capuchin and held it for a moment. "I was remiss in my introductions. George, this is Gucci." She stared at her son in law for a moment. "Gucci, this is Cheater. ATTACK."

The monkey sprang.

Callie screamed.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 9
The little primate soared through the air toward Georgeís face, teeth bared. Callie reached up, trying to intercept the animal, but missed. "No!" she cried.

Raphael, who was hoping for as much carnage as possible, moved out of the way. He let the monkey land on George, smiled a little when the young man screeched, and then watched as Gucci ripped at Georgeís hair. Callie shot from the bed, but Raphael grabbed her around the waist and put a hand over her mouth to keep her from commanding the monkey to cease. Only when he felt her tears on his hand did he bark out an order and the attack finally stopped, but Gucci remain firmly on Georgeís head.

"Donít make any sudden movements, George," Raph said in a low, rumbling voice. "He can sever the artery in your neck with one bite. Just one. And I can think of one very good reason why I should let him."

"So can I," Melana agreed. "Perhaps you should instruct him to move a little lower, Raph. Iím sure thereís an artery below the belt that controls what he so obviously canít."

Callie finally succeeded in pushing her fatherís hand away. "Gucci, come," she said through her tears.

"Gucci, stay!" The authority in Raphaelís voice overrode her weak summon and the monkey, though confused, made no move to leave his new perch. "I trusted you, George. You gave me your word that you would take care of my little girl."

"I know," George shakily replied. "And I will."

Callie struggled harder as George lowered his arms and the monkey cried out, agitated by the movement. "Heís bleeding. Daddy, heís bleeding. Oh, my god."

Raphael narrowed his eyes at George and said, "Youíve got angels on your side, boy. Gucci, come."

The monkey hopped onto Raphaelís hand and Callie broke loose and rushed to her husband, who was dumbstruck, staring at the scratches on the backs of his hands. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that it was superficial, then cupped his cheek, thumbing away the blood from a small knick. "Are you okay? I am so sorry." He nodded and she turned, nostrils flaring, and shouted at her parents, "How could you do that to him?"

"How could we not?!" Melana demanded. "Whatís a few little cuts compared to what he did to you?"

"I thought you understood! You said that violence wasnít the answer!"

"I understand completely that youíre in love with him." Melana shot back. "And I said that your father shouldnít resort to violence. I didnít say anything about Gucci."

"Get out. Go back home and stay the hell away from me!" Callie pointed at the door, which opened.

"What is all that noise?" Bailey asked, walking into the room. "This is a -" Her gaze landed on the monkey, which grinned at her, and she shook her head. "I am not seeing what I think Iím seeing. This is a hospital, people! A hospital! Get that monkey and-"

"Heís a trained service animal," Melana said. "I have epilepsy. He can usually warn me that an attack is coming."

"Uh huh." Bailey had now seen the blood on Georgeís hands and crossed her arms over her chest. "Yeah, I can see how trained it is. OíMalley, go down to the clinic and tell Stevens to clean you up."

"No." George shook his head. "I canít do that." He looked at Callie. Melana had said that Callie was in love with him and that was enough to glue his feet to the floor. "Iím not leaving."

"Then go in the bathroom and wash your hands!" Bailey snapped. She watched as her intern walked past her and shut the bathroom door, then turned her attention to Callie. "Dr. Torres, how are you feeling?"

"Is that a trick question?" Callie wiped at the tears on her face and added, "Iím ready to leave. Can you get the paperwork started?"

"This is not a hotel," Bailey told her. "You donít decide when you checkout. I do. And youíre not going anywhere until you make your Psych consult. Itís in thirty minutes."

"Oh, come on!"

"Chief Webber explained it to us, mija," Raphael said, handing the monkey off to Melana. "Itís just a precaution. What you did-"

"For the last freakiní time ... I did not try to kill myself! I had too much to drink! It happens!" Callie was angry, angrier than she could remember being. "And Iím not talking to you, Dad! What you just did was fucked up!"

"Do not use that language, Calliope! You are not too old for a mouth full of soap." Melana opened the large bag and Gucci scampered back inside and settled onto his blanket. "Once youíve explained yourself Iím sure it will be fine. Your father and I will go with you and wait."

"No." George emerged from the bathroom, drying his scraped hands on a towel. "Iím going with her."

"You will stay away from her," Raph growled.

"She is my *wife*. You can threaten me, you can call me names, and you can try to intimidate me with your monkey or anything else in your arsenal, but sheís my *wife* and Iím not going anywhere."

Raphael glared. "Really? Was she your wife when you were unfaithful?"

"Dad."

"Donít you ĎDadí me, Calliope. Iím not the bad guy here. He is. And he can puff up and try to posture all he wants, but at the end of the day he still lost the right to call you his wife and if he does it one more time Iím going to strangle him."

"Thatís enough." Bailey looked at Callieís father then at George. She could see that distance needed to be put between them as soon as possible. "I need George to run an errand anyway so he can escort her upstairs. Dr. OíMalley, I realize that youíre not on duty, but if you could please pick up the Sanderson labs that would be great."

"No. No way!" Callie shook her head back and forth as George beckoned her. "I canít do this today. Not today! I have to leave."

"You got somewhere else to be?" Bailey asked. "Maybe a bar? A liquor store?"

"Look at me! Iím surrounded by crazy! I am not in any shape to talk to *anyone* about *anything*. If I go up there, theyíll keep me. Theyíll probably put a straight jacket on me and Iíd rather skip having to gnaw through restraints today." Callie put a hand on her head as the throbbing intensified. "Besides you still owe me one."

"Come again." Bailey raised her brows.

"I saved you from Sydney! Last month. She said she had nothing to do and kept hanging around you. I made her come with me. I made her scrub in with *me*. You said you owed me one and Iím collecting."

Baileyís jaw dropped a little. "You saving me from Sydney is not even in the same ballpark as me putting my ass on the line with the Chief. And I think I paid you back last night after I sucked five *full* containers out of your stomach before you were finally clear."

"You were just doing your job. Me hanging out with Sydney? That is not part of *my* job." Callieís eyes were huge. "She *hugged* me. She *braided* my *hair* so that it would look better under my scrub cap. I spent seven hours straight listening to her chatter about healing with love and then I had to have *lunch* with her on top of that. Now ... pay up."

"She braided your hair?" Bailey couldnít hide her laughter. She tilted her head back a little and tried to imagine it. When she finally looked at Callie she saw the desperation in the other womanís face and sighed. "Oh, all right! Your last liver test was fine. Youíre clearly surrounded by family and youíre safe and you need to go get a decent meal. I forgot that Psych was too busy to see you today."

"Dr. Bailey," George said, shaking his head. "Donít. She needs to go up and -"

"Be quiet, OíMalley." Bailey opened Callieís chart and glanced through it. After she scribbled a couple of notes, she addressed Callie. "Give me your word that youíll come back in the next couple of days and do this consult."

"Fine."

"Now promise me that youíre okay."

"Iím fine. Perfect. My mother has zipped up the monkey, my husband has zipped up his pants, and Iím getting out of here so life is good. And I did *not* try to kill myself."

Bailey shook her head. "Two days, Torres. Thatís forty eight hours for you to schedule this appointment and get it over with."

"He name is OíMalley," George pointed out. "And sheíll be here. Iíll make sure of it."

"George, you may be in traction by then." Bailey closed Callieís chart. To Callie, she added, "Good luck."

"Thanks. Iíll need it."

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison sat in the lounge, an unopened magazine in front of her. She wanted to go and see Callie, but every time she headed for her friendís room, she stopped. How was she going to apologize enough? The things that she had said to Callie had been wrong, uncalled for, and she couldnít help but think that it contributed to what Callie had done. Taking a deep breath, she flipped open the magazine and glanced down at it.

Mark sat down next to her, handing her a steaming cup of coffee. "Itís khaki. Just the way you like it."

"What?" She didnít look at him.

"Itís more milk than coffee. Itís khaki." Mark put his hand on hers. "Callieís okay. I overheard Bailey and Karev talking just now. Baileyís letting her go home. Apparently Karev pled her case and is backing her up on the whole Ďaccidentalí thing."

"Did you look in her chart? Howís her liver?"

"You know I did." Sloan grinned. "Sheís one lucky girl. Thatís all I can say. How she escaped this without any permanent damage is beyond me."

"Oh, sheís damaged."

"Just go talk to her."

"And say what? ĎIím sorry that I got pissed at you and called you a bitch just because I was jealous of you and Alex Kareví?" As soon as she uttered the words, she realized what she had done.

Markís eyes widened. "Can you repeat that, Addison? I couldnít have heard it right."

"Itís nothing."

"Do you have something going with that kid?" Mark asked.

"No." Addison shook her head. "We - we kissed one time and-"

"YOU KISSED HIM!?"

"Mark-"

"When?"

"A few weeks ago."

"Was that before or after we decided to do the sixty days?"

Addison faltered a little. It was only a split second, but it was enough. Mark shoved away from the table and stomped out of the lounge. She watched him go with her eyes wide and then groaned, planting her forehead on the open magazine. "Sucks. Sucks. Sucks."

"Iíll tell you what sucks," Bailey said, taking Markís vacant seat. "Callie Torresí life. That sucks. Her motherís monkey attacked George. They know what he did with Stevens and when a parent knows her child has been betrayed, well, they get a little crazy."

Addison finally lifted her head and looked at her friend. "You lost me at monkey."

Bailey quickly explained and watched as Addison put her head down again. "What the hell is wrong with you? Do not tell me that you have a hangover!"

"Men."

"No. We are not discussing men."

Addison, with her head still on the magazine, plowed ahead. "Mark canít really get jealous. You know? He cheated on me after I cheated on my husband to be with him and then he came here and screwed everything with legs, including Callie, so he canít get mad just because me and Alex had a -"

"WHAT?" Bailey slapped her hand on the table next to Addisonís head, causing the red head to look at her. "I swear to God ... I donít have interns. I have nymphomaniacs. When I was in my first year I did not have sex one single time. Why? Because I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to learn. I donít know what the hell kind of hormones they injected into my five idiots, but *you* should be immune! Alex Karev!?"

"It was just a kiss."

"A kiss of death by the looks of you," Bailey growled. "If everyone who worked here could open up a chart instead of their fly then life would be a little better all around."

"I kissed him on the mouth. Not there."

"Iím pretending that I didnít hear that."

Addison sighed. "By the way, are you sure that Callie needs to go home so soon?"

"Does everyone know the status of my patient? Karev was waiting on me in the parking lot when I got here this morning. He insisted that sheís fine and put up a damn good argument as to why she should go home."

"Why is that?"

"Because at least when sheís back at the hotel she can lock people out." Bailey sipped her cola. "And Callie got me on a technicality."

"A technicality?"

"Sydney Heron."

Addison wrinkled her nose. "Sydney Heron?"

"Callie had a favor coming. From me. Iím willing to let her go because Iím convinced of two things."

"And that would be?"

"That anyone who had to work seven straight hours with Sydney Heron earns the emotional breakdown that eventually comes. And George OíMalley is not going to let his wife out of his sight." Bailey picked up her bag of chips and opened it. "Sheíll be okay."

"Sheís stubborn."

"She needs to be. I donít judge a lot of the crap that goes on around here because my brain doesnít process it, but what he did with Stevens? *That* sucked."

"He loves Callie. He'll make this right."
"They got married fast."

"He loves her," Addison repeated. "So do I. Sheís my best friend. My best friend that I havenít seen really since she woke up."

"She may still be up there. Oliviaís on the chart so itíll probably be hours before sheís released. Can she be slower?" Bailey ate a few chips, then looked confused. "Why havenít you been up to see her?"

"We had a really, really bad fight before she drank herself into a coma." Addison made a face. "I thought she was sleeping with Alex."

"This?" Bailey said. "This is why I donít want to talk about men. I knew that Alex was too interested in her damn case."

"Theyíre not sleeping together. Theyíre friends."

Bailey stood and picked up her tray. "You know what? I canít wrap my head around whoís doing what with who so Iím just going to go do what I know. And thatís cut someone open. Too bad I canít pick who from the employees here. This whole place needs a lobotomy."

Addison stood as well, glancing down at the khaki coffee Mark had set in front of her. She lifted the cup and took a sip. It was lukewarm, but it was exactly the way she liked it. Mark knew those things. He knew which movies made her cry, which chocolate she needed during PMS, and how she took her coffee. It was rare to find someone who *cared* about something so mundane. Derek had certainly never, even after all their years together, known how much milk versus coffee made her a happy girl.

Dropping her food in the trash, she headed up to Callieís room. George was standing in the hallway and he looked so happy to see her that it took a little of the load off her shoulders. "Hey, George."

"Oh! Hey!" he greeted, then shifted his eyes a little.

She followed his gaze and saw an older gentleman standing nearby, openly glaring at George. "You must be Mr. Torres." She extended her hand. "Iím Addison Montgomery. Your daughter is my best friend."

"Miss Montgomery, itís nice to meet you," Raphael said as he clasped her hand in his. "Callie talks about you all the time."

"Call me Addison," she replied. Guilt rose inside her at his comment and she looked back at George. "Is it okay if I go in?"

He looked pained at the thought of being left in the hallway with Mr. Torres again, but he nodded. "Of course. Callie wanted to take a shower so her mom was helping her out a little, but she should be finished soon. Itís gotta be soon. Really soon now."

After she gave him a reassuring smile, Addison rapped lightly on the door and pushed it open. She drew up short when she got a good look at Callieís mother. "Oh my god. The two of you look like-"

"Twins," Callie finished for her, coming out of the bathroom, her hair wet. "Yeah, we never hear that. Mom, meet Addison. Addy, this is my mother."

"Melana," Mrs. Torres replied. The two women shook hands. "Addison is a lovely name."

"Thank you." Addison turned her attention to Callie and frowned. Her friend looked exhausted, beaten, and was still far too pale as far as Addy was concerned. "How do you feel?"

Callie shrugged. "Mom? Would you mind asking George to get my clothes out of my locker? I donít really want to go home in this hospital gown." Her mother nodded and Callie added, "And could you and Daddy give me a minute alone? I need to talk to Addison."

"Absolutely, honey."

Addison waited until Melana had left the room and then said, "Look, Iím sorry. I was one hundred percent wrong and -"

"Shut up."

"Callie-"

"Shut up! You apologized last time. Itís my turn. I hit you below the belt with the whole Derek thing and Iím sorry."

"I had it coming. And I called you a bitch."

"Yeah. I didnít have that coming."

"I know."

"I didnít make out with Alex."

"I know that, too."

The two women looked at one another for several moments and then Callie said, "I guess this is where we hug."

Addison took a step forward and pulled her best friend into her arms. "Weíre getting better at this whole friendship thing."

Callie held onto her for a while. "I really need a friend right now."

"Iím here." Addison took a step back and then pointed a the bed. "Sit down. You look like hell."

Callie crawled back into the bed and took a deep breath, hoping it would settle her frayed nerves. She told Addison about Louise and then relayed the events of the morning, her eyes filling with tears by the time she reached the worst of the gory details. "And even after the monkey attacked him, my father threatened him, and he knew that they knew ... he stayed. He *stayed*, Addison."

"He regrets it."

"How do you know that?"

"He stayed."

"No offense, but you tried to stay with Derek, too. You came all this way and you tried to hold on with both hands, but you couldnít. And youíre thinking about reconciling with the man who broke up your marriage."

Addison frowned. Reconciling with Mark would probably be hard to do now that he was so pissed at her. She wanted to mention it, but decided to keep her own problems to herself for the time being. Callie needed her. "My marriage was broken before I cheated. Love couldnít fix it, but it was still worth trying. Itís better to try and find out it didnít work than not try and wonder ten years from now if you made the wrong choice."

"Do you know that George never even told me he loved me until the night he proposed?" Callie replied. "I keep thinking about that. It was everything I could have wanted it to be. It was unexpected, it was sweet, and it was the most romantic moment of my entire life.

"But that little voice in the back of my head told me not to do it, told me that he was still reeling from his dadís death, and that it was a mistake." Her eyes met Addisonís. "Do you know that the only reason I said yes to him that night was because I couldnít hurt him? I couldnít turn him down because he said his stomach was filled with asphalt."

Addison blinked several times. "Asphalt? We have very different concepts of romance."

Callie attempted to grin, but didnít quite make it. "I knew better, but I just love him so much and he was finally offering me everything I wanted. I knew better. I did. And this ... this is apparently God getting back at me for depriving my mother of the white dress she picked out for me years ago."

"Iím not a religious person, but I canít imagine that God, whoever that may be, would hurt you this much over a dress." Addison put her hand on Callieís. "What do you want? Do you want to end it and go your separate ways or do you want to work on it?"

The silence between them was heavy and would have been uncomfortable had it not been for their mutual understanding that the truth was often hard to speak. The question hung in the air, demanding attention, though, and the dark haired Ďbonecrusherí knew that her heart was about to suffer a permanent fracture. She knew the answer. She knew it through and through. And it terrified her.

"I want him back," Callie finally admitted. "But then I think that Iím gonna be the butt of the joke here at work. Moreso than I already am, because then Iím the wife who takes crap from her husband and stays. And everyone knows. Everyone has an opinion and I don't really care what people think. Really, I don't. But even *I* hate those weak women who become doormats."

"I canít tell you what to do and I know this is a sore subject, but while you were gone for those fifteen days I hung out with George. You are my best friend and I will always support you because I love you, but I feel it in my gut that you guys can work this out. I donít have any doubt at all that George is madly in love with you and he wants to make amends. And you love him, Callie. Do you want to live without him because of what people may say or fight for whatís yours and prove everyone wrong?"

"How do I fight when I have no pride?"

"Pride goeth before the fall, Cal. And youíre ready to fall. Let him catch you when you do."

There was a soft knock on the door and George pushed it open. In one hand he carried the duffel bag containing Callieís clothing. In the other he held her discharge papers, which he had signed. He handed the bag to Callie and said, "Your parents got a room at the Archfield. Theyíre waiting in the hallway to drive your car." He looked at his wife. "Iíll understand if you donít want me to go with you, but I would really like to."

"Why?"

"Because I love you. And Iím tired. I havenít slept well in weeks and the only way Iím going to is if I can see you, hear you breathe. I wonít touch you. I wonít force you to talk to me if you donít want, but I need to look at you. I just - I need to look at you for a while."

//Iíd be happy to just to look at you from across the room. And even that, anything, any piece of you - I mean, hopefully all of you, that would be the best thing - because I love you.//

Callieís dark brown eyes met his green ones. He didnít blink, didnít glance away. Whether it was the memory of his proposal or a death wish on his own part was unclear, but the plea in his eyes never wavered. Addison squeezed her hand, prompting her to answer. "Yeah. Okay."

"Okay." George smiled at her.

Addyís sigh of relief went unnoticed by both her friends.

*~*~*~*~*~

George waited in Callieís room as she got dressed in the bathroom. Addison had gone, promising that she would drop by later in the evening when her shift was over and George had impulsively hugged her. He needed to hug someone. He felt like a dead man walking. She had hugged him back and whispered that it would be okay before she headed into the hallway to keep Callieís parents at bay. He was staring out the window at the surprisingly sunny sky when he heard the bathroom door open.

Callie was wearing a pair of black jeans that she had picked up at the mall when they had gone shopping in Vegas. They had been skin tight at the time, causing Georgeís mouth to water as they hugged her rounded backside. Now, however, he saw that they were loose, hanging dangerously low on her hips. They hung so low that she had been forced to put a cuff on each leg so that she wouldnít trip in the Crocs she wore. Instead of wearing the simple red shirt that had been stowed away in her bag, she had chosen to wear one of her body hugging, cleavage baring, tank tops. Also black. Also a lot looser than usual.

George would have enjoyed the view if he had not been shocked as hell at the patch of skin that peeked below it. Her stomach, which usually had just the slightest outward curve, was flat. Completely flat. As his gaze dipped lower still he saw that her hip bones were showing over the top of her jeans and he frowned. How had he not noticed that she had wilted away? Had he always been so blind where she was concerned?

Callie patted the long, loose pony tail she had secured her hair in and took a deep breath. "You think I look slutty enough to annoy my mother?"

George shook his head. "Sheís going to forget the clothes when she sees how they fit you."

Glancing down at herself, Callie nodded. "I do seem to have shed a few pounds."

Saying nothing, George watched her as she walked around the room, gathering the stuffed bear Louise had given her and then bending over to retrieve her purse from the bottom of the closet. He gasped and pointed at her backside. "Callie OíMalley!" he yelped, staring at the black ink on her lower back. "When, where and why did you get a tramp stamp!?"

Callie stood slowly, self consciously trying to pull her pants up or her shirt down. She turned and grinned a little sheepishly. "Uh, North Carolina?"

"Itís huge!" George moved around her and lifted her shirt. The tattoo was completely black and as he stared at it, he realized that it was a bird of some kind. The wings spanned the expanse of her hips and there were tribal designs on either side and underneath. He licked his lips a little and trailed his fingers over it. "Itís also hot as hell. Did - did it hurt?"

Callieís breath caught as he traced the lines. She hated that her body wanted to react to his touch, to his nearness. She hissed when his thumb dipped a little lower and stepped away from him. Angry at herself, she pulled at her shirt and turned around. "Yeah. It hurt. I needed something physical to hurt for a while instead of the inside."

George realized that he had overstepped the invisible boundary and nodded. "What does it mean? The tattoo?"

"I got it to remind me that I can fly. Anytime. That my wings are never clipped and Iím never stuck. I can disappear."

"You almost did."

"We should go."

George wanted to continue their conversation, but she reached for her duffel and put it over her shoulder. He took it from her and carried it himself, following her into the hallway. As soon as they emerged, Melana began to fret over Callieís weight loss, fret about her return to Ďgangsterí clothing, and then she saw the tattoo and, thankfully, it kept everyoneís attention off George for the elevator ride to the lobby. He listened as Raphael joined the chorus, complaining that Callie had ruined her beautiful complexion with the ink, that she had wasted away to skin and bones, that she should be ashamed of herself.

They cut through the ER because that was where Alex had left Callieís car. George saw Meredith, who smiled at him, then she looked at Callie and her smile faded. He knew that she was seeing what he had seen. His bride was no longer *curvy*. He wondered again how he failed to see it. Granted, her scrubs were camouflaging and the hospital gown she had worn was a tent on anyone, but still. Then he remembered that he had seen her in her bathing suit and sarong and he had been so intent on making her listen to him that he hadnít even noticed her size.

He definitely noticed now.

*~*~*~*~*~*~

Callie dug her keys from her purse and opened the trunk on her modest red Toyota Camry Solara convertible. George had fallen in love with the stupid car after she test drove it. That had been before he knew about her money. He thought she had financed the twenty thousand dollar car. She had paid cash. She figured he would shit himself if he ever got to go to Miami with her and see her Mercedes. Or the Jag. Or the old mustang convertible that had been Camís at one time. Or her fatherís Rolls Royce. She waited while George put her bag in the trunk, then shut it. Her mother kept a firm hold on Gucciís Louis Vuitton carrying case.

Flipping a few buttons, Callie let the top down and cringed a little. If she had thrown up in the backseat, someone had cleaned it up, but they had left the bottles. There were three empty Kahlua White Russian bottles and a fourth full one from the pack she had purchased the morning after her fight with Addison. The larger of the bourbon bottles was in the front floorboard and the smaller was in the backseat. The smell of alcohol in the car would make eyes water, but she said nothing.

Her father was glaring at her and Callie sighed, holding out her keys to George, who wordlessly took them. After he parents were settled in the backseat, Callie crawled into the passenger seat and tilted her head back a little, enjoying the sun. It was a mistake and the harsh light caused her temples to throb. She settled her sunglasses on her nose as George started the engine.

"Callie?" Raph said, shifting his feet a little as the bottles clanked beneath them. "Do you recall telling me that you didnít drink? That you didnít like the taste of alcohol?"

"Yeah, Dad. It was the day after a fifty kegger frat party and I woke up face down in the sand." She rubbed her head.

"I feel like I donít know you any more," her father said as George maneuvered them onto the main road that would lead to the hotel. "This car? This car isnít you."

"Itís got four tires and an engine. Itís fine."

"Tattoos. Alcohol poisoning. None of this started until you eloped."

Callie saw Georgeís hand tighten on the gear shifter and instinctively put her hand on his. He lifted his fingers a little so that he could capture hers and she didnít pull away. The remainder of the ride was blissfully silent, save for Gucci. Melana had opened the panel of his carrier and the wind thrilled him. He chortled his excitement, a sound that usually made Callie laugh along with him, but she never even smiled.

George let the Valet service handle the parking and Callie was glad that she didn't need to see the parking deck again. She hopped out of the car and pulled the seat forward, helping her mother out. Her father climbed out behind his wife and stood toe to with Callie, looking at her. He reached up, plucked the glasses off her face and tilted her chin. "I take back what I said earlier, Calliope," he told her.

"Which part?"

"The part where I said I could never be mad at you."

She watched as he stalked off. Her mother simply shook her head and followed, uncharacteristically quiet. George stepped up beside Callie and handed her purse to her. "Heíll come around," he softly told her, placing a hand on the small of her back.

"Heís disappointed in me. Do you have any idea how horrible it feels to know that?"

George brushed a strand of her hair back from her face and nodded, "Unfortunately. I disappointed you. And that need you have to rush after him and beg until he tells you he still loves you ... thatís how Iíve felt for weeks now." He saw her face tighten and quickly amended, "And I deserve it, but I know exactly how you feel."

Callie pulled her bag over her shoulder and walked into the hotel.
----
CH 10
*~*~*~*~*~
Addison found Mark sitting on a bed in the on call room. He had his back against the wall and his knees drawn upward and her heart raced a little when he looked at her. Swallowing hard, she locked the door behind her and leaned against it. His jaw was clenched tight and as she watched him, she saw that his eye was twitching. It was ... adorable. He was jealous.

It was also hot.

"Mark," she began.

"I donít want to hear it."

"It was before we made the sixty day pact. Karev and I had been working together every day and it happened. I - I was lonely and we kissed. It was nothing."

"Nothing?" Mark scoffed. "This is why you fought with Callie? This is why you got drunker than Iíve ever seen you? This *intern*? Heís a baby, Addison. Pervert."

"Iím a pervert? Do you happen to remember the candle wax incident last New Yearís? Or the handcuffs? Or the-"

"Thatís right, Addy. Do that thing you do where you point the finger at everyone but yourself. Go ahead."

Addison sighed and pushed away from the door. She sat next to him, crossing her arms over her chest. "You know I could pull up a hundred and one perfect comments for this situation, but I wonít. Iíll just say that I want to do this. I want to try, Mark. I want us to try to make this work."

Mark glanced at her. The twitch got worse. "If one of your comments was going to be that weíre even then-"

"Okay, skipping past that," she said. "Can you concentrate on the part where I said that I want us to be together?"

"Why?"

"Because I think that we could have something. Something rare." She chewed her bottom lip. "But so help me God, Mark, if you cheat on me again then Iím going to sleep with every man I see, take photos, and send you one every day."

The corner of his mouth lifted a little. "Is that right?"

"Youíre either in this the entire way or youíre not. You give up the women, you give up your little black book --- which in your case is probably too heavy to carry anyway --- and you commit. To me."

The twitching in his eye finally fizzled out and he shifted a little so that he was facing her. "And you commit to me. We buy the house, get the dog, and have the babies. We take turns going to PTA meetings, we spend our weekends arguing about whose turn it is to pick up the dry cleaning, and we donít look back."

Addisonís eyes were wide. "Your long term plan includes arguing over dry cleaning? And babies?"

"If Iím giving up my black book for you then you will damn well give me kids to make up for it."

"You donít want kids, Mark. Youíre just telling me what you think I want to hear."

"You got the abortion. Iím the one who bought the onesie, remember?"

"And then celebrated with your tennis partner. Oh, how vividly do I remember that. Half of the damn country club called to tell me what you were doing. And you call Alex a baby? Was she even legal?"

"What happened to not looking back?" Mark grinned at her. "We can do this, Addison. We really can have it all."

"This was far too easy. I donít have to grovel?" She returned his smile and leaned a little closer. "Because I was going to tell you that I love you as a last resort."

He kissed her, cupping her face with his hand. It was soft, sweet, but still full of promise. When he finally pulled away she reached for the tie on his scrub pants, but he caught her hand. "No."

"No?"

"No." Mark shook his head. "Weíre waiting."

"For?"

"I want to show you that I can go without sex. That you mean more to me than anything else. Weíre still doing the sixty days."

Addison looked stunned. "But - wha - we took a shower together at my place! We almost-"

"Almost doesnít count. Weíre doing this right this time. No sex. With anyone."

"That is ridiculous!!!" Addison frowned when he slipped off the bed and looked at her.

He smiled and leaned down, kissing her again. "If my count is right we have thirty two more days."

"I will die."

"Buy a vibrator."

"I have two."

"Then buy some rechargeable batteries."

"Damn you."

"Thereís nothing wrong with being a self pleasure junkie. I am." He put his hand on the doorknob and looked back at her. "By the way, Addison, I love you too."

Addison watched, slack jawed, as he winked and left her alone.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Did you tell her?" Izzie asked.

"Who?" Alex glanced up from the chart he was working on.

"Your new best friend," she replied. "Did you tell her that I took her DNR paperwork?"

Alex shook his head, smirking a little. "No. You are. After you apologize to her for cheating with her husband."

Izzie looked aghast. "That will *never* happen."

"Are you in love with OíMalley?" Alex closed the chart and watched her. "Seriously?"

"I thought I was," Izzie replied honestly. "I donít have one night stands. I just - I donít. I tried to rationalize that we were drunk and stupid, but after he kissed me in the elevator I just - I wanted to believe. I wanted it to mean something."

Alex pursed his lips. "So, when you left me for Denny ... what did that mean?"

"Alex."

"Iím just saying that I thought we had something. Something good. It wasnít just the sex for me, Iz."

"You canít help who you fall in love with."

Alex glared at her, not blinking. Her hair was blond again, but she had gotten it cut much shorter. It curled naturally around her face and he thought she couldnít possibly look prettier, fresher. "Yeah," he finally said. "Thatís something I found out the hard way."

"It just happened. Me and Denny."

"And you and George. You know, a lot of people would say that falling in love twice in less than a year is not possible."

Izzie watched him as he opened the chart again and wrote something inside. "Alex?"

"Yeah?"

"I wasnít in love with George. I love George. Heís my best friend, but I - I confused love and sex. I confused being in love with being safe. Heís safe. Heís George. And he was married and leaving the house and thinking about going to Mercy West and I hated it." Izzie walked a little closer and lowered her voice. "And I did fall in love twice this year. You should know. You were the first."

Alex felt his stomach drop a little. She had loved him after all. That realization made him madder than just about anything else could have. "And I was there for the last, too. I picked you up off his bed, held you in my arms until you could stopped crying, and took you home. I stood outside the bathroom door the entire night, begging you to let me in."

"I know."

"Did you know that I would have died in his place? For you? To save you from what you became?" Alex felt the color rise into his face and hated himself for the brutal truth that was working its way from his heart. "Because I loved you that much. I loved you enough to want you happy even if it meant that I had to watch you with him. Even if it meant that you got married, had that perfect life, and came to work glowing every day. I wanted you to be happy. And that, Izzie, is how I know that youíre not in love with George because if you were in love with George ... you would have backed off a long time ago and let him have what he wants. Because love, real love, is selfless. And youíre the most self absorbed person on the face of the planet."

"You loved me?" Izzie stared at him with new eyes. "But you - you cheated on me with Olivia and -"

"Yeah. And *thatís* how I know that George understands the magnitude of his mistake and would do anything in the world to take it back. Having both been there and done that myself."

"I never knew. I never knew that you felt that way about me."

"Well, the good news is that I got over it." Alex was shocked at how easily the words rolled off his tongue. "The Izzie I loved vanished. The bad news is that every now and then she makes an appearance. And I fall again every single time she does."

She watched with shock as he gathered up the chart and tucked it under his arm. When he moved to put the ink pen in his front pocket, she caught his hand. "Why didnít you tell me?"

"And complicate your fairy tale?" Alex shrugged. "I already told you that I wanted you to be happy. I may have given you hell over it, but I left it alone. You could probably stand to learn a thing or two from me. Callieís not the Devil. Sheís actually a decent person and you should be happy that someone loves George the way you loved Denny. Everyone should have that."

She watched him walk away.

Then she went to the chapel, where she spent the remainder of her shift lost in thought.

*~*~*~*~*~

What Callie wanted more than anything was to change into a nice dress, pull out her trusty pearls, and go crawl into her fatherís lap and beg his forgiveness. For her entire life she had been a daddyís girl. He had doted and she had tried to behave in a way that he could take pride in. What she did, however, was go straight to her room, where she locked herself in the bathroom until the hurt over her fatherís words had abated enough for her to breathe again without feeling like her lungs would burst under the effort.

"Callie?" George waited fifteen minutes and finally knocked. "Can I come in?"

She opened the door and sat back down on the edge of the tub. "What?"

He had expected to see tears on her face and was both relieved and a little alarmed by the lack. "Are you okay?"

"I really donít want anyone else to ask me that. Ever again," she replied. "Because I think that for the remainder of my life the answer is going to be no."

He kneeled down in front of her and reached for her hands, but she moved them to her sides. He put his hands on her legs instead. "It kills me to see you like this. I hate it. And itís all my fault. I canít think of a worse feeling in the world than to know that I did this to you."

"Having it done to me. Thatís a worse feeling." She pushed his hands away. "Having you touch me after what you did? Thatís even worse."


"Iím trying. Iím trying in every possible way that I know how. Canít you just let me in a little bit? Just a little? Itís all Iím asking for."

"You asked to come here and here you are. Under the circumstances Iíd say that youíre in much further than you ought to be."

"Do you want me to go?"

"Has it ever mattered what I want?"

"You held my hand in the car! I donít understand these mixed signals!"

She raised a brow. "Considering that you wrote the book on mixed signals -"

"Iím not fighting with you. Iím not. I canít and you donít need the stress." George stood and put his hands in his pockets. "You do need to eat though and thatís what youíre going to do."

"Iím not hungry."

"Well, I ordered room service. Weíre gonna eat and then youíre gonna get some rest."

"Donít tell me what to do. Iím not a child."

"Then stop acting like one." George walked into the bedroom and yanked open the duffel bag. He had gotten a change of clothing for himself from his locker and he pulled the jeans and t-shirt out, laying them on the bed.

"What are you doing?"

"Iím gonna take a shower."

Callie threw her hands up in the air. "Right. Make yourself at home, George."

"This is my home."

"Whatever."

He walked past her and laid his clothing on the sink. After retrieving a towel from the cupboard, he turned and looked at her. "You gonna watch me?"

She turned on her heel and slammed the door. The shower started a moment later and she yanked her cellphone from her purse. She dialed Camís number, but it went straight to voice mail. "Fuck," she growled.

Pacing the length of the room, she put her head in her hands and finally slumped onto the bed. She was tired of pushing George away and that realization sat in her belly like a ton of bricks. The dark circles under his eyes indicated loud and clear that he was suffering, but every time she thought about how easy it would be to sink into his arms and let him take care of her ... the mental image of him and Izzie together crept into her brain. She wondered if he had gone down on her, if he had worshipped between Stevenís thighs the way that he had once worshipped at hers. She wondered if, after it was over, he nuzzled her neck in the way that made Callieís skin pimple with goosebumps. She wondered if he compared the two of them, perfect Izzie with her tiny waist and curvy Callie with the big everything. She wondered ... no, she had to stop wondering.

It nauseated her and she swallowed back the bitter taste in her mouth. Standing, she walked to the small wet bar and pulled open the refrigerator. It had been freshly stocked and she grabbed a small two ounce bottle of Crown Royal. Twisting the top off, she knocked it back and grimaced, then reached for the bottle of Grey Goose that was the same size; roughly two shots.

George emerged just in time to see her drain it. His mouth opened it shock, then his temper flared. "God dammit, Callie!" he shouted, rushing across the room. He slapped the bottle out of her hand and then noticed the empty one that she had set on top of the fridge. He snatched her by the upper arms, shaking her hard. "GOD DAMMIT! DID LAST NIGHT NOT TEACH YOU A FUCKING THING? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

"Ow." She stared, wide eyed as his fingers bit into her flesh. "Youíre hurting me! George, stop! Youíre hurting me!"

"YOUíRE KILLING ME! WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU!?"

"STOP YELLING AT ME!" She shoved his hands off. "AND DONíT TOUCH ME!"

He yanked the small refrigerator from the counter and threw it across the room. The contents went flying. She watched in horror as he picked up a glass bottle of wine from the floor and pitched it against the wall. It shattered, staining the yellow paint crimson. Next, he turned to the contents on top of the dresser and angrily swiped everything off, then he attacked the drawers.

"George!"

"THIS STOPS NOW!" he shouted, seizing her by the shoulders and pushing her back against the wall. "Do you hear me!? Youíre done! This is not the answer to our problems!"

"Stop!"

"YOU STOP! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!?"

"WHAT DO YOU THINK I WAS THINKING? I WAS PICTURING YOU AND YOUR WHORE TOGETHER AND IT MAKES ME INSANE. IT MAKES ME SICK. IT MAKES ME WANT TO ERASE IT THE ONLY WAY I KNOW HOW! I WANT TO NOT FEEL LIKE THIS! I WANT TO BE NUMB!"

George gave into the tears that were stinging his eyes. "You have got to face this with a clear head! Until you do that then youíre never going to be okay, Callie, and I canít watch you do this! I love you too damn much to watch you self destruct!"

Callieís chin trembled and she closed her eyes, trying to will her own tears away. It was a futile, but well fought effort. "I donít know else to survive."

His grip on her loosened a little when he saw her face fall. Reaching up, he gently touched her cheek. "Then lean on me. Iím here. Baby, Iím here and Iím not going away."

Callie did lean. It was involuntary only in that George pulled, but she didnít struggle. She laid her head on his shoulder, her face against his neck, and let him hold her. Her hands were trapped between them, which had been intentional on Georgeís part, and she cried. She sobbed for what theyíd had, what they had lost, and what she wanted to rebuild.

And he rubbed circles on her back, massaged the nape of her neck, and didnít let go.

He was whispering that it would be okay, that he loved her, when there was a sharp knock on the door. "Damn it," he said. "I hate room service."

He let her go, pressed a kiss to her forehead, dried his own face and opened the door. It wasnít room service. It was security. The man, large and overbearing, looked past George at the mess that had been made. "Dr. OíMalley, is everything okay in here? We received complaints about the noise."

"Itís fine, Terrence." George addressed the man by name, having seen him daily for months. "We just - rough day."

"Iíd like to see Dr. Torres if you donít mind."

Callie stepped into view. She saw Terrenceís eyes widen a little when he saw the shape she was in and she forced herself to smile. It felt as unconvincing as it probably looked. "Everythingís okay. Iíll be hiring someone personally to clean up the mess and please give my apologies to Mr. Bishop for the disturbance. It wonít happen again."

Terrence looked back and forth between the two newlyweds. He finally saw how red Callieís upper arms were and his eyes narrowed a little on George. "Would you like for me to find other accommodations for Dr. OíMalley?"

"Only if they were in Iceland." Callieís smile was a little more convincing now. "Thank you, Terrence, but Iím fine, and I appreciate the concern."

The room service arrived in the hallway behind Terrence and he stepped into the room, letting the waitress wheel it in. The young girl stared at the mess with undeniable shock. Callie pulled several bills from her wallet and said, "Melissa, three hundred and fifty dollars says that you donít mention this."

The waitress took the money, tucked it into her apron and said, "Mention what?"

"Melissa Anderson!" Terrence cried.

Melissa darted out of the room and Terrence looked back at Callie. "Dr. Torres, our staff prides itself on discretion. You didnít have to do that. Iíll report her for-"

"Donít you dare. Sheís a single mother trying to support her family and sheís proud. If she thinks I bought her silence then itís not a handout." Callie ran a hand through her hair and said, "Now, if youíll excuse us, Terrence, weíd like to have our dinner in peace."

The security guard tipped his hat at her and glared at George. "Please make sure thatís exactly how you have it. In peace."

George closed the door behind the guard and turned to Callie. He was about to say something to her about how impressive she had been, but he finally noticed her arms himself and swore under his breath. She would have bruises. Reaching out, he lightly touched one of the marks and said, "I didnít realize that I was holding you so tight."

"I recall mentioning it." She pushed the cart out of the way and bent to retrieve two bottles of water from the floor. She handed one to him and opened the other, taking a couple of sips. The aroma of the food was enticing and her stomach rumbled, causing her to sigh at its betrayal. "Letís just eat and then Iím going to take a nap."

George looked at her and fought hard not to smile. Small victories were still victories, but to gloat would likely result in his head finding its way onto one of the silver platters the food had arrived on. He grabbed two chairs and set them on either side of the rolling cart and waited for her to sit down. He sat across from her and lifted the lid on her tray, then his own.

"Iíll clean up the mess, Callie. Iím sorry that I -" He gestured at the room. "You just scared me."

"Not talking about it."

"Okay."

Callie picked up her fork and pushed the roast beef around on her plate. It smelled like heaven, looked fit for a king, and yet the thought of taking a bite of it made her throat constrict. She rested her chin on her fist and sculpted her mashed potatoes into a mountain and then dropped several green peas on top of it and watched them roll off. She repeated it a few times and then put her fork down and picked up the roll, squeezing it into a round ball.

George cleared his throat. "Are you four?"

"Asks the toddler who pitched a tantrum and almost got his ass kicked by Big Bad Security Daddy for his troubles." Feeling like a petulant child, Callie dropped the roll on top of the potato mountain and sat back in her seat.

"Will you please eat something?"

Callie looked down at Georgeís plate, which was almost empty. It seemed wrong to her that he could eat when she couldnít. That he would want to eat after what he had done. He just kept living, kept breathing. And she was stuck waiting for the drain that she was circling to finally pull her down with the dirty water he had bathed in. Mercifully, the alcohol that she had consumed started to do its job and her head swam a little when she stood and put the lid back over her food.

"Callie." George stood as well and caught her arm. "Youíre going to die if you keep on like this."

"That night. How many times were you with her?"

"Donít."

"Did you - were you careful? She could be-"

"Sheís not. Sheís on the pill and sheís had a cycle. I asked her. While you were gone."

"What if she had been? Pregnant. Would you still be here with me?"

"Yes."

"Then why did you ask her about it? No. Donít answer that." Callie wrapped her arms around her belly, which had started to ache. "Wait, answer it. Why did you ask her? Were you hoping? Were you -"

"No," he cut her off. "I wasnít hoping. I was desperate to make sure it wasnít a possibility. And I donít remember enough about that night to tell you what happened or how many times. Itís a blur. The only thing I remember with absolute certainty was waking up and worrying about whether or not I had called you."

"What happened when you remembered? What did you do?"

"Callie-"

"What did you do?"

"I confronted her and we agreed to never mention it, to pretend it didnít happen. We agreed it was a mistake and I made it very clear that I wouldnít hurt you. I made it very clear that I love you."

"She told Addison it was Godís plan. That it was right."

"It wasnít. She knows that now."

Callie bit her bottom lip. "Is there anything else that youíre not telling me? Anything? Did you touch her at all when you were sober?"

The kiss in the elevator sprang into his mind and he pushed it back out, emphatically shaking his head. That kiss, more than anything else could, had convinced him once and for all that Izzie was his best friend, his sister, and nothing more. "No! No, I didnít. I wouldnít," he lied.

Callie sat down on the edge of the bed, then lay back, drawing her legs toward her chest in the hopes that it would settle her belly. "Iím tired."

"Can I - would it be okay if I -" He indicated the bed.

"Do what you want. Just stay on your side and keep your hands to yourself." She groaned, wrapping her arms around her middle. "My stomach is killing me."

George lay down, facing her. "Itís empty, Callie. And still raw from being pumped and you put more alcohol in it."

"Shut up."

Her eyes were clenched tight from the paid and George gazed at her. He hated himself. He hated himself more than she possibly could and he found some solace in that. "Are you telling the truth, Cal?"

"About what?"

"You keep saying that you didnít try to kill yourself and everyone seems to believe you."

"Except you." She opened her eyes and looked at him.

"Give me a reason to believe it."

She took a deep breath and said, "If I wanted to die I could have done it in North Carolina. The cabin was on top of a mountain and the road was dirt. It had been raining so the tires on the truck I rented kept spinning. I almost went over the side twice. It was a straight drop down into Lake Fontana and I could have lost control, but I didnít."

"Did you drive while you were drinking?"

"I was unconscious after the drinking, George. Every single day."

"What about when you went and got the tattoo? Were you drinking then?"

"I got it a few miles from the airport the first day there. I had two glasses of wine on the flight, but I wasnít drunk."

"Do you have a problem with alcohol?"

"No, I donít," she replied sleepily. "I have a problem with the path my life has taken."

"Why do you keep doing this? Why? This isnít you."

"It makes my soul be quiet. I just need it to be quiet for a while."

George watched as her eyes closed, as she tucked her hands under her cheek. After a few moments, her breathing evened out and he risked touching her. He brushed a lock of hair off her cheek and traced the curve of her brow. She was beautiful like this, her face relaxed, the tension gone. He had always thought she was gorgeous, but now he realized that she took his breath away. He grazed the freckles on her nose and knew that if never left the room again he would be content to look at her. He was seeing her so clearly and it felt like the first time he had laid his eyes on her at all.

A memory flashed through his mind then. His father had kept a trunk in the attic. It was beaten, battered, and the wood had buckled and splintered in several places. Georgeís brothers had laughed at it, claiming it was the ugliest thing they had ever seen, but it mesmerized George. He had fixed it up, refinished the inside, but left the outside the way it was and given it to his father for Christmas.

Harold had left that old trunk to George in his will and when George opened it, expecting it to be empty, he found a treasure inside. Everything that George had created at school, every time his name appeared in the paper, every report card ... was tucked inside in tissue paper. That should have taught George a lesson ... that sometimes the things that have rough edges and are not Ďclassically prettyí were usually the most valuable. Because they were filled with heart.

He had been an idiot and it had taken him almost losing her to make him realize what he had.

She sighed and he let his thumb trail over her plump, open lips. They were perfect lips. Angelina Jolie did not have the prettiest mouth, despite what people said. Callie did. When she smiled her lips looked like a heart and he wanted to see her smile again, to hear the throaty timbre of her voice when she laughed. Leaning forward, he kissed her softly, smelling the liquor on her breath. It had stunned him to see her drinking again and his face flushed as the anger he felt resurfaced.

He would get rid of the refrigerator. Or at the very least make it plain to the hospitality staff that no alcohol was to come into their room. She was relying on it to stop the pain and thatís how trouble started. Not that they werenít already in more trouble than they could handle. He prayed that she was being honest about the suicide attempt, but his heart just wouldnít let him surrender the overwhelming belief that she had wanted to die. He had certainly wanted to die after he found out about Mark Sloan trespassing on what was his.

Kissing her once again, he reached down and pulled a blanket over them. He made sure she was covered and lay back again, studying her features. He wanted her face, sweet and soothing, to be the last thing he saw before he drifted off. Mental and physical exhaustion had taken its toll on him and he was ready to crack down the middle, but sleep proved to be an unwilling partner.

For close to an hour, he lay motionless, listening to her breathing, watching her face. She rolled onto her back and he sat up a little, making sure she was okay. A moment later she rolled into his arms and put her head on his shoulder. It made him cry, it relieved him, it felt like a warm cocoon that he had no desire to fight his way out of. This ... this was coming home. He held her, clung to her, and relaxed.

Finally, he slept and for the first time since he had slept with Izzie ... his dreams were not nightmares. They were a welcome refuge where Callie laughed and danced and told him she loved him again and again.

CH 11
*~*~*~*~*~
There have been times that I thought I couldn't last for long

But now I think I'm able to carry on

It's been a long, a long time coming

But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
-Sam Cooke
*~*~*~*~*~

Callie was dreaming about her Uncle Kakistosís yacht. At forty two feet it was smooth and could launch itself across the water faster than a rocket. Thatís why they had stolen it. Cam was mad that his uncle wouldnít let him spend his allowance on a rocket kit and he had enlisted Callieís help, who was mad on principle alone. Any time either twin was wronged, the wrong-doer felt the wraith of both children and that was all there was to it.

"Just do it already." Callie, who was ten again in her dream, looked at her brother. "I took the keys. You start the engine."

"What if we hit a whale?" Cam asked, his dark eyes wide. He pushed his black hair away from his face and gazed at her. "Or a shark. No, weíre goin' to get killed."

"Cammy, weíre already gettin' killed for ridin' our bikes across the interstate. At least this will be fun."

"I changed my mind. We need to go back home, Callie. What if we get caught?"

"Chicken."

"I am not a chicken!"

She flapped her arms and squawked at him.

Cambyses frowned and started the engine. He hit two of the surrounding boats while backing away from the dock. Someone shouted, someone ran toward them, but Callie hit the throttle and across the Atlantic Ocean they raced. They fought for ten minutes over who would drive and Callie finally gave up and went to the front of the yacht, her arms held wide, as wind caused her pigtails to stand on end. She laughed and laughed when the two red ribbons that were wrapped around the rubber bands flew off and hit Cam in the face. Miami grew smaller and smaller in the distance and then a school of dolphin held their attention for a few moments.

No one was ever sure why the fire started. Maybe it was because the kids had run the engine wide open and jumped waves like they were in an airplane. Either way, when the smoke began to bubble forth, they pointed at one another and simultaneously said, "You did it! Iím telling! You better not!"

Callie had been the calm one. She grabbed two life jackets and threw one at her brother, who was coughing and hacking. "Get out of the smoke, dummy. Stop, drop, and roll!"

"Thatís if youíre on fire!" He waved his arms frantically as he tried to pull the lifejacket on. "Weíre drowning!"

"Weíre not in the water yet."

"I think I saw a shark!"

"Nuh uh," Callie told him. "We saw dolphins. Daddy said that when we see dolphins there are no sharks."

The flames had reached the deck and the bottoms of Callieís bare feet were hot, too hot. The fire licked at her legs and she screamed. "Jump, Cam! Jump!"

"Iím scared!"

Callie pushed him into the water and leaped right behind him. He emerged a few feet away, crying now, sputtering and choking. She swam to him and looked back at the burning ship ... his jacket was stuck on the railing. "Itís okay," she said, kicking her feet hard enough to keep them both afloat while she took hold of his arms.

"I donít swim like you!"

Reaching under the water, she unbuckled her life jacket and pushed it toward him. "Now you wonít have to, Cammy."

"No. I wonít wear it if you canít."

"Then neither will I." She hooked one of her arms around the front panel of the vest and put his hand on it. The boat burned. Debris hit the water around them. "Just hold on. Hold onto it, Cam."

A dolphin emerged a few feet away, squealing and spyhopping. Something must have brushed Cam's leg because he screamed and went under. Callie swam beneath the water and pulled him back to the surface, pointing at the dolphins, trying to keep him calm. Her brother was sobbing, crying harder than she had ever seen him cry, and he shook hard enough that the water around them vibrated from it.

"Donít leave me, Callie."

"I wonít."

"Promise me! Promise me!"

"I promise! Iím right here! Just hold on!"

"Sing to me. Sing something, Callie."

She sang ĎOver The Rainbowí. He stopped crying after a while.

And then she went under. She couldnít breathe, couldnít swim. There were sharks, there were stinging jellyfish, and as her lungs filled with water ... she gave in.

And she was glad when everything faded to black and she floated toward the bottom of the sea.

And then Cam was on the rescue boat, alone, and he was shaking.

He was shaking.

Shaking.

Shaking.

"Donít leave. Callie, please donít leave me!"

"Iím right here!" Callie repeated and sat bolt upright, gasping in air. It was a dream. It was a dream that she hadnít had in years and an ending she had never experienced. She hadnít drowned ... she had been the first one pulled, kicking and screaming when they wrenched her from Cam, onto the boat. She wiped the sweat off her brow and looked around. She was in her bed at the Archfield and the bed was ... shaking.

"Please, Callie. Iím sorry. Donít go. Donít do this," George cried, thrashing in his sleep. She looked at him and could see the moisture on his face in the soft glow of the setting sun. He was sweating, crying.

"I love you," he whined, his head moving back and forth. "Callie, I love you so much."

She leaned down and put her hand on his chest. His heart was thumping against her palm hard enough to break through his skin. "George, wake up," she said softly, then pushed his damp hair off his forehead.

"Come back."

Callieís heart broke a little as she watched him. His face was contorted, his sobs were real, and he was pleading with her, even in slumber he was begging. She caught his arm as he reached out, grasping at something only he could see, and held his hand. Nuzzling the side of his cheek, she whispered in his ear. "Iím here, George. Wake up."

"Callie?" George blinked several times and looked up at her. "Oh my god. You - you werenít breathing."

"You were dreaming."

"No - no, it happened. Derek turned the machine off and you stopped breathing. You were leaving me."

She had not really considered how stressful it must have been for her husband to make that decision, to watch her not respond. She looked away guiltily. Louise had obviously been correct about one thing ... she had hurt him. Bad.

He reached up and cupped her face, bringing her closer to him. "Breathe. I just want to feel you breathe. Please."

She exhaled against his neck and felt him start to cry again. He clung to her, voicing his fears, apologizing again and again. He promised her everything, even the moon, if she would just not leave him. If she would let him love her, let him make things right. She felt her resolve break when he told her that heíd die without her, that life wasnít worth living unless it was with her.

And then she was kissing him and she really wasnít breathing because he had that effect on her and she didnít care. Her hands were in his hair, her leg was over his and he was clutching at every inch of her, touching her everywhere at once. It was tongues, teeth and tears. It was primal, hungry. She sat up on top of him and pulled her shirt off, flinging it across the room.

George pushed himself up, taking her dusky nipple into his mouth. With his free hand, he palmed the other one, tweaking, pinching. He felt her tug on his shirt and raised his arms, letting her wrench it over his head. And then she was kissing him again and George completely forgot the nightmare.

He was living a dream. A perfect, beautiful dream. He didnít speak for fear of breaking whatever charm that made her forgive him, but his tears refused to stop flowing. His fingers grabbed at the band in her hair and pulled it free, letting her raven locks fall loose around her face. It tickled his shoulders and drove him insane. The smell of her, the taste, the feel of her warm flesh against his ... yes, it was a dream. It had to be a dream.

Callieís brain was not in control. Her brain was trying to remind her that she was mad, that she was hurt, but her body shut it down and took charge. She had her pants off and was pushing his over his hips in seconds and then ... then she sank down onto him without preamble and closed her eyes. She felt his fingertips digging into the flesh and rocked forward, pushing him deeper still. "George-"

He thrust his hips, holding her tight against him. She moved her hips in a slow, gratifying circle and his toes curled. "Oh god, baby. Do it again."

She did and he had to wage a war with himself to keep from coming right then. He watched her as she tossed her head back and he reached up, trailing his fingertips between the valley of her breasts, then lower over her stomach. He knew in that moment that he could be drunk enough to die and still remember every last second of what she looked like, how she felt. She jerked against him when he dipped lower still and pressed his thumb against her sensitive core.

She mumbled something that sounded very much like a death threat and he increased the pressure, watching her face. He made her come twice, back to back, and felt her walls clenching at him. Sitting up, he whispered, "Get on your knees."

She did as he requested and he moved behind her. When he slammed into her, she gripped the comforter and cried out and the sound of it almost forced George over the edge. Almost. He stared down at her back, at the tattoo, at the way the ink seemed to undulate as she pumped her hips. It was the most beautiful and *dirty* thing heíd ever seen. Reaching up, he grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled lightly. She pushed upward and he latched onto the back of her neck with his mouth, sucking at her tender flesh, marking her, branding her.

She came again and screamed her release. A moment later, George was slumped over her, breathing hard and she sank, boneless, to the bed. He followed, still inside her, and lay against her back, his cheek in her hair.

As soon as her body stopped trembling, reality sank in and then the self loathing started. She pressed her face against the cover and shifted slightly, making it clear that she wanted him off her. He kissed her neck and slipped to her side, his hand on the small of her back. "Leave, George," she finally said.

"What?"

"Get out."

"No." George pushed her hair to one side and said, "Talk to me."

"I wonít do it," she said, her face still against the comforter. "I wonít!"

"You wonít do what?"

She lifted her head and glared at him. "I wonít forgive you for what you did. I wonít forget it. I wonít trust you again. I wonít believe you when you say that it didnít mean anything and Iíll never, *ever* let my guard down around you again." Her chin trembled and she sobbed loudly. "But I wonít give up on us either. Because I canít. And I hate you for that. I hate you for what youíve made me become."

George leaned forward and kissed her. "You donít hate me."

"Then why am I picturing your insides on the outside?"

"Because youíre a doctor and thatís foreplay, sweetie."

"Ooooh!" she growled and got to her feet. "Donít try to be cute!"

"Come back to bed." He reached for her, but she pushed him away.

He watched as she stalked across the room and disappeared into the bathroom. George rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. "I wonít give up either, by the way," he promised loudly. "And youíll see that this is the right thing."

"Stop talking to me."

"I love you. Youíre incredible and very bendy. Beautiful. And forgiving."

"Stop talking to me!"

"And the tattoo? Best thing ever. I like you on top, but looking down at that ... damn."

She closed the door and he grinned.

If he wasnít mistaken he was coming very close to winning the war.

XXX
Three thousand miles away, Cambyses awoke in a cold sweat. He stared at the clock, then at Blake, who sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Somethingís wrong with Callie. Get up. Get dressed."

"What? Honey, itís late and we have meetings tomorrow."

"Iíll pack. You call the airport." Cam pushed the cover away and stood. "Get us on the first flight to Seattle, Blake."

"Just call her, Cam."

"No." Cambyses shook his head. "I donít have to call her. I know."

"How do you-"

"You remember the story about how we stole my uncleís boat? Callie saved my life that day. I havenít dreamed about it in years and tonight ... tonight she was drowning." Camís voice was soft. When he looked back at his lover, his eyes were filled with tears. "Sheís drowning and sheís not even trying to swim."

*~*~*~*~*~

George cleaned the bedroom, a smile on his face the entire time. He put the fridge back on the counter, picked up the broken pieces of the bottle, and jammed Callieís clothing back into the bureau. The carpet was stained red from the wine and the wall was spattered, looking like a toddlerís finger painting. He picked up a tall artificial palm tree and placed it in front of the worst of the mess. It worked on the visuals, but the scent of the wine was all over the place. He would call Jerry and ask him to bring his steam cleaner. Callie would not be hiring anyone to clean up after him.

She splashed in the bathtub and George glanced at the door, his smile slowly fading. She had been bathing for over an hour. A steady cloud of steam had been coming out from under the door and he knew that she was scalding herself. That was not unusual, she liked to boil in the tub, but he didnít like it all the same. She was trying to wash away what they had done, what they had shared. It was a slap in the face that he didnít need. She apparently felt dirty while he felt elated.

"Cal?" He rapped on the door twice. "Iím going to order dinner before they stop serving. What do you want?"

Her response was colorful and filled with suggestions on what he could do with himself for dinner. His personal favorite was her ribald demand that he stuff the phone up his ass until he choked on it, but the delivery wasnít quite as convincing at her threat to drown him in the hot tub if he didnít stop trying to talk to her. "Steak it is," he called out, ignoring her tirade. "Medium rare, right?"

There was more splashing and then she flung the door open and stared out at him. Bubbles clung to her skin, which was as red as a lobster. Her nostrils flared when she saw him looking her up and down. "Donít look at me like that! Donít talk to me! And donít try to feed me because I am not hungry."

Her stomach grumbled and he nodded. "Riiiight. Do you want a baked potato or fries?"

"You never listen to me." She crossed her arms over her chest. "Never. You act like Iím the mom on Charlie Brown and all you ever hear is -"

"Wah wah wah," he finished for her, moving his hand to imitate speak. "How about dessert? You know that the brownie thing makes you insane."

"You make me insane."

"I could. If youíd come back in here."

She slammed the door in his face and he started to turn away, but she opened it again and emerged, wearing her robe. "I figured it out," she said. "I was half asleep. I didnít know what I was doing."

"Mmm." He nodded. "I thought you might have been what with all the screaming and the orgasms, but I wasnít sure."
She stopped pacing the room and looked around. "You cleaned up."

"Well, yeah."

"I was going to call someone."

"Why?"

"Because itís what you do. You pay for someone to fix it."

"I take care of my own messes."

"Thatís why youíre hanging around, isnít it? Iím the mess you made."

"Iím hanging around you because I love you." He reached for the phone, but she stopped him. "Whatís wrong? Callie?"

"Iím sorry I didnít breathe."

"What?"

"When Derek unplugged the machine. And Iím sorry that you had to see it."

He hugged her then. He couldnít help it and she didnít pull away. "I love you," he said softly. "And Iím so grateful that youíre taking this chance on me. Thank you."

"George, I -" A knock interrupted her reply and she let her head fall back. "Perfect timing as usual, Mom!"

"Calliope?" Melana called.

"Okay, how did you know that was her?"

"Disturbance in the force? My evil detector?" Callie tightened her robe and opened the door, gazing out at her mother. "What?"

"It took some doing on my part, but your father has agreed to dinner. Nothing fancy, just across the street at the Mexican place. Bring Cheater if you must, but try to wear something decent. Youíre going to give Raph a heart attack if you look like a prostitute again." Melana glanced at George. "I took the liberty of inviting your mother. Perhaps sheíll give into her carnal instincts and eat her young."

"Jesus Christ," Callie said as Melana turned on her heel and headed toward the elevator. She shut the door and looked at her husband. "Okay, you get that itís us against them, right?"

"Fine with me."

"Famous last words?"

"Youíll see. Itís going to be just fine."

*~*~*~*~*~*~

Thirty minutes later, they were ready to go.

"Stop fidgeting. You look beautiful."

Callie put her hand down and took a deep breath as they waited to cross the road. La Rodeo was a hole in the wall that was tackier than anything else in Seattle. It usually amused her when she dined there, but her parents were inside this time. Waiting. With Louise. Smoothing her hand over the navy blue dress she wore, she glanced at the traffic. "If I got hit by a car ... that would distract them."

"If you get hit by a car Iím kicking your ass." He reached down and protectively took her hand, locking her fingers between his. "And tomorrow, first thing in the morning, youíre going to the Psych consult. I mean it."

"I need it after what we did."

"Weíre married. Weíre back together. I love you and I know youíre not saying it right now, but you love me, too, and everything is going to perfect."

"Oh my god. Is that your motherís car?"

"My mother adores you. Iím the one who has to face *two* parents who despise me. So focus."

They crossed the street. George willingly, Callie unwillingly. George finally had to get behind her and push, which caused someone to honk their horn since Callie was moving like a geriatric with two broken hips. She flipped off the driver and drew up short when she saw that Louise and both her parents were standing a few feet away and had seen her. "Awww, fuck."

"We heard that," Melana said, beckoning her daughter forward. "I was just telling Louise about your new tattoo. Perhaps youíd like to hike your skirt up and show her since you had no trouble stripping off and letting someone put it there to begin with."

"Maybe later." Callie shrugged, then smiled at her mother-in-law. "Hey, Louise."

"Hi, honey. A tattoo, huh? Goodness, most people rebel before their marriage and not after." She looked at her son. "That goes for you, too, Buster. Less than three months and youíve already cheated."

"Greeeeat." George looked at Callie. "Itís three against one. My mother has joined *their* team."

Callie was watching her father. He was looking everywhere except her and she hated it. "Letís just go inside and do this."

They were seated at a round booth with two exits. Callie tried to linger, tried to wind up on the end, but it didnít work out. She found herself right in the middle after Louise gripped her arm and pushed her forward. Louise and Raphael won the coveted spots and Callie had her mother on one side and George on her other. She started to smother right away, claustrophobia closing the walls around her.

The waiter asked for their drink orders. Callie went last and said, "Gin and tonic. Double. More gin than tonic."

"NO!!" All four of her companions roared as one, causing both the waiter and Callie to jump out of their skin.

"Sheíll take a water," George amended, then reached under the table and squeezed her leg. "Itís okay."

"It is most assuredly not okay," Raphael finally spoke when the waiter walked away, clutching his chest. "Calliope, look at me."

Callie complied, but didnít speak. Her father leaned forward and said, "What are you thinking? Do you not see us sitting here? Do you not understand why we crossed the country in the middle of the night to be with you? You would dare order more alcohol after what you did last night?"

She swallowed hard, but remained quiet. Raphael hit the table, hard, and said, "Answer me!"

"And state the obvious? You already know the answers." Callie was angry now and she was brazen in her words. "The last one was pretty obvious, wasnít it? Yes, apparently I would dare order more alcohol. I did, didnít I?"

Her defiance unnerved him and Raphael pointed a finger at her. "Do *not* get smart with me. We didnít raise you to behave so disrespectfully. You are shaming your mother, shaming me, and shaming yourself."

"Raphael, people are starting to stare." Melana laid her hand on top of his and looked at her daughter. "I noticed the smell of alcohol when you opened the door to your room earlier. Did you drink today, mi vida?"

The Spanish endearment got to Callie, especially considering that her mother had not used the term in years. "I had four shots."

"I canít do this, Melana." Raphael stood and glared down at his wife. "She has no value for anything or anyone. Sheís morphed into Sybil. An alcoholic Sybil."

"Sit down, Raph." When he didnít comply, Melana reached up, grabbed his tie, and pulled him. "Thank you," she said, when he fell against the booth. To Callie, she said, "Explain yourself."

The waiter reappeared with their drinks and Callie could have hugged him for arriving when he did. She listened as he took their dinner orders and shook her head when it was her turn. "Iím not hungry. Iím good."

Raphael cleared his throat. Callie closed her eyes. Finally, she said, "Fine. Taco salad."

When the waiter walked away, she leaned back and looked at Louise. The woman smiled at her and she figured that she was the lesser of the evils and changed the subject. "Did Jerry find the new engine for his car? I gave him the number of a friend of mine who lives near you. Heís got a salvage yard and should be able to get him something thatís reasonable with low mileage."

"Oh, his name is Mack, right?" Louise asked. "Heís been around for dinner a few times. I didnít know you had introduced them! Heís taking Jerry and Ronnie mountain climbing. He seems nice, but heís very dirty. And old."

"Yeah. He never got the memo that cleanliness is next to Godliness, but heís in grease all day, too," Callie replied. "Heís a good climber, though. Theyíll have a good time. Are they camping out?"

"I donít know." Louise folded her hands on the table. "Should they not?"

"If theyíre going to then heís the man to camp with. I always tell him he was born two hundred years too late because heís got the whole frontier thing down to a science."

"Well, thatís a comfort." Louise smiled innocently. "Now, are we finished ignoring the big pink elephant in the room? Because your parents had something to say to you."

Melana put her hand on Callieís arm. "Honey, we were wondering if maybe you should think about rehab. There are very nice upscale places that have spas and outdoor activities that you like. You can detox from alcohol in less than a month and-"

"I do not need rehab!" Callieís mouth dropped open in shock. "Is that what youíre trying to do? Is that why weíre here?"

"What you did? That was a cry for help and weíre listening." Louise looked at George, who was staring at his hands. "George, tell her."

Callie turned in her seat, glaring at her husband. "You knew about this. Tell me that you - George?"

He shook his head. "I didnít know that this is why they wanted us here, but - but I knew that it was something they were considering. And I think maybe you should have an open mind about it because -"

"Iím leaving." Callie scooted closer to George. "Move."

Louise held her spot on the end, not letting George gain an inch. Callie attempted to stare the woman down, but found herself backing away slightly when Louise pulled off a look that made Bailey appear cherubic. It was Raphael who broke the uncomfortable silence. "Callie? Itís not the end of the world if you admit that you have a problem, but it is the end if you donít. This is your life weíre talking about."

"I donít have a problem, Daddy! Do you know what rehab, even unnecessary rehab, would do to my career? Iím a doctor! I prescribe narcotics! If this went on my record then it could affect every job I may ever have! For nothing. Iím fine."

"Mija, people who are fine do not behave this way," he replied as calmly as possible. "You canít say that it was a mistake. Itís not normal."

"Dad." Callie put her head in her hands and exhaled. "I have never been normal. It took me thirty years to fall in love for the first time and I donít know how to do it yet! Iíve never felt this way before and itís overwhelming and horrible. I hate it and because I hate it ... I am bound to make mistakes. And thatís all it was. Iím not lying. Iím not trying to kill myself with alcohol. Or at all. I just - I stopped thinking clearly for a moment and lost control. Itís not happening again."

"You werenít out of the hospital long before you had four more shots. You admitted it," Mel said.

"And admitting it proves that Iím not trying to hide it, Mami. Ay Dios Mio! No estoy loca! No estoy enferma! No lo necesito!" Callie snapped. "I will *not* go."

"Cal?" George reached for her hand, but she pushed him away. "Callie, do not take this out on me. You have punished me for weeks and thatís fine because I earned it, but *this* ... I canít take the blame for this. The first thing you said when you woke up in that hospital bed was that you were DNR. You looked Derek in the face and said ĎYou were not supposed to save meí. Now, call me crazy, but that sounds like a plan."

"I was upset about the breathing tube."

The food arrived, but no one lifted their fork. Callie waited until the waiter filled a couple of glasses before she spoke again. "Iíve always tried to do the right thing. Always. I went to medical school, Dad, because you asked me to. Mom, I sang at every talent show and spent my summers at workshops, because you asked me to. Louise, I told you the truth in the hospital about Harold when no one else would, because you asked me to. And George, I gave in and weíre working on our marriage, because you asked me to. And now Iím asking you, all of you, to just let me breathe. Let me breathe. Because I stopped for a while and if you let me do it on my own ... then maybe I can remember why I should."

George brushed her hair back and kissed her temple. "Letís make a deal, okay?"

She was weary now, emotionally exhausted. "What kind of deal?"

He unwrapped her fork and handed it to her. "You eat something and we donít talk about anything that you donít want to."

"George-"

"You want us to let you breathe, but you canít really do that if you starve to death." He pushed her taco salad closer. "So, mountain climbing? How did I not know this?"

"You ever been?" Callie asked and her eyes widened when he shook his head. "How do you live so close to Mount Rainier all your life and never go?"

"I donít like falling to my death?" He picked up his own fork and took a bite of his rice. "Itís good. Go on and try yours. If you donít then Iím going to ask you about why you had DNR paperwork to begin with."

Callie grimaced and broke the shell on her salad, putting a small piece in her mouth. "You donít fall to your death if you climb right. Itís the biggest adrenaline rush youíll ever feel."

Melana glanced at Louise and smiled and the blond winked at her when Callie broke off another piece of her shell and explained that she had been climbing since birth. She had them all in stitches a while later, recounting a particularly harrowing experience on Mount Everest with her brother Loukas, who decided it was a great way to overcome his fear of heights. Melana and Rafael eventually chimed in, embarrassing Callie with a few childhood tales and by the time it was over, half of Callieís salad was gone and George looked impressed with himself.

Raphael paid, left a tip, and watched as Callie counted it, then pulled several bills from her purse and laid them on the table. Clearly she still didnít approve of his tipping habits. He smiled a little and stood, helping Melana from her seat. Callie slid out behind her mother and he caught her around the waist, hugging her to him. "Youíre very generous with your money, mija."

"Because youíre not," she replied, leaning her head against him. "And waiters work hard, Daddy. I see them all the time for heel spurs and shin splints."

"Youíre a good girl." He stroked the back of her hair and added, "I love you, kitten. Iím sorry for what I said to you earlier. Iím not mad. Iím just scared for you."

"You donít have to be." Callie leaned back so she could look at him. "George is even more overprotective than you are and he wonít go away."

"I noticed. And good for George." Raph kissed her on the forehead. "You said that youíre going to try to make your marriage work. Do you still want to have this party?"

Callie looked at George, then at Louise and Melana, who were standing side by side. They looked hopeful. The last thing she wanted was the stress of a party, but she nodded anyway. "Yeah. We should - you know, introduce our families. And I really want to see Cam."

"Your father and I have decided to remain here until after the party," Melana told her. "Itís easier to finish the plans if weíre here and it will give Louise and I a chance to shop together."

"Plus you want to spy on me. I get it."

Louise spoke before Melana could. "Weíre not spying, sweetheart. We just want you kids to know that weíre here. For anything. We want to help you."

Callie stepped away from her dad and let her mother-in-law hug her. "I know."

When she turned to tell her parents goodnight, her father was shaking Georgeís hand and then Melana kissed him on both cheeks and gave him a dazzling smile. It was at that point that Callie knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had been played. Quite well.

But she really didnít mind very much.

When George took her hand and kissed it, she knew she didnít mind at all.

Maybe there was something to be said for forgiveness.

It made her soul quiet. Without the alcohol.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 12
*~*~*~*~*~

The concierge service called Callie the next morning at six thirty a.m.. She had nowhere to be so early, but she wanted a fresh start. George lifted his head briefly, planted a kiss on her shoulder, and burrowed under the cover. She watched him for ten minutes, recalling his valiant attempts at seduction the night before. He had tried, she would give him that much. Feeling a little stung by his new found confidence and posturing, however, she had rebuffed him, albeit gently, and feigned yawning with such conviction that she fell asleep first. She dreamed about that delicious crab dinner with Alex and decided to ask him to go again because a stress free meal was pretty much a given with him. And she needed no stress. She needed the easy laughs and corny jokes. He *got* her. And she got him which was a nice change.

She slipped from the bed, grabbed her bathing suit and after forty minutes of non-stop swimming in the pool, she pulled off her water cap, stretched her energized muscles, and sat down at the nearby tiki bar. It took a few minutes for her to realize that it wasnít open, that the sun was barely up, but she eyed the bottles that had been locked neatly behind a glass case with longing. ĎRehabí, she reminded herself as her mouth watered. ĎYou will so wind up in rehab if you donít get a grip.í

Standing, she pushed the chair back in place and a startling thought flashed in her mind. She could only be with George when the alcohol had numbed enough of the memory. Thatís why she hadnít been able to sleep with him again the previous night. She was sober. Too sober. And the calm she had felt after dinner, while she had relished the soul deep quiet after her father had forgiven her ... it didnít last nearly as long as a good buzz. And when George had tried to have sex with her ... she had wondered if he had thrown away all the liquor. She had almost leapt from the bed to find out.

ĎStop this.í She thought and headed back into the Archfield. ĎThis is what alcoholics do.í

ĎNo,í another voice reminded her. ĎThis is what people who are unhappy do.í

By eight a.m., she had treated herself to a clinging, cleavage baring, Diane vonFurstenberg wrap dress in a size eight, thank you very much. The chocolate brown fabric hugged her body and she turned from side to side, loving what she saw. The only curves she had were in the right place and she was proud of them. She had not eaten for days after George said that to her ... no, that was a lie. She hadnít really eaten for almost three months now. For him. To make herself worthy enough.

She purchased her dress and drew up short. She needed to spend more money. That always helped and that would chase away her demons. After falling into deep lust with a pair of Prada heels that refused to come back off her feet and splurging on a three thousand dollar Fendi purse, brown lingerie, and two carat diamond earrings, Callie nodded and headed into the salon.

While she sat in the make-up chair, she scheduled her appointment with Psych for eleven a.m., then left Alex a message telling him to clear his schedule for dinner. When Callie emerged at nine forty-five, her hair parted deeply on the side with long, loose spiral curls brushing her waist, she spotted George and her parents a few feet away, discussing something that was undoubtedly in her Ďbest interestí. Seeing them together should have made her happy, but it didnít. It felt hollow, like her parents had accepted less than the best for her.

She drew up short, wondering where that thought had come from. When Melana laughed at something George had said and leaned closer to him, she saw herself in her mother and cocked her head to one side, studying them. It was --- a strange match and she felt like she was staring at what her future would look like. Square people while her world was round. ĎStop that,í she thought. ĎYou wanted them to accept him. You knew that they would. This is what you get."

She lifted her chin, rustled the shopping bag that contained her slightly damp bathing suit and old purse, and listened to her heels click against the polished marble as she walked toward them.

"Oh my god," Georgeís breath was ragged as she approached. She was *beautiful*. He forgot the fact that he had woken up alone, angry that she had not left a note, and let his eyes stretch over the length of her. The tight dress she wore stopped just below the knee and the high heels did things to her calves that he had never seen done to *any* womanís legs. Her waist looked tiny, was tiny, but her hips ... god, her hips were the kind that demanded to be gripped, demanded to provide a comfortable rest for his hand when it was around her body.

"Hey," she said, nodding at her parents as she adjusted the strap on her new oversized brown bag. "What are you doing?"

"Looking for you." Melanaís gaze lingering for a moment over her daughterís smoky well made eyes, over her perfectly lined rosy lips. "And what a look it is, honey. Wow."

"Youíre very thin, Calliope," Raphael said, reaching out to touch her hair. "But youíre also stunning."

"Anybody can be stunning with enough money, Daddy." She tilted her head to accept the kiss he brushed against her temple and looked at George. "I should go. I have to meet with Gellar at eleven."

George blinked several times and nodded mutely. In her heels, she was several inches taller than him and he felt like he was gazing up at a reincarnation of Venus. He watched as she handed her parents her shopping bag, asking if they would hang onto it, and then she strode from the lobby and he had to jog to catch up. "Callie, wait."

She slowed down and looked at him. "What?"

"You, uh, you canít expect me to move very fast when I see you like this unless Iím moving very fast to, you know, take it off." He reached down at took her hand, but hers remained limp in his. "Are we okay?"

"Weíre fine, George." As soon as she said the words, the devil that sat on her shoulder lately hissed that she was lying, that she was being a Ďyes, girlí, that she was fooling herself if she believed that he would be trustworthy. She pushed the voice away by saying, "Gellarís the lesser of the evils in Psych and he likes me. I fixed his tennis elbow last year."

"Callie, anyone who sees you is going to fall in love with you." He squeezed her hand, hoping she would return the favor, but she didnít. "You seem a little distant. Did I - is this about dinner? Because I sorta knew what was coming? I - I talked to you mom while you were in the bathtub last night, okay? She mentioned that an intervention would be smart and I went along with it because I donít want them to be down on me any more."

They paused at the crosswalk and Callie gazed at the imposing form of the hospital in the distance. "You went along with it because you agree. It would help if you tried to believe me, George. I didnít - I didnít want to die and if you could trust me-"

"Trust is a two way street." George gave into temptation and rested his hand on her hip. He almost swallowed his tongue when he felt the lines of what *had* to be a spaghetti strap thong underneath. "It really hurt last night when you said that you would never trust me again."

"Well, it really hurt to trust you at all. Shame on you if you fool me once and all that."

"You have to have trust in a relationship."

"Do you believe me then? Do you think Iím gonna pass this evaluation and be fine?"

"I think that youíre going to do the best you can."

The light changed and a couple of utility workers catcalled as Callie crossed in front of their truck. One of them yelled, "Lucky little fucker."

"I know, right?" George called over his shoulder and looked back at Callie, who was frowning. It completely changed her face and he pulled her a little closer. "Okay, fine. If you say that you didnít mean it. You didnít mean it."

"Nice try." Callie sighed and stepped up onto the curb, not breaking her stride. "This is the part where you want me to tell you that I believe you when you say that it was just a mistake, right?"

"It would be nice."

They stopped at the second cross walk and she looked down at him. "It helps deal with it to know that you were drunk, to know that you didnít go there with a clear head. Thatís the best I can do."

Georgeís own personal Devil chuckled a little, reminding him of the elevator lip lock he had shared with Izzie. He had groped her breast that day. He resolutely pushed away the urge to come clean and stood on his toes to kiss her. "If that's the best you can do then it's enough."

They walked the rest of the way in silence and when they crossed the parking lot of the hospital, Meredith and Izzie were climbing out of Meredithís car. George attempted to go at least fifty feet out of the way, but Callie plowed straight ahead and addressed Meredith. "Hey."

Meredithís eyes widened and she said, "Hey right back. You look amazing. I didnít look like that after I almost died."

Callie smiled a little and glanced at Izzie, whose mouth was slightly ajar. "I wanted to say thank you, to -uh- both of you, for what you did the other night. You saved my life and I appreciate it."

Meredith reached out at took her hand. "Thatís what we do and youíre very welcome."

Callie squeezed her hand, then nodded at Izzie, who had not spoken at all. "Well, have a good day."

Meredith watched her walk off, saw the scathing look that George shot Izzie and said, "That took guts." She glanced at the blond. "Speaking of guts, where are yours? That was the perfect chance for you to take the same high road she did and you didnít say a thing."

"I - I couldnít," Izzie replied, adjusting her jacket as she watched Callie and George disappear into the hospital. "When did Callie get so ..."

"Hot?"

"Well, yeah."

Meredith put her arm around the taller woman's waist and sighed, "Oh, Izzie. I love you dearly, but you are a very blind girl where the dirty hot ortho chick is concerned."

"Clearly."

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison was redoing a chart for the third time because she couldnít stop thinking about batteries. She cursed Mark Sloan, who walked past her and made a buzzing sound. She was glaring after him when she saw Callie. She forgot about the work and the batteries and met Callie halfway down the hall, hugging her tight. "I called you last night, but you didnít answer. Apparently you were guesting on ĎExtreme Makeoverí and failed to invite me to the big reveal."

"Dinner. With my parents."

Addison pulled back. "Ooooh, scary."

"It really was, but then it wasnít. And you need to buy a pretty dress because weíre having an elopement party and you get all the maid of honor perks without the actual duties."

Addison beamed at her, then faltered a little when she realized that Callie wasnít smiling. "I can do that. Wanna shop with me? Clearly you know how and - oh my god, is that the new Fendi line? Can I just hold it?"

"Retail therapy." Callie handed the purse over and watched Addison fawn over it. "Iíve decided to go ahead and embrace the money again."

"Apparently." Addison handed her the purse back and added, "Red. You should wear red to the party."

"Redís good," George said, nodding lasciviously as he eyed his wifeís backside. "I like red. And brown is really, really great today, too."

"You like anything," Callie told him. "Because youíre on your best behavior."

Alex stepped out of a nearby trauma room and pulled his gloves off. He chucked them into the wastebasket and turned, drawing up short when he saw her. He blinked slowly, licking his lips as he looked her up and down. "Jesus fucking Christ, Callie. Youíre why cavemen chiseled on walls."

"Ooh, impressive, Alex. You just quoted one of the best movies of all time," Callie replied and grinned ear to ear. As amusing as everyoneís reaction to the cleaned up Callie was, his meant the most. "That would be ĎAs Good As It Getsí. And I have to reply by saying that Ďyou overwhelm meí, also from the same film."

"Itís amazing." He said, purposely looking at her like a lovesick puppy. "You look like you do and yet you get the one liners every single time. That makes you a rare and special breed, Elvira."

"No, that makes me a film geek who apparently has too much time on her hands."

"Come here, you." Alex hugged her, kissing the side of her face. In her heels, she was eye level with him and as he pulled her against him, he thought fleetingly that she fit perfectly in his arms. And she smelled - no, not good thoughts to be having about someone who was glowing for reasons that were very apparent. "How are you? What are you doing? Have you had breakfast? Should you be here?"

"Good. Nothing much. No breakfast. And no, I should not be here," she replied, rattling off the answers to his questions as she took a step back. "But my Psych thing is in about forty minutes and Iím trying to be calm. The hospital calms me."

Alex smirked at her. "Shattered bones calm you, Gothika. Wanna see a kickass X-ray that you are so missing out on by shirking your duties."

"I do not shirk, Jock Boy. This is all Webber." She gripped his ear and tugged him down the hall. "Show me carnage! Weíll be back, guys."

Addison watched as Alex put his arm around Callieís shoulder, talking a mile of minute into her ear. "Oookay."

"Heís proving a point." George leaned against the nurseís station. "Heís there to latch onto her if Iím not careful. I so donít care because heís full of crap."

Addy watched the duo disappear around the corner. She had definitely *not* missed the look on Alexís face. Or the first genuine smile on Callieís in days. "Youíre not worried?"

"I am *so* not worried. We are officially married and life is good."

"She wasnít wearing her ring."

"Give me time."

"You sound confident."

"Iím convinced."

"Be careful, George. Donít make my mistakes. Donít get cocky."

He simply smiled at her.

*~*~*~*~*~

Alex pinned the first X-ray and Callie groaned, practically salivating over the shattered hand. She traced a particularly nasty break with her finger and pouted. "Itís sick the way you know me. I should be scrubbing in on this! Why are you not scrubbing in on this?"

"Because Bailey decided that Iím on pit. Because of you."

"Me?"

"I think the rumor got to her that we were having sex."

"Ooooh, did we like it?"

"Absolutely. The rumor mill says that it was very acrobatic. That was my own personal contribution and Iíll be signing autographs after work. Thank you. Thank you very much." Alex pinned another film that showed a different angle and watched her mouth drop into a perfect Ďoí and she moaned. "Itís like porn for you, isnít it, Torres?"

"It so freakiní is. I told you that bones are the bomb."

He watched as she licked her lips and found himself mimicking her actions. "You had sex with him, didnít you?"

"Ugh. I had something with him. To quote a very wise and wonderful person ... it was a hailstorm of misery and self loathing." Callie bit her bottom lip and then hopped up onto the window seat. "Am I a fool? To do this thing with him? I mean, he knows that sheís in love with him. Whatever that even means anymore. I hate love."

"I had a talk with Izzie," Alex jumped up beside her. He pulled a Twix out of the front pocket of his scrub shirt, opened it, and handed her one of the bars. "She told me that she only thought that she was in love with him because she hates one night stands. And she said that he was Ďsafeí and she needed Ďsafeí after Denny. Sheís hung up on a corpse, dude, and while OíMalley isnít much better than a dead man ... sheís still into Duquette."

Callie chewed the candy thoughtfully. She finished it off before she replied. "Sheís probably just trying to save face. She sees that heís staying with me and sheís trying to act like itís fine. Thatís what I would do, too."

"I donít think sheís doing that and you know Iíd tell you if I did." He leaned into her, brushing her shoulder with his while he licked the chocolate off his fingers. "Are you happy? Is he - you know, taking care of you?"

"In his very own special George way he is trying. Heís definitely trying."

"Are you happy?" he repeated.

"I think I could be. Like, eventually."

"Like, when?"

"When I can trust him again. Which is --- never. Itís a horrible feeling to know that a supermodel wants your husband. Itís even worse to know that he went there and is probably comparing us every time he touches me."

"Any man who touches you would be rendered incapable of cognitive thought. It - it happened to me earlier so Iím speaking from experience."

Callie rolled her eyes a little. "You get points for trying, Alex, but Izzie Stevens is that centerfold who captivates anyone with a Ďyí chromosome and Iím that girl who knows the movie quotes. George isnít into movie quotes."

"George OíMalley is a blooming idiot and I donít fault you for not seeing it because love makes people blind, but if you donít stop letting him make you feel inferior then Iím going to kill him and kick you." Alex shook his head. "And youíre not just the girl who knows the movie quotes. Youíre rapidly making me forget that there are any other women on the face of the planet and youíre not even trying."

Callie looked shocked, but she quickly recovered. They flirted. Itís what they did. It was harmless and in good fun. She cleared her throat and said, "So, she said that it was a mistake? Izzie, I mean. Sheís over the whole love thing?"

"Yep." Alex noticed a spot of chocolate on Callieís lip. He wiped it away and absently licked it from his thumb. "If your husband had not kissed her in the elevator after all was said and done then I donít think she would have clung to the blind hope for as long as she did."

Callie sat up a little straighter. "Wait. What?"

Alex was looking at his thumb, some of her lipstick was on it. "Huh?"

"Kissing in the elevator?"

"Right. She said that he kissed her in the elevator. I guess it was a few days after the debauchery and it made her believe that it wasnít just a drunken thing. I mean, you can kinda see why." When she didnít reply, he glanced at her. Her face was devoid of color except for the make-up and there was sweat beading on her forehead. "Holy shit, Callie!"

"Take me home, Alex."

"But -"

"Please?"

"But youíre supposed to -" He trailed off when her eyes filled with tears. It shocked him, what it did to his insides when he realized that her eyes were flecked with varying shades of brown. Some of them matched the dress. Some of them matched the freckles on her nose, some were golden, too... or maybe it was her tears reflecting the light of the X-ray panel. Whatever it was it took his breath. He was not prepared for the jarring in his heart, then. It jarred him so hard that it shook his foundation. And he was still reeling when comprehension dawned on him. She had not known about the kiss and she was going to lose control. "Weíll go down the back elevator, Cal. Come on."

He hopped down and held his hand out. When she didnít take it, he impulsively hugged her, standing between her knees. He was struck, again, by the realization that she fit, that she felt good there, and he didnít know where it came from or why he was thinking it all of the sudden. She looked different, prettier than ever before, but she was still the same goofy girl who got his humor and popped it right back in the exact same ways. Something was there, though, hanging in the air and it was heavy on his back. "Iím sorry. I didnít mean to hurt you like this. I swear to God, I didnít. I never would."

"You didnít know." She wrapped her arms around him and held on tight, burying her face against his neck. "Oh wow, this is what the camelís back breaking feels like. I deserve this for giving in. I deserve it for being weak. This is karma reminding me that I am not a doormat and that I *knew*. To quote your favorite movie: ĎWe are men of action. Lies do not become us.í And Iím living a lie, Alex."

"You are definitely not a man, though. And if weíre gonna quote it wrong, then Iím saying this," he replied, holding her closer still. "George is an R.O.U.S. and donít you dare cry over him."

"A rodent of unusual size?"

"Donít you agree?"

He felt her nod and when she pulled back, he wiped the tears off her face and looked at her. She really was beautiful and it was his fault that her heart was breaking. It was his fault that he couldnít keep his mouth shut. It was *not* his fault that his body suddenly reacted to her every movement, however. He touched her hair and knew that heíd die if he didnít heed the primordial call that had been in the back of his mind since he had wrenched her off the pavement of the Archfield and broke the sound barrier rushing her to safety. He traced her full lower lip with his thumb and said, "I actually have another quote from the ĎPrincess Brideí. And I have to say it. Right now."

"Knock yourself out."

"Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure." He tilted her head a little, his hands holding her firm as he floated into her eyes again, losing himself. He rubbed the curve of her jaw, and whispered, "This one left them all behind."

And then his lips were on hers and Callie was so shocked, so touched, so completely floored and *desperate* for comfort ... that she kissed back. His tongue danced against hers, igniting something inside her that she thought was dormant and she wrapped her legs around him, pulling him closer. She tasted the Twix, tasted her tears, and tasted something else that was not desperation at all. It could only be described as undiluted desire and it raced through her body, causing her blood to rush to her ears.

He moaned against her mouth and she felt drunker than she had ever been. She made a sound in the back of her throat when he finally pulled away and struggled to catch her breath. Her eyes were glassy and her head was spinning like a top. "Alex, what are you doing?"

"Iím trying to kidnap what George has stolen. Your heart." He lowered his hand and rested it just over her left breast. "Because I think - no, no, wait - I know - that I can put it back together. And I want to."

"Oh my god."

"Callie, somethingís changed. Between us. And Iím blindsided. I donít know when it happened, but it did. It - it has happened."

"Stop." She reached up and touched his mouth, wondering as she did why her hand didnít tremble, why guilt didnít force her to pull back. "It - it changed when you believed me."

"Yeah. I think maybe it did." He took her hand in his and added, "I donít want to complicate your life more than it already is."

"Geez, thanks. Itís a little late for that."

"What are you gonna do, Cal?"

"Addison told me that I should try to save my marriage so that I wouldnít look back in ten years and wonder if I made a mistake by letting it go." She took a deep breath. "I tried. I really feel like I tried, Alex, but I wonít live ten years at all if I keep letting him make me feel this way."

"Then leave him."

She drew strength from his touch and soldiered on. "I havenít felt alive until right now and if the option is mostly dead with him or completely alive with you --- then this is another one of those wrestling matches that you would win. Youíd win, Alex, but Iím not a prize unless you count my money and I canít disappoint the people who-"

"You canít live your life for other people. Because when you live it like that ... then drinking enough to kill yourself makes sense. Because your life is not yours and you donít value it anymore because youíre giving it away a piece at a time." Alex pushed her hair back and thumbed the diamond earring she wore. "And the prize, Callie, the prize isnít in your bank account or who your family is. The prize is that once all thatís stripped off ... youíre still worth a million bucks without it."

"Is that from a movie?"

"Yeah. Ours."

They kissed again and when he pulled back this time, she was smiling. Alex leaned a little closer and repeated, "What are you gonna do, Cal?"

"Iím going to go take that evaluation and Iím going to ace it." She leaned her cheek against his and whispered. "And them Iím going to leave him."

*~*~*~*~*~

Cambyses Iason Torres was a man on a mission. He strolled into Seattle Grace Hospital, dressed in black leather pants and a maroon shirt that was unbuttoned at the neck. His hair was long and so black it was almost blue under the hospitalís harsh light. It brushed against his broad shoulders in soft waves and the ice blue contacts he wore were stark against his olive skin. He carried his guitar case over his shoulder and an Armani suitcase in his hand. As he approached the nurseís station, he saw that several of the staff had stopped to watch his approach. He was used to it.

"Iím looking for my sister. Calliope Torres," he told the blond behind the counter. "Is she on duty?"

Izzie blinked several times, staring up at the man. He was tall, easily pushing six foot five and he was possibly the most gorgeous man she had ever seen. His features were rugged and he had a five oíclock shadow on his jaw. "Uh, hi," she finally muttered, staring at the hair that was visible on his chest. "She is around here somewhere, but sheís not on duty."

"Can you page her?"

"That could be a problem. Sheís actually in a meeting."

"Could you tell me something? Is she okay?"

Izzie made the assumption that he already knew the gory details. "Well, anyone who has attempted suicide is -"

"What!?" He dropped his guitar which clanged against the nurseís station, but ignored it. "What do you mean? What happened to my sister? I swear to God ... I donít usually mind being the black sheep, but Iím always the last to know."

"Oh, god. I thought you knew what happened. She's okay. She was treated and released."

"See, I knew something was wrong. Weíre twins. When she hurts, I hurt. When she lies to me, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that sheís lying." Cam exhaled and shook his head. "She lied to me. She told me she was fine."

"She is fine," Izzie replied. "Well, physically."

"What happened to her?"

Izzie took him aside and quickly explained. Camís eyes widened when she finished the story and he took a deep, lung filling breath. "You may want to clear the ICU, maíam. Sheíll be back in no time flat. Possible strangulation, but I wonít rule out throwing her off the balcony so be prepared for that, too."

"Mr. Torres, I can assure you that she feels worse than anyone possibly should. Iíve heard that your parents are in town and are being horrible to her."

"Thatís nothing new," Cam told her. "They always do that. Sheís immune. We all are. Now itís my turn."

"Cam?"

Cambyses turned and immediately felt at ease. His boyfriend had been able to do that for him for almost ten years. Blake, who stood at just under six feet tall, had wire rimmed glasses and a slightly round belly. His receding red hair was cut short and parted on one side and the shirt and tie he wore made his hazel eyes seem green. He was seven years older than Cambyses and Cam had fallen in love with him the moment he laid eyes on him.

His temper had eased considerably by the time Blake made it to the end of the hall, slightly winded under the luggage he carried. Reaching down, Cam laced his fingerís through his boyfriendís and looked back at Izzie. "This is my life partner, Blake. Blake, this is - I didnít catch your name, Iím sorry."

"Dr. Stevens," she replied.

"She was just telling me that my sister is a fool."

Izzie quietly listened while Cam relayed what had transpired with Callie. They were certainly an odd looking couple. ĎGreek God meet Joe Everybodyí, she thought. But then the same could be said about George and Callie. She glanced at Blake and realized that he actually reminded her of George in a way. He was straight laced and when he spoke, she heard that he was just as soft spoken.

"Donít be mad at her," Blake said, squeezing Camís hand. "You donít kick someone when theyíre down and from the sounds of it sheís at the bottom of the barrel."

Cam stared down at the other man, one eyebrow raised. Izzie smiled a little. He looked like Callie now. He certainly had her disposition. She answered a few more questions that the men had and then Addison appeared and Izzie asked her which room at the Archfield Callie was staying at. Addison took one look at Callieís brother and said, "Youíre the twin!"

"Youíre the Addison!" Cam replied, then stepped forward and hugged her. "Iíd recognize you anywhere. Callie sent me photos of you guys from ... Joeís ... is it? Dancing on the bar."

"Oh my god." Addy buried her face in her hand. "She said those would never see the light of day. That was after a very bad case we worked on together."

"A case of what?" Bailey, who had heard the introduction, stepped forward. "Yíall need AA, stat."

"You would have to be Miranda Bailey. Callie loves you. Talks about you all the time." Cam shook her hand and introduced Blake.

The made small talk for a moment longer and Addison finally said, "Callieís in room twenty two seventy seven at the Archfield. Itís five blocks south on the right. Youíre welcome to take my car, but Iím not sure that the luggage will fit. Itís small."

"Aww, thank you. Itís fine. Weíll walk. We spent over four hours on stand-by and then suffered an eight hour flight in economy. We must walk," Blake replied. "It was nice to meet you all."

Bailey and Addison stood side by side, watching as Cam retrieved his guitar and laid his arm over Blakeís shoulders. "All the good ones are gay," Addison finally said. "Every single last good one."

"Tell me about it," Izzie interjected, craning her neck to get a good view of the manís backside. "Heís hot."

"He looks like Callie." Addison glanced at the blond and narrowed her eyes. "Sheís beautiful like that."

Izzie watched as Bailey and Addison walked off, talking about Greek men and women. There was no one for her to talk to anymore. Cristina and Meredith had each other, Alex ignored her, and George pretended that she had died. She glanced up in time to see George coming out of the restroom at the end of the hallway and hurried forward. "You just missed Callieís brother."

"Which one?"

"Uh, the twin. He looks like her only heís a giant."

George smiled. "Did you see my wife in the heels? Sheís six foot tall."

"She looked good," Izzie said, nodding at him. "Uh - I know you hate me and I donít have any right to ask, but I need to tell you something. About the night Callie came in. And I wouldnít bother, but I think itís worth mentioning because it might may help you see that Iím not evil and I - I did something for her. For you, really."

George sighed and glanced at the clock on the wall. He had already missed Callieís appoint. Alex had undoubtedly taken her up. "Make it fast, Izzie."

"Come on."

They walked together into the stairwell and Izzie began to talk.

She talked for a very long time.


*~*~*~*~*~

A little over an hour later, Dr. Gellar smiled at Callie. "Youíve had all the right answers, Dr. Torres. And you look as happy as anyone Iíve ever seen. But I do have one more question."

"Go ahead."

"Youíve explained to me that the stress of a failed marriage pushed you over the edge and thatís understandable. What happens the next time youíre under that much stress, though?"

"First of all, Iím going to eliminate the source of the stress," she replied, her eye contact never wavering. "But if I do find myself in a situation where I canít breathe again ... Iím going to go look at X-rays. Iím going to look at broken bones. Because it relaxes me. It gives me something to fix. And that fixes something inside me, too."

"Nicely done, Doctor." Gellar picked up her chart and said, "Iím recommending that you are fully reinstated beginning tomorrow."

Callie nodded, then held up her hand. "Wait. Two weeks."

"Pardon?"

"I need two weeks. I have a lot to do."

The man nodded and pushed his glasses up on his nose. "Two weeks. Consider it done."

Callie stood and held her hand out. "Thank you, sir."

"Youíre welcome, Callie." He shook her hand and held it for a moment longer. "What are your plans? Off the record?"

Callie couldnít help but chuckle. Her heart felt light, better, than it ever had before. "Iím going to take the road less traveled. And Iím going to enjoy every single curve. Theyíre really not bad, you know. Curves. Sometimes something unexpected is waiting just around the bend."

*~*~*~*~*~

Alex was waiting in the small lobby when she walked out. He dropped the magazine he was reading and jumped to his feet, looking at her. She gave him a thumbs up and he grabbed her, spinning her a little. She threw her head back and laughed, holding onto his shoulders. "Letís take the stairs out of here."

"I called Bailey. I told her I needed a some time off."

"What did she say?"

"She didnít say anything. Iíve never taken my vacation."
They headed for the stairwell and Alex grabbed her once they were inside. Looking left and right he kissed her again and said, "Weíre still doing this, right?"

"We are."

"Are you sure?"

"Shhhh." Callie put her hand on her lips when she heard someone sobbing. She leaned over the railing and realized that her husband was sitting two floors below, his arm around Izzie. She waited for the pain, waited for the jealousy, but nothing happened. "Fuck him," she sighed.

Alex joined her at the railing and said, "Iím kicking his ass."

"Alex-"

She ran after him and the clatter of her heels caused George and Izzie to jump to their feet. Izzie brushed the tears off her face and looked at Callie, "Hey, howíd it go?"

"Donít you talk to her." Alex stood six steps lower than Callie, glaring at Izzie. He looked at George and said, "Where were you? You never came up to the lobby to see about your *wife*."

George looked up at Callie and swallowed hard. He knew that there would be hell to pay. "I - Izzie was just telling me that she took your DNR paper from your chart, Callie. She said that she couldnít let you be my Denny."

"Wow." Callie put a hand on her chest and tried to look shocked. "Thank you, Izzie. That was really generous of you. You should be canonized."

"Donít. I - I know that it was wrong and that you wanted to - no, I donít know." Izzie wrapped her arms around her waist. "I just - Iím sorry that this happened. All of it."

"Someone should be," Callie replied and her voice was so sugary sweet that it hung in the stairwell like molasses. She stepped down one of the steps and tilted her head to one side. "Cause Iím not. You did want me to be his Denny, right? So, Iím going to do what Denny would have done if he had lived."

Izzie looked up at her, not sure what to expect. "Oh? Whatís that?"

Callie smiled. "Iím going to get as far away from you and your drama that a person can get. Because itís toxic. And George? Youíre the star in her drama and you thrive on it. You donít live at the Archfield anymore. Weíre not together. We will *never* be together. Iím divorcing you."

"What?" George looked like he had been slapped. He started up the stairs, but Alex stepped in front of him. George stumbled and almost fell. "Callie, donít. Donít! We fixed this! Weíre happy."

"No," Callie replied. "Weíre not. Weíre not happy together and someone has to admit it. I can only be near you if Iím drunk. But I bet if you go back in the elevator with Izzie and kiss her again, youíll feel great."

"No! NO!" George looked at Izzie and shouted, "Why did you tell? It didnít mean anything! Damn you, Izzie!"

"I donít know! I just-"

"Shut up!" Callie shouted. She looked down at Alex and shook her head. "Can you believe them?"

"What I canít believe is that weíre still standing here." He reached up, his hand outstretched, and said, "Letís go, gorgeous."

Callie stepped down another step and stared at Alex. His back was to the large floor to ceiling window and the it seemed to signify freedom, that the world lay in front of her. With him. She glanced back at George, who stood beside his mistress, and she realized that it was wasteland. George had pulled her into a wasteland and she had almost drowned in his lies. She almost let it kill her.

She put her hand in Alexís and nodded. "As you wish."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 13
*~*~*~*~*

If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be too cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.
- Annie Dillard

*~*~*~*~*


Immediately after securing lodging at the Archfield, Cambyses headed to his parentís room. He was angry, his hands were shaking and his palms were wet from the fists he had been clenching since he had heard about Callie. Suicide. Suicide? The word kept replaying in his head and he kept hearing Callieís voice on the phone the day it happened. He had heard her unhappiness, but had encouraged her to have the party. He could kick his own ass for it, but that would have to wait. By the time he arrived at the Ambassador Suite, he was crying from anger and fear.

Melana opened the door and looked at him with wide eyes after he pounded against the wood hard enough to startle half the people on their floor. He sailed past her, stalking past Gucci who reached for him. "I can not believe this," he snapped. "I can not believe that you are my mother. I just - you have no concept how to parent. Anyone."

"Cambyses, what are you doing here? Besides being a drama queen?"

"Where else would I be, Mother?" He spun to face her, his face red. "How could you not call me? How could you not tell me!?"

"Your father and I are taking care of the situation with your sister. Your services really are not needed here."

"DO NOT DO THAT!" he shouted. "Do not dismiss me like Iím ten years old again!"

"Even ten year olds grow up, Cambyses. Honestly, leather pants? You look demonic. Is your little friend with you? What, pray tell is he wearing? Perhaps pink taffeta or chiffon? Maybe he's being bold and wearing both."

"Stop it, Mother! This is not about me or Blake or your denial that I am still a human being. This is about Callie. I donít understand any of this. She loves life. And sheís a fighter. So, tell me how this happened. What is she saying?"

"She says that she didnít try to hurt herself. She claims it was a mistake."

"What do you think? Or, actually, what does Dad think?"

"*We* think that your sister has a problem. With alcohol. We think that she needs help. Luckily, her husband agrees and has promised to push the idea of rehabilitation and I believe he will succeed. He has quite a way with her. Iíve never seen anyone deal with her the way he does and she responds well to it. He doesn't coddle her."

"Great. While youíre shipping my sister off to Betty Ford, why donít you ship her wonderful husband off to Cheaters Anonymous. He drove her to this so itís only fair that he get shock therapy as well."

"Perhaps if you were in a conventional relationship you would understand the bond between a husband and wife. Callie has decided to stay with him and has forgiven him."

He ignored the personal attack. "Where is she?"

"She should be back any time."

Raphael emerged from the bedroom, fresh from the shower, and stared at Cam with shock. "You are supposed to be covering the mergers and acquisitions meetings right now! Who is doing it?"

"Loukas." Cam shoved his hands in the pockets of his leather pants. "You canít expect me not to be here." He glanced at his mother. "If this was a conventional family then you would understand the bond between Callie and me and you would know that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is *not* okay."

"Weíre taking care of it." Raphael walked across the room and embraced his son. "Iím glad youíre here though. Callie will be thrilled to see you."

"Thanks, Dad." Cam ran his hand over his face, drying his eyes. "Dr. Stevens said that she was lucky that her liver wasnít destroyed. I think Iíll yank it out of her myself and slap her with it."

Raph smiled and indicated that they should have a seat at the table. Melana pointedly ignored the invitation, picked up Gucci, and walked further into the suite where she turned her back on her son and husband. Raph grabbed two bottles of water from the refrigerator and sat across from Cam, then said, "Did Blake come with you?"

"Yes, sir," Cam replied. "Hey, do you remember when Callie and I took Uncle Kickís boat? I dreamed about it. Remember the nightmares we both had? It was just like that, but this time she drowned. She never even tried to swim."

"Thatís why you came?"

"Thatís why I came." Cam nodded. "I know it sounds insane and itís too stupid for words, but I feel like sheís in danger. I feel like something is going to happen to her."

They drank their water in silence for a while. Raphael finally leaned forward a little and said, "I think youíre right."

"What?"

"Sheís hurting herself, Cam. Your mother seems to think that her marriage is enough to get her through this and I confess that George is trying, but sheís not happy, mijo. Sheís wasted away to skin and bones, her smile is fake, she got a tattoo as large as this room on her back, and the first thing she wants to do is reach for alcohol when sheís confronted with stress." Raph studied his son, seeing so much of Callie in him that it was a comfort. "The two of you do share a beautiful bond and Iíve always been grateful that she has you, son."

"Youíre freaked because she got a tattoo? Thatís kinda hot, Dad."

"I assure you itís not." Raph took a sip of his drink. "Itís actually good that youíre here. Sheíll listen to you above all others."

"I know that tone. God, I hate that tone. What do you want me to do?"

"Your sister has lied to protect you and lied to help you, but she has never lied *to* you. Get the truth out of her, mijo. Make her hit rock bottom no matter how hard it is for you to do so."

Cam opened his mouth to reply, but his fatherís cell phone rang and Raph reached for it. "Itís Callie," the man said, then answered. "Hi, princess."

"Hi, Daddy."

"How was the evaluation?"

"I go back to work in two weeks," Callie replied. "Is, uh, Mama there?"

"Yes. And guess who else has come all this way to see you? Cam. He arrived a little while ago." There was a long pause. "Callie, honey? Whatís wrong?"

"Can you put the phone on speaker? I need to tell you something. All of you."

Raph glanced at Melana, who was peering over the back of the sofa. He beckoned her forward, then hit the speaker button, "Go ahead, darliní. Weíre listening."

"Hey, Cal."

"Hey, Cam." Callieís voice was soft, low. "I wish - I wish I had known that you were coming because I really want to see you and now - well, I canít. I - Iím going out of town for a while."

"What do you mean?" Cam asked, his brow furrowed. "Where are you going?"

"It doesnít matter. What matters is that Iím fine, but I - I canít really deal with my life unless I do this for myself. And thatís what Iím doing. Iím dealing. I need a break so Iím taking it."

Melana moved closer to the phone and said, "Are you going somewhere with George? A vacation? What?"

On the other end of the line, Callie took a deep breath. "Hear me out, okay? You were right last night at dinner. I do have a problem, but itís not something that can be fixed with rehab or you guys protecting me from myself. You said that you would support me if I wanted out of my marriage and I do. I have to get out because itís not healthy and itís a lie. Can you call Quinton and get the papers started so that I can-"

"What?!" Melana cried. "What happened? What -"

"I gave him the chance to tell me the truth about the woman he was with. I gave him the chance more than once and today I found out that he has lied to me all along. Right to my face. It wasnít just a drunken thing. They - they had contact while they were sober and I can deal with a lot of things, but thatís not one of them. He looked me in my face after that. He looked me in my face and went home with me and let me buy him dinner. And who knows what else we did together or who he was thinking of while we did it. That makes me feel like trash."

"Oh, baby," Raph said, taking Melís hand in his. "Come back to the hotel and-"

"I canít. I donít want to be there yet. We - thereís too many memories." She cleared her throat. "I have two weeks off at work. Iím going to take at least a week - maybe more - of that for myself. Starting now. Donít try to find me. Donít try to call because Iím not bringing along a phone and just - know that Iím safe."

"No!" Raphael half stood. "Calliope, you come back here right now! You are not going off again on your own and -"

"Iím not by myself, Daddy."

"What? Is Addison-"

"Iím with Alex."

Melana put a hand over her mouth. "Callie," she finally said. "Honey, youíre hurt and we will start the paperwork if you want us to, but two wrongs do not make a right. In the eyes of God you are still married and if you do this then you are just as guilty, just as wrong as George was. You canít come back from this once you cross the line that far."

"Mom, Iím pretty sure God will understand. But youíre right about one thing. That line? George crossed it and Iím tired of pretending that itís okay."

"Are you involved with this man, mija?"

"I donít know what we are, Daddy, but I know that this is where I need to be right now. He makes me sane and I havenít felt sane for a very long time."

"What are you doing with your life, Calliope? This is madness," Melana cried. "Last night you finally ate dinner! George helped you see that you have to nourish the body! The two of you talked to one another! You seemed happy with your husband and-"

"The harsh light of day tends to wake you up whether youíre ready for it or not. Iíll be okay. And Mama?"

"What?"

"Donít cancel the party. Iíll be back for it. I need my family. Just - make it only family, okay? I donít want anyone there who isnít blood except for Addison. And probably Alex."

"Honey-"

"I have to go. I love you."

"Wait! Callie!" Raphael snatched up the phone and listened, but the call was disconnected. He quickly dialed a number, a reassuring hand on Melís shoulder. "Quinton? I need you to access Calliopeís bank records. I need to know when and where she makes any transactions from this point on. I also need you to check her phone records and see if we can trace her location by pinging it. No, no, sheís not okay. Call me back immediately."

"Raphael." Melana began to cry when he hung up the phone. "Sheís not thinking clearly. What if something happens to her? Find her!"

"I will, mi vida. I will." He leaned down and kissed her on the head. "I promise."

"You wonít find her." Cam smiled knowingly at his father and leaned back in his chair, stretching his long legs in front of him. "She wants to disappear. And thatís what sheíll do."

Raph, his arm around his wife, shook his head. "You underestimate me. I am always a step ahead of my children. When it comes to my daughter ... I will turn over every stone and move mountains for her."

"Sheíll probably be on that mountain, Dad. Climbing it. Or base jumping off it. Let her go."

"We need to get in touch with George and find out what happened," Mel interrupted, dabbing her eyes.

"She just told you what happened, Mom! He broke her heart!" Cam got to his feet and caught Gucci, who jumped into his arms. He soothed the primate, who appeared agitated by the raised voices. "You know, sometimes I think that we were so blessed. We had money, we never had to want for anything, *except* for you to see us. I came out of the closet when I was fifteen years old. I have been in a loving, committed relationship for ten years. You can accept that George destroyed your only daughter, but you canít accept that Blake loves your son. See us for once! Realize whatís going on! Open your eyes and see us!"

"Cam-" Raph began.

"No! You said that sheís wasted away to nothing. You said that she keeps drinking and she almost drank herself to death. Who do you think is the cause of that? She never did this until *him*. And if she needs to get away with whoever this guy is that sheís traveling with then more power to her. I hope she has a good time and I hope that he makes her feel better than her *husband*."

"What happened to her being in danger?" Melana asked, no longer crying. "I heard what you told your father."

"I think maybe George is the danger sheís in. If sheís not here then sheís not in it anymore."

Raphís phone trilled and he answered, speaking in clipped tones for several moments. When he hung up, he looked at his family and said, "That little minx. Sheís smart. She took thirty thousand out of the bank in cash. She wonít be using her credit cards."

"Told you."

"Quint is checking all flights out of the area and -"

"Sheís not going to fly commercial. Sheíll fly herself, Dad."

"Then perhaps I will clip her wings when I do catch her."

*~*~*~*~*~

George sat in Addisonís car. She had found him alone in the stairwell with his head against the wall. The worst of the tears had abated after he had screamed at Izzie enough, but as soon as he saw his wifeís best friend, they started anew. Addison had pulled him to his feet, bought him takeout which remained untouched, and drove him to his motherís place at his request. They were still sitting in the driveway, in silence, when Addison finally said, "Are you going to tell me what happened? Or am I keeping your ass here until you do."

"I kissed Izzie. In the elevator."

Addison slapped him, hard, on the back of the head. "You idiot! What the hell were you thinking? Today of all days! Or any day!"

"Oww!" George massaged his scalp. "Not today! Weeks ago! And I didnít tell Callie about it. I didnít think sheíd ever find out. Then she did."

"I warned you not to get cocky! And who in their right mind gets cocky when theyíre still holding onto a secret? What the hell is wrong with you?"

George started to cry again. "We made love last night. It was perfect. It was -" He trailed off for a second. "Okay, not perfect. She - she seemed upset with herself for doing it and I - I didnít really help."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, afterwards I played it off. I tried to act like it was the most natural thing in the world and make her laugh or whatever. Then we had dinner with her parents and they were nice to me, but-"

"Not to her?"

"It was an intervention, Addison. Theyíre never nice."

"A WHAT! AND YOU WENT ALONG WITH IT? YOU REALLY ARE AN IDIOT!" She smacked him again and he cowered. She felt guilty immediately, mostly because he looked like a kicked puppy, so she hastily added, "Sheís *your* wife. Itís supposed to be the two of you against everyone else."

"Us against them." George rubbed his head. "Thatís what she said, too. Before we went to dinner."

"Maybe you should have listened to her." Addison sat back in her seat and sighed. "Why did you want me to bring you here?"

"Sheís divorcing me. She told me. She said not to come to the Archfield."

"Oh my god." Addison looked at him. "Then you should have gone to the Archfield. Are you going to fight for her? George, do you - are you in love with Callie? At all?"

"Yes. I am."

"Then what the hell is wrong with you?"

"Addison-"

"You get that I was on your side, right? I kept nudging her for you. I kept telling her that you were sorry and that you were going to fix it and look at what youíve done."

"I know!" George cried.

"Who told her about you and Izzie in the elevator?"

"Who do you think? Karev."

"What happened after she found out? Was she okay? God, I could kick you in the ass."

"She left with him. He held out his hand and she took it and left with him. I bet theyíre - no, I canít even think it."

"She left with Alex?" Addison blinked, then pulled out her cellphone. She called Callieís number to no avail. It went straight to voice mail. She turned to address George again when she noticed Louise walking down the sidewalk toward the car. "Uh, George?"

"Yeah?"

"Your mom."

George rolled the window down and looked up at his mother. "Iíll be inside in just a minute."

"You most certainly will not." Louise shook her head and planted her palms on her ample hips. "Your wife just called her parents and told them that she is leaving town. Now, it doesnít take a rocket scientist to know that this is your fault, but she confirmed it with them. I am ashamed of you, George. Ashamed."

Addison leaned over the gear shifter and looked up at Louise, fear evident on her features. "Sheís leaving town? Permanently or-"

"She said for a week or so. She has to report back at the hospital in two weeks." Louise sighed and glared down at her son. "And sheís taken Alex with her."

"What!? That son of a bitch!" George yelled, leaping from the car with such force that he almost hit his mother with the door. When she stepped back, he whirled and punched a nearby telephone pole, then howled at the pain.
Addison hurried out of the car and rushed to where he stood, bent at the waist, gripping his hand. "Let me see. George, let me see your hand."

"It's fine."

"Just -"

"He warned me. He told me that he wanted her and I didn't believe it. I didn't think he'd go for her. Not really."

He raised up and looked at Addison finally. He looked like a sad clown and it was too real to be comical. Tears wet his cheeks, his nose was red from the crying, and his hair had curled up from the humidity of the evening drizzle. Wordlessly, he took a step back and then he turned on his heel and ran. The women watched in shock as the darkness swallowed him.

"Should we-" Addison began.

"No." Louise stood a little straighter, as if holding herself upright would somehow give her strength to do what she needed to do. "I raised my son better than this and if it takes him spending the night in the rain with a hand that is as hurt as his wifeís heart then so be it."

*~*~*~*~*~
"Youíre kidding."

"No, Iím really not. This is what I was doing earlier while we waited for Gellar to see me. I was making plans." Callie watched as Alex crossed his arms over his chest and stared up at the Cessna Citation Mustang. It was smaller than several of the other planes that were housed at the hangar, but she knew that it was still intimidating. She bit her bottom lip and said, "I fly it home every Christmas. I promise. Iím good."

"Iím not doubting your skills, Cal." Alex cocked his head to one side, still gazing at the plane. "But where are the propellers?"

"Who needs propellers when you have two Pratt and Whitney fanjet engines that deliver one thousand four hundred and sixty pounds of takeoff thrust apiece?"

He looked at her then. And smiled. "Thrust, huh?"

"Thrust."

Alex walked to where she stood and put his hands on her hips. It was obvious that he was thinking of an entirely different form of thrust by the smirk on his face. "Where are we going?"

"Los Angeles. I bought a house there three years ago and Iíve never even seen it."

"We didnít pack anything." Alex leaned down, kissing her. It was lingering, soft and hard in equal measures. "But you did say Ďthrustí so I guess Iím along for the ride. Do I call you captain, by the way?"

"You can call me whatever you want as long as you keep kissing me like that."

"Oooh, an invitation. Let me R.S.V.P.." He kissed her again, slower this time and didnít break away from her until someone cleared their throat behind them.

Callie sighed and stepped around Alex, extending her hand toward Miguel Santos, the caretaker of the private air strip that housed her plane. Miguel handed her a stack of papers and spoke rapid Spanish, gesticulating wildly with his hands. Callie replied in Spanish and nodded her head several times. Then, without warning, she gripped the shorter man by the lapels of his coveralls and said, "If you tell my father *anything* then I will feed you your scrotum in little pieces."

"Okay, fine!" Miguel growled in perfect English. "Iíll park the car in the hangar and weíll do it your way. Iíve got the fake flight plan that shows you heading to the east coast. But Raphael Torres is not going to stop there, Calliope. Heíll send someone to look for your plane and when he doesnít see it - HE will be feeding me my scrotum and probably his fist as well."

"By the time my father figures out that it was a bait and switch, I will already be halfway back here." Callie reached up and opened the door of the plane. "Are you ready, Alex?"

"Weíre leaving now?" Alex seemed shocked, like the idea of leaving on the plane was just that - an idea. "Seriously?"

"Seriously." Callie walked around the aircraft, checking a few things out for herself, then she turned back to Miguel and said, "I appreciate this. Youíre a good man."

"I hope I remain a man and not a eunuch. Your father will kill me."

"Iíll take the blame." Callie motioned for Alex to ascend the steps first, then she followed behind him. She waved at Miguel and closed the door.

The plane was very cramped on the inside, but luxurious nonetheless. There was room for four passengers in the cabin and a pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit. Callie dropped her purse on one of the leather seats and kicked off her shoes. Digging her toes into the plush white carpet, she groaned. "Now I remember why I donít wear high heels," she sighed and moved past him, heading for the pit. "You want to ride shotgun or would you feel more comfortable back there?"

"Iím with you." Alex followed her and strapped himself into the vacant seat. He watched quietly as Callie pushed several buttons, then she handed him a set of earphones and put her own in place. He listened to her conversation with the tower and stared, wide eyed, when she finally maneuvered the plane onto the runway and they took off.

Callie smiled when Alex gripped the arms of his chair and they shot upward, straight into the clouds. She waited until they had leveled out before she spoke to him. The climb could take a seasoned veteranís stomach and he was looking kind of green. "You know what?"

"What?"

"Youíre the first person who has been in this plane with me. Ever."

"I am?"

"You are."

"When did you learn to fly?"

"My dad used to take me up when I was just a kid. He started teaching me before I was big enough to see over the controls. Then when I was old enough I went to flight school in my spare time and eventually got my license."

"Do your brothers fly?"

"No."

"Oh, so your dad spoiled you rotten, but not the boys?"

She smiled. "The boys were predestined to take equal parts in the running of my fatherís various businesses. That was never an option for me. Teaching me to fly meant that no matter how far away I went, I could always find my way home."

"He didnít want you to work for the family?"

"He didnít want me to sing for the family." Callie turned a couple of knobs and responded to something from the tower before she addressed Alex again. "That was my motherís big plan. I was going to sing. On Broadway. As soon as my dad found out that there was an agent interested in signing me, he flipped out, and sent my ass packing to medical school against my will."

"You didnít want to be a doctor?"

"I didnít want to cause anymore conflict in my family. My parents were arguing all the time about me and my future so I did what my father wanted. Donít get me wrong, I love medicine. I love helping people and doing what we do, but what I really wanted was to fly. Big, ugly passenger jets full of grouchy adults and screaming babies."

"Well, look around, Cal, youíre a pilot. You got the best of both worlds."

"I fly once a year which isnít nearly as cool." She shrugged her shoulders. "And while I love this plane itís just not the same as a seven forty seven."

"Have you flown one?"

"Once. And only kinda sorta. My uncle bought tickets for my brother and me to attend a twins convention when we were seventeen. We were in first class and the co-pilot walked by and I asked him if I could see the cockpit. He said okay and they let me hold the wheel. It was brief, just a split second, but it was the best moment of my very young life. I was in love with the power of it. With the speed. With knowing that I held hundreds of lives in the palm of my hand."

"Youíre an adrenaline junkie."

"Very true. That was the first moment of my life when I had direction, when I knew what I wanted to do."

"Have you always done that, though?"

"Done what?"

"Given up your dreams, your goals, to make other people happy?"

"Yeah." She concentrated on the horizon. "Can I tell you something weird?"

"You can tell me anything."

"I went swimming this morning at the hotel. The water was like ice and I was the only one in it. The sky was kind of cloudy when I jumped in and after I swam for a while and finally climbed back out ... the sun was breaking through and itís like I saw everything crystal clear for the first time. It was like a baptism, you know. Itís like I went down as a liar and came up a believer."

"A believer in what?"

"Me."

"Itís about time." Alex shifted in his seat so that he could watch her more comfortably. "Can I tell you something weird?"

"You can tell me anything."

He grinned. "Youíre not the only one who saw everything crystal clear today. I know that weíve flirted and goofed around in good fun, but I felt like I was seeing you for the first time when you were studying those X-rays. You were gorgeous. I couldnít stop looking."

Callie toyed with the yoke and swallowed hard. Tears stung at her eyes and she quickly looked out the window until she regained control. "So, it took a pretty dress and perfect hair to make you realize that Iím actually a girl and not just -"

"Donít do that." Alex cut her off and touched her arm. "You do look gorgeous, but it wasnít the clothes I noticed. It was your eyes. When you started to cry because of what I told you it felt like someone was holding a brand against me. Against all of me. You could be bald and have on a sack of some kind and your eyes are still going to get to me every time."

"That is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me."

"Well, donít abuse it. Donít think that just looking at me is going to get you whatever you want." Alex narrowed his eyes when she glanced at him. He reached over, touching the dampness on her cheek. "Why are you crying?"

"I should feel guilty. I should. What weíre doing-"

"Donít do that either. You either feel something or you donít. Donít think about what you should feel and think about what you do feel." He unbuckled his seatbelt and kissed her just behind the ear. "And I feel you."

Callie hissed a little as chills raced up and down her spine. How did he know that was her spot? "I feel you, too, but weíre going to feel this plane crashing if you donít stop that."

"Hmmm." Alex reached down, sliding her skirt slowly upward. He exposed her knee and ran his fingers over it. "Pilots should be able to fly well under any circumstances. Granted, Iím not a grouchy adult or a screaming child, but Iím just as distracting. Now ... concentrate on the flight. If you can."

Callie swallowed hard when his hand moved a little higher. He traced a pattern on her mid-thigh and she gasped. "Youíre killing me, Alex."

He moved higher still, dragging his nails across the outside of her leg, then upward toward her hip. He smiled when he felt her breathing change and kissed her neck, suckling at her flesh. The plane jerked violently and suddenly, almost bucking him out of his seat, and he backed away, eyes wide. Callie had her lips pursed together and was gripping the yoke tightly in her hands. "Callie Torres! You did that on purpose!"

Callie looked at him and shook her head, then pointed out the front windows.

There was a storm on the horizon. Lightning flashed against the blackening sky and thunder boomed suddenly. The plane pitched again and she grabbed his arm. "Put your seatbelt back on. Iím going to go above it."

"Callie-"

"Itís okay. Iíve flown through worse."

Alex buckled his belt and gripped the arms of his chair again. "Why didnít they warn us?"

Callie said nothing, but as she stared at the storm and the wind pitched the little jet again ... she worried that maybe someone was warning them.

*~*~*~*~*~
Ch 14
*~*~*~*~*~

Callie felt like she had been holding her breath for hours. The storm was horrible. It turned the radio to static, made the many gauges on the plane go berserk at random times, and the yoke in her hands jerked violently. Her fingers actually ached from the white knuckled death grip she had on the instrument and her shoulders throbbed from the tension. Her eyes darted back and forth between the fuel reading and the lightning strikes. She radioed the tower for an update and was given the cloud range.

Her heart sank to the pit of her stomach.

They would need to climb to forty one thousand feet to rise above the wall.

Fuel would be an issue.

Her decision was made. They would have to fly into the storm and hope for the best. She reached out, running her hand along the contour of the control panel. "Okay, Lady. This isnít any worse than last year."

Alex watched quietly and finally asked, "What are we doing?"

"We have enough fuel to get to Los Angeles, but if I take her up over the storm then sheís going to burn more and thatís going to be a problem. If I detract from the flight plan and have to land somewhere else for fuel then the fake plan that Miguel made for us will be obliterated."

"So, weíre going through it? Weíre going through the monster just to keep your dad off our asses?"

He sounded mad and she looked at him with concern. "Iíd rather keep my dad off my ass for as long as possible. Believe me, this storm is the lesser of the evils right now. I saw the way he treated my brothers when *they* rebelled which is why I never did it."

"Callie, look outside! This isnít - we can turn around. We can drive somewhere. We can hole up in a tent in the middle of nowhere and I promise weíll be happy."

"Itíll be okay. I do this all the time, Alex, I get off on this stuff."

"Then why are you shaking?"

"Because Iím usually alone when I get off on it. Now I have precious cargo so Iím not just thinking about me." Callie took a deep breath and pressed another button. "I have to have music. Loud, loud music. It relaxes me. Youíll probably hate it, but I really need you not to talk and not to move too much because I have to get in the zone. Okay?"

"Okay."

The opening strings of ACDCís ĎHighway To Hellí began to play. Alex couldnít think of a less relaxing song to be playing when they were literally going headlong into hell, but he kept his mouth shut and held on for the ride. The music was loud enough to make his ears ring, but when he looked back at Callie, her grip on the yoke was lighter and she had a peaceful and content look on her face that was mesmerizing enough to make him forget the storm.

Thunder boomed and a tailwind caught the little plane, dropping it three thousand feet in the blink of an eye. Callie reacted quickly and began to climb again. Ten minutes later ... they punched the core of the storm and the little Cessna shuddered, rattled, and pushed onward like she had been made for the rough and tumble lifestyle. Every time the wind tipped her wings, the aircraft responded to Callieís touch and pulled herself back in line again. The plane groaned in protest a couple of times, but she obeyed the slightest command.

The CD that Callie played was mostly ACDC and she calmly sang her way through ĎHellís Bellsí and ĎShook Me All Night Longí. Marilyn Mansonís version of ĎSweet Dreamsí radiated through the plane a moment later and Callie smiled, singing along brazenly and boldly as the storm reached a fevered pitch and she tilted the wings a little so she could see down into the thunderheads. She returned the favor for Alex, tilting to his side and pointing out the window. She saw that he was as amazed at mother natureís fury as she was, but he was also green around the gills and she leveled the plane before he could barf.

Thirty minutes later, they burst out of the darkness and into a sunset that was bright enough to cause both their eyes to water. Callie was singing along to ĎRenegadeí by Styx at that point and she let the song finish before she turned the music down. She reached over and touched Alexís arm. "Are you okay?"

He stared over at her, wide eyed and pale. "You are undoubtedly the craziest woman I have ever known in my life. You played devil music for the soundtrack of our demise!"

"Devil music? Would you prefer Abba?"

"Do you - when I said that you were an adrenaline junkie I really was kidding, but now I see that you are." He swallowed back the bile that had been rising in his throat. "You donít have a fear gene in your body at all, do you?"

"What should I fear?"

"Uh, death? Death comes to mind."

"Alex, death is a date on a tombstone. If you live your life fearing death then you donít really live at all. Weíre doctors. We see it. We touch it. We sometimes even cause it by mistake. And none of us get out of this thing alive." She gazed at his face as ĎDonít Fear The Reaperí began to play. "Iíd never do anything that would put you in danger."

"What about yourself?"

"I eat danger for breakfast." She touched his cheek. "And digest it very well."

It was her touch or maybe the worry in her eyes that forced him to smile. His anger, if it could really be called that at all, evaporated as quickly as the storm had arrived. "I have to warn you, I've heard relationships based on intense experiences never work."

Callie smirked a little. "Okay. Weíll just have to base it on sex then."

"Whatever you say, maíam."

She took his hand. "That was ĎSpeedí. Try to stump me with another one, Mr. Movie Bank."

"I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss from her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it." He rubbed his thumb over her knuckles. "Which is actually pretty true now that I think about it."

"ĎCity of Angelsí," she replied. "And awww, by the way. My turn. You can be my wingman anytime. Which is also pretty true."

"íTop Guní. Okay, Iím stumping you this time." He took a deep breath and blurted, "Supersonic, idiotic, disconnected, not respected, who would ever really want to go and top that!?"

"You have got to be kidding me. ĎTeen Witchí, which I have seen enough to memorize. Okay, hereís another one, I donít remember ever being this awake."

"ĎThelma and Louise.í" He relaxed against the leather seat and stretched his legs out a little. "Fair is Fair! We didn't start this! We didn't mean for this to happen!"

"Oh my god. ĎThe Legend of Billie Jeaní. I love that movie." She laughed. "It doesn't matter if the guy is perfect or the girl is perfect, as long as they are perfect for each other."

"ĎGood Will Huntingí. Every step I took since the moment I could walk was a step toward finding you. Thatís from ĎMessage in a Bottleí. Also pretty true." He squeezed her hand. "I like that youíre fearless, Callie. It annoys the hell out of me, but I like it."

"Me? I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, I'm scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you." Callie quoted ĎDirty Dancingí, but the look she gave him conveyed that it wasnít just a quote at all. It said everything she needed to say to him and when he tilted his head and gazed at her, she knew that he got it. He understood.

The rest of the flight was comfortable. They joked more about movies and decided to call a draw when neither could outdo the other. The landing was another story, however. For most of his life, Alex had avoided planes and gone by car or bus to his destination. He hated the feel of losing altitude, hated the lurch in his stomach when the plane finally made contact with the runway and the inevitable bounce that came with it. So, when Callie announced that they had arrived, Alex kept his eyes on her instead of the approaching ground, his heart slamming against his chest.

But he didnít even flinch when they touched down.

He did flinch two hours later when she put her hand on her hip and glared at him. A pile of clothing hid the cashier behind the counter and he was glad that she couldnít see his face. He caved instantly and put his credit card away, making a decision that he would avoid getting that particular look from Callie again. As much as he hated that she was paying for things, she *had* made it very clear that he was her guest and as such ... he was to keep his money to himself. He shook his head when the short, blond clerk announced a subtotal that would have been a nice down payment on a brand new car and accepted the bags that another girl held out to him.

They put their purchases in the trunk of the limousine that had been waiting at the airstrip and crawled back into the car. Alex stretched his legs out and crossed his arms. He was exhausted and his limbs were still tingling from the events of the day. Growing up the way he did had prevented him from being a dreamer. He was a realist and never, in a million years, did he think heíd ever be where he currently was. Callie was amazing. And generous. And he was rapidly forgetting every woman he had ever known before her, just the way he had predicted he would when he threatened George.

Lost in thought, he was unaware that Callie was watching him or that her dark eyes were troubled.

The limo had gone two blocks when she spoke. "Alex?"

"Hmm?"

"You can buy dinner. If you want."

He looked over at her. "Okay."

"I - youíre upset about the clothes and I can tell that youíre mad, but I wouldnít let you go pack anything so -"

"Iím upset that you would pay two hundred dollars for one pair of jeans because thatís not practical, but Iím not mad. We both know that Iím an intern. Itís not going to make me bury my head in the sand. You got money and I donít. I donít care."

"Are you sure?"

"Am I here? And by the way, are we going to your house now?"

"Weíll go there tomorrow. I have to buy things for it before we do. Like sheets and food."

"Nice mental image. Sheets, food, you. You on the sheets and the food on you maybe?"

"What kinda food?"
"Something sticky. Hard to lick off. It would take me longer so I could really enjoy it." He smirked when her face flooded with color and noticed that she was shifting in her seat far more than she had been. "Nervous twitch, Cal?"

"Bite me."

They arrived at the Crowne Plaza in Redondo Beach thirty minutes later. Callie paid cash for the room and used a fake name. The staff, who was accustomed to requests of anonymity, never blinked an eye and addressed her as ĎMs. Towanda Threadgoode.í Alex decided to call her ĎIdgieí and then blanched when she told him that in the book version of ĎFried Green Tomatoesí, Idgie was very much a lesbian and had a long term lesbian affair with Ruth.

"They were not!"

Callie nodded as they waited for the bellboy to lead them to their suite for the night. "Thereís one scene where Sipsey looks out at Idgie and Ruth and says Ďthat ol' love bug done hit Idgieí. It was pretty blatant. Fannie Flagg wrote that Idgie was *in* love and so was Ruth."

"God. Now Iíll be watching that movie and envisioning dirty, lustful things. Youíve turned my happy place into an lusty empire of lesbians and porn."

"It was pretty obvious in the movie, you know? Mary Stuart Masterson played Idgie very Ďbutchí. And when Ruth tasted the honey from the comb that Idgie had gotten for her? Helllooo?"

"Why didnít they make it clearer in the movie?"

"Because Hollywood is like Washington D.C. and they wonít push the envelope far enough to help change the discrimination by painting homosexuals in a positive light. The movie would have bombed at the box office anyway because the masses are also asses."

"Youíre thinking about your brother, right?"

"Heís been with Blake for ten years. They should be allowed to get married." Callie made a face then. "Not that I would wish marriage on anyone. Itís not all itís cracked up to be. It makes a person miserable."

Alex had no response. He took her hand as they followed their things into the elevator. Their room was breathtaking and the windows afforded a prime view of the marina. The coloring was masculine, with browns and tans and a fur blanket was thrown over the foot of the queen sized bed. One brick wall was a deep chocolate and he watched as Callie took off her heels and leaned against it, staring out the sliding glass doors. Her brown dress was a few shades lighter, but the colors blended together to make her hair seem blacker, richer, and her skin looked bronzed to perfection.

He crossed the room and hugged her. It was impulsive and sweet and she was grinning when they broke apart. "What was that for?"

"For not killing us. For getting out of a relationship that made you crazy. For inviting me along for the ride." He kissed her forehead. "You really are the best friend Iíve ever had. And I didnít expect this to happen, but Iím glad it did."

"So am I."

"You look tired, Cal."

She stifled a yawn with the back of her hand and glanced down at her watch. "Itís not even that late and I feel like I could sleep for days."

"Dinner first?"

"You want to go out or eat here?"

"Youíre exhausted. We could order a pizza if you want."

"Have you ever been to California?

"No."

Callie stretched until her back popped and then she nodded. "Letís go to Oceanís Floor. And then when weíre finished you will experience why the sand in California feels better between your toes than any other sand in the world."

"Are you sure?"

He looked like a kid in a candy store and Callie forgot about her exhaustion. "Iím positive. Why donít you change out of your scrubs and weíll hit the road."

Alex picked up the bag containing his new clothing and retreated into the bathroom. Callie dug through a couple of the remaining bags until she found the turquoise sun dress that she had been unable to refuse. It had spaghetti straps and a low, rounded neckline. There was a peephole that would show off her cleavage without looking sleazy. She quickly slipped it on, then slid her feet into the matching sandals she had grabbed while Alex was searching for swimming trunks. Glancing in the mirror, she saw that her hair was still in place, but she glided fresh gloss over her lips and freshened up her blush.

When Alex emerged a few minutes later, wearing a pair of khaki pants and a button down shirt, he gasped. "Wow. I - I never really appreciated that color until right now."

Callie grinned at him. "Iíve never seen you with your shirt tucked in."

"Well, Iím trying to-" He trailed off when she pulled the shirt from his pants. "Uh, oookay."

"Now youíre Alex." She pressed a kiss against his mouth. "Donít try to be someone youíre not. Take it from me ... it can kill you."

Hand in hand, they strode out of the hotel and into the night, which was alive and bustling with the energy and promise of great things to come.

*~*~*~*~*~

In the end ... it was lobster that did them in.

Callie ordered the large, whole lobster after Alex nixed her attempts at a salad or a half sandwich. He had chosen crab legs and was hell bent that she would have something just as grand. She finally relented, but she refused the wine menu and stuck with water. They got lost in a conversation about the crab fishing business again and when the food arrived, Callie dug into her rice first, savoring the medley of flavors.

Then the lobster on her plate moved and she dropped her fork.

It moved again and scuttled far enough to fall onto the table.

"What the hell?" Alex leaned forward, staring at it. "Iíll get the waiter."

"Donít you dare! Theyíll just boil it again." She gently picked up the crustacean, wrapped it in her cloth napkin, and lowered it into the leather bag that she had paid dearly for that morning. She brushed her hands off and glanced back at Alex, who was looking at her like she had grown four heads. "What? The thing clearly wants to live."

"So you take it home as a pet?"

"No! Weíre going to put it back in the ocean." Callie returned to her rice and took another bite. "Besides, Iím paying it forward."

"Paying what forward?"

"You saved my life so Iím saving his."

Alex scooped meat from his own plate and put it on hers. "I think your life is a little more valuable than the lobsterís life."

"I didnít really realize that until today. With you." Callie took a bite of the crab and moaned a little as it melted in her mouth. "You really have a way of waking people up."

"Itís one of the many services that I offer." He brushed a little butter off the corner of her mouth with his own napkin. "You know whatís funny?"

"What?"

"I almost asked you out when I first came to Seattle. You were working on a car crash victim and it was my third week as an intern. I was taking someoneís blood and saw you looking at X-rays. You were chewing on your thumbnail and I watched you for a minute and then I had to finish up and when I looked again ... you were gone. I saw you that same night at Joeís. I bought you a drink and you sent it back to me with a Ďfuck you very muchí."

She had lifted her fork, but laid it back down in shock. "You were the Sex on the Beach guy?"

"How was I supposed to know that you hated fruity drinks?"

"Do I look like I drink fruity drinks?"

"Well, I learned the hard way. I get it now. The fact that I had to drink what I bought for you made it loud and clear." He glanced at her glass of water. "You didnít want any wine tonight?"

"I really donít. Iíve decided that I donít drink anymore and itís much easier than I thought it would be." She ate another bite of the crab before she leaned back in the chair. "Iím stuffed."

Alex glanced down at her plate. She had taken less than ten bites, not that he was counting. Only he was. And it worried and exasperated him, but he chose his words wisely. "You donít eat enough to keep a bird alive."

"You know, I could probably count the times that Iíve actually eaten since I got married on one hand. I mean, Iíd grab a candy bar for the day, but I didnít really eat a meal. So, now I just donít get hungry anymore."

"Youíve lost a lot of weight."
She nodded. "And about five sizes, but Iím fine with that. I feel better. I look better and-"

"You looked just fine before. Hence me buying you a drink."

Callie took a few sips of her water and sat the glass back down. "You never approached me, though."

"Werenít you seeing that blond doctor for a while? Savoy? The one who harassed Bailey at the M&M?"

She wrinkled her nose. "Yeah, there was that. I think I had a concussion that entire time."

He chuckled. "And then you started in with OíMalley. I told him that you were way too hot for him, but he didnít listen."

"Guys like George are better off with women who drink fruity drinks. That way he can share with them," Callie replied. "You told him I was hot?"

"Yeah. A few times." Alex reached across the table and took her hand. The topic of George always brought about a change in her demeanor and he hated it. "I also told him that I was interested in you and that he better toe the line because I was ready to step in. He didnít and I did."

Her eyes widened. "No shit?"

"None."

The waiter arrived and asked if the wanted the dessert menu. Callie declined, but Alex ordered something chocolate and when it arrived his eyes widened at the size of it. "Good god. Help me out, Cal."

She let him give her a bite of the cake and rolled her eyes heavenward. "Why itís positively sinful."

"Are you quoting ĎEver Afterí?"

"I am." Callie accepted another bite and enjoyed it far too much. "It is not fair, your highness. You have discovered my weakness and I have yet to learn yours."

Alex slipped into the seat beside hers and kissed her. "I should think it was quite obvious."

They forgot about the cake for a while.

Until the lobster in Callieís purse rustled and caused her to jump. She pulled away from Alex and said, "Finish your dessert. We have to go."

Alex took a few more bites, forcing her to match every one and then he dug into his wallet and pulled out some cash. He saw that she had done the same and shook his head. "You said I could buy dinner."

"I didnít really mean it."

"Too bad." Alex left enough money in the leather pouch for their food and a generous tip, then helped her to her feet. "Letís go see the ocean."

Callie stared down at the money. "Youíre a great tipper. That is so rare."

He shrugged. "My mother was a waitress. She had heel spurs and shin splints and-"

She kissed him, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tight. At dinner with her parents ... she had told her father the exact same thing. Hearing it come from Alexís mouth, seeing that he had left over thirty percent on the table and knowing that he didnít really have it to throw away, did crazy things to her libido. When they finally pulled apart, someone whistled and Callie blushed. "Letís go."

They walked the four blocks to the beach. Callie kicked off her shoes and carried them as they stepped into the sand. Alex did the same, stuffing his socks into his sneakers and pausing to roll up his pants legs. He smiled when he dug his toes into the sand and said, "Youíre right. It feels different."

She practically skipped to the oceanís edge. She laid her sandals on the beach and put her purse on top of it, then she walked into the cool waves and sighed. "Oh my god. I didnít realize how bad my feet hurt until right now."

"Want a massage?"

"Iíd fall asleep."

Alex followed her into the water and pulled her back against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pointed out at the moon, which was hanging low on the horizon. "You can see the old man up there tonight, Cal. That means heís listening so make a wish."

She leaned her head back against him and said, "I wish this night would never end."

"I donít think you were supposed to say it out loud." He nuzzled her ear. "But since Iím wishing the same thing then maybe heíll hear us anyway."

"Youíve got layers, Alex."

"Look whoís talking. Youíre like an onion."

"Not the greatest complement."

"I happen to like onions."

They stood in the water for a while and then Callie headed back to the beach and retrieved the lobster. It was clearly still alive and she started to put it in the surf, but Alex stopped her. "It still has the bands on its claws. It canít catch food."

Callie gazed down at it. "You know, I donít think they boiled it all. They usually take those off when they serve it." She held the animal out to Alex and added, "Hold it. I think I have clippers."

She dug through her bag and after five minutes, she shouted, "Aha! Hey, you donít think itís bad to put a Maine lobster in the pacific ocean, do you?"

"Itís either this or the boiler."

With Alex holding the animal, she clipped the bands and took it from him again. She smiled up at him and thatís when the lobster seized the opportunity for revenge and pinched her arm. "Ahh!" she yelped, letting it go. It was not the smartest thing she had ever done. Having it dangle, unsupported, was quite painful.

Alex grabbed it, gently working its claspers open and when he finally succeeded, he tossed it and turned back to Callie. "Grateful little fucker, huh?"

"I cannot believe that just happened." She had her hand on her arm and when Alex moved it away, she gasped. She was actually bleeding. The serrated edges of the lobsterís claw had torn into her soft flesh, pulling out a plug that was dangling by a thin piece of skin. It wasnít deep by any means, but it wasnít a scratch either.

"Youíre going to need stitches. And antibiotics." Alex pulled off his top shirt, leaving him in a white wife beater. He secured it around her arm and picked up his shoes. "Whereís the hospital?"

"I canít go to the hospital. My dad-"

"Okay, you know what? This cat and mouse game with your dad is interesting, but Iím not letting you get sick on my watch. If your dad can find you in a hole in the wall hospital emergency room then he deserves to catch for his trouble." He grabbed her shoes and purse and held out his hand. "Letís go."

She got eleven stitches, antibiotics, and a shot for the pain.

When they finally made it back to the hotel room, she was half asleep and it was almost four in the morning. He took her shoes off, frowned when he saw the marks that her heels had caused earlier in the day, and rubbed each of her feet for a moment. "I thought you were joking about this."

"No. Not so much." She yawned and got to her feet, staggering a little.

He watched, wide eyed, as she pulled the dress over her head. His tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth as she exposed a brown velvet thong that had small pink bows on each hips. He almost swallowed his tongue completely when his gaze moved higher, resting on the matching strapless bra which she quickly removed and tossed into the corner. Her nipples were dark, small. His tongue ran over his teeth and darted out to lick his lips as he imagined what it would be like to nip one, then the other.

She was comfortable in her skin and he could see why. Every inch of her was cinnamon, tanned and sweet. He ached to mold his palm against the smooth flare of her hips, to cup one of her pert, but generous breasts. She turned away from him to turn down the bed and he moaned a little. The rounded globes of her ass caused him to grip his own thighs and when he saw the tattoo on her lower back, he wanted to taste her. He wanted to taste every inch of her because if she tasted as good as she looked ... it would truly be an addiction he would never beat.

He felt physical pain when she slipped beneath the cover and pulled it up to her chin. "Are you coming?" she asked sleepily.

When he crawled in beside her, wearing nothing but his boxer shorts, she rolled against him and said, "Alex?"

"Yeah?"

"This isnít really what I was wishing for when I said I wanted tonight to never end. What the fuck, dude?"

He smiled and kissed the top of her head. "Well, itís a new day already so we can start over."

"Weíre going to Disneyland today." She yawned and moved closer still. "You want to?"

"Iíve never been. I canít imagine anyone better to see it with."
"I want to show you the world the way you showed it to me, Alex."

"You already have." He gave into temptation and put his hand on her hip. He would never be able to sleep with her so close.

"Do me a favor?"

"Sure."

"Donít let me go."

"Iíve got you." He tightened his grip. "And I wonít."

She fell asleep first.

Alex smiled when she threw a leg over his.

It felt right.

And since not much in Alex Karevís life ever felt right ... he decided to hold on with both hands.

*~*~*~*~*~

George hitchhiked to Meredithís house at four a.m., after walking in the rain for hours. He sat in the passenger seat of a car that smelled like mothballs and listened to the old woman who was driving describe her irritable bowel symptoms. It was his fault for telling her that he was a doctor. He knew it. So much of what was wrong with his life was his own fault and he had no one to blame but himself. He gave her advice, thanked her for the ride when they arrived at Meredithís, and then tossed a couple of small rocks at Izzieís window. He was shivering from the cold, wet and tired, when Izzie eventually opened the front door and let him in.

She was bleary eyed, her hair was a mess, and she had clearly been asleep. Wordlessly, she grabbed a blanket from the hall closet and followed him to the kitchen, where he sat down at the island. Wrapping him in the blanket, she started a fresh pot of coffee and watched him closely. She was stung from their blowup at work, hurt more than she had thought possible at the names he had called her, but seeing him in the shape he was in mellowed the anger that had been her sleeping partner. "You want to tell me what happened?"

"Callie left town with Alex."

Izzieís anger returned. This time it was for George and not because of George, which was an arresting new development in their relationship. It was also for Alex, who had pretty much declared his love for her during their heart to heart about Denny. She had been considering a reconciliation with him. After all, he had kissed her in the stairwell and again when he found Callieís DNR paperwork.

George looked up at her. "You think theyíre together?"

She shrugged. "I think that Alex only knows how to do one thing when there is a vagina involved."

He laid his head on the island. "Youíre not helping."

Izzie leaned on her elbows, watching him. "You really need to get some sleep. And you need to change clothes. Youíre going to get catch a cold or something."

He didnít lift his head. "I donít have anything. And my mother has kicked me out of the house. Callieís kicked me out of the hotel and I canít remember where I parked my car."

"You left your old robe here. The black one. Iíll go get it and you put your clothes in the washer, okay?"

When he nodded, she hurried up the stairs and retrieved his robe from her bedroom. She lifted it to her nose, inhaling his scent as she did every night, and then returned to the kitchen. She found him in the laundry room, a towel around his waist, and held out the robe. Biting her bottom lip, she gazed at his bare chest. It wasnít quite as impressive as she had recalled. Neither were his legs.

"Cristina is in Alexís bed and Derek and Meredith had a fight so heís on the sofa. Looks like youíre camping in my room. You want the sleeping bag or the bed?"

"Iíll take the sleeping bag." He slipped the robe on and followed behind her, his mind conjuring up images of Callie in her brown dress, in Alexís arms. It twisted his heart, ate away at his pride. It hurt. Gut deep.

Ten minutes later, he rolled onto his stomach and sighed as tears blinded him again. He thought he had cried enough, but he was wrong so he gave in. The floor creaked and then Izzieís hand was on his back and she was whispering that it was okay, that Callie would come home, that he could would see her soon. She promised to be nice to his wife, to really try to be her friend, to help George win her back.

And then they were kissing and she was naked and George was inside her. And then she realized that he had softened a moment later and he pulled out and away before he got off.

She breathed a sigh of relief.
He did the same.

Izzie lay next to him on the floor and despite the fact that she had not enjoyed an orgasm, her body was not left wanting. It was silent, seemingly protesting such an odd invasion. She was disgusted. She finally sat up and still naked, gazed at him. "George-"

"Jesus Christ, Izzie. What the hell was that?"

"Horrible, gross, and wrong?"

They looked at each other and burst into laughter. They laughed long and hard. They laughed the way they used to before they had complicated their friendship with sex.

"It was different when we were drunk," George said, still chuckling.

"Everything is," she replied, biting her bottom lip as her smile faded. "I - I think maybe we were completely wrong about each other. I just - I donít see you that way, George. Or feel it."

"We never did. It was the alcohol." George put his hand over his eyes. "I always knew we were wrong together. When I kissed you in the elevator I felt it. It was like - youíre my best friend, Izzie, and thatís all it is. Youíre *family*."

"Youíre right." She touched his arm and he sat up, looking at her. "Weíll never talk about this. No one has to know."

"Someone already does." Cristina stood in the partially opened doorway, gazing at them in shock and disbelief. "You two deserve each other. McBastard and McBitch."

*~*~*~*~*~

CH 15
*~*~*~*~*~

Callie awoke at nine the following morning feeling very uncomfortable. Her bladder was painfully reminding her that she had enjoyed two bottles of water at the hospital the night before and the wound on her arm was throbbing because she was lying on it. She wiggled a little and the arm around her waist tightened, while something very hard poked her in the backside. She was against a strong chest and her eyes widened as Alex pulled her closer still. "Good morning," she said, her voice strained.

"Itís too early to be good. Letís be bad." Alex nipped her shoulder and pushed her hair away from her cheek, studying her profile. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to sleep next to you when youíre naked? When I can feel every wonderful inch of you?"

She gasped and lifted the cover, then eased it back down over her chest. Something that looked very much like remorse flashed across her face, but when she felt his eyes on her, she hastily said, "Oh, wow. Did we, uhm, you know?"

It rankled him, her reaction. He felt the blood rush to his head and pulled his arm away. "No, we didnít. If we had Iíd like to think you would remember it."

She rolled over to face him as he slipped from the bed. "Alex, wait."

He paused outside the bathroom door. "What?"

"I want to, okay? Itís just - that shot at the hospital was strong. And that was *your* idea so donít blame me."

"Just for future reference, I donít take advantage of people who are drunk, high, or not thinking clearly. Which you are obviously incapable of doing. And for the record, *if* we have sex, I donít want you to wake up the morning after and act like the thought of it is something you had to repress! Because that fucking sucks!" He slammed the door to the bathroom and gripped the edges of the sink. He thought she was over OíMalley, but the look on her face, the guilt that was evident when she lifted the cover, proved otherwise. It was infuriating to think that all the sweet words and tender moments had meant nothing to her. They had certainly meant something to him.

Turning, he pushed open the door of the shower, stripped off his boxers, and stepped inside, letting the cold water beat him on top of the head. His hard on had been raging when he fell asleep and was still alive and kicking when he awoke. It took fifteen minutes for him to regain control over his temper and his body and by then, he had washed twice and shampooed his hair with something that smelled like honey. He smiled a little, thinking of Callieís story about Idgie and the honeycomb. Heíd have to make a joke about it and see what she thought.

Thinking of Callie was enough to work the tension out of his body and when he finally shut off the water and emerged, he was in a much better mood. Intent on apologizing, he grabbed the robe that hung on the back of the door and walked back into the bedroom. Callie was sitting on the edge of the bed, her back to him, wearing the same dress she had worn the night before. He sat down beside her and reached for her hand, but she stood. "Cal, come on. Iím not a morning person, okay?"

"We need to take our things to my house. I want to be at Disneyland before noon. The main lines wonít be as long by then, but weíll still have until late tonight to see everything. Or, most of everything. You canít do it in a day and thatís all weíve got." She picked up the clothing she had laid on the foot of the bed. "You may want to wear shorts. Pants get uncomfortable after the water rides."

"Callie, Iím sorry. I just - Iím sorry."

She nodded and disappeared into the bathroom. He was tempted to knock, but heard the shower start and busied himself by digging through their clothing instead. He pulled out a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and smiled. Callie had chosen the shirt. It had the skull and muskets from ĎPirates of the Caribbeaní on it, but the skull was wearing mouse ears and he figured she had known all along that she would be taking him to Disneyland. He was excited. He had always wanted to go, but never had the chance.

He was fully clothed and had repacked everything neatly when she emerged thirty minutes later. She had pulled her hair into a long ponytail and was wearing black shorts and a red tank top with black roses and white skulls all over. Just enough of her belly showed to make his mouth dry. She looked amazing, young and vibrant, so he told her so.

Callie sat down on the bed and pulled on a pair of socks and her new black tennis shoes. "Thanks."

She had taken the bandage off her arm and he kneeled in front of her, examining it for himself. The stitches were nicely done, but her flesh was redder than he would have liked. "You werenít supposed to get it wet yet."

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN *IF* WE HAVE SEX!?"

The force of her outburst knocked him backwards onto his backside and she never even laid a hand on him. He stared up her, unblinking, and then started to laugh. It was a hearty, side splitting laugh, and he was relieved when she joined it. He got back to his knees and put his hands on her legs, still chuckling. "You wanna do it right now? Will that help?"

She narrowed her eyes, but still grinned. "No. I do not, Smarty Pants. And no, it will not help. I donít like you right at the moment."

He stroked her very erect nipple and nodded. "Yeah, I can tell."

She slapped his hand away. "Stop that! I am mad at you. You said I canít think clearly."

"Well, I am mad at you, too. Because you canít." He moved upward and kissed her. "You smell good, though."

"You smell like honey. It causes lines of deliciousness. And I have to warn you that Iím a starving bear."

"I have no idea what that means, but I think I like it." He moved his hands a little higher on her thighs. "And I really like these shorts. Theyíre very tiny."

"Youíre not helping us leave on time."

Alex gave her an exasperated look, then picked up the first aid kit that they had purchased at the pharmacy the night before. He rubbed antibiotic cream on her arm and placed a bandage on it, then pressed a kiss against the tape. "How far away is your house?"

She glanced out the sliding glass doors. "If youíre on the balcony you can see her."

He stood and walked out onto deck, scanning the horizon. "Thereís nothing but water, Gothika. And boats."

Joining him, she put her head on his shoulder and pointed out at the row of yachts that were tied off on the dock. "Sheís the one on the end. Fifty six feet of pure power with a perfect cherry finish on the inside. Sheís got two full bedrooms, two full baths, and a gourmet kitchen that would make Rachel Ray piss her pants."

"Your house is a *boat*?"

"Sheís a *yacht*, baby." She leaned against the railing. "Her name is Goon Docks. Taken from ĎThe Gooniesí, which you may recall is my favorite film. I had her built three years ago and never had the time to come and get her until now. The guys at the marina are great about keeping her exercised and well fed, though."

"You talk about it like itís alive."

Callie smiled as she gazed down at her pride and joy. "Sheís like the airplane, Alex. She gives me roots and wings and nothing makes her or *me* more alive than that."

"You said that you had never seen your house before."

"I donít have to see her to know sheís exactly what I want. I designed her myself." Callie breathed in deep, enjoying the fresh ocean air. "Weíre sailing her back to Seattle. Iím moving out of the hotel and into her."

"Do what?"

"Weíre sailing her home."

"That could take days."

"Thatís the whole point."

*~*~*~*~*~

George was sitting at the island, bleary eyed, when Cristina walked past him and opened the fridge. He watched her drink orange juice straight from the carton while she stood in front of the open door. After she finished off what remained of the juice, she reached for the milk and sucked it down as well. When she turned and finally looked at him, she belched. It was long and loud and obviously gratifying because she smiled and pounded her chest. "Breakfast of champions."

"You cannot tell Callie what you saw last night." George moved aside as she threw the milk container past his head and watched as it landed neatly in the trash. "It was a mistake. And an epiphany."

"Whatever, dude. You suck."

"Just promise me you wonít tell her."

"No." Cristina shook her head and her black curls danced around her face. "Iím not promising you jack shit. Because you suck. And because Callie gave me her flash cards."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"I scored the highest marks on the exam."

"So?"

"So, Callie is the reason and she has a right to know that youíre a sucking, lying, and vow-breaking jackass who doesnít learn from his mistakes."

"It was *nothing*."

"If it was nothing then why are you acting like Callie would think itís *something*?"

George poured himself another cup of coffee as she walked past him out of the kitchen. He sat alone, lost in thought. He had never had his penis betray him by refusing to remain hard during sex. Izzie had been on top of him, he had been inside her, and when his brain cleared enough and he saw that her skin was alabaster and not warm cocoa, when he saw that her blond hair looked yellow against the moonlight instead of midnight black, when he realized that she wasnít *Callie* ... he could not perform. Not that he had wanted to.

Izzie had been convenient ... simply there while he hurt.

And when he had reached up and grabbed her hips, or lack thereof, it had been to push her away from him instead of to pull her closer. Her breasts didnít mesmerize him the way Callieís did. Izzieís nipples were peach colored and Callieís looked, and tasted, like red wine. With Izzie, it felt like something dirty that would be posted to fetish site under the header ĎYounger Brother Bags His Hot Step-Sisterí. With Callie ... with Callie it could never be posted because the beauty of it would make people cry.

George cried now.

Then he saw that there was an envelope on the counter with his name on it. Damn, he thought. He had forgotten to change his address to the Archfield. He ripped it open and gazed at his intern exam scores. He had passed, just barely, and in fifteen days he would become a Resident. There should have been elation, happiness, but there was nothing. He was hollow, incomplete. If Callie had been with him to read the results, she would have done that cute little dance thing despite the low number he had received. That was their thing, their special thing. They danced over the stupidest and the best moments in life.

He wondered if she had a special *thing* with Alex yet.

"Hey." Derek stumbled into the kitchen and fumbled around in the cabinet until he located a cup. It had Winnie the Pooh on it, but he was either too sleepy or too deprived of caffeine to care. He filled it to the brim with black coffee and sipped it, then looked at George. "What are you doing here so early?"

"Callie and I had a fight. She threw me out." George folded his results and put them back in the envelope, which he tucked into the pocket of his jeans.

"Must be something in the water. Meredith threw me out last night, too. I got as far as the couch." Derek added sugar to his coffee and sipped again, grimacing a little. "She can scream, get mad when she sees me, and push with both hands, but Iím not going. I am immune to her attempts at getting rid of me."

"I shouldnít have gone, either. Every time weíve ever fought ... I should have stayed. With Callie, I mean."

Derek rubbed his eyes and looked at George as if he were seeing him for the first time. "Are you crying? What -"

"Sheís divorcing me."

Shepherd laughed. "Do you know how many times Addison threatened to divorce me just on our honeymoon alone? Sheíll come around. Itís always weird when you first get married and start to see each other for who they are. When you live with someone you suddenly realize that they leave the cap off the toothpaste, or never close the dresser drawers so you hit your knee in the dark every night, or-"

"I slept with Izzie. And I sorta did it again last night."

"Oh, right. Sheís divorcing you."

George sighed. "I was drunk the first time and last night - I think I had spontaneous erectile dysfunction."

"Thatís too much information."

"I couldnít do it. I didnít even want to do it. Sheís not Callie."

Derek scratched his head and leaned against the island. He was pretty sure that the younger man was begging for advice. "There are worse things than to realize that you actually do love and want your wife. One of those worse things is to sleep with someone else. Having had it done to me I can assure you that sheís not just going to be okay with it. Ever. She may forgive you, but she wonít forget it and when something that heavy is hanging over your relationship ... it can smother you."

"I was drunk when I cheated the first time. The second time was - just dumb."

"Thatís what they all say." Derek conjured a memory that was better left forgotten. "The night that I found out about Addison and Mark ... I actually walked in on it and he ran out the door and she was stumbling around the room trying to find her panties. It was raining and I threw as many of her clothes as I could carry out into the storm. Then I threw her out in just a T-shirt. And so help me God, George, I listened to her cry and beg me and I opened that door and comforted her for a moment. It was just a second. I had to touch her, I had to make it better because she was hurt. I had to make it better because I felt like *I* had failed. That I wasnít a good enough husband. I made it my fault. For a moment. And then I left."

George swallowed hard as his second epiphany of the morning hit him in the heart. "I made Callie feel like a failure, too. I made her lose weight by saying she was curvy. I made her feel second best because I wanted my friends more than her." He looked up at the other man. "When - when you got back together with Addison ... was it ... could you make love and-"

"Not really. I had met Meredith and she filled that void. When I reconciled with Addison ... I just went through the motions of sex. I knew that there was nothing left there."

"Why did you get back together with Addison if you wanted Meredith?"

"Obligation. I took vows. And Addison was convincing. She cried. She pleaded. And she also lied to me about how involved she was with Mark. I found out that she had lived with him while we were still married and that she had loved him. And it killed me all over again that she didnít tell me about that before I took her back to begin with." Derek drank his coffee. "You canít rebuild a relationship if the foundation is stacked on lies. Because they always come out, they always catch up, and the one who is lied to ... is usually under the building when it falls. Love is the most innocent murderer that ever walked the face of the earth."

Derek squeezed Georgeís shoulder and walked out of the kitchen. A moment later, Meredith shouted at him, but within seconds, she was laughing.

"What are you going to do?" Izzie asked, appearing next to George. She finished off his coffee and rubbed her eyes, yawning. "Because I meant what I said last night. Iím *so* over the whole bitter best friend thing. Iíll help you get her back. Iíll even like her because really ... sheís not *that* bad."

"No." George shook his head. "Alex could be her Meredith. You know, how Meredith is Derekís, uh, Meredith. Addison cheated on him and he found love with Meredith. Heís okay now. Alex could be Callieís Meredith."

"Heís *not*."

"I wonít hurt her anymore, Iz. Because I hurt her and it *kills* me." George stood up and his test results crackled in his back pocket. "Iím going to concentrate on being a doctor. Iím going to be in a relationship with my career. Iím going to fall in love with medicine and stay away from the opposite sex."

"Iím cooking French toast. Stay. Eat. And then weíll go find your car."

George watched as she walked across the room and pulled the griddle from under the sink. "I didnít mean to call you a life force sucking bitch yesterday."

"Well, it was true." She sprayed Pam on the smooth Teflon surface of the fryer. "I think I went crazy after Denny died. I was looking for purpose and you became my cause. I wanted to save you and the best way to do that was to hate Callie on principle because she took you away. I had empty nest syndrome."

"You know what I think?"


"What?"

"I think that giving Hannah up for adoption gave you empty nest syndrome. Not me. And thatís why youíve always mother henned me to death. You tell me to bury my poop, Iz." He grinned at her when she wrinkled her nose. "Just because you give up a kid it doesnít mean that you stop being a mother. You love Christmas, you bake, youíre just as nosey as my mother, and -"

"And I have feelings for Alex."

George sat up a little straighter. He was shocked, but the small tiger that had been sleeping in his chest suddenly roared in triumph. "Thatís great! Thatís the answer! You get back with Alex and take him out of the picture and Iíll get Callie back."

Izzie dropped a piece of bread into the egg mixture. "George?"

"Yeah?"

"You sound awfully convinced that Alex would pick me over her." She looked up at him. "You didnít."

George crossed his arms.

She had a point.

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison sat across from Cambyses, enjoying the stuffed crepe she had ordered for brunch. She had to grin when the man turned his plate counter clockwise so the meat was on top and then he pushed the food around so it wasnít touching. "Your sister does that exact same thing."

"Who do you think taught me?" He sighed a little and moved his meal away, untouched. "Thanks for coming, by the way."

"Oh, thanks for the invite. Iíve been looking forward to this since Callie told me about you." She frowned, despite her cheerful words. "But youíre not eating. Thatís obviously another thing you have in common with your sister."

Blake leaned toward her and said, "Heís worrying himself to death over this Alex guy. Do you know him?"

"I do." Addy nodded and put her fork down. "Heís one of her best friends and heís actually the one who rushed her to the hospital after the alcohol thing. He stayed with her the entire time and I think he genuinely cares about her. I mean, he assured me that he did."

"Are they involved?"

Addison drank her water while she mulled her words. She was trying to be okay with her best friend leaving without a phone call, but it still hurt. Actually, it hurt more that Callie had left with Alex instead of her, but she was making peace with it. "They werenít involved. I donít know what they are right now. I know - I know he looks at her in a way that Iíve never seen him look at anyone and he makes her laugh and she never does that anymore."

Cam looked down at his hands, then back at Addison. "What can you tell me about George?"

"First year surgical intern, but he hasnít chosen his specialty yet. Heís shorter than Callie by an inch or so, brownish curly hair, green eyes. Heís the quintessential math geek and sorta looks like it. Heís not chubby, but heís not buff. Heís ... average. Heís currently living in his car and he -"

"Is he a bad boy? Not counting the fact that he canít control his penis?" Cam asked.

"Well, no. Heís probably been in the Republican column since birth, but he loves Callie. I just donít know if heís ready for love. Not the kind that she deserves and offered him."

Cam looked thoughtful. "Maybe a few weeks in traction would get him ready."

"Possibly." She couldnít help but smile. "But really, I donít think thatís the answer. Some people just have to keep making bad decisions until the right one smacks them in the face."

"I could smack him in the face." Cam picked up his fork and dug into his meal. "And then tie an anchor to his feet and make him vanish."

Addison laughed out loud. "Callie said almost the same thing and then she added that she would jump in to save him and probably die trying. Her heart is just too big."

"Thatís Callie," Blake chuckled along with her. "Sheís a rescuer. She sees something thatís hurt or broken and she puts it back together."

Cam finally relaxed a little. "She told me thatís why she likes mending bones. She can see the problem, set it on the right path, and then just wait for time to do its job."

"I think thatís why she left with Alex." Addison reached across the table and put her hand on Camís. "She needs to be mended for a change. I think he does that for her and this is *her* time."

"What does he look like?" Blake asked. "Alex."

"Heís around six foot, brown eyes. He was a wrestler in college so heís got the cut body. Heís also got the whole frat boy jock thing down to a science."

"Theyíre not involved," Blake decided. "She *hates* jocks."

"Does he have tattoos?" Cam asked.

"I donít really know." Addison said. "Why?"

"She *does* like bad boys."

"Oh, heís definitely that." Addy nodded.

"Theyíre involved." Cam took another bite of his food. "Sheís a sucker for a bad boy. We both are."

Addison looked at Blake who was so much like George that it was alarming. He caught her looking and smiled at her. "What? I may look like a stock broker, but Iím wearing a leather thong."

They all laughed together for two more hours.

Addison had stopped worrying by the time they said goodbye.

*~*~*~*~*~

Goon Docks was even more impressive up close. Alex carried their clothing and watched as Callie climbed aboard. She moved with the authority of someone who had been on boats, no --- yachts --- their entire life. He followed behind her, stumbling a little over the rope that held the ship tethered to the dock. He quickly righted himself and followed her around to the cockpit. She sat down in the captainís chair and leaned back, closing her eyes.

"What are you doing?"

"Feeling her."

He watched quietly and she finally nodded and stood. He said, "How does she feel?"

"Perfect. Letís go below deck." She headed through a small door that was just behind the cockpit and descended the stairs ahead of him.

"Oh my god." He said when he reached the bottom and took his sunglasses off. "Callie -"

She was running her hand along the white leather sectional that was built into the wall on the left. There were black leather pillows on either end of the sofa and a black and white zebra print rug rested in the floor. Dark cherry cabinets were built in behind it and she opened one, smiling at the assortment of movies inside. Turning, she gazed at the plasma television, then checked to make sure her game consoles were in the trunk beneath it.

Satisfied, she turned around and walked into the galley, which had black and white marble countertops and stainless steel appliances. She opened the microwave, then the oven, and nodded. Next, she pulled out the refrigerated drawers that were underneath the island. She had opted for the drawers and not a standing unit. Where the refrigerator would have gone stood a fully stocked wet bar with built in stools, solid white. It would be a perfect place for dinner. For two.

Beaming from ear to ear, she turned to Alex. "Sheís pretty, huh?"

"Sheís amazing."

"Wanna see the rest?"

"Lead the way."

She headed down a narrow hallway and pushed open the door to the guest bathroom. It was wallpapered with black and white stripes. The toilet, shower, and sink were all black, but the towels, curtains, and pictures on the wall were all red. A plush red throw rug covered the black and white tiles on the floor. "I love it," she told him. "I was worried that the red would be too much, but it works."

"Itís gorgeous." He opened the door that was opposite the bathroom and stepped into a bedroom that was bigger than his own at Meredithís house. One entire wall was covered with cabinets and the queen sized bed, made up with a smoky grey satin comforter, was built into the center. Instead of a headboard, there was a mirror. His eyes widened at that and he glanced at the ceiling. There were mirrors there as well. "You are a freak. And a pervert."

"This is not *my* room." She pulled him toward the bow, the front most point of the hull. She opened a door that boasted a towering gargoyle on top of the frame, and pulled him inside. "This is *mine*."

It looked like something you would find in an old castle. Draculaís castle to be more accurate. The four poster bed had black netting around the top and as he glanced up, he saw that there were mirrors, but also a plasma television that would making lying on your back in the bed a prime position to watch a movie. The thick comforter was black, but right in the middle was a huge red rose that was quilted more than the rest of the fabric so it stuck upward.

The carpet was black, the walls were blood red and the effect of it was overwhelming, but incredible. He walked further into the room, gazing up at the gothic looking chandelier and then at the massive gargoyle that lounged in the corner, his eyes seemingly tracking Alexís every move. He turned when Callie opened another door and followed her into the master bathroom. Instead of a shower, it had the biggest claw foot tub Alex had ever seen. It was gold and he blinked a few times when he realized that the toilet and sink were gold as well. It could have been tacky ... but he knew that if he had been the one designing the boat ... *this* would have been his ideal dwelling for Callie. For *his* Elvira.

He put his arms around her waist and said, "Itís perfect."

"It is." She rested her hands on his arms. "I canít wait to get her back to Seattle."

"We could leave now."

"Nope. Disneyland." She turned and stood on her toes to kiss him, then looked shocked. "I didnít really realize you were taller than me."

"Not by much." He hugged her. "You still fit just fine."

"What?"

"Nothing." He kissed her cheek and added, "Did I see a hot tub on top of this thing?"

"You did. And thereís also a jet ski and a smaller motor boat that will keep us safe if we happen to sink it."

"Uh, do you sink a lot of yachts."

"Only one. But it doesnít count."

He gazed after her when she walked out of the bathroom. "Uh, Cal?" he called. "You want to explain that?"

"No," she said. "Itíll just freak you out and really, who needs that?"

"Callie! Come back here!"

"Iím going to heat the hot tub so itíll be ready when we get back."

The thought of it made him forget the sinking boat.

Heíd remember it soon enough, though.

*~*~*~*~*~

Disneyland was everything he had hoped for and more. He bought her a talking ĎCaptain Jackí doll and she bought him a hat that she had monogrammed with his name. They had their photos taken several times and bought them all. Callie had a VIP pass that guaranteed front of the line service and they were even escorted in a golf cart for most of the day. They rode almost everything and the bigger rides more than once. She bought cotton candy as the sun went down and led him to Sleeping Beautyís castle where they gazed up at the firework display with all the awe and wonder of two year olds seeing something perfect for the first time.

They had saved the water rides for last and by the time the park closed, they were soaking wet, cold, and so exhausted that they both dozed in the limo on the half hour ride back to Redondo Beach. The driver woke them by gently shaking Alexís arm. He blinked and sat up. Callie had her head in his lap. Smiling, he leaned down and kissed her and she stirred after a few seconds.

"Are we home?" she asked, stretching.

"We are." He stepped out first, gathered their souvenirs, and held out his hand. They walked to the marina with their fingers laced together and he paused before she could board the ship. "Hey, Cal?"

"Yeah?"

"You remember that story I told you about my mom? About how she got beat up on Christmas Eve so that she could get me a bike?"

She stepped a little closer to him, nodding. "Of course I do."

"I lied to you. I said that I never held out any hope for Santa, but I did. Every single year I stuck a letter in the mailbox asking for just one thing."

"Oh? What did you ask for?"

"Disneyland. Santa was a little late in delivering it, but it was better to wait." He leaned his forehead against hers. "I will never forget this day with you."

"Neither will I, Alex." Callie closed her eyes and smiled. For the first time in her life she was flying without the help of jet engines. It was better than flying a 747 because she didnít have to be completely in control for once. If she fell ... he would catch her on the way down. Because he was Alex Karev and he had yet to let her hit the ground. Even at her worst, even at her lowest, he stopped her before she crashed and burned. "Hey, Alex?"

"Yeah?"
"Nothing matters when Iím with you. Nothing bothers me. Nothing hurts. I feel good about myself and I had forgotten what that was like. You make me remember why my heart beats and why I want it to."

Alex took a step back and cradled her face in his hands. He looked into her eyes and just as he had done the day before, he felt himself disappearing in their depths. For the longest time, he simply stared at her, then he finally said, "You want your heart to beat because someoneís finally hearing it and listening to what it has to say. I hear it, Elvira. Even from across the room ... I hear it."

"I want you to hear it. All the time. Iím rapidly finding out that Iím a novice at true happiness, but Iím sure thatís what this is and I donít know what to do with myself or with you. I know what I want and I know what I need, but Iím - Iím scared." She blinked and looked away. "God. This wasnít supposed to happen."

The guilt was written on her face again and he hated seeing it there, hated that even the smallest part of her could remember George OíMalley and feel the slightest bit of loyalty to him. It annoyed him. It grated on his nerves and he stepped back, forcing a smile on his face. He refused to have her scared of him or feeling pressured enough to give in. "Iím pretty tired. That second Tower of Terror ride took a lot out of me. It was almost like riding in your plane again. I, uh, Iím gonna take the bedroom with the gray and try to get some rest because something tells me Iíll need it with you driving this thing."

"But-"

"Come on." He held out his hand and helped her board Goon Docks. She looked like she wanted to speak to him, but he made a big show of yawning and stretching and she turned and unlocked the door.

Callie was stunned when he kissed her neck, whispered Ďgoodnightí and disappeared into the starboard bedroom. She sat on the sofa and crossed her arms. A moment later he walked across the hallway and went into the bathroom carrying his toothbrush and toothpaste. When he emerged, she had not moved a muscle and he winked at her and headed to bed.

ĎYou said too much too fast.í The little voice had returned and she closed her eyes, listening to it. ĎHe thinks that youíre getting too involved. He doesnít want that. Youíre still married and heís not like Izzie Stevens. He said *if* you had sex, not when. He doesnít want you. Jocks never want the goth chicks so just give it up.í

Cursing under her breath, she forgot her exhaustion and stalked down the hallway into her own room, where she changed into a black Dolce and Gabbana swimsuit that was more metal than fabric. She spread several maps out on the bed and kneeled down, tracing their course with her finger. She had planned to leave the following morning at daybreak, but considering the way that Alex had completely shut her down, she figured it would be better to hit the open seas as quickly as possible.

In Seattle, they could go their separate ways.

They would always have Disneyland.

She brushed away a tear that fell onto her cheek, rolled the map, picked up her CD case and carried both up onto the deck with her. It took almost an hour for her to program the coordinates into the GPS navigator. It was high tech and incredibly sensitive. When she finally finished, she started the engine, read the gauges, and was pleased to see that the tank was full and the pressure readings were perfect. Then she untied Goon Docks from the deck and patted her gently on the side. In the captainís chair, she took a deep breath and said, "Okay, girl, bring me that horizon."

She idled out of the marina and once she hit open water, she increased the speed and opened the sunroof, enjoying the cool night air. It took twenty five minutes to arrive off the coast of Venice. Callie could hear music from a beach party and see the bonfire that was burning brightly in a large can even though they were pretty far out. She flipped through her CD case and slid Queen into the disc drive. The first strains of ĎAnother One Bites the Dustí began to play and she dropped the anchor and dove, head first into the cool, crisp water.

She was enjoying herself immensely when something suddenly closed around her waist and she opened her mouth under water to yell out.

Alex kicked them back to the surface and as soon as their heads broke free, he shouted, "What the hell are you doing?!"

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" Callie screamed, choking up the water she had swallowed.

"Weíre getting back on the boat!" Alex reached for her arm, but she splashed water into his face and swam under again. "Callie!"

He caught up with her quickly and this time he was rougher with her. He pinned her arms to her sides and brought her back to the surface. "GET BACK ON THE BOAT!"

"ITíS A YACHT!" she cried. "AND YOU GET BACK ON IT!"

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? THERE COULD BE SHARKS! THERE COULD BE JELLYFISH! AND YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO GET YOUR ARM WET! SHARKS, CALLIE! THEY SMELL THE SMALLEST AMOUNT OF BLOOD!"

"GO BACK TO BED! ALONE, ASS!"

He latched onto her and pulled her back to the ship, where he had lowered the ladder. "Get back on the *boat*."

"Alex!"

"NOW!"

Callie gripped the ladder and climbed up, stalking across the cool surface of the deck. She kept her back to him and gasped when he yanked her around to face him. "Alex, leave me alone!"

"What the hell is your problem?"

"You!"

"I havenít done a damn thing to you!"

"I poured my heart out and you went to *bed*! I - If you donít want this ... if you donít want me then just tell me because I canít keep-"

"I went to bed because you canít make up your mind! You are *not* clear headed which is exactly what I told you this morning! Iím not touching you until you are! At the rate youíre going, with the guilt and the second guessing, that will be never!"

"I am not second guessing! I am not guilty!"

"You said this wasnít supposed to happen!"

"Itís not! I shouldnít be falling for you because itís too fast! Itís too soon! But here I am! Iíve fallen and apparently I canít get up!"

Alex kissed her. He pulled her against him and kissed her with everything that he had. His hands tangled into her long, wet hair and he held on. He tasted the saltwater on her lips and then her tongue found his and she tasted like the cotton candy they had shared under the fireworks. They broke apart when a cool breeze nearly froze the water that was clinging to their skin. He looked down at her and said, "Letís go back inside."

"No."

"Callie-"

"Hot tub."

Alex watched as she walked to the cockpit and turned off all of the bigger lights. She left a few smaller ones on and he guessed it was to alert other vessels to their location. He finally noticed her swimsuit, then. It was red, one piece, with large metal rings all over it. Those rings were hollow and he could see her tan flesh peeking out everywhere. He had thought that he could never see her look better than she had the previous night in the thong, but he was wrong. He swallowed when she bent over and pulled another CD out of her case and removed Queen. Her backside was enough to make him forget how cold he was.

Soft, romantic music began to play and she moved around the edge of the cockpit to the hot tub and he followed. The tub rested toward the nose of the ship and she leaned down, unfastening the latches that kept the lid in place. Alex helped her wrench it free and moaned a little when he saw that the water was bubbling and he could feel the warmth against his legs. Callie looked at him and smiled. "You want a drink?"

"I want you," he stated bluntly. "Thatís enough for me."

It was darker at the front of the boat. The lights she had left on were near the water and she kept her eyes on him as she slowly peeled her wet swimsuit off, letting it pool at her feet. She knew that he could still see her, though, because the blue light from the jacuzzi made her see him. With a sly smile, she stepped down into the tub and sighed. "Iím the captain. I make the rules. Number one is no one bathes with their clothes on."

Even beneath the water, with the ripples distorting her body, she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. "If I take my trunks off ... then weíre doing this, Callie. And thereís no looking back. Weíre official."

"Is that what you want? Think about what youíre saying. Iíve got baggage that you donít even know about and what you do know about it pretty damn rough. I have to get a divorce, I have to-"

"I donít care about that. Any of it. I care about here and now. Whatever comes ... as long as weíre together it doesnít matter. It's us against the world, Gothika. And I can't think of a better partner."

"Then letís not look back. Letís not think about tomorrow of next week or next month. Make it official, Alex, because youíre enough for me, too."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 16
*~*~*~*~*~

"Youíre not supposed to get your arm wet, Cal."

"Iím wet all over, Alex. Particularly inside."

"Jesus Christ."

Alex was aware that Callie was watching his every move and he wondered if she could see his heart pounding beneath his chest. He loosened the tie on his swimming trunks and slid them down, kicking them gently aside. When he started to step in the water, she shook her head and held up her index finger, moving it in a circle. She wanted him to turn around. He smiled and obliged her, flexing the muscles in his ass until she whimpered. He looked over his shoulder and said, "See something you like?"

Her response was to run her warm, wet hand up his thigh and over his buttocks. She stood quietly and took a seat on the ledge of the hot tub and lightly bit his hip. He had not been expecting that and he turned quickly. She seized the moment, looked up into his eyes, and then lowered her mouth over the tip of his turgid cock. One hand gripped his wide shaft and she pumped him slowly, deliberately taking her time as her tongue massaged his taut flesh. Her other hand massaged his balls, cupping them, testing their weight.

Alex swallowed hard and watched as her cheeks hollowed with the force of her suction. She moved her hand and took him all the way into the back of her throat, never gagging. And then she swallowed and it was the most amazing feeling Alex had every experienced. When she began to hum, his legs almost buckled and he reached down, gripping a handful of her hair. "Oh god. If you donít stop that Iím going to -"

She swallowed again and he tried to warn her, tried to pull away, but she didnít let him. He exploded in her mouth and only when he stopped groaning her name did she pull back, licking him as she went. She slid her tongue along the underside of his erection and then let her teeth graze the still weeping tip as she looked into his eyes again. Finally, she moved back into the hot tub and beckoned him with the slightest tilt of her head.

He didnít have to be summoned twice. Slipping into the water, he moved to the center of the warm whirlpool and pulled her into his lap. She wrapped her legs around him and he moved her head back, blazing a path of kisses over her neck and collarbone. He raised his legs, lifting her out of the water and feasted on her nipples. His tongue laved her sensitive flesh and she moved her arms, bracing them on either side of the tub as his hand slipped between them and his thumb found her clit.

She gasped and looked at him with hooded eyes before she kissed him. He didnít seem to mind tasting himself in her mouth, because his tongue swept inside, flicking against hers in a way that made her tremble all over. She felt boneless when he finally moved to her neck again and then he lifted her from the water entirely and placed her on the contoured mouth of the tub.

He rose to his knees and kissed her again, palming her breasts, twisting her nipples with just enough force to make her bite her bottom lip. Then he spread her thighs and licked his lips when he saw that the black curls between her legs had been waxed into a small, delicate triangle. He had never seen anything more inviting. He ran his fingertips over the design and said, "Nice. Very nice."

When he lowered his mouth to her core, she moaned. And she watched him. She watched every stroke of his tongue, every rake of his teeth. She watched as he pulled back and licked two of his fingers, then glided them into her quivering mound. He met her gaze and held it when he fastened his lips around her clit and began to suck. Callie reached down, gripping his hair, urging him to move faster, but he had other things in mind.

He brought her to the cusp only to pull back and concentrate on her navel, which he ran his tongue around. His fingers were still inside her and he thumped upward, hitting her G-spot. She pushed at his head, silently pleading with him to return to her sensitive nubbin, which was throbbing with need. When he didnít obey, she lowered her own hand and tried to take control, but he shook his head and pushed it away. "Wait for it."

"Alex, please? Please?!"

Dipping his tongue into her belly button, he smiled up at her, then moved his mouth to her knee. He nipped playfully for a moment, then slowly moved up her thigh again, leaving wet kisses in his wake. Finally, he took pity because she was shaking and he was afraid she was cold. He easily manipulated her G-spot again. She threw her head back when he latched onto her clit and sucked.

Hard.

She bucked up against his face, crying out, and her legs clamped around his head. And still ... he didnít stop. He nursed at the nectar that flowed from her like a starving man and kept his fingers inside her as her vaginal walls constricted time and time again. Only when she stopped trembling did he ease his fingers from her and taste them. "I think I realize now what lines of deliciousness are, Elvira. And what a starving bear feels like."

Callie pushed herself into a sitting position and gazed down at him. Slipping back into the water, they kissed again, and the flavor of each other was a heady cocktail. Hands explored flesh, they could smell the lust between them, and when Callie heard him whisper her name, she slipped her legs around his waist and reached between them, guiding him into her still dripping passage. Then she squeezed with her muscles and slowly rocked until both of their toes were curling.

"I - I have condoms, Elvira."

"I take Depo-Provera shots. Weíre good." She moaned and rocked against him. "Weíre very, very good actually. Oh my god, Alex."

He reached below the surface and guided her hips. Soon the water was splashing out of the hot tub and they didnít care or appear to notice. She rode him hard, thrashing violently, pounding her hips against his. It felt incredible to be submerged in warm water with her tight, much hotter body wrapped around him. He wanted to be in charge, though. Standing, with her legs still around his waist, he laid her back on the deck. He knew it was probably cold, but she made no sound at all when her back hit the water that they had sloshed out.

Pulling her legs up over his shoulders, he slammed into her. It was hard, hungry. Starving. She reached down and gripped at his thighs, saying, "Fuck. Harder, Alex. Fuck me harder."

He didnít oblige. He moved down her body and devoured her clit again instead. He worked her flesh until she came again and only then did he thrust into her with the force and the power that she was still begging for. He watched as she reached up, gripping the railing of the boat tightly in her hands. She was writhing beneath him, pushing and straining to meet him halfway. Her grunts and groans were as loud as his own and her dirty talk was enough to make him pass out.

Alex knew, in that moment, that he would never feel the way he currently felt with any other woman. She was *his*. And he wanted nothing more than to be hers.

When he finally came, he growled her name and left a huge hickey on her neck. It was his mark, his brand, and he stared down at his handiwork with satisfaction. "Callie?"

"Alex?"

"Iím sleeping in your bed tonight." He laid his head against her chest, listening to her heart beat. "And every night from now on."

"I really donít think weíll sleep much if you do that."

"Weíll exhaust ourselves eventually."

"Are you exhausted now?"

"No."

"Prove it."

*~*~*~*~*~

Raphael hung up the phone and turned to Melana, who was watching him expectantly. Cam stood up and crossed his arms over his chest, waiting. Raph took a deep breath and said, "Quint found her. She was treated and released for an animal bite in Los Angeles."

"What kind of animal?" Cam asked, alarmed.

"They were not forthcoming with that bit of information." Raph laid his cell phone on the table and paced across the room. "I have people scouring the Carolinas because Miguel Santos provided us with her flight plan ... yet she was somehow treated in Los Angeles. *Los Angeles*. I think a broken kneecap would do that man some good."

"Stop." Cam glanced at this mother, then addressed his father. "Dad, leave her alone. I know that this is weird for you because Callieís always been the best one of us -"

Melana scoffed. "You are as blind as your father, Cambyses. Your sister is a self-centered and-"

"Mother!" Cam cut across her. "Once again I am begging you to open your eyes. She hates to sing, but she did it for you. She didnít want to go halfway across the country for medical school, but she did it for Dad. She has *always* put herself last where this family is concerned and then she got married and her husband forced her into last place again. She has earned the right to come first. Let her come first for a while and she will come home on her own a better person for it. When sheís ready!"

"Cambyses, if you are so insightful then perhaps you should crack open a Bible and review why your lifestyle choices leave you in no position to criticize anything that we do."

"I know it verbatim! You have force fed it to me since I came out! The Bible also says Ďjudge not, lest ye be judgedí so clean up around your own doorstep before you try to clean mine! Or my sisterís!"

"Your sister is insane!" Mel cried.

"Itís apparently a hereditary gene that gets passed to all the women then because you are one crazy-"

"Stop it! Both of you," Raph snapped. He rubbed his eyes and sat down on the sofa. He was torn. Part of him wanted to let her fly and the other part wanted to capture her in a soft net and lock her up in a cage. If anything happened to her ... he would die. "Son, do you have any idea whatís in California? Why she would go?"

"Disneyland? The worldís largest rubber band ball?" Cam replied. One look at his fatherís face had him backtracking slightly. "She would *like* the rubber band ball, okay? And Addison assured me that Alex cares about her."

"I knew it," Melana said. "I saw her with Alex. I saw the way he held her and I *knew* it. A mother knows why her daughter gets a certain look on her face. She was far too comfortable with him for it to be platonic. I could see it on both of them."

"Can you see it with George as well, Mother?"

Melana looked away and picked up Gucci, cradling him. "Raph, what will you do?"

Raphael sighed. "Iím going to sleep on it. Itís late and Iím tired. Iíll decide tomorrow whether or not to fly out to California."
"Donít, Dad." Cam walked toward the door and added, "Because perfect moments are few and far between. She could be having one."

Melana waited until her son was gone before she sat down next to her husband. "Calliope chose her path and she should be forced to deal with the ramifications when she returns. And really, honey, driving yourself crazy over this is not doing you any good."

"Callie has never acted so capriciously."

"Sheís never been married before either. Sheís a different person now. A broken heart, no matter how late it comes, changes who you are for the rest of your life."

"I donít like who she has become, mi vida. This is not my daughter. If I tell her to come home, she comes. If I ask her if sheís okay, she tells me the truth. She obeys, Mel. Always. What if she is drinking again? What if the injury she received is worse than the hospital let on? What if-"

"Donít ask Ďwhat ifí. Because itís unwise to plant those ideas in fateís heart. Sheíll be home in a few days and perhaps she will be our Callie again when she returns."

"Were you able to reach George?"

"I left a message asking him to come to lunch tomorrow."

"What will we say to him, Mel?"

"Oh, you may sting like a butterfly, but I bite like a Great White. And this shark has a quite an arsenal of teeth."

"Yes, my love, you do."

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison tried Callieís cell phone and left a voice mail. She tried to sound upbeat and supportive and asked that Callie call her back. Next, she called Alexís phone and left a message on it as well. Twenty minutes later she crawled into the bed and flipped the television on. It was late and she was wide awake. She changed the channels, gnawing at her bottom lip, and then sat up a little straighter when she came across soft core porn. "Thank you, HBO!"

Her eyes darted left and right as if to verify that there was no one in the room to see her and she turned the volume a little lower for modesty's sake. Grinning, she flopped onto her stomach, her head toward the foot of the bed, and immersed herself in a lame ass story about King Dong that was dotted with random scenes of erotica. It was cheesy. It was horribly acted and her aching body responded to every scene. Well, except the ones that involved the guy in the grey ape suit. At any rate, she slipped her panties off and stroked through the curls at the apex of her thighs, mimicking with her hand what the man on television was doing with his ...

Someone knocked at her door and she leapt upward and hit the television so hard that she knocked it behind the stand it sat on. "Shit! Fuck!"

"Addison?!" Mark called. "What the hell was that noise?"

She left the television in the floor, still on, and yanked the door open. When Mark scanned down her body, she realized that she still had on a tight fitting short camisole, but her panties were flung over the lamp shade. His eyes widened and she quickly yanked him into the room, peeking into the hall to see if anyone else had seen her. When she turned, he was still looking her up and down. She put her hands on her hips and said, "What?"

"Since when do you have a heart?"

She looked bewildered and then remembered that Callie had invited her along for a wax, saying it didnít hurt if you had a friend with you. Addison had screamed loud enough to make her own ears ring. Smiling, she cupped her hands over said heart. "What do you want?"

He pulled a pack of batteries out of his pocket and threw them on the bed. "I thought Iíd help you out. You were walking around the hospital yesterday breathing fire and I know why."

Addison narrowed her eyes and picked up the package, turning it over in her hands as if she expected something else to be attached. With a devilish grin, she held them out to him. "Can you open them?"

"Open them?"

She nodded and bent to the nightstand, where she retrieved two dildos. One was bright purple, filled with gel, and the other was flesh colored and made of cyber skin. She unscrewed the backs on both and dropped out the old batteries. He was watching her every move and when she held her hand out for the batteries, she saw that he was licking his lips. She filled both vibrators and turned the purple one on, lowering it until it was against her breast.

She felt her nipple harden under the silk fabric and trailed it lower still, over her stomach and hip. "Mark?"

He made some kind of noise, his eyes never leaving her hands.

"Itís only fair that you watch. You did bring the batteries after all."

He pulled his eyes away from the vibrator, which she had slid against her clit, and looked into her eyes. "It wonít work. Iím not falling for it. Weíre doing the sixty days."

"Can you help me remember?" She lay back on the bed, her legs spread wide. "Do I like this one or this one inside? Oooh, I think itís this one. Yeah, itís definitely this one. Daaaaamn."

Markís jaw tightened as she slipped the purple dildo gently into her and he saw her moisture when she pulled it out. Someone made a noise, someone who wasnít Addison. Glancing to his left, he saw the television and smirked. Lifting it back onto the stand, he turned up the volume and watched as a man enjoyed two women at once. He knew she was watching as well because he heard her flop onto her stomach on the bed. "Porn, Ads?"

Her response was to grip his shirt and pull him down for a kiss. She knew she had him when he reached between her legs and removed the shivering toy, tossing it across the room. He flipped her onto her back and covered her body with his, devouring her mouth while his fingers filled the void at her center. "Addison," he growled, moving lower, yanking the camisole over her head.

He latched onto her nipple and sucked ferociously, not stopping until it looked rouged. Then he moved to her stomach and her fingers gripped his hair, pushing him to the spot she was dying for him to kiss. He feasted on her, pushing and pulling her to and from the edge until finally, he half stood, bringing her hips with him. And the change of pressure, the change of position, caused Addison to come so hard that she screamed and almost knocked him over when he legs stiffened against his shoulders.

Mark laid her gently back on the bed and picked up her vibrator, the flesh colored one, which he laid between her breasts. He enjoyed the view for a moment longer, loving the way the color had risen into her face, the way her chest rose and fell from her ragged breathing, and then he walked to the door. "Iíll see you at work tomorrow, Addy."

Addison jerked upright instantly. "What!? No! Mark, come on! This isnít funny anymore."

He ran his finger over his lip tasting her all over again. "No, itís definitely not funny."

"Stay! Please?"

"No. When we make love again youíre going to know that thatís what it is. Iím making love to you and itís going to erase any doubt you have that I can remain faithful to you."

"But-"

"Sleep well, angel."

Addison watched as he closed the door behind him, then she slumped back on the bed and threw her arms over her face. "Gah!"

The throbbing began anew between her legs and she groaned, glancing at the television in time to see the ape-man catch the girl and try to kiss her. "Fuck it," she said and lifted the vibrator.

When she slipped into her aching folds, she closed her eyes and sighed, "Mark ..."

In the hallway, he leaned against the door and listened.

Life was good.

Incredibly *hard*, but good.

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie collapsed, boneless, against Alexís chest. She had just taken the ride of her life. While she had been atop him, her brain had conjured an image of her straddling a 747 and flying, six hundred miles an hour, into an abyss that she had never dreamed possible. She had lost count of the orgasms. She had lost count of the positions and the many ways he could make her come, but she didnít really care. It was exhilarating. All he had to do was brush against her and she was wide awake and ready for more.

Alex rubbed a hand down her spine and cupped her backside. She amazed him. The things she did with her body and the agility she possessed was uncanny. And she could go from fucking like a madwoman to snuggling against him in the blink of an eye, completely sated. He decided thatís how he felt: sated. She had touched something inside him, some place that sex had never reached before, and it was startling and wonderful at the same time. He had never had *anyone* possess all of him the way she had. She consumed him and he gladly surrendered to the flames.

"Alex?"

"I canít talk yet. Talking requires breathing and youíve taken my breath again."

"Good. I was going to say that we should sleep." She sat up and pulled the cover over them and settled into his arms, her head against his chest. "And I was going to say thank you."

"For?"

"You see me. You really, truly see me."

"How could I not?" He pulled her leg over his and rubbed her knee. "Iíve never felt like this before, Cal. It happened so fast."

"I have been accused of moving at warp speed before."

"Well, I think your timing is just fine and so is mine."

"Ohh, youíre a poet." She kissed his jaw and looked at him. "I wish that you had asked me out months ago. It just - it feels like it was supposed to be you and me all along. Like, kismet or something. Is that stupid?"

"No. Stupid would be to ignore it, Gothika. And I wonít let either one of us do that."

Grinning, she nodded and laid her head back down. She was just dozing off when she heard him whisper something. It was soft, almost too low for her to catch it, but it was there.

He sleepily murmured, "I love you."

She didnít move, didnít breathe, until she heard him snore lightly seconds later.

Callie was still awake two hours later.

No matter how hard she tried, she couldnít believe in love again. Ever. Her mind convinced her it was a manufactured greeting card sentiment, a cheesy plot device in a movie, the theme of hundreds of dumb songs. Love had the ability to torment and torture and really, she reasoned, who would willingly do that to themselves. He certainly couldnít expect her to believe in it after everything she had been through.

It had been post - post - post - post coital bliss that had forced the lie from his lips.

And she understood.

What they had shared had almost made a believer of her again.

But almost didnít count.

Lust? Lust counted.

And she lusted for him very much.

*~*~*~*~*~

While Callie and Alex had never been morning people, they awoke with the sun and Callie was able to talk him into going for a swim with her. It was the first thing she could think of and she wanted very much to forget what she had heard the night before. She wore a solid black bathing suit that had a low, wide belt which rested on her hips. He wore his trunks and they played around for almost an hour, diving under, grabbing each otherís legs. After showering together and doing much more than bathing, they got dressed again and pointed the yacht toward a nearby marina.

They needed food. They needed to stock the ship with drinks, snacks, and the makings of several dinners. Callie had decided that once they started back toward Seattle, she didnít want to stop unless it was to drop anchor *and* her panties. There would need to be a lot of stops. She didnít want to hit land because on land ... they couldnít be alone and she wanted to be alone with him for as long as they had. It was easier to forget the world when they only had each other for company.

Callie called a cab at the marina and then spent over nine hundred dollars on supplies. There was too much to carry in the cab, so the manager of the market agreed to deliver their purchases himself. Callie agreed, suggested that he wait a few hours, and then set about showing Alex what Malibu was all about. They ate Italian food and people watched until Alex finally saw a celebrity, John Travolta, and then they headed into a small boutique because Callie saw a slinky red dress that called her name. It would be perfect for the party that was rapidly approaching.

She bought him two more pairs of swimming trunks and had to sneak an adorable black Speedo across the counter to the clerk. He had adamantly refused when he saw her eyeballing it, but sheíd make him wear it. She had no doubt that she could be persuasive as hell. They carried their purchases to the beach, where they waded in the water for a little while longer, then they headed back to the yacht.

The manager was waiting for them and he and Alex unloaded everything. The man practically burst into tears when Callie pressed five one hundred dollar bills in his hand. He thanked her repeatedly, telling her that she had saved his life. Callie smiled and said, "Thereís a lot of that going around."

Alex watched the entire exchange with an amused expression. When the older man drove away, he kissed her. "You know, most people would look at you and think that youíre Elizabeth Bathory reincarnated. Arenít you breaking the sacred Gothic scrolls or whatever by being so sweet?"

She glanced down at her clothing. She guessed that the red shirt she wore did have a Renaissance feel to it. It laced up the sides like a corset and made her cleavage look great. "I think that what we did last night proves that Iím more Bathory than sweet. Besides, Iím a perky Goth with you."
He stared at her breasts and nodded. "Very, very perky."

She kissed him and let him help her on board the boat. "I didnít even realize that everything I bought for myself was so ..."

"Sexy and dirty? Exactly what a Marilyn Manson video should look like?"

"Pretty much. I thought I had outgrown it."

"Nah, you've always had this edge. At least since I first laid eyes on you." He led the way down into the salon. "They didnít make chicks like you when I was in school. The whole Goth thing was not even cute back then. It was greasy hair, body odor, black nails, and a death stare that was-" He trailed off when she raised an eyebrow. "A lot like that, actually. How did you get into it?"

"I walked into a Hot Topic when I was about fourteen. It felt like coming home. I bought one of everything and then threw away anything that was pink or blue or *girly* in my closet. My parents controlled everything except my wardrobe. The more they tried the more I rebelled and the further I embraced it. And then, you know, it wasnít just clothing anymore. It was a way of life. I got into The Cure and Depeche Mode. I rocked out to Johnny Rotten and all my friends in high school were just like me." She sighed and glanced down at her short black skirt. It was sewn through with red thread that matched the shirt beautifully. "Clothes like this are a second skin to me. I feel good in this and occasionally in scrubs."

"You look damn fine in both." Alex smirked. "And you looked great in that *girly* dress the other night. The turquoise one."

"Thatís about as colorful as I go."

"I like you best in red."

"Iím going to wear red to the party that my mother planned."

Alex had bent down to grab a couple of the bags that had been delivered. He straightened clutching nothing except his stomach, which had fallen around his ankles. "Youíre still having your elopement party? Youíre still going with OíMalley where youíll what ... pretend to be happy and-"

"No!" She shook her head back and forth. "Itís going to be a welcome home party now. For me. All my family is coming in and I didnít have the heart to cancel it at the last minute."

"Theyíre coming here expecting to meet your husband, Callie!"

"So? I have a date lined up. Heís a great guy."

Alex had never been one for a fit of jealousy, but something surged through him when she said Ďdateí and he stood a little taller. "Youíre going with me! I donít - who were taking, Callie? Dr. Savoy? That fuckiní Ken doll will get his ass kicked if he so much as looks at you. What -"

"My date used to be a wrestler in Iowa. He loves his mother, doesnít like his dad, and got a bike one year for Christmas even though he asked for Disneyland." Callie grinned at him. "Heís also apparently been hiding the green eyed monster, but I think itís very cute when it comes out."

"You are *evil*."

"Like I said, Jock Boy, Iím more Bathory than not."

"She killed people and bathed in their blood."

"Iíve thought about it. Does that count?"

"Youíre making me horny. Stop it."

"Wanna play doctor?"

He said yes.

So they did.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 17
*~*~*~*~*~

George arrived ten minutes late for lunch with Callieís parents due in large part to the pacing marathon he had in the parking deck. He had almost called his mother to beg her to go with him, but he knew she wouldnít. She had not returned any of his calls. When he entered the lobby, he immediately spotted Callieís mother and feeling like a man walking to the electric chair, he moved slowly and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jeans.

"Hello, Mrs. Torres."

Melana put her hand on her hip and studied him. "Why if it isnít Cheater. I didnít think you would come. You have balls, George. Iíll happily remove them."

"That can wait," Raphael said, joining them. He narrowed his eyes at George and added, "As much as Iíd love to rip your intestines out and choke you with them, I canít deny my children anything and Cambyses called the honor this morning."

Georgeís mouth dropped open when Cambyses Torres joined them. He gazed up at the man, eyes wide, and didnít blink at all. He resembled Callie, but he was wearing more leather than a human being should and he was solid muscle and ... and hair. His ice blue eyes were terrifying and his full lips were pulled back into a sneer. Swallowing hard, George held out his hand. "Itís nice to meet you, Cam. Callie, uh, she talks about you nonstop."

"The only way I would touch the hand of the man who hurt my sister would be if I cut it off and slapped you with it." Cam looked him up and down. "Iím surprised she didnít beat me to it. Thereís not much to you is there?"

George shifted uncomfortably and his eyes moved toward the door. If he ran, really fast, he could probably make it to the hospital with minimal damage. And hide. Cam seemed to read his mind because he reached out, grabbed the collar of his jacket, and pulled him into the restaurant where Blake was already waiting at a large, round table.

Blake stood and greeted George. "You must be the asshole."

"Apparently." George sat down. Taking a deep breath, he looked at Melana and said, "Have you heard from her? I mean - since she called the first night."

"No." Mel crossed her arms over her chest. "We know that she went to Los Angeles. She was injured and treated at a small hospital there."

"WHAT?" George put his elbows on the table and stared at Callieís mother. "How? What happened to her?"

"Donít tell him anything else," Cam said. "George, you lost the right to know *anything* about her. So donít ask because weíre not telling."

"Iím still her husband."

"Thatís easily rectified. And thatís why youíre here." Raphael put his briefcase on the table and pulled out an folder. "Washington is, thankfully, a community property state. Anything that youíve purchased together, or that she has purchased for you, is considered divisible. Iím telling you to take it all. Anything that you two purchased is yours. You can also take her convertible and twenty-five thousand in cash. She wants out of this marriage. She asked me to begin the paperwork and here it is."

George stared at the folder. It scared him more than Cambyses. It put a pit of fire in his stomach that ached soul deep. "I donít believe in divorce."

"You donít believe in marriage either," Melana replied. "Marriage is about commitment and honoring your vows. Tell me, George, did you promise to forsake all others?"

"Yes." He swallowed hard when he remembered the way Callieís hand had trembled in his while he spoke about undying devotion and cherishing her. "And I made a horrible mistake, but -"

"A mistake is when you balance your checkbook wrong," Blake interjected. "Cheating on the person who loves you and ripping their heart out ... thatís not a mistake. Thatís attempted murder."

"Nicely worded, babe." Cam smiled and took Blakeís hand.

"I was listening to Rhianna on my iPod while I waited for you guys." Blake shrugged, then glowered at George. "But itís still true, asshole."

Melana was studying Blake closely, wide eyed, but when he smiled at her, she quickly turned back to George. "Itís better if you agree to the divorce, George. We will pay for the entire thing and -"

"Sheíll have to tell me this herself." George lifted his chin defiantly. "I have to hear her tell me that weíre finished."

"I would think that leaving town with a hot wrestler is a pretty good indication of where she stands," Cam told him. "You bring her down lower than she has ever been. She almost died because of you." He picked up the folder and held it out to George. "Take it. Look it over. I think youíll find that weíve been generous and considering the circumstances ... generosity is uncalled for."

George took the folder and laid it in his lap. "I know that this is hard to believe and I understand why ... but I love Callie. I really love her. And -"

"Then set her free," Blake interrupted. "Let her go. If you were meant to be with her then one day you will be."

George felt a lump in his throat and his eyes welled with tears. "This? This is attempted murder because losing her like this will kill me."

"Like this? You could have lived with her killing herself for you, but not this?" Cam raised a brow. "You better choose your words more carefully because youíre close to pissing me off."

"Thatís not what I meant!" George snapped. "I - I canít just give up without trying."

"You lied to her about the extent of your relationship with your mistress," Raph said. "She called me and told me. She said that you made her feel like trash. This is your chance to stop doing that to her, George. Take the papers. Look through them. Fill out any information that you feel is pertinent, but understand this ... my daughter always gets what she wants and if this is what she wants and you fight her ... then it will be a fight to the death. Iíll see to that."

"Dying would hurt less than this." George wiped the tears on his face.

"Apparently you made Callie think the same thing," Cam said. "And I think weíre done here. Take your papers and go."

It wasnít until that moment that George realized that the waiter had never appeared to take their orders. He stood, handling the folder as if it contained a stool sample. "Can you at least tell me when sheís coming back."

"Sheíll be home in time for her party." Melana saw her son in lawís eyes widen and added, "Itís no longer an elopement celebration. Your invitation is non-existent. This is a party for Callie, so that she can be surrounded by love for a change."

"*I* love her," George replied. "I love Callie. And -"

"If you gate crash this little shindig," Cam said. "It will be the last mistake you ever make. Now, go away, little gnat, before I swat you with something heavy. Like my boot."

Blake watched George walk away and glanced at Raphael. "You think heíll sign it, Raph?"

"Heíll either use ink or his own blood. Either way, heís going to let her go." Raph motioned for the waiter and said, "I believe that I can digest now. Letís eat."

They ordered lunch and sat quietly for a few moments. Raph looked at Cam and said, "Iím going to leave her alone. Callie, I mean. Sheíll come home when sheís ready. I wonít go after her."

"Good."

"Thatís very noble, honey." Mel patted her husbandís hand and then looked at her sonís *boyfriend*. "Blake, that was quite an impressive display with the asshole. Wasnít that what you called him?"

"Yes, maíam." Shocked that Melana had addressed him at all, Blake hastily added. "Callieís the sister I never had so Iíve got the over protective thing down to a science. I love her."

"I wasnít aware that you two were so close."

"We are," Blake replied and if he was uptight in the least it didnít show. "We usually talk about twice a week."

"I see. And what, pray tell, do the two of you have in common?"

"We both love Cambyses more than life itself. It creates a pretty strong bond."

Cam was watching his mother like a hawk. He also knew her very well. When her eyebrow arched high enough that it was hidden behind her bangs, he cleared his throat. "Mother, Iím still pretty happy over being able to threaten the asshole so can you not be a buzz kill?"

"What?" Mel asked innocently. "I was going to invite your - your - er, friend here to accompany me on a mission. I was supposed to be shopping for a dress with Louise, but considering that I want to hold her son down and suffocate him with a pillow, I canít see us enjoying the day very much. Blake, weíve never had the chance to get to know one another. Would you like to spend the afternoon with me?"

"Wolf in sheepís clothing," Cam said in a sing-song voice.

"Iíd love to, Mrs. Torres."

"Walking into the lionís den," Cam continued in the same tone.

"You may call me, Melana, Blake." Mel reached out and pulled Camís hair, dragging him closer to her, but she was smiling. "And your sister has the voice, not you. So stop singing."

Cambyses grinned at her. "Looks like someone else has a buzz, too."

"There isnít a woman alive who doesnít enjoy bringing a bastard to his knees, son."

It had been years since Melana had referred to Cam as her son. It had also been years since she had smiled at him or touched him at all, really. He was elated. Reaching across the table, he put his hand on hers and said, "Mom, you could make the entire population of bastards not only fall to their knees, but worship at your feet."

"Yes, I know. Your sister has the same power apparently because Cheater was *broken*. And wasnít it fun? I think Iíll have chocolate cake to celebrate his downfall."

"Okay, she scares me," Blake said softly.

Everyone at the table laughed.

*~*~*~*~*~

Domestication had its perks, Alex realized, on their fifth day together. He had never really gone to bed and woken up with the same woman more than once or twice, unless you counted Izzie which he refused to do. With Callie, he spent every waking and sleeping moment getting to know her. It was nice to notice subtle things about a lover. Callie liked to sleep with one hand under her cheek and she didnít snore, but she did talk a little. Earlier that morning she had said ĎIíve got femurs out the ass, Chiefí and it had caused him to laugh so hard it woke her up. She did *not* like being jarred awake and the look of death she had given him had caused him to laugh even harder ... which, naturally, led to sex.

Everything led to sex with Callie. Not that he was complaining.

There wasnít an inhibited bone in her incredible body. She would bathe in front of him, cook naked in front of him, and they had even skinny dipped with the careless abandon of teenagers. They had behaved in a manner very unbecoming for two professional adults in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but they kept at it for hours. Her favorite position was on top, but she had no complaints if he took charge or flipped her onto her stomach ... or pinned her against the wall. They had *both* enjoyed the hell out of the galley counter top. Twice. And she got a thrill out of sitting on his lap in broad daylight, with him deeply inside her, while boats sped around them.

No ... she was not inhibited at all, but that wasnít the best thing about her.

She liked to watch the sunset, but because she liked sleeping in more, she happily missed the sunrise. She laughed easily, but could have the driest sense of humor and sarcastic wit that he had ever heard. Her favorite thing to do, besides sex, was to play her endless assortment of video games and Alex didnít have to let her win ... she beat him every time on her own. She could talk about college football scores with the same passion she usually reserved for ĎThe Gooniesí and she knew all the terminology for wrestling after hearing them only once.

She was, in Alexís opinion, everything a woman should be. Tender and hard. Funny and sad. Annoying and endearing. And best of all ... she was the best friend and *lover* heíd ever had. He *loved* her.

As both.

He had noticed something else, though. Something he hated. She would meet his eyes while they did the most perverted things humanly possible, but after, when her body finally calmed down, she would pull away and quickly find something else to do. She only let him hold her afterwards if they were falling asleep in her bed. And she wouldnít look at him for a long time, even if she was talking to him. The first morning after their hot tub romp, she had put sunglasses on almost immediately. He had been forced to pull them off her in the shower.

He didnít understand it, but he knew *why* she was doing it and it had to stop.

He was pulled from his thoughts by Callie asking him something. He turned his head and looked at her. "What did you say?"

"Can you dance?" Callie repeated, then finished slicing the tomato she was working on. "I mean, really dance."

Alex set aside the lettuce he had pulled apart and grinned. "My mother and I used to dance all the time. She said I was the best partner ever."

"Was she being truthful or being a mom?"

"Come here."

Callie dried her hands on a dishtowel and followed him into the middle of the salon. They were listening to a local station that they had picked up and Nickelback was singing ĎFar Awayí. Alex bowed slightly in front of her, causing her to giggle like a crazy person, and then he took her in his arms and swept her across the room in a very nicely executed waltz. When the song ended, he dipped her backwards and kissed her.

"Youíre wrong," she told him, still bent in the dip.

He stood them both up and said, "I can dance, Elvira."

"I mean youíre wrong about why you were the big man on campus. Wrestling had nothing to do with it." She kissed his nose. "Can you salsa?"

"Didnít we do that in bed last night?"

"Can you do it vertically?"

"A dance is just a conversation between two people. Talk to me."
"ĎHope Floatsí. Get your own material, quote man." She smiled at him and slipped a CD into the player. She smiled a little when Selenaís ĎAmor Prohibidoí began to play. It was a fitting song. "Now follow my lead."

She stepped forward. He stepped back. She swung her hips. He did the same. It took less than thirty minutes for him to catch on and when he did, he spun her out and back again, then his hands traced the contour of her hips in her swimsuit as they moved as one. She put her back to his chest and wiggled her ass against him, reaching behind her to grip his ass.

"Jesus, Callie. If this was a conversation between two people ... it would be outlawed in almost every state."

"Almost?"

"Weíre gonna make it legal in Washington."

She turned and lifted her leg against his hip and he caught her behind the thigh and pulled back, stretching her into a half split as he went. Throwing her head back, she shimmied her shoulders and then came up fast, just in time for ĎBitty Bitty Bom Bomí to end. "I think you can salsa, Alex."

"I feel like we just had sex."

"Latin dances are notoriously sexy. This oneís mild in comparison."

"There are more?"

"Oh yeah. The cumbia, the mambo, the rumba."

"A mambo dancing Elvira."

"A waltzing jock. Weíre both a walking oxymoron." Her stomach grumbled as she added, "We also forgot lunch."

"Wanna forget it a while longer?"

She smiled at him. "We should probably get a little more exercise before we eat bread."

The Ďexercisedí for close to an hour. Alex gazed down at her sweaty face and brushed her hair off her forehead. She didnít meet his eyes.

He didnít like it.

At all.

They ate their sandwiches on the deck. When Callie started the engine, brought up the anchor, and accelerated north, Alex frowned. "Every time you move this thing we get that much closer to Seattle."

"I know. Iíve purposely taken us away from land to make it last a little longer." She made a face. "But tomorrow weíre going to stop in San Francisco for the entire day. That should delay us a while."

"San Francisco? Why?"

"Well, thereís Alcatraz, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, and streetcars. Thereís also a wax museum and the zoo kicks ass. Iíve seen it all, but Iíve never seen it *with* someone. Someone not related, I mean. So, if you want to sightsee I can totally get on board with that. I think youíd like it."

"I am sightseeing." He looked her up and down. "And I like it very much. But if you wanna play tour guide Iím in. Alcatraz, huh?"

"I knew youíd pick that. Weíll do the night tour. Itís scarier."

"Itís supposedly haunted, right?"

"Supposedly. But if you were a ghost would you really want to haunt a place like that? Four by eight cells, creepy fog, and it smells like death and piss. All the time. Iíd rather haunt the water around it like Moaning Myrtle." She glanced at him and saw that his brow was furrowed. "Holy shit! Iíve finally stumped you!"

"Who or what is a Moaning Myrtle?"

"I *so* win. Go me!" She did a little dance in her seat. "Harry Potter. I am the champ!"

"I knew I should have read those damn books."

"She was in a couple of the movies, too. You *must* read the books though, Alex. Theyíre amazing." Smiling, she added, "Are you scared of ghosts?"

"Not at all." He swiveled in his chair so he could watch her. "Are you?"

"I donít get scared. I lack a fear gene, remember?"
It was the perfect opportunity for Alex to respond with something that had been on his mind since theyíd been together earlier. He seized the moment with both hands. "Youíre scared of me. I can tell. You hold back just a little, just enough to make me worry."

She was shocked and quickly looked at him, then the horizon. "I do not."

"You donít look at me after we have sex. You donít strike me as the type to be bashful so itís gotta be one of two things: you either regret it a little or youíre afraid of me and what I feel for you."

Callie swallowed and kept her eyes straight ahead. "Youíre imagining things."

"Am I? Are you sure?"

"Of course I am."

"Look at me."

She shook her head. Her heart had lodged itself in her throat and she hated what was inevitably coming. Apparently this was *the* talk. "I have to watch what Iím doing. Iíll hit something."

"You told me when we dropped anchor last night that we were forty miles from the coast." Alex glanced out the windshield. Four sailboats dotted the water, but were far enough away that it would take several minutes to reach them. Standing, he slowed the boat to a stop himself, then took the key out of the ignition and turned her chair to face him. "Look at me, Callie."

She took a deep breath and met his eyes. "Iím looking."

He squatted beside her chair and took her hand. "This isnít a fling for me. What we have ... it feels real. I think it is. And I know we keep saying that itís fast and that we didnít expect it, but I think I knew that I would fall for you when I picked you up and drove you to the hospital the night you almost died. It wasnít just the gas in that car that got you there ... it was me. I think I could have outrun the wind on foot to make sure you were okay. Itís real. And I lo-"

"Oh, Alex, donít." Callie stopped him with a hand over his mouth. She closed her eyes tightly. "Donít say it. Please donít say it."

He pushed her hand away. "You need to know where I stand! You need to know that because of what I feel for you ... I will *never* hurt you! So let your guard down! And *look* at me!"

"No." Callie got to her feet and moved past him. She walked to the back of the boat, running both hands through her hair. "Damn it, Alex! Donít do this! Donít make it weird! Donít make it complicated or -"

"Or love you? Is that what youíre saying? You donít want me to love you?"

"I donít believe in love." She looked at him then, nostrils flaring slightly. "Weíre good together, Alex. Weíre having fun and when we get back to Seattle I want you in my life, but-"

"How do you want me in your life? Do you want me to be someone you call when you need your itch scratched or do you want me ... all of me?" He waited for her to say something and when she didnít, he tossed her the keys. "Thatís what I thought youíd say."

"Alex-"

"What?! People donít take enough chances in life. You - you live your life for other people and the only chances you take are the ones that could kill you. Youíd rather fly through a storm than trust me. Do you know how that makes me feel? Iím offering you a chance to start over with someone who *gets* you, with someone who *needs* you." He shook his head. "If I canít love you what does that leave me?"

"I donít know."

"Right."

Callie watched as he yanked open the door to the living quarters and disappeared down the stairs. She sat down on the lounger behind her and put her face in her hands. She had known that this was coming and had been dreading it like hell. She had known that Alex was getting invested, that he wanted more and she had encouraged it anyway. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, she knew that she wanted to be with him. Just ... not all the way. She couldnít do all the way again because all the way meant that you only got pieces of yourself back when it all fell apart.

And nothing was forever.

For most of her life she had been the cynical one. She didnít need a man to complete her. She was strong, independent, and she didnít care because she was used to being alone. The poison of loving someone had killed the romantic dreamer she had become and put the cynic firmly back in place. It was a welcome relief to not have her heart involved.

ĎThatís a lie,í she thought. ĎYou know good and damn well that you want to go downstairs and make love until youíre too sore to move. Because thatís what it is. You make love with him. You never really made love to George because he was in love with his friends. Coward. Would it really be so bad to fall again? Youíre ready to fall. Just do it.í

Something splashed in the water behind her and she turned in time to see a dolphin. As she watched, several more began to spyhop, peering at her, splashing water at the yacht. She smiled and let the ladder down, then sat on it, her legs in the water. It took a while, but finally one of the larger dolphins came close enough for her to touch it. It darted away quickly when she ran her hand along its side, but returned just as fast, popping up between her knees.

"Hey there, you." Callie rubbed it on the head, tracing a scar that cut a mean looking crease. "If I come in the water are you gonna hurt me?"

The dolphin moved a little higher, butting at her hand. Another popped up beside it and she reached out, patting it as well. "I donít have any food. Probably shouldnít feed you, though, because most people arenít as nice as me and might try to catch you. Itís not fun to be caught. I used to think it was. But when youíre caught ... you drown in shallow water every day."

She threw caution to the wind when the first dolphin went under and brushed against her leg, then appeared again. It was an open invitation and she slipped off the ladder, staying close to the boat. Just. In. Case. All at once, she was surrounded. The dolphins knocked into her, not hard, but rubbing at her body with their noses, with their sides. The same scarred porpoise surfaced right in front of her and splashed water in her face. She laughed out loud then and splashed back.

It rapidly became a game and all the dolphins wanted to splash and be splashed.

And their game took them further and further from the yacht.

Finally, winded, Callie rubbed the porpoise who had approached her first and said, "Did you know that dolphin is actually a Greek word? Itís really delphis and it means a fish with a womb." The animal looked her right in the eye and she smiled. "Iím an idiot. Iím talking to you like you know what Iím saying."

It splashed her again and she chuckled. "Okay, maybe you do."

She dove under and kept her eyes open, the salt burned, but the dolphins dove with her and she wanted to see them. She did a few flips under water, swimming like she had been born to do it, and when she surfaced again, the pod surfaced as well and blew water from their blow holes. They began to make noise as well and Callie felt like she was on top of the world and whistled at them. It intrigued them and they changed their sounds so Callie emulated them, laughing, when they watched her closely.

The mood of the animals changed so suddenly that Callie, dog paddling, began to feel uneasy. She glanced behind her and groaned. She had not put the anchor down on the yacht and the tide had carried it at least fifty feet away. The dolphins began to swim in a tight circle around her and she looked left and right, her heart thumping. She knew what that meant ... she knew it into her gut.

When the shark fin surfaced between her and the boat, she could only stare at it. It was large and moving slowly. It went under the water suddenly and she froze and promptly sank. Something brushed her leg and she screamed when she clawed her way back to the surface, the sound ripped from her throat hard enough to make her eyes water. "Oh my god. Oh my god oh my god ohmygodohmygod."

The scarred dolphin popped up in front of her and she looked at it. "Iím going to die," she whispered. "And I donít want to."

"Callie?!"

She could see Alex on the boat now and she waved her arms frantically. "Shark! Alex, bring the boat!"

"WHAT?"

"SHARK!"

And then she screamed again because instead of bringing the boat, he dove into the water and began to swim toward her. "NO! NOOO!!!"

Callie swam harder than she had ever done in her life. The dolphins stayed close, still circling and when she finally made it to Alex, she yelled, "Thereís a shark! Big! We have to get on the boat!"

The dolphins closed ranks around them as they headed back for the yacht. Alex stayed beside her and they were ten feet from the ladder when the shark resurfaced, blocking their path. He pulled out of a breast stroke and grabbed Callie, who was starting past him. "Holy mother of God," he said. "Baby, do not move."

The dolphins swarmed past them and the shark swam faster toward the nose of the yacht. Alex pushed her toward the ladder. "Go! Callie, go up the fucking ladder. Now!"

She was staring, wide eyed as the fin vanished again. "Alex-"

"GO!" Alex gripped her arms, pushing her until she gripped the ladder and scurried up it. He practically flew up the side of the yacht. They both stood, gazing down, as a huge great white bit the ladder a moment later and let go.

Callieís legs buckled and she collapsed against the lounger. Alex sat beside her, breathing hard. Neither spoke for several minutes. When she could finally breathe without the threat of swallowing her tongue, she said, "I didnít even think. Weíre near the Farallon Islands and ... and the seals there ... they attract sharks." She touched his arm. "Are you okay?"

"No, Callie, I am not okay." He rubbed the salt water out of his eyes, which were red and still wide with fear. "I heard you scream and -" He looked at her. "Are *you* okay?"
"Iím pretty sure that Iíll have grey hair tomorrow, but Iím all right."

"That thing was at least fifteen feet long. You could have been killed."

"We both could have, Alex! Why the hell didnít you just bring the boat?! Why did you jump in?!"

"You told me not to say it so I wonít, but thatís why. I figured I could get to you faster than the boat."

"You jumped right where the shark was! God, it scared me so bad. If anything happened to you-" She hugged him then, holding on for dear life. "Thatís twice now that youíve saved my life."

"And twice that youíve tried to throw it away." He pushed her arms off him and stood. "I - I think that we should just skip San Francisco and go home."

"But-"

"Weíll always have Disneyland."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 18
*~*~*~*~*~

Callie sailed the yacht just off the Farallon Islands before she dropped the anchor and sighed. Her hands trembled as she took the key from the ignition and she envisioned the shark again. She had come close to dying. So had Alex. They had practically looked the Grim Reaper right in the eye. When she had woken up in the hospital and was told that she could have died, she had taken the news with a grain of salt. She genuinely didnít *care* either way. Life and death had become interchangeable things in her mind that left her all alone either way ... whether it was in the ground or in her marriage. In Vegas, George had been a good husband. In Seattle, George had not been a husband at *all*. She was alone. Whether it was six feet under or over was of no consequence to her at the time.

It didnít really feel like a suicide attempt. Not exactly. She had just wanted to rest for a while ... but waking up had been ... well, a disappointment. She had been honest with her parents. She wouldnít have minded dying. Even by her own hand. Life had stepped out of her control and she wasnít willing to fight for it. She was exhausted. The thought of everyone knowing that Izzie Stevens had stolen her husband, the thought of women looking at her the same way she looked at *those* women who let a man walk all over them ... all of it ate at her every waking moment. Maybe a little part of her had figured that if she died in the parking garage ... she wouldnít be a laughingstock. Sheíd still be pathetic, but no one would laugh.

Maybe.

ĎNo, itís not a maybe. You knew. You wanted it to end,í she thought. ĎYou knew it when you bought the second bottle.í

The truth settled into the pit of her stomach like a ball of acid when she finally admitted it to herself and she put a hand over her mouth, her eyes welling with tears. She had wanted to die. She knew that she had consumed enough alcohol in the first bottle to do it, but she still opened the second and poured more down her throat. She had been thinking about death, about ceasing to exist.

She had also been thinking that she wanted to go ahead and take George back that day, but not for the reasons she should have. George had the endearing family and Callie had loved Harold very much; she had talked to Harold about love a million and one times. George was adorably awkward and so cute at times that it hurt. George had been the heart in the elevator guy, but that didnít mean he knew how to handle the heart of a woman who had never given hers away before. And Callie *had* loved him. With all she had. She had loved him enough to settle into second or third place just for a moment of his time.

Callie was not built for second or third place, though. Her entire life ... she had refused to settle for less than the best for herself. In medical school, even though she didnít want to be there, she had excelled effortlessly. She had refused to *do* less than that. Her father had instilled a sharp sense of integrity and unshakeable dignity into her. She put her mind to something and she succeeded without fail. She wanted to fly planes so she did. She wanted to scale mountains so she did. And she did it to be best of her abilities.

She didnít know HOW to fail.

She had taken George back simply because she couldnít stand the thought of losing the war.

To Izzie Stevens.

It shocked her now ... how easy it was to think of George doing God knew what with Izzie. Or anyone else for that matter. A part of her love had died with his admission of infidelity and he had taken the little that remained and threw it back at her by lying to her again. Seeing him with Stevens in the stairwell had been the eraser she needed. He was gone from her heart, from her mind, and she was sad and relieved. She was hurt and elated. She was shocked and soothed.

She could breathe without him just fine because the air was cleaner.

And Calliope Iphegenia Torres wanted to breathe. She wanted to live.

It had taken a fifteen foot shark to truly wake her up enough to take stock, but it had worked. She wanted to *live*.
She didnít have to wonder why.

Her reason was on the yacht with her.

Alex listened to her and heard what she was saying even if he had to read it between the lines. He had conversations with her that werenít always about his friends or himself. He asked her questions, he laughed at her quirks instead of questioning them, and he never made her feel bad about herself. If she did gain weight again ... he would *like* her curves the same way she had made peace with them because it was a Torres thing and he seemed to like that she was a Torres. And she knew, better than she knew how to fly, that Alex would have stood up against her parents and shot down the rehab idea. George, once again, had sided against her, this time choosing her parents over her. She was perpetually last with George ... or as close to last place as she could get and still be on the scoreboard.

Alex, she realized, gave her roots and wings ... just like her plane. He supplied her with the inner-strength and support to take flight, but gave her a safe place to land when she was tired. Or when she needed two strong arms around her. He had seen her at her best and enjoyed the hell out of the view, but he had also seen her at her worst and never once looked the other way. He looked into her when she hurt and knew how to fix it. He didnít run, didnít push her away, and he knew when to give her space.

Alex *knew* Callie more than George had ever attempted to know her.

And she had shot him down.

Standing, she gazed down at the water. He had jumped in to save her even though he knew that a shark was present. He had been willing to die with her the same way she had been willing to die with Cambyses all those years ago when they had sank the yacht. She had been willing to die with Cam because she loved him. She knew what love felt like and she had lied to Alex by saying she didnít believe anymore.

Callie believed.

She believed with every fiber of her being that the heart she had taken back from George was tattered and torn, shell shocked and scarred, but it belonged to Alex Karev and there was nothing she could do about it. He had gotten into her and she couldnít, wouldnít, push him back out.

Making up her mind, she nodded her resolve and headed below deck. The door of the starboard bedroom was shut and she knocked lightly. "Alex? Can I talk to you? Please?"

She knocked again when he didnít answer. "I didnít mean what I said to you earlier and - and I donít want to have Disneyland. Not that Disneyland wasnít perfect because it was and I loved it, but, I want San Francisco, Alex. And I want Seattle, too. With you. I - I didnít try to throw my life away by going in the water, but I know that Iím throwing it away if I donít take this chance. I want to take a chance with you because I *do* trust you and I do lo-"

"Donít say it. If I canít then you canít." Alex spoke behind her, standing in the doorway of the bathroom. He had to fight hard not to smile, but somehow he managed.

She turned quickly and looked up at him. "You can say it. I wonít freak out again."

He walked past her and sat on the leather sofa in the salon. He was going to make it very hard on her because almost dying for someone gave you the *right* to bust their chops. Especially when they deserved it. Besides, it could be fun to watch her squirm. "No. I donít think Iíll be saying it again."

She had been walking toward the sofa as well, but his words made her pause. "You mean ever? Or right now?"

"I donít know."

"You donít know?"

"Wasnít that what you said to me when I asked you what was left if I couldnít love you?"

Her eyes widened. "Please donít throw my words back at me. I know you get off on the quoting thing, but can you say something original? Iím trying here. Iím trying to meet you halfway and explain that I get it. I finally get it."

"What do you get?"

"Us."

"What exactly were you getting when you asked me to come on this trip? What were you getting when you had sex with me? Besides off, I mean." He waited for her to answer, but she didnít. "You donít want to talk now? I canít say that I mind. So far you havenít said anything I really want to hear."

"That would be because you wonít stop running your mouth, Jock Strap! I am trying to tell you that Iím ready! I am ready to do this with you!" She crossed her arms over her chest. "Though your attitude is making me contemplate tossing your ass back in the water."

He narrowed his eyes. "Iíd like to see you try."

"I canít think of a better thing to say than fuck you."

"Weíve covered that already. Many times and many ways." He tilted his head a little, trying to hide his amusement. "Are you going to apologize for almost getting me killed?"

"No, smart ass, Iím not going to apologize because *you* are the one who jumped. Not me."

"Oh, right. You just fell off the boat and-"

"I was *playing* with dolphins."

"Can you explain to me why you would choose to go *play* with dolphins instead of coming down here and apologizing to me? We had a fight. It was a bad one." He opened his arms wide. "And I know that my dramatic exit was Oscar worthy and that was your cue to follow me and talk to me."

"I didnít know what to say!"

"How about an apology? The one Iím still waiting for."

"Iím sorry that you donít have any common sense and almost killed yourself for me."

He put his hand over his heart. "That was so touching. You know, if youíre into being rubbed the wrong way."

"Iíve been sleepwalking, Alex. Okay? And I finally woke up."

"Could you make sense? At least a little?"

Callie glared at him and then took a seat beside him, crossing her legs. She angrily waved her foot back and forth and said, "I am not a stupid person. Granted, the past few months have been an orgy of stupidity for me, but I am not a stupid person. I know that itís idiotic to leap from one failed relationship into a new one without so much as a backward glance." She met his eyes. "But Iím not looking back and I donít want us to fail because as much as it pains me to admit that a jock could make sense ... you do. So Iím in this. All the way."

Alex couldnít hide his smile any longer. He smirked at her, but it faded when she picked up a pillow and hit him with it. "WHAT?" he snapped, catching it before she could hit him again.

"Do not laugh at me!"

"Laughter is out loud. I didnít make a sound."

"I take it back. I donít like you. At all." She shot to her feet and was headed for her bedroom when he caught her around the waist. He executed a wrestling move that had her on her back with her arms pinned over her head in less than three seconds and she tried to buck him off. "Alex, so help me God-"

"You better pray, Cal, because the things that Iím going to do to you will secure your ticket to Hell. Save me a spot." He tried to kiss her, but she turned her head. He devoured her neck instead. "You like me, Gothika, you really, really like me. You pretty much told me so."

Callie glared at him. "You know, I think Iím going to get the fish out of the freezer and chum the water before I push you in."

"Youíre not in any position to push, baby," Alex replied, grinding his hips against her center. "But I am."

She finally smiled up at him and shook her head. "No. Weíre not having sex of any kind until we finish this conversation."

"Nothing says ĎIím sorryí like multiple orgasms." Alex leaned down to kiss her and this time she didnít pull away. He put everything into it and when he pulled back, he was breathing hard. "Iím sorry, by the way."

"For which part?" she asked. "There are so many things you should apologize for."

"For telling you weíd always have Disneyland."

"It was a nicely executed breakup. Oscar worthy."

"That wasnít a breakup." He rubbed his nose against hers. "Youíre so cute when youíre pissed."

"Well, you seem to be keeping me that way."

"Youíre even cuter in the throes of passion."

"You seem to be keeping me that way as well."

"We do need to talk." He kissed her neck again and let her arms go. She hugged him and he rolled them slightly so that she was lying in the crook of his arm. "I thought that shark had bitten you, Cal. Iíve never heard anyone scream like you did."

"I thought it had bitten me, too." She put her hand on his lower stomach and rubbed the tight muscles there. "That was a scream for life. I didnít want to die. Not this time, Alex."

He tensed up beside her. "But you did last time? No ... donít answer that. Because if you say you did then Iím going to get pissed and -"

"Then youíll have to get pissed because I need to tell you this. I knew what I was doing. I knew it was enough to end it. I - I wanted to." She pushed herself up on her elbow and gazed down at him. His jaw was tight and he was staring at the ceiling. "But you called and I answered. My phone rang twenty times and I only answered you."

He took a deep breath and looked at her. "Death cannot stop true love. It can only delay it for a while."

"Youíre a great Westley." She smiled. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Knowing what you know now about what I did," she said. "Would you have agreed with my parents and told me to go to rehab?"

"No." He studied her face. "What you did - you donít need to be shut away from the people who love you. Whatís that gonna do besides make you feel more alone? Youíre not alone. Iím here. Iím always here. And I would have told your parents to kiss your ass and then mine."

"Thatís hot."

"What is it with rich chicks and that phrase?" Alex held her a little closer. "Itís my turn to ask something."

"Go ahead."

"When we get back to Seattle and go to work itís going to be weird for a while. People are going to talk and have opinions and judge us. Are you okay with that?"

"Iím fine with it. Are you?"

"I donít give a shit what people think, but it wonít be as hard on me. Iím not married."

"I told my dad to get the divorce started. He will."

"And youíre going to sign it and be done. Just like that?" He was looking at the far wall now.

Callie turned his face so she could see him. "Izzie once told me that my marriage was just a piece of paper. Truer words were never spoken. I hate her and sheís always been a bitch to me, but she was right. And Iím going to shred that paper myself and then sign whatever I have to so that I can be with you with nothing hanging over us."

"That works for me." He pulled her on top of him and put his arms behind his head. "So, weíre going to Alcatraz tomorrow. What else are you gonna show me?"

"The future," she replied, leaning down to kiss him. When she sat back up, she peeled her bathing suit off her shoulders and down around her waist. "One mind blowing orgasm at a time."

"That actually works for me too."

"I thought it might. Wanna see just how flexible I am?"

He nodded.

And was amazed.

*~*~*~*~*~

George sat at the Emerald City Bar. He looked at Joe and nodded, holding up his shot glass. The folder that contained his divorce papers sat in front of him and he had looked at them enough to burn the image into his brain. The Torres family had decided to buy him out. As Joe filled his glass, George said, "Theyíre offering me twenty-five thousand and her car. And everything we bought while we were married. Which ... wasnít much. You know? Mostly room service and clothes and stuff."

Joe heard the way George slurred his words and set the bottle back behind the bar. "Iím cutting you off. Thatís your last drink of the night."

"Sheís with Alex. Did you know that? My wife is with Alex Karev. I stopped counting the days and how many times theyíve probably -" He trailed off and grabbed his head. "Iím not drunk enough to think about it."

Tossing his towel over his shoulder, Joe reached out and gripped Georgeís shoulder. "You need to eat something. You want a sandwich? Some hot wings?"

"I want to go back in time and erase what I did."

"I canít help you with that, buddy."

"Do you know what itís like to be left?"

"Yeah."

"Did you cause it?"

"I was left for someone else. Thatís about as low as a person can feel, I think."

George emptied his glass. "I never thought about leaving her for Izzie. I just - I never thought. You know? It was meaningless sex."

"You drunk dialed me that night. You and Izzie. Izzie said that you were mad at Callie and needed her to make you like her again, but she couldnít because Callie was a fat insecure bitch. You agreed with her, George, but you added that she was a psycho mistake and a ferret loving whore."

"I donít remember that!"

"Iím not surprised. Alcohol loosens the tongue. I see it every night and most of the time the things that get said are brutal, but theyíre still a reflection of how you feel."

"I - I didnít mean whatever I said." George put his head in his hands. "What do I do, Joe?"

Joe leaned on his elbows in front of the other man. "I canít tell you what to do. I can only tell you that in my opinion you got married really fast and it was right after your dad died. And I have witnessed first hand the way that Izzie treats Callie and you never said a word to stop it when it happened. I know that you saw it, too."

George had to nod. He held his glass up and said, "Just one more?"

"How are you getting home?"

"Iíll drive him."

George glanced to his left. Nurse Olivia had taken a seat beside him and was gazing at him with sympathy. "Hey," he said.

"Everyone knows," she told him. "Good news travels fast."

"What is that supposed to mean?" George asked her, then noticed that Joe had walked away without filling his glass again. "Damn it."

"Youíve had enough. Youíve had enough of Callie, enough of a dead end marriage, and enough to drink. So, stop." Olivia put her hand on his. "Just stop."

George looked at her, leaning his chin against his palm. "You hate her, too. Everyone hates her."

Olivia shrugged. "I didnít hate her until she stole you."

"I wasnít stolen. I went willingly."

"No, you didnít. She forced your hand. Everyone who knows you saw that she was overbearing and clingy. Sheís toxic, George. She is. And youíre better off without her."

"Donít call my wife toxic."

"Donít call her your wife. Nurse Tyler saw her making out with Alex in an empty room the other day. They were all over each other."

George blinked. "No. No, youíre wrong."

"I saw them in the stairwell myself."

George felt his stomach turn over and laid his head on the folder. "Are you sure?"

"Iím positive. It was - it was right before they confronted you and Izzie. Right before they left town. They came into the stairwell and I was a floor above them taking a break. I looked down in time to see them kissing."

George looked at her. "Do you have a pen?"

"Yeah." She dug through her purse, found one, and then watched as he scribbled in the file. "Whatís that?"

"Divorce papers."

She patted him on the back and her hand lingered over his neck. "I donít have to take you to Meredithís house."

George closed the folder and looked at her. "Good, because I was going home with you."

"Then letís go."

He stood and wobbled on his feet.

Olivia linked her arm through his and he stopped her, kissing her roughly in the middle of the crowded room.

They had sex in her car in the parking lot of the bar and again at her apartment.

And he didnít lose his erection once.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Good morning, Jock Strap." Callie kissed Alex softly on the forehead and put the tray over his legs. "I made waffles. Belgian ones."

"Good morning, Morticia." Alex rubbed his eyes and pushed himself upward, looking down at the elegant spread of food she had brought into the bedroom. "You get that Iím over our fight, right?"

"I do." Callie sat between his outstretched legs, the tray of food between them. She smothered the waffles with syrup, cut into one, and held it out to him. "Go ahead. Tell me I can cook."

"You proved that last night with the pork chops. You think I could lick the syrup off your belly the way I did the barbeque sauce?"

"If we do that weíll never see the city."

He grinned at her, his mouth still full. "Is that why youíre up so early?"

"I sailed us a little closer. If you eat fast we can see the sunrise." She took a bite and savored it. "I want to kiss you when we go under the Golden Gate. My daddy said that any kiss under that bridge is a forever kiss."

"I thought we covered that kiss with our first one." He took another bite that she offered and then sipped his orange juice. The food was amazing, but the smile on her face was even more satisfying. Her cheeks were rosy and she was eating again so life was good. "Youíre happy. I love seeing you this way."

"I love feeling this way. Itís more than happy." She fed him a slice of apple. "You should think about going into cardiology. You fixed my heart and I didnít think it could be done."

"Iím only interested in hearts that talk to mine."

"Youíre repulsively cheesy."

"And you love it."

"I do. I really do."

"What are we doing today? Besides Alcatraz?"

"I was going to suggest the aquarium, but Iíve had enough marine life to last a lifetime." She made a face. "If we do the night tour of the prison then we have all day to explore. The trolleys go everywhere important and theyíre fun as hell to ride. I do want to go to Chinatown for sure. They have a place that cooks fresh fortune cookies that makes all of Ross Alley smell like heaven."

"Thereís a Ross Alley in Chinatown."

"There is. Thereís also a huge theme park over in the bay area, Paramountís Great America, that has some kick ass thrill rides."

"Yesterday was a big enough thrill ride for me. And nothing is competing with Disneyland."

"Nothing, huh?" She gave him a knowing look. "Because Iím pretty sure that -"

"Stop it. Because if you start talking the way I think youíre going to start talking we will *never* leave this boat again."

"I wonít mind."

They missed the sunrise, but when they finally made it topside, Callie got her kiss under the Golden Gate.

They docked at a small marina and headed into the city, hand in hand.

And heart to heart.

*~*~*~*~*~

"It is too early in the morning for a cesarean. Iím boycotting for a while." Addison put a cup of coffee in front of Mark and sat down, arms over her chest. "I canít do it. I canít finish the sixty days."

"Yes, you can," he replied, flipping the page of his magazine.

"Oral sex is still sex, Mark. Unless youíre Bill Clinton. We had sex in my room. So ... letís stop this nonsense and go to the nearest empty on call room where you can have your wicked way with me." Addison watched him hopefully. When he didnít look at her, she yanked her glasses out of her pocket and shoved them on her face, then snatched his magazine. "Are you reading porn?"

He watched her flip to the cover of the Newsweek and picked up the coffee she had brought him, sipping it. It took all of his resolve to swallow it because it was the nastiest thing he had ever tasted. "Addison?"

"What?"

"We can have sex."

She pulled her glasses off and smiled triumphantly. He caught her arm when she started to stand. "Addison? We can have sex when you can make me a cup of coffee the way I like it."

Addy slumped back into her seat. "How do you like it? Iíll do it right now."

"Thatís for me to know and you to find out."

"Oh, yay, weíre playing kindergarten and I didnít get the memo."

He took his Newsweek back. "You didnít get many memos at all, apparently. You donít know me the way I know you. Youíve never cared to learn. If you had, you would know that I like to read a magazine, this particular magazine, before I head into a huge surgery. If you had checked the date when you looked at it then you would see that itís the coverage of September Eleventh and youíd remember that Derek and I helped out at Ground Zero that day."

Addison chewed her bottom lip. "I do know you."

"Do you? What did I do after my dad died?"

"You - you went to Marthaís Vineyard with Derekís family and skipped the funeral."

"Why did I do that?" He watched her, waiting for her response. When she didnít reply, he added, "I went to Marthaís Vineyard because my mother planned a party instead of a funeral. She was dancing on his grave before it was even dug and she had all of her boyfriends lined up as dance partners."

"I didnít think you were close to your father."

"I wasnít close to any of them, Addison, but Iíve still got a heart. It would have destroyed him to see her parade her lifestyle right out in the open." He rolled up the magazine and clutched it in his hand. "Today is the anniversary of his death. I donít remember dates as a rule, but this one is seared into my brain. My mother had Adam Teller over for dinner and I watched them go upstairs, knowing what they were going to do. I fixed my father something to eat and took it into the study, where they had set up a hospital bed for him. He was already gone. And she was laughing upstairs, she was always laughing."

"Oh, Mark." Addison took his hand. "Iím sorry."

"I went upstairs and caught her having sex. I called her a whore and left home. I never went back." He rubbed his thumb on the back of Addyís hand. "Iíve always treated women as someone to enjoy and discard. Iíve always used sex to make me feel alive and, I guess, to punish all women because in a way, all women are just like her in my head. Iím the manwhore my mother made."

"Donít. Donít say that."

"Youíve said it. More than once. And youíre right, I am." He pushed a lock of hair off her cheek. "Only not with you. For the first time in my life I want the shackles and chains, Addison. Iíll even buy them myself because I love you."

Addison moved forward and kissed him. "I love you. Iíve loved you for a long time."

He grinned at her. "Weíre still not having sex, but if you want to go to a movie later Iíd like that. I donít want to be ... you know, alone. Not today."

She nodded. "Youíre not alone, Mark. Ever."


Mark kissed her again. "I hope you can figure out how I like my coffee by tonight because if you do ... you will be rewarded handsomely."

She traced the stubble on his face with her hand. "I already have been."



*~*~*~*~*~

George awoke with a warm, soft body pressed against his side. He opened his eyes and regretted it immediately. The light from the windows sent pain shooting through his temples and he groaned, clutching his head. The warm body shifted a little and then there was aspirin and a bottle of water and George looked up to thank Cal ... livia. It was Olivia.

The shock on his face was evident and Olivia rubbed his back. "Itís okay, George."

He took the pills and drank the water when he could think of nothing to say. He looked around her bedroom and spotted his clothing, which was tossed on every available surface. When his eyes found the folder ... he remembered signing the papers. Every last one of them. His eyes blurred with tears and he stood. "Whereís the bathroom?"

"Down the hall and to the right."

"Iíll be back in a minute."

George picked up his boxers and slipped them on. In the bathroom, he splashed water on his face and gazed at the pale, drawn man that stared back at him in the mirror. His eyes were red, rimmed with hollow shadows; the ghost of what had been had hung years on his face. He hated himself more in that moment than he had ever hated anything before. Self loathing was a small comfort, however, and he needed more.

After rinsing his mouth several times and wondering how anyone could pee as much as he did, he went back to Oliviaís room and grabbed his jeans. Olivia sat on the bed, watching his every move. He finally looked at her after he pulled his shirt over his head. "Weíre late for work," he said.

"I called and told them you were sick and I was taking care of you." She let the blanket fall from her chest and crawled to the foot of the bed, naked. "I *can* take care of you."

George let her hug him, let her whisper in his ear that she had never stopped caring for him or wanting him. It felt good to hear it, to feel her hands on him, to feel her breath against his ear. He didnít love her, he didnít even like her very much, but it didnít matter.

Nothing mattered when you were at the bottom of the world.

He stayed for the entire day, blowing off work entirely.

And as he watched her ride him, felt her clench around him, he knew that he could never go back.

He wouldnít let memories of raven hair or a tribal tattoo or a very bendy body take anything else from him.

There was nothing left to give up ... except his ring.

When Olivia drove him to Meredithís later on in the day, his wedding band was in his pocket. He could feel it there, against his thigh. He kept brushing his hand over it. He kept rubbing the indentation on his finger and the flexing the digit as if it could make it go away, but he was relieved when it didn't.

Izzie came home and forced him to eat, forced him to talk to her about everything that had happened the previous day. She had cried with him, held his hand, and listened. It felt good to be Izzie and George again: friends without any complications.

She stood beside him a while later, as he sobbed over the toilet, vomiting, shaking ... because he had flushed his ring down the drain in a fit of rage.

And it was as lost to him as Callie was.

There would be no getting it back.

~*~*~*~*~*~
CH 19
Addison reached out of the empty conference room and grabbed Cristina Yang as she walked down the hallway. Cristina yelped and broke loose, looking at Addison in shock. "Personal boundaries! Personal boundaries, Dr. Montgomery. Half my epidermis is under your nails."

"You are working with Sloan today. Did he make you get him coffee?"

"Uh, no. Iím a doctor, not a waitress."

"He makes the other interns get him coffee."

"Oh, he tried to make me. I told him that if I got him coffee Iíd make it hot and toss it on his crotch."

Addison blinked at her. "Nice, Dr. Yang."

"I thought so, too."

"Hey, did he happen to tell you how he takes his coffee?"

"Why? Are you his waitress?"

"Iím just important that I know."

"I can tell you if you can get me into Shepherdís neuro surgery that starts in forty minutes. Iíve read all about it and-"

Addison pulled out her cellphone and dialed Derek. "Hey, have you got an intern yet for your surgery after lunch? No? Well, Iím finished with Dr. Yang and she needs something to do. She assures me that she is well versed on this procedure. Well, make room for her because sheís scrubbing in. Okay, Iíll tell her." She hung up and smiled. "Youíre in."

"He asked me for a bone dry cappuccino and a Snickers bar." Cristina gazed up at the taller woman. "And youíre my hero."

"Yang?"

"Yeah."

"Where do I find a bone dry cappuccino?"

"Joe can make a mean one."

Fifteen minutes later, Addison bellied up to the bar and smiled at Joe. She ordered the coffee for Mark and the smile didnít leave her face until Joe told her that George had kissed Nurse Olivia the night before. "What?"

"He left with her. Now, I donít usually encourage gossip, but I know that youíre Callieís best friend and well-"

"He kissed her?"

"He raped her with his mouth." Joe nodded. "He was drinking a lot and he had just signed his divorce papers, but still. I had to tell someone. You know, I tried to talk to him last night and tell him that I felt like the marriage was rushed and, well, I donít think he loves her. You should have heard the names that he called her when they drunk dialed me. It was him and Izzie calling her fat and psycho. And a bitch. George called her a ferret loving whore. I hung up on them, but-"

"When was this?" Addison asked, nostrils flaring.

"It was the night that they did the thing that I canít possibly talk about because I just ate."

"They called you and badmouthed Callie? Before they did it?"

"I donít know if it was before or after, but it was horrible. I was so pissed."

Addison took the coffee and put a twenty on the table. "Keep the change, Joe."

Mark was in the scrub room and he glanced up when Addison pushed the door open. "Hey." One look at her face had him forgetting all about the surgery he was prepping for. "What happened?"

"Bone dry cappuccino." She held up the cup. "Is Stevens working today?"

"I think she comes in tonight."

"I need to talk to her."

He sipped the coffee and smiled at her. "You got the drink right, Ads. You know what that means?"

"Yeah, Iím very resourceful."

"Youíre also mad as hell about something."

"Iíll tell you later."

Addison called Richard from the parking lot and told him that she had to leave for an hour. He didnít ask why and she didnít tell. She pulled up in front of Meredith Greyís house and knocked on the door. Meredith answered and looked up at her in shock. "Hey, Dr. Montgomery."

"Where the hell is Stevens?" Addison asked, foregoing any greeting.

Izzie appeared behind Meredith and said, "Iím watching a movie. Why?"

Addison stepped past Meredith and slapped Izzie as hard as she could. It was hard enough to knock the clip out of her hair and Addison seized the moment, gripping a handful and holding the blond a few inches from her face. "If you *ever* call my best friend anything other than Dr. Torres, I will pull your uterus out and shove it down your throat. And the world will thank me for making sure you canít reproduce. One of you is more than enough."

Izzie shoved the red-head away from her, gripping her cheek. "I - didnít -"

"Shut the fuck up," Addison said. She turned to Meredith, who took a step back. "Where is George?"

Meredith shook her head, but glanced up the stairs without thinking. "Addison, you really need to -"

"OíMalley!" Addison yelled. She stalked up the stairs and George opened the door just in time for her to arrive on the second floor landing. She shoved him back into the bedroom and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. "Did you sleep with Olivia?"

"What?"

"Did you?"

"Yeah."

She sank her knee into his groin and watched him groan and fall back on the bed. "You *asshole*. Joe told me what you and your first whore called Callie so let me make something very clear to you. When she gets back here you will not talk to her, look at her, or hurt her anymore. You stay the hell away from her and you make sure that your harem understands that I will personally put them in traction if they donít do the same."

"I signed the papers," George moaned, still rolling on the bed. "I let her go. After I slept with Izzie the other night and-"

Addison punched his hands, which were cradling his crotch. She waited until he finished yelling and then said, "You slept with *her* again? You actually went there after you saw what it did to Callie?"

"Callieís with Alex! Olivia saw them making out."

"THEN GOOD FOR CALLIE!!!"

"Oh god, I need testicle retrieval surgery."

"No, you should leave it alone. Maybe it will stay broken and you canít use it. George and his magic penis should retire." Addison spun on her heel and stalked back down the stairs. She slammed out of the house without seeing Meredith or Izzie again. In the car, she picked up her phone and called Callie. She left a message that was simple. "Call me back. Itís an emergency, Callie."

Then she drove back to the hospital and interrupted Markís surgery to tell him that she could possibly be going to jail. He handed the scalpel to Sydney Heron and joined her in the scrub room, where he listened intently to what had transpired.

"You kicked him?"

"Hard."

"Did he cry?"

"I think his balls were lodged in his tear ducts, blocking the supply of fluid."

He grinned at her. "Youíre a good friend."

"I have *never* done anything like that in my life. I slapped someone!"

"You slapped me *after* you called me a cross country booty call."

"Oh, right. Did it hurt? I want to make sure it hurt Stevens."

"I didnít hurt me, but Iím sure Stevens is crying like a baby."

"Really?"

"Yeah, slugger, Iím sure."

"Go operate."

"See you tonight."

When the police had not arrived two hours later, she breathed a little easier.

*~*~*~*~*~

After riding the trolleys for most of the morning and hopping off at random places to browse the shops or sightsee, Callie and Alex ate in Chinatown. Callie encouraged him to try a particularly pricey crab dish and he was not disappointed in the least. It was incredible. Callie had ordered sushi. He happily shared with her, but he would *not*, however, attempt raw fish. Instead, he enjoyed watching her eat it because she made it look good. She had worn tight black jeans and a tank top that was dangerously low cut and incredibly body hugging. He had never seen her in that particular shade of midnight blue and the effect was breathtaking.

He hair was also curlier than he had ever seen it. Even her bangs, which usually hung straight over her forehead, were pushed back and blended with the rest of the curl. He didnít know if it was the sea water or if she had done it that morning in the bathroom with a roller of some kind, but she looked younger and freer.

"Why are you looking at me?" she finally asked him.

"I like your hair," he replied, reaching out to touch the spiral curl that hung over her left breast. "What did you do?"

"I finally used the gel that I had lost and couldnít find and dried it with a diffuser." She stole a bite of his lunch.

"You should wear it like this all the time. It makes you look exotic. And exotic and erotic go hand in hand."

"Okay."

He picked up his fork and finished his lunch, then said, "Hey, whenís your birthday?"

"If I tell you when my birthday is, you do not get to laugh or make the obvious joke."

He raised his right hand. "I swear."

"Halloween. My birthday is Halloween."

"I have to say it."

"Alex -"

"You really are Gothic to the core, arenít you? Your mother planned that date perfectly."

She grinned at him. "I thought you were going to call me a witch or a Satanist. Or a demon. Or, I dunno, possessed."

"You heard that a lot growing up, huh?"

She nodded. "Cam and I both did. He likes to wear leather and so do I, just not head to toe."

"Ooooh, that could have its merits."

"Iíll tell him you said so, but heís not into jocks."

He threw her napkin at her and she caught it. "Whatís he like? Your twin?"

"Heís six foot four. He can look like Marilyn Manson and actually owns a pair of assless pants - which I know because thatís what I got him for Christmas last year. He graduated from business school and is CEO of one of my dadís biggest companies. He loves to play the guitar, has been with the same guy for ten years, and he has the biggest heart youíll ever find. Heís funny and smart and he loves to torment my mother as much as I do."

"Your mom is intense."

"Thatís one word for it."

"She loves you," Alex replied. "Anyone can see that."

"I know, but sheís hard to please. Sheís got ideas and opinions that are unshakeable. And she can hold a grudge better than me and Iím great at it. Plus, she stores every one of your crimes in her brain and pulls them out every time you piss her off."

"Thatís just being a woman, Cal."

She flipped him a bird as they finished their lunch and then they headed further into Chinatown, where they absorbed more culture than a person possibly should. When they returned to the shopping district, Callie innocently told him that she wanted to go and call Cam and said that sheíd meet him at the trolley in forty-five minutes. He asked her why it would take so long and she just shrugged and walked away, smiling back at him.

Callie made a very large purchase and got two rolls of quarters in the process. She used a pay phone to call Cam. He answered on the second ring. "Hey, Cammy."

"Calliope Torres, you are in so much truh-buhl."

"Is Daddy searching for me?"

"He was, but I talked him out of it. He did find out that you were bitten by an animal. What happened?"

"How did he find out?" she asked, amazed. "Never mind. I sometimes forget what heís capable of and the people he knows. I saved a lobsterís life and it bit me."

Cam laughed long enough that the operator cut in, asking for more money. Callie quickly added a few more quarters and said, "Hey, Iím going to put the battery back in my phone and call you right back."

After she placed the battery in the phone, she turned it on. There were over forty missed calls and twelve voice mails. She saw that most were from George and that the most recent was from Addison. She listened to that one, just to make the beeping stop, and made a mental note to call her right back. She dialed Cam again and he picked up quickly and said, "Youíre so smart, Sis. You took out the battery so Dad couldnít ping you, right?"

"I did. And itís fully charged so tell me everything."

Cam filled her in on the details, telling her that he hated George and that Blake and Melana had *shopped* together. Callie gasped on the other end of the line and Cam hastily added, "I know. I almost *died*. She bought him cuff links, Callie. Diamond ones. And heís officially in love with her. She has become his Mrs. Robinson."

"Blake is gay. Our mother is good, but she does have the wrong equipment for him. Itís infatuation. Sheíll kill it with fire soon enough."

"Are you having fun?"

"Alex is my green eggs and ham. I am having a blast, Cam, I am."

He laughed again. "What have you been doing?"

"Besides sex?"

"T.M.I! Excuse me while I reboot my brain."

"We flew to Los Angeles to pick up Goon Docks. Weíre sailing her home."

Camís stomach lurched and he remembered the dream and the sense of foreboding he had had since then. He told her about it and added, "Just ... stay out of the water, sis."

"I wish you had told me this yesterday."

"Oh my god. Why? What happened."

"I was almost fish food. A fifteen foot Great Whiteís fish food." You could have heard a pin drop over the line. "I didnít even try to swim, Cam. I was so scared. Alex jumped in and pulled me back to the boat."

"He jumped in knowing there was a shark?"

"Yes."

"Holy bat shit, girl wonder. If Blake leaves me for our mother then Iím so taking Alex."

"What makes you think you could?"

"Because Iím *that* good," he replied. "Are you okay? After the shark?"

"Youíre going to think Iím crazy, but Iím better than okay. Iím in love."

"Oh, sweetie. Ohhhhh, sweetie."

"Donít use that tone. Youíll see when we get back. Itís just ... for the first time in my life everything is great."

"Rushing is bad."

"Perhaps my memory is failing me, Cammy, but did you or did you not tell me that you were in love with Blake after one date?"

"No, I told you I was in love with Blake after looking at him."

"Well, I looked at Alex. Itís real."

"Be careful. Your heart is-"

"Just fine."

"When are you coming home?"

"Weíre in San Fran. Weíll be back in a couple of days. But do not tell *anyone*. Iím not coming off the yacht until I have to and that will be for the party." Callie grinned when the man from the shop motioned for her. He was finished with her surprise. "Iíll call *you* when we dock and you can bring Blake out to meet Alex, okay?"

"Sounds like a plan, mi amore. I love you."

"I love you, too."

"Callie?"

"What?"

"Stay OUT of the water. Promise me."

"I promise."

She hung up and picked up the gift that had set her back almost six thousand dollars. Smiling, she tucked it in her purse and called Addison.

"Hello?"

"Addison? Before you start yelling and get all crazy ... I just want you to know that I love you and miss you and -"

"I just beat up George and Izzie. I donít think Iím going to jail, but it may be taking them a while to process the paperwork."

Callie stopped walking. "You did what?!"

"I havenít had sex in a very long time. I was frustrated and Mark wants shackles and chains and then Joe said that George and Izzie called you names so I went to Meredithís and ... slapped her and kicked his balls into his ass." She took a deep breath. "I also threatened to shove her uterus down her throat and Iím tempted to go back and do it because I donít think I hit her hard enough."

Callieís brain was close to exploding from the rapid fire explanation. "Mark wants shackles and chains? But not sex?"

"Itís horrible, Callie. Not only did I find out why heís a manwhore, I had to manhandle Yang to find out what kind of coffee he likes just so he *will* have sex with me."

"Bone dry cappuccino."

"This is why youíre my best friend. And how do you know this?"

"Okay, you do remember that I slept with him, right? He ordered room service and I heard it."

"And you remembered it?"

"Well, yeah. Thatís what people do."

"Argh! Heís right. I donít know him at all. I lived with him and I still donít know him." Addison sighed. "What are you doing? Please tell me that you are having sex so I can live vicariously."

"Are you going to get pissed by my answer?"

"Only if you say that you are abstaining."

"I am *not* abstaining at all." Callie sat back down on the bench. "Addison, weíre a couple. Me and Alex. Weíre officially together."

"Oh, thank god."

"Thatís a departure. Did you repress the fight we had? The one where you said, Ďfriends do not date blah blah blah, bitchí."

"George slept with Izzie again. And Olivia. And heís a bastard who doesnít deserve you because he called you a ferret loving whore."

Callie burst into laughter then. It was side splitting and several people gawked at her, but she didnít care. "I *am* a ferret loving whore," she wheezed. "And he slept with the syph nurse? Ewwww. Itís probably a good thing you kicked his dick because itís probably going to rot off anyway."

"Youíre not mad?"

"No, Addy. Iím not mad at all. I could not care less."

"How is this possible?"

"Because I have moved on," Callie said and the fact that her mood was not darkened at all by the news of Georgeís latest conquest confirmed that it was true.

"So fast?"

Callieís grin remained on her face. "Itís not too fast. Iím stopping to enjoy everything I can."

"Just remember that Alex Karev is a bad boy."

"I know. Heís very bad in all the right ways and I am a sucker for every move he makes."

"Dear god. Where is my best friend and what have you done with her?"

"Are you still coming to my party?"

"Yep. Iíll be there. Iím bringing Mark."

"Iím bringing Alex."

"Ooooh, Iím bringing a video camera because your family-"

"Will love him as much as I do."

"Did you just say Ďloveí?"

Callie laughed. "I have to go, Addison. Iím late for a very important date."

"Be careful. On all fronts."

"I love you."

"Love you back."

----

Alex gave his credit card the biggest workout it had ever had. He bought Callie a thick silver bangle bracelet that was inlaid with fourteen carat gold and solid opal great white sharks. The opals, her birthstone, were mostly black, but each one had streaks of color. When he slipped it onto her wrist, he knew he had chosen wisely and forgot that it had cost almost a thousand dollars. It suited her.

She gasped and ran her fingertips over it. "Alex, this is beautiful. You didnít have to-"

"I wanted to." He kissed her on the forehead. "A shark made you want to live. Thatís to remind you that you better not stop."

"You made me want to live, Alex."

"Well, Iím around your little finger so I canít really hang around your wrist."

"I dunno. Youíre pretty hung." Grinning, she handed him a box. "I got you something as well."

"I knew you were up to no good." He smiled at her. "I take it you didnít call Cam."

"No, I did call him. I had to do something while I waited for the engraver. My father isnít searching for us and everythingís fine. Now, open it."

Alex lifted the lid and gasped. It contained a silver and black Rolex watch. "Oh my god. This is a -"

"Read the back, not the name brand."

He turned it over and a lump formed in his throat. Sheíd had it inscribed with ĎIíve had the time of my life. Love, Callie.í He traced the words with his thumb and when he looked back at her, he said, "Iím going to say it now."

"Say what?" she teased. "That I should have quoted ĎThe Princess Brideí instead of ĎDirty Dancingí? Believe me, when we get back from Alcatraz all will make sense, young grasshopper."

Holding the watch in his hand, he pulled her a little closer and whispered, "I love you."

She looked into his brown eyes and it felt like coming home. Hearing him say the words did something to her insides that she had *never* felt before. "I love you."

"Do we have to go to Alcatraz, Elvira? Surely we can find something better to do."

"No, but we should. Because we donít get a lot of time off and I donít know when we can come back." She stood on her toes and kissed him. "And anticipation, Alex, is what makes life worthwhile. So, think about what weíre going to do when we go home tonight. That ought to make it fun."

"That will make it *unbearable*."

Callie took the watch from him and fastened it onto his wrist. It fit perfectly and when they joined hands, her bracelet rubbed against the metal of his watch. They spent the rest of the afternoon taking a movie tour of hot spots that were featured in films and rattled off quotes to one another every time the tour guide called out which films had been shot there.

Callie bought them both matching jackets at the Alcatraz gift shop. She told him that the island got cold at night and they huddled together at the front of the ferry as they sailed toward the island. Callie had purchased several disposable cameras and an older couple happily snapped photo after photo of the two of them throughout their trip. The stole kisses in as many of the cells as they could, posed for photos left and right, but on the on the ferry ride back, she sat a few feet away from him, shivering from the cold.

The impact of what Addison had told her on the phone had set in as they had walked the barren grounds surrounding the penitentiary before they boarded the ferry again. Maybe it was the dank and dismal setting, but whatever it was, it was a stark reminder of the wasteland that she had envisioned George in the day she left Seattle Grace. George had slept with Izzie *and* Olivia and while she wasnít *hurt* ... she *was* stunned. She had believed, at least in some part of her soul, that her leaving him might actually jar him enough to make him see what he had lost, but it had not. He had learned nothing at all. And as much as he had begged her forgiveness and promised to change ... it had been a lie. He genuinely never loved her the way she had loved him.

Her entire life with him had been a lie.

And she had almost continued living it.

"Callie?"

"Yeah?"

"Is something on your mind?"

She shook her head.

Alex moved a little closer. "If you aim for the truth you just might hit it."

She looked at him. "Have you ever thought that you really knew someone, but you realize that everything you thought you knew was wrong?"

"Oh jeez, Gothika. How did I manage to piss you off?"

"I called Addison today."

"Addison? Oh! OH! I kissed her *once* and made it clear that I wasnít interested. Actually, she kissed me and-"

"She told me that George slept with Izzie again. *And* Olivia. While weíve been gone."

He didnít want to get angry with her, but the feeling rose up inside him so fast that got to his feet to keep from saying something he would regret. He walked to the back of the ferry, where he watched the prison fade in the distance. A moment later, she appeared beside him at the rail. "Callie, we should probably not talk right now."

"Alex, come on."

"No! Today was the perfect day, yet you find out that heís still an asshole and you act like itís the end of the world! How can you think about him after -"

"I am not thinking about him. Iím just ... Iím thinking that Iím a fool. I knew it, you know? I knew that he was lying to me all along and I still let him back in. I hate myself for that -"

"Stop." He turned and glared down at her. "You donít get to hate yourself because of him. Hating yourself almost got you killed. George OíMalley is a fetus. He doesnít how to handle a real woman because heís still that *guy* who carries a backpack to work everyday. Heís never going to grow up, Callie, and if you canít see that then you deserve what he does to you when you take him back!"

"What!? I am not taking him back!"

"Then why do you care?"

"I care about *me* and the fact that I didnít think before I legally bound myself to someone like him. I knew in my gut that marrying him was a mistake. Even after he cheated and I finally found out I still didnít say no. I took him back and it went against everything in me. Thatís what I care about. Him sleeping with someone else only confirms that I was right. And I have to learn to listen to myself again. I gave up on *me* to be with *him*."

"It is not your fault that you fell for lies. People do it all the time."

"It is my fault that I stopped being the real me. I was never the person that you know with him. Ever. This is me, Alex. You know me. Iím weird and I laugh at crazy things and I watch cheesy movies and Iím insecure and-"

"You donít have an insecure bone in your body. I havenít seen it if you do and Iíve seen all of you. You were only insecure with him because he made you that way."

"Iím feeling very insecure right now." Tears clouded her vision and fell before she stop them. "Donít be mad at me. Please?"

"You know that seeing you cry is the one thing -"

"Iím sorry." She looked away and quickly dried her face, but it didnít help much. She spun back to face him and cried even harder. "You know what? Thatís a lie and Iím done lying. I am *not* sorry. It hurts my feelings that you would just assume that everything I have said to you and done with you means so little to me that I could care what George is doing back in Seattle. I donít. And you should know better."

"Callie-"

"Donít talk to me."

"Iím not mad at you."

"Well, Iím pissed enough at you for the both of us." She wiped at her eyes again. "Youíre the insecure one."

"I guess first loves have that effect on people."

She looked back at him. "First loves?"

"Iíve never said it or felt like this with anybody else." Alex dried her face himself. "So, donít cry. Because it makes me wanna die for causing it."

"Then stop making me because we canít both be suicidal."

"Thatís not funny, Callie." He pulled her against him and hugged her. "Can we please not have any more fights on this trip?"

"Are you planning on talking at all?"

"Thatís not funny either," he told her, but smiled nevertheless. "Youíre freezing. Letís go sit down."

Callie sat on his lap, one arm around his back. She put her face against his neck at the breeze picked up. He held her close, whispering softly, and brushing her hair back. Unbeknownst to Callie or Alex, the elderly couple who had taken their photos for the duration of the trip snapped a few more. They had forgotten to give the camera back, but as the ferry finally arrived back at the dock, they happily returned it.

"So, back to the yacht?" Alex wrapped his arm around her as they waved goodbye to the amateur photographers. "Iím starving."

"I know a great place for dinner." Callie leaned into him a little. "I told you that what is written on the back of your watch would make sense tonight."

"I thought it meant that we were going to dirty dance later on."

"Not quite the way youíre thinking."

They hailed a cab and Callie gave the driver an address in San Jose. The driver commented that it was a bad part of town, but Callie simply smiled at him. Alex noticed that the buildings became increasingly shabby as they arrived in a remote part of San Jose almost forty five minutes later. The fare was outrageous and when the cab drove away, Alex said, "I should have driven a cab instead of delivering pizza in high school."

Callie took his hand and led him into an alley. The walls were practically vibrating with the sounds of music. "Are you still mad at me?"

"No."

"Are you sure?"

He cut his eyes over at her. "Why do I suddenly feel worried?"

"Youíre about to meet my Godparents, Mario and Anita Gonzalez. They own Johnny Salsaís and thatís where weíre going."

Alex stopped walking. "But-"

"Come on." She tugged him to the end of the alley and knocked on a bright red door. "I can show you the salsa. I can even show you the cumbia. But you have to feel it before you can ever do it."

The door opened and the loud music that had been muffled was suddenly loud and clear. A man with shocking white hair and a matching mustache stared out at them. He looked gruff, annoyed that someone would dare knock at the personal entrance to their establishment. His eyes narrowed on the man and then moved to the woman and he gasped. "Calliope!?"

"Hola, papi! How are you?"

"Anita! Come quick! Itís Calliope!" Mario shouted, then leaped down the stairs to embrace his Goddaughter. He moved with startling agility for a man approaching seventy. He pulled her into his arms and exclaimed, "Oh, goodness! We couldnít come to your party because Anita had surgery, but you have come to us instead! This is wonderful! Wonderful, mija! Ay dios mio! You are here."

"Papi, this is Alex." Callie introduced.

"I thought your husband was called Jorge." He looked Alex up and down and extended his hand.

Thinking fast, Alex gripped his hand and said, "Itís Alexander George. She calls me George as a joke."

Callie stared at him, wide eyed, but didnít comment.

Anita Gonzalez finally appeared in the doorway. She was short, round, and her black hair was streaked through with grey. She had pulled it back, making her look almost skunk like. Her face was deeply carved with wrinkles, but a smile lit her features and her obvious happiness shed years from her appearance. "My baby!" she cried.

"Hola, madrina." Callie walked up the steps and leaned down, kissing the tiny woman. "I have missed you so much."

Anita brushed Callieís face with her weathered hand. "You have been crying, si?"

Callie smiled at her. "We visited Alcatraz. You know that it makes me sad. This is Alex, mami."

Alex climbed the stairs and greeted the old woman. She hugged him, patting his face, and led them slowly down the hallway. It was loud, too loud to think and Alex breathed a sigh of relief when Anita led them into a VIP lounge that was remarkably quiet when Mario pulled the door shut behind them. He sat down beside Callie on a leather sofa and listened as Callie rambled on and on about how her family was doing.

The elderly couple seemed to hang on her every word. After thirty minutes, Callie said, "I wanted Alex to see our culture. He has to be able to dance with me at the party."

"You have chosen a wonderful night to come, mija." Mario beamed at her. "We have a full house."

"You always do." Callie grinned. "Is Reuben cooking tonight?"

"He is."

Standing, Callie said, "Weíre starving. Are there any empty tables out there?"

"For you? I will make sure." Mario opened the door.

Callie leaned down and kissed the old woman again. "I want to check your incision before I leave."

"It was just a minor procedure," Anita replied, waving her hand. "Go and have fun, honey."

Mario found them an empty table right beside the dance floor and took their order himself. He tried to convince Callie to try red wine that he had imported from Italy, but she firmly refused. Alex, she noticed, did not ask for beer or accept the offer of wine. She watched as he turned his attention to the dance floor, apparently enthralled by the gyrating bodies that moved in time to the Latin beats. A beautiful woman in a rainbow dress undulated nearby and she saw that Alex had given her his full attention.

It shocked Callie that she didnít feel any jealousy whatsoever. If it had been George ... she would have gotten pissed and probably left the bar in a huff, but she wasnít worried about Alex. He was going home with her. He felt her eyes on him and quickly looked away from the woman and she laughed. "Youíre supposed to be watching, Alex."

"Can you dance like that?"

"I can."

"Callie?"

Callie leaped from her seat and threw her arms around the man who had walked up. "Constantino! How are you?"

Constantino took a step back and brushed his hair away from his face. "I am well. You certainly look well. Assure me that you are."

"Iím fine." Callie introduced Alex and added, "Constantino is my cousin."

Alex visibly relaxed. The guy was huge and far too familiar with Callie as far as he was concerned. Cousin was fine, though. They werenít in Alabama. Constantino nodded at the dance floor and said, "Take off your jacket, Callie. Letís show your husband the way that we wind down at the end of the day."

She pulled her jacket from her shoulders and laid it on her seat. "Watch and learn, Jock Strap."

The music was fast and furious and the second her feet hit the dance floor, a change came over her that captivated Alex. He watched as Constantino spun her around in a series of complicated twirls and then they moved as one. It was the sexiest, raunchiest, and most beautiful dance Alex had ever seen. It truly was a conversation between two people and if Alex had not been told that the man was a relative of Callieís ... he would have killed him with his bare hands.

He couldnít take his eyes off her. Her hair bounced and flew around her shoulders an she used it like a prop, letting it fall over the manís shoulder as she moved behind him and gripped his hips. They stepped forward and back, forward and back, and then he turned quickly, lifted her over his leg and let her drop down toward the floor. He caught her at the last possible moment and plucked her upright. Her hair seemed to move in slow motion and she laughed. Alex heard it and he had to smile.

Their food arrived as the music ended. Callie hurried back to the table and climbed onto the stool. "So, you think you can do that?"

"I can do it."

"Eat fast and prove it."

Thirty minutes later, Alex found rhythm he never knew he possessed and proved it until Johnny Salsaís closed. True to her word, Callie examined the incision on Anitaís abdomen and then told her Godparents that she would be leaving at first light. She bid them goodbye, crying softly as Anita spoke to her in soft Spanish, and then kissed Mario.

In the cab, Alex put his arm around her and pulled her closer. "What did Anita say that upset you?"

"She told me that they didnít get all the cancer and sheís not going to do chemotherapy."

"Oh, baby. Iím sorry."

Callie sniffled. "She also told me that any man who feels the music the way you do is a man who feels with his soul."

"Is that good?"

"Itís very good." Sitting up, she looked at him. "You let them believe that you were my husband."

"I - I didnít know what else to say."

"I shouldnít have put you on the spot like that. I - I didnít even remember that Iím still married."

Alex pulled her in for a kiss.

She couldnít have said anything better to him than that.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 20      
*~*~*~*~*~

Addison could not concentrate on the movie. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat and put a handful of popcorn in her mouth. Mark smelled like heaven and he looked even better in his black, button down shirt that was exposing enough of his chest to make her imagine running her fingers - no, she couldnít go there. They were only thirty minutes into the three hour war epic and she needed to concentrate.

Biting her bottom lip, she watched as the muscle bound gladiator on the screen began to fight with an equally impressive male specimen. Mark had dressed similarly for Halloween once. She had been married to Derek at the time, but she still enjoyed the view of his thighs and the -

Oh god, she was never going to make it.

She reached into the popcorn bag again and her hand brushed his. He may as well have brushed against her inner thigh because she shuddered as if he had. Biting her lip, she looked at him. He appeared to be engrossed in the film, but there was a twinkle in his eye that had not been put there by all the blood and gore. As she watched, he lifted his hand to his mouth and slowly licked the butter off his digits. She held her breath until he was finished.

He glanced at her then and pointed at the screen.

Addison crossed her arms over her chest and blew the errant strand of hair that had fallen across her forehead out of the way. She was just beginning to pay attention to the subtitles when he set the bag aside and casually rested his hand on her leg. Shifting a little, she looked at the couple who sat six seats away from them, then put her hand on top of his and pulled it a little higher, under the edge of her skirt.

The stoic look on his face remained firmly in place when he felt the top of her thigh highs and she didnít mind much. She reacted enough for the both of them when he slid his pinky under the tight lace at the top and rubbed her skin. She sucked in her breath and promptly loosened a popcorn kernel that she had not realized was stuck in her teeth. Choking, she drank several mouthfuls of her Coke and narrowed her eyes at him, daring him to laugh at her.

Thoroughly embarrassed by the glances that people shot her way, she sank a little lower in the seat and crossed her legs to quell the ever present throbbing. Addison was built for sex. Her body required it like oxygen and she was suffocating. She sighed and glanced at Mark again, who was laughing at something on the screen. She braced her elbow on the armrest and her cheek in her palm and read the subtitles again. Who the fuck really cared if something was under siege? She was under siege! Her hormones had planned a strategic attack and Mark was their captain.

When he lifted his own armrest and moved a little closer, she jumped. He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her against him, running his fingers through her hair. She slipped of her heel and let her foot glide over his calf as she leaned into him, kissing his jaw, then his throat. He moved his hand to the back of her head and trailed his fingers along the sensitive skin at the nape of her neck. Chills ran up and down her spine and her breath caught. "Mark, letís just go."

He shook his head, but continued the assault on her flesh. She crossed her legs the other way and shifted her weight in the seat to no avail. The pulsating desire that pushed all the blood to her center soon became a dull ache and when Mark kissed her ear, it was full blown pain. She hissed and clutched at her lower belly, frowning. When she opened her legs a little to try to get comfortable, she felt a sticky wetness that had nothing at all to do with passion.

"Fuck!" she exclaimed. "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck."

"Shhhhh!" A man two rows ahead of them had turned and put his finger over his lips.

Addison stood, grabbed her purse, and made sure to step on Markís foot as she stalked out of the theater. In the bathroom, her worst fears were confirmed. Her period had arrived with a vengeance and she wasnít wearing panties. Luckily, her skirt was black and the bathroom was empty so she was able to wet enough napkins to clean up. She did not, however, have a tampon handy so she inserted three quarters into the feminine napkin machine and turned the dial.

The tampon didnít drop all the way. "I hate my life," she growled. "Hating the fucking life."

Leaning down, she peered up into the slot and saw the tiny box containing the tampon was wedged, having fallen incorrectly. Putting her purse on the floor at her feet, she gently inserted her right hand and attempted to dislodge it. Her fingertips brushed the box, but didnít move it. Pushing harder, she was able to wrap her index and middle finger around the edges and pulled. The box dropped.

Her hand did *not*.

Ten minutes later, a steady line of women began to trickle into the bathroom. Apparently a movie had just let out and Addison tried to appear innocuous as the crowd swarmed around her. She whistled, she leaned against the machine as if her hand wasnít lodged inside it, and she didnít make eye contact with anyone. She glanced out of the corner of her eye when she noticed that two women had paused a few feet from her. When they moved closer, she made a face.

"Maíam?"

"Yes?" Addison asked innocently.

"Youíre bleeding."

One of the women pointed at the floor and Addison glanced down. A few drops of blood had fallen between her shoes and she quickly closed her legs. "Iím very sorry to ask this, but could one of you get the manager?"

The manager turned out to be an eighteen year old, pimple faced boy who looked at her and the blood on the floor as if she were a hairball that had been coughed up by a horny gorilla. He didnít have the key to open the machine, but he did have a walkie-talkie, which he used to broadcast that some chick had gotten her hand stuck in the tampon machine. Someone in the concession stand had the bright idea of spraying butter onto her hand and after another fifteen minutes of failure, they decided to call the paramedics.

The fire department arrived first and Addisonís face was as red as the hair on her head and the many droplets of blood that had accumulated on the floor and run down her legs. A kind woman handed her a stack of napkins, but Addison couldnít bend down far enough to clean herself very well. She used them as a stress reliever which she continually squeezed as the firemen unscrewed the machine from the wall and led her out into the atrium, where the stretcher awaited.

And there, in front of everyone, including Mark who was watching with wide eyed horror, they freed her hand. A very polite young EMT handed her a tampon and gave her a small smile. She snatched it and rushed back into the bathroom where she cleaned up once again. Thankfully, the room was empty when she went to wash her hands. She splashed her face to relieve some of the heat that was still in it and then, squaring her shoulders, she stalked back into the lobby.

Mark was leaning against the wall and when he saw her, he pointed at her and laughed so loud that it fairly boomed in the large, open space. She calmly walked to where he stood and swung her purse, hitting him in the gut. He put an arm around her and, choking on his laughter, led her into the parking lot. The medics were still loading their gear back into the ambulance and Mark thanked them, his arm tight around her shoulders.

He opened the passenger door of his BMW and helped her inside before he kneeled down beside her. "Addison, you are the best date I have *ever* had."

"Shut up."

"Youíre funnier than any movie."

"Stop talking."

"Youíre more entertaining than a football game."

"Donít say another word."

"And I laugh more with you than I have ever laughed in my life."

"I will slit your throat."

"Just - how the hell did this happen?"

"I didnít go to jail for assault." She crossed her arms over her chest. "So, God is assaulting me. And dooming me to three to five more days of sexual frustration."

Mark leaned into the car and kissed her. "Whatís three to five more days, Addison? Weíve waited this long."

"I could strangle you."

"Not with your bare hands though, right? No telling where theyíve been."

When they arrived at the Archfield, Addison took a shower and accepted the warm, fuzzy pajamas that Mark held out to her. She held her stomach, grumbling about the pain and took two Midol. He pulled the cover back, helped her into the bed, and then kicked off his shoes and climbed in beside her. He massaged her stomach until she fell asleep and then he kissed her, whispered he loved her, and went to his own room.

He dreamed of her that night.

Just as he had done every night since she had left him in New York City.

*~*~*~*~*~

Two full days after leaving San Francisco, Callie and Alex arrived in Seattle. It was raining and cold and Callie had trouble navigating the choppy waters as she tried to find the spot she had rented for Goon Docks. The place she had chosen was in the middle of nowhere and insanely overpriced, but she had taken the one and only spot in a small cove that was both private and easily accessible on foot after a short hike through the woods from the parking lot. There was nothing around for miles, apart from the occasional boat that sailed past, but there were signs up that indicated that the cove was a residence. And the small inletís opening was just big enough for Goon Docks to get through, so she was shielded from onlookers when she was nestled behind the branches in the rounded cul-de-sac of the bay.

After scraping Goon Docks on several low hanging branches and rubbing her bottom against a few rocks, Callie finally found her new property and asked Alex to tie them off to the intricately designed deck that boasted a huge hot tub and a patio set for eight. She dropped the anchor and secured another rope to the dock, this one attached to the back of the yacht which still swayed in the rough waters even after it was secured. Then she leaned over the steering wheel, exhausted, and devastated that their joy ride had come to an end.

Alex joined her after three attempts at making the kind of knot she had taught him. He sat down in the chair next to hers and said, "Itís beautiful here. Secluded."

"Yeah."

"How far is this from the hospital?"

"About twenty minutes." She still had her head down. "Can we just leave again? We can sail to Alaska and live in the wilderness. We could be Amish. Or maybe Gypsies."

"You promised me that you were not going to worry."

She sighed. "We donít have to be doctors. We could become pirates and just travel for the rest of our lives. I mean, weíve practiced medicine. Been there, done that. *So* over it."

"Iím not," Alex told her. "Unless I failed the intern exam. If thatís the case then call me Captain Alex and give me dread locks and gold teeth. We can steal Gucci and sail the high seas."

She turned her head and smiled at him. "How do you think you did on the exam?"

"Are you hoping I failed?"

"Youíd be cute with dread locks."

He stood up and stretched, then pulled her to her feet. "Letís get out of the rain. Why donít we get dressed, take a cab to the airstrip, pick up my jeep and then go to Joeís."

She shook her head. "Iím not making any public appearances until the night of the party and only then because I have to. Thatís two days away."

"Youíd rather postpone the inevitable? Youíd really rather see your parents and deal with everything during the party?"

"Yes. My parents will not kill me in front of our extended family. It wouldnít look right and theyíre all about appearances."

"Callie, letís just get this over with. Come on."

She walked past him and down the stairs into the galley, where she opened a bottle of water and sipped it. "Iím really tired. That storm in Oregon took a lot out of me."

"You smiled the entire time, Cal. You enjoy that kinda thing." He took the bottle from her and set it on the counter. "Weíre not hiding. Itís not wrong that weíre happy. Besides, I want to stop by the hospital and see Ava and Iím dying for you to meet her. Youíll love her."

"Why donít we go see her the day of the party so that weíre all dressed up?"

"Sheís not going to care what weíre wearing."

"I donít want to go, Alex. Iím not ready."

"Then get ready. You look great, but if you want to change and -"

"I mean Iím not ready to face the world. I have forty-eight hours before I *have* to do it and I am not stepping off this yacht until I absolutely have no other choice." She looked up at him. "But if you want to go and see her and ... whatever ... then you should."

"You are an infuriating procrastinator, Gothika."

"And your sense of urgency is annoying as hell, Jock Strap." Callie grinned when thunder clapped and lightning was visible through the small salon window. "Thatís a sign. A good Skipper knows how to read the signs. I canít go because I may be struck by a lightning bolt."

"Lightning wouldnít strike you, Callie. It would be afraid to." He grinned and stepped forward, kissing her. "Weíre going to meet halfway because weíre good at that. We have forty-eight hours. The first twenty four of those will be spent hiding out. The next twenty four will be spent on the very firm, but probably soggy grounds of Seattle and weíre going to do it together."

"Weíre not really gonna be hiding out. Iím inviting Cam over."

"Oh yeah?"

"His bark is worse than his bite. Heíll probably give you a hard time."

"In case you failed to notice the obvious, I like hard times."

"Ewww, scary mental place. You and my *brother*. With hard *anything*."

Alex pinned her back against the sink, laughing. "You are *not* funny."

Callie leaned forward and kissed him. "You know what else Iím not?"

"What?"

"Wearing panties. Wanna see?"

*~*~*~*~*~

Cambyses sighed when Blake told him, for the second time that day, that Melana had incredible taste in clothing. He listened to his boyfriend gush for ten more minutes before he laid his head back against the couch and closed his eyes. "Blake, are we ever going to talk about *anything* else?"

Blake flopped down beside him. "Yes. As soon as you agree to wear the assless pants to the party I will stop talking about your mother."

Cam lifted his head and glared. "You expect me to be around my grandparents who, by the way, all have heart conditions with assless pants on?"

"You knew your grandparents were coming when you made the bet with me. I *told* you that I would win your mother over if I got her alone for ten minutes and I did."

"I never dreamed that my mother would develop a split personality while we were here, Blake!"

"Well, she did and I win. So, pay up."

"I will wear them after the party. With you."

"Thatís not the same." Blake leaned a little closer and pushed the other manís hair back. "Nobody likes a man who goes back on his word."

"I will be a man who can never give you his word again if I do something this horrible. My mother will sharpen her nails on my still beating heart." Cam smiled. "But I will happily go commando under my leather, fully assed, pants. Just for you."

Blake looked thoughtful. "Rock, paper, scissors? If you win the first round you donít have to wear the pants."

Cam held up his fists and played the game. He chose scissors, Blake chose paper. "I win!"

"Fine!" Blake crossed his arms. "At least one of us can keep their word in this relationship."

Kissing him on the neck, Cam said, "Always keep your words soft and sweet, Sugar Lips, in case you have to eat them later on."

Camís cell phone rang and he leaned forward, picking it up. "Breezyís Mortuary. You kill Ďem, we fill Ďem."

"Youíre such a moron," Callie replied, laughing. "Weíre ba-ack. Want to come out and see my house? I am cooking lasagna and you can bring dessert. Blake, however, does not count as dessert so your ass better find something chocolate and rich."

"I am the king of chocolate and rich. Hang on." Cam leaned back and said, "Callieís in town. You want to go see her?"

"DUH!" Blake popped his boyfriend on the back of the head and jumped up to grab his shoes.

"Weíll be there soon," Cam said, hanging up the phone. Two seconds later he called her back. "Uh, where is there?"

Callie laughed. "1900 Whisper Cove. Itís just off Oasis and Elliott. Itís a dirt road and Iím at the end. Iíll make sure the lights are on."

"Gotcha. See you in a few."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie put the lasagna in the oven and glanced at Alex, who appeared to be engrossed in a baseball game. He looked handsome in his jeans and red shirt. She watched him lean forward as the crowd cheered at something and she wondered if he knew that he was stroking the watch she had given him. She noticed that he did it a lot. He took it off every night before bed, but reached for it first thing the following morning. It made her feel good, like he felt her a little when he touched it.

He caught her looking at him and smiled. "What?"

"Are you nervous?"

"No. Are you?"

She shook her head. "No, Iím really not."

They had set up the dining room table that bolted into the salon floor and pulled one side of the leather sectional away from the wall, putting bench seats on either side. It was not cramped, but it was definitely cozy. It would be amusing to watch Cam try to fit comfortably into the close quarters. Callie wasnít concerned though. Cam could usually roll with the flow. Usually. She wanted him to like Alex. She needed him to like Alex.

What if he didnít? What if he told her in front of Alex that they were being compulsive and moving too quickly?

Her brow furrowed and she pulled off the apron that covered her black pants and red velvet tank top. "Shit. Itís pitch black outside. I have to go turn on the lights. Iíll be right back."

Picking up a flashlight, she pulled on her Alcatraz jacket and darted up the stairs. Her cell phone was in her pocket and as she hopped off Goon Docks and searched around for the light switch, she called Cam. He didnít answer and she swore and stuck the phone back in her pocket. Surely her brother would not be rude to Alex. Surely he would be polite and decent and -

Her phone rang and she groaned, digging it back out of her tight pants. "What?!"

"Donít Ďwhatí me! You called me!" Cam told her. "And what the hell, Callie? Weíre at the end of the damn dirt road which screams ĎDeliveranceí and itís freaking me out. If I hear banjo music I will cover my ass with both hands and run."

"You sure do got a purty mouth." She laughed when he called her a very dirty name. "I canít find the lights so Iíll come and get you."

"For every minute that we stand here there is a greater chance of being raped and plundered by ... oh my god, Blake, what was that?"

Callie heard Blake announce that he was getting back in the car and shook her head. "The two of you are such *girls*."

"Are there poisonous snakes around here?"

"Iím on my way, but if you start screaming like a woman then Iím just going to piss my pants laughing and leave you hanging." Callie began to climb the steep wooden stairway that led to the trail. "Good lord, what was I thinking? This is harder than rock climbing. Start down the trail, okay? Itís pretty open and there are solar powered lights."

"Solar powered by what? This is a place that even sun fears to tread. Come on, Blake! Get out of the damn car!"

Callie made it to the mouth of the trail and said, "I can hear you guys walking. Can you see my flashlight yet?"
"No. Wait, yes."

"Go into the light. Allll are welcome. Allll are welcome," Callie replied.

"Ahh!" Cam screeched into the phone. "Blake! That was not funny!"

"What did he do?" Callie asked, winded now.

"You do not pinch the ass of a man who thinks he just saw an El Chupacabra out of the corner of his eye."

Callie had to stop walking because she was laughing so hard. "Youíre the biggest chicken shit that God ever put a soul in. Itís a good thing that I have absolutely zero fear of anything. I cannot be scared."

Alex grabbed her at that moment and she screamed so loud that several birds responded and a few took flight. She tossed her phone and then the flashlight. She attempted to run, but fell face first into the smelliest, muddiest puddle of stagnant water that had ever accumulated in the world. When she finally pushed herself up onto her knees she could hear laughter. Blake and Cam had apparently crashed through the trail when they heard her and Blake was crossing his legs like his bladder was about to pop. Cam had actually fallen to his knees and was practically hysterical.

Narrowing her eyes, Callie glanced to her left. Alex had picked up her flashlight and it was shaking so hard in his grip that even though she couldnít see his face, she knew he was dying with laughter as well. "Alex?" she said softly.

"Huh?"

"Come here."

"No. The smell is really, really bad."

Cam laughed harder still, slapping his leg. Callie shook her hands off and then rubbed some of the water off her face. "Alex?"

"Yes, dear?"

"Iím going to give you a three second head start because Iím feeling generous, but when I catch you ... Iím drowning you."

"Awww, Gothika," he replied sweetly. "I wish that scared me, but ... Iíve been hanging out with you so I have zero fear of anything. I cannot be scared. Just like you."

Cam lost it entirely. He howled at Alexís comment and cried, "I am going to ... piss ... my ... pants. She - she screamed like a big titted blond being stalked by a ... a ..."

"El Chupacabra!" Blake wheezed, slapping his knee while he fought to balance the chocolate cake they had picked up. "Look at her. She even did the run and tumble! Bwahahahahaha."

Callie pushed herself to her feet. "I hate all of you and if you *ever* tell *anyone* about this then I will break-"

"Every bone in our bodies. Blah blah blah." Alex chuckled, trying to get a handle on himself. He shined the light up and down his soggy girlfriend and put a hand over his nose to stifle the snort that erupted. "You look like ĎCarrieí."

"If I had telekinesis this is where Iíd impale you with a big log!" She spun to face him. "One. Two. Three."

Alex dropped the flashlight when she lunged. He sprinted back down the trail and leaped down the worst of the stairs, landing on the dock. He was about to put on a burst of speed when he saw her launch herself at him. He turned to catch her and they both went off the side of the dock and into the frigid water of the bay. It felt like twenty trillion pin pricks and it caused every inch of him to protest. They both came up screaming from the shock and climbed back up the ladder faster than they had gone over.

Trembling, Callie raced for the yacht. "Make yourselves at home," she cried over her shoulder.

Cam watched Alex chase after her and said, "I like him. I really, really like him."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie and Alex showered together, but refrained from doing anything more than fight over the hot water. He was struggling hard not to laugh at her, but he did tell her that she smelled like ass and insisted that he wash her hard to reach areas. Callie realized, as he stepped from the shower and handed her a towel, that he was too damn cute for his own good. She grabbed his arm and kissed him, saying, "Iím kicking your ass when they leave."

"Oh, no. How will I ever digest with such a gruesome threat hanging over my head?"

"Go entertain my brother and his man while I repair the damage that you caused."

Alex put on fresh clothing and walked down the hallway. Blake was checking the lasagna and had put the garlic bread in the oven. Alex introduced himself to Blake, then Cam, clasping their hands. "Sorry about before," he added. "She had it coming."

"She did. And you are one brave man to actually go there," Cam replied, openly appraising the new guy. "So, did you have a good time?"

"It was amazing," Alex replied, pulling the salad that he had prepped from the fridge. "Did she - uh - tell you about the shark?"

"I will be killing her for that just as soon as I can stand her smell."

That caused all three guys to dissolve into laughter again. They finished up the dinner and Alex was putting the last plate on the table when Callie emerged. She had changed into a pair of tight Yoga pants that flared at the bottom and a powder blue halter top that almost forced him to swallow his tongue. It laced down the front, leaving nothing to the imagination, and she was clearly braless. He looked her up and down, from her bare feet to her curly hair, which she had piled on top of her head. She had on no makeup, no bells and whistles, and she had never looked prettier.

"Good God," Blake said, also appraising her. "Youíre ... you look ... wow."

"Okay, Nicole Richie," Cam told her, stalking across the room. He lifted her easily, his hands under her arms, and brought her to eye level. "Anorexia kills."

"Shut up." Callie hugged him tight. "I missed you."

Cam returned the hug, not letting her feet touch the ground. "I missed you more."

"I missed you most."

He finally set her on her feet and held up his fist. Callie did the same and they cracked their knuckles together. "Wonder Twin powers, activate!"

Alex smiled and glanced at Blake, who was watching their exchange with the same amused expression he was. "Are they always like this?"

"You do know that they have the monkey and everything, right?"

"Gucci isnít as cool as Gleek," Cam said, putting his arm around Callie. "So, letís see the ink."

Callie turned and lifted her shirt. "Iím officially addicted. Iím getting another one as soon as I can."

Cam leaned down, looking at it. "I like it. Let me guess ... the bird reminds you that you can still fly."

Callie nodded. "Pretty much. And fly is exactly what I did."

"Through the storm of the century," Alex added. "Your sister? Might be a little insane."

"We all go a little crazy sometimes." Callie moved around her brother and hugged Blake. "Like you. What are you doing falling under our motherís spell?"

"She has the *best* taste in clothes."

Callie pretended to heave and looked back at her brother. "I can give her a big olí shot to keep her in bed for the party."

"Donít you dare! She has been teaching me the cumbia and promises to dance with me." Blake tugged a lock of Callieís hair that had fallen. "You know your brother only headbangs."

Callie looked sympathetic. "Itís the only part of him that has any rhythm."

Cam swatted her with the dishtowel and she yelped. "*You* stole all the rhythm in the womb, you succubus."

"I stole the good looks, too." Callie stuck her tongue out at him. "Letís eat. Iíll give you the grand tour afterwards."

They all took their seats and Callie held the bread basket out to Cam, who grabbed her wrist and looked at the bracelet Alex had given her. "Thatís gorgeous," he told her. "Are those real opals?"

"They are," Alex replied, taking a slice of bread for himself. "I knew it was for her when I saw it."

"Sharks are your thing," Blake said. "Every couple has a special thing and sharks are yours."

"It *was* a shark that made her see reason," Alex replied. "For once."

"Oh, I was seeing reason," Callie said. "But I was too pissed at you to be *reasonable*, Mr. Oscar Worthy Exit."

"I think I made up for that by almost dying for you."

"I think Iíll decide when youíve made up enough. And Iím pretty sure it will involve massage oil and deep tissue."

"If you really want to give me a massage then thatís fine. Iíll let you." Alex handed her the salad dressing. "But if you massage like you sail then -"
Her mouth dropped open. "I happen to be a nautical genius."

"Riiiiiight," Cam interrupted. "She sank our Uncleís yacht. Alex, you deserve a purple star for sailing with her anywhere."

"I did not!" Callie kicked her brother under the table. "You sank that yacht."

"I was *driving*. How could *I* sink it?"

"By driving it? Am I the only one who remembers that we were mostly airborne? And I am officially changing the subject." Callie said. "Have you met Addison yet?"

"Looooooove Adddddddison!" Blake and Cam answered in the same rapturous tone.

"Sheís great," Cambyses added. "And she seems to like you for some reason, Callie."

"Thereís a lot of that going around." Alex put his hand on her leg under the table.

Callie leaned against him and smiled when he kissed her. Alex had absolutely no problem with public displays of affection and that suited her just fine. She glanced back at Cam and said, "Are a lot of people already here for this gathering of insanity?"

"The Archfield is at capacity. No vacancies."

"Ugh." Callie put a hand on her forehead. "If I try really hard I could probably make myself sick."

"How hard were you trying when you almost died?" Cam asked softly. He waited patiently for Callie to meet his eyes. "If you had said something, anything, to me on the phone I would have dropped everything and been on a plane. And you should have said something because what you did -"

"She knows, dude," Alex replied, putting an arm around her. "She knows. You canít say anything to her that I havenít covered and because Iíve covered it really well I think we should talk about something else."

"Good idea," Blake interjected, picking up on the tension in Callieís body. "Letís talk about the fact that Callie no longer has a car."

"What?" She looked up, eyes wide. "Did you freaks wreck my car?"

"Dad gave your mealy mouthed ex twenty five grand, your ugly little car, and everything else you guys bought together to make him sign the divorce papers."

"He signed it?"

"He did." Cambyses studied her closely, watching her reaction. "He was too scared to deliver the papers himself, though. He had some red haired girl, homely looking, drop them off at the front desk of the hotel. I followed her back out and started to kick his ass for the hell of it, but he locked his door and they sped off."

"So, itís over." Callieís smile was slow to build, but when it finally came it was breathtaking. "Iím free."

"Well, *you* still have to sign them, but since itís uncontested and ready to roll then it should be over before you know it." Blake put another helping of lasagna on his plate. "This is good."

"Everythingís good. Every single aspect of my life is good." She turned to Alex. "And some things are perfect."

Alex kissed her again, he couldnít help himself. When he pulled away, he pointed at her barely touched food. "If you donít eat, Iím putting you back in the mud hole and you can eat it there."

She picked up her fork and took several bites and Cam nodded his approval at Alex, who winked at him. Blake said, "What are you wearing to the party?"

"Red," Callie replied, nodding. "Itís strappy, backless, and flowy. I also taught my date here how to dance at Johnny Salsaís and we will make an impressive duo."

"Uh, Cal, that reminds me." Cam swallowed hard. "Mario and Anita called Mom and told her that they had met your husband. Alexander *George*."

"So?"

"So, she had the phone on speaker and all of our aunts and uncles were within earshot."

Callieís jaw dropped. "Soooo?"

"So, Mom has decided that your punishment for running off is that sheís not telling our relatives about your divorce." Cam pointed at Alex. "Sheís gonna let him keep pretending to be your ... husband."

Her jaw dropped even further and her fork clanked onto her plate. "Iím leaving for Alaska as soon as weíre done here. I think I could live with bears. I understand lines of deliciousness and -"
"You would be eaten in less than an hour." Alex turned in his seat, picked up her fork, handed it to her, and said, "I can do this. Mr. Oscar Worthy, remember? Besides, I have seen ĎThe Wedding Dateí and ĎA Walk in the Cloudsí plenty of times."

"Alex, this will not be a romantic movie, okay? This will be ĎFreddy vs. Jasoní or ĎAmityville Horrorí."

"Nah," Cam said, shaking his head. "With our family it will be ĎMommy Dearestí meets ĎThe Fockersí."

"There will be carnage. Blood and gore." Callie shook her head. "She will go ĎBraveheartí on me and ĎPsychoí on Alex."

"She wonít," Blake assured her. "She canít wait to see you two together. She told me so. And anyone can see that youíre happy, Cal."

"It will be fine," Alex promised. "Completely fine."

"Famous last words of a fool?" Callie asked Cam, nodding her head at Alex. "Or out of the mouth of babes?"

"Famous last words from a babe?" Blake suggested.

Cam popped him on the arm.

The light mood returned as quickly as it had faded and after dinner and a tour of Goon Docks, Cam drove them all to the airstrip where Alex and Callie retrieved his jeep. They said goodnight and headed back toward the yacht. When they passed Seattle Grace, Alex looked longingly at the structure and said, "I wonder how Avaís doing?"

"We can stop now if you want."

"Itís late." He looked at the time on the radio. "And Iíve been dealing with not having you to myself for long enough."

Callie smiled at him. "We spent *three* hours with my family."

"Thatís three hours that you were not naked, baby. But just naked enough to get to me."

"You know, I think I like it when you call me baby better than Gothika. Or Elvira."

"Awww, does Morticia have a soft spot?"

"You know I do. And you know exactly how to touch it."

He swallowed hard. "Wanna do it in the car?"

"Pull over."

They had the windows steamed in less than five minutes and when they finally broke apart thirty minutes after that, Alex let his head fall back against the seat. "Jesus Christ. You know, I said you were acrobatic, but I didnít really realize that it was true until right now."

"I could sing ĎI Tumble For Youí by Boy George if you want."

"Baby, you could sing the phone book and make it good."

Callie smiled as she righted her shirt, still straddling him. "So, youíre gonna keep calling me that?"

"I am."

"Weíll never make it back to the yacht if you keep doing it."

"Oh, baby, baby, how was I supposed to know," Alex nasally warbled the opening bars of the Britney Spearsí tune.

Callie threw her head back and howled with laughter. "Never do that again if you want to see me naked."

He was kissing the hollow of her throat when someone knocked on the window. Callie wiped the fog from the glass and peered out. Addison stood outside the jeep, her arms crossed over her chest. Callie, naked below the waist, rolled the window down four inches. "Hey, Addison. Miss me?"

"Are you having sex?"

"Yep," Callie replied seriously.

"In the parking lot of a supermarket?!" Addison growled.

"Itís closed," Alex told her, grinning as he lowered the window two more inches. "What are you doing?"

"*Not* having sex!" Addison crossed her arms. "Because my period came two days ago, I got stuck in the tampon machine, and Mark Sloan is loving every minute of the frustrated, orgasm-free life that *I* got us into in the first place. 'Sixty days', I said. 'Sixty days!" Because I'm an idiot. And to add insult to injury, I recognized your jeep and saw it rocking."

"So, you came knocking?" Callie asked. "You obviously donít know the rules."

"Get your ass out here, Torres."

Callie sighed and rolled up the window. She climbed over the console, back into her seat and fished her pants from the floorboard. She wiggled into them, stuffed her feet back into her flip flops, and bounded out the car. Addison met her halfway, hugging her.

They embraced, rocking slightly and Addison finally said, "Yeah, I missed you, tramp. I missed the hell out of you. If you donít invite me next time Iíll kick your ass."

"Youíre feisty as hell lately. Have you beat up anyone other than Snow Wart and the Lusty Dwarf?"

"I had PMS at the time, okay? It would probably hold up in court. And when did you get so skinny?"

"You can see a rocking jeep from the red light, but you just now notice that Iím wasting away?"

"Itís too much sex. You burn like, twelve calories per thrust. Apparently you are a thrusting lust puppy." Addison tugged at her shoulder. "Turn around. Let me see if you still have junk in the trunk."

Callie turned. "Do not touch my J-Lo ass. It's sacred."

"You dirty whore! You got a tattoo!" Addison lifted her shirt. "It practically screams ĎIím easyí!"

"No, it screams ĎIím a sure thingí. Why do you think we were having sex at a supermarket?"

Alex had climbed out of the jeep was watching their reunion with amusement. He leaned back against his car, crossed his legs and listened to their *girl* talk. It was animated, funny, and punctuated with the weirdest things he had ever heard two adult women say to one another and he loved every second of it. For the first time in his life he had a *girlfriend*. An actual *girlfriend* who made him happy, shared her life, shared her secrets, and accepted him. Just like he was.

Mark Sloan pulled up a moment later, but went unnoticed by either woman. He stood beside Alex, listening to bits and pieces of their conversation. "She looks happy," he finally told Alex. "Callie. She looks better."

"Yeah, she does. She is."

"Theyíre really close. Best friends."

"They are."

"Are we supposed to be close?" Mark asked, glancing at Alex. "Because Iím going to marry Addison one day and if you plan on hanging around Torres then we should probably be close."

Alex raised his brow. "Do you like baseball?"

"Love it. Do you like football?"

"NFL or college?"

"Both."

"Yes."

"Okay, weíre buds." Mark shrugged. "Want to go get a beer sometime?"

"Sure. Wanna get your girl away from mine so I can take her home?"

Mark smiled at him. "Thatís what friends are for."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 21
Alex pulled into the hospital parking lot and looked at Callie. She had barely said three words to him the entire day and he was at the end of his rope. It wasnít like her and he was terrified that it meant she was having second thoughts about them or about her decision to end her marriage. Every attempt at conversation he had made about the divorce papers the previous night had been met with one word answers and nothing had changed when the sun rose. The only difference was that she had stopped answering entirely and relied on nodding or shaking her head. It was driving him insane and putting a heavy ball of concern in his stomach.

He had waited while she washed her hair twice that morning. First, it turned out too curly and now it was bone straight. He had no idea how she had stripped out the curl, but it was still gorgeous and so much longer than he realized. Several wisps curved toward her face and he wanted to run his fingers through it. Shutting off the engine, he leaned across the console and did just that. "What's wrong, Cal? Are you mad at me? Did I do something?"
"No" A dull headache had been plaguing her since she had woken up and she was trying hard to keep her teeth from chattering. She was cold. It had to be nerves. "What if - what if Ava doesnít like me?"

"She will." Alex rubbed her shoulder, which was bare, and very warm. She wore a dress she had picked up in Chinatown. It was solid black with dark purple designs and while it wasnít girly in the least, it softened her appearance so much it was shocking. Maybe it was the dress combined with the new hair. Whatever it was, it was nice. "Youíre not just worried about Ava, though. Are you?"

She took a deep breath and finally looked at him. "No, Iím not. If we were celebrities we would be on all the tabloids. What we did? Itís pretty scandalous."

"It was worth it."

"I know."

Alex moved a little closer. "Getting this over with now is better. That way we can go to the party and you wonít have to think about our first day back at work. People will see us today and be talking about someone else by the time we come back."

"Well, yeah, if youíre going to make sense, but - I donít care what people think about me, but theyíre going to think that youíre a dirty manwhore who stole someoneís wife."

"Then theyíll know that Iím the better man, wonít they?"

"You really are glass half full, arenít you?"

"For the first time in my life I think I am." He kissed her, then frowned and felt her face. "Are you running a fever?"

"You give me fever." She trailed her thumb over his mouth, wiping the traces of her lipstick away. "I guess we should go."

Alex opened his door, then walked around to hers. She had not moved an inch and had not taken off her seatbelt so he reached across her lap and unfastened it himself. "Come on."

"I could wait here. I don't mind."

He put his hands under her legs and pulled them out of the car, then he grabbed her around the waist and slid her off the seat. Smiling, he tilted her chin. "Weíre a team. If Iím going in, youíre going in. Itís us against them."

The knot of anxiety in her stomach instantly dissolved at his words. She had *always* wanted someone to say that to her. She had said it to George many times, but he never comprehended what it meant. "Us against them," she repeated. "We already beat a shark. How bad could this possibly be?"

"Now thereís the old Gothika spirit that I know and love." He closed the door behind her and took her hand. "Weíre supposed to meet Addison and Mark at four to pick up her dress and -"

"Your suit."

Alex cringed. "I already have a suit."

"Iím buying you an Armani. And your tie will have red in it because my dress is red."

He gripped the collar of his shirt as if it were choking him. "I hate ties."

"I hate parties. Weíre even." Callie smoothed her skirt. Her head throbbed harder and she shivered. "Is it just me or is it really cold out here?"

"Itís just you."

"I donít feel very good," she admitted.

"Nice try."

"Iím serious."

Alex simply shook his head and led her into the lobby. The first person they ran into was Meredith. She was pulling a stretcher toward the staff elevator and she stopped pulling when she saw them. "Hey, guys!" she said, staring from one to the other. Her gaze dropped to their joined hands and she quickly added, "Uh, how was your trip?"

"Great," Alex replied with a smile. "We went to California. Disneyland was amazing."

"Lucky!" Meredith playfully punched his shoulder. "While you two were in the Magic Kingdom I was slaving away here."

"Did you have any good cases?" Callie asked.

"Multi-car pileup, construction disaster, and an aquarium worker was bitten by a sea otter." Meredith made a face. "But that stuffís only good depending on who you ask."
Alex and Callie had looked at one another when Meredith mentioned the sea otter. They both burst out laughing and Alex pointed at Callie and said, "My favorite Martian here decided to save a lobster and it bit her. Eleven stitches later she still didnít learn anything about wildlife."

"Ohhh, let me see it."

Callie, who had not paid any attention to the wound in days, was shocked when she turned her arm over and exposed it. It was red, puffier than it had been. "It looks like that because Jock Strap here caused me to fall, face first, into the bog of eternal stench last night."

Alex, who had been smiling, swore, colorfully when he saw the bite. "What the hell, Callie? How did you not notice this?"

She shrugged. "Because you have been very distracting?"

Glancing at Meredith, Alex said, "Weíre going to make a pit stop by the clinic. Weíll see you later."

Callie said goodbye and Meredith waved, a look of curiosity and amusement firmly on her face. With a sigh, Callie said, "I really donít need the clinic. You know what I did? I forgot to take the antibiotics. Iíll just find them and start taking them tonight."

"Iím going to recommend a shot in your ass. What were you thinking?!" Alex led her across another hallway and into the clinic. It was deserted save for Sydney Heron, Dr. Bailey, and Izzie. The three women were standing at the small station and were engrossed in what appeared to be a tense discussion.

"I donít give a damn," Bailey was saying. "This is still *my* clinic."

"Yes, but as Chief Resident, I feel that it is -"

"You are not Chief Resident yet, Sydney," Bailey shot back. "You have a few more days before your duties begin and until they do I donít care what you have to say."

Sydney turned, her face red, and saw the newcomers. "Alex Karev and Callie OíMalley! Oh, wait, itís back to Torres soon, isnít it? My goodness, apparently divorce agrees with you. If you could bottle it youíd make a killing. Come here, you. A hug is a band-aid for the soul."

Callie grimaced when the shorter woman wrapped her arms around her waist and squeezed. She met Baileyís gaze over Sydneyís poofy hair and mouthed, "Sheís Chief Resident?"

Miranda rolled her eyes and nodded, then said. "How was your vacation, Callie?"

"Fine until now. Get off me, Sydney! For Godís sake! A hug takes two seconds. This is an inappropriate grope. Get your cheek off my boobs!" Callie eventually pried Sydney's arms from around her. "Uh, Webber was, er, looking for you."

"Oh my god!" Sydney exclaimed, wide eyed. "Where?"

"He was in the elevator."

"Better go. Weíre the chiefs. Two little chiefs and a lot of little Indians to manage." Dr. Heron threw her hand up and skipped from the room.

"Oh. My. God." Callie met Baileyís gaze. "Okay, I know why *I* didnít make Chief, but how the *hell* did she get it over you?"

"Apparently I had a child and people with children are punished around here. Unless theyíre male. So, what are you doing?"

"I need antibiotics. Most like in a shot form." Callie stated simply. She was aware that Izzie Stevens was watching her every move and was looking her up and down and she was tempted to kick her. Or at the very least take off her shoe and throw it, pointy end first, into her face. She refrained, however, when Bailey went into a tirade.

"Wha-" Bailey looked at Alex. "Did you give her syph-"

"No!" Alex shook his head. "She has a bite on her arm that looks infected."

Bailey held out her hand and cursed when Callie laid her arm in it. "Dr. Torres, what did you do now? You need a padded room!"

Callie shrugged and let the other woman lead her to a nearby gurney. She hissed when Miranda pressed at her flesh hard enough to push liquid from between the stitches. "Oww! General rule of thumb is ... if it looks like it hurts then it probably shouldnít be poked."

"Did they not give you anything for the infection when they did the stitches?" Izzie, who had followed them to the gurney, peered over Baileyís shoulder. "Itís oozing greenish junk. A world of ewwww."

Alex saw Callieís jaw tighten and said, "Uh, Izzie, weíve got this under control."

"But-"

Callie lifted her chin and glared at Izzie. "Thatís a polite way of suggesting that you should get the fuck away from me because I can assure you that I hit harder and more frequently than Addison does."

Bailey moved a little, effectively causing Izzie to step back. She instructed her intern to retrieve a dosage of antibiotic and waited until she was gone before she returned to her task. "This looks several days old. Have you kept it clean and covered?"

"I havenít covered it since it happened." Callie lifted her arm and pressed at the puffy area herself. "Weíre going to have to take the stitches out. You think?"

Bailey smacked her hand. "I think that you need to stop touching it! You went to medical school! You know better!"

"*YOU* just touched it."

Holding up her hand, Bailey said, "Gloves! I have on gloves!" Rubbing a betadine swab over the area, she added, "How did this happen?"

Callie relayed the sordid details and smiled when Bailey laughed at her. "What? It just seemed like the right thing to do."

Izzie returned and Bailey gave Callie an injection of the strongest antibiotic they had. Bailey immediately sent the blond on another errand, this one senseless and unnecessary, and looked up at Callie. "I think the stitches need to come out. We can always use butterflies, but we need to clean it and thatís going to involve draining some of the infection."

"Gee, that sounds so fun." Callie shivered again. "Why is it so cold in here?"

Alex laid a hand on Callieís head again and picked up a nearby thermometer. He stuck it in her ear and waited for it to beep."Your temp is a hundred and two! You should have told me that you felt this bad!"

"I did."

Feeling like the biggest ass in the world, he moved to sit beside her, putting an arm around her shoulders. He kissed the side of her head and held her free hand while Bailey numbed the bite and pulled the stitches out. It wasnít as bad as he had feared and less than an hour after Bailey began, she had put a fresh bandage on the wound and given Callie a prescription for a strong antibiotic.

"Do not get it wet," Bailey advised. "At least for twenty-four hours. And for the love of all things sanitary could you please take better care of it?"

"I will," Callie promised. "Hey, how is the Jane Doe from the ferry crash? Ava?"

"Sheís actually in surgery. Her water broke earlier and we called Addison in to deliver the baby. Sheís in the gallery if yíall want to watch."

"I should take you home," Alex told Callie. "You should-"

She shook her head. "No. Weíre going. Come on."

They walked out of the clinic and headed toward the elevator. Alex leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. Callie leaned her head against his shoulder and said, "Are you worried about her?"

"Iím worried about you. I - I knew something was wrong. You were so quiet this morning." He reached up and felt her head again. "When we check on Ava, weíre going back to your place and youíre taking a cool bath."

"I canít get my arm wet."

"I know. Iíll be standing guard beside the tub to make sure you donít. And enjoying the view."

"You know what?"

"What?"

Callie grinned up at him. "My place is pretty spacious so Iím just gonna put the offer out there and tell you if you want to live there ... you can. If itís too fast or you -"

"Iíll pack as soon as the party is over." He kissed her, running his hand over her neck, behind it, and through her hair.

The door opened and George drew up short. He quickly stepped aside and let Mark Sloan go past him, then moved away before the *couple* had broken apart. He heard Mark tell them that they should have 'gotten enough last night' and heard Callieís laughter. His heart had landed somewhere around his feet and he almost tripped over it. In actuality, he tripped over his untied shoelaces and fell against Izzie. She opened her mouth to say something to him, but he held up his hand and ran into the menís bathroom, where he barricaded himself in the stall and didnít come out.

Even after two pages.

*~*~*~*~*~

They arrived at the observatory in time to see the birth of Avaís squirming and screaming baby girl. Every seat was taken, so Callie and Alex stood at the glass, him behind her. When he wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder, there were several whispers. Callie ignored them all and relaxed back against him. They watched until Addison looked glanced up and noticed them, giving them a thumbs up. When the baby was wheeled from the room, Alex pulled her along with him to the nursery where they now stood, peering at the little girl as she was examined. Grinning, Callie watched as the baby latched onto her tiny fist and began to suck. "I think sheís hungry."

The nurse swaddled her in a blanket and put a bottle in her mouth, which she latched onto like a pro. Alex shook his head. "I donít get it. Weíre the only ones here to see her. How is it possible that no one is looking for them?"

"Maybe they are. Maybe they just donít know where to start." She gazed at the baby and then at the television across the hallway that was broadcasting CNN. "Maybe we need to take it on a bigger scale."

"What do you mean?"

"Maybe Avaís not from around here. Maybe sheís a flier, just like me."

Alex looked at her, alarmed. "Youíd never think about -"

She cut him off. "Weíre gonna take her story nationwide."

"How?"

Callie smiled at him. "Leave that to me."

"Hey," Addison came around the corner, pulling her scrub cap off. She looked in at the baby and then smiled at Callie, but it faded fast. "Whatís wrong with you? You look different. Wait, itís the hair. Ooooh, it *is* the hair. I like it!"

"Sheís got an infection," Alex replied, still watching Callie with concern. She had said she was a Ďflierí in the present tense.

"What kind of infection does she have?"

"She canít take care of herself to save her life."

"What did she do?"

"Stop talking about me like Iím not here!" Callie snapped. "Howís Ava?"

"Avaís resting. We were forced to give her a blood transfusion and there were some other minor complications so with the sedation and the pain medication she should probably wake up some time next week." Addison reached out and touched Callieís forehead. "Youíre hot. I know what youíre doing! Youíre trying to get out of this party tomorrow night!"

"You caught me. I injected myself with Ebola when no one was looking?" Callie replied. "Are you still going to be able to go at four oíclock?"

"Go?" Addison shook her head. "You canít be considering a shopping spree when youíre sick."

"Iím *fine*," Callie insisted, then looked at Alex. "Iím pretty sure Iím not contagious, but just in case Iíll wait here while you go and check on Ava."

He nodded at her and gave her a kiss, then walked down the hallway toward the recovery room. Callie watched him go and then looked at Addison. "This case really gets to him."

"This case really gets to *everybody*. Did you see how full the gallery was? No one ever shows up to watch a cesarean." Addison grinned at her friend. "Youíre glowing and I donít think it has anything at all to do with the fever."

Callie smiled. "I know itís crazy and itís quick and itís insane, but the feelings I have for him are real. Iíve never felt this way in my entire life. He - he makes me laugh and he doesnít care that Iím a freak of nature. He just *gets* it."

Addison put her arm around Callie and led her to a bench that was against the far wall. "You are *not* a freak of nature, but Iím happy that youíre happy."

"I was afraid youíd be pissed."

"No. Youíre not the only one who was falling while you were gone. Mark exposed his tender underbelly and I fell hard. You know, I thought I loved him before and I said it and lived it, but ... I am so *in* love with him that it scares me." Addison folded her scrub cap and laid it on her leg. "He says heís changed. He says that heís a reformed slut and -"

"You donít believe him?"

"I want to. I need to." Addison turned in the seat so she could look at her friend. "I was married to Derek for ten years and I ruined that to be with Mark. Part of me is afraid that Iím willing to believe him because I threw away my marriage for him."

Callie squeezed her hand. "Iím the last person to give advice about trust because Iím just now experiencing what it feels like to trust someone completely, but I can tell you that when I slept with Mark, it was very obvious to me that it was mechanical for him and - and his heart was somewhere else the whole time. I think we both know where it was."

Smiling, the red head said, "If I was gay I would so do you."

"If I was gay Iíd let you."

Addison hugged her, holding on tight. "Youíre the best friend Iíve ever had."

"Likewise." Callie wrapped her arms around her. "I *so* have souvenirs for you. Too many to carry so youíll have to come to my house to get them."

Addy pulled away. "Youíre not at the hotel anymore?"

"I bought a yacht."

"What?"

"I told you that I was embracing the money. Itís nice. Weíre living out at Harbor Cove."

"You guys are moving in together?" Addison raised a brow.

"We are."

"Are you sure you want to go there?"

"Iím more sure that *not* going there would make me lose my mind." Callie grinned. "I told you, Iím a freak of nature. I jump out of the frying pan and into the fire every chance I get."

"Then I support you and your freaky, flamey ways." Addison squeezed her hand. "Are you wearing red to the party?"

"Yep."

"Since youíre matching my hair Iím going to match yours and go with black. Iím wearing black to mourn the loss of my heart and my sex life."

"When will your cycle end?"

"Itís tapering off. I fully intend for it to be over tomorrow night and after we leave your party, Mark is *mine*."

"Oooh, wanna borrow my handcuffs?"

Addison started to laugh until she saw the serious look on her friendís face. "Wait, are you serious? You have handcuffs?"

"I also have a whip, chains, and nipple clamps." Callie bumped against her shoulder. "Iíll put a little something in the pocket of the purse I bought you in L.A. The purse, by the way, is black so if you really wear a black dress, itíll work."

"You are a dirty, dirty person."

"Alex hasnít even seen that side of me yet."

"What side?" Alex asked, joining them. "Iím pretty sure Iíve seen you from every angle."

Addison and Callie burst out laughing and continued to do for a majority of the afternoon.

*~*~

Addison found her dress while Callie was helping Alex find a suit. It was black and low cut and as soon as she stepped out of the dressing room to look in a bigger mirror, Mark dropped the several bags he was carrying and walked into the sacred Ďwomenís onlyí area to kiss her. "So, this is the one?" she asked innocently.

"This is definitely the one."

He wound up buying the dress for her and then they found Callie and Alex, who was carrying several bags himself. The girls linked arms and walked ahead of them, chattering away and Mark shared a look with Alex. "How many more stores can they go in?"

"Callie said something about shoes."

"There were shoes where we just were."

"She didnít like those."

"Weíre pack mules," Mark said, lifting the many packages in his arms a little higher. "Addisonís closet is already filled to capacity. If this keeps on theyíll need to rent storage units for everything."

"Theyíre bound to run out of energy soon." Alex glanced at his watch. "Weíve been at this for four and a half hours!"

"Iím starving." Mark sighed. "How are they not hungry? Theyíre the ones who have tried on everything theyíve seen. Surely theyíve worked up an appetite."

Alex groaned a little when the women walked into another department store. "Damn it. There are more than *shoes* in there. And the mall doesnít close until ten."

"Thatís an hour and a half away."

The smell of food made Alexís stomach rumble. "Want a pretzel?"

"Sure."

They were sitting on a bench, enjoying the respite, when Callie and Addison emerged from the store a little later. Both women were carrying several bags and Mark shook his head. "Is this what couples do?"

"Look around, dude."

Mark scanned the area. There were several men who were clearly in the same predicament, laden with bags and *waiting* for the women to get enough. They all had the same exasperated look on their faces. And every single man in the vicinity had turned to watch Callie and Addison. The women were laughing again, oblivious to the many eyes on them. Mark took a deep breath when Addison smiled at him. "I donít guess I really mind."

"Me either." Alex was staring at Callieís legs as he chewed his pretzel. A second later, she sat on his lap and kissed him.

Callie pulled off a piece of his pretzel and popped it in her mouth. "Why are you spoiling your dinner?"

"Is there dinner in this plan? Because we were beginning to wonder," Mark said, getting to his feet.

Addison held out her bags and said, "Yes, Mr. Impatient. Weíre going to the Japanese steak house in the food court before the mall closes."

Mark accepted the bags she held out and shot a look at Alex, who was doing the same. "Pack mules," he said again, under his breath.

"What was that?" Addison asked, already several steps ahead of him, her arm through Callieís again.

"Nothing. Nothing at all."

"Is it just me or do they look like theyíre tired?" Callie glanced from one man to the other. "How can *you* be tired? Weíre the ones shopping! Youíre just ... here."

Alex narrowed his eyes at her. "Do you see that weíre carrying everything?"

Addison put her hands on her hips. "Women get the *periods* and have to *carry* life inside of them. Men? You have no concept of PMS pain or what contractions feel like so you get to *carry* the bags. And since youíre whining about it itís proof that youíd have a full blown nervous breakdown if the shoe was on the other foot and you actually had an uninvited monthly visitor who came without fail. So, shut up and carry the bags before I suffocate you both with one of them."

"What did I do?" Mark asked, eyes wide.

"You said Ďpack mulesí. My hearing is perfect," Callie replied. "And I could make you feel what a contraction feels like by pulling your rib cage through your stomach. Iíll gladly do that if either one of you complains again."

Alex blinked and watched the duo walk off. "Neither one of them has ever experienced a damn contraction, either. You know, when theyíre together theyíre dangerous."

"Yet we keep following."

Smiling, Alex enjoyed the sway of Callieís backside. "The view isnít half bad."

"And the danger just makes it more fun."

"Weíre pathetic."

*~*~*~*~*~

After eating more fried rice and sushi than a person should, Callie was so exhausted that she fell asleep in the jeep on the way back to the yacht. Alex woke her gently with a kiss and helped her out of the car. He carried the bags in one hand and kept a grip on her arm as they walked down the trail, which was thankfully lit, but not well. He didnít like the thought of her coming home alone and made a mental note to buy her a can of mace for the nights when they had differing shifts. Maybe he could talk to someone and make sure they worked together. Anything could happen in such a remote place.

He dropped the bags in the living room and led her to the bedroom, where he felt her head again. The fever had broken earlier in the day, but he kept feeling just to make sure. She had told him that she felt bad and he had brushed it off, not believing her. It made him feel worse than she probably did and it was a mistake he wouldn't make again. He had annoyed her enough for her to threaten him if he kept feeling of her. Unzipping her dress, he pushed it down her body and then stood. She had not worn a bra, but underneath the pretty dress, she had worn a pair of boy shorts with rifles all over them. "Guns, Cal?"

"I like guns," she said with a yawn. "They have bullets."

"Iím going to go see if I find your medicine in one of the seven thousand bags I brought in. Iíll be right back."

Callie rubbed her eyes and walked into the bathroom, where she brushed her teeth and washed her face. As she was drying it, she looked in the mirror. She really had lost a lot of weight. Her breasts had suffered the most. She had lost a full cup size in them, but luckily they had weathered it well and had not drooped at all. Sucking in her stomach, she frowned. Never, in her adult life, had sucking in her stomach exposed the bottom of her rib cage. It made her wrinkle her nose in distaste. She turned and looked at her back, where she usually had two love handles. She could see her ribs there, too, and there was no sign of her spare tire.

"What are you doing?" Alex asked, leaning against the door frame.

"Missing my curves."

"I never really experienced your curves, but I remember them fondly." He held out a bottle of water and a pill.

"Do you think I look bad?"

"No, I donít. But I donít think you should lose any more weight, either."

She swallowed the antibiotic and sighed. "Would you still like me if I -"

"You donít even have to ask that." Alex stepped into the bathroom and hugged her. "I have liked you through it all and Iíll love you through the rest."

"That really is the most perfect thing you could have said."

Alex kissed her shoulder. "Iím sorry about today. You told me you didnít feel good and -"

"Thatís not a very good apology." She took a step back. "Nothing says Iím sorry like multiple orgasms. You taught me that and Iím ready for you to apologize the right way."

He grinned. "You need to get some sleep. Tomorrow is a big day and -"

"Nothing makes me sleepier than sex. Lots and lots of sex."

"You win. Give me ten minutes. Iím gonna take a quick shower."

Callie walked from the room and crawled under the covers.

She was fast asleep almost before her head hit the pillows.

Alex emerged twelve minutes later, a towel around his waist. He kneeled beside the bed and watched her for a while. It had scared him, earlier in the day, when she had mentioned that she was a Ďflierí. She didnít use the past tense, she had said Ďmaybe sheís a flier, like meí. Callie had vanished for fifteen days and no one, least of all George, had known where to look. That worried him. A lot. If Callie had not invited him along for her latest excursion and had sailed Goon Docks home alone she could have died. The shark could have gotten her and no one would have known where to start looking for her.

Most people would have assumed that she had killed herself in the Pacific Ocean.

He brushed her hair back, tracing her cheek with his thumb. It scared him how much he needed her. The way his want had been replaced by need was a shock. He certainly wanted her, he had wanted to have sex with her the night they went to the movies and had the crab dinner, but now ... now he needed her. He needed to see her face when he woke up and sleep with her beside him. In nearly thirty years of life ... he had only ever needed three things: food, water, and a place to sleep. But, he needed her more than any of those things.

The moment he crawled into the bed, she murmured his name and rolled against him. He wrapped his arms around her and wondered if it was possible to hold onto someone with wings. Callie had wings. She could sail the yacht away while he was at work or pick up her plane in Los Angeles and fly halfway around the world before he even knew she was gone. ĎNoí, he thought. ĎYouíd feel her leaving. Sheíd take such a big part of you that youíd die.í

Alex slept after a while.

In his dreams, Callie was sick, sweating, and she was sailing into a storm that she didnít make it out of alive.

He awoke just before dawn and didn't sleep again.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 22
*~*~*~*~*~

"Make sure she eats lunch."

"I will."

"And - and donít let her parents stress her out."

"I wonít."

"And tell her that she -"

"Alex, go away." Addison pointed at the door of the nail salon. "Mark is not a patient man and heís probably revving his engine hard enough to kill the valet guys with the fumes. It was hard as hell for him to get a tee time on such short notice. So go."

Alex looked back at Callie, who had been seated in a spa chair and already had her feet submerged in the water. "Just keep an eye on her."

It took five more minutes for a vacant spot to open for Addison and luckily it was right beside Callie. "Your boyfriend," she said, "is insane."

"Why? Whatíd he do?" Callie asked.

"He worries about *everything*."

"I know. Oh my god. This morning he checked my seat belt twice before he put the car in reverse. And he practically held me hostage in bed until I ate, actually, make that choked down, the French toast he had made. I think he forgot to put it in eggs."

Addison snorted. "Ew. What did it taste like?"

"Lard fried bread."

"He didnít use butter?"

"I donít think so. It was waxy."

"And you donít care at all, do you?" Addison gave her a knowing smile.

"He cooked me breakfast in bed. It could have been shoe leather and I would have loved it." Callie leaned her head back against the seat, which was massaging her back and legs. "My parents are going to be intense. I can feel it. Are you sure you want to go with me?"

"Iím positive."

"Did I tell you Mom is making Alex pretend to by my husband?"

"Heís already acting like it." Addison shrugged. "Of course, Derek never checked my seat belt."

"Iíve never been with anyone who thinks of things like that. You know? Heís so over-protective and he gets jealous and pissed off at the dumbest thing, but it just seems to work. We argued *so* much on the boat and then an hour later we didnít even remember what we were mad about." Callie smiled. "Itís just weird."

"Good weird?"

"Perfect weird." Callie looked at her. "So, are you going to be a happy girl tonight or is everything still red in the world of Addison?"

"The crimson wave has come and gone. Itís over. Totally and completely over. I am going to do things to him that he never, ever dreamed possible."

"Are you flexible?"

"What do you mean?"

"Iíll show you a little move later that will have him following you around on his knees begging for more."

"Iím suddenly scared." Addison picked up the polish she had chosen and said, "Do you like this?"

"You did wear salmon scrubs once. Why not paint your nails that color?"

"At least Iím not going *red*."

"My dress is red. I donít want to clash." Callie studied her own choice of color. "Besides, red screams vixen."
"It also screams waitress. Or maybe pole dancer."

"I took pole dancing lessons for years," Callie replied. "Itís great exercise."

Addison simply shook her head. An hour and a half later they were manicured, pedicured, and waxed from the waist down. Sinking into the leather of her convertible, Addison said, "I can not believe I let you talk me into a Brazilian wax. Oh my god, this leather is *hot* on my ass."

Callie grinned. "Everythingís hotter when youíre hairless."

"Iím going to start writing down your one liners. I could make millions."

*~*~*~*~*~

Melana Torres paced the length of the Ambassador Suite and tapped her watch. She had been expecting her daughter all morning, even though Callie had made it clear that she would arrive at noon. She looked at Stavros, her eldest son, who was working on his laptop and then turned to Loukas, who was engrossed in a television program. They were the spitting image of their father and both were as useless as her husband when it came to calming her nerves. She sighed dramatically and earned a glance from Stavros for her trouble, but he turned back to the computer screen a moment later.

"What do I say to her?" she finally snapped, flipping off the television and glaring at Loukas. "What do I say when she gets here?"

"How about hello?" Stavros said when Loukas didnít reply. He closed his computer. He knew his motherís many moods and how to interpret the warning signs for an official tantrum. "And after that you can tell her that you missed her and you are glad to see her."

"I found four grey hairs this morning. Four!" Melana replied. "Sheís going to be the death of me."

Loukas scratched the side of his head. "Mom? Sheís happy. You heard what Cam said at breakfast. He said that this Alex guy seems good for her and that she smiled the entire time they were together. Thatís a far cry from her trying to drink herself to death."

"I could strangle her for inviting Cam out to see her and not us. She didnít even call me until this morning. Sheís been back since Thursday! And she waits until Saturday, the day of the party that I have been working myself to death to plan, to call me. Sheís a horrible person and -"

Someone knocked at the door and Melana practically leaped across the room. "Oh, sheís here! Callie, honey!"

Cam smiled at her when she opened the door. "Close, but not quite. Can we come in?"

"Yes, yes. Hurry up." Melana yanked him, then Blake into the room and peered into the hallway. There was no sign of her daughter yet so she closed the door, hard, and looked at Cam. "I was just telling your brothers that Callie is hard headed, self indulgent, impulsive and out of control. Your father is lying down right now in a state of nervous collapse over what she has done to us -"

"Dad is not lying down," Stavros interjected. "Heís trying to watch ĎThe Incredible Hulkí marathon."

"Whatever," Melana growled. "I know him better than you. Iíve been married to him longer than youíve been alive and I happen to know when heís upset."

"Iím not upset." Raphael came out of the bedroom and smiled at his sons. "I just canít wait to see my little girl."

"All of you are blind to her faults. Every last one of you." Melana crossed her arms over her chest. "You wait. As soon as I see her Iím going to let her have it and I wonít stop until sheís trembling with heartfelt apologies to all of us."

"She doesnít need to apologize to me." Loukas shook his head.

"Me either," Stavros agreed. "Sheís Callie. This is what she does."

"Itís that attitude," Mel said, "that makes her think itís okay to do this again and again. She ran off to Europe. She ran off to Mexico. She ran off to Australia. All before she was eighteen! And your poor father had to go collect her every single time!"

A soft knock on the door caused her to spin and yank it open. Callie stood on the other side and she looked at her mother with apprehension. "Hi, Mom."

"Oh, Calliope!" Melana tugged her into her arms, then held her at armís length. "Youíve lost more weight, honey! But you look so pretty! Youíre skin is bronze and youíre cheeks are glowing and I was just telling your brothers that the past is the past and Iím just so glad that youíre back."

Callie looked over her motherís shoulder. If the expression on Camís face was any indication ... her mother had most assuredly not been telling them any such thing. She handed Melana a small box that she pulled from her purse. "Souvenir."

Melana opened it and gasped when she saw the black mother of pearl bracelet. "Itís beautiful, sweetheart. Thank you."

"Youíre welcome." Callie stepped past her, with an audible sigh of relief, and walked into her fatherís arms. "Iím sorry, Daddy. Iím really sorry if I worried you."

Raphael held her tight. "Itís okay, kitten."

"Thanks for being the kind of dad who looks for me." She kissed him on the cheek. "And who knew to stop."

"I didnít want to stop," Raph replied, kissing her forehead. "Your brother forced my hand."

Stavros and Loukas took turns hugging her, fretting over her weight loss, and threatening to kill her. Callie introduced Addison and saw that both of her eldest brothers puffed up like peacocks in an attempt to impress her. She left Addison sitting between them on the sofa and hugged Cam, then Blake. Her mother hovered, looking at the bandage on her arm, fussing over her hair, and finally Blake distracted Melana while Callie pulled her father into the bedroom and shut the door.

"Is something wrong, mija?" Raphael asked, sitting on the bed.

"No, nothingís wrong." Callie sat beside him and pulled a book from the depths of her purse. "I hope you like it."

Tears clouded his eyes when he opened the leather bound cover of ĎThe Velveteen Rabbití and saw that she had written a note in it. He cleared his throat and read it out loud. "Daddy, you read this to me every night until I was old enough to read it to you. I never read it as well as you did, but I still have my dog eared copy and every time I open it I think of you. Just like the rabbit in this book, you made me real with your love. And Iíll always come back no matter how far I go. Always. I love you, Callie."

She watched him wipe his eyes and leaned her head against his shoulder. "I missed you."

"Oh, baby," Raphael put an arm around her. "I missed you, too."

"Thank you for taking care of the divorce stuff. I - I need to sign the papers. I want to do it before tonight." She sat up suddenly and glared at her father. "You gave him my *car*."

"I bought you a new one yesterday. Something that suits you better." Raphael kissed her and stood, gathering the folder that contained the papers. He took a pen from the desk and sat beside her again. "Are you quite certain this is what you want?"

She nodded and opened the file. George had obviously signed everything quickly. His signature was nowhere near the lines intended for him. She went through them, not bothering to read anything, and signed her name neatly and swiftly. When she finished, she closed the file and handed it back to him. "I feel fifty pounds lighter," she told him with a grin.

"If you were fifty pounds lighter youíd be dead." He put the folder behind them on the bed and said, "You and Alex?"

"Weíre together. And if you could accept him with minimal carnage and get Mom to do the same thing that would be really great."

"You can tell a lot about a man by the way he touches a woman. I knew I liked him when I saw the way he held you in your hospital room, but when he said that he had saved your life ... I actually thought that Iíd rather have him in the family than George. Your Alex knows how to make a first impression." He brushed her hair back. "All I ask is that you think of yourself first this time."

"I donít have to. He makes me think of myself first. Daddy, he jumped into the ocean to save me from a great white shark. And this morning? He wouldnít leave me alone until I ate and ... "

"Shark?"

"Itís not important." Callie shook her head. "Letís change the subject. You remember when I told you about the ferry disaster?"

"Yes, but if memory serves I saw it on the news and had to track you down to make sure you were uninjured. You didnít call me. I was frantic."

"Hello? I had surgeries all day. Doctor, here." Callie attempted to sound exasperated, but she couldnít. "Thereís a woman who was injured that day. Her face was destroyed so she had plastic surgery that completely altered her appearance. She was pregnant and alone and had her baby yesterday. Itís been on the news here, but no one has claimed her. I want to get her national coverage. I can get blood type, any scars or previous surgeries, and photos of her and the baby, but I need your help."

"You get the pertinent information and Iíll do the rest."

She hugged him. "Thank you, Daddy."

"If I ask you something, mija, will you be honest with me?"

"Yes, sir."

"Have you had anything to drink while youíve been gone?"

She shook her head. "No. Nothing but water and juice."

"You promise?"

"I do."

Melana knocked on the door and pushed it open. She carried Gucci, who became frantic when he saw Callie. "Someone else wants to say hello."

Callie took the little monkey in her arms and kissed him. "Whatís Addison doing?"

"Explaining for the fourth time that she has a boyfriend." Melana smiled. "Your brothers appear to be infatuated."

"I better go rescue her." Callie held Gucci like a baby and he seemed to enjoy it so much that he sucked his thumb. "We have to get our hair done in an hour."

"Weíre going to order room service. What would you like?" Mel asked.

"Hmm." Callie shrugged. "Surprise me."

Melana and Raphael watched her walk out of the room, then looked at one another and smiled.

"Sheís better," Raph said.

"Sheís glowing."

"She said that sheís with Alex. Theyíre a couple."

"Did I not just say she was glowing?"

Raphís smile faded. "You donít think itís because of - she didnít have -"

"Oh, of course not. She didnít have sex with him. Sheís glowing because abstinence is very fulfilling."

He glared at her.

She blew him a kiss.

*~*~*~*~*~

Alex and Mark spent more time walking and talking to one another than they did golfing. They had more in common than an interest in plastics. Both had worked as caddies during their college days to make ends meet. Alex, who had always assumed that Mark had grown up wealthy and privileged, was shocked to learn that he had put himself through college and that it had taken him years to pay off his loans. He listened raptly as Mark explained that his father had been a millionaire, but his mother had been nothing more than a gold digger who had married the much older man for his money. And Mark was not allowed to touch any of the money his father had left him until he got married and stayed that way for five years.

Mark had, he told Alex, been an unplanned mistake that his mother regretted from the moment she gave birth to him. After his father died, she had blown through the money and lost the house, the cars, and the lifestyle she had grown to depend on. By that time, Mark was already away at college. She had tried to force him to marry someone, anyone, but Mark staunchly refused because to do so would have meant that his mother would hound him for money.

"Where is she now?" Alex shifted the set of clubs he had rented from one shoulder to the other. "Your mother."

"Who knows?" Mark shrugged. "I havenít heard from her in years."

"You donít wonder what happened to her?"

"She happened to herself. She made my fatherís life a living hell and granted, he was a mean bastard, but she flaunted her men and her whorish ways in his face after he was bedridden. Thatís not someone I want to know." Mark glanced at the other man. "What about you? Where are your parents? Whatís their story?"

"My dad abused my mom. Physically. Mentally."

"Damn."

"I put him in the hospital when I was big enough. I kicked his ass and he never came back." He took a deep breath. "My mom was clinically depressed after that. She missed him. I stayed in Iowa to be near her. I had a full scholarship in New York, but I didnít go. I didnít want her to be alone."

"Where is she now?"

Alex shook his head.

Mark pressed. "Is she -"

"I donít know."

"What happened to her?"

Alex stared out over the golf course. No one knew the truth. No one. He thought long and hard before he made the decision to tell Mark Sloan. He didnít know if it was because he had admired Sloan as a surgeon for so long or if it was because he was still thinking about the dream heíd had the night before about Callie, but whatever it was, his tongue loosened before he could stop it. "She was on a lot of medication. Anti-depressants and stuff. It was like she became a different person. She just stopped working and stayed in the bed all day. I came home for the weekend and she was gone. She was just ... gone."

"Did she leave a note? Anything?"

"Yeah. She left a note on the front door saying that she needed to get away. She asked me not to worry."

"Did you look for her?"

"I did. That entire summer. I went through her address book and called everyone she had ever known. I tried to get the police involved, but they said that she had not been kidnapped and there was nothing they could do." Alex glanced at the other man. "I have her listed as a missing person online and I talk to our old neighbors every week, but sheís never shown up."

"Is this is why youíre so involved with the Jane Doe from the ferry crash?"

"I see a lot of my mother in her."

"Does Callie know?"

"She doesnít know about my mother and Iím not going to tell her."

"Why?"

"Because she has enough baggage of her own and I love her."

"You love her?"

"Yeah."

"That was fast."

"Falling normally is. One minute youíre walking and the next youíre flat on the ground."

"When do you come back to work?"

"Monday."

Mark nodded. "Iíve got an interesting facial reconstruction coming in. Guy was attacked by a dog a couple of years ago and heís finally got insurance that is willing to repair the damage. You want to scrub in?"

"Yeah." Alex smiled, relieved that the conversation had gone in a different direction. "Iíd love to."

Mark glanced down at his watch. "I guess we should head back. Itís getting late."

Alex shifted his clubs again. "We didnít really golf much."

"I never do. I just like the way it feels to carry my *own* irons instead of someone elseís."

"I know the feeling."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie and Addison got ready on the yacht. They had spent far too much time at the beauty shop, but neither could complain about the results. Callieís hair was curled in a sophisticated looking old-Hollywood style that cascaded perfectly over her shoulders. Her red dress had the same kind of retro feel. The flowing skirt hung just below her knees and was cut similar to Marilyn Monroeís white dress in ĎSeven Year Itchí. The best part was that her back and sides were left exposed due to the dressís cut out pattern. It was sexy. It made her feel invincible.

Addison had opted for curls as well and as she zipped her dress, she knew that she looked better than she ever had. Her dress was slinky, but also had a flowing skirt which Callie had assured her was required for dancing at Latin parties. She twirled in front of the mirrors in the starboard bedroom and nodded. Mark would definitely be eating out of the palm of her hand.

Both women gasped when they saw one another. They exclaimed over every last detail of the otherís appearance. Addison fell in love with Callieís shoes, which were red leather with three straps that went around her ankle. Callie decided that Addisonís dress was the sexiest thing she had ever seen and they were still discussing fashion when Mark and Alex arrived.

"Oh my god," Alex said, looking Callie up and down. "Youíre beautiful."

"Jesus, Addison," Mark dropped his suit onto the sofa and hurried across the salon, touching her hair. "We could skip the party and hang out here."

"No way! Iím all dressed up with somewhere to go!" She kissed him and then looked at Callie and Alex, who were standing in the galley, talking softly to one another. She was struck by how great they looked together. "You guys better get dressed."

"Whose car is that parked beside yours?" Mark asked Addison. "The Mercedes convertible?"

"Mine," Callie replied. "My dad decided I needed a welcome home gift."

Mark looked shocked. "Thatís an AMG Roadster! Theyíre about two hundred grand. Especially one as loaded as yours."

"Whatíd you do? Look in the windows?"

"Uh, yeah."

Callie chuckled. "I wanted a Volkswagen Beetle. Green. Less than twenty thousand bucks, but my dadís tastes are a little more extravagant than mine. The Mercedes does go a hundred and fifty five miles per hour, though."

Mark looked at Alex. "We will put a governor on it to top it out at seventy tomorrow."

"Weíll top it out at sixty." Alex corrected, looking at Callie again. "I think you should wear a different dress. This one borders on indecent."

"It does *not*," Addison replied before Callie could. "It crosses the border and thatís exactly what she needs to do."

Mark had finally taken a look at the yacht and he said, "Jesus, Torres. How rich is your family?"

Addison smacked him. "You donít ask people that."

Callie simply looked amused as she took Alexís hand and led him into her bedroom. No, their bedroom. She had laid his suit out and sat down on the bed beside it. "How was golf?"

He kissed her, running his hands over her bare sides and back. "Youíre going to kill me if you wear this."

She reached under his suit jacket and pulled out the Speedo she had purchased in Los Angeles. "Youíre going to kill me if you wear this."

Alex took it from her, holding it between his finger and thumb like it was contaminated. "No, Iíll kill you if you *make* me wear this. I made it very clear that I wouldnít be caught dead in it."

"Please?"

"Callie, these things are sperm killers," he replied, stretching the fabric. "This would ruin our chances of having a family one day and I was hoping for an even dozen."

The smile on her face faded and she looked at him with wide eyed wonder. "Did you just say - you didnít mean -"

"What?" he asked, wadding up the Speedo in his hand. "Is that too many?"

"You like kids? I mean, Addison said you grumbled about the gynie squad all the time."

"I love kids ... I donít like looking at vaginas all day." He reached up and touched a curl that was hanging over her arm. "Unless itís yours."

"Wanna take a look right now?"

Alex glanced at his watch. "Weíre running late and I think our friends out there would notice if we started rocking this thing like it was in a hurricane."

"Weíre good at that."

"We are." Alex kissed her and let the Speedo dangle from his fingertips again. "Are you serious? You want me to wear this?"

"Iím serious."

"What are you wearing under that dress?"

She uncrossed her legs and slid her skirt a little higher. "One red garter belt that youíll be taking off for the amusement of my family." She moved it higher still. "And because my skirt will billow when we dance, I have on lacy, red, tight panties that most people would think came with the dress. Theyíre very modest." She opened her legs. "But only you know that theyíre crotchless."

"Fuck it. Weíre gonna have to be late."

*~*~*~*~*~

They were late. Forty minutes late.

The party was in full swing by the time they walked in. Addison and Mark moved off to the side to talk to Cam and Blake while Callieís extended family swarmed around her. And Alex. By the time they made it to the main table thirty minutes later, Callie was flabbergasted and Alexís cheeks had been pinched so much they were bright red.

Raphael greeted Alex with a bear hug and Melana did the same, but she whispered, "I knew it. A mother knows these things. You said you were just friends, but I knew better."


"I didnít lie. At that time we were just friends." Alex smiled at her. "Iím always the last to know, though, so you were right."

"Please, please, sit down and letís eat. You donít keep Greek people waiting on dinner and Calliope has no sense of time." Melana waved her hand at the waiters and the first of seven courses arrived. She looked at her daughter and said, "You *had* to wear something that showed off that hideous tattoo, didnít you?"

With a nod, Callie said, "You had to put *pink* in the decorations, didnít you?"

Melana wrinkled her nose as she stared at the centerpiece on the table. "It was perfect until Cambyses bought a truck full black roses and stuck them into all the floral arrangements."

"I think the black looks better," Callie replied.

"Thatís because youíre evil, honey," Melana told her, patting her hand. "Perhaps youíll grow out of it."

"Most of my panties have skulls on them, Mom. Thatís never going to change."

Mel choked on her salad and shook her head. "Calliope, tell me that you are not going to embarrass me if your dress flies up on the dance floor."

"Letís just say that everything matches and leave it at that." Callie shared a knowing smile with Alex and then listened as he talked at length with Cambyses about politics.

Callie looked further down the table at Addison, who was sitting next to Blake. Her brotherís boyfriend appeared thrilled at his inclusion at the main family table and was engaging Mark in a very lively discussion about God only knew what. One of her cousins caught her eye and waved and she smiled, lifting her hand. Looking to her left, she saw that Stavros and Loukas were seated side by side and there were three empty chairs that should have been filled by Ronnie, Jerry, and Louise.

Her fork clattered onto her plate and she pushed it away. She should have called Louise and explained everything. She should have spoken to Ronnie and Jerry. They were her friends. They had been her family and -

"Hey," Alex said softly. "You okay?"

"Excuse me," she said, pushing her chair back. She hurried out of the ballroom and into the large, spacious bathroom across the hall. Three female relatives stood at the sink and she forced herself to smile at them before she rushed into the stall. She listened to them chatter in Spanish and breathed a sigh of relief when they left the room.

She recognized Addisonís shoes a little while later. Her friend knocked on the door and said, "Are you sick?"

"No."

"Are you peeing?"

"No."

"Look, Alex is getting antsy. I told him to go back to the table, but if you donít show up soon heís going to throw caution to the wind and stalk right in here." Addison waited patiently for a few seconds. "Iíll crawl over. I have on a dress so I can hike my leg really high."

"I just need a minute."

Addison rattled the door. "Why?"

"Because Louise was always very good to me and sheís not here," Callie admitted.

"Do you really think Louise would want to be here to see you suck face with Alex?"

"Can you please try to feel my pain? She helped plan this party. She was excited for it."

"Iím sure she understands. I took George to her place while you were gone and she was so pissed at him that she wouldnít let him stay."

Callie opened the door and peered out at the red head. "Really?"

"Really."

"Iím okay with not being with George, but I got really close to his family. Ronnie called me every Wednesday during trivia at the pub so that I could help him with the answers. And Jerry called me about the dumbest things in the world, but I didnít mind. Iíll miss them, you know?"

"You donít have to miss them. Call them tomorrow and ask them to lunch. Tell them that you still love them even though youíre not with George."

"Oh, Iím sure theyíd love that," Callie replied, dripping with sarcasm.

"I bet they would." Addison pulled Callie out of the stall and hugged her. "I still talk to Derekís sisters and his mother calls me all the time."

"Is it normal to feel ... good about losing one thing, but bad about losing the rest?"

"You havenít lost anything that you canít find." Addison took a step back and smiled at her. "I bet theyíre going to be a lot happier to hear from you than you think. Now, come on. Alex is alone out there."

Callie walked to the mirror and refreshed her makeup. Taking a deep breath, she nodded at Addison and they walked back toward the ballroom. Callie was waylaid by her Uncle Kick, who lifted her off her feet and spun her around. She told him about her yacht and he decided that Addison was *required* to hear the story of how Callie and Cam had stolen from him. By the time he finished with his very exaggerated and hilarious tale, Addison was crying from laughing so hard and Callie had forgotten all about being upset.

When she finally returned to her seat, the fourth course was being taken away. Alex immediately felt for a fever. "Are you feeling sick again?"

She shook her head, aware that her parents were watching her closely. She pasted a smile on her face and said, "No, Iím fine."

Alex, who had seen her smile enough to know a fake one when he saw it, leaned a little closer and whispered, "Donít do that. Donít pretend that nothingís wrong. What is it?"

"Itís not important." She squeezed his hand then made a face when the waiter put a heaping serving of steak pommodor and new potato salad in front of her. Her plate was close to overflowing and she knew that it had been intentional. Neither Alex nor her mother had enough food to feed a small colony. "What the hell?"

"You missed the four previous courses, sweetheart," Melana picked up a fork and held it out to her. "You can make up for it now."

"Gluttony is a sin." Callie took a bite of the potato salad and said, "Oooh, but itís good."

She looked at Alex, ready to warn him about her Uncle Kickís penchant for tall tales, when she saw that he was watching her with an expression she had never seen before. He looked angry. She quickly turned her attention back to her food, then looked back at him after a few seconds. His food was untouched. "You donít like it?"

He leaned toward her and said, "No, I donít like it. Somethingís on your mind and it was obviously important enough for you to run out of here, but you donít want to tell me what it was."

"I got overwhelmed for a second," Callie whispered against his ear, trying to look like she was sharing something special, because she knew that people were looking. "I have a tendency to run when Iím overwhelmed. You should be used to it. I took you with me last time. Now, please eat because not eating in my family is considered a felony and my mother is watching us like a hawk."

Alex picked up his fork and said, "You know what?"

"What?"

"You donít fucking run anymore," he said it softly, but the conviction in his voice was unmistakable. "I donít care how god damned overwhelmed you are."

She raised her eyebrows, shocked, and whispered, "Whatís wrong with you?"

"You. Running. Flying."

"What are you talking about?" Luckily for Callie, a group of Latin singers were walking closer and closer, playing their violins and guitars and singing softly to the assembled guests so she was the only one who heard Alexís response.

"Itís what you do. You just said it. You run. You fly. You can disappear if you want and Iím sick of you reminding me of that."

She forgot all about attempting to save face. Her mouth dropped open and her nostrils flared. "Are you actually trying to start an argument with me right now. Right now!?"

Alex glared at her and turned to Cam, asking him something about the lyrics of the song that was being sung. She listened to her brother explain and pushed her food around on her plate. She was tempted to knock her glass of water into her lap as an excuse to go to the bathroom again, but she refrained. Looking to her left, she saw that her parents were watching her play with her food and she sighed when her mother told her that she would hold up the sixth course until she was finished.

"Donít," Callie replied. "I had a big lunch and Iím taking antibiotics that refuse to let me eat much."

"You did not have a big lunch, Calliope," Melana replied. "You only ate half of it."

"Thatís because you ordered me a foot long sub!"

"Youíre ungrateful and picky."

Callie sat back in her seat when the food was cleared and stuffed crab was put in front of her. "Why the *hell* is there so much food?"

"Our family eats, honey." Melana passed her a bread basket. "Do you not like the menu?"

"Itís fine," Callie assured her. "Everythingís perfect. You did a great job and Iím *grateful*."

"Well, I didnít plan it alone."

Callie handed the basket to Alex, who was still not looking at her. She pulled off a little piece of the bread and chewed it thoughtfully. "Mom, how is Louise?"

"Devastated." Melana looked at her daughter and shook her head. "She really does love you and she wanted you and George to -"

"Not going there."

Melana plowed ahead. "She wanted you and George to at least remain friends."

"We were never friends." Callie picked up her glass for lack of anything better to do and took several sips of water. "Iím going to call her tomorrow. You think - you think sheíd be okay with that?"

"She wanted me to tell you that a divorce will not change the fact that youíre family."

Beside her, Alex stood and mumbled Ďexcuse meí. It took Callie a second to realize that the musicians had moved away and she had been openly discussing her mother-in-law. Melana watched Alex walk from the room and said, "Honey, perhaps you should go and talk to him."

Callie nodded and caught up with him as he stalked across the lobby toward the front entrance. "Where are you going?"

"I need some fresh air."

She saw a gaggle of elderly aunts and grabbed his hand. "I know a better place to get it."

He followed her to the elevator, but pulled his hand from her grip as soon as the doors closed. "So, youíre going to call OíMalleyís mother?"

"Alex-"

"Sheís going to beg you to take him back and plead his case and -"

"And Iíll tell her that Iíve moved on." Callie forced him to look at her. "And just for the record, Iím sorry for whatever I did to make you mad."

"Whatever you did? How can you not know? How can you not see it?"

The doors opened and she led him down a circular hallway and opened her purse, pulling out a key card. She scanned it and led him onto the roof, which was dotted with telescopes and viewing stations. They walked in silence for a few minutes and she finally leaned against the railing and gazed at the Space Needle in the distance. "Iíll miss coming up here. After a bad day this is what I would do."

"How many times did you think about jumping?"

She turned to him. "Never!"

"Do you know what I was doing while you were hiding in the bathroom? I was listening to your mother tell me that you like to vanish. She told me how you disappeared to Australia when you wrecked your fatherís car. She told me that you had gone to Europe because you got mad at her for forcing you to have a coming out party. And she told me that youíre never going to stop running, Callie. And you said the same damn thing when you finally came back into the room!" He shook his head, his anger bitter in his mouth. "How do I hang onto you if I canít catch you?"

"Iím not going anywhere." She reached for him but he sidestepped and moved away. "Alex, I donít understand where this is coming from. Iím here. Iím with you. I - I want to be with you and -"

"You vanished for fifteen days. George was going insane. Addison was going insane. And then when you found out about George and Izzie you suggested that maybe you should get away again and I never questioned it because I was so excited about the prospect of getting you alone, but you would have gone without me because thatís what you do. You run. You fly away." He narrowed his eyes at her. "Do you have any idea how scary it is to know that you could be here today and gone tomorrow? That maybe you could get pissed off at me and just leave?"

Callie stepped back as if he had slapped her. "You donít believe anything Iíve said to you. You donít trust me or -"

"No! You donít get to be the martyr! Iím asking you to think about how it feels, Callie, to know that the person you love, the only person youíve ever loved, canít be tamed. You put a bird on your back to remind you that there is no cage big enough to hold you."

"You just donít get it."

"Then help me get it!"

"Youíre the anchor. Youíre *my* anchor. I knew I was dying in the parking garage of this hotel, but your name on my phone penetrated the alcohol and gave me a reason to live. I told you where to find me. I will always tell you where to find me because I love you." Tears rolled down her face, but she didnít brush them away. "And do you really want to tame me? Youíre forever responsible for that which you tame and the fact that weíve had this conversation only proves that youíre not ready. Because you donít trust me."

He reached out to touch her face, but she moved away. "I do trust you."

"No, you donít," she said, her voice breaking now. "You think that Louise will talk me into going back to George or that Iíd just up and leave you."

"Callie-"

"Am I really that bad at making you feel the way you make me feel? I donít have to fly anywhere when Iím with you because you make me soar. And your arms are a cage that I never want to break out of." She sobbed a little harder and finally wiped at her face. "Tell me how to do this better and I will. Iíll do anything to make it okay."

"You just did." Alex pulled her into his arms and held onto her. "Iím sorry, baby. I just - I love you and it scares me."

Callie hugged him, her face against his neck. "I would never do anything to hurt you. You can trust me. You can."

"I know. I know, Callie." He clung to her, breathing in the scent of her hair. When he kissed her a moment later, he tasted her tears and reached up, drying her eyes. "Donít. Iím pretty sure that if we show up in there with you looking upset there will be two lines, one Greek and the other Cuban, and after they finish ripping me apart theyíll probably dance on the remains."

She smiled a little. "Thatís pretty accurate."

He kept her on the roof until she was laughing again and the redness had gone from her nose. Her eyes were a little puffy, but there was nothing to be done about that. She kissed him in the elevator and asked him to tell Addison to meet her in the bathroom. He did as she requested and watched the red head leave the room. The main table was vacant, save for Raphael so Alex slipped into the seat beside him.

Raphael glanced at the young man and said, "You look like you just experienced my daughterís wraith."

"Yes, sir."

"Please call me Raphael." He patted him on the back. "I assume that your shirt is wet because she was crying."

Alex felt his collar, where her face had been, and nodded. "It kills me when she does that."

"Yes, I know." Raph cleared his throat. "I trust that the fact you provided her with a shoulder to lean on is an indication that everything is fine."

"Itís better than fine. Your daughter is an amazing woman."

"You seem to be quite fond of her. Not many men would masquerade as someoneís husband."

"I think any man who truly knew her would do anything to make her happy."

"And you know her?"

"I do."

Raphael nodded. "Then let me be the first to welcome you to the family, son."

Alex smiled so big that his cheeks hurt.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Mija, please! For my sanity."

"Daddy, I donít want to sing! I donít feel good," Callie lied. "I do have an infection."

Melana looked at her husband, clearly livid, and said, "This is the thanks I get for the blood, sweat, and tears that I put into this party." To Callie, she added, "You cannot say that you donít feel well, Calliope. You have danced for over two hours straight! Now go and sing the song I requested before I crush your larynx."

"Do it, Callie," Alex told her, kissing her softly on the cheek. "I love to hear you sing."

Resigned to the fact that she was outnumbered, she nodded and followed her brothers onto the stage. Stavros sat at the piano, Cam picked up the guitar and Loukas picked up the saxophone. Melana hurried to the center of the stage to announce that her children had agreed to entertain them all and smiled at Callie before handing her the microphone.

Her brothers waited for her cue, but it didnít come. Instead, she lifted the mic to her mouth and said, "The song that Iím going to sing is probably my favorite song of all time. We all grew up listening to the Rat Pack and songs from an era that just - they get inside you. I used to sing this every day and I didnít know what it meant until I met Alex. I know what itís like to love someone through all kinds of weather for the first time in my life though." Her eyes landed on Alex and she smiled. "So, this one is for you, Jock Boy, and I mean every word of it."

Callie lifted her hand and Loukas began to play the sax. Cam and Stavros came in perfectly and the opening strains of Billie Holidayís ĎCome Rain or Come Shineí were unmistakable.

"Iím gonna love you like nobodyís loved you, come rain or come shine," Callie sang. "High as a mountain, deep as a river. Come rain or come shine. I guess when you met me it was just one of those things, but donít ever bet me Ďcause Iím gonna be true if you let me."

Alex watched her intently, his eyes never wavering from hers. A few people cat called and whistled and he felt someone thumping him on the back, but he never acknowledged it. The song and the intensity with which she sang it were worth more to him than anything in the world. It soothed his soul, erased his apprehension, and he fell even harder for her if that was possible.

"Youíre gonna love me like nobodyís loved me come rain or come shine. Happy together or unhappy together and wouldnít it be fine? Days may be cloudy or sunny. Were in or were out of the money, but Iím with you always, Iím with you rain or shine." Callie growled out a few riffs during the instrumental and then attacked the high notes with ease. "Yeah, the days may be cloudy or sunny. Yeah, weíre either in or out of the money. But, baby, Iím with you always, come rain or come shine."

As the song ended she hit a note that was high and clear as a bell. The music stopped and she grinned when everyone burst into applause. Bowing, she handed the microphone to the lead singer of the band her mother had hired and walked toward the steps. Alex met her halfway and kissed her in front of everyone. It wasnít a chaste or innocent kiss. It was a kiss that combined the hearts and souls of two people.

It was a kiss that stopped any grumbling about an elopement and convinced the party-goers that a big wedding had not been needed at all.

*~*~*~*~*~
Ch 23
*~*~*~*~*

Mark escorted Addison to her hotel room after the party. He lingered over kissing her in the hallway and when she unlocked the door, he cradled her arm and pulled her back into him for another kiss before he whispered, "Good night."

"Yes, it is." Gripping the lapels of his jacket, she pulled him into the room and kicked the door shut behind them. She shoved his jacket over his arms and threw it onto the table.

He raised his eyebrows. "So, youíre finished with your-"

Addison responded by unzipping her dress and letting it pool at her feet. She wore a black Teddy underneath, strapless and body hugging. "Itís done. And I have been frustrated, humiliated, and now Iím hairless. I gave you bone dry cappuccino and -"

"Hairless?"

Slowly, with her eyes never leaving his face, she untied the laces on the front of her lingerie and eased it down her body. She stood before him, bare and *hairless* and smiled when he swallowed hard and gazed up and down her body. "Well?"


"I liked the heart. It proved you had one."

Addison closed her eyes in aggravation and said, "Could you stop talking and start touching me?"

"I donít know. Itís late and Iím kinda tired."

She narrowed her eyes, watching as he Ďyawnedí. It was so fake and exaggerated and infuriating that she would have shot him if sheíd had a gun handy. "I have not had sex in a very long time. Iím sick of it. Iím disgusted by my lack of a sex life so take off your clothes before I destroy what happens to be a very nice suit."

Mark looked confused. "Wait, I thought that what I did to you the other day was sex. Granted, it was oral, but you said it was still sex."

"*Actual* sex, Mark. Can we get to it?"

His amusement was quickly fading. "I donít think I like your tone."

Addison picked up the black purse that Callie had given her. She rummaged in the side pocket and pulled out a pair of handcuffs, which she held up. "We can do this the easy way or the hard way."

He took a step back and shook his head, stunned. "What the hell, Addison?"

"Youíre giving it up or Iím taking it."

"Whoa!" He raised his arms above his head and out of her reach when she tried to slip the handcuff on his wrist. "Okay, number one, bondage is only fun when both parties are into it and number two, I think I made it very clear that when we do have sex itís going to be different. Iím going to make love to you and -"

"Can you just hold that thought for a little while and get down to business? If you want to Ďmake loveí," she said, rolling her eyes, "later then Iíll let you do whatever, but I have needs."

"Why are you trying so hard, Addison? Handcuffs? Not really you." He took them from her hand and threw them across the room. "And I have needs, too. The biggest one right now is to share something with you that doesnít just involve getting off."

"Okay. Fine." She crossed her arms over her chest and took a deep breath. "Share something, Mark."

"Iím not just here to service the girl."

"Since when?"

"Since when? Apparently when we swapped roles and I became the committed one and you became the whore."

Addison slapped him before she could stop herself and the sound of it echoed across the room, leaving a silence in its wake that was deafening. As quickly as her temper had come, it dissipated and she said, "I - I didnít mean-"

"Thatís twice now that youíve slapped me. The first time was pretty amusing, Iíll give you that." He glared at her. "This time? The jokeís on you."

"What does that mean?"

"Iím not doing this anymore, Addison. Iíve done everything in my power to show you that I love you and want a life with you." He reached behind him and opened the door. "You call me a manwhore every chance you get, but youíre the only person who has ever made me feel like thatís all I am. Or will ever be."

"Mark-"

"Weíre done. Itís over."

"No! Donít -"

He stepped into the hallway and shut the door, drowning out her words. Addison stared at the closed door in shock. She turned away and saw that he had left his jacket. She picked it up and brought it to her nose, inhaling his cologne, then she slipped her arms into it and laid down on the bed.

She cried herself to sleep, feeling like his arms were around her.

And wondering if they ever would be again.

*~*~*~*~*~

Alex reached across the console at the red light and felt to make sure Callie had her seat belt on. He was not used to driving a car like her Mercedes and wondered, not for the first time, what the safety rating was. A horn honked behind them and he eased through the light, then took her hand in his. They had been separated after she sang by several of her uncles requesting a dance with her. Alex had danced with a string of older women who could still move with the beats despite their age. When the party finally ended, they had stood beside the doorway with Melana and Raphael thanking the guests, most of which pressed envelopes into their hands. Callie had stuffed them all into her purse before telling her parents good night.

"Hey," Alex said, tugging her hand a little. "Your family is great. I really liked everyone. Well, maybe not your Great Aunt Selene, but everyone else was amazing."

"What did Selene do?"

"She said that I should have been mad at you for calling me Ďjock strapí in front of everyone and asked me if I understood what a jock strap was."

"What did you tell her?"

"I said no so that she would explain it to me."

Callie grinned at him. "Sheís almost eighty years old so anything she said -"

"She said that you basically called me a cod sack holder and that you should be ashamed of yourself because your mouth is dirty. I think she may have called you a whore, too."

She burst out laughing and shook her head. "Thereís a lot of that going around. Iím a ferret loving whore, apparently."

"Who said that?"

"Itís not important."

"Who said it, Cal?"

She sighed. "George."

He looked at her and then back at the road. "When was that?"

"I dunno. Addison literally kicked his ass for it while we were gone. And Izzieís, too, because she had her own special names for me that didnít involve my given one." Callie sighed. "Monday is going to be so much fun. Back at work, having to be professional. Having *Sydney* as our boss."

"Weíre on the same shift, though. So, thatís good."

"Yeah."

Alex finally arrived at the cove and parked Callieís car beside his jeep. The trail lights were off again, even though he was certain he had turned them on. "I donít like this, Callie. Itís too dark out here."

"Itís like weíre in our own world, though."

They walked down the trail, relying on the dim solar powered lights and finally boarded the yacht. It was chilly and Callie shivered a little, adjusting the thermostat. She sat down on the sofa and unbuckled one of her shoes, then sighed with relief as she massaged her toes. "At least on Monday I can wear sneakers. All day. All week, actually."

He smiled and sat beside her, pulling her legs into his lap. Taking her other shoe off, he rubbed her foot and watched as she bit her lip. Their eyes met and he moved to her ankle, kneading the marks that had been left by her high heel. "Iím sorry that I made you cry."

"Iím sorry that I made you think Iíd leave you." She shook her head and leaned back, propping herself on her elbows. "I didnít even realize that I was doing it or that - that I was giving you so many reasons to doubt me."

"Donít."

"Iím never gonna make you feel that way again. I am *not* a flier, Alex."

"Yes, you are." He slipped his hand behind her calf, still rubbing. "Youíre a pilot and that was what you wanted to be instead of a doctor. So, Iíll take flier because I donít want you to change who you are. For anyone. Just - just make sure that you tell me ahead of time that youíre going."

"I wonít have to. Because youíll be with me."

"You gonna teach me how to fly the plane?"

"Not on your life." Callie jumped when he tickled the back of her knee, then hissed when he moved to the front of her thigh, kneading, massaging. It was like a current of electricity went straight to her core. "Alex?"

"Hmm?"

"Let me see the Speedo."

"Iím in the middle of something here."

"You can be in the middle of a lot more if you let me see it."

"Patience is not your strong suit."

"You wouldnít show it to me earlier. Iíd say Iím very patient." She sat up suddenly, her mouth open. "You didnít wear it, did you?!"

"Yes, I did. Why do you think I was in such a bad mood?"

"Then prove it." She pulled her legs off his lap and reached for the waist of his pants.
He gently smacked her hand away and shook his head. "Ah ah ah. Like I said, I was in the middle of something. Stand up."

Callie shot him a look, but got to her feet. Alex stood in front of her and untied the top of her dress, letting it fall from around her neck. Her breasts were bare underneath and he touched one dusky nipple, then the other. Reaching behind her, he found the zipper and slid it down, then lifted her dress over her head instead of letting it fall to the floor. He gently laid it over the arm of the couch and said, "You will give me a lap dance in that later."

"I already did that once tonight. We were late to the party, remember."

"That dress is vulgar and sacred."

Callie grinned at him. "So are you."

"We havenít enjoyed the mirrors on the ceiling in the starboard room yet. Why donít you go in there and wait for me?"

"What are you doing?"

"I forgot something in the car."

Callie nodded and watched him walk up the steps. She went to her bathroom and freshened up. As she laid her panties in the hamper she realized exactly what he had gone to the car to retrieve. She walked, naked, down the hallway. Alex was coming back down the stairs and he stopped, enjoying the view. She leaned back against the door of the secondary bedroom and raised a brow. "You know what I think?"

"What?"

"I think that you went outside to put the Speedo on. Because you didnít wear it."

"Thatís what you get for thinking," he told her. Smiling, he pulled a small bottle from his pocket and tossed it to her. "I do believe you mentioned massage oil and deep tissue."

"Strawberry," she said, glancing at the label. "Iím not letting you put this on me until you drop your pants, Alex."

With a resigned look of defeat, he pulled his tie off and unbuttoned his shirt. After removing it and the t-shirt he wore under it, he unbuckled his belt and unfastened his pants. With his hand on the zipper, he said, "This is humiliating. I just want you to know that."

She licked her lips and nodded. "Go on."

He slid his zipper down and let her see the top of the black Speedo. "Happy?"

"All the way, Alex."

He shoved his pants to his ankles and stood, hands on his hips. Callie gazed at the Speedo with a wicked smile on her face. They fit snug and the apparent bulge in the front of them made her mouth water. She unscrewed the cap on the oil and slipped her finger along the rim, tasting it. "Mmm, itís good. Sweet. Wanna taste?"

"Callie-"

She tipped the bottle and let oil drip onto her breasts, which she rubbed into her skin very, very slowly. Her eyes never leaving his, she poured a little more into her hand and slipped her fingers between her thighs. "And very wet."

Alex started toward her, forgetting that his feet were still tangled in his pants. He fell face first onto the floor of the salon. Callie was laughing, a deep throaty sound and he yanked off his shoes, ripped off his pants and had her flat on her back on the bed in the starboard room before she knew what had happened.

She gazed up at the mirror, watching as he licked a path between her breasts and settled between her thighs.

It was the most erotic thing sheíd ever experienced.

So she made sure to return the favor a little while later.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Hello?"

"Calliope, your mother and I are here to see the yacht," Raphael said. "Come and let us in."

"What time is it?"

"Ten a.m.. Are you still in bed?"

Callie grinned. "Uh, yeah. Iíll be there in a second."

Alex rolled onto his back and yawned. "Who is it?"
She told him and he shot to his feet, searching for clothing. He glanced at his watch and raced from the room. He returned a moment later with her robe, wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. She stood, calmly arched her back, and kissed him. "Stop freaking."

"Right."

Callie pulled her robe on and ran a hand through her hair. "Come on."

Melana and Raphael studied the yacht and if they were shocked to see the aftermath of what had clearly been a very enjoyable night for their daughter, neither commented. Alex hastily tossed his pants, the ones that were still in the middle of the salon floor, into the corner and smiled at Melana. She patted his cheek and walked past him, glancing at the starboard bedroom, then the bathroom. She decided that Goon Docks was a glorious home.

Raphael did not agree. "Itís too small."

"Itís not too small, Daddy."

"You should have bought something bigger, safer."

"Even the Titanic sank."

Raphael accepted the cup of coffee Alex handed him and said, "This area is not safe. Cambyses told us about the lighting issue. Itís very remote out here and anything could go wrong. Especially on the nights that youíre alone."

"I agree," Alex replied. He saw the look that Callie shot him and hastily added, "I just think that it needs better lighting and -"

"A security guard. Are you renting this piece of property?" Raphael asked.

"Yes."

"Give me the name of the owner. Iíll have a guard shack erected in the parking area and make sure that someone is on duty around the clock."

"Thatís really not necessary, Dad."

Melana sipped her own coffee and said, "Youíre father is right. Weíll also add better lighting on the path and remodel the steps. Theyíre awfully steep."

Someone shouted outside the boat and Callie frowned. She stood up to head for the stairs, but Alex shook his head and went ahead of her. Callie followed, even though her father tried to stop her. Addison and Mark stood toe to toe on the deck, yelling their heads off.

"I have been friends with Callie longer than you have *known* Alex so-"

"Thatís not true!" Mark bellowed. "I met him on my first day in the hospital and-"

"*I* am going on that boat and *you* can go take a swim!"

"Youíre the one who needs the cold water, Addison, not me!"

"I got here first!"

"Only because you passed me in the driveway!"

Addison slapped him with her purse and the handcuffs fell out. She bent and retrieved them, then turned to the yacht, where Alex, Callie, and her parents were watching them intently. Tossing the handcuffs to Callie, she said, "They didnít work."

Callie caught them, turned bright red when Melana cleared her throat, and stuffed them in the pocket of her robe. "Whatís going on?"

"Mark broke up with me."

"I broke up with her because sheís a sex addict who treats me like a piece of meat."

"If the shoe fits!" Addison cried. "How long were you in town before you slept with Callie?"

Callie felt her fatherís eyes on her and said, "Different Callie. Not me."

"She picked me up!" Mark shouted, pointing at Callie. "I tried to buy her a drink and she told me to bring it to her hotel room."

"Oh, right," Addison snapped. "She threw you over her shoulder? She breaks bones, Mark, but sheís not *that* strong."

"You had made it perfectly clear that you were staying with Derek! I came all the way across the country for you! I gave up my practice, I gave up my *life* to try to win you back and-"

"And I bet you slept with two stewardesses and half the passengers before you got to Seattle! And once you got here you slept with my best friend!"

"Not you?" Melana asked Callie, who was scarlet.

"We were not friends at the time!" Callie said.

"I was scared, Addison!" Mark continued, undaunted. "I was scared of the fact that I was in love with you so I made mistakes! And Iíve been trying for *months* to make amends for that and you just - you wonít even acknowledge the fact that Iíve been -"

"Iím sorry! Iím oh so sorry that you keeping your pants up for forty days is supposed to make me think youíre a reformed -"

"Manwhore? Are you really going to go there again?" Mark growled. "Are you gonna hit me again too?"

"Iíd rather drown you. And oh, look, water!"

"Addison!" Callie interrupted. "Death threats! Witnesses!"

"He broke up with me!" Addison repeated and promptly burst into tears. "And he knows that Iím in love with him."

Melana frowned and said, "Addison, honey, why donít the two of you come inside? It looks like itís going to rain."

Raphael held out his hand and helped Addison onto the yacht. She finally saw Callieís face and mouthed, ĎSorry.í

Callie shot her a look of death and followed her mother and friend down the stairs. Raphael stayed topside with Alex and Mark. He looked from one to the other and both men knew what he was thinking. They had both been intimate with his daughter. Mark coughed into his hand and looked at Alex, imploring him to say something. Alex opened his mouth and quickly closed it again, oblivious to the fact that Raph was rapidly losing his glare and was enjoying their obvious discomfort.

Raph finally said, "Sit down."

Alex and Mark sat down fast, next to one another on the U shaped lounger. Raph sat on one end and sighed, "Women can be infuriating."

"Yes," Mark agreed. "They can."

"Let me impart a little wisdom to the two of you," Raph said.

Side by side, Alex and Mark listened intently.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Men are infuriating!" Melana said, pacing the length of Callieís bedroom. She turned and looked at her daughter, who was patting Addison on the shoulder. The redhead had her face buried in toilet paper and was softly crying. She sat on her other side and put an arm around her. "There, there, dear."

"I just - I donít get it. I was only trying to be seductive. Most guys would like that right?" Addison blew her nose again and looked at Callie. "I pulled the handcuffs out just like you said and he didnít like it. It pissed him off."

Callie purposely avoided her motherís eyes. "Well, what did you say when you showed them to him?"

"I told him we could do it the easy way or the hard way."

"Addison, thatís attempted rape!" Callie cried. "I told you to ask him if he wanted to play Ďgood cop, bad copí! You were supposed to do the whole Ďyou have the right to remain silent, unless youíre screaming in pleasureí thing."

"I didnít hear that." Melana shook her head. She hugged Addison a little tighter and said, "You love him?"

"Yes! I destroyed my marriage to be with him!"

Melana looked at Callie over Addisonís head. "There seems to be a lot of that going around."

"No way! This is not about me! My marriage was destroyed before I started anything with Alex!" Callie tore off more toilet paper and handed it to Addison. "And so was yours, Addison. You said so. You said your marriage was broken when you slept with Mark."

"I know." She blew her nose, sounding like a fog horn. "I just canít stop thinking about all the women and -"

"You have to stop punishing him, Addy," Callie put her hand on her friendís when Addison lifted her head and glared at her. "You keep bringing up your marriage and how you screwed it up to be with him, but you didnít. Youíre just like me. You were floundering in a life that you werenít meant to be in so you found someone who understood that. Donít punish him for being the person you found and stop holding his past against him."

Addison blinked. "You stopped punishing George and he cheated again."

"No, George cheated again because I was torturing him by leaving town with Alex. George has sex when heís stressed. Thatís what he does. Itís his coping mechanism. He almost killed me with sex after his father died. I could barely walk for days." Callie looked at her mother. "You didnít hear that either."

"I was just admiring the chandelier." Melana kept her eyes on the ceiling.

Callie handed Addison the roll of toilet paper and said, "I think Mark is the kinda guy who has never been loved. Not by anybody. Iím speaking from experience when I tell you that having someone love you enough to show it to you in everything that they do ... can change who you are. So if youíre going to love him then do it all the way. Because if you do it all the way then heís not going to want to look anywhere else because heíll be too busy looking at you."

"What did you do on your trip?" Addison rubbed at her nose. "Read a bunch of self help books?"

"No," Callie smiled at her. "I was too busy looking at Alex. And the fact that he could love *me* given all the baggage that Iím carrying ... itís proof that you probably shouldnít ignore fate."

"How do I know that Mark is my fate?"

Melana smiled a little. "Wherever fate commands you, you will go. It leads the willing and drags the unwilling. I believe I heard him say that he had followed you across the country. And do you really think itís a coincidence that the two of you collided here today?"

There was a soft knock at the door and Callie called out for whoever it was to come in. Mark stepped into the bedroom and opened his mouth to speak. He closed it when he saw the state that Addison was in and walked across the room, kneeling in front of her. Melana stood, asking if Callie would show her the yachtís engine. Callie nodded and they headed into the salon where Alex and Raphael were looking at the Disneyland photos from their trip.

Callie sat beside Alex and listened to him talk about Chinatown and Alcatraz. He reminded her that they needed to get the photos developed and she nodded. "I have to go and pack my stuff at the Archfield so Iíll drop the film off at the one hour photo place."

"Cam and Blake already took care of the packing." Raphael smiled at her. "Your belongings are in our suite. Iíll have them bring everything tonight if thatís okay."

"Not that Iím not grateful, but why did they pack for me? They didnít have to do that."

"Because you donít need to go back there, honey." Mel shrugged. "The best way for the past to stay in the past is to not revisit it. And judging from the state that the room was in, I can only imagine that you donít have fond memories there."

Callie remembered the stains on the carpet and walls from George tossing the wine bottle. "Not so much."

"We paid to have it repainted and the carpet replaced."

"Sorry," Callie replied, shaking her head. "I - I was gonna take care of it."

"Donít worry about it, honey." Raphael picked up one of the photos and showed it to Melana, who insisted that she be allowed to keep it.

"Thatís fine." Callie nodded, looking back and forth between her parents. "How long are you staying here in Seattle?"

"Are you ready for us to leave?" Melana asked.

"No. Iím actually not. Iím just curious."

Raphael leaned back on the sofa and said, "I need to know what day you want the media outlets to arrive. Iíve got Fox, CNN, and MSNBC on standby to cover the Jane Doe story."

"Avaís not awake yet. I called the hospital earlier and sheís still down so I think it would be best to have the newís crew arrive after she wakes up. Even if no one recognizes her face they could recognize her voice."

Alex looked shocked. "Wait, you were serious about the this?"

"Yeah."

"I shouldnít really be shocked because youíre clearly resourceful as hell, but how did you do this?"

Callie put her hand on his. "My dad is the resourceful one. All I did was ask."

*~*~*~*~*~

Mark said nothing for a while. He simply stayed on his knees in front of her, waiting for her to calm down. When she sobbed a little harder, he moved to sit beside her on the bed and hugged her. She smelled good. She always smelled good. He had stayed in the Brownstone in New York for three weeks after she left him and he had never taken another woman to their bed. After three weeks, her pillow had stopped smelling like her so he returned to his place, but he still went back several times because she left so much of herself behind. He still had the ivory hair clip she had worn in her hair the day she told him she was going to Seattle.

The clip was currently in his pocket, where it could almost always be found and he leaned back a little, pulling it out. "I gave this to you for your birthday. Remember?"

Addison dried her eyes and gazed at the clip. "I thought I lost it."

"No. It came out of your hair while we were fighting over your suitcase. The day you left me."

//

A horn blared, cutting across the shouts in the Brownstone.

"Let go. Mark, Iím going!"

"Addison, donít do this. Donít."

"The cab is waiting! Let go!" Addison renewed her struggles for the bag and he angrily released his hold, causing her to stumble back against the bed. Her hair fell around her face and she brushed it out of her eyes. "Richard said that heís with an *intern*."

"And youíre with me! Who cares?"

"No. No, I canít do this anymore. Derek is -"

"Gone. Derekís gone! He got as far away from you as he could get! Weíre happy! Addison, weíre happy together! We have problems, but I swear to God that I can-"

"You slept with that woman!"

"Because you aborted my child! I was pissed! Why the hell do you think I told you?"

She got to her feet and stared at him. "We were not ready for a baby and you know that."

"No, *you* were not ready for a baby. I went shopping for the kid while you got rid of it!"

The cab blew the horn again and Addison shifted the suitcase from one hand to the other. "We never would have worked."

"Weíve been working just fine! I love you! I love you even though-"

"Stop! Do not blame me for this! I needed you here after I - after I terminated the pregnancy and -"

"You called me while I was at the gym and told me what you had done! Do you know what I had been doing? I had been telling everyone that I was going to be a daddy!"

"And you got me back, didnít you!? You called me and told me that you had fucked your-"

The cab honked again and Mark said, "Stay. Stay, Addison. We can fix this!"

"Iím going. I - I have to go."

"Why?"

"Because heís my husband!"

"He stopped being your husband when he married his job, Addison! Iím the one who was always here!"

She grabbed her purse and hurried down the stairs. He was hot on her heels, close enough for her to feel his breath. Opening the door, she stepped over the threshold and looked back at him. "Iím sorry. Iím sorry for everything."

"Then stay."

Addison faltered briefly, torn between chasing after an old dream or embracing a new one. He saw it, he read her like a book and kissed her. She didnít try to pull away. She kissed him back with the same ferocity. When they broke apart, she took a deep breath and said, "I loved you. I did."

"You still do," he replied.

"Goodbye, Mark."

"Addison, please! Please donít do this!"

She hurried down the steps and yanked the car door open. She slipped into the seat and closed her eyes, listening to him shout that he would come find her.


That he would always come and find her.

//


Addisonís hand was shaking as the memory faded and she took the clip. Running her thumb over the intricate pattern, she recalled the circumstances surrounding the gift. "You brought it back from Thailand. You told me it was real Ivory and I said that you should be ashamed of yourself for killing an elephant to take its tusk."

He smiled. "I told you the elephant was already dying."

She sniffled and looked at him. "I was so scared for you when you went to Phuket. I watched the news around the clock, worrying about what youíd encounter after the tsunami. Derek thought I was crazy. He kept telling me that youíd be fine, that you would call us as soon as you could. I was so pissed at you for volunteering to go."

"I had never even thought about being with you at that time, but for some reason I couldnít stop thinking about you while I was there." He brushed her hair over her shoulder. "You and Derek were the only family I had, but I didnít think about him. I saw your face in every single person I treated or pronounced dead."

"After you came back you stared coming around more. I noticed."

"I noticed things, too." he replied. "Like the fact that you were usually crying when you opened the door to let me in."

"My marriage was falling apart."

"But you kept chasing it anyway."

Addisonís eyes welled with fresh tears. "I should have stayed with you."

"I recall suggesting that."

She looked at him. "Iím sorry. For everything. For the baby and for the sex thing and -"

"Do you want to try this again?"

Her eyes widened hopefully. "What?"

"Us. You and me. Do you want to give it a real try?"

Addison nodded. "I do."

"Are you cold?"

"No, why?"

"Because youíre wearing my jacket from last night."

"It smells like you."

Mark smiled at her, leaning his forehead against hers. "I love you."

"I love you," she replied, then added, "And I hate you for making me feel *anything* at all because I donít want to and it scares me and I canít stop because -"

He silenced her with a kiss, cradling her face between his palms. When they finally broke apart, he dried her eyes and said, "Karev said that he went hiking with Callie on the other side of the cove the other day. He said that thereís a beautiful view of the city. Would you - do you want to take a walk, Addison?"

"Okay."

"And after we take a walk why donít we go grab lunch and -"

"Not have sex," Addison interjected. "Because I want it to mean something too. And weíll know when we should because neither one of us will be listening to our bodies at the time. Weíll be listening to our hearts."

"Iíve been listening to my heart for a while now, Addison." He touched her cheek. "It always takes me where you are."

Taking a deep breath, she got to her feet. "Letís take that walk."

They found Alex and Callie on the sofa, playing a gory video game that was clearly intended for mature audiences. Callie paused it and handed them both a bottle of water when they said they were going for a hike. "Be careful. Itís really steep in parts."

"Where did your parents go?" Addison asked.

"Mom is hosting a poker party with my aunts."
"You donít like poker?" Mark asked her.

Callie smiled. "My poker face is so good that they wonít let me play. Iím uninvited."

Addison gave her a hug and said, "Iíll apologize to your parents when I see them. How long are they staying?"

"A few more days and you donít have to apologize. Believe me, they get freakiní out over a guy. Cam used to do it every couple of weeks."

"Cam did, but you didnít?" Addison asked.

"No. I didnít get my first kiss until I was nineteen and by then I was away at college."

"Youíre a late bloomer yet you know how to play Ďgood cop, bad copí?" Addison raised a brow.

"I rapidly made up for lost time."

"Uh." Alex put his arm around Callie. "Good cop, bad cop?"

Callie pulled the handcuffs out of the pocket of her robe and said, "You have the right to remain silent unless youíre screaming in pleasure."

Grinning, Alex glanced at Mark and pointed at the door. "You guys have fun on the trail. Try not to need us for at least an hour."

Mark laughed when Alex chased Callie down the hallway. "Not *that* is how you get both parties involved in bondage."

"I should take notes from her." Addison heard Callie shriek right after her bedroom door slammed.

"I took notes from her father."

"What do you mean?"

"He's a very wise man."

"You're not going to tell me what he said to you?"

"No. I'm not." He stepped up one of the steps. "But it was very eye opening. I needed to hear it. Ready?"

"Letís go *walk*."

He chuckled. "We have to walk off your sexual frustration."

She shook her head. "No. We have to walk off the past. Together."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 24
*~*~*~*~*~

Monday morning came faster and earlier than Callie was ready for. She hit the snooze button four times while Alex showered and then he finally resorted to coaxing her from the bed with coffee. A construction crew was already setting up shop in the driveway of Callie's property and the wait for the workers to move their truck had caused Callie and Alex to be late for work. They showed up at the residentís locker room in time to hear Sydney Heron introducing herself as Chief Resident. Callie groaned and caught Baileyís eye. Bailey put a finger in her mouth like she was gagging and Callie stifled a giggle.

"Callie O'Malley, there you are!" Sydney called. "Nice of you to join us. Late. I was just introducing myself and saying that things are going to be a little different this year. To the brand new residents, congratulations. Some of you almost cost us our teaching credentials last year. You know who you are. You were all very close to Dr. Bailey, but I wonít name names because that would be tacky. Dr. Stevens, I'm sure you'd agree. Right?

"Iíll just say that I need all of you to remember that youíre doctors. Do not cut wires, do not fall in love with patients, and donít attempt suicide because Iíll be pissed." Sydney clapped her hands together. "Any questions? No? Great! Karev, you will be working with Sloan. Bailey, you have Grey and Yang in your lovely clinic. Stevens, youíll be scrubbing in with Montgomery on a hysterectomy. And Callie, because you lied to me about Chief Webber looking for me the other day, you take OíMalley and cover the pit."

"Shit," Callie whispered.

"Itís okay," Alex told her, squeezing her hand as the crowd dispersed. "It was bound to happen sooner or later. Besides, when you lie it always catches up with you."

She grinned at him. "Shut up."

"Iíll see you at lunch." He kissed her and followed the others out of the room.

Callie took a deep breath when George stopped in front of her. He looked pale and his hair was standing up on end. She had to stop herself from automatically reaching up and smoothing it down. It was something she did every day. No, it was something she used to do everyday. Shoving her fists in the pockets of her lab coat, she nodded at him. "Hey."

"Hey," he replied, not looking at her. "So, pit."

"Pit." Callie shot Sydney a scathing look and adjusted the stethoscope around her neck. "I havenít done pit since I was a second year, but apparently the new sheriff in town is a bitch. A very cheery, huggy bitch."

They walked together to the ER and glanced at the board. Callie chewed her bottom lip thoughtfully and said, "Nothing great to choose from. You want to take the stomach ache and Iíll cover the leg pain?"

"Sure." He nodded and rifled through the charts until he found the correct one. "Cal, er, Dr. Torres?"

"Yes, Dr. OíMalley?"

"I hope you had a good time ... while you were gone. And - and Iím glad youíre back."

She nodded and picked up a chart of her own. As an afterthought, she said, "Thank you for signing the papers. For not making it hard."

"It was the hardest thing *Iíve* ever done." George tucked his chart under his arm. "Besides watching you leave me."

"George-"

"Iím not gonna make it weird. Iím not going to do anything ... except miss you." His eyes moved over her face for a long time. "I donít want to miss you though, Callie. We could talk. Sometimes. If you could just - not forget that I care about you that would be great."

She gazed into his green eyes, then blinked and looked away. "Weíre not friends, George."

"We could be."

She glanced back at him. "Maybe. Just ... not yet."

"I was - one more thing," he said softly when she turned away. He waited until she looked at him again before he spoke. "Did you - are you with Alex? All the way?"

Callie took a deep breath. "Did you sleep with Izzie again? And Olivia? Thereís your answer."

He nodded his head, just barely, and walked down the hallway and into his patientís room.

Callie did the same.

*~*~*~*~*~

"So, I purposely dropped the womb on Stevenís new white sneakers." Addison sat back in her seat, beaming at Callie. "You should have seen her face. She was like Ďoh my godí."

"You sound just like her." Callie wrinkled her nose at Addisonís imitation. "But you have made me proud with the womb, young Padawan."

"Who wears solid white shoes in a hospital? She had it coming. She didnít even have them covered correctly with the booties." Addison finished off her sandwich and stole a chip from Callieís untouched plate. "Are you still not eating?"

"Sydney is power tripping. My father is remodeling my life. I am apparently getting a star on the gossip walk of fame and Iím being forced to work with George ... who has decided to kill me with kindness."

Addison gasped. "Holy batshit, girl wonder. Howís that working out?"

"Did you just attempt to pay homage to the classic that is ĎBatmaní?"

"You did give me the boxset for my birthday. Iíve watched it all. Twice."

"Youíve come so far. But, see, you would be the Robin to my Batman, so I get to call you Ďgirl wonderí. If you call me that again Iíll stab your leg with my fork." Callie patted her hand. "And George said he wants us to be friends."

"Iím friends with Derek."

"I told him maybe someday, but not so much with the now." Callie sipped her Dr. Pepper. "So, you and Mark?"

"Still completely sexless and Iíve decided to be fine with that. Iíve gone through four packs of batteries and have developed a physical attachment to my shower head, but Iím coping."

Callie smiled. "Awww, youíre like a wannabe porn star. Whatís stopping you guys now?"

"Romance."

"Come again."

"Heís romancing me. And apparently heís been watching reruns of ĎGilliganís Islandí because weíre definitely not even rated PG, but we did spend hours hiking around the water while he hummed the theme song and made ĎSkipperí jokes."

"Well, friendly advice? Tone down the ĎGingerí and put a little more ĎMary Anní into your routine." Callie pointed at Addisonís shirt. "Iím all about the Vera Wang, but you might want to button it."

Addison gasped and looked down. Her black camisole was clearly visible under her blue shirt, which was unbuttoned almost all the way down. "Oh god. Thatís what I get for dropping the womb."

"Youíre just advertising your wares." Callie took another sip of her soda as Addison buttoned her shirt and then, for good measure, secured the fastenings on her white coat. "Play hard to get."

"What?"

"Hard to get," Callie repeated. "Act like you completely donít care that your developing carpal tunnel syndrome from all the self pleasure. Just roll with it."

Addison stole another chip. "The last time I listened to you I almost got arrested for attempted rape."

"You didnít listen to me! I never said to threaten him with the cuffs." Callie pushed her tray in front of Addison and pulled Addisonís in front of her as Alex walked into the cafeteria. "And because you exposed that Iím raunchy sex kitten to my parents you are *so* covering my ass. I ate lunch, Addison. Got it?"

"No way." Addison pushed the tray back in front of her. "Iíd help you dig a grave for a dead body, but Iím not helping dig it for *you*."

"Addison, come on!"

"You have anorexia and Iím telling."

"I do not have anorexia!"

"Then why arenít you eating?"

"Because Iím not hungry."

"Iím not covering for you. Youíre losing too much weight too fast."

"Will you please stop sounding like my parents and be a damn friend?"

"Friends donít let friends emulate Karen Carpenter. Although you do sing just as pretty."

"Addison-"

"No!"

Callie watched as Alex went through the lunch line and walked her way, carrying a tray. He kissed her on the head and pulled his chair a little closer to hers. "Hey," she said. "How was your facial reconstruction?"

"Good." He glanced at her tray. "How was your lack of a lunch?"

"I really wish people would stop counting my calories."

"Someone has to, Karen." Addison shrugged and looked at Alex. "Sheís still not eating. Why is that?"

"Sheís being forced to work with OíMalley?"

"So? She still needs to -"

"Sheís sitting right here," Callie snapped. "And Iím not eating because Iím not hungry and Iím not hungry because I donít feel good and I donít feel good because people keep obsessing about everything I do."

Alex reached out, feeling her head. She felt cool to the touch, but her attitude was definitely scorching. "Whatís wrong with you?"

"I am on *pit*. I should not be on pit."

"Well, you did lie to Dr. Heron." Alex leaned forward and kissed her. "Maybe you should hug her, baby. Sheíd be all over that."
"Webber alert," Addison announced as Callie moved to kiss Alex again.

Chief Webber cleared his throat behind Callie and said, "Dr. Torres, welcome back. When youíve finished eating Iíd appreciate it if youíd stop by my office."

"Yes, sir." Callie waited until he had walked off before she put her head in her hands. "Why do I feel like Iím about to fitted for a sobriety anklet?"

"You havenít had anything to drink. Youíve got nothing to hide." Alex unwrapped the sandwich on her tray. "So, postpone it by eating, Gothika, because youíre stuck here until you do."

Callie had been on edge most of the day. Her father had already hired construction workers to begin erecting a guard shack *and* a three car garage at her residence. She felt smothered, confined, and like every choice in her life had been taken out of her hands. She was on *pit*. She *had* to go visit the Chief. What she didnít have to do was eat. Standing, she grabbed her tray and said, "Iím not stuck anywhere!"

Addison watched as Callie dumped her food and stalked out of the cafeteria. "Does she have PMS?"

Alex blinked a few times. "Dear God, I hope that's not what it is. I can't handle her like this once a month."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie sat across from Chief Webber as he rifled through her employee file. Her medical chart sat a few inches away and she took a deep breath when he quietly reached for it and adjusted his glasses. He had said less than ten words to her in the fifteen minutes she had been in his office and she checked the pulse in her wrist, counting it off as she watched the clock. Surely she had to be reaching stroke level any minute now.

"Dr. Gellar assured me that youíre psychological evaluation was exemplary." He eyed her over the top of his glasses. "I wonít lie to you, Dr. Torres, I still have concerns."

"I understand."

"I realize that there is not a fraternization rule that governs us, but the rumor mill is out of control where youíre concerned. I canít help but think that showing open affection with Dr. Karev is not going to quiet it."

"With all due respect, sir, I donít give a damn what the rumor mill is saying. Who Iím dating is not a reflection of my capabilities and it certainly doesnít define me." Callie indicated her employee file. "I have never had a blemish on my record and before you make any decisions Iíd like to ask you ... off the record ... to remember what it felt like to know your marriage was ending. You were sleeping in your office and power walking the halls. I donít power walk so I made a mistake."

"You think youíre in here for punishment?"

"Am I not?"

Webber grinned. "No, youíre not. I thought I owed you an explanation about why I chose Dr. Heron for Chief Resident."

"You really donít. I know I messed up."

"You were my first choice. Even after you messed up." Webber closed the file and took his glasses off. "But while you were on vacation, your father paid me a visit. He gave a sizable donation to the Denny Duquette Memorial Clinic and asked that I keep your duties very light for a while. Heís concerned for you and your well being. I can understand that so I honored his request."

Callie felt her cheeks flush with anger. "He had no right to do that and completely *on* the record ... you had no right to let him buy you off."

"Thatís not what I did. Thereís a much bigger picture." Webber cocked his head to one side. "Dr. Karev also came to me while you were hospitalized to plead your case about whether or not you had attempted suicide. He was very convincing, but he also let me know the extent of your alcohol consumption while in his presence. It was startling."

"I havenít had anything to drink since Iíve been gone."

"Thatís good." Webber leaned forward. "I havenít told many people this so itís off the record and better never leave this room. I made Chief Resident when I was a fifth year and I thought that my life was perfect. I had a wife I loved, a career that I adored, and I was the master of my domain. About three months after I took over as Chief Resident it got to me. I wonít go into all the details, but I will tell you that I began to rely on alcohol to unwind every night. Iím a recovering alcoholic. I attend AA meetings and I struggle with it every day. If youíd ever like to go-"

"I am *not* an alcoholic!"

"Okay." He nodded his head, but sounded unconvinced. "Tell you what ... weíre going to limit your shifts to four days a week for the time being. I wonít change your salary or let it affect your residency at all, but until you complete an alcohol education class and prove to me that youíre okay, this is where weíre at."

"You said I wasnít being called in here to be punished."

"Iím not punishing you, Callie. Iím giving you the wake up call that I always needed, but never had anyone care enough to give me."

"How much did my father pay for *that*?"

Webber put his glasses back on. "That was actually free."

"Iím not feeling well." Callie got to her feet. "I have an infection. Iím sure you saw that in my chart. Can I please go home?"

"Yes."

"Thanks."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callieís hands were shaking when she walked out of the Chiefís office. She pulled her white jacket a little tighter around her waist and stalked down the hallway. The first thing she was going to do was call her father and tell him exactly what she thought of his interference in her life. She was going to stop the construction, tell him to kiss her ass, and then she was going to find Alex Karev and choke him to death with her bare hands.

"Callie OíMalley!" Sydney called. "Iíve been looking for you."

Callie spun on her heel, a sneer on her face. "If you call me OíMalley one more time Iím going to break your arm off and shove it up your ass."

"Oooh. My goodness! Someone needs a campfire and a rousing rendition of ĎKumbayaí." Sydney held her arms up in surrender. "Thereís a guy in the pit who came in with an open fracture. I paged you, but you didnít reply, so I gave it to Pratt. Could you please go to the ER and work with OíMalley like I instructed?"

"Iím off the clock. Iím going home."

"What? Youíre scheduled to work until seven. Itís only twelve thirty."

"Chief Webber knows."

Sydney put her hand on her hip. "Do you know what a team is? Itís a group of people who have specific areas and duties that they must perform in order for the game to be played well. If you leave the team before your work is finished then your teammates have to cover for you. You donít-"

"Do you know what a body slam is? Itís a move performed very specifically that will render you incapable of coherent thought when done correctly. And Iím sure that my teammates would vote me the most valuable player in whatever game it is that weíre playing if I did that to you."

"I could write you up for threatening me."

"Go ahead." Callie turned on her heel and headed toward the elevator. Once inside, she flipped open her cellphone and called her father. He answered on the fourth ring. "Dad, I donít want a guard shack! And I donít want a garage or anything else done to my rental property!"

"Honey, I know itís a nuisance to deal with the noise and the -"

"No. A nuisance is the fact that you paid off my fucking boss to not give me a promotion!"

Raphael cleared his throat. "I merely suggested that perhaps-"

"You have ruined my god damned life!"

"This is why I was against you taking drama lessons. Youíre overreacting."

"I am *not* overreacting!" The elevator opened and she stalked to the residentís locker room to get her purse. "How could you do this to me?"

"Because I love you. I love you and I saw how exhausted you were when we arrived at the hospital."

"I was not exhausted! I was half dead!"

"The stress of your job coupled with the divorce is just too much on you right now. Itís best if you-"

"You know what? I am sick to *death* of everyone thinking they know whatís best for me! I know whatís best for me! I am not a child! I am not incapable of thinking for myself! And Iím sick and tired of people treating me like Iím too stupid to live!"

"Calm down!"

"I will *never* forgive you for this! Never!!" She slammed her phone shut and yanked her locker open, grabbing her purse.

The fall from the top of the world to the seventh level of Hell was not a pleasant one. Tears burned her eyes as she dug around for her keys. Her *father*, the same one who had insisted that she go to medical school, had put the kibosh on her advancement. She could just imagine him sitting in the Chiefís office, checkbook open, buying her out of the running. And Alex? She could not believe that he had gone to Webber and told him anything, especially about the alcohol she had consumed on their Ďdatesí.

She had only had a few beers at Vinnieís Italian Bistro and a little over half the bottle of wine at the seafood place. That wasnít a lot of alcohol.

She had shown everyone what a lot of alcohol was.

Maybe she should give them a refresher course.

Slamming her locker angrily, she skipped changing out of her scrubs and sat down to locate her keys. She finally found them and took the back way into the staff parking deck. Her car peeled rubber easily as she shifted the gears and drove away from the hospital, almost hitting Mark, who was about to enter the lot.

Mark leaned out the window to watch her take the corner so fast that her back tires lost traction for a moment. Swearing, he put his car in reverse and shot after her. His heart lodged in his stomach when she passed a large truck and barely avoided hitting another truck head on. She came close to losing him on the highway, but he kept up, reaching speeds in the eighties, then the nineties. Finally, he was able to seize a break in the traffic. He pulled alongside her and honked the horn. When she looked at him, he mouthed Ďpull overí and pointed to the side of the road.

He was relieved when she took the next exit. Following her into the parking lot of a strip mall, he jumped out of his car and yanked her door open. He reached across her and took her keys from the ignition, then put his hands on his hips. "You passed an eighteen wheeler on a two lane road! And it was not a passing zone! You couldnít see around the curve!"

She grabbed her purse and slid from the seat, ignoring him. Glancing up, she saw the liquor store sign and gazed at it with obvious longing. He blocked her when she took a step toward it and she finally looked up at him. "Go away, Sloan."

"Donít even think about it." He shook his head, indicating the store with his thumb. "Are you out of your mind? You almost died! I had to stop you from choking to death and *this* is what you do?"

"Mark, shut up!"

He grabbed her arms and shook her. "What are you *doing*?!"

"I am having the day from *hell*. Okay?"

"Itís barely one oíclock in the afternoon! It canít be that bad and itís too early to start poisoning yourself again!" Mark yanked her toward his BMW and opened the door. "Get in."

"What?"

"Get in the fucking car! Iíll take you home!"

"I am not leaving my car here!"

"Fine. Iíll call Alex." Mark pulled his phone from the clip, but she grabbed it.

"Do not call him! I will go to jail for murder if he comes near me."

"Why? What happened?" He watched her cross her arms over her chest. "Look, you're Addison's best friend so you're stuck with me too. And if I have to manhandle you to get you to talk instead of go into that store then I'll do it."

Callie took a deep breath and explained her meeting with the Chief and the fact that she no longer held the reigns to her own life. "Alex played a part in that! A very big part of the fact that I'm not Chief Resident and he didn't even tell me he did it."

Mark simply stared at her for several long moments. Finally, he said, "Do you understand that youíre crazy? Certifiably insane."

"What!?"

"You have no value for your life at all! None! You poisoned yourself, you almost hit a truck head on today, and when you get a little upset ... the first place you head is the liquor store. You arenít in control of you life, Callie. So you canít blame your father or Alex or Addison or anyone else for trying to grab the wheel every time you cross the yellow line. You crossed the yellow line today and *I* was here to see it. You scared the hell out of me!" he yelled.

She lowered her head as the truth of his words sank heavily onto her shoulders. "I donít know whatís happened to me. Itís like I stopped being myself and I canít get that person back. Where did I go, Mark?"

"You went to Vegas and you got married. Thatís where you went. And from the day that you came back there wasnít a hint of the woman who picked me up at the bar."

"Uh, thatís because I was faithful."

"No, itís because you stopped being strong and assertive. For a guy. You gave up your spine for a wedding band and that is why your marriage failed. You werenít meant to play the victim, but you let him force you into that role," he replied, his voice stern. "But every time you pull a little stunt like *this* ... you break your own back. *You* are the one doing it now. No one else."

"You're right. God, I hate that you are right." Callie brushed a tear off her cheek. "Can I use your phone?"

"Youíre holding it. Might as well."

Callie dialed a number and said, "Cam? Can you come and get me?"

Mark breathed a sigh of relief when Callie hung up a few minutes later.

He kept her in his car until her brother and his boyfriend arrived.

*~*~*~*~*~

George was finishing up the last of a rush of patients went Alex walked across the ER, peering into different rooms. George signed off on a chart and nodded at the nurse who thanked him. Taking a deep breath, he met the other man halfway and said, "Sheís not here."

"Who?" Alex asked absently, gazing into another room.

"Callie. She went home."

Alex finally looked at George. "What did you do to her?!"

"I didnít do anything. I donít think she felt very good. She, uh, she didnít look right."

"That would be cause and effect. You make her not look right." Alex glanced at his watch and pulled out his cell phone. He dialed Callieís number, but she didnít answer. "Damn it. I have to scrub in with Montgomery in fifteen minutes. Did she say anything before she left?"

"Not to me. But apparently she threatened Dr. Heron. She was livid when she came to tell me Callie was gone for the day."

Scratching the side of his head, Alex said, "Dr. Heron has been on her ass since this morning. Callie already hates her and-"

"I didnít believe you."

Alex stuffed his phone back into his pocket. "What?"

"I didnít believe you the day that you told me that you were interested. In her. I thought you were just trying to make me jealous."

"Well, I wasnít."

"Are you - do you even care about her? Or is this a game to you. She's rich and she's vulnerable."

Alex stared him in the eye. "Iím in love with her. And sheís in love with me."

George lifted a hand to his chest and massaged it as if the phantom of his marriage had squeezed his heart. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "If you hurt her-"

"Iím not you. I donít get any pleasure whatsoever out of seeing her cry and I donít think of her last unless Iím falling asleep. She's always first for me and that's not something you ever did for her. Iím not you," Alex repeated. "Leave us alone. Weíre happy."

"We both know that youíre a screw up." George squared his shoulders and stood a little straighter. "So, Iím gonna give you the same warning you gave me. Iím still interested and Iíll be waiting when you do fuck it all up. And you will. Because itís what you do."

"You really do have a death wish." Alex looked down at him. "And Iím not talking about from me. Callie will kill you if you go there ... if you get anywhere near there. And Iíll kill you for trying."

Mark Sloan tapped Alex on the shoulder and said, "I need to talk to you. It's an emergency."

*~*~*~*~*~

Cam handed Callie a cup of coffee and sat beside her on the sofa. Neither had spoken at all since he had driven her to her place. Neither needed to. He felt her pain as clearly as if he had been living her life. He had woken up that morning with enough anxiety and concern that he had postponed flying home indefinitely. Silently, he reached over and pressed his knuckles against hers. He could almost hear her saying Ďwonder twins power, activateí, but he didnít need to hear it to know that they had.

"Whereís Blake?"

"He had some errands to run," Cam said. "And he knew we needed to be alone for a while."

Callie took a deep breath. "Have you ever felt like everyone in the world was out to get you?"

"No." He took her hand. "Because I know that thereís always one person whoís not. She kinda looks a little like me."

She gave him a sad smile and laced their fingers. "Thatís true."

"What happened today?"

She told him. Everything. She told him about Alex going to Webber, about their father making the donation in order to keep her duties Ďlightí, and then she looked at her brother and said, "George wants us to be friends."

"Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." He studied her face. "You donít still have feelings for him do you?"

"Not the way I did. Not at all in any romantic way, but heís *George*. I look at him and want to hit him or hug him. Which is nothing new because I've always toed that line of hostility or affection, but he's *George*."

"I vote for hitting."

"Youíd probably win that vote." She nodded. "I almost got drunk today." She heard him take a deep breath beside her, but she didnít stop talking. "Chief Webber implied that I have a problem with alcohol and invited me to attend AA with him. It was insulting. It made me feel like the biggest failure in the world so ... so I thought why not. You know? Why not go and drown in alcohol since people think thatís all I can do. Everyone expects it."

"I donít."

"I keep assigning blame. I keep pointing the finger at George or at Daddy or at Sydney, but I am the mess *I* made." She ran a hand through her hair, pushing it off her face. "Iím the author of my own pain and I canít keep denying it." She glanced at him and what she said next caused her physical pain. "Cambyses, I knew what I was doing when I drank so much. It was intentional. I tried to kill myself."

Camís eyes filled with tears, but he said nothing. His grip on her hand tightened a little, though. Callie saw the devastation on his face and quickly looked away. After a few minutes, she said, "Iíve never been afraid of anything. Loukas is scared of heights. Stavros is scared of clowns. Youíre scared of, well, everything, and I always laughed at you all because fear is ridiculous."

She turned her head and waited for him to look at her. "Iím afraid of life, Cam. Iím afraid of what will happen tonight or tomorrow or what Iíll do when it does. I donít trust myself anymore. I let George flip me on my ass a million times and I didnít stop him ... even when it hurt too much to get up at all. He *destroyed* me while we were dating and I married him anyway.

"Itís like I let him take all of me and squander it until what I took back from him were fragments of who I used to be. And I canít blame him for that, Cam, because I *knew* it. I knew I couldnít change him, but I didnít care enough about *me* to fight for myself." She put her other hand on top of his. "I think Iím ready to start fighting now."

"What do you mean?"

"Daddy is *not* going to remodel this place. I want it the way it is and if he doesnít like it then he doesnít have to visit. And Sydney Heron may be Chief Resident, but sheís not going to treat me like crap because I *was* the first choice and that matters. And Alex canít keep treating me with kid gloves because he swore to me that heíd never do that and he is."

"How is Alex -"

"He checks my seatbelt in the car! He tries to force me to eat every couple of hours! He *agreed* with Daddy about the remodel and-"

"Callie?"

"What?"

"You authored your own pain. Remember? If he checks your seatbelt itís because heís afraid it slipped your mind. And if he has to *force* you to eat then itís because youíre not. Anyone with eyes can see that youíre not. And Dadís right about this place. Itís too dark and dangerous and *you* know that, youíre just too stubborn to admit it." He turned on the sofa and put an arm around her. "Itís not that the world is out to get you, Callie, itís that youíre out to get yourself. You're afraid to trust your own judgment because you were wrong about George. You donít always have to be the strongest or the most fearless ... you can lean on other people."

"I leaned on George and he let me fall."

"Well, some of us are a lot bigger than that Gremlin you married. I can hold you up and so can ĎJock Strapí. I think he proved that at the party." He saw the expression on her face. "Yes, yes, yes. I followed you up to the roof. You know Iím a compulsive eavesdropper. I make no apologies. I liked what he had to say to you and you didnít do half bad yourself."

"I donít want him to smother me."

"Then make it clear," Cam replied. "But donít mistake smothering for loving someone. I check Blakeís seatbelt. I worry about him when his meetings run too long because I know that his blood sugar can go crazy if he doesnít eat. I interrupted the biggest deal of his life to take him lunch. He was pissed at me for two days and you know what? It didnít faze me because when youíre in a relationship ... thatís what you do. You risk stroking the caged animal and drawing back a nub because itís worth it to feel what you love."

"No oneís ever treated me like Alex does. Iím not used to it."

"Is it really that bad?"

She shook her head. "No. Itís actually as close to perfect as Iíve ever had."

"Are you just being a big cry baby because you jumped out of one relationship and landed right in another?"

"Is it that obvious?"

"You wouldnít be Callie if you didnít jump. And something tells me that Alex wouldnít be Alex if he didnít hold out his mitt to catch you." He kissed her head. "Donít fear life. The good news is that we get to endure it once and the better news is that if weíre lucky someone gets us while weíre hanging around waiting to die. Do you want to be gotten, Callie?"

"By Alex? Definitely."

"The stop worrying about what happens tonight or tomorrow or next week. You said that you authored your pain, but you also author your future. Donít put the pen down before the final act." He pulled her head against his shoulder. "And donít think about writing that final act for a very, very long time."

"I love you."

"Who doesnít?"

"Your ego is -"

"Only slightly smaller than yours so reclaim it and start believing that youíre all that." He squeezed her. "I love you, too, by the way."

"Wanna play Dungeons and Dragons?"

"You really want me to kick your ass?"

"Have you ever?" she asked, eyebrow raised.

"No time like the present to -"

"Try. Thatís all you can do."

"Bring it out and letís just see what I can do."

"Spoken like someone who is going to draw back a nub," Callie said, pulling the board game from a nearby trunk. "Itís gonna get ugly."

"I can hold my own."

*~*~*~*~*~

Alex sat quietly in the back seat of Markís car, listening to him explain everything in detail to Addison. It was almost seven thirty and he was exhausted. Webber had refused to let him leave after Mark had shared what had transpired. Addison, sensing that something had happened, had been kind enough to let him stand in her surgery, but didnít ask him for more than that. Heís simply stood and watched and thought about the story that he was hearing for the second time now. He gripped his thigh when Mark told her about the truck that Callie almost hit and closed his eyes when the subject of speed was brought up.

"She had to have been going a hundred at one point. I was going ninety and she passed a big rig like it was on wheels."

Addison popped him on the back of the head. "Donít ever drive that fast again!"

"Hello? I was trying to save your friend! *Our* friend."

"And she went to the liquor store?"

"She wanted to. I didnít let her." Mark took Addyís hand over the gear shifter. "And it means a lot that she called her brother and didnít fight me on it. So, keep that in mind if you plan on screaming at her. I already did a good job of it."

Alex saw that Mark was looking at him in the rearview mirror and averted his eyes. He wasnít sure what would happen when he talked to her. One thing was absolutely certain, though. All the way to his gut he knew that she was going to break things off with him. George had been so confident, so cocky about his chances with her. And she had obviously been upset enough to -

"Whatís with all the construction?" Mark asked, parking beside Callieís car.

"Her father didnít like it here." Alex climbed out of the backseat. "He wants it to be safer for her."

"She doesnít like people doing things like that. It pisses her off to not call the shots." Addison came around the car and put a hand on Alex's arm. "Are you okay?"

He shook his head and adjusted the strap on his duffel. "No. Iím not."

Mark watched as Alex headed down the trail and glanced at Addison. "Letís just go. He needs to -"

"No." Addison headed down the trail behind him. "I want to make sure sheís okay."

Blake and Cam were sitting on the sofa when Alex entered the salon. Blake stood up and smiled at him, but his smile faded when he saw the other manís face. He looked at Cam, who got to his feet slowly and said, "Sheís asleep."

Alex nodded, putting his duffel on the kitchen counter. Blake walked to the sink and said, "I cooked dinner. Itís still cooking, actually. If youíll take it out of the oven in about twenty minutes itíll be great."

"Blakeís famous chicken parmesan." Cam smiled at Addison and Mark, who stood just off to the side of the galley. "Thereís plenty if you guys want to stay. We actually need to head out. Iíve got some work that I didnít manage to phone in today so I need to get it done."

"How is she?" Addison asked.

"Better." Cam watched Alex as he replied. "Sheís okay. Whatever happened today she *gets* it. Sheís finally aware of everything. Especially what she wants. Who she wants." He took a step closer to Alex and addressed him. "You should go talk to her."

"Sheís asleep."

"Wake her up, Alex. Wake her up."

Alex stared at him and saw Callieís eyes looking back, imploring him. He nodded and wordlessly headed down the hallway. She was lying with her back facing him, her hair spread on the pillow. He quietly shut the door behind him, but the clicking caused her to roll over and look at him. She sat up, Indian style, and pulled a pillow into her lap.

He walked across the room and sat down in front of her, not looking at her. "Just - say it."

"Say what?" she asked.

"End it fast because I canít do slow. I can't breathe."

"You think Iím ending it?"

"Arenít you? Because of what I said to the Chief?"

"I thought you would be ending it after what I did today." Callie held the pillow a little tighter. "Iím not, by the way. Ending it."

"Iím not either."

"Alex." She reached out, touching his shoulder. "Are you gonna yell at me?"

"Are you okay?"

"If I say no will that stop you from yelling at me?"

"No."

Her chin began to tremble. "Then what are you waiting for? Go ahead and do it."

"Iím not yelling." He turned and faced her, catching the tear that dropped onto her cheek. He pulled her into his arms and let his hand tangle in her hair. "But I am gonna hang onto you for a while."

Callie hugged him, tight. She breathed a sigh of relief and kissed his neck, massaging it. Her anxiety always faded as soon as he touched her and she was relieved that the current moment was no exception. Closing her eyes, she said, "I do need to tell you something."

He didnít let her go. "Okay."

"You told me you wouldnít use kid gloves with me while I was in the hospital. So donít start now."

Alex eased away from her. "What do you mean?"

"I donít need you to be the food police or to treat me like Iím breakable. Iím not. I already have a father who does that to me and -"

"Okay." Alex cut her off. "Fine. You donít want kid gloves? Youíre going to get your ass out of this bed and youíre going to come and eat dinner with me. Youíre going to actually eat because if you donít then Iíll force you."

"Youíll force me? Right." she scoffed.

"Wanna try me?" He waited and she finally shook her head. "And while the gloves are off, let me tell you that if you *ever* drive your car again the way that Mark said you did ... Iíll personally drive it into the bay and buy you a bicycle."

She gazed at him, wide eyed. No one had ever been so blunt with her. "Is that it?"

"No, thatís not it." He kissed her, his hands on her face. "If you scare me like this again Iíll cuff you to the bed and do things to you that -"

"Honey, thatís really not a threat. I *like* being cuffed to the bed."

"Stop distracting me in the middle of my rant!"

"Stop ranting," she suggested.

"If I didnít love you so much Iíd dunk your head in the toilet. I used to do it to the Goth kids in high school."

"If I didnít love you so much Iíd put Bengay in your underwear. I used to do it to the jocks in high school."

"How are we together? How?"

"Because you suck at life. No self respecting jock would know ĎPrincess Brideí forward and backward."

"No self respecting Goth would sing old standards and cry while watching ĎThe Gooniesí. You're as Gothic as Avril Lavigne is punk."

She burst out laughing and a second later he joined her.

In the galley, Cam smiled at Addison and Mark, who both breathed a sigh of relief. Blake scribbled out a note, took the food out of the oven, and all four of them quietly left together.

Callieís laughter could still be heard halfway down the dock.

It sounded good.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 25
*~*~*~*~*~

Alex and Callie ate in almost total silence, with the television for company. Their easy banter when he had come home had been replaced with uncomfortable tension that seemed to set in the moment they filled their plates. He watched her when he knew she wasnít aware of it and was happy to see that she was actually consuming something. He looked at the television every time she glanced his way, though. She didnít want him to worry about her food so he refused to mention it or voice his elation that she was actually eating.

The football game was the most boring thing Callie had ever seen. Alex seemed to like it so much that he had changed the setting to picture in picture so he could watch it and another game at the same time. She could feel herself developing attention deficit disorder as she glanced back and forth between the two games. After eating half of her dinner, her belly was stuffed and she carried her plate to the kitchen, where she raked what was left into the garbage disposal and turned it on.

Maybe it was the sound of the disposal destroying what was left of her dinner or maybe it was stress of the day finally catching up with her, but something snapped. She turned and glared at Alex, who was still watching the game like it was the most interesting thing heíd ever seen. "Are you going to talk to me about today or what?"

Alex chewed his food slowly and swallowed before he spoke. "I thought we did."

"No, we did not. We didnít address any of it. And we have to, Alex."

"Okay. Letís talk."

She looked at him.

He looked at her.

"Say something," she finally told him.

"I think that the disposal is finished."

She finally realized that she had left it running and turned, shutting it off. The commentator on the television announced that someone had just run for fifty yards and Callieís heart was beating hard enough that she felt like it was her. "Can you say something, anything, that is not so fucking obvious?"

"Youíre not going to bait me into a fight with you. Youíre *obviously* not getting it so there it is."

Drying her hands on the dishtowel, she walked into her bedroom and grabbed her robe. A hot shower would have to erase the tension because Alex clearly wasnít interested in doing it.

Pulling the bandage off her arm, she tossed it in the trash and looked at the bite. It was still a little red and would definitely leave a scar, but it looked better. Adjusting the taps, she stripped off her clothes and stepped under the scorching water. She let it beat against her shoulders, against the top of her head, and it was so hot that her tears felt cool against her cheeks, betraying her once again.

Callie didnít cry. As a rule, she avoided it like the plague, but over the past few months she had been painfully reminded that she had ducts and an abundant supply of agony to fill them. Girls like Izzie cried. Over everything. Callie was nothing like Izzie so she was officially cutting off the waterworks and would not be going there again. Her talk with Cam earlier had been the quintessential light bulb moment over her head. She had spoken all her truths to her brother, but since they were one in the same, she had spoken it to herself. And she had listened with the same intensity that Cam had listened. Angrily drawing her hand across her eyes, she forced the lump in her throat to go away and set about scrubbing her body.

Callie Torres was a lot of things, but she was not weak. Circumstances that she had orchestrated had left her weak and on her knees, but she was firmly on her feet now. Sheíd never be weak again. Or a victim. Because Mark had been right about that. He had been right about everything he said. She had been a spineless, cowering, victim of her own stupidity. She used a long loofah on her back and arched against it, feeling her spine. It was still there, it was simply dying quietly from lack of use.

She had a few things to say to Alex Karev and she didnít give a damn if he was engrossed in a football game or if ... he was stepping, naked, into the shower.

"Hey." He reached around her and turned the hot water down significantly. "If this is just because I went to the Chief and tried to save your career then maybe you should try to remember that I almost lost you before I really found you. Anything I said to him was because I knew I was falling for you and I wanted to keep you safe."

Her brown eyes found his and every horrible thing she had been planning to say left her brain and the only thing her spine was currently doing was tingling. She said, "Itís okay. I know." The second the words left her mouth she groaned and leaned her head back against the shower wall. "Thatís not what I meant to say."

"What did you mean to say?" He seized the opportunity and kissed her throat.

"I meant to say that Iím mad as -"

His hands moved to her hips and he pushed his knee between hers. "Youíre mad as ... what?"

She bit her lip as he moved his thigh higher, pressing against her center. "Hell."

"And youíre not gonna take it anymore?" Alex looked at her, his expression serious. "Youíre gonna take it, Callie. Right now."

Before she could protest, he reached down and grabbed her behind the legs, letting them fall over his arms as he slid her up the wall a little. She was completely open to him and he drove inside her without preamble. He buried his face against her neck as he slammed into her several times and breathed a sigh of relief when she wrapped her arms around him and kissed the side of his face. He lifted his head and kissed her, hard.

He came a moment later and let her slide back to her feet. Taking the shower head down, he cleaned her off, then let it fall to the floor as he buried his face between her thighs. She tugged his hair roughly and he enjoyed every second of it. When she came, he slowly got to his feet and looked down at her. "Do you need to say anything else to me, Elvira?"

She shook her head, her eyes hooded. "No."

"Okay then."

Callie watched him step from the shower and grab a towel. The door to the bathroom clicked shut a few minutes later and she closed her eyes. She had been planning to tell him that she would rip his tongue out if he talked about her to the Chief again, but it was a very talented tongue and sheíd be the one dying without it. It would probably be very tacky to put an obituary in the paper for her spine, but she had no chance in hell of having one where Alex was concerned. She finished bathing and wrapped a towel around her body.

While she combing her hair, he opened the door. "Youíre off work tomorrow, right?"

She nodded.

"You want to come have lunch with me?" He grinned at her. "Not because I want to make sure you eat, but because I canít do a twelve hour shift and not see you."

She slammed her comb down on the vanity and said, "Could you please stop making it so damn hard to be pissed? I want to be pissed!"

"Good luck with that, baby." He pulled her into his arms and kissed the scowl off her face. "People who want to be pissed are generally unhappy. And Iím not letting you go there again."

"Youíre not pissed at me?"

"No, Iím enraged, Callie. You told me the other day that you werenít going to run anymore, but thatís what you did. Straight to the liquor store. You barely made it there alive from what Mark says, but Iím not gonna say the things to you that I want to say because Iím not that cruel." He shrugged. "Actually, I am that cruel. Just not to you, but I can be and I will if you donít -"

"No. No, say it. Whatever it is."

"Iíd rather you imagine it. Because you know thatís worse."

"Like when your mother tells you to wait until your father gets home?"

His expression changed and the twinkle in his eye was gone in a flash. "No. Nothingís really worse than that."

Callieís eyes widened and she brought a hand to her mouth. "He - he didnít just hit your mother."

"No. He didnít just hit my mother." Alex shook his head. "And having a fight with someone when your emotions are still kinda raw is counterproductive. Itís not gonna solve anything, Callie, and Iím not doing it."

Despite her solemn vow in the shower that crying was out the question, the look on his face caused her to break. It was a welcome relief to be crying for someone other than herself. She threw her arms around him and held on tight. "I love you, Alex. And Iím sorry."

"I know, baby." He hugged her. "Just ... could you try to remember that someone loves you, too, and it kills them a little when you do things like you did today."

"I will."

"Letís go to bed." Taking a step back, he kissed her. "And stop crying. I hate when you do that."

"God, at least we have *that* in common." She dried her face and followed him into their bedroom. He had already pulled the cover back and she took her towel off, letting it fall into the floor. She caught him looking and raised a brow. "What are you staring at?"

"Everything. Absolutely everything."

She smiled and watched him pull his shirt off. "I know the feeling."

"Youíre about to feel a lot more."
*~*~*~*~*~

Mark followed Addison into her room and watched as she pulled the ivory clip from her hair and laid it on the dresser. He walked to the refrigerator and pulled out two bottles of water and when he turned to hand her one, she was sitting on the edge of the bed. He could see the way her shoulders were shaking and he put the bottles down and sat beside her. She sniffled and leaned her head against his shoulder, drying her eyes.

"She could have died."

"Yes." He rubbed her arm. "She could have, but she didnít."

"Because of you. Thatís twice now that youíve saved my best friendís life."

"Sheíll be okay. She will." Mark kissed her on top of the head. "Letís order room service. What do you want?"

"Are you going to stay and eat with me?"

"Is that okay?"

"Iím so tired of eating alone." Addison sighed. "I have breakfast alone. Callie doesnít eat lunch. And I come back here and order something every night and try to talk to the damn delivery person for as long as I can."

"Why donít you go get a bath and unwind a little and Iíll order something."

"Not the chicken thing. I donít like it."

"Not the chicken thing," he repeated, getting to his feet. He watched her rummage in the nightstand for her very unsexy flannel pajamas and smiled a little as she disappeared behind the door. He had lived with her for two months. Those ugly pajamas were a sign that Addison was not open. At all.

It took close to forty five minute for their dinners to arrive and she had still not emerged. He set it out on the table and knocked on the door. There was no answer so he tried the knob and was relieved that it wasnít locked. She was asleep, bubbles covering her as she steam rose around her face. He sat down on the edge of the bathtub and watched her for a while. She had piled her hair on top of her head and her face was scrubbed clean. She looked young, vibrant.

"Addison?"

When she didnít reply, he leaned down and kissed her forehead. She smelled like fruit and he knew that it was her favorite body wash from Victoriaís Secret. He had always loved the scent. He reached down and flipped the stopper, letting the water drain. The sound of it woke her and she looked up at him. The garden tub had a hand held sprayer so he turned the water on, adjusting it and then rinsed the bubbles from her skin. She had obviously boiled herself to death because her skin matched her hair.

"Cold." She shivered as he put the nozzle away and helped her to her feet.

Mark wrapped a towel around her and when she stepped from the tub, her feet slipped on the water that had splashed out while he sprayed her. He caught her, smiling down at her. "I got you."

"Yeah, you do." She put her hand on his cheek, loving the way his stubble felt so familiar and good against her palm. "Always."

He bent his head and kissed her. Somehow her towel slipped from his fingertips a moment later and he felt her skin, molded his hand against her rounded backside and it was enough. He lifted her against his body, urging her to put her legs around him. She didnít have to be coaxed and he smiled at her as he turned and walked into the bedroom with her.

"Youíre *not* winning," he told her as he fell onto his back, leaving her on top of him. "This is mutual."

She nodded and kissed him again, her tongue circling his, dancing and teasing. Sitting up, she let her hair fall down around her shoulders and moved to his chest, kissing the hard planes of muscle that she exposed as she unbuttoned his shirt. Taking her time, she moved over every inch of his arms and chest and he finally groaned in desperation and flipped her onto her back.

Within minutes, he was standing naked before her and she looked at him, unashamed of the fact that he took her breath. She sat up on the edge of the bed and wrapped her hand around his engorged cock, pumping it, running her thumb over the tip. When she looked up at him, she saw that his eyes were closed. Smiling, she slipped her mouth over him and strained to take him as far into her as she could. He was large and hard, but she made the most of it.

"Oh, God," he growled, his hands tangling in her hair. It had been so long, too long. As she let him fall from her mouth and he watched her lick a trail around the head, he almost came right then. Breathing hard, he eased away from her and shook his head. "Youíre killing me."

"I didnít even hum yet. I've heard that itíll practically render you unconscious."

Torres was *definitely* a good friend, he thought. With a wicked smile, he flipped her onto her stomach and covered her body with his, kissing the nape of her neck, then lower down her spine. He lingered at the soft curve of her back, nipping at her flesh until she was wriggling beneath him. She whimpered his name and he said, "Hush. And keep your hands above your head."

He slid further down her body, biting the plump roundness of her backside before he urged her legs apart slightly and slipped his finger into her. Her hips bounced and he heard her hiss as he added a second digit. She was slippery, wet with need and they had only just begun. He let his fingers pump in and out of her, but ignored her clit. He could see by the way she undulated that she was trying to find friction on the comforter and it amused him to no end. He lifted her hips to stop her and watched as she fisted the cover in her hands.

She was being patient, not demanding, but he knew that he was working her into a frenzy. He pulled his hand away and eased her hips back to the bed before he kissed lower on the backs of her thighs. As his tongue darted out to taste the silkiness of her flesh, he kneaded her backside and she arched up against his touch. He moved to the back of her knee, his tongue flicking it the way he knew she longed ... and then her hand snaked between her legs and he narrowed his eyes.

He popped her, hard, on the ass and she cried out in shock. "Mark!"

"Keep your hands above your head."

"Then stop teasing me!"

He kissed her leg again and again he saw her polished fingers move against her clit. He pretended not to notice for a while, but when he heard the change of her breathing, he slapped her backside again. She came so hard that it stunned him, leaving his mouth agape. He stood and looked down at the red hand prints on both cheeks of her perfect ass and realized that she had *definitely* been hanging out with Torres too much, but he wasnít going to complain.

Bending down, he ran his tongue along the marks and moved a hand between her legs again. Her pussy was still clenching when he slipped a finger into her again and he smiled when she moaned and pushed back against him. "You liked that, didnít you?"

"Shut up."

"Who knew? Who knew that Addison Forbes Montgomery liked to be spanked."

"Shut. Up."

"I could do it again."

"I could let you."

She moved to her knees, daring him by wiggling back and forth. Instead of smacking her, he pulled her backwards and thrust into her. They both cried out, drowning out the sound of the other, but they didnít need to hear it to know that it was perfect. He barely moved at all, he simply gripped her hips and pushed her forward, then yanked her back against him again. He wouldnít last long. Not with her doing the things that she was doing with her muscles.

He reached around her slender hips with both hands. Holding her open with one, he twisted her clit with the other, rolling it between his thumb and forefinger. She reached down, gripping his wrists and arching back against him. The change deepened his penetration and sent him over the edge. He took her with him and her nails brought blood as she clawed at his arms.

He held her back against his chest as she hung like a rag doll in his grip. Smiling, he traced her ear with his thumb and whispered, "Happy now?"

"When I can think again ... Iím sure Iíll say yes."

He sucked on her earlobe and felt her clench around him. "Itís too soon to be thinking anyway."

Addison gasped when he flipped her onto her back and moved inside her again, slower this time. She bit her bottom lip as he pushed her aching backside against the cover. It was an incredible feeling and one that sheíd be buying Callie lunch for out of gratitude. "Mark?"

"What?"

"Is Ďmaking loveí always so violent and dirty?"

He glared down at her. "No. Iím about to show you what dirty is."

"After that Iíll show you what a hummer is. And you can punish me for not showing you sooner."

His dick throbbed so hard that it was almost painful. "Your pillow talk has vastly improved while you were celibate."

"So has my technique." She grinned up at him. "Want me to show you a move that will make your toes curl?"

"I dare you."

She showed him.

They had their dinner for breakfast.

*~*~*~*~*~

Taking a deep breath, Callie knocked on the door of her parentís suite. It was early and she hoped they were awake. The construction had begun on her property that morning before the sun had come up and Alex had laughed at the colorful words she had spouted from underneath her pillow. He had left a cup of coffee on the nightstand and kissed her thoroughly before he left for work. She gave up on sleeping in when she heard someone yell Ďtimberí and a tree crash to the ground.

Lifting her hand, she knocked harder and her mother yanked the door open, glaring out with bleary eyes. "You better be dying, Calliope!"

"Whereís Daddy?"

"Sleeping. Itís what normal people do at this time of day."

"Itís almost seven thirty. Can I come in?"

"Youíre not bleeding. Youíre not crying. Youíre not bruised or in any apparent pain so go to Camís room until I wake up."

"You are awake."

"No, Iím not. This is my subconscious youíre talking to and it doesnít care that youíre family. What it cares about is rest."

Callie walked past her mother and crossed her arms over her chest. "What did you do last night?"

"Unlike you, I do not advertise my sex life or -"

"No! Ewww! No! Never refer to a sex life as yours! You donít have sex! Especially not with my dad!"

Melana closed the door and smiled at her daughter. "And if you were an immaculate conception I would have converted to Satanism. What do you want, honey? Iím tired."

"Why are you so tired? Without details that will potentially scar me for life, please."

"I had an epileptic attack late last night that was very draining."

"Oh my god! Are you okay? How bad was it? Did you-"

"Iím fine. Just ... exhausted." Melana motioned for Callie to sit down at the table and took the seat beside her. "Cambyses told us about yesterday. Iím not even cognizant enough to yell at you yet, but I will tell you that your father, that man that I donít have sex with, was driven to tears because of you. As much as I love you, sweetheart, if you do that to him again Iím going to wring your neck."

"I get it. I really, really get it." Callie reached out and took her motherís hand. "People love me and the things I do are not just to myself. You guys feel it. Iím selfish and I have to stop."

Melana blinked. "Take that up a few octaves and throw in a death threat and thatís pretty much what I was going to shout at you."

"Alex told me without the shouting. It was still loud and clear."

"I know that having your mother like your boyfriend is usually a kiss of death, but I do like him. I feel good leaving you here with him. I would *not* have felt good about leaving you here with George. You know why I say that?"

"Why?"

"Because if you truly loved George at *all*, then you wouldnít have given your self respect or dignity a second thought when you made the decision to stay with him. True love erases any doubt or concern about whether you should stay or go." She reached out and cupped her daughterís face. "And at the same time ... true love never, ever *gives* you self doubt or a reason to think that youíre not good enough. You are an incredible woman, Callie. Donít let anyone steal that truth from you again."

"I wonít." Callie hugged her. "And anything incredible about me is just a reflection of you."

Mel closed her eyes and smiled. "Why donít you go talk to your father before you make me cry."

Callie got to her feet, not letting her mom see that her own eyes were wet. She eased open the bedroom door and saw that her father was lying on his back with his arm flung out across her motherís pillow. The book she had given him was on the dresser and she picked it up, tucked it against her chest and crawled into bed beside him, her head on his arm. "Daddy?"

Raphael awoke with a start and gazed down at her. "Are you okay?"

"Iím fine." She put her arm over his chest and squeezed. "I just thought Iíd wake you up with a story. The deal is, though, that I tell you one and you have to tell me one in return."

He smiled down at her. "I can do that."

Callie took a deep breath and said, "So, there was this girl who was spoiled rotten by her very generous and loving parents. She was so spoiled that she thought it would be okay to act like a rebellious teenager even though she was very much an adult. But only in age because her actions put her somewhere between fetus and fifteen. She did horrible things to her parents ... like running away to Australia or trying to hurt herself because she was ... wrong. She was wrong and she knows that now.

"Because she knows that she has the kind of mother who, while moderately insane, can still love someone enough to make everything okay. And sheís got the kind of dad who never made her worry about what would happen when he came home and she had done something awful. And she did that a lot. She still does." She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. "And sheís very sorry for taking their love for granted and for anything she may have said on the phone about not ever forgiving her father because she does. And sheís okay now. Sheís just fine.

"Your turn." She avoided looking at Raphael as she held up ĎThe Velveteen Rabbití. "Do the voices."

He cleared his throat and opened the front cover. "There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning *she* was really splendid. She was *curvy* and bunchy, as a *Torres* rabbit should be; her coat was solid black, she had real thread whiskers, and her ears were lined with pink, no ... red, I think, sateen."

"Youíre reading it wrong," she said softly, smiling.

"Well, honey, I donít know who you told me a story about, but this one is about *you*."

"Okay, then the Boy in the story has to be called Alex."

"I donít know, kitten. The rabbit leaves the boy in the end."

"This rabbit always goes back."

"Itís very nice to see you again, Callie. I feel like youíve been gone for a very long time."

"Iím not going again, Daddy. I think Iím home for good."

*~*~*~*~*~

After leaving her parents with a promise of dinner the following night, Callie shopped for Ava and her baby. She also treated herself to a new outfit and had her hair styled at the salon. Addison had called to let her know that sex had finally happened, Ava was awake, and the stars and planets had all aligned in her life. Callie knew the feeling. As she strolled into the hospital she felt incredible and even a ten minute apology to Sydney didnít put a damper on her mood. The hug that Sydney gave her was nauseating and uncomfortable, but her smile never faltered.

She knocked lightly on Avaís door and saw that the woman was alone. Smiling, Callie set the bags in a nearby chair and held out her hand. "Hi, Iím -"

"Dr. Torres. Callie, right?"

"Right." Callie shook her hand, covering it with both of hers. "How are you feeling?"

Ava pushed herself up a little and grimaced. "It feels like a samurai put his sword in my gut and twisted it. Sorta like in ĎSamurai Ambushí when the -"

"Oh my god!" Callie sat on the edge of the bed, facing her. "That is my favorite game *ever*."

"Shut up!" Ava said. "Have you gotten past the fourth level?"

"Girl, I got past that level the first night I played. Iím obsessive compulsive that way."

"How do you do it? How do you beat the squid thing?"

Callie opened her purse and pulled out her Gameboy, which was already loaded with the game. "Iíll leave this with you and Iím not telling you *how* to do it, but go for the tentacle."

Ava looked down at the toy with a look of geeker joy. "Which one? There are many."

"The big one." Callie smiled at her. "So, I met your daughter. Sheís gorgeous! Have you named her named her yet?"

"Alexandria." Ava looked up at the dark haired woman as though she were afraid it would offend her. "Uhm, Alex did save my life."

"I think he likes doing that," Callie replied. "And thatís a beautiful name. You can call her Alex or Drea or Xander or -"

"Xander is so cute. I loved Xander on ĎBuffyí."

"Get out of my head!" Callie cried. "That show changed my life!"

"Favorite episode?" Ava asked, eyeing her in disbelief.

"ĎOnce More With Feelingí, but I still cry every time I watch Buffy stab Angel in part two of ĎBecomingí." Callie stared off into space, clearly imagining it. "Who did you want her with? Spike or Angel?"

"Spike."

"Me, too. His name was the last thing she ever said on the show. That says a lot."

"Ooooh, I didnít think about that!"

"Steel trap." Callie pointed at her temple. "Plus Iíve worn out my collection because I donít have a life."

"Now thatís not what Iíve heard." Ava grinned. "Iíve heard all about you and Alex and your *life*. He came in earlier and talked non stop about you. His version of events are a lot better than what the nurses are saying, but either way Iím jealous and want to live vicariously."

Callie laughed a little. "Youíre about to be living very much in your own little soap opera. Did Alex mention my idea for the news?"

"He did and I want to do it. I think Alexandria has a father out there whoís looking for us and I hope that I do too." Ava smoothed the cover nervously. "I donít know who would recognize me, though. I donít remember my old face, but Iíve had a lot of work done and -"

"Theyíll recognize your voice. So, talk a lot and if you have any tattoos or scars or *anything* then bare it and share it."

"I like you."

"God, thatís a relief," Callie replied honestly. "I was afraid you wouldnít and Alex thinks a lot of you so it matters. What you think."

"I overheard you telling Dr. Montgomery she should sleep with him a while back," Ava told her. "But I also heard you saying that Alex was the kind of guy who barbecues and stops messing around in his twenties and never lies to you. That didnít *really* sound like someone who wasnít interested herself."

"My own mother saw it before I did." Callie slipped off the bed and picked up the bags that she had brought in. "She also taught me never to visit anyone who is sick unless I come bearing gifts. There are things here for you and for the baby. When you have your national debut youíre going to look like a movie star."
"Gifts kick ass!" Ava said, digging into the packages. She exclaimed over the silk gown and robe that Callie had bought for her and squealed over the pink and purple clothing she had bought Alexandria. When she pulled out the solid red jumper that had a black skull on the butt, she said, "This is what sheíll wear for her debut! This is soooo cute!"

"And itís big enough that itíll fit her for Halloween, which is just around the corner."

Ava reached out and hugged her. Callie was careful with her, mindful of the fact that sheíd recently had a cesarean. They gossiped a little more, talked about shows and then the baby was brought in. The nurse carried a bottle and Ava quickly explained that she was producing enough milk. When the nurse held the infant toward Ava, she shook her head and said, "Visitors first."

"Oh, I donít have to-"

"Go ahead."

Callie accepted the baby and gazed down at her, brushing a tuft of her reddish hair back. The babyís eyes fluttered open and she saw that they were blue. Alexandria blinked against the harsh lights, yawned, and then stuck her fist in her mouth. "You wonít get anything out of that," Callie told her, taking the bottle from the nurse.

The baby latched on, her little fists on either side of the bottle. Her eyes were open and when Ava spoke again, she turned her head a little, following the sound of her motherís voice. "She likes you," Ava told Callie. "She wonít let anyone else feed her. She threw up on Alex when he tried."

"Sheís named after him. She had to christen him."

Alex stood beside the nurseís station, watching Callie with the baby. Seeing her like that did things to his insides that had nothing at all to do with the pretty blue dress she wore or the amount of thigh it exposed. He smiled when she laid a towel over her shoulder and lifted the baby, patting her on the back. She was a natural and she looked beautiful doing it.

Mark paused beside him and looked into the room. "Oh, itís Callie. I was going to kick your ass for looking at Jane Doe like that."

"Look at what sheís doing."

"Sheís burping a baby, dude." Mark smiled when he heard the little girl belch and Callie congratulate her. "Callieís a family girl."

"Iím a family guy."

"Do not knock her up until the ink has been dried on her divorce papers for a very long time. Take it from me." Mark picked up a chart and looked back into the room. "That could have been me and Addison."

"Wait. Are you broken up again?"

"She aborted my child."

"Oh," Alex said, looking away. "I - Iím sorry."

Mark listened to the baby start to cry and smiled again. "Weíre going to have another one. We are."

"Sheís - Addisonís preg-"

"Not yet, but give me time."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie found Alex sitting with Mark and Addison in the cafeteria. There were whispers when she walked in, but she kept her chin up and walked across the room, pausing only to greet Dr. Bailey. She could see Izzie sitting with George a few tables away and saw their heads go together as they began to talk to each other. She didnít care. She listened to Bailey talk about the many ways they could Ďaccidentallyí kill Sydney and threw her head back and laughed when Bailey suggested they do it then. She gave her friend a reassuring pat before she headed to where Alex was.

He stood up and kissed her, his hands on her hips. "You look pretty."

"Youíre hopelessly biased." She kissed him again and sat down. "But thank you."

Addison had a grin on her face that was insane and dopey. Callie took one look at her and addressed Mark, "Youíre gonna get caught if you have sex in the on call room behind triage again."

"How do you-" Mark began, scandalized.

"I heard you when I walked down the hall." Callie opened the soda that Alex had bought for her. "And I stood there for ten minutes to make sure that no one opened the door."

"I told you to be quiet!" Mark looked at Addison.

"I told you that I couldnít. Not when you do that -"

"What did you do today?" Alex addressed Callie as the other two bickered. "Besides meet Ava."

"Made nice with my parents and got us sucked into dinner with them tomorrow night." Callie reached up, running her thumb along his jaw. "You look tired. Are you having a rough day?"

"I was, but itís all good now." He leaned his forehead against hers. "Guess what?"

"What?"

"Webber hosted the meeting for Dr. Heron this morning and he made it clear that the only residents that she is in charge of are fourth years and below. So, youíre free."

"Then why does Bailey want to kill her?" Callie asked.

"Because Heron thinks that she should micro-manage Baileyís clinic because fourth years and below work in it. She doesnít like Bailey giving the orders in the clinic. She thinks itís her domain, too."

"Oooh." Callie wrinkled her nose. "Thatís gonna end well."

"Callie!" Addison interrupted in a loud voice.

Jumping a little, Callie said, "Sitting three feet away! Nowhere near deaf!"

"You were right about the, uh," Addison stumbled over her words and glanced at Alex, then clapped her hands together. She looked expectantly at Callie, who was clearly confused. "You know," she continued, clapping her hands again.

"I have never had a clapper." Callie scratched her head when Addison slapped her leg and gave an exaggerated shiver. "Alex, does sex make me as crazy as her?"

Alex watched as Addison made another move, this one looked like she was swatting away an angry fly. "Not at all."

Mark laughed and said, "Sheís trying to tell you thank you for telling her that spanking is fun. She gets off on it."

"Oh, for Godís sake, Addison!" Callie threw a potato chip at her friend when she choked on her sandwich. "If you canít say what you want or like then you donít deserve to get it."

Addison was crimson and Callie looked at Mark, who was enjoying her friendís discomfort a little too much. "Hey, Sloan?"

"Yeah?"

"I heard you were thinking about buying a hummer."

The smile faded from his face and he turned his attention to his sandwich. "Do you tell her *everything*, Addison?"

Callie didnít wait for her to reply. "Sheís my Padawan."

"And sheís my Darth Vader," Addison replied quickly.

"I can see that we have got to have a ĎStar Warsí marathon very soon." Callie reached across the table and took her hand. "Sweetie, Darth was the bad guy. He taught the dark side."

"I know." Addison beamed at her. "He wore all black like you do and made people do carnal things with his magic light saber."

"No, that was ĎStar Whoresí and clearly you have a porn addiction." Callie bit into her own sandwich. "I have the sequel, ĎReturn of the Thigh Highsí in storage if you want to borrow it."

"Is Darthís magic light saber in it?"

"Many times." Callie nodded.

"Iím free for the marathon on Friday."

"So am I."

Mark looked at Alex and said, "Are you off Friday?"

"I am."

Mark nodded. "Iíll bring the popcorn."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 26
*~*~*~*~*~

Callie and Alex arrived for work the following day in matching jovial spirits. He had tried to sing along with Dean Martin, somehow making ĎYouíre Nobody ĎTil Somebody Loves Youí the most horrific song she had ever heard. She kept a straight face as he parked, but the second he met her behind the car to dance with her while he sang the chorus, she lost it. She had to double over and fight hard to breathe when he asked her if it was the song or his voice. He had mangled the lyrics all to hell and back and never hit one note correctly, but the humor was in his genuine delivery. As tone deaf as he was, he still tried to sell it.

"Iím crying!" she said, fanning her face as he tried once again for the chorus. "Stop singing! Or whatever that is that youíre doing. You sound like that bird in ĎThe Little Mermaidí."

"Well, we canít all sing like Ariel can we? And that was mean." He put his arms around her waist and kissed her, then goosed her in the ribs. "Youíre supposed to be more Paula than Simon."

"Stop tickling me! I'm going to pee my pants!" She jumped and gripped his hands. "Okay, fine. Hereís my Paula. You look really, really good and you get an A for effort. Itís all about song choice, though. So, later on, if you really want to sing ĎDo Ya Think Iím Sexyí by Rod Stewart while you strip ... I promise to be seduced."

He smiled at her. "I can do that."

Wrapping her arms around him, she spoke softly. "You know what else you can do?"

"What?"

"You can think about the fact that Iím wearing those infamous crotchless panties. All day."

He slipped his hands over her backside, confirming that she was indeed wearing what she claimed. They fit her ass a certain way and he loved the way they did. He traced her panty line and then moved his hand to the seam of her jeans between her legs. "We could go to an on call room. Right now."

"Weíre not on call yet, but if you want to meet me there after lunch for dessert ... Iíll say yes."

"Fourth floor?"

"Thatís the one."

"How do you know this?" He narrowed his eyes at her.

"Iíve been here five years. I know all the best hiding places and I canít wait to show you every single one of them." She kissed him again and he pressed her against the trunk of her car. She put her hands in the back pocket of his pants and leaned her head back, letting him nip at her neck, then her ear.

"Get a room!" Cristina called, crawling out of the back of Meredithís car. George and Izzie quickly walked past them, but Yang and Grey strolled up, smiling. "What are you doing?" Yang asked.

"Groping my girlfriend," Alex replied, pulling Callie a little closer. "And loving every minute of it."

"Thatís nauseating. Itís too early in the morning for that." Cristina stretched and yawned. "You should be inside sucking down coffee and trying to get on the surgical boards before anyone else can. Doctors donít need sex. We need scalpels. And multiple traumas."

"Well, I think itís sweet," Meredith said, smiling when Callie leaned her head against Alexís. "No matter what time of the day it is. People should just be happy. And laughter is the always the best medicine."

"Oh my god." Cristina glared at her. "Iím throwing away that damn inspirational calendar you bought. Thatís the second time today that youíve said Ďhappyí and itís making me want to strangle something. Like a furry white kitten."

"Itís not my fault that Burke is an ass." Meredith looped her arm through her friendís. To Alex and Callie, she added, "He still isnít talking to her."

"And I donít care." Cristina rolled her eyes and looked at Alex. "Iím sleeping in your bed, douchebag. Are you planning on coming back or can I move in?"

"Move in. Iím moving on." Alex shrugged. "Iíll try to swing by and get my things on Friday. Weíre both off and thatíll be a good time to do it."

Meredith nodded, still grinning as Alex playfully walked his fingers up Callieís ribs until he found her ticklish spot.

She had to admit it ... they were a gorgeous couple.

*~*~*~*~*~

"Theyíre a hideous couple," Izzie told George, digging through the fruit on the lunch line. "I donít know what he sees in her."

"I do," George replied. "Iím pretty sure it has to do with her bank account. Did you see the Rolex heís been wearing? Sheís very generous."

"I overheard Montgomery telling Bailey that theyíre living on a yacht. Callieís yacht. Out at Harbor Cove." Izzie wrinkled her nose and glanced across the lunchroom as Alex laughed at something Callie was saying. "I think theyíre just doing it for show. Itís not real."

"Who were they trying to show in the parking lot this morning, Izzie? They were all over each other." George sighed. "God, I hate this."

"Thatís what they want us to do, George. Itís all a game to make us jealous. Thatís all. I bet they havenít even had sex." Izzie put an arm around his shoulders as they walked across the room and sat with Meredith and Cristina.

Cristina looked at George and said, "How do you like the fold out sofa?"

"Itís fine." His expression changed suddenly. "Why?"

"Because Alex is moving in with Callie and he said I could have his room." She smiled and looked back and forth between Izzie and George. "What does it feel like?"

"What does what feel like?" Izzie asked.

"To know that the people you want to be with are with each other and look happier than they ever did with either one of you."

Izzieís eyes widened. "How do you know that I want to be with -"

"You leave your diary out and Iím reading it." Yang shrugged and turned to George. "Did you know that Homewrecker Barbie here called your second little dalliance a nightmare moment of incestuous proportions? She said your legs looked like you were riding a chicken."

George blushed, but did not reply. He listened to Izzie implore Meredith to control her new tenant and found himself watching Callie again as Meredith mediated the dispute. Callieís hair was insanely curly. He had never seen it that way. Her bangs had disappeared into the frenzy of spiral waves and she looked more Latino, more exotic than he had ever seen her look before. Her skin was darker, but her eyes were lighter somehow and he wondered if it was because she really was happy. Surely no one could fake what Alex and Callie were currently faking. Not the way they did it. It was palpable. He could feel it from across the room.

Alex reached up and wrapped his finger around a lock of her hair and pulled her forward. George held his breath when she smiled at Karev and kissed him, her hands on his chest. Even from across the room he could see that it wasnít a friendís kiss. He had no doubt that they were tasting each otherís lunches and when he saw Alexís hand graze her breast and heard her laugh at something he had whispered against her ear, he pushed his plate away.

Cristina followed Georgeís gaze, watching as Callie and Alex stood and left the cafeteria hand in hand. "Awww, Bambi, are you finally seeing how stupid you were? I mean, Iím not *calling* you stupid or anything, but I kinda think you were sixteen before you learned how to tie your shoelaces."

Izzie put a hand on his arm. "Ignore her. Sheís still upset about Burke so the rest of us must pay."

"Oh, right," Cristina replied. "What were you upset about when you were making Callie pay? If memory serves all was right in the land of Izz-Me when you started picking on her."

"Since when are you Callieís public defender?" Izzie snapped. "Youíve been doing that for weeks now, talking her up, saying that sheís great. Why donít you go make out with her too?"

"Oh, I would." Cristina shrugged. "But sheís a one person kind of woman and I donít steal from anyone. Plus, sheís a friend, and unlike you guys I really understand friendship boundaries. You two together?" She pointed back and forth between Izzie and George. "That would be like me and Meredith throwing down. We are *family*."

"I got all my sisters with me," Meredith said, putting a hand on the arms of both of her female friends. "Can you just *try* to get along?"

Cristina nodded. "For you, sure. Hey, Izzard, you want to go outside and play Ďhide and go fuck yourselfí?"

"Cristina!" Meredith cried.

"Do you know what else she wrote in her diary?" Yang kept her eyes on Izzie. "She wrote that I was an overbearing and annoying token Asian who didnít deserve Preston Burke because I was too bitchy to live. And, Meredith, she said that you were a commitment phobe who didnít have a chance in hell of hanging onto Derek because you have no tits and your ass looks like a twelve year old boyís."

Izzie got up from the table fast enough that she knocked her chair back. "Stay the hell out of my room!"

"Oh, but arenít we friends?" Cristina asked. "Isnít there a revolving door when it comes to your friends? Donít you share *everything* with us?"

Izzie stalked from the room and Cristina looked innocently at George. "You know what she canít stand? The truth."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie and Alex were undressed and well on their way to making history fifteen minutes after they finished eating. She had been right about the fourth floor on call room. It was at the end of a dead end hallway that never got much action. He was watching her ride out the waves of her orgasm as he sank into her flesh. When she lifted her hips up against his, he grabbed one of her legs and pulled it over his shoulder. Smiling, he leaned down and bit her bottom lip, sucking at it until it was even fuller. "God, you feel good."

She wrapped her free leg around his waist and bucked against him, meeting him thrust for thrust. The sound of flesh slapping against flesh was erotic and as she gazed into his eyes, she felt the familiar tingling between her legs began to build again. "Touch me," she whispered.

He rolled them so that she was on top and reached between her legs as she undulated her hips, massaging her clit with his thumb. She came hard and let her head fall back so far that the ends of her hair tickled his thighs. He sat up, pulling her legs around him. He surged against her, gripping her hips as he lifted her once, twice, three times and he got off with a hoarse cry. The sounds of their mutual pleasure drowned out the sound of the door opening. When he could think again, he kissed her softly and said, "I love you, Callie."

"OH MY GOD!"

Callie turned her head in time to see Izzie Stevens rush from the room. She groaned and said, "How much do you think she saw?"

"Judging by the look on her face it was enough to show her that youíre better than she could ever hope to be." He kissed her again, cupping her breast with one hand. Her nipple was taut and he tweaked it, grinning when she hissed. "What time is dinner with your parents?"

"Eight." She took his wrist and gazed at his watch. "I have a spinal fusion in forty minutes. You want to go take a shower with me?"

"And risk getting caught again? Absolutely."

They didnít get caught, but they emerged just in the nick of time. Callie was putting on fresh scrubs when Sydney walked into the locker room and looked at her. "I need you to let Stevens scrub in with you on the spinal fusion."

"No way!" Callie shook her head.

"Team player! Be all that you can be!" Sydney cried, looking so frazzled that it was almost comical. Her hair was frizzy, her face was devoid of makeup and her scrub shirt was not only inside out, it didnít match her pants. "I need her off the floor and I know that you wonít let her do anything stupid."

"What did she do now?"

"Nothing. Yet. But Chief Webber is coming in and I want to look like I can delegate. I need all the new residents somewhere and youíre the only one on the board for a surgery that she canít kill someone on. That crazy little tart whore."

"Fine." Callie laughed at her, feeling a newfound kinship with Sydney due to her choice of words. "Iíll do it."

Sydney breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, thank goodness!"

Callie hastily added, "Iíll do it if you help me with my freakiní hair because I donít have time to dry it all the way and I have to go to dinner right after work. I need it to fit under my scrub cap better, too."

"Oh my god! Absolutely! I live for this stuff! Sit down, sit down."

Callie avoided looking at Alex at all as Sydney began elegantly French braiding her hair away from her face. She heard him laughing, though, and had to smile along with him. When Sydney began to sing ĎBeautifulí by Christina Aguilera, she joined him in the laughter and within moments, Dr. Heron had done the same.

*~*~*~*~*~

Being bent over a spine with a heavy piece of equipment was not the easiest thing to do after being bent in other, more satisfying ways, but Callie made the most of it. She adjusted a screw and looked at the monitor, checking the depth and placement. Her mind put 'screw' and 'placement' together and she wondered what Alex would think of the place in the basement where she used to live. Sheíd be showing that to him the following day. Every time he touched her it felt like the first time all over again. She chuckled a little behind her mask and pulled the tool away, relieved that the worst was over and the home stretch had finally arrived.

Glancing up, she saw that Izzie was staring at her. "You want to stitch him up?"

"Not really."

"Okay." Callie shrugged, picking up the tools needed to suture the incision. She adjusted the light and twisted a little, trying to pop her back. It finally worked and she moaned in relief. "Hurts so good."

"Having your legs bent in ways they do not go apparently agrees with you," Izzie told her, not bothering to keep her voice low. "Who knew?"

There were several sniggers in the room and Callie resolutely put the first stitch in. "I think it depends on the one doing the bending."

Izzie continued to glare at her. "You get that Alex is using you, right?"

"Thank you for your opinion, but since I didnít ask for it I think you can safely assume that I donít want it." Callie worked on the third stitch. The only outward hint of the aggravation she was beginning to feel was the way she twisted her head side to side, working on the rapidly building tension in her neck.

"Itís because you have money. Youíre his sugar mama and nothing more."

"I do have a lot of money. So if thatís why heís staying then heíll never have a reason to go." The fifth and sixth stitch were thankfully silent.

On the seventh stitch, Izzie said, "Youíre not his type."

Callie kept her eyes on her job. "Thatís because I refuse to be a Ďtypeí."

"He will always want the cheerleader and you will always be the weird girl who doesnít wash her hands."

Callie worked on the tenth stitch. "My hands will never be so dirty that theyíre stained with someone elseís blood. You canít wash that off. Ever."

Izzie snorted. "You love to go there. You love to bring up Denny every chance you get."

Callie looked at her. "And you love to prove how unprofessional you are every chance you get. Look around you, Dr. Stevens. Weíre in an operating room. We have someone halfway open on the table and Iím trying like hell to do my job. So, can you please stop talking?"

"Youíre actually calling me unprofessional? Iím sorry ... did I not walk in on sex earlier?"

"Iím sorry ... did you not make out with my soon to be ex-husband in the elevator?"

Someone coughed softly and Izzie stood a little taller, suddenly aware that every eye was on her. "Your soon to be ex-husband made out with *me*. He clearly wanted to feel what a normal woman felt like."

"You and normal? Not even distant cousins. Not even in the same zip code." Callie adjusted the light again, working on the remaining stitches. When she was finished, she took a step back and nodded at the anesthesiologist. "Dr. Jamison, nice job."

"Likewise, Dr. Torres." The man nodded his head.

Callie thanked the crew, told them they had done well, and pulled her gloves off. She walked to the scrub room, took off her surgical suit and put it into the trash. Despite the exchange of words, she was calm, cool, and collected. She would be willing to bet that Alex would give her a massage if she asked really nicely. She smiled as she thought about the possibilities and she was happily picturing it ...

Until Izzie Stevens followed her and said, "Alex likes you right now because you lost about two hundred pounds, but when you start eating again ... and you will ... heíll drop your lard ass like the four ton weight that you are."

Callie sighed and shook her head. "You think that being pretty makes you perfect, but it doesnít. You can be bone thin and in every centerfold on the planet, but your soul still looks like seven miles of bad road, Izzie. Itís ugly. And itís so fat with vitriol and bitterness that it keeps getting wedged in the doorway and thatís why you canít use it for anything other than cruelty."

"Iím not scared to kick your ass, Callie, but since Iím not tiny like Meredith Iím sure you wonít go there."

"If you fight like you save lives then Iím not really worried." Callie turned on her heel and walked into the hallway. She pulled her scrub cap off and that was when Izzie made her move.

The blond dug her hand into the single braid that Sydney had fashioned on the back of Callieís head and yanked her backwards. Callie turned and Izzie slapped her as hard as she could. There were several gasps, mostly from Dr. Bailey and Chief Webber who were standing ten feet away. Callie caught Izzieís arm and said, "Iíll give you that one, Stevens, but if you swing again itís on. Consider that a warning."

Izzie yanked off her stethoscope and used it like a whip. The round metal end caught Callie just under the eye. She saw stars for a second and felt blood roll down her face, but she smiled through the pain. "God, I was *so* hoping you were as stupid as I always suspected."

Callie punched her and Izzieís cap fell off from the force of the blow. Izzie staggered back and ran her hand over her mouth, feeling her split lip. With a shriek, she flung herself at Callie who used the momentum of the younger womanís body to send her crashing into the wall. Izzie stumbled and Callie stuck her foot out, tripping her. The blond fell to her stomach and grunted when Callie kicked her in the ribs.

"Stop that!" Webber cried, rushing forward and pulling Izzie to her feet. "Stop it now!"

Izzie launched herself at Callie again and Callie was ready. She hit her twice, one fist to her face and one to her gut. Izzie latched onto her black hair in an apparent attempt to rip it from her skull in retaliation. There were more shouts and then Mark, Webber, and Alex were trying to get the women apart. The men only succeeded in knocking them to the ground and Callie was easily the dominant one since Izzieís only concern was scalping her. Callie got in one last lick and there was an audible pop.

Izzie screamed and clutched her jaw.

"People will thank me for that when it keeps your big mouth wired shut for a while!" Callie yelled as Alex physically lifted her and pinned her against the wall.

Webber helped Izzie to her feet again and shouted, "What the hell is wrong with you two? I have never in my life! Dr. Bailey, take Stevens to X-ray. Dr. Sloan, take Torres to trauma and check her face." He looked at Izzie, then Callie. "And then the two of you get out of this hospital for the rest of the day! I want you both in my office at nine in the morning to discuss disciplinary actions. Which will be severe!"

Dr. Jamison and several of the surgical crew had come out. Jamison pulled off his mask and said, "Dr. Stevens was goading Dr. Torres throughout the entire surgery. Callie begged her to be professional and she refused. And Stevens threw the first punch. This was clearly self defense."

Reva, one of the oldest scrub nurseís employed at Seattle Grace, nodded her agreement and lifted a gnarled hand, pointing at Izzie. "Iím surprised she didnít slit you from groin to gullet, little missy! The things you said to her! Mexicans cut people!"

"Iím *not* a Mexican!" Callie said, her hand over her cheek.

Richard took a deep breath and said, "Okay, fine. I want everyone who was in the OR to go to my office and wait for me. Iíll talk to you one at a time." He turned to Izzie and Callie again. "My other orders still stand. Go get yourselves cleaned up, get the hell out of here, and come back in the morning without your scrubs! I donít think youíll need them for a while!"

*~*~*~*~*~

"Itís actually not that bad," Mark said, squeezing a syringe full of water over the small laceration on Callieís cheek. "Two stitches should do it."

"Then donít numb it."

"Yeah, right," Mark replied, shaking his head. "I donít want you to punch *me*. Helluva right hook, Torres."

"Why do you always have to one up me?" Addison snapped, her arms over her chest as she watched from the corner of the room. "And why do you have to do it when Iím not there to see it!? I knew I should have gone back and smacked her again at Meredithís house! Did she actually hit you with her stethoscope?"

Callie nodded and Mark gripped her chin, telling her to be still. Alex took the ice pack off her hand and felt her knuckles. "Ow, crap!"

"Nothing feels broken, but we should probably get a -"

"Nothing *is* broken," Callie replied, hissing when Mark began to numb her face. "Except her jaw."

"What did she say to you anyway?" Alex asked.

Callie squeezed her eyes shut as the medication burned. "That you only want me for my money. That youíre going to stop hanging around with me when I start eating again because Iím a lard ass who weighs two tons and that Iím not your type because you only like cheerleaders. Oh, and that Iím unprofessional."

Alex sat down beside her on the stretcher. "And you let a bunch of lies get you in this much trouble?"

"No. I was walking away from her. I was *fine*." She opened her eyes and glanced at Alex. "Iím still fine because I know better."

He grinned at her and took her hand, gently kissing it. "Good."

Mark worked quickly. When he was finished, he wrote her a prescription for mild pain medication, assuring her that sheíd probably need it that night and the following day. Callie accepted the papers as Dr. Bailey appeared in the doorway. "How are you feeling?" she asked.

"Fine."

"She was the one in the wrong. The Chief knows that. We saw it." Bailey folded her arms across her chest. "And Sydney Heron is the worst Chief Resident to ever walk the face of the earth. She should have known better than to put you two together. Why did you agree to do it?"

"Because *I* can be professional and I mistakenly assumed that she could do the same."

"Hello?" Addison said. "Denny Duquette. LVAD-gate. The only thing professional about Stevens is the street corner she keeps hot during her down time."

"Nicely phrased, young Jedi." Callie smiled at her friend. "Youíll be a knight in no time."

"If I go break her nose will that win me knighthood?"

"No, it will not!" Bailey snapped. "Yíall fools are gonna give the Chief a stroke. And not the Chief that needs to have a stroke!"

"Howís Izzie?" Alex asked. "Is she okay?"

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Callie took her hand from his and got to her feet. She listened as Bailey told him that the fracture in Stevensí jaw would not require surgery or her jaw to be wired shut, but sheíd be on a liquid diet for a while. Callie signed her discharge papers and then heard Alex ask if he could take off early.

After a pit stop to pick up their things, they walked to the car in silence. Alex caught her arm at the back of it, the way he had done that morning when he danced and sang to her. "Do you get that the only reason I asked about her is because I wanted you to know that you got the upper hand?"

"Sheís your friend. I know that. Youíll have to forgive me if that doesnít really thrill me because the last person who said she was a friend-"

"Hey!" He tightened his grip and forced her to look at him. "Donít ever compare me to him again. Ever."

"Alex, did you have feelings for her? When you were with her?"

"No. I didnít know what love was until I met you. Iím pretty sure I made that clear already." He rubbed just under the bandage on her face. "So donít worry. I wonít be talking to her anymore."

"Iím not giving you that ultimatum. I just donít have to like it."

"Iím not going to be friends with anyone who badmouths you. Itís not gonna happen, because if she canít respect you then she canít respect me." He kissed her. "Iím not George. I know exactly what I want, how I feel, and that youíre the only thing I need."

"Friends are important."

"Family is more important and thatís what you are to me."

"Thatís the best thing you could have said." She smiled at him. "You really think I had the upper hand in the fight?"

"Baby, you kicked her ass. It was unbelievable."

"I really did try to avoid it. I tried so hard to take the high road. I didnít want this to happen."

"Youíre not sorry it did, though."

"Therapy? Two hundred and fifty an hour. Making Izzie Stevens bleed? Priceless."

Alex laughed and opened her car door. "Your parents will *love* the stitches."

"Iíll tell them that I fell."

"Nope." He leaned into the car and fastened her seat belt, then kissed her. "Youíll tell the truth because lies *always* catch up to you."

*~*~*~*~*~

Izzie was lying on her bed, gazing at the ceiling when someone knocked on her door. With great effort she called out for whoever it was to come in. Her jaw was about thirteen shades of blue and so swollen that she looked like she had golf balls stuffed in her cheek. The swelling caused the split on her lip to pull apart every time she attempted to speak and she was rewarded with fresh blood dripping into her mouth for her efforts. Grabbing a tissue, she held it to her mouth and watched George walk into the room carrying a bowl.

"Tomato soup," he told her, setting it on the bedside table. "Itís very hot so let it cool."

She nodded and sat up. "Thanks."

"You hit her with your stethoscope. You could have damaged her eye or -"

"I know."

"You could have really hurt her and I donít like that one damn bit." He handed her the icepack he had prepared earlier and watched her press it against her face. "I never realized just how cruel you can be."

Izzie simply gazed at him, saying nothing.

"You were *mean* to her when you first met her and it had nothing to do with you having romantic feelings for me, Izzie. You were with Denny at the time and you were *happy*. I couldnít believe that a girl like Callie would want me and you talked her down every chance you got. Youíre partially to blame for the fact that I didnít throw caution to the wind and give her one hundred percent of me because you planted all that doubt. You made me think that I had to choose between the two of you. You shouldnít have done that and you shouldnít be going after her about Alex, either. Leave her alone. Just leave her alone and let her be happy because-"

"I caught them having sex today."

George closed his eyes, rubbing his fingers over them as if to prevent the mental image that was invariably coming. Neither spoke for a while. George eventually looked at her again and said, "Cristina was right. The people we want have found each other because of what we did to them. You left Alex to be with Denny and I ruined my marriage to be with you. We hurt them and now weíre the ones who have to hurt."

Izzie brushed away a tear. "He told her he loved her. I heard it. He never said that to me. At least not while -"

"Did she say it back?" he asked softly and his hands fisted in her bedspread while he awaited the answer.

"I donít know. I yelled and ran out of the room."

He put his head in his hands. "Callie needs to hear it from someone and regardless of whether he really means it or if itís all just a game ... she still needs to hear it. Now and not later." He took a deep breath. "Because later rarely comes."

Izzie reached out and put her hand on his arm. "Iím sorry that I ruined your marriage."

"I ruined my marriage. You murdered it."

"I wasnít the only one in this bed, George. Granted, I was a little more sober than you, but it took both of us to do what we did."

"Iím not just talking about the sex, Izzie. Iím talking about the fact that you caused every single argument that I ever had with her. And I defended you when I shouldnít have. Today showed me that. You hate her and you donít even know why. Do you?"

"She reminds me of a girl who lived in the trailer park with me. She was big and hateful and -"

"I bet that girl wouldnít have cooked for you when Denny died." George shook his head. "Donít punish people for what other people do. If we donít take anything at all out of the mess weíre in ... letís take that. And responsibility for our own part in whatís happened."

Izzie watched him stand and took the bowl of soup he handed her. It was still smoking a little so she set it on her lap and glanced up at him. "You really did love her, didnít you?"

"Yeah."

"I thought she was just a rebound."

"Well, itís not like I went out of my way to show how I felt. I didnít show anyone. She was certainly the last to know."

"Do you still love her?"

"I always will."

"Maybe you should fight for her. Tell her how you feel."

"No."

"Why not, George?"

He ran a hand through his hair. "Because I want her to be happy. And not once in my life have I managed to make her feel that way."

Izzie sipped the soup through a straw and grimaced. "I may have hit her with my stethoscope, but I really think her fist was deadlier."

George smiled. It was a sad, bittersweet smile that didnít quite reach his eyes. "I may not have gotten to know much about her, but I did see a Karate suit in her closet with a third degree black belt. Youíre lucky she didnít break out her inner Jackie Chan."

"I really am sorry for what I did to her. And to you."
"Then learn from it. And donít do the same thing to Alex." He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. Picking up her bottle of pain meds, he held one out to her and said, "Get some sleep, Iz."

She nodded and watched him walk from the room. She finished off the soup, took the pill, and curled onto her side. There was a huge difference between George and Alex. George had never told her that he was in love with her.
But Alex certainly had.
And only a fool would ignore that.
*~*~*~*~*~
CH 27
Callie hoped that the demure dress and *pearls* she wore would help offset the purpling bruise and black stitches on her face. She had opened her tube of concealer to try to cover over it, but Alex had taken it from her and handed her a band-aid instead. It didnít really give her any comfort that the band-aid was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or that Alex assured her it accessorized well with the greens and blues of her printed dress. It stuck out like a sore thumb, even when she tried to strategically pull a curl over her cheek. Alex had resolutely tucked the lock of hair behind her ear and told her to stop trying to look like Slash.

When they arrived at the restaurant on top of the Archfield, her parents began to fuss over her and that same feeling of being smothered to death came creeping back in. She hated that feeling. She hated being the center of attention or having anyone flutter around her like a gnat, no matter how great their intentions were. She had two feet that she could stand up on just fine. Callie told the story of what had transpired with Izzie twice before her parents would concede that it was time to place their orders. They had sent the poor waiter away four times already and Callie was starving.

"Itís assault. Weíll take you to press charges after dinner," Raphael declared as he handed the menus to the waiter. "And weíll call our lawyer in the morning about making sure she covers your medical fees."

Callie watched the young man walk away before she shook her head. "Itís really not necessary, Daddy. You know Iím not litigious."

"Honey, this girl attacked you," Melana said, tilting Callieís face for the tenth time so she could study the bandage again. "She could have permanently damaged your eye."

"She didnít so Iím not worried about it."

"What will happen at work? Will you be punished?" Raphael asked.

"Probably." Callie put her chin in her palm and sighed. "Can we change the subject? There are still construction workers on my property, Daddy. There are trees that they start cutting down before the sun comes up so I know they canít *see* well enough to do it."

"Which is why theyíre still there, kitten," Raphael replied. "Itís not well lit. Once the trail is widened and street lights are put in -"

"Street lights!? I like it very dark when I sleep! Iíll have to put black curtains on the yacht and-"

"It will be worth it. Unless Iím very mistaken you had black curtains put up in your bedroom back home just for the hell of it. And to annoy me." Melana patted her hand and looked at Alex. "So, Alex, tell us about your family."

Alex took a deep breath. He had two options: the truth or a lie. The lie just seemed easier and less stressful to all parties involved. "Iím afraid itís a boring story. Weíre from Iowa and my dad is in ... real estate and my mother is a ... special education teacher."

"Oh, thatís lovely. Educators are so valuable." Mel smiled at him. "Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"Iím an only child. To hear my mother tell it she had enough pain during my delivery to absolutely make sure that it never happened again."

"Where did you go to college?" Raph asked.

"Do not give him the third degree," Callie said, putting her hand on Alexís. "Iím changing the subject again. What are -"

"Itís fine, baby." Alex winked at her. "I went to the University of Iowa and then to Cornell."

Melana smiled when Alex spoke the endearment to Callie. "What surgical field are you interested in?"

"Iíve always been fascinated by plastics. Not for vain reasons, but for reconstructive purposes ... especially in trauma victims. Lately, though, Iíve become interested in Neonatology and Pediatrics."

"So you like children?"

"I do."

Callie narrowed her eyes at her parents. They would have her barefoot and pregnant faster than she could say Ďthe divorce is finalí if they could. "Do you need to know his shoe size, too?"

"No," Melana replied. "But itís very nice to actually have a chance to get to know someone that youíre seeing. Especially when itís someone that your father doesnít want to hire a hit on."

"Mother, would you please not scare him off?"

"I donít scare easily," Alex replied. "And if George was one of those intended hits then I probably would have done the honor myself. Just ... theoretically speaking."

Raphael grinned at him. "I hated him on sight. He was pale, sweaty, and smelled like a brewery. No wonder my daughter turned to alcohol. She probably got legally intoxicated just by smelling him."

Alex laughed and glanced at Callie, who was staring down at her free hand, which was in her lap. It was her left hand he wondered if she was thinking about George, about their marriage. He pushed the thought away and put an arm around her shoulder. "You look exhausted."

She flexed her hand and said, "I think Iíll need to ice this again when we get home. I donít usually throw punches with my left hand so my form was a little off."

"You want to take one of your pain pills?"

"I already did. My head is spinning."

He reached up and brushed her hair back. "When did you take it?"

"In the car when you stopped for gas." She yawned, then grimaced because it hurt her cheek. "Sorry. I take Tylenol for *everything* so Iím pretty sure youíll be dragging me from the car to the yacht."

"Perhaps you should get your dinner to go," Melana suggested. "We can do the same. We actually asked the two of you to come tonight because we had a little something for Alex."

Callie groaned. "Oh god. I donít scare easily either and Iím suddenly terrified."

Melana simply shot her a look, then turned her attention to Alex. "I fear that I didnít make a very nice impression on you when we first met. You saved our daughterís life. Twice now. Once from herself and once from a shark." She raised a brow at Callie, who looked down at her lap again. "We appreciate that more than any token of our gratitude could show you, Alex, but we wanted to get you a little something to say thank you just the same."

Raphael pulled a thick envelope from the front pocket of his jacket. "I was going to buy you a car like Callieís, but Cambyses assured me that you would prefer a SUV. I believe that you already drive a jeep of some kind so I bought you the closest thing to a jeep that I could find on the Mercedes lot. Itís a 2008 G55 AMG. Itís fully loaded and had just rolled off the truck when I got there. Theyíll deliver it tomorrow. I had a few upgrades that I wanted in place."

Alex vehemently shook his head when the man held the envelope out to him. "No, Mr. Torres, thatís not-"

"Call me Raphael, son."

"Raphael, I appreciate the offer. I really do," he said. "But the best gift in the world is that Callieís okay now and I get to be with her. Thatís all the thanks I need."

Callieís heart spun even faster than her head if that were at all possible. She didnít think it had anything at all to do with the pain meds and she grinned so wide that her face hurt. "Alex, your car is pretty old and this new one is probably a lot safer."

"Callie, thereís no way that -"

"I donít think your seat belt works in the jeep, Alex. You always check mine so itís my turn." Callie took the packet from her father and put it in front of him. "Youíre not the only one who worries. Iíd feel better if you drove this."

"I canít accept this. Itís very generous, but itís also excessive and -"

"No, itís not excessive. You canít put a price tag on what you gave back to us." Raphael reached across the table and put his hand on Alexís arm. "Itís bought and paid for. Itís yours. I hope you enjoy it."

"We spoil people we care about, Alex," Melana grinned at him, then lifted her glass of water. "To Dr. Karev, who not only gave us back our daughter, but gave her a reason to smile again."

"Hear, hear," Callie said, clicking her glass to her motherís. To Alex, she added, "Itís rude to try to give back a gift, even one that you think is overkill, so just take it and smile. Youíre outnumbered and Cubans and Greeks can be pretty brutal on their own and Iím half of both."

Alex looked at the Raphael, then at Callieís mother, who nodded her encouragement at him. "Then I guess the only thing left to say is thank you. You really didnít have to do this, but I appreciate it. Thank you very much."

Their food arrived, but Callie declined to take it to go and assured everyone that she was fine. She had never tasted anything better than the filet mignon, even though it was prepared no differently than usual.

As she watched her parents interact with Alex she knew that her mother had been wrong. Having her parents like her boyfriend was not a kiss of death.

It was a breath of life.

And she had never felt more alive than she did at that moment.

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison, Mark, and Alex found every reason in the world to linger in the hallway in front of the Chiefís office the following morning. Callie had arrived for the meeting before Izzie and the four of them stood and talked until the blond had shown up. Alone. Addison made a loud comment about her looking like the Joker and Izzie had scowled and sank into a chair near the Chiefís door. He arrived a few minutes later and nodded for the two women to follow. Before he shut the door, Webber shot a pointed glare at the three remaining people in the hallway, who tried to look busy. They were still doing it an hour later when the door finally opened.

Izzie stalked past them, her face red, her eyes swollen from crying. Alex watched her go with raised eyebrows and anxiously waited another ten minutes for Callie to emerge. Her face was a polar opposite of Izzieís. She was actually smiling and her cheeks were rosy, but apparently not from being upset.

Addison put down the chart she was immersed in, which was blank, and hurried up to her. "Well? What happened?"

Callie pointed down the hallway. Her friends followed her to an open conference room and she ushered them inside. "Izzie got suspended without pay for two weeks. When she comes back sheís on probation. He said that the hospital had already covered up stuff once for her and that if UNOS found out what she had done with Denny we would have lost our teaching credentials and been sued by them for the whole organ theft by deception or whatever. So when she does come back she has to talk to Psych once a week to learn to keep her emotions out of her job."

"What about you?" Mark asked, his arms crossed over his chest.

"Itís so weird." Wrinkling her nose, Callie said, "I am now in charge of the fund raiser for the Denny Duquette Memorial Clinic. Webber wants to make it an annual thing during the holiday season and he wants me to somehow get it mentioned on the news when Avaís story goes national. And he wants me to stay away from Stevens when she comes back."

"Thatís your punishment?" Alex sounded shocked. "Thatís it?"

"Well, I also have to go to psych evaluations for the next eight weeks, learn to Ďturn the other cheekí and take a course about avoiding conflict, but thatís pretty much it. Maybe he was afraid that if he was too hard on me Iíd off myself or something." Callie shrugged her shoulders. "Iím not really going to complain about his reasons why, though."

Addison grabbed her suddenly and hugged her. "I didnít sleep at *all* last night because of you!"

Callie grinned. "Judging from the bags under Markís eyes Iím positive that you didnít toss and turn in agony all night."

"Shut up." Addison took a step back and glanced at her watch. "Iím going to go find an empty bed. And *sleep*."

Mark cleared his throat and said, "That actually sounds like a good idea. I think Iíll go, too."

"Fourth floor on call room," Callie called after them. "Donít get caught."

Alex chuckled and then pulled her into his arms. "I was scared. Iím not gonna lie."

"I think I would have tossed and turned all night if I wasnít in a narcotic coma." She kissed the side of his neck and grinned mischievously over his shoulder where he couldnít see it. "Iím sorry I fell asleep on you. I actually donít remember getting from the car to the yacht," she lied.

"You donít want to remember it." He held her a little closer. "It wasnít pretty."

"Oh god. In my defense, I have no tolerance for medication. What did I do?" She eased away from him, a look of exaggerated agony of her face. "Tell me."

"You took off down the trail ahead of me and almost got up close and personal with your favorite mud hole. I caught you in time. I scared you, apparently, because you cursed in several languages and then fell asleep on the living room floor while I took a shower."

"That doesnít sound so bad. Why do I feel like youíre leaving something out, Alex."

"Dammit," he growled, looking pained. "The reason I was in the shower is because you made *me* fall into the mud hole. Happy now?"

She tried valiantly to look shocked, to look regretful, but it was futile. She burst out laughing and jabbed a finger into his chest. "*That* is what you get for telling my parents the lobster story *and* the shark adventure with such joy. And for laughing at me when I fell into it to begin with."

His jaw dropped a little. "You did it on purpose!?"

"Hell yes."

"I actually *believed* that you were high as a kite and-"

"Oh, I was pretty buzzed," Callie grinned at him. "But not so buzzed that I couldnít formulate a plan of attack."

"You are so evil."

"I know." Callie leaned forward and kissed him. "Guess what? They delivered your car today. Itís gorgeous. Youíre really gonna like it."
Alexís look of shocked regret was purely genuine. "I shouldnít take it, Callie. Itís too much. Mark said that those things cost over a hundred grand and -"

"Alex?"

"Yeah?"

"You do realize that we charge people about fifteen bucks for an aspirin in our profession, right?" She patted his cheek. "So, shut up and enjoy the ride."

"Iíve enjoyed it this far."

"So have I."

*~*~*~*~*~

"Hey," Izzie said softly, sitting down on one of the bar stools in the kitchen. She leaned her elbows on the counter and looked at Meredith and Cristina, who were doing a crossword puzzle together. The two women glanced up at her, but said nothing. Izzie bit her bottom lip and immediately regretted it. It hurt. Everything hurt today. "So, Iím suspended for two weeks and then Iím on probation indefinitely."

"Is she talking to us?" Cristina looked bewildered.

Meredith ignored her and spoke to Izzie. "This is only the opinion of someone with no tits and a twelve year oldís ass, but what did you expect? You attacked someone on hospital property."

"Hello?" Izzie said. "She broke my jaw! And all she has to do is -"

"Izzie thinks she has a right because she grew up in a trailer park." Cristina filled in another word on the crossword puzzle and glanced up at Izzie. "You almost attacked me once. Over a scrub cap. You wrecked her marriage. Iím surprised she didnít break your neck."

"I did not wreck her marriage. Why do people keep saying that? Iím not the one who took vows. Iím not the one who was married. George wrecked his marriage. He could have told me no, but he didnít."

"What guy is going to say no to a night with a centerfold?" Cristina asked. "To have Bethany Whisper in his ear. Literally."

"Derek would say no," Meredith told her. "And so would Burke. Did you call him yet?"

"No just doesnít seem like a strong enough word." Cristina shook her head. "Itís so over with Burke that itís not even worth mentioning."

"Whereís George?" Izzie asked, clearly miffed that they werenít feeling her pain. "Isnít he off today?"

"Heís gone to see his mother." Meredith unwrapped a Hershey Kiss and popped it in her mouth. "So, what happened to Callie? Whatís her punishment?"

Izzie rattled off the nauseatingly light sentence the other woman had been given and plucked a Kiss from the bag for herself. "I just donít get it."

Cristina put her ink pen down with a sigh and said, "Which part? Iíll gladly explain."

"All of it! Iím the villain in everything I do. Webber actually brought up what happened with Denny as a deciding factor in *my* punishment, but she tries to kill herself and sheís the stable one? Please!"

"She wasnít on duty when it happened and what she did hurt *herself*," Cristina replied. "You almost got us fired along with you when you cut that damn wire."

Meredith cleared her throat and said, "Chief Webber probably sees a lot of his wife in Callie and a lot of himself in George." She looked at Izzie. "That would make you my mother and if my mother had ever tried to beat up Adele then he probably would have killed her. He stayed with his wife for a reason."

"Yeah, but thatís part of the problem." Cristina picked up her pen again. "George was here to take Izzie soup instead of going to check on Callie. Heís got no loyalty where it should be and too much where it shouldnít be."

"Which proves that I am not a villain! George always chooses me!" Izzie told them. "He never told me to accept her or like her or told me that our friendship would be -"

"Am I the only who remembers Georgeís little speech about Ďif you push Callie away then you push me awayí? That was right after you made it very clear that you didnít want her moving in with us." Meredith took a sip of her coffee. "If you were his best friend you should have supported his decision to be with her. The way that I support the fact that Cristina is damaging the walls in her bedroom as she throws darts at Burkeís picture."

"I told you I would putty it. And itís a wallet sized photo! Itís hard to hit!" Cristina wrinkled her brow. "What the hell was that Tom Hanks movie? With the dog? Something and ĎHoochí."

"ĎTurner and Hoochí," Izzie replied. She watched in silence as the two women worked on the puzzle. "I didnít support him because I thought he was moving too fast."

"Did you not move fast with Denny?" Cristina asked, scribbling in the puzzle book. "I moved fast with Burke and we all know that fast is Meredithís middle name."

"Hello? I can evict you," Meredith said. "I knew that Derek was special and I think Callie probably knew that with George, too. No matter how fast it was."

"If George was so special then why is she with Alex?" Izzie asked.

"If Denny was so special then why did you fall in bed with George three months after he died?" Cristina raised a brow. "You didnít want Callie with George so you got that wish. You didnít want George to be married so you're getting that wish. You have no right to have an opinion or a reaction to Callie being with Alex. You left him for Denny, remember?"

Izzie looked back and forth between the two women, her anger rising rapidly. "Iíve always felt like an outsider here. Always. The two of you teamed up almost instantly and Iím the third wheel who never shares your secrets or gets the inside jokes. You two had each other and I had George. When he suddenly started going away more and more to be with her I was completely alone. I donít have anyone else."

"Ever wonder why?" Cristina asked softly. "Why you donít have anyone else?"

"Cristina," Meredith warned.

"No, Iím telling her." Cristina sat forward. "The reason youíre the third wheel is because youíre the kind of girl who ... if Denny had lived and we had all gotten fired ... that would have been okay with you because youíre selfish. The ends would have justified the means. I accidentally stumbled onto what you were doing with Denny, but you *forced* George to do it. He told me that you threatened him if he didnít and you knew that he would because like you said ... he always chooses you. And that's the kinds of friends we were ... we risked everything for *you*. But thatís not the kind of friend you are. You just assume that you know the best, the truth, and whatís right for everyone and you donít always know that. No one does."

"BUT!" Meredith rubbed a hand over her forehead and quickly added, "We think of you as a friend and not the third will. We do. A very close, very good friend non wheely friend, but some of the things that you do and say are not okay. Theyíre not, Izzie. And Iíve been dismissing a lot of it because I know how much Dennyís death hurt you, but you donít have a filter between your brain and your mouth -"

"Neither does Cristina! She says whatever the hell sheís thinking," Izzie cried.

"Thatís just it," Cristina replied. "I tell the *truth*. Not what I assume to be the truth. If all youíre stating is an opinion then you shouldnít be purposely cruel with it because thatís *all* it is. Everyoneís got an opinion. The truth should hurt. Not what you *think*."

"I am not a horrible person," Izzie snapped. "Iím not."

"We know youíre not." Meredith took her hand, nudging Cristina with her leg.

Cristina looked heavenward and said, "If you were a horrible person you would have spent your inheritance on the blackjack table in Vegas. Whatever. Youíre helping save lives, blah blah blah, but you played a big part in destroying quite a few others. Like, for instance, the family who was ahead of Denny on the waiting list. Ever wonder what happened to them?"

"No," Izzie admitted, her eyes downcast. "It was worth it to try to save Denny."

"See what I mean? The ends justify the means."

"That's not what I -" Izzie began.

Cristina cut her off.

"Well, I think about them. If that man died, youíre the villain. To Callie, youíre the villain. To me, youíre a girl who could still write horrible things about all of us in your diary even though we helped you." Cristina took a swig of Meredithís coffee. "I know you took Callieís DNR papers from her chart so that means youíre more responsible for her being here than anyone else in that room. So ... think about her. You didnít let her die so donít make her regret it."

"When did you become friends with Callie?" Izzie asked. "Seriously?"

"She gave me her flash cards. She agreed to be a bridesmaid before Burke decided to channel his inner asshole and she agreed to write my wedding vows for me when I told her I was coming up with a blank." Christina put a Kiss in her mouth. "Plus, weíre both cynics who donít believe in much of anything other than our capabilities and she cut a dudeís legs open with no pain meds. And her hands never shook once."

"She took my panties off the board." Meredith smiled. "That was a little more enjoyable than being slammed into the lockers by her, but she still gets a few points. Sheís cynical, but sheís a little dark and twisty herself and I get that."

"So the two of you are Team Callie?"

"Are you really this dumb?" Cristina asked her. "The fact that there has to be a Team Callie or a Team Izzie is *your* fault. Youíre the one who drew the line in the sand and stood safely behind it to fling mud at her and then hid behind George with your hand up his ass making him be your little dummy instead of encouraging him to be a man."

"Weíre not Team Callie." Meredith unwrapped another piece of chocolate. "Teams arenít always a good thing to have so weíre actively abstaining from being on any team."

"Oh, Iím Team Callie," Cristina replied. "I walked in on the nasty sex romp. I saw little George. I'm Team Callie for that fact alone. Poor girl."

Meredith kicked her ankle. "Iím not picking sides. I can see both. Derek was married and it didnít stop me from pursuing him at first."

"But you never tried to beat Addison up!" Cristina snapped, lifting her leg to massage her bare ankle. "And you didnít dog her to her face. Which, now that I think about it ... shame on you, Meredith. You dogged her like hell to all of us, but -"

"Can we focus?" Meredith took a deep breath. "All Iím saying is that there were a lot of things I could have said and done to Addison, but I listened to my filter. A filter which shut completely down at the Prom and when it shut down it pushed my panties down with it and -"

"We know what happened at Prom." Cristina put her leg down and bit the lid of the cap. "So skip the play by play. Whatís a four letter word for spouse? Second letter is Ďaí."

"Mate?"

Izzie watched as they finished their puzzle and stood, joking with one another about something she didnít understand at all. Cristina walked out of the kitchen, but Meredith hung back and said, "Iz?"

"Yeah?"

"You really arenít a bad person. Diary notwithstanding. Youíre a good person with a big heart, but that heart gets you in a lot of trouble. Maybe you donít need a filter between your mouth and your brain, maybe you need one between your brain and your heart. Or ... maybe you just need to learn to listen to both in equal measures."

When she was alone in the kitchen, Izzie reached for her rosary beads, which she kept in her purse. She let one bead at a time work through her fingers as her mind talked loud and clear.

And for the first time in a very long time, she listened.

*~*~*~*~*~

Izzie was flipping channels in the living room when George got home. She took one look at him and handed him the Ben and Jerryís she had been trying to enjoy. The coldness seemed to sink into her and as he took the carton, she pulled her blanket a little tighter. "How was your mom?"

"She hasnít really cried that hard since my dad was buried." He held the container, but didnít eat any. "Iíll be the first OíMalley in over thirty years to get a divorce. She really loves Callie."

"Must be an OíMalley thing." Izzie put her head on his shoulder. "Your dad loved her, too."

"Yeah. So, what happened today?"

Izzie told him everything. Even her conversation with Meredith and Cristina. "Do you think Iím unfiltered?"

"Honestly? Yeah, I do. You told me to go be with Callie and that you were letting me go, but the minute I made it official it was like the rules changed. You started trying to hold me back, you started saying crap about her to her face, and then ... we had sex and you said you were in love with me and I didnít know what to do."

"I thought I was."

"I knew I wasnít in love with you. That kiss in the elevator that day just felt wrong. It wasnít just because I was married or because it was cheating ... it was wrong because youíre my friend. It felt like I was losing everything at once. I knew Callie would leave me if she found out and I knew that our friendship was ruined."

"Itís not ruined. Weíre still best friends."

"Weíre friends, but I need you to understand that Iíve always been the one to sacrifice for you. I would drop Callie at a momentís notice if you said you needed me. I put my career on the line by saying I cut that wire and I did it because weíre family. I did it because I love you." He glanced at her and his eyes were filled with tears. "But youíve never done anything like that for me. Even when I begged you to back off a little."

"George-"

"Itís okay. Itís done." George put his hand on hers. "But Iím telling you again since begging doesnít seem to work ... to leave Callie alone. Let her have Alex if thatís what she wants because if you go after Alex and actually do get him ... Iím going to do the same thing to you that you did to me and Callie. Iím going to make you feel like you have to pick between us and Iím going to dog him every step of the way."

"Iím not going to go after Alex. Iíve decided to be celibate for the rest of my life."

"So have I." He took a bite of the ice cream and glanced at the television. He quickly did a double take when he saw Alex. "Oh my god. Theyíre doing the segment for that girl."

Izzie quickly turned the volume up. They listened as Alex spoke about the Jane Doe he had found in the wreckage during the ferry disaster. He told about the extensive facial reconstruction and how her appearance had been forever altered. The scene cut away to Ava, who explained that she had no memory of her life before she was injured, but she did know that she was a voracious ĎBuffy the Vampire Slayerí fan, apparently had a chocolate addiction, and loved playing video games. She showed a small scar on her arm and one on her hand and said that she woke up almost every morning dreaming about palm trees.

The scene cut again to show Alex holding Avaís baby in his arms. He gave information about the babyís blood type, Avaís blood type, and implored anyone with information to contact Seattle Grace Hospitalís special hot line that had been set up. The number flashed as they showed Baileyís clinic, where several telephones and small desks had been put in one corner and they were filled with volunteers who worked at the hospital. Then Ava was back on the screen and talked for a moment about the incredible care she had been given and that the hospital had a free clinic that was always in need of funding. She urged people to donate to the Denny Duquette Memorial Clinic and mentioned that there would be a fund raiser after Thanksgiving.

The number flashed again and then the news anchor promised that there would be a more in-depth interview on the woman with the new face, but blank canvas for a past the following day. Izzie took a deep breath and said, "That was Fox News."

"Put it on CNN."

They changed channels just in time to see a slightly different montage. This one featured Ava being wheeled to the nursery to see her baby and several shots of her rocking the little girl and singing to her. Alex appeared with the exact same clip that had been shown on Fox and then Avaís comments about the memorial clinic were featured at the end.

"Chief Webber told Callie to get it on the news and she did." Izzie shook her head. "Do you realize how much money this clinic could make? This story is in millions of houses tonight."

"Do you realize that right now Avaís parents could be seeing their daughter and their granddaughter for the first time in who knows how long?" George handed her the ice cream and picked up his cell phone.

*~

Across town in the parking deck of the airport, Callie frowned at the name that appeared on her caller ID. It still came up with a bursting of hearts around it. She gazed at it for a moment, then answered, "Hey, George."

"Oh, god, hey," he replied, clearly startled. "I - I didnít expect you to answer. I was going to leave a message and tell you that I just caught the news segment on Ava. I heard rumors that you were the one who made it happen and it was really well done. Good job."

"Thanks," Callie said. "Tonight was just the teaser. Thereís a bigger interview that was filmed today and clips of it will broadcast for the entire week. If we keep her in the public eye for as long as possible that will increase the chances of someone seeing her."

"How did you do this?"

"I didnít do much. I just asked my dad. Heís got friends all over the place."

"Right, I forget how powerful your family is." George glanced at Izzie, who was staring at the television even though she had muted it. "Uh, is it okay - can I ask you how you are? How youíre feeling?"

"You want to know if I look as bad your best friend?" Callie chuckled a little. "Not quite, but bad enough. Sheís a hair puller. Iím still shedding."

"Iím sorry this happened."

"Me, too. It sucked." Callie took a deep breath. "Let Izzie know that if she can crunch little pieces of ice on the broken side, as much as she can handle without pain, itíll help her chew solid foods faster. Plus the ice will ease the swelling on the inside."

"Iíll tell her." George felt his chin begin to tremble. "I saw my mom today. Sheís finally speaking to me again and she asked me to tell you that sheíd like to call you sometime. Her birthday is October twenty first and she knows that youíre a Halloween baby so she wants you guys to have lunch or something in between the dates."

"Are you okay with that?" Callie asked. "Are you okay with me being friendly with your mother?"

"Yes, I am. And Iíve made it very clear to her that youíre with someone else and that youíre happy so she wonít be pushing you or anything."

"Okay."

George listened to her breathing on the other end of the line. He remembered the nightmare he had and the way she had breathed against his neck when he had asked her to. "I know you said that weíre not friends, Callie, and I can understand why, but you can call me sometimes, too. You can - you can talk to me at work even if itís just to bitch about the rain. Iíd like that."

"Iíll keep that in mind," she told him. "Listen, I have to go. Cam and Blake are flying home tonight and Iím here to see them off. Iíll catch ya later, okay?"

"Yeah, see ya." George closed his phone and put it on the table. "Iz?"

"Yeah?"

"She said for you to chew small ice chips to help the swelling and the pain."

"She said that? Really?"

"My marriage is over. Sheís gone, Izzie. Itís like ... sheís a stranger now." George looked at his best friend as if he had realized the truth for the first time. "And I canít get her back. I want her back, but sheís gone."

He sobbed, the sound harsh and gut wrenching. Izzie put her hand on his back and then pulled him against her, cradling him as he cried on her shoulder.

She didnít need a filter between her brain and her mind to know the part she had played in Georgeís pain.

The evidence was trembling in her arms.

And Izzie knew that it was time to wake up and see what was going on around her.

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie sat next to Cambyses while Blake went to check the baggage. She held onto his hand and said, "Why do you have to live so far away?"

"Iíll be back in three weeks for our birthday. You know I won't miss it," Cam replied. "Whereís Alex?"

"He had to stay late at work. Trauma. He said to apologize and tell you that it was nice to meet you." She looked at her brother and her eyes filled with tears. "God, I miss you so much already."

"Iím a phone call away."

"And three thousand miles."

"Youíre the one who took the residency out here." He smiled at her. "Now stop crying before you make me cry. I don't want my mascara to run. Even if it is clear."

"I knew you wore it! No one's lashes are that perfect!" She blotted at her eyes. "Will you call me when you land?"

"Absolutely." He tugged a lock of her hair. "Will you call me if anything happens to you that makes you want to get piss drunk so that I can talk you out of it."

She nodded. "You could talk me off a ledge."

"I hope I never have to." He kissed her on the forehead. "Do me a favor and remember that Iíve been pretty much excommunicated from Heaven so God would probably get pretty pissed at me for running into the light to yank your ass out of it."

She chuckled. "No fears there. Iím officially an adulterer. Youíd be pulling me out of the pits of Hell."

"And I would, little sister, I would."

Blake walked up a moment later and said, "I hate to do this, but if weíre going to get through security in time to board then we should probably go."

Callie got her feet and hugged Blake, telling him that she loved him. He kissed her and walked toward the escalator, giving her another second alone with Cam. She looked up at him, then reached up and touched his face. "Be good, Cambyses."

He leaned down, putting his forehead against hers. "Take your own advice and donít fight anybody else, donít drink, donít run off and dive with Jaws, and donít let your ex hobbit make you crazy. Angst is apparently your oxygen and I get that, but can you try to be normal? For me?"

"Whereís the fun in that?" She kissed his cheek. "You better go."

Cam nodded and picked up his carry on. "For what itís worth, I heartily approve of Jock Strap. Heís one hell of a man."

"I heartily agree."

"And I donít think itís too fast, Cal." Cam kissed her one last time. "I know I mentioned that you were being impulsive, but-"

"Iím not. I know."

"He loves you. I can tell."

"Yeah, he does." She beamed up at him. "Now go because Iím about to cry and I donít want you to see it."

"This is not goodbye."

"Never say goodbye." She held up her fist and waited for him to put his against it. "Wonder twin powers, activate."

"Activated," he replied. "Forever."

"Forever."

Callie watched him walk away and kept her smile resolutely in place as he stepped onto the escalator and glanced over his shoulder at her. She held up her hand, but didnít wave. They never waved goodbye. When he was out of sight, she sat back down in his chair and dug tissue from her purse. Her phone rang again while she was blowing her nose.

"Hello?"

"Callie, itís Louise."

"Oh, hi!" Callie said, standing to throw away her tissue. "How are you?"

"Iím okay. You sound upset, though."

"My brother just left town. I hate seeing him go."

"Aww, honey, can I do anything?"

"You want to have lunch next week? I have to plan a fund raiser for the clinic at the hospital and I need a brainstorming partner."

"Howís Monday?"

"Perfect." Callie walked out of the airport and headed to her car. "Noon? At the Emerald City Bar?"

"Iíll be there with bells on and a brain full of ideas for your fund raiser." Louise cleared her throat. "How was your party?"

"Way too long. I was exhausted when it was finally over."

"I wish I could have been there. I would have liked to see you all dressed up. What color did you wear?"

"Red." Callie opened her door and slipped onto the cold leather seat. "Oooh, itís freezing tonight."

Louise apparently got the hint and followed her into the new topic. "The weatherís been unpredictable lately. Thatís for sure."

"Hey, Louise?"

"Yes?"

"Could you let Ronnie and Jerry know that Iím still interested in their lives and stuff. They can call me. They can come and see me."

"Iíll tell them and the same goes for you, too. Weíre having a big dinner at the house for Thanksgiving. Itís the first one without Harold so ... if you find yourself with nothing to do then come on out. Okay?"

"Thank you. Iíll see what I can do."

"Okay, sweetheart. Iíll see you on Monday."

"Okay."

"Uhm, Callie? Are you - are you happy?"

"Yes. I am."

There was an uncomfortable silence and Louise finally sighed and said, "Iíll see you Monday."

"Okay. ĎNight, Louise."

*~*~*~*~*~

"Why would I move into your hotel room?" Mark snapped. "Why donít we just buy a house!? It would be cheaper!"

"But no room service." Addison put her fork on her plate and wiped her mouth with a napkin. "We need room service to feed us. Weíre not in New York anymore. Everything doesnít deliver here."

Mark picked up the real estate brochure he had been looking through and held it out to her. "Look at page forty two. I circled the one I like. Itís about two miles from Callieís place, itís on the water, and itís perfect. There are actually trails between the two places that you women can keep plowed down by going to see each other."

She took the booklet with a sigh and her eyes widened when she saw the house. "Itís a log cabin. A cabin!?"

"I know what it is," he replied. "Just under three thousand square feet of finished living space, but three thousand more in the basement that can be turned into whatever we want. Itís priced to go and the sellers are motivated."

"Have you seen it?"

"Yeah. Thatís where I was coming back from the other day when I saw Callie tearing out of the parking lot." Mark smiled at her. "Youíll love it."

"Did - did you bid for it?"

"I did. Iím just waiting to see if theyíll accept my offer."

Addison stared down at the photo again. The cabin wasnít small per se, but it wasnít huge. It had a wrap around porch with matching gazebos on either end and a garage that sat a few feet away from the house. A covered walkway joined the two structures. She read the information provided and looked back up at him. "Gourmet kitchen? Because we know how to cook?"

He took the booklet and said, "Three bedrooms, a library, two separate office spaces and a hot tub. Who cares if it even *has* a kitchen?"

She picked up her fork again and took a bite of her baked potato. "Itís a cabin, Mark."

"It is not just a cabin. When you see it, youíll love it."

"I donít rough it well."

"Youíre thinking about Derekís trailer, Addison. This is not Derekís trailer."

"No, Iím thinking about that little cabin we rented back in ninety-nine in Colorado that couldnít be heated, didnít have electricity, and had wildlife peering in the windows at us. Derek almost had a heart attack when -"

"I know. I was there. And this is nothing like that." He closed the book and glared at her. "Will you come and see it tomorrow? Weíre off work. Itís Friday. Iíll call the realtor and have them meet us so we can go in."

"Do people live there?"

"No, but itís fully furnished. It was a rental property and everythingís going with it. Thereís a boat, thereís a couple of four wheelers and itís beautiful." He reached across the table and took her hand. "Move in with me, Addison. Please? Between us weíre paying close to five grand a *week* to stay at this hotel. The money we save can go into a trust fund for our kids or -"

"Whoa!" Addison pulled her hand from his and stood. "Did you just say kids ... like, plural?"

"Well, yeah." He slowly got to his feet, watching her. "Neither one of us had siblings, but seeing Callie with hers and seeing her big family-"

"Oh my god! Who are you and what have you done with Mark Sloan? The guy who hates family. The guy who would forget Christmas if he didnít get asked by fifteen Santas to donate money to the Salvation Army?"

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his BlackBerry. "Look, Iím programming Christmas in right now. And your birthday is in here and so is the anniversary of us finally getting back together and-"

"The fact that you have to program Christmas is a strong indicator that -"

"I am bad with dates. I donít like holidays. I donít like birthdays or anniversaries. Valentineís Day makes me nauseous and the only good thing about Halloween is the candy that you can get for a couple of dollars the day after." He finished pressing keys on his phone and closed it. "But Iím telling you that Iíll try for you and if we do have kids, plural, Iíll stay up all night on Christmas Eve to put the bikes together or the dollhouse or the whatever else little kids like that have a lot of parts. Because I love you. And weíre not getting any younger."

Addison looked at him, her eyes wide. "That was the most rambling and absurd and quite possibly the most romantic thing youíve ever said to me."

He smiled. Big. "Does that mean that youíll move in with me?"

"I will go and see this *cabin*. I will also scour the area for any poison ivy or poison oak because any time I step out of the concrete jungle that is the city ... I get it in unmentionable places."

"If you knew what it looked like you wouldnít get it. So, Iíll scour the area while you stay inside. With your unmentionable places."

"Aww, arenít you a manly man? Going to kill the big, bad plant and -"

He kissed her. Thoroughly.

She was breathless when he pulled back. "You really are a manly man."

"Youíre about to find out just how right you are."

"Life with you is going to be very exhausting," Addison said, as he pulled her shirt over her head.

"We're making up for lost time. You donít get to complain. Not after the *weeks* of whining and crying foul over your lack of a sex life." His hand moved to the buttons of her pants and he grinned. "But if you do whine I could punish you."

She whined.

He was true to his word.

*~*~*~*~*~

CH 28
*~*~*~*~*~

Callie and Alex did not get to sleep in on Friday morning. Her parents were flying out at eight thirty and they went to the airport to say goodbye. Callie kept her emotions in check until her father had hugged her and given her a stuffed black rabbit with red sateen in the ears. She began to cry and he held onto her, telling her that it would be okay and that heíd be back in a flash if she needed him. She had calmed down by the time they made it back to Alexís new SUV, but when he asked her to explain the stuffed animal, she broke down again.

He listened to her talk about ĎThe Velveteen Rabbití and put an arm around her. When she finally got control of herself, he kissed her and told her that he had never read it. She promised to read it to him that night. Her phone rang as they were pulling apart and she opened it, "Hello?"

"Itís me," Addison replied. "Look, Mark is dragging my ass out to Harbor Cove to see a damn *cabin* that heís trying to buy so I need you to come along and talk about how horrible it would be to live there."

"What?!"

"I mean it! I need you! You have to come and because you scared ten years off my life a few weeks ago by almost *dying* ... you owe me. I climbed on top of you in your hospital bed. In a *skirt*."

"That's because you're a perverted freak." Callie sighed. "What time?"

"Thirty minutes. Meet us at ... hang on." There was a rustling of paper over the phone line. "2442 Whisper Ridge."

"Oh! That cabin! Yeah, I know where it is. I saw it when we were sailing into the cove. Itís like ... right around two corners from me. Youíd be within walking distance! We could hike the trails and start jogging. This would kick ass, Addison!"

"No! It would not! Get it in your head that this is rustic living and I am not built for rustic, Callie. Iíll *die* out in the middle of bum fuck Egypt."

"Weíre twenty minutes from the hospital! How is that BFE?"

"If you say *anything* positive about this fucking cabin I will pull out your tongue, feed it to buzzards, and then bomb your yacht with all your precious video games on it. Wait, Iíll bomb the yacht first and make you watch all that crap sink *before* I cut out your tongue. Which I will do in front of a mirror so you can watch yourself die."

Callie said nothing.

Addison moaned on the other line. "Okay, Iím sorry. That was overkill. Iím a bad person. Iím exhausted from too much sex. Are you still coming?"

Callie laughed. "Youíre officially a Jedi knight, Addison. That was the best threat *ever*. You totally beat my mother and sheís *good*."

"Oh! Your parents! Did they get off okay? Theyíre gone?"

"Yeah," Callie replied sadly. "Who knew I could actually miss them?"

"I miss them, too. I love them. I saw them every morning almost." Addison chuckled. "You dad called me Addson. No i."

"It's better than what *I* want to call you. You're putting a kink in *my* sex life by making me do this."

"How can you think about sex right now? Mark is trying to get me killed by ..."

"An el chupacabra?"

"What's that?"

"Well, legend says that it's a monster sorta like Big Foot or the Loch Ness and it lives in Washington State. Cam is convinced he saw one the other night. So ... be careful."

"Oh my god. I knew that something was watching us the other night. You better be here in thirty minutes and you hate *everything*, okay?"

"Iím on it."

Callie hung up the phone and slipped it back into the side of her purse. She put her seat belt on and said, "Weíre going to be having Mark and Addison as neighbors. If you ever want to have sex with me again then you will love *everything* about the cabin weíre going to see because I have to hate it for her. You have to cross cancel me."

"Callie?"

"Hmm?"

"You canít really threaten me with sex."

"Why is that?"

"Because you would die without it."

"Fine, youíre right." She reached over and tugged his ear. "But if you want to break this SUV in the proper way, youíll love the cabin, Alex."

"I love the cabin. And the el chupacabra's that you just lied your ass off about."

"She threatened my video games, dude. She's lucky that I don't scientifically create an el chupacabra and put it in her locker."

*~*~*~*~*~

"I love the cabin!" Addison cried, clasping her hands together as she met Callie and Alex in the driveway.

Callie glanced at Mark, who was grinning at her. "I hate it. The driveway needs work and itís facing the wrong way."

"What?" The redhead glanced at the cabin. "What way is it supposed to be facing?"

"The sunís going to go right through that window and blind you every afternoon."

Addison put her hands on her hips. "Thatís the *laundry* room. Who cares?"

"And the woodís an ugly color." Callie shook her head. "Plus ... the roof doesnít look right."

Mark glanced at the roof and said, "What the hell, Torres?"

"Well, I like it," Alex replied, peering into the garage window. "Itís beautiful and the view of the water is amazing."

"I bet there are snakes everywhere." Callie glanced down dramatically. "Itís a good think you watch ĎVenom ERí, Addy, because -"

"Itís cold as hell! If there were snakes theyíd be frozen!" Mark pointed at the open front door. "Why donít you take your negative ass inside and see what else you can find to pick on!?"

Callie walked past him and gasped when she saw the beautiful bamboo wood flooring. The rich, light coloring had been shined to a mirror like quality and it complemented the earth tones that dominated the color scheme. She stepped from the foyer into a sunken living room that boasted a large, stone fireplace with a mantle made from the same bamboo. Three sofas sat in the middle of the room, two facing each other and one closing off the end like a sectional. It was the perfect place to sit and watch the plasma television that hung over the fireplace.

"If you come home drunk youíre going to fall, face first, down those steps," Callie said. It was a weak argument and she knew it.

"You have about six steps that lead into your living room," Mark snapped. "Look around! This is the perfect house."

"Itíll be very hard to heat and cool." Callie looked at Alex, imploring him.

"Oh." He shook his head. "I think there are solar panels on the roof that you hate so that should help a lot."

"The floor is ugly," Callie said, nervously chewing on her thumbnail. "And the - I canít do it, Addison."

"Do what?" Mark asked, looking from one woman to the other with narrowed eyes. "You two are up to something!"

"Shut up, Callie!" Addy glared at her. "Did you not hear me say that I *love* the cabin?"

"Were you being serious?"

"What are you two doing!?" Mark bellowed, still glaring back and forth. "Tell me right now!"

"Addison wants me to hate it and I *canít*."

"Addison Montgomery!" Mark yelled.

"Callie Torres!" Addison shouted at the same time.

Callie threw her hands up in surrender and walked through the living room and into the sunroom, which had a gorgeous view. She smiled and headed into the kitchen when she heard Mark threaten to rub Addison down with poison ivy. Alex followed along behind her and kissed her in the dining room. "You are such a bad, bad friend," he told her.

"I know." Callie put her arms around him. "It sucks to be her and have to deal with me."

"Nah, I wouldnít go that far." He leaned down and kissed her again. "You claimed that you had one hell of a poker face, baby, but the second you walked in here I knew you were losing it. You donít lie very well."

"Really?"

"Really."

"I have a poker face when I need it and like you say: lying catches up to you. Besides, I want Addison to live close to me."

"Well, I donít! Because people should *like* their neighbors!" Addison snapped, huffing into the dining room. "The first words out of my mouth were ĎI love the cabiní. That was a sign that you could love it too."

"No," Callie replied. "That wasnít a sign. A sign would have been ĎI love the cabin so forget the fact that I threatened to blow up your video games and kill you in front of a mirrorí."

Alex looked at Mark. "Do we really want them to live this close together?"

"Iím thinking no."

"Too bad," Addison replied. "Because weíre buying this place!" She reached out and took Callieís hand. "Come on. I want to show you the bedrooms and the office and the library and we can plan a party and ..."

Her voice trailed off as she led Callie out of the room. Mark and Alex looked at one another when Callie laughed at something they couldnít hear. Alex put his hands on his hips, "What are you thinking, man?"

"Iím thinking that weíll be good neighbors."

"Those two together! Those two within walking distance of each other? Weíll never get a minuteís peace! Theyíll conspire. All the time. If you piss Addison off sheíll come to our house. If I piss Callie off sheíll come here and then whichever one of us whoís with them at the time will be the bad guy because weíre the *guys*."

"Oh, shit. What have I done?"


Alex ran a hand over his hair. "Wanna show me the basement? Maybe we can put in a bomb shelter for us for when they get going."

"Sounds like a plan."

*~*~*~*~*~

"Iíll wait out here."

"You can come in."

"I donít want to."

"Callie, come and help me pack." Alex took her hand in his. "Itíll be okay."

She saw that her red convertible, which now belonged to George, was parked behind Cristinaís motorcycle and she knew that Izzie was probably in the house as well. She closed her eyes for a second and said, "I donít think itís a good idea."

"If you help me weíll be in and out twice as fast."

The front door opened and Cristina walked out, bundled up in her jacket. She tapped on Callieís window, which Alex rolled down. "Nice ride! Whose is it?"

"Alexís."

"Bull shit! This is a Mercedes! Callie, please leave him for me." Cristina opened Callieís door and said, "Get out so I can see it!"

Callie slipped out so Cristina could climb in. She laughed at the younger womanís enthusiasm. Cristina opened and shut the sunroof, she played with the XM radio, and trembled when Callie heated the seats for her. "Itís *so* cold out here!" Cristina said, climbing back out of the car. "Come inside and get warm."

"I, uh, I think Iíll wait out here."

"I donít!" Cristina grabbed her arm and shut the car door. "Come on. I need you to fix my laptop. I donít know what I did to it, but itís fucked up."

"I told you how to fix it!"

"Iím a *doctor*. If I wanted to be a computer tech Iíd be working at Best Buy. Duh."

Callie had never felt quite so uncomfortable in her life. Cristina led her into the house and she immediately spotted Izzie and George on the sofa. Alex walked in behind her and closed the door, then leaned against her back. He put his hands on her hips and said, "Letís go upstairs."

Cristina led the way and flopped down on Alexís old bed. She picked up her laptop and turned it on, then set it on Callieís lap. Callie only half listened to Cristina as Alex pulled two large duffel bags from the top shelf of the closet and began to stuff his belongings in them. Turning back to the laptop, she clicked a few keys and restored the registry, repairing the issue that had plagued the system. Cristina took it back and said, "Yes! I can catch up on LonelyGirl15."

Callie smiled at her. "I could so spoil for you."

"Donít you *dare*!" Cristina pushed a few keys and then said, "No, wait. Tell me."

"No way! Itís a shock!"

"Iíll watch the last episode first! I swear I'll do it." Cristina threatened. "Spill it."

"Bree dies. They pretty much suck all her blood out." Callie told her. "And her blood apparently saves the elders and -"

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" Cristina slammed the computer shut and crossed her arms. "I only have time in my life for three minute webisodes. I donít have time to invest in sitcoms or anything else. Iím invested in Bree. I'm invested in proving science wrong! Did she suffer?"

"No. Itís like she just goes to sleep."

"It never happens that way!"

"Cristina, they probably only have like four dollars to spend on every episode. They canít make it look *that* real." Callie looked at Alex over her shoulder and said, "Are you going to tell me what you want me to pack, Jock Strap?"

He grinned at her. "Nothing. I just didnít want you in the car."

Callie made a face at him and he leaned down, kissing her, his tongue rubbing against hers. When they broke apart, Cristina gagged and Callie threw a pair of socks at her. She opened her mouth to say something to the other woman, but Izzie appeared in the doorway and leaned against the jamb. "So," the blond said softly. "Youíre moving out?"

Alex nodded, but said nothing. He did walk to the dresser, putting himself between the two women, though. Izzie watched him toss his underwear into his duffel and looked at Callie. Her eye was black and blue, but it didnít look half bad. "Uh, Callie, could I talk to you?"

"No, you canít," Alex stood up. "Absolutely not."

Izzie put her hands in her pockets. "I just - I wanted to apologize."

"Then you'll do it right here." Alex turned his attention to Callie. "Are you okay with that?"

"Yeah. Sure." Callie smiled a little when Cristina put her laptop aside and decided to sort through laundry three inches away from Callie. The message was clear. Izzie would have to go through her to get to Callie or vice versa. "Itís fine."
"Thanks for the advice about the ice. Itís been helping." Izzie touched her cheek, which felt full of Gobstoppers. "And Iím really sorry for everything I said and did to you."

"Me, too," Callie replied. "And - donít sweat the psych evaluations. Ask for Gellar and tell him exactly what he wants to hear. Heíll lead you and youíll know what to say."

Izzie grimaced. "Or after he gets done with me heíll retire. Iím that much of a mess."

"Weíre all messes. We just learn to make the most of it." Callie shrugged a little. "Itíll be okay."

With a nod, Izzie watched Alex finish up the packing and said, "So, you guys are moving in together?"

"Off limits. Anything about us is off limits. You don't talk about it, think about it, or have an opinion about it." Alex zipped his bag and put it over his shoulder. "You said you wanted to apologize and you did. Anything else is none of your business. I mean it."

"Okay." Izzie waved at Callie, who nodded at her, and then walked into her bedroom and shut the door.

"Nice pair of balls you got there, Karev," Cristina said, smiling up at him. "Very nice."

"Donít comment on my boyfriendís balls," Callie told her, nudging her with the toe of her shoe. "And you do realize that youíre practically a dwarf and you weight four pounds so itís not like you could have prevented me from getting at her."

"I wasnít trying to prevent you," Cristina replied, standing up. "I was showing her that Iím Team Callie."

"Ooh, there are teams now?"

"Iím the president." Cristina crossed her arms over her chest.

"Vice president," Alex corrected, reaching out and pulling Callie to her feet. "Letís go home, baby."

Cristina heaved again.

Callie simply smiled at her.

*~*~*~*~*~

The following Monday, Callie made excuses for lunch that did not involve anything resembling the truth. She knew better. She did, but every time she opened her mouth to tell the truth her tongue refused to work. Things were going too perfectly for her to rankle Alexís ire by telling him that she was dining with Louise and after his reaction to the mere thought of it at the party, she just wasnít going there with him. It had been a great weekend and she wasnít going to do *anything* to ruin it. She told Alex that she had an errand to run for the fund raiser and promised to show him her favorite supply closet when she got back. It was drizzling rain when she shook off her umbrella and entered the Emerald City Bar. She made a beeline for Joe, who lifted her off her feet and hugged her. He talked a mile a minute for a few moments, the pointed to the left.

When she turned, she immediately drew up short. Louise was sitting at the booth in the corner, waving at her. And George sat beside her, looking like he had been manhandled into the bar. His clothing was crooked and his face was pale. He definitely did *not* look happy to be there and she imagined that her face mirrored his. Taking a deep breath, she walked across the almost empty room and let Louise hug her. Just like her own mother had done, the blond fussed over her injury and called Izzie Stevens a few choice names.

"Youíve lost more weight." Louise put her hands on Callieís waist, which did look small and tapered under the clinging royal blue shirt she wore. "Goodness, honey, this is bordering on frightening."

"Iíve been exercising a lot. Hiking and swimming." Callie slipped into the booth and nodded at her husband. "George."

"Hey, Callie."

She noticed that he was doing the vacant stare thing that he always did when he didnít know what to say or do. He had clearly been put on the spot just like she had been. She pulled her laptop from her bag and opened it on the table. She spoke to Louise. "I have to take this fund raiser on a bigger scale than a bake sale or a rummage sale. Itís got to be huge."

Louise nodded. "I spoke with the principal of our school. Heís certain that we can get our chorus and drama department to do something for you. Have you thought about a talent show?"

Callie chewed her lip. "Thatís a good idea. My cousin is CEO of a record label in Atlanta. I could probably talk him into offering a few hours in the studio to record something professionally. Hmmm. Maybe I should do a few different things on different dates."

George watched as she typed furiously on her laptop. She had pulled the front of her hair back in a barrette, but several pieces curled around her face. He had never seen it styled that way and the effect was breathtaking. A worry line appeared between her eyes and she said, "I can book the Key Arena seven days before Christmas. Iíll cover all the charges for that. Thatís the biggest venue here in Seattle and Iíve got a few buddies who would probably come out and perform."

"What kind of buddies?" George asked softly.

She glanced at him. "Gloria Estefan is a friend of the family. So are Jon Secada, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, and Marc Anthony. Marc could bring the J Lo factor and I personally know enough rappers, Vanilla Ice included, who would probably get on board for charity. It could be an all day event with high priced tickets. I could probably get the radio stations here involved and the signals picks up all the way into Canada."

"Oh my god." George shook his head. "I never realized all this about you. You know these people?"

"Well, I am from Miami." Callie pushed the laptop to one side and put her chin in her palm. "I donít have a lot of time to plan it, though. Itís already October."

"Weíll think of something," Louise smiled at her. "Haroldís brother works for a public television station here in town. Perhaps I could get him to set aside some air time for a telethon of some kind."

"That would be perfect! And I can pay for thirty second spots on the networks." Callie closed her laptop completely when Joe arrived to take their orders. She slipped it back in her bag . When he walked away, she smiled at Louise. "So, did you bring the photos of Ronnie and Jerryís little expedition to the top of the mountain? I know Mack took a ton of photos. He calls them his Ďcherryí pictures and itís the way he commemorates anyone climbing for the first time."

"Heís a very crude man." Louise dug through her purse and pulled out two thick packets of photos.

Callie eagerly took them and passed them one by one to George when he said he hadnít seen them yet. Luckily, there were enough photos to get them through the wait for the food. It arrived finally and Callie glanced at her watch. She would have to eat fast. Digging into her club sandwich, she listened to Louise and George talk about some remodeling work that was being done at the family home. After eating half of her sandwich, she held up a hand and asked Joe for a box.

"Youíre still not eating well." Louise frowned at her plate.

"Not eating for several months will do that to you." She glanced at George, a bemused smile on her face. "You canít call me curvy now, huh? I donít think my hips will ever come back."

He put down his burger and looked at her. "I didnít mean it the way you obviously took it."

"Thereís not many ways to take it, but itís okay." She slid her sandwich into the box that Joe laid on the table. "Iíll have to be getting back soon. I have a surgery in about thirty minutes. I need to talk to the patient."

Louise stood and said, "I have to run to the bathroom. Donít leave before I get back."

Callie watched her go and looked back at George. "Do you get the feeling that your mother is up to something?"

"Yeah. Iím sorry. She called this morning and insisted that I meet her here. She said it was an emergency." He pushed his plate away, wiping his mouth. When he looked at her, she saw that his eyes were watering. "I didnít know you were coming."

"Itís not your fault." Callie reached across the table, instinctively putting her hand on his. "You asked me if I was okay the other night so itís my turn. Are you okay, George?"

"No." He laid his free hand on hers, squeezing a little, holding onto her. "I miss you. Every second of the day, but Iím not going to complain. I did this same thing to you. I let Izzie be the other woman before I ever even had sex with her so Iím feeling right now what you felt all along. Iím very sorry I did that to you."

Callie looked down at their hands. She felt the way his shook, but seeing it confirmed that it wasnít her imagination. She took a deep breath and reached across the table with her other hand, turning his collar down. "Iím sorry that I didnít tell you no when you asked me to marry you. Your father had just died and you were grieving. You werenít ready and I knew that. I wasnít ready, either, but I didnít want to hurt you."

"So much for best laid plans." George leaned across the table and touched the bandage on her cheek. "I never wanted to hurt you either, but just look at what Iíve done."

"Iím over it. All of it." Callie sighed. "If you still want to be friends Iím in."

"Of course I do."

*~

Across the room, Mark put his hand on Alexís shoulder. They were partially hidden behind the jukebox and neither Callie nor George were paying attention to anyone around them. He felt the shorter man stiffen when George touched her face and held him at bay when he started to take a step forward.

"Donít do it," Mark said. "Not here."

Alex watched a moment longer, listening to Callie laugh at something George had said. It was rich and soulful. Careless. Their hands never broke apart once.

But something inside of him broke enough for everyone.

He turned on his heel and walked out of the bar.

Mark followed, forgetting all about the hot wings he had been craving.

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie carried what remained of her sandwich into the hospital and practically sailed down the hallway in search of Alex. Her lunch had been productive. Louise had called Haroldís brother and he was working to clear air time on public television and Callie had come up with the idea to make the talent show an American Idol style competition. Her cousin in Atlanta had been more than willing to offer two full days in his recording studio and had promised to pen at least three songs for the contest. If the winner was actually good they would have a real shot at a recording contract, not to mention an all expense paid trip to Atlanta.

And she felt twenty pounds lighter since she had spoken with George. It wouldnít be so bad to be his friend. He looked like he could use one and it would make it easier for her to talk to Louise if she wasnít actively hating her son. She smiled when she spotted Alex in the corridor talking to Mark and Addison. He just seemed to fit into her life so well. He wasnít intimidated by either attending and he didnít abuse their friendship for better surgeries.

Grinning, she put her arm around his waist and held up the container. "Did you eat lunch yet?"

He stepped away from her and nodded. "Yeah, Iím good."

"Itís a club sandwich," Callie replied. "Are you sure?"

Mark and Addison glanced at one another and made puny excuses to leave. Callie lowered the Styrofoam plate and said, "Do I have body odor?"

"What did you do for lunch?" he asked her. He hadnít looked at her at all since she had arrived and when he finally did, he held his breath and prayed for the truth. "Youíre a little late getting back."

"I worked on the fund raiser. A friend of mine is getting air time on our public broadcasting station and I used the wonderful power of wireless internet to spend about seventy five thousand dollars booking the Key Arena." She rolled her eyes. "Even though I donít have anyone to perform there yet. I jumped the gun, but the date was right when Chief Webber wants it done."

He wondered briefly how she could meet his eyes, how she could look him square in the face and lie to him. "Whoís your friend? They seem well connected."

"Are you sure you donít want this sandwich?" When he shook his head, she tossed it into the trash. "You donít really know her. Her brother in law works at the TV station and the rest was all me. Iím the well connected one. Iím so connected that I can get you in on my surgery that Iím about to be late for if you want. I know youíre supposed to get off before me, but-"

"No. I have to go," he replied, stepping around her. "Iíll see you at home."

Callie watched him walk down the hallway, her head tilted a little to the side.

A moment later, Meredith walked up and said, "Iím all yours. Ready to replace hips since Iíll never have any."

"Me either, apparently," Callie replied, glancing down at her street clothes. "I need to go change. My new scrubs came in today so maybe I can actually hold them up."

"Iíll be waiting in the OR."

"Seeya there."

*~*~*~*~*~

"I need to warn her," Addison said, pacing the length of the on-call room. "Are you sure she was holding his hand?"

"Yep."

"And he was -"

"Touching her face and she was turning down his collar and they only had eyes for each other."

"Son of a bitch!" Addison sat down on the bed and put her head in her hands. "What is she thinking? This is not a road that she needs to go down again."

"Maybe it was innocent."

She glanced up at him, her hair in her face. "Do you think it was innocent?"

"It didnít look it, but maybe Iím wrong." Mark sat down beside her. "Donít let her know that he knows, Addison."

"Why not?"

"Because I think whatever she has to say for herself on her own will make all the difference. If you warn her then sheís going into the battle armed and heíll know that we told her." He pushed her hair away from her face. "This has to be between them. Weíre out of it."

"I could wring her neck, Mark. I swear to God."

"Something tells me sheís going to need a friend. You should be a friend first and wring her neck later."

"Sheís happy with Alex. I know she is! Yesterday when we went hiking she was talking about long term plans with him. Like, she has a future in her head. A future with him. Nothing could have changed that overnight."

"Hey," Mark whispered. "Donít get upset."

"How can I not? She has let George OíMalley obliterate the Callie Torres that I know and love. And she was just starting to come back and here she is fixing his collar and lying to Alex about lunch with him."

"Well, I do have some good news." Mark grinned at her. "We got the house."

"We got the house!?"

"We can move in when youíre ready."

"Is now too soon?"

"Let go pack."

*~*~*~*~*~

The three car garage that Callieís father had designed was finally finished. It blended into the scenery beautifully with the surroundings, looking both arcadian and nautical. Callie parked in her spot and smiled at the fact that every space was filled. Alex still had his old jeep, which was parked on one end. Maybe it was an emotional attachment. She didnít really care. Seeing the garage so full felt good. It felt like coming home to a real family and thatís what she believed all the way into her gut. Alex was her family.

Smiling, she threw up her hand at Leon, the guard who worked second shift on the premises. He was large and jovial and engaged her in small talk for a few minutes as he led her safely down the trail with his flashlight. The poles for the street lights had been put into place, but had not been connected yet. Leon walked her all the way to the yacht and helped her step onto it before he nodded and told her good night.

Callie headed below deck, letting her laptop case slip from her shoulder as she toed off her shoes and dropped her purse on the sofa. "Alex?"

He came out of the bedroom in time to catch her shirt, which she tossed at him. He held it in his hand, smelling her perfume, as she sauntered toward him in her bra and jeans. Grinning ear to ear, she said, "I had the best day ever. Chief Webber approved all my ideas for the fund raiser and I did a perfect hip replacement so why donít we go enjoy the very cold night air in the hot tub. I set it this morning so it should be hot as hell."

"No. I donít think so." Alex held her shirt out to her, watching as confusion marred her features. "Maybe Iím a fool who should just go, but I have to ask you again because I - I canít believe you would lie to me."

"What?"

"What did you do for lunch today, Callie?"

She swallowed hard and a look of comprehension crossed her face. The room suddenly felt twenty degrees colder and she pulled her shirt back on before she answered. "I met Louise at the Emerald City Bar and I didnít tell you because you got so upset at the idea of it at the party. She called me the day that Cam flew out and I asked her if sheíd like to help me plan this thing for the clinic. Sheís good at that sort of thing and - and I kinda miss her. You know?"

"Thatís it?"

"Thatís it. I swear thatís it. Haroldís brother is getting us air time and we worked on some ideas. Thatís all that happened."

"Are you sure?"


"Yes!" She reached for him, but he turned on his heel and disappeared into the bedroom. She started to follow, but he emerged a second later carrying his two duffel bags which were stuffed to overflowing. "What are you-"

"Iíll have to come back for the rest." Reaching into his pocket, he tossed her the keys to the new car. "Iíll sign the title over to you later."

"What!? What are you-"

"Itís over." He started past her, but she caught his arm.
"Alex, I donít -"

"I gave you several chances to tell me the truth. Several chances." Alex pulled his arm from her grip, his nostrils flaring. "You didnít have lunch with Louise! You had lunch with George and you let him put his hands all over you!"

"Who told you that!? Theyíre lying!"

"I SAW IT! I WAS THERE!" Alex took several steps toward the door. He turned mid stride and glared at her. "YOU CAME IN HERE ACTING LIKE YOU DIDNíT BETRAY ME TODAY! HOW CAN YOU LIE TO MY FUCKING FACE?! HOW!?"

"Iím not lying! I didnít have lunch with George! He was there, but he wasnít supposed to be, Alex!" She walked toward him but he held up a hand. There was a look on his face that she had never seen before so she drew up short. "It was supposed to just be me and Louise, but he was sitting there and then he started apologizing for what had happened and all I did was hold his hand because-"

"BULL SHIT! DO NOT LIE TO ME! HE HAD HIS HANDS ON YOUR FACE AND YOU DIDNíT DO A GOD DAMN THING TO STOP HIM!" Alex shook his head. "WHY!? WHY!?!?"

"He said that he wants us to be friends and I said okay. Thatís all it was. He was apologizing about the stitches and he touched the bandage. It was brief and then Louise came back and we worked on the planning. Thatís all it was."

"I doubt she was even there!"

"Iíll call her! Right now! Iíll call her on speaker phone and thank her for lunch and tell her that the Chief liked her ideas." She started to move to her purse, but he lifted his arm to block her, stalking forward.

Callie took a step back and raised her arms to cover her face.

He stopped walking toward her instantly and the duffels fell from his shoulder, then to the floor. Reaching out, he gently pushed her arms down and tilted her face. "Baby, did you think I was about to hit you?"

Tears were rolling down her face when she looked up at him. "I donít know."

"You know better than that!"

"And you know better than this! Are you trying to imply that I would cheat on you with George? With *George*?!" she cried. "How can you leave me for trying to not hurt your feelings?"

"You lied to me! Every time I asked you!" His voice rose again. "I can handle a lot of things, but I canít handle a liar! If you canít be honest with me then -"

She bent down and grabbed the two bags at his feet, shoving them against his chest. "Just go."

"Callie-"

"GET OUT!"

"Just -"

She brushed the tears off her cheeks and said, "You donít like liars so donít be one. You said itís over ... so it is. Weíll always have Disneyland, right?"

"No!" He pointed his finger at her. "We had a hell of a lot more than Disneyland and *you* ruined it." He yanked the straps of his bags over his shoulders. "I was wrong about your poker face. If I didnít know the truth, I wouldnít have believed it. You deserve an Oscar."

"Well, letís see your dramatic exit, Alex. Maybe youíll beat me."

He walked out, slamming the door hard enough to knock several pictures from the wall.

Callie hit the floor quicker than they did.

She curled into a fetal position in the galley and cried like she had never cried in her life.

Ch 29
*~*~*~*~*~

Alex stalked to the garage, tripping over the underbrush on the dimly lit trail. He swore several times under his breath and then out loud when he realized that he needed his key to get in. He had left it attached to the key ring for the new SUV. He felt his pockets and realized that he had not picked up his old set of keys either. Dropping his bags in front of the door, he leaned back against it and crossed his arms over his chest. He was blinded a moment later by headlights, so he shielded his face as he tried to see who had arrived.

Leon came out of the guard shack and stopped a few feet from Alex. "Hello, Dr. Karev."

"Leon," Alex replied with a curt nod. He recognized Markís Beemer and quickly added, "Itís okay. Theyíre friends."

"Yes, sir." Leon disappeared back into the small room that was attached to the garage and closed the door behind him, drowning out whatever television show he had been watching.

Mark and Addison exited the car and slowly walked toward him. Addison pointed at the bags on the ground and said, "Is it good or bad that youíre packed, but not gone?"

"I left my keys inside and I donít want to go back and get them."

"Is she here?" Mark asked. "Did you talk to her?"

"She lied to me. She said that she was supposed to be meeting Georgeís mother and just his mother and that he wasnít supposed to be there. I didnít see his mother and -"

"Then call Joe." Addison pulled her phone from her purse. "Ask him if Louise was there. You know that he tells everything that happens there! I think he even blogs about it."

"Even if she was there it doesnít matter. The point is ... Callie lied to me." Alex rubbed his forehead when Addison called Joe, putting the phone on speaker.

"Emerald City."

"Hey, Joe, itís Addison. Have you seen Callie today? Iím trying to find her."

"Several hours ago. She came in to see Mrs. OíMalley. Not for nothing, Georgeís mother is pretty bad ass. As soon as Callie came into the room and hugged me, George tried to crawl over his mom and head for the door. I thought I was going to have to get Walter to go yank her off him. I donít think either of the soon to be divorcees expected to bump into each other." Joe laughed. "Callie looked like a dead woman walking when she turned and saw that he was there. I had to shove her toward the table."

"Oh." Addisonís eyes met Alexís. "Do you know what they were talking about?"

"Uh, Callie was working on something on her laptop that had to do with the memorial clinic. She told me that my wireless internet sucked ass," Joe replied. "She looked good. Callie. I keep hearing rumors that sheís with Alex, but I havenít had a chance to ask either one of them. What a great looking couple, huh?"

"So, how long did she stay?"

"Just for lunch. It was tense, though. After Callie left and the OíMalleys came up to pay, George told his mom that they were going to just be friends and he was okay with that. He also told her that she better never put either one of them on the hot seat again." Joe coughed a little and said, "Damn this weather. Hey, tell Callie that she left her umbrella, okay?"

"I will. Thanks, Joe."

"Bye, Addison."

Alex shook his head as she hung up and put her phone back in her purse. "It doesnít change anything."

"Did she say why she lied?" Mark took off his jacket and put it around Addisonís shoulders. "I mean, what exactly did she tell you?"

"She said that she didnít tell me because she knew that I got upset at the party when I overheard her talking about making plans to see Georgeís mom. She said she didnít want to hurt my feelings."

Mark looked incredulous. "And you packed your shit and left anyway? Over this?"

"What?!"

"Addison, you didnít hear this and you better not say a word to Callie about it," Mark said. He looked back at Alex and added, "You and I both know why Callie having a relationship with Georgeís mother gets to you. Youíre threatened by it because itís something George has to give her that you donít because you donít know where your mother is. And when we went golfing together, I asked you if you were going to tell Callie about it and you said no. You said she has enough baggage of her own which means that you lied about your mother being a special education teacher to impress her parents!"

Addy hit him on the shoulder. "You were not supposed to mention that!"

Mark ignored her. "Is your father in real estate, Alex?"

"No." Alex shook his head. "Heís a drug dealer who supplies the local bars."

"Callie knew you were lying, too," Addison told him, her hands on her hips. "She said she could tell that you werenít being honest, but she didnít call you on it. She told me on our hike that you must have been ashamed to tell the truth and that she couldnít hold it against you. Jackass!"

Mark turned to Addison and said, "Why donít you get the guard to take you down to the yacht and see how sheís doing?"

Addison handed him his coat, glared at Alex, and knocked on Leonís door. The guard happily escorted her down the trail. When she was out of earshot, Mark slipped his coat back on and said, "Letís take a drive. You can bring your bags and if you want me to drop you off somewhere I will, but I donít think youíll want me to once you actually think about what youíre doing. What youíre throwing away."

Alex picked up his bags and followed Mark to the car.

*~*~*~*~*~

Addison thanked Leon and knocked softly on Callieís door. When she didnít answer, she tried the knob. It was unlocked and she slipped inside, shivering a little. She adjusted the thermostat and stepped down into the salon. Thatís when she heard the sobs. She saw her friend curled up on the tiled floor of the kitchen and rushed to her. Going down to her knees beside her, she rubbed her back. "Callie," she said softly. "Itís freezing down here. Come on, get up."

"I canít," Callie sobbed. "Heís gone."

"Heís with Mark. Markíll talk to him."

She shook her head. "It wonít do any good."

"Mark can be pretty persuasive, but I donít really think Alex needs much persuasion. He loves you."

Callie rolled a little and looked up at her. "Iím thinking things that I shouldnít be thinking so please donít leave me. Please stay."

"What kind of things?" Addison took her hand, her chin trembling when she saw the true state that her friend was in. "Callie?"

"Iím thinking that thereís enough alcohol in that wet bar to chase it all away and -"

"Stop!" Addison pulled her upright and shook her. "You are not falling apart again! Do you hear me?! Drinking yourself to death is not the answer to every problem that you have!"

"I know that!" Callie cried. "But - but itís the only answer I have and I donít know *why*."

Addison hugged her, wrapping her arms tightly around the other woman. It shocked her, how frail she felt, how cold she was. "You have to get up off this floor and live, Callie. Just live."

"If I get up ... Iím gonna drink. So Iíll just stay right here."

"Okay. Donít move." Addison got back to her feet and went into Callieís bedroom, where she wet a wash cloth in hot water and grabbed two pillows and the comforter from her bed. She carried it back into the kitchen and pulled the cover over Callie, then she brushed her hair back and wiped at her face. When Callie took the rag, Addison crawled under the cover beside her and pulled one of the pillows under her head, pushing the other to Callie.

"I didnít mean for this to happen." Callie sniffled, roughly scrubbing her face. "I didnít tell him because he -"

"I know why you didnít tell him. And I get it. I understand," Addison said. She watched her for a few seconds and she already knew the answer to the question she needed to ask, but she asked it anyway. "Callie? You meant to kill yourself before, didnít you?"

Callie nodded, but didnít meet her eyes. "Yeah."

"You told me you didnít."

"Well, Iím a liar. Just ask Alex." Callie rolled so that she was facing Addison.

"Oh my god," Addison said, taking the cloth from her. "Youíve popped a stitch. Youíre bleeding."

"I donít care."

"Well, I care." She dabbed at the cut, then put a little pressure against it. "Why did you try to hurt yourself?"

"I donít know."

"Yes, you do. Start explaining."

"I canít explain it. That day was just so bad and I felt like I was completely alone." She rubbed her nose and sniffled again. "I canít blame anybody for it, you know? I canít blame George or you for being pissed at me or Cam for telling me to have the party. It was just ... my head was too full. I felt like I was drowning under the weight of my own thoughts and I couldnít stop thinking about ways out of it.

"I was too tired to leave town again and I knew that if I left town ... Iíd have to come back. So I just thought Iíd leave. I thought Iíd close my own curtain and fade to black." She looked at her friend, who was brushing a tear off her own face. "I wanted the black, Addison."

"Youíre not meant for black." Addison touched her hair again. "I know you think youíve got this darkness thing down to a science, but youíre not dark at all. Youíre red. Red is fire and youíve got fire in your soul that should never be put out. Iím a better person because I know you. And I do know you. I know that your heart lets you forgive everyone around you, except yourself. Youíre holding a grudge against yourself and you shouldnít. Forgive yourself, Callie."

Callieís brown eyes filled with tears again. They fell onto the pillow and she didnít try to stop them. "I do blame myself. For everything. George and -"

"George cheated because heís an asshole. His friends hated you because theyíre judgmental fourth graders who canít share their toys. You didnít make Chief Resident because your dad interfered and Izzie Stevens attacked *you*." Addison smiled a little. "Anything else?"

"I lied to Alex."

The red head sighed. "You lied to protect his feelings and maybe the world would be a better place if we all did that a little more."

"You have all the right answers."

"You know what else I have?" Addison asked.

"What?"

"A very strong hug. So get over here."

Callie let Addison pull her into her arms and closed her eyes.


She was asleep within minutes.

*~*~*~*~*~

Neither Mark nor Alex spoke for the first forty-five minutes of their road trip. The fact that Mark passed the exact same mile marker no less than ten times was a strong indicator that he didnít really have a plan or a destination. The silence grated on Sloanís nerves and he finally cleared his throat and turned the radio on. Some sad song about losing the love of your life began to play and he glanced at Alex, thinking it probably wasnít the best idea to depress him even more. Turning it off, he drummed the steering wheel with his thumbs and said, "So, Iíve been thinking about the day that Addison and I had that fight in front of Callieís parents. Do you remember? At the yacht?"

"Yeah."

"Her dad was right. What he said to us was right." Mark glanced at the other man. "He said that women are built to carry love and not just because they have a womb. He said that love gets into them and hurts them, amazes them, and scares them, but they still tend to hold on with both hands. Because it stains their soul and thatís where they really carry it."

When Alex didnít reply, Mark continued. "Thatís why Addison had to follow Derek and try to save her marriage one more time. And I think thatís why Callie wants to stay friends with Georgeís mom. Callieís a family girl. We both know that. We saw her extended family and it was as big as it was weird. Callie was married to George so his family was hers for a while and since she doesnít have any relatives out here ... itís understandable that sheíd cling a little."

Alex took a deep breath. "Her dad also warned us that love was a battlefield, dude."

"Who would have pegged him for a Pat Benatar fan?" Mark chuckled a little. "Look, I was there today and saw the same thing you did. It pissed me off for you, but Callieís not stupid. If she was really going to do something wrong ... would she have done it at Joeís bar where most of our co-workers go for lunch?"

Alex stared out at the road ahead of them. "Was that rhetorical or do you want me to answer you?"

"Answer me."

"No, she wouldnít have done something like that at Joeís. Or at all. I know that."

"Then what are you doing?"

"I really have no idea."

Mark grinned a little. "So, if I drive you into town to the twenty four hour supermarket, do you think you could buy her some flowers and go back home?"

"What kind of flowers say ĎIím sorry that I was a bastardí?"

"How much of a bastard were you?"

"It got so bad that she thought I was going to hit her at one point."

"Did she have a reason to think that, Alex?"

"I am *not* my father," Alex replied, his tone harsh. "That almost killed me. I swear to God, it was awful. She raised her arms like she was trying to cover her face."

"Has she been hit by someone before?"

Alex frowned. "I donít know. The way she did it makes me think that she has. By someone other than Izzie, I mean."

Mark turned into the parking lot of the supermarket and pulled into a vacant spot near the door. "Letís go find bastard flowers."

*~*~*~*~*~

Alex wound up buying a brown stuffed bear that was holding a geranium. He added five balloons that had varying messages of sorrow and love. Mark assured him that it would be enough, but he didnít sound very convinced. A little while later, they parked in front of the garage and Alex took out his duffel bags and the bear. Mark insisted on carrying the bags.

Monty, the third shift guard, took one look at the balloons and the bear and said, "Oh, you are in the doghouse apparently."

"Apparently," Alex agreed, then followed Monty down the trail, sidestepping Callieís mud puddle.

On Goon Docks, Alex waved to Monty and turned to Mark. He looked at the other man for a few seconds and when Mark didnít speak, he finally said, "What am I supposed to say?"

"I got you this far, buddy. My work is done." Mark shrugged.

Alex made a face and opened the door, which was unlocked. He didnít like that at all. Stepping down into the salon, he peered toward the bedroom door, but there wasnít a sound. Then he heard Callieís breath hitch, an indication of how upset she had been, and saw that their comforter was in the kitchen floor. He set the bear on the counter and moved to the side, staring down at Addison and Callie. They were both fast asleep and both had apparently been crying.

"That would be hot under any other circumstances," Mark said, standing beside him. He smiled a little and leaned down, pulling the cover back. Callieís hand was on Addisonís stomach and her head was on her shoulder. Addison had both arms around her friend. "Hot. As. Hell. Hold on, Iíve got to get a picture."

Alex frowned when he saw the dried blood on Callieís cheek. He closed his eyes for a moment and saw his mother on that fateful Christmas Eve, lying in the floor of the kitchen underneath a chair. Her face had been bloody as well. The clicking of Markís cell camera jarred him out of the memory and he looked back down at Callie. He knew that he had hurt her just as badly as his mother had been hurt ... just in a different way.

Addison shifted a little and opened her eyes as Markís camera rapidly clicked. She blinked several times. "What time is it?"

"Almost midnight. Letís go home." Mark held out his hand.

Addison shook her head. "No. She asked me not to leave her. Iím staying."

"Addison-"

"Iím staying." Addy glanced down at Callie. "She popped a stitch on her face."

"Iíll look at it," Alex replied in a low voice. "If you guys want to stay youíre welcome to the starboard bedroom, but I really need to take your spot, Addison."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "I donít think so."

Callie shifted a little then rolled away from Addison, tucking her hands under her pillow, her breath deep and even. Mark held out his hand again and said, "Come on, Addy. Weíll sleep in the other room."

She let him pull her to her feet and held out the bloody cloth that she had cleaned Callieís face with. "If I hear her crying again, Iíll gut you. And I will be listening."

Alex shot Mark an ĎI told you soí look. Having them as neighbors would be chaotic as hell. When Addison and Mark disappeared behind the door, he grabbed a bottle of water and the first aid kit, then sat down on the floor beside her. For the longest time, he was content to be near her, to listen to her breathing. She started in her sleep, jumping a little, and he reached down to stroke the line of her neck.

Callie moaned when he shook her, but didnít wake up. Throwing caution to the wind, he eased the cover back and settled behind her, his hand on her waist. Leaning down, he kissed her just behind the ear and pulled her a little closer. Her hair was soft against his cheek and when she sobbed in her sleep, he glanced back at the starboard door, which remained thankfully closed. "Itís okay," he whispered, his hand moving under the pillow to cover hers. "Wake up, Callie."

She gasped and sat up so suddenly that it startled him. He pushed himself into a sitting position and touched her shoulder. "Iím sorry. I didnít mean to scare you."

Callie rubbed her eyes and flinched when the bottom of her hand hit the popped stitch. She saw him reach for the first aid kit and got to her feet. Saying nothing, she walked into her bedroom, then the bathroom, where she turned the water on in the sink. She washed her face and blotted it dry and saw him standing in the doorway watching her. She had caught her reflection in the mirror so she was well aware that her eyes were nearly swollen shut and her nose could light up the sky better than Rudolph.

Not meeting his eyes, she started around him. He put a hand on her stomach to prevent her from passing. Taking a deep breath, she said, "I canít do this again."

He frowned when he heard how congested and hoarse she sounded. "You canít do what?"

"I canít fight with you anymore. I just ... canít."

"I donít want to fight with you, baby."

"Do not call me that!" She finally looked at him and her eyes filled with tears again. "Are you back for the rest of your things?"

"No."

"Then what do you want?"

"You."

She simply stared at him, unblinking.

He scratched the side of his face. "Youíre not going to make this easy. Are you?"

She shook her head.

"I love you, Callie. So much that it makes me a little insane to think of another man touching you."

"It was *innocent*."

"If it was innocent then you shouldnít have lied to me."

"I didnít even think about it, Alex. When you asked me. Thatís how much it meant to me. He wasnít supposed to be there and -"

"I know. Joe said that -"

"You had to get Joe to tell you?! You couldnít just believe me?!"

"No! Addison called the bar to prove that -"

"That maybe Iím not a liar?"

"That Louise was actually there."

Callie ran a hand through her hair. "Iím not doing this. I am *not* fighting with you any more tonight! I mean it!"

"Iím not mad anymore," Alex told her.

"Well, good for you." She raised her brows. "I am! You screamed at me, called me a liar, and then *left* me. You gave up on us over a stupid lunch! And you call *me* a flier!?"

"You lied to me over a stupid lunch. I was pissed. Seeing you with him ... it gets to me. Because I know how you felt about him. Iím the one who picked up the pieces in case you fail to remember."

"There is nothing in this world that should threaten you less than George OíMalley."

"He can give you things that I canít."

Alex had hoped his simple admission would be enough for her to walk into his arms, but apparently it wasnít. She stood her ground. He was holding the first aid kit so he pointed at the toilet and said, "Sit down and let me bandage your face."

"I donít want my face bandaged."

"Well, itís not negotiable. You popped a stitch and -"

"Youíre not touching me."

"Callie, could you please try to meet me halfway?"

"You packed your things while I was at work. It didnít matter what I said to you ... you were leaving me! Do you call *that* halfway?!"

"I *stayed* to hear what you had to say! Itís not my fault that the truth came out like an impacted tooth. You actually deserved what happened tonight."

"Nobody should ever feel the way that I felt tonight. Donít you ever tell me that I deserved that again." She started to move past him, but he blocked her one more time. "Weíre not talking about this."

"Fine! We wonít talk about any of it and then itíll just fester like a -"

"Move out of my way."

"No."

"Just ... go to hell!!!"

He glared at her. "Ooooh, nice and mature. You want to call me a few names now? Or do you want to handle this like an adult?"

"I want to go to bed. I have to get up early in the morning and Iím tired. Youíve exhausted me."

"Weíre not going to bed mad. Weíre -"

"YOU are not going to bed here at all. You left. Remember? The door is that way and I didnít invite you back in."

"Okay, fine. You want me to go, Iíll go." He tossed the kit onto the counter in the bathroom and turned on his heel. "But this isnít over."

"Wait."

"What?!"

"Iím sorry," she replied softly. "Itís late. You donít have to go."

He smiled. It was slight, barely there, but he smiled. "Iím sorry, too, and I donít want to go."

"Youíre still not sleeping with me."

"Callie, look, thereís something I need to tell you about my past that will explain why I got so freaked out at the party by the thought of you running and why I didnít want you to have a relationship with Georgeís mother. I should have told you sooner because it will explain a lot, but I just couldnít do it."

She looked at him thoughtfully, then nodded. "Okay."

"Iím not telling you until you sit down and let me work on your face." He breathed a sigh of relief when she sat down on the toilet. He retrieved the kit and rifled through it. "I think I told you that I beat up my dad when I got big enough. He left and never came back. Naturally, he also didnít pay any child support so my mom had to work two jobs. She was a waitress at a truck stop and at a greasy spoon cafe. There was never enough money so she worked all the time."

He opened a sterilized swab and used it to clean the cut with antiseptic. When she cringed, he leaned forward and blew it. "Mom resented me from the day that my dad left until the day that she did. Maybe she still does, I donít know."

"What -"

"Iím getting there." He pulled on a glove and dabbed a little cream into the cut with his finger. "I stayed in Iowa to be close to her. Thatís why I went to school there. I could have had a full ride to New York, but I didnít want to leave her because as soon as I graduated high school she went a little crazy. She quit her jobs and lived in a house with no utilities for almost eight months. I kept the rent paid by working as much as I could, but I couldnít afford the rest. She eventually qualified for disability of some kind. I donít even know what it was for, but she had electricity again. Off and on. When she could remember to pay it.

"I went home every weekend to make sure that she had enough to eat and Iíd try to cook enough to last her all week. She would talk about my dad, about how much she missed him, about how-" He trailed off and dug through the kit. When he pulled out a butterfly bandage, his eyes were misty. "About how I had ruined her life by making him leave. I had forced her to work so much and tired. She was lonely. Her doctors put her on strong anti-depressants and she stopped eating, stopped doing anything. After a while.

"Somehow I got the grades and Cornell gave me a full scholarship. I went home and told her about it and I promised her that I wouldnít go. I wanted to take care of her. I wanted to get her back on her feet and figure out how to make her happy. The next weekend I went home again." He secured the bandage to her face and leaned forward, pressing a kiss against it, letting his cheek linger beside hers. When he finished, he sat down on the edge of the clawfoot tub. "I went home and there was a note on the door. It was brief. She simply said that she needed to get away and asked me not to worry."

He took a deep, shaky breath and tore off some toilet tissue, which he used to dab her eyes and not his. "I havenít seen her since then. She ... she ran. She was a flier. The police didnít want to help me and I didnít know what to do. I spent that whole summer looking for her and then I went away to school. I - I think thatís why she did it. I think she knew Iíd stay with her, take care of her, and let the chance pass me by. To this day, I call our old neighbors every week to see if sheís come back. She never has. I donít know if sheís dead or alive."

"Oh my god." Callie leaned forward and hugged him, crying against his shoulder. "Why didnít you tell me this?"

"Because just like you did today ... I didnít want you to be upset by the truth. Thatís why Iím not mad anymore." Alex held onto her, unashamed of the fact that he was shaking from his own tears. "That why I was so thrown when you kept saying that you run when youíre overwhelmed and thatís why I hate that youíre so close to OíMalleyís mother. I donít have that to offer you. I donít have any family."

"*You* are all that I need. How could you doubt that?" Callie pulled back so she could look at him. "And in case you didnít notice ... my family is large and overbearing enough for the both of us."

"I did notice that."

She kissed him, quick and chaste. "Iím so sorry about your mom. I donít know what else to say."

"You can tell me that I can come home."

"Youíre the one who left. I didnít want you to go." She reached up and stroked the tears on his cheek. Her hand dropped suddenly and her mouth fell open. "You *lied* to my parents! Youíve been preaching to me that lies *always* catch up to you and then you freak out at me, but you did the same damn thing!"

"Okay, did you actually hear the part where I acknowledged that?"

"Sleep in the other bedroom."

"Addison and Mark are in there."

"Sleep on the couch."

"Hang on!" Alex held up a hand. "Wait! Iíll be right back!"

Callie had moved to the bed when he returned. She looked up at him and smiled despite her resolve to remain angry. He carried a teddy bear that was clutching a potted plant and five oversized balloons had been tied to the bearís arm. Holding it out to her, he said, "I know itís not much, but the florist was closed so I couldnít buy bastard flowers."

"Bastard flowers?"

"Iím sorry for being a bastard."

"You should be sorry for being a hypocritical asshole." She took the bear and ran her hand over itís face. "But I guess youíre forgiven."

"Can I sleep with you?"

"If you cook me breakfast in," She glanced down at her watch. "Five hours."

"You didnít have dinner, did you?" He sat beside her on the bed. "Addison didnít -"

"Addison was too busy trying to stop me from drinking to think about anything else." She let her thumb rub over the velvety leaves of the plant. "Itís the first thing I want to do when things get bad. Can you pour out all the alcohol in the wet bar?"

"No. Youíre gonna pour it out yourself." He took her hand. "You didnít drink, right?"

"The only reason I didnít drink was because I literally could not pull myself up off the floor. Donít ever do that to me again." She squeezed his fingers and took a deep breath. "I think maybe Iím going to go to an AA meeting, Alex. Because the way that I think sometimes canít be normal. And ... maybe they think that way, too, and can tell me how to stop."

He hugged her, his sigh of relief loud and clear. He knew that she had enjoyed the oblivion she had put herself into for the those fifteen days in North Carolina. She had told him as much. He also knew that the buzz that was brought on by alcohol was something a lot of people liked a little too much. She was one of them. "I love you."

"I love you," she replied softly. "If you donít want me to be friends with George or his family then I wonít."

"No." He sat back and rubbed her face. "Friends are important, but family is more important. Theyíll always be family. I get that."

"Iím not going to do *anything* that will make tonight happen again."

"It will NEVER happen again. Iím not going anywhere. Except the kitchen," he assured her. "Iím gonna go make us both something to eat. Iíll be right back."

Alex quietly prepared two sandwiches. When he carried them back into the bedroom he drew up short. She was already asleep. She had taken the balloons off the bear and the plant from its arms and had it hugged to her chest.

He didnít have the heart to wake her up.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he ate both sandwiches.

When he finally crawled in beside her, she curled against him. Just before he dozed off, he thought of what Raphael had told him about how women were built to carry love. The next time he talked to the man heíd have to tell him that it didnít just stain a womanís soul.

Alex was stained all over.

And nothing could wipe it away.

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie bumped into Mark in the hallway before the sun had come up. He was coming out of the bathroom and she was headed for the kitchen in search of coffee. She stumbled, still half asleep despite having showered and dressed, and he caught her. She yawned and rubbed her eyes. "I hate being a doctor. No one should see the ass crack of dawn. Why canít people get sick after noon?"

He grinned at her, following her into the galley. "Are you okay?"

Callie opened the cabinet and pulled out her trusty bag of Starbucks. "Me specifically or me and Alex?"

"Both."

She shrugged her shoulders. "Alex stayed. Thatís a good sign."

"And you?"

Dropping a filter into the pot, she measured out the coffee and turned it on, inhaling deeply as it began to brew. She turned back to him and saw Alexís duffel bags out of the corner of her eye. It twisted her gut, heavy and painful. The simple truth was ... he had left her. And she wasnít over the shock or the realization that he had actually packed his bags and was gone in the blink of an eye. She turned slightly so she couldnít see the reminder. "Iíll be okay."

"Addison told me." He leaned against the counter, helping himself to an apple. "What you did. How you meant to do it."

"Are you going to tell me Iím legally insane again?"

"No. Iím going to tell you that youíre not a coward so donít act like one."

She watched him try to bite into the fake fruit and laughed at the look on his face. Reaching behind her, she tossed him a real apple. "My mother thinks that every kitchen should have the requisite fake fruit basket."

"What did Melana think about the mirrors on the ceiling in there?" He nodded at the starboard bedroom.

"She didnít think anything. My mother is completely innocent when it comes to biblical knowledge of anyone, even my father. She has never had sex, will never have sex, and thatís all there is to it."

"Do I need to ask Addison to make sure you understand where you came from?"

"I was left on her doorstep like Harry Potter. Which is why Iím the girl who lived ... despite my not so valiant efforts to the contrary."

"About that -"

"Smell. Coffee." Addison staggered from the bedroom. "Need. Coffee."

Callie pulled four mugs from the cabinet and handed her one. She glanced at Mark and said, "The cappuccino machine is in the hall closet. You can actually have it. We donít use it."

"We?" Addison poured milk and sugar into her cup. "Thereís a we? So, itís okay?"

Callie opened her mouth to reply, but she heard Alex moving around in the other room. Something that felt very much like anxiety raced through her and she couldnít push it away. She sidestepped Addison and picked up her coat from the chair. Grabbing her purse, she said, "Uh, I actually have to go to work a little early this morning. I want to check on a patient pre-rounds so could you let Alex know that heíll need to drive? Oh, by the way," She smiled at Addison. "Thank you for last night. Since you guys are off today so feel free to hang around and enjoy those mirrors on the ceiling. That bed actually vibrates, but youíll have to figure out how."

"Callie, wait-"

"Seeya later."

"What the hell was that about?" Mark asked as Callie took the steps two at a time.

Addison slammed her mug on the counter and shouted, "Karev, get your ass out here!"

"Hey," Alex replied, coming out of the bedroom carrying his shoes. "Did you sleep okay?"

"Callieís gone." Addison put her hands on her hips. "She blew out of here like a tornado and didnít even have coffee. What the hell did you do?"

Alex looked around the room as if Addison were lying. "Weíre on the same shift today. Why would she leave?"

"You tell me!"

Mark cleared his throat. "She said she wanted to get to the hospital early to check on a patient. Did - did you guys not make up last night?"

"Hell, I thought we did."

"Thatís what you get for thinking," Addy replied.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 30
*~*~*~*~*~

Alex changed into his scrubs in the locker room and lingered for a few minutes to talk to Meredith and Cristina. Neither of them had seen Callie that morning and she had not answered his page. He called and left a generic voice mail and then noticed that Cristina was watching him. "What?" he snapped.

"Trouble in paradise?" she asked.

Alex glanced at George, who had his back to him, and nodded. "A little."

"Are you sure sheís working today?"

"I know sheís here. I saw her car."

George shut his locker and turned around, facing Alex. "Sheís either on the roof or in the basement. Those are her Ďthinking placesí as she likes to call them. If sheís worried about something sheís probably on the roof. If sheís trying to hide from the world sheís in the basement."

With a nod, Alex walked past him. "Thanks."

"That was very decent," Meredith said, patting George on the back.

"Itís not decent. He smiled when I asked if there was trouble." Cristina adjusted her stethoscope. "Karma already took a bite out of you once, Bambi. Next time it will emasculate you."

*~

Alex checked the roof first and as luck would have it, she was leaning against the railing, a cup of coffee in her hand. Her hair was whipping frantically in the wind and she wasnít wearing a jacket. Neither was he and he was shivering by the time he made it across the helipad. He stepped up beside her and gripped the rail. She glanced at him and he saw the look of exasperation on her face before she quickly looked away. It infuriated him. "Callie, come inside. Itís cold out here."

"Iím not cold."

"Then why are your lips blue?"

"Iíll be in soon."

His teeth chattered. "Iím freezing, Gothika. Donít make me wait you out."

"Go inside."

"Not happening." He touched her arm. "Talk to me."

She continued to gaze at the approaching storm clouds. It always stormed in Seattle, but the clouds were different today, darker, rolling across the sky at an unbelievable rate. "It looks like the outer bands of a hurricane," she said offhand. "It reminds me of home."

"It looks like tornado weather in Iowa." He looked up at the sky, frowning. "But itís too cold. Will you please come and talk to me?"

"What do you want to talk about?"

"Why you left me this morning."

She finally turned, her eyes on his. "Do you ever think about the future?"

He nodded. "All the time since you."

"How far into the future do you think weíll have to get before you learn to trust me?"

The chill was gone from him in an instant. "I trust you."

"No. No, you donít. I think - I think maybe you never will. Maybe itís because you know that Iím impulsive and left someone for you so you think Iíll do the same thing to you. Or maybe itís because my mother told you all about how my passport had every page stamped before I was eighteen. I donít know. I just know that it really hurts and I donít know if I can do it indefinitely." She bit her bottom lip. "So, if you could tell me what I need to do to change it or give me a time frame or something, anything, that would be really fucking great."

Alex felt like his bottom jaw had hit the ground. "Where the hell is this coming from? I came back, Callie. If I didnít trust you I wouldnít have."

Callie put both hands on her coffee cup. Her fingers were numb. Her entire being was numb. "When we were sailing back from Alcatraz on the ferry ... you just assumed that I was going back to George. The night of the party, on the roof of the Archfield, you assumed that you couldnít catch me, that Iíd fly from you at the first sign of a problem. Last night you told me that I betrayed you and you left me." She looked back out at the clouds and shook her head. "And I did betray you ... because I lied to you, but thatís not what you meant, Alex. You thought that I had done something with George."

"No, I didnít. I thought that -"

"How can you expect me to catch *you* if you wonít trust me with the landing?"

"Trust is a two way street, Callie! If you trusted me as much as youíd like me to believe then you would have told me about your damn lunch date! Before it happened!" Alex shoved his hands in his pocket. "And I told you about my mother! I canít help it if I have a few issues with -"

"Donít use that as a crutch," she replied. "We have to stop living our past, Alex. Iím not your mother. And youíre not George. Iím not going to leave you and I donít think you would ever be unfaithful to me. I believe you when you tell me that you love me and I need you to believe me, too. You have to believe me for this to work."

"I came back!"

"You still left!"

Callieís pager went off and she sighed, pulling it from the clip on her waistband. Alexís went off two seconds later and they both headed for the door. He opened it and the second they were safely inside the stairwell, he pushed her back against the wall. "Alex," she said. "That page was -"

"You want to know what I see in the future? I see us getting married and having kids and twenty years from now, hell, fifty years from now if Iím lucky enough to be alive ... you will still be the woman who makes me forget every woman Iíve ever known. I told George that same thing the day your parents came and I meant it. Thatís what I see and I *trust* that we can do it, Callie. We can have that life. I believe in you. I trust in *us*. Weíre going to make mistakes and weíre going to hurt each other, but weíll get through it because we *are* us and I canít fail with you." He hugged her, his hands tangling in her windblown hair. "I will never leave you again."

She had begun to cry halfway through his speech. "When I saw your bags this morning in the living room ... it felt like I was dying all over again. I need you, you know?"

"I do know." He hugged her. "I need you, too."

Callie clung to him, shivering now from being outside for so long. He kissed her neck, her cheek, and finally her mouth. It warmed her almost instantly, his tongue against hers. She tasted her tears and something else.

She tasted hope.

When her pager sounded for the second time, they pulled apart and she smiled at him as she dried her face. "What are you doing for lunch?"

He raised a brow, smirking at her. "Maybe we could visit the on call room?"

"Maybe." She kissed him one last time and they headed for the elevator hand in hand. Once they were inside, she said, "Do me a favor?"

"Okay."

She sniffled. "When you unpack tonight ... burn your bags."

Laughing, he hugged her. "When I unpack tonight ... you can burn my bags."

*~*~*~*~*~

The on call room proved to be an impossibility. Trauma after trauma rolled in for most of the day. A multi-car pileup on the highway filled Seattle Grace to capacity and Callie found herself scrubbing into one surgery after another. It was after six p.m. before she had a chance to look at her watch. She had not eaten or drank more than a few sips of water in between the ORs the entire day. Exhausted and with the worst back ache of her entire life, she headed to Chief Webberís office and was relieved to see the man was sitting behind his desk.

She knocked on his open door and smiled at him. "Do you have a minute?"

"Certainly." He motioned for her to join him and wrote something in the chart he had been working on. After she closed the door and took the seat across from him, he said, "Weíre working on DNA matchups for four different families who have come forward regarding our Jane Doe and weíve discounted over a hundred others who had improbable blood types."

"Itís sad, isnít it? Over a hundred families have no idea where their daughter is and came to us for a little bit of hope." A sudden look of wonder and comprehension crossed her features. She had done the same thing to her family dozens of times. She had done it to George and Addison, too. She rubbed her neck and closed her eyes.

Webber watched her closely, then took his glasses off. He laced his fingers on top of the desk and regarded her. "Whatís on your mind, Dr. Torres?"

"How did you know that you had a problem with alcohol?" she asked bluntly.

Richard clenched his hands a little tighter, then leaned his elbows on the desk. "Because I thought about it all the time. I wanted it all the time."

"What if you only wanted it when you were unhappy?"

"Itís the same thing. It means that you rely on something other than yourself and thatís a very bad idea."

They sat quietly for several seconds. She looked at the wall and he looked at her. Finally, he cleared his throat and said, "My offer still stands, Callie. If youíd like to go to a meeting with me that would be fine."

"Iím scared."

"Of what?"

"I think about drinking every time something upsets me. I donít just think about the happy buzz. I think about drinking until Iím not aware of anything around me." She met his eyes. "I think about drinking until I donít wake up again."

"I know," Richard said. "I donít fool as easily as Dr. Gellar. I knew it the morning after you almost died. I examined you. I talked to you. I listened very hard to the things you werenít saying. And I listen just as hard to the people at AA who actually admit it outright. Youíre not the only person who has tried to find answers in the bottom of a bottle and you wonít be the last. All you can be is okay. You have to decide to be okay, though."

"Whenís the next meeting?"

"Iím going tomorrow. During lunch."

Callieís eyes widened a little. "That soon, huh?"

"You donít have to talk. You donít have to do anything except listen. Youíll be surprised, I think." He picked up his glasses again and slipped them on, regarding her over the top of them. "By the way, youíve done a wonderful job generating funds for the clinic. The donation hotline has been ringing off the hook."

"I guess I can do some things right."

"When you knocked on my door just now you were doing something right. And huge. You admitted that you have a problem to me." He saw her mouth open and he shook his head. "Admitting it to yourself is the next step and maybe that wonít come tomorrow or next week or next month, but you took a step in the right direction. So I think you do a lot of things right."

"Thank you. For everything. This goes beyond what a Chief would -"

He smiled at her. "You think I became Chief on surgical skill alone? I know people. And youíre going to be just fine."

Callie got to her feet. "Iíll see you tomorrow."

"Iíll expect you to give me a ride to the meeting. Iíve seen that little Mercedes youíve been driving and Iím dying to see the inside."

"Yes, sir."

"Goodnight, Dr. Torres."

"Goodnight, Chief."

*~*~*~*~*~

"You can die from too much sex, Mark."

Mark gently let Addisonís feet slide back to the floor and nuzzled her neck. She had been attempting to cook dinner, wearing just his white button down shirt, and it had been too much. He had taken her on the counter which caused her to burn the roast she had been nurturing all day. He had taken her again, this time on the sofa, while they waited for their pizza and as soon as she finished off her third slice, he had pinned her against the hallway wall.

He watched as she righted the shirt that was dwarfing her and smiled when she took a step. He didnít have to wonder why she looked bowlegged. He had felt how sticky she was and considering that her legs had not been closed for more than a few of the past twelve hours, he knew exactly what was going on. "You want a massage?"

"No. You and your hands need to stay very far away from me for a while."

"Just my hands?"

"Shut. Up. I want a hot bath and for you to wear pants to bed!" She turned and watched him pull up his boxer shorts. "And nothing silk!"

"You like silk."

"I like walking more. If this keeps on Iíll need one of those rings to sit on. Too much of a good thing is -"

"Iím just giving you what youíve been begging for, Addison."

"I have spent the better part of the day in positions that I didnít know existed. I watched you in those mirrors until noon and then we finally came here and -"

"You came several more times."

"Where are the towels we bought?"

"Iíll get them." He followed her into the bathroom and enjoyed the view when she leaned over the bathtub, putting the stopper in place. The round globes of her naked backside peeking from under the shirt made his mouth water. "Addy?"

She looked at him fast and pulled the shirt down. "No. Absolutely not. My business hours are over today."

"Thank you for moving in with me and for giving me another chance and for ... being you. I love you."

"Damn it. Do you really have to say things like that?" She unbuttoned the shirt and let it fall to the floor. "If you go get the freakiní towels you can take a bath with me."

"Iíll take a bath with you if you ask Torres to borrow her handcuffs again."

"Oh dear God. Iíve created a monster."

They soaked in the tub for close to an hour. When Addison declared that they had pruned enough, they rinsed off and headed into their bedroom. She looked at the clock and said, "Itís not even eight p.m. yet!"

"Which means we have a while."

"Which means that weíre just in time to watch the new episode of ĎHouseí and at nine thereís a new ĎVenom ERí."

"So weíre watching television?" Mark watched her fluff the pillows on the bed and scratched the side of his head. "Thatís what weíre gonna do?"

"People who live together donít have sex and eat all day long."

"We did that in New York."

She crawled under the cover and patted the bed. "Coming?"

"Iíll be right back."

Addison was nestled beneath the cover when he returned a few minutes later. She saw what he was carrying and grinned, pushing herself into a sitting position. "Ooooh, ice cream! Tell me itís Cherry Garcia and -"

He turned the container of ice cream so she could see that it was indeed what she craved. He slipped in beside her and skimmed a little off the top with his finger. Holding it up, he said, "Ooops, I forgot the spoon. Want some?"

Addison narrowed her eyes at him. "Mark-"

Shrugging, he licked the dessert from his finger and scooped up a little more. Grinning devilishly, he reached over and smeared it on Addisonís arm. She said his name again and he tried to look innocent as he leaned over and kissed it off her skin. Easing the cover down, he exposed her naked breasts and held up the container, turning it toward her so that her nipple dipped into the ice cream. She cried out at the cold and he leaned forward, sucking and licking until the dusky peak was clean and warm.

"Looks like I donít need a spoon." He moved across her legs, trapping them. "Wanna play?"

"Play what?" she growled.

"I can show you why you donít need a spoon either."

Addison saw that his cock was full and erect. "It *is* my favorite ice cream."

Between them, they ate the entire container.

And they wound up showering again.


Twice.

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie held her breath when she opened the garage doors. Even though Meredith had given her a message from Alex telling her heíd see her at home ... part of her believed that his vehicle would not be there. That he would not be there. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that both of his SUVís were in their proper spot and she leaned her head forward, resting it on the steering wheel. A majority of the tension that was clinging to the muscles of her back and neck dissolved immediately.

She jumped a while later when someone tapped on her window. She glanced up at Leon and shut off her engine. "Hi," she told the man as she stepped from the car.

"You ought not to let your engine run in the garage, maíam," he told her. "You were shut up in here. I could smell it all the way into the other room."

Callie had already realized that the exhaust fumes were thick. She coughed, eyes watering. The man led her to the open side door and closed it fast. "Thank you, Leon."

"Iíll open up the doors and let it air out for a while." He pointed up at the lights that were finally working. "Itís real bright out here now. Until they put the cobblestone down on the path, Iíd feel better taking you down myself, though. Is that okay?"

"Absolutely. Thank you."

They talked about the massive storm that had come and gone and Leon assured her that a more severe one was expected any time. Callie heard thunder in the distance and nodded at him. "I heard about it on the radio."

"The waterís been rough today. Yíall be careful out here." Leon helped her onto Goon Docks and tipped his cap at her. "Call up to the shack if you need anything."


Goon Docks swayed so much she had to clutch the rail. "I will. Thank you."

She watched as the wind knocked his cap off and he caught it. The boat lurched again and she opened the door, stumbling down the stairs. Alex caught her around the waist as she lost her balance and lifted her off her feet, hanging onto her. "Hey," he said softly. "Youíre late."

"I had to do a consult before I left."

"Why do you smell like a car muffler?"

"Donít ask."

"Callie-"

She leaned down and kissed him. The yacht tilted a little, just enough for Alex to lose his balance and he fell back, taking her with him to the floor. Straddling his waist, she sat up and said, "The water is insane. This is going to be a rough night."

"No." He shook his head, reaching up to touch the small amount of skin that showed beneath her shirt. "This is going to be a great night. I picked up dinner."

"Iím not really hungry." She got to her feet and held her hand out.

Alex let her pull him up. "Youíre eating. I went and got us crab and a ton of those yeast rolls you love so much. Plus, I bought dipped strawberries at that place beside the florist." He shrugged his shoulders a little. "I also got bastard flowers."
She grinned at him. "What, pray tell, does this infamous flower look like?"

"Youíll see later." He led her to the sofa and told her to sit down.

When he picked up the remote control and flooded the salon with soft, romantic music, she had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. He was pulling out all the stops. She sat back on the sofa, watching as he pulled two large to-go platters from the oven. She recognized them immediately. He had gone to their favorite seafood place and as soon as she smelled the delectable aromas, her stomach reminded her that she was, in actuality, starving. She joined him in the galley and grabbed a can of Coke from the fridge.

Goon Docks still wanted to rock enough to make her light headed so she braced herself against the counter. "Alex?"

"Hmm?" He put the first plate in the microwave.

"I canít have lunch with you tomorrow."

He looked at her as he hit the start button. "Is it okay to ask why?"

"Iím gonna go ahead and go to an AA meeting. Itís during lunch," she replied. "And Iím not going alone."

"Who are you going with?"

"He asked me not to tell anyone so please never, ever repeat this."

"Okay."

"Iím going with Chief Webber. Heís a recovering alcoholic and he asked me to go." Callie picked up one of the rolls and absently tore off a piece, shoving it in her mouth. "I donít think Iím an alcoholic. I just ... I think that I could be, like, one day. Very easily. Iíd rather stop the madness now then wait until it gets out of hand."

"Iím proud of you, Callie. Iím really proud of you." He leaned forward and kissed her. The boat shifted and he stumbled, pressing her against the counter. "Sorry."

"See? Rough night. Ow."

The microwave beeped and he put the other plate in, hitting start again. Callie finished off the roll and sighed. "I was in the operating room ALL day. My body aches in places I didnít know I had. How about you? What did you do today?"

"I scrubbed in with Bailey this afternoon and with Webber earlier in the morning. We lost both patients. One was the girl responsible for the pile up." He took the lid off the first plate and slid it toward her. "Her blood alcohol was double what it should have been and she hit the steering wheel. So, expect me to start obsessing about your seat belt again."

"I donít mind."

Alex pulled her forward and kissed her. "Did you notice whatís *not* in the living room?"

"Your luggage?"

"I unpacked, but I saved the bags for you. You can sink them in the ocean or burn them or bury them or -"

"You sound just like my mother." Callie kissed him again as the microwave dinged.

Alex retrieved his plate and they walked into the living room, sitting side by side on the sofa. Callie smiled when she realized that he had already pulled all of the meat out of the crab legs for her. She ate a mouthful and moaned, "God, this is good. I didnít get a chance to eat *all* day."

Alex chewed his food slowly. "Yet you came in and told me you werenít hungry. Why is that?"

"Itís a reflex." She took another bite before she spoke again. "Iíve said it for so long that itís the first thing that comes to mind."

"Why did you start saying it, Cal?"

"Because I was curvy, which really means fat, and then the weight fell off and I figured it was worth it. Then I didnít eat because my life was out of control and I wanted to control *something* and food was easy."

"Whatís the problem now?"

"Thereís no problem." She took a bite of her vegetables and rice. "See?"

"But you-"

"Changing the subject."

Alex listened as she told him about the progress with Ava and about the many families who had come forward. Four out of over one hundred was a great start as far as he was concerned. He noticed that she did more talking than eating and gradually began to push her food around on her plate. His own plate was clean and she still had well over three quarters of hers left when she stood and walked into the kitchen. She put the cover back on it and slid it into the refrigerator before she grabbed a bottle of water and rejoined him on the sofa.

"Going back to an earlier subject ... when are you going to start eating enough?"

"When I get hungry."

"I'm worried about this, Callie."

"You shouldn't be. Now stop talking about it."

"Okay. For now." He pulled her against him and kissed the side of her head. "Why donít you go take a shower and unwind?"

"You want to come with me?"

"I do, but Iím not going to." Smiling, he kissed her softly. "I have a plan so donít ask me anything."

"Oooookay."

He stood and pulled her to her feet. "Donít take too long, though."

Callie took fifteen minutes. Most of that time was spent letting the water massage the aching muscles of her back and shoulders. She had pinned her hair up, not wanting to deal with drying it, and after she had steamed up the mirrors and turned herself lobster red, she emerged. Wrapped in a towel, she headed into the bedroom and stopped walking abruptly.

Alex was sitting on the foot of the bed, dressed in his boxers. He had put rose petals, yellow with red tips, all over the bed and floor. Standing, he held out one perfectly bloomed rose and said, "Bastard flowers. Yellow says Iím sorry and the red says I love you. So itís a hybrid thing with both colors. I - I remembered that you hated pink flowers."

She took the rose and lifted it to her nose, inhaling the scent. "I should be the one apologizing. Last night was my fault. And this morning I was just ... crazy."

"This morning you were honest. Iím hoping that by the time you fall asleep tonight any doubt you have will be gone." Reaching down, he opened her towel and tossed it aside. He took the rose from her and trailed it over the hollow of her throat and then down the valley between her breasts. "Yellow is a good color on you."

Her breath caught when he brushed the silken petals against her nipple. He reached up with his free hand, kneading her other nipple into a taut bud. "Let your hair down."

She complied, removing the clip and letting the waves fall around her shoulders. Callie had never had anyone gaze at her with such intensity. Instead of making her feel insecure ... it made her feel wanted. When he moved behind her, trailing the rose along her skin in his wake, she closed her eyes. He brushed her hair to one side and kissed her neck, then her shoulder.

"Iíve been thinking about this all day," he whispered. "Youíve handcuffed me. Iíve handcuffed you. Weíve been dirty and raunchy and enjoyed the hell out of it, but tonight ... Iím gonna show you exactly what you mean to me."

He moved in front of her again and ran his fingers through the ends of her hair. It had gotten so long that it partially hid her breasts. He pushed it back over her shoulders and stepped closer, letting her chest rub against his. Bending down, he captured her mouth with his and slowly licked across her bottom lip. She opened her mouth and his tongue caressed hers. It wasnít frenzied like most of their kisses, it was a slow, undulating exploration that left her weak in the knees.

Alex turned her a little and the backs of her legs hit the bed. Gripping her hips, he guided her downward, never breaking the kiss. When she was seated in the spot he had vacated, he laid the flower next to her and smoothed his palms over her thighs, parting her legs. He leaned down, kissing her belly, then her side. A little higher, he tasted the underside of her breast and she whispered his name. He looked up at her as he hooked his hands behind her knees and pulled her to the edge of the bed.

When he kissed her again, it was tender. There was no other word for it. He wrapped a lock of her hair around his finger and pulled her forward, hovering at the corner of her mouth, where he whispered his love, before capturing it completely. He savored her, lingering over the task until she put her hands on his chest and pushed him back so she could catch her breath. Alexís response was to tug her closer still and secure a spot between her open thighs.

Callie watched as he slipped his hand along the trembling flesh of her leg and when he brushed against her labia, she licked her lips. Two fingers eased into her and her head fell back. A second later, he placed the palm of his free hand between her breasts and pushed her back against the bed. Rose petals clung to her flesh and the heady aroma was intoxicating. It smelled fresh, free. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the feel of his fingers. He knew exactly how to touch her, how to make her body come to life in ways she had never truly experienced before.

She was about to tell him so when his tongue flicked against her clit, hot and wet, and the only cognitive thought she had was his name. Reaching down, she put her hand on his head, urging him, begging him. His name was a plea on her lips and when he added a third digit to her moist center, she strained against him, tugging at his hair.

At the first sign of her orgasm, he increased the momentum of his tongue. As she rode out the blissful waves of release, he lapped at her flesh, greedily devouring her until she was spent. Silently, he stood and pulled his boxers off. His hard on was painful and throbbing and as he gazed down at her, noting the way her breasts moved up and down with her rapid breathing, he knew he *had* to be inside her. He had planned to take her face to face, to kiss her every second of it, but he couldnít.

Lifting her legs flush against his chest, he eased into her. Their bed was the perfect height to accommodate him and his fingers bit into the flesh of her thighs as he lifted her a little, penetrating deeper. He gazed down at her, watching as she fisted the cover in her hands. Rose petals clung to her hair, to her sides, and he bent forward, kissing every inch of her stomach and chest that he could reach.

"Alex," she moaned. "Harder."

He grinned at her. "I think I told you that weíre-"

"Stop talking."

She sat up suddenly and pulled him down on top of her. They climbed the bed in a tangle of limbs and then he was inside her again and she had her legs around her waist, yanking him against her as hard and fast as she could. He laced their fingers together over her head and kissed her, his hips slamming furiously against her.

Callie had rarely ever gotten off just by intercourse alone, but when he whispered, in vivid detail, exactly what she was doing to him ... she came so hard that she almost bucked them both off the bed. Her clasping vaginal walls sent him straight over the edge and he collapsed on top of her, his hands still on hers. They stayed that way for a while, him panting, her enjoying the multiple vibrations between her legs. Goon Docks bobbed to the right so swiftly that they felt her hit the dock. It knocked them both off the bed and into the floor. Laughing, they looked at one another.

Finally, she whispered, "Did you say something about dipped strawberries?"

"NOW is when you decide to start thinking about food?" He pushed himself up on his elbows and grinned down at her. "Right now?"

"Chocolate and sex." She kissed him. "Anytime you can mix the two itís a perfect world."

He pulled away from her, letting his hands trail down the supple contour of her waist. "Iíll be right back."

"Alex?"

"Yeah?"

"It worked."

"What worked?"

"You erased all doubt."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie made small talk with Webber as they drove to the small community church where the AA meeting was being held. He warned her as they pulled into the parking lot that perhaps she would see people that she knew and if she did then she shouldnít let on. Her palms were sweating when she parked and climbed out of the car. He put a reassuring arm around her shoulder and led her across the parking lot. She had to give him credit ... he could say a lot about nothing in a way that calmed the nerves.

There were less than twenty people seated in a small circle on folding chairs. She had expected to be seated in pews facing forward, so it jarred her when she took a seat next to Webber and was able to look people in the eye. Several people smiled at her and she smiled back. The man in charge, Marcel, came and spoke to Richard, who introduced Callie as a close friend. Within minutes, the meeting was underway and Callie was listening raptly to a woman named Clarissa explain that she had fallen off the wagon, but was embracing the personal tragedy and owning it.

"I mean ... I can either let it ruin me and dominate me or I can say Ďwow, that actually happenedí and move past it. Iím moving past it. If I have to start at square one then at least I know where the danger is," Clarissa said.

Next to her was a man named Bob, who was visiting for the first time as well. "Iím here on a business trip. Everyoneís drinking and Iím not. Itís hard to watch them enjoy it and be close enough to smell it so here I am. Iím two years sober and sitting at that table last night felt like day one all over again."

"I understand completely," Richard spoke up. "Most of my co-workers talk about meeting each other for drinks after work. Theyíve stopped inviting me because I canít do it. I went to a local bar a while back with someone and if it hadnít been for another friend asking me to dance ... I think I would have ordered an entire bottle."

Bob nodded. "I went to sleep last night telling myself that it would be worth it not to wake up with a hangover. I dreamed that I was in that happy indifferent place, though. I want that place."

Clarissa raised her hand and said, "I can promise you that the happy indifferent place goes away and youíre left with the reality that you just took one step back for every day that youíve stepped forward. Itís like you take that glass in your hand and you make a split decision that changes everything youíve worked for. Itís best to avoid putting yourself in those situations."

A scruffy blond man cleared his throat. "I donít know that I agree with that. I sometimes go to the liquor store and walk up and down the aisle just to soak up the ambiance. I bought a bottle of expensive vodka the other day just so I could pour it out. It was empowering. It was like I conquered a demon."

"But what if you hadnít poured it out?" Bob asked.

The blond man shook his head. "Iím twelve years sober. When that little voice starts talking in my ear ... I conquer it. Pouring it out is the way that I do it. I do it so that alcohol knows that it wonít beat *me*."

"You donít ever want to drink it?" Callie asked softly.

"Oh, I always want to drink it," he replied. "I just donít let it drink me. Thatís what it does, you know? It consumes *you* past the point of being who you are. You can be a funny drunk or a crying drunk or a mean drunk, but you stop being you." The man grinned at her. "Iím Wylie, by the way."

"Callie," she replied. Suddenly all eyes were on her and she shifted in her seat, feeling like a deer caught in headlights. "I, uh, a few weeks ago I drank so much that I almost died. And ... it didnít teach me anything because when I got home from the hospital ... I had four more shots. I donít want to drink all the time ... just when it gets bad."

"Thatís how we all start out, Callie," Marcel replied. "I used to only drink socially and then I started drinking when life got a little hectic and then I was doing it every day. It creeps up on you."

Callie nodded. "How do you stop thinking about it? How do you learn to rely on yourself when youíre ... your own worst enemy? I - *I* scare me sometimes. Itís like that voice that Wylie mentioned is the only voice in my head."

"You silence that voice by doing what youíre doing right now. You talk to people who have been there and done that," Marcel told her. "And you listen so that you donít hit the same boulders and learn to spot the warning signs."

The rest of the meeting passed quickly. When it was over, everyone stood and recited the Serenity Prayer, holding hands with their neighbors. Callie felt the Chief squeeze her hand and took a deep breath. He didnít let go of her hand immediately, however, and as the other attendees filed out, he kept her behind with him. Marcel joined them after he had said goodbye to the others. Richard cleared his throat and said, "Could you give her a manual and some information?"

"Absolutely." Marcel dug in the canvas bag that had been sitting beside his chair and held out a small box, which Callie took. He grinned at her and said, "Most people donít talk at all on their first day. You did well."

"I guess I had something to say."

"Thatís good. Thatís *very* good." Holding out a card, Marcel added, "Thatís my cell phone number, my home number and my email address. Feel free to call me anytime day or night if you have anything else you need to say."

She nodded.

Once they were back in the car, Callie put the key in the ignition, but didnít start it. "Chief Webber?"

"You can call me Richard, Callie."

"Richard," she said. "I thought I was the only person alive who felt the way I do sometimes. I thought I was crazy or a horrible person, but Iím not. Iím just a *person* and I think Iím going to be just fine."

"You think or you know?"

She grinned at him. It was genuine and big. "I *know* that Iím going to be just fine. Iím not meant to be a victim, even when Iím trying to victimize myself. Iím going to start owning *me* again and I *know* that I can. I am, after all, my motherís daughter. And she could make the world stop spinning if she really wanted to."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 31
Callie sat in the corner of the nursery, rocking Alexandria. The babyís cries had caught her attention as she was passing by so she had gone inside and taken matters into her own hands. Callie was frustrated. Two full weeks had passed and no one had been genetically matched with Ava or her baby. The hotline was still going strong, ringing around the clock, but almost every lead was a dead end. It made no sense. Someone, somewhere had to know who Ava was. Someone had to be looking for her. The babyís father was out there somewhere.

Callieís frustration did not rest solely on Avaís predicament, however. Izzie Stevens was back at work and had decided to take a page from Georgeís book and kill her with kindness. The first day it was okay. The second day it had gotten grating and by the third day, today, Callie had taken to going the other way when she spotted the blond. And Izzie seemed to be everywhere at once, prompting Callie to wonder aloud if she had a transmogrifier. Alex was the only one who got the joke and he had laughed long and hard before kissing her. It should have been a welcome relief to not have vitriol spewed at her, but everything Stevens said to her felt hollow and she was getting tired of faking a smile while the other woman babbled about the clinic or about how Callie was right about Dr. Gellar.

And then there was Dr. Gellar.

Callie had spent an hour with him that morning for her own evaluation and she had hated every moment of it. They had discussed the fight, talked about Callieís weight loss at length, then discussed her penchant for running. After laying it all on the line for him, he suggested that perhaps she could benefit from anti-depressants. She had staunchly refused. Alex had told her that his mother was on the same medication that Gellar wanted to push at her and he didnít need *any* reminders of that lying around. Despite her best efforts to assure the psychiatrist, he had not been swayed and changed their meetings from once per week to twice.

She wondered how much involvement Chief Webber had in that decision.

"Are you spoiling that baby again?" Addison asked, leaning over Callie to peer at the little girl. "You shouldnít hold an infant while itís sleeping. Sheíll never sleep on her own if you do that."

"She just fell asleep a minute ago." Callie got to her feet and put Alexandria in her cradle. It was uncommon for newborns to stay in the nursery for so long, but Ava had developed a horrific head cold and was terrified that Alexandria would become ill if she came around. Callie pulled the blanket over the baby and watched as Addison worked on another one. The little guy had been valiantly clinging to life for two days. "You ever think about Jamie Carr?"

Addison nodded. "All the time."

"Me too."

"That was one of the hardest cases Iíve ever worked." Addison listened to the deep, even breaths of the baby and smiled. "Iím glad you were with me. It was a perverse way for us to become best friends, but at least we got something positive out of it. Right?"

"Dr. Gellar thinks I need Prozac."

Addison looked at her. "And you donít?"

"You do?" Callieís eyes widened a little. "Do you think I need it?"

"I think that if I can avoid seeing you in the shape you were in the night that Alex left you ... Iíd be all for it. You scared me that night, Cal. Bad." Addison put her stethoscope around her neck and walked around the incubator. She took Callieís hand. "As much as I support your decision to do AA, I donít know that thatís the only help that you need."

"God, youíve been with Mark *too* long. He thinks Iím certifiable, too."

"I didnít say that. I donít think that," Addison replied. "Youíre running yourself ragged for this fund raiser. Youíre still not eating enough to keep a bird alive and Alex said that youíre so exhausted at night that you fall asleep the second your feet hit the deck of your boat. Heís worried and frankly ... so am I."

The red head pointed at the rocking chair that Callie had vacated. "Sit down for a second. I want to talk to you."

Callie sighed, but complied. Addison pulled another rocking chair next to hers and said, "You donít always have to be the best at everything. Itís what you do, itís who you are to over achieve, but if you set your personal bar so high that you have to struggle to reach it, then maybe your expectations are a little too extreme and you should back off yourself a little."

"What are you talking about?"

"You canít get mad at Alex for this, Callie." Addison warned her with a pointed look. "He mentioned at lunch today, the lunch you missed because you felt like your life would end if you didnít spend that hour working on the phone in the clinic, that you have become a Stepford Wife. Or, girlfriend. Whatever."

"What!?"

"You wake up at dawn to cook him breakfast, Callie. We donít cook! We get a bagel and run off to check the surgical boards. You bust your ass all day working and youíre getting around your four day a week schedule by hiding behind the fund raiser so you havenít had a day off at all. You go home and cook dinner and donít eat it and then youíre so exhausted that youíre asleep by nine every night," Addison took a deep breath. "Where is *your* time? Time for *you*?"

"I also managed to squeeze in two AA meetings, Addison. Thatís my time." Callie leaned her head against the back of the rocker and closed her eyes. "Iím so glad Iím not Chief Resident. Sydney is here seventeen hours a day and Iím here *ten* at the most and everyone freaks out."

"Okay, now youíre going into defensive mode and you donít need to," Addy said. "I just think that when you push yourself as hard as youíve been pushing that youíre bound to fall. Youíre going to trip over your own good intentions. I donít want you to fall. I also donít want you to crash and burn and if the circles under your eyes are any indication ... youíre already there."

"I have a lot on my plate, Addison!"

"And none of it is nutritious." Leaning forward, Addison stopped her from getting up from her seat. "No, youíre not leaving. Iím not finished."

"Did someone set off a roadside bomb in Beirut that you need to blame me for?"

"Passive aggressive is something I speak fluently." Addison smiled at her. "So, I can translate very easily. Youíre getting pissed at me for putting all my cards on the table because you know that you donít have a winning hand. You know that Iím right. Is everything okay with you and Alex?"

"Everything is perfect with Alex. Iím happy. As soon as we find Avaís family and do this clinic thing and my divorce is final ... my life is going to be a fairy tale." Callie eased back in her seat to indicate that Addison didnít have to hover over her, but it didnít work. Her friend pulled her rocking chair around so that they were knee to knee and face to face. "What? Say whatever it is."

"I suggested to Chief Webber that we should designate people to help you out with this fund raiser. He - he thinks that Izzie Stevens should be involved since she funded it to begin with and that Bailey would like to help out. And me. So, stop killing yourself and enjoy the perfect life you have with your boyfriend. Please?"

"Oh, god damn. Now I have to *work* with Stevens? Because that worked out so well last time?"

"Sheís my study buddy. Bailey is yours. We all have a meeting this afternoon for you to brief us on what youíve done and what the plans are. Splitting it four ways will make all the difference, Callie, and if itís not enough weíll find more people."

"I guess I should say thank you. I am a little overwhelmed or a lot, depending on my fluctuating mood." Callie crossed her arms over her chest. "But I do not want to hear any of Izzieís speeches. And if I get even a hint of a whine Iím resigning from this project."

Addison grinned at her. "I thought you two had kissed and made up."

Callie pretended to gag. "Iím no longer vexed with the urge to throttle her, but she still grates on my nerves if Iím around her more than a nanosecond."

"Oh, such strides youíve made," Addison replied. "So, Prozac? Maybe you should consider something milder, something that you donít have to take every day. Something just for anxiety. I happen to have been intimate with Xanax. And Klonopin. I think I read somewhere that divorcing women are the most likely to take those two drugs and it definitely helped me."

"No." Callie reiterated firmly. "I have to learn to rely on *me*. Not alcohol and not medication. Theyíre one and the same. Either one is going to numb things so that I donít have to deal with it. Iím ready to deal with it. Iím ready to deal with whatever else life can throw at me because I have you, I have Alex, and I have an amazing family so I canít complain. And I canít hide."

"And yet ... youíre hiding behind work."

"Could you please stop knowing me as well as Cambyses does?"

"Whatís going on with you, Callie?"

"I feel like I traded my Goth card for an Emo card all of the sudden."

Addison wrinkled her nose. "I can *not* translate that. Help me out."

"I need to make a lot of apologies and I suck at it. I really suck at sorry and any form of sorrow whatsoever. When I left for those fifteen days ... you guys didnít know if I was coming back. Or if I was okay. And that makes me a bad person. Iíve always been that person." Callie ran a hand through her hair. "I got my first ten speed for my eleventh birthday and I wasnít supposed to know because it was hidden in the garage. I took it for a ride and then I realized that it was dirty so Iíd be punished for it. I spent the night in the woods. The police found me the following morning. My mother was catatonic for days.

"When I was thirteen, my mom wanted me to sing the National Anthem at a baseball game. I didnít want to do it because my braces would blind people in the sunlight so I called my Godmother and told her that my parents wanted me to come and see her. And I left on a plane that night. When I was sixteen, I had a fake ID, and my mom wanted me to have a fucking girly ass coming out party so I went to Europe and pretended to be a French. Then I went to Australia a while later because I wrecked my dadís car. It took him close to a month to find me. He didnít even yell. He just didnít let go of me for hours.

"I spent the summer of my eighteenth year trying to outrun my dad who was hot on my heels as I backpacked across Mexico trying to blend in the with the natives because I didnít want to go to college. I wanted to go to flight school." She absently cracked her knuckles. "And it doesnít matter that they found me or that I came back here on my own. What matters is that I did it to begin with.

"I look at Ava or any number of people who come in here and when we ask if we can call someone, they say no. So many people are completely alone in the world and *I*, who grew up with the silver spoon and relatives all over the place, actually get pissed when I canít vanish. What do I have to hide from? What do I have to run from? How do I make up for all the sleepless nights that Iíve caused people by not bothering to call and say ĎIím okayí?"

"By not doing it again," Addison told her. "And I think Iíve already told you that you have to forgive yourself for any mistakes that youíve made. Donít hold your feet to the fire just because you screwed up. Thatís what people do. Thatís why weíre here."

"Weíre here to screw up?" Callie raised a brow.

"If there *is* a God, he sits up in Heaven and laughs his ass off at how incomprehensibly stupid we really are. Weíre here for his amusement. He keeps it interesting by making us throw caution to the wind and jump headfirst into running away ... or ... choosing to live with a sex monster."

Callie chuckled. "So, Mark hasnít put away the penis yet, huh?"

"I think the only time it isnít at attention is when heís operating."

"Addison, you have my handcuffs. You can cuff him, stuff a sock in his mouth, and get some rest."

"You mean hold him hostage?"

"Turnaboutís fair play. You make it sound like heís holding you hostage to have multiple orgasms. Which, unless my memory if failing me, you *begged* for."

"We are actively not talking about me." Addison made a face at her. "I better warn you about something."

"Oh god, what? Is Stevens my intern this afternoon for that rotator cuff?"

"No. Your security guard, uhm, Leon, I think. He was treated earlier for severe abdominal pain and Alex was his doctor earlier. The pain meds made him talkative and he told Alex that you left your car running in the garage while you were in it a couple weeks ago and that the smell of it almost killed *him*." Addison watched her with apprehension. "So, what were you doing?"

"I didnít realize the door closed behind me. There are sensors that can tell when youíve pulled in and because my father apparently thinks that rapists hide behind every tree out there ... it automatically closes and I didnít think about it."

"But why were you sitting in the garage at all, Callie?"

"Relief. I was too relieved to move a muscle because Alexís car was home. Which meant he was home. Which meant that I had to sit there and thank God for a little while."

Addison leaned forward and hugged her. "Tell him that exact same thing and heíll be just fine."

"Thanks."

"And stop spoiling that baby. Sheíll be annoying as hell when Ava takes her home and doesnít want to hold her all day."

"Okay."

Addy pulled away and beamed at her. "I feel that this conversation has been very productive. My wisdom and advice should at least force you to agree to dinner tonight. You know the guys *have* to watch that damn football game so they can do that and we can hang out."

Callieís suspicion was written on her features. "And do what?"

"Youíre going to help me wallpaper the bathroom." Holding her hands up like a scale, she pretended to weigh something back and forth. "Wit beyond measure or wallpapering. I think youíll have to help me paint the office, too."

"You started Harry Potter! Finally!"

"Witty though I may be, Iíd be sorted into Gryffindor." Addison leaned back in her chair. "Iím brave."

"Youíre brave? Youíre terrified of your boyfriendís penis."

"Says the Slytherin!"

Callie gasped. "Why would I be in Slytherin?"

"Because youíre Gothic, you make grown men cry, and you *run*."

"I hate you."

"Thatís because Iím in Gryffindor."

"Bitch."

"Parseltongue."

"You *so* read the last book first!"

"No, we watched the movies. Iím on the third book, though."

Callie shook her head. "When do you find time to read between the maulings?"

"Do not laugh."

"Iíd never laugh at you."

"Mark hates the television. So, we read the books to each other. One chapter at a time."

Callie cackled gleefully. "That is *so* Joey and Pacey! All you need are a couple of hammocks on Goon Docks and youíd *be* ĎDawsonís Creekí."

"I may not know Gothic, but I do know that a true Gothic person would probably set you on fire for watching that shit."

"I may not know gynecology, but I do know that I could break your pubic bone."

"Oh, Mark did that this morning."

*~*~*~*~*~

"YOU WERE SITTING IN THE GARAGE WITH THE ENGINE RUNNING! AND I AM SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE THAT YOU WERE *PRAYING*?"

Callie nodded.

They were parked in front of Addison and Markís cabin. The Chinese food they had picked up smelled incredible and her stomach rumbled loudly, causing her to look at him pitifully. "Iím *starving*, Alex. And you have yelled at me for ninety minutes. Itís been a very hostile environment in this car *and* at the restaurant. I. Think. I. Get. The. Point."

"Thatís a quote from ĎMy Cousin Vinnyí and Iíll quote it, too. You think I'm hostile now, wait 'til you see me tonight."

"It is tonight," she replied, pointing out the window. "The moon is full and thatís usually when we have it. You know, at night."

"I MEANT WHEN WE GET HOME!"

"Maybe I wonít go home with you. Maybe Iíll stay here." She smiled when he gripped the steering wheel and glared out the windshield. "Or maybe you can get over it because it really was for Holy reasons. When the spirit moves you ... you have to listen. I was moved, Jock Strap. If I had had an entire pack of communion wafers, I would have eaten them all."

"You are so full of shit that you would bleed brown if I cut you right now."

"But youíre smiling." She leaned across the console and kissed him on the cheek. "My work is done. My very religious work."

"If you had eaten communion wafers, even half of one ... you would spontaneously combust because youíre *evil*."

"That may be moderately true, but my prayer was so monumental that the Opus Dei have started trying to recruit me. I may be canonized or at the very least be able to give the Pope a run for his money."

"Iím thinking that the Pope would burn you at the stake for this conversation alone." Alex opened the door. "But Iím going to give you the benefit of the doubt even though to do so goes against everything in my being. If it happens again, though ..."

"Youíll what?" Callie asked, smiling from ear to ear. "Spank me? Chain me to the bed?"

"Toss your Playstation in the bay! With that game in it that you *finally* reached level four million and ten on!"

She narrowed her eyes. "Iíd have to kill you for that."

"Oh, well." He shrugged and reached behind the seat, grabbing one of the two bags. Callie carried the other. They joined hands in front of the car and he pulled her against him, kissing her. He pulled back suddenly, "Youíve been in the crab rangoons!"

"You took too long in the service station and I am *hungry*."

"So hostile situations make you eat?"

"Iím a stress eater."

"Iíll keep that in mind."

Addison turned on the porch light and stepped out, her arms crossed. "Are you idiots *ever* going to come inside? My stomach is rubbing my backbone!"

"Impatient." Callie walked past her, handing her the bag she carried. "I asked for extra fortune cookies. Just for you."

The table was already set and Callie greeted Mark, who replied by tapping his watch. Callie rolled her eyes. "Why the *hell* donít you guys just watch the last inning?"

Mark blinked several times. "Karev, did your girlfriend actually just refer to football as having an inning?"

"Iíve tried, dude." Alex held up his hands. "She also thinks that golf balls are pucks."

"Itís the same principle," Callie told him, accepting the bottle of water Addison held out. "A very boring, very dull principle."

"You came to Seattle because of hockey season." Addison sat down and pushed Callieís chair out with her foot.

"Exactly, but I donít have to watch it to know that I hate it. If itís not all blood and gore, who cares?" Callie sat down. "How many people have golfing injuries?"

"She scares me," Mark said to Addison, heaping rice on his plate. "What do the two of you have in common?"

"Jamie Carr." The women answered simultaneously.

"Who is he?" The men questioned as one.

Callie and Addison shared secretive smiles.

Jamie Carr and *his* identity dominated much of the menís conversation. Callie and Addison simply listened to their threats and posturing, enjoying every second of it.

After helping Addison clean the kitchen, they retired to the bathroom that was in need of wallpaper. It was painted a horrific shade of robinís egg blue that made Callie grit her teeth with distaste. When she saw the wallpaper that Addison had chosen, she could not hide her disdain. "Jesus Christ, Addison. Itís *paisley*."

"Itís Ralph Lauren!"

"It makes me want to ralph! I feel a Technicolor yawn building." Callieís mouth dropped open as Addison revealed the border that supposedly matched it. "Paisley and flowers!? Iím gonna hurl."

"Itís gorgeous!" Addison put it against the wall, nodding her head. "Weíre doing the master bedroom in all these colors."

"All the colors? Addison, there are colors in that wallpaper that should never, ever see the light of day. It looks like a pair of reversible pants. If you get dressed in this bathroom with that on the walls ... youíll become schizophrenic. Itís making me have paranoid delusions and Iíve only seen three feet of it." Callie held up her hand to shield her eyes from the view. "I bet every stoner at Woodstock had that same print on a bandana and their underwear."

"It was this or ducks!" Addison rolled the paper back up and hit her friend with it. "Now shut up and held me prep the walls."

"Youíre actually going through with this?"

"I am."

Callie groaned. "At least we wonít have to match the seams. Itís so busy you canít."

"Zip it." Addison read the instructions on the glue she had purchased and nodded. "This shouldnít be so bad. Have you ever wallpapered?"

"No. Have you?"

"No, but weíre physicians. We cut people open. This is wallpaper. This is glue. Itís not like we need an instruction manual."

An hour later, Addisonís bare feet were stuck to the floor and Callieís ass was glued to the toilet seat. Literally. Addison had accidentally brushed against the other womanís backside with her brush, which was overloaded with

glue, and Callie had taken a seat to secure the one and only piece of wallpaper they had managed to get on the wall behind the toilet. To add insult to injury, the side of Callieís hair had gotten tangled up behind the wallpaper which meant that the glue on her ass had plenty of time to set.

With her head leaning against the wall, Callie glared at Addison. The red head looked ashamed and said, "On the bright side, at least youíre sitting down. I have to stand here."

"We should probably call them before the glue that you have now spilled all over the floor ruins the hardwood."

"You call them."

"I didnít do it!" Callie replied. "This is humiliating! And if I have to cut my hair in a mullet on one side -"

"Stop being a crybaby!"

"Itís your shiteous wallpaper and your shiteous blue bathroom so *you* call them!"

"I canít reach my cell phone."

"Theyíre in the living room! Open your mouth and yell!"

"Mark!" Addison called.

"Not even a dog could hear that! Even if it was sitting at your feet!"

"If it were sitting at my feet it wouldnít be worried about hearing. It would be worried about the fact that all of its ass hair was about to be ripped off," Addison replied. "Speaking of, we need to go get waxed. I have uncomfortable stubble."

"Iím sure itís not quite as agonizing as having your head glued to the wall. Iím getting a crick in my neck."

"MARK! HEY, MARK! COME QUICK!" Addison cried at the top of her lungs. "Was that better? If I mention coming heíll sprint."

"It was so shrill that bats are probably humping the house right now. My ears are ringing."

Addison started to laugh. She laughed so long and so hard that she had to bend at the waist and try to catch her breath. Callie launched into a diatribe that involved mullets and and a litany of broken bone promises which made it ten times worse. Addison realized what about to happen and fought valiantly to prevent it, but in the end ... she peed. She tried to be covert about it, but the fact that her laughter died abruptly and her hands moved in front of her crotch was enough to make Callie risk scalping herself to see for herself.

"You pissed yourself!" Callie screamed with laughter, pointing at the large, spreading wet spot on Addisonís jeans. "Canít. Breathe. Oh my god! I will never let you live this down! Pee pot! What a pisser! Piss off. Arenít you a pistol! Hahahaha."

"How long is a football game?" Addison asked, when Callie finally settled down.

"Twelve hours?" Callie stared at her friendís red face. "But look on the bright side, Addy, youíve watered your uncomfortable stubble. Donít pollinate. Urinate!"

"Itís going to be a very long night."

"You smell like Alexandriaís diapers, Wet One."

"A very, very long night."

"Wanna hear a joke? A man has to pee so he walks in a bar -"

Addison put her hands over her ears.

Callie went right on talking.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Alex leaned forward, watching as one of the best moves ever executed on the football field was replayed in slow motion. He felt his jaw drop a little and shook his head. "That was the most amazing game Iíve ever seen."

"How did he *do* that?" Mark asked. "Iíve never seen anyone move like that. Well, except maybe Addison when Iím chasing her. She can do this little twist and -"

"Never tell me, man." Alex glanced down at his watch and said, "Holy shit. I guess itís a good thing weíre off tomorrow."

Mark got to his feet and stretched. "Those women have been far too quiet. I bet they didnít bother with the damn wallpaper and are sleeping like babies."

Alex watched as the other man picked up his cell phone. "Are you going to take more pictures? Hand over your man card."

"Addison is at her finest when sheís asleep." Sloan grinned at him. "Come on."

They walked through the bedroom and Mark paused outside the bathroom door. "Is that glue I smell?"

"Dude, did they bathe in it?"

Pushing the door open, Markís eyes widened. Addison was lying on her back, her knees bent, sleeping on a towel. He glanced at Callie, who was sleeping soundly against the wall. "Itís the fumes, man!" Mark cried, hurrying toward Addison. He slipped on the slick, but dried glue and busted his ass, swearing the entire way down. The impact seemed to jar the entire house.

Both women woke up at once and Callie rubbed her eyes. "Itís about fucking time!"

Alex carefully walked around Mark, who appeared to be in shock, and opened the window. "What are you doing, Callie? You donít use this kind of stuff in a closed off room, but oh, thatís right ... you enjoy closing yourself in with deadly smells."

"The only deadly smell in this room is Addisonís stale pee." Callie snapped. "Do you happen to notice that I havenít moved, Alex?"

"Oh my god." Alex turned his head from side to side. "Is your hair glued to the wall?"

"NO! Tell me that canít be so!" Callie stared at him. "A little help would be wonderful."

"Why didnít Addison help you!?" Mark said, pushing himself up.

Addison, who had remained uncharacteristically silent, sat up beside him. "Iíve glued myself to the floor."

"Itís always about Addison!" Callie snapped, then swore as Alex began to work her hair from between the wall and paper. "Ow. Ow. Ow."

"Maybe we should cut it," Alex suggested.

"NO! I refuse to look like a Cuban ĎJoe Dirtí!" Callie cried, her eyes watering from the pain. "Iím kicking her ass as soon as Iím free. The fight is *on*, Addy."

Addison pointed a finger at her. "Why donít you stick your head up my ass and fight for air!"

Alex laughed. "Sheís seen ĎJoe Dirtí, too."

"Donít encourage her," Callie growled. "I was dreaming about the fucking ĎBrady Bunchí because this psychedelic and whoreanus wallpaper was the last thing I saw. Marcia. Marcia. Marcia. Jan made a damn wig out of this shit. It was a nightmare."

"Ouch!" Addison cried, pushing Markís hand off her ankle. "Itís *attached*. What makes glue less sticky?"

Alex leaned down and picked up the glue container, reading the back label. "Do you have rubbing alcohol?"

Mark reached under the sink and pulled out a full bottle. He opened the lid and started to pour it over Addisonís feet, but she squealed as if he had just announced that they were having sex right then. "I HAVE BLISTERS!" she cried.

"INFANT!" Callie yelled. "That damn alcohol was within reach, Addison! You could have gotten it and ended this nightmare before I developed Scoliosis. I *asked* you what was under the sink! I told you to look and you said we couldnít MacGyver our way out of this! I am a natural MacGyver!"

"If you were a natural MacGyver then you wouldnít have let this glue set, baby."

"Shut up, Alex."

Alex pulled her hair free just as Mark poured the alcohol. Addisonís screams would probably have called every orca whale in the vicinity to the bay.

Addison was freed within minutes, thanks to Mark using a butter knife to gently separate her flesh from the floor. Callie, on the other hand, was unable to move from the toilet.

Alex crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at her. "Youíve got two choices. We can cut your pants off or remove the toilet seat and you can ..."

"Wear it home," Mark said, coming back into the bathroom. He took one look at Callieís face and began to laugh. It was contagious and Alex soon joined him.

"Get the scissors!" Callie told them. "Now!"

Ten minutes later, Callie slipped on a pair of Addisonís sweat pants and her eyes widened when she realized that they actually fit her. That never, in any reality, should have been possible. When she emerged from the bathroom, she glared at Addison, who was soaking her feet in a basin of water. "Owwwwww." Addison whined. "Iím knocking on Heavenís door so donít kick me while Iím down."

Callie put her hands on her hips. "Not for nothing, sitting on a toilet seat really hurts your coccyx. My *ass* hurts, Addison. Ass trumps feet."

"I have to *walk* on my feet."

"You *walk* in stilettos every day!" Callie joined her on the bed, nudging her with her shoulder. "Are you really in pain?"

"No."

"Iíd feel bad taking the piss out of you if you were really in pain. Oh, thatís right. It should be out of you already." Callie grinned. "I cannot believe you did that!"

"I cannot believe you said bats were humping the house!"

Callie put her hand on Addisonís. "Consider this my apology for making you worry while I was gone. And for almost killing myself and lying to you about it and for making you dance with my Uncle Kick."

Addison put an arm around her. "Iíll forgive you if you come back tomorrow and help me finish the bathroom."

"No. My birthday is in a few days. Do me a favor and hire someone to do that damn job in lieu of a birthday gift for me."

"Fine!" Addy grinned. "But I already got your gift."

"Can I have it early?"

"Nope."

Callie pushed herself to her feet and sighed. "Iím going home. To soak my *ass* in the hot tub."

"See you tomorrow."

"To NOT wallpaper. Weíre grilling out. Thatís *it*."

*~*~*~*~*~

Callie sank into the hot tub and closed her eyes, letting the powerful jets work the tension in her neck. She actually had developed a painful crick and she doubted sheíd be walking fully upright for at least a couple of days. She smiled when she heard Alex walking across the deck and opened her eyes. The steam from the hot tub was rising all around her and when he dropped his towel, she saw that he was as naked as she was. If Monty decided to spy, he would get an eyeful.

Alex had turned off the huge street lights after calling to let the guard know that they wanted privacy. Callie had assured him that his choice of words would bring out the peeping Tom in anyone. As he stepped into the tub, she openly enjoyed the view. He set two bottles of water on the edge and motioned for her to come to him. She slipped across the tub and wrapped her legs around him.

"Are you still feeling hostile?" she asked, kissing water from his neck.

"Is your ass still sore?"

"Very much so."

"I guess thatís decent punishment." He captured her mouth with his. "How the *hell* did the two of you glue yourselves down?"

"Addison! I swear to God she has to be a natural blond. She got glue on my ass and while we were working to put up the first piece of paper, she spilled the entire container of glue, but she kept standing there trying to hold the one we were working on and then when she realized she couldnít move her feet ... I got tangled under the wallpaper."

"Youíre a disaster. A very gorgeous disaster, but youíre a disaster, Callie."

"I prefer interesting to disaster," she replied. "Life with me is never boring, Alex."

"Letís try to do boring for a while." He pushed her hair back. "Boring can be good, too."

She could see just enough of his face to tell how serious he was. "I can do that."

"If *you* can do that, then pigs are gonna fly and hell is gonna freeze over." He smiled when she splashed his face. "Youíre taking tomorrow off, right? Youíve worked every single day for two weeks now and youíre not scheduled so -"

"I was going to volunteer at the clinic. They always need operators for the phone lines."

"Theyíll cover it, Gothika. I feel like I havenít seen you in years."

"You see me every day."

"Youíre distracted and busy and tired."

"Fine. Iíll take tomorrow off. Weíre supposed to be cooking out with Addison and Mark." She pouted prettily. "No football."

"What!? But the -"

"You feel like you havenít seen me in years, Alex, so weíre going to be making up for lost time." Raising herself a little, she slid down on his erection. "Weíre going to start right now."

He moaned and kissed her, holding her around the waist. "Now is good."

She leaned back a little and said, "Do I have you attention?"

Alex nodded mutely.

"Iím sorry about the past few weeks. For everything thatís happened and for drinking as much as I did. Iím sorry if I made you worry or wonder if you made the right decision by kissing me that day in the hospital. That - that was a perfect kiss," she undulated her hips, "and Iíd hate for you to ever regret it."

"That kiss was the best thing Iíve ever done. And I donít regret *anything* except not doing it sooner." He gripped her hips and took charge, lifting and lowering her.

Callie sighed with contentment. "Everythingís going to be absolutely fine from this day forward."

"Yes, it is."

"Stop talking."

"You stop talking."

"Stopping ... ooooh ... do that again, Jock Strap."

"This?"

"Oh my god."

"Youíre a pervert, Elvira."

"Stop talking!"

"Iíll stop if you tell me what you want me to do you."

In the most imaginative ways possible, she told him.

And he covered every request as soon as she uttered them.

*~*~*~*~*~

When the foursome returned to work after enjoying a wonderfully calm day off that offered burnt hamburgers and under cooked French fries, everything in the world felt like it was right. At least to Callie. Her birthday was just a few days away and Cam had called her that morning to detail his flight plans and she felt like she was walking on air when she strolled into the Residentís locker room. She was the first to arrive so she headed for her locker and changed into her scrubs. She sat down on the bench, which was hidden by a row of lockers, and pulled out a research paper that she had been reading about a new surgical technique.

She wrinkled her nose when she heard Izzieís annoyingly cheerful morning babble. She half listened as the blond gushed about dancing at Joeís until the bar closed and rolled her eyes when Meredith asked if George had spent the night with Olivia again. There was no doubt at all in her mind that Olivia was the reason that Izzieís hatred of her had evaporated. The names that the former model called the nurse were unbelievably horrible. It was sad, in a way, that Izzie didnít want George, but didnít want him with anyone else either.

Cristinaís voice interrupted Izzieís tirade. "So, did you dance with anyone at Joeís or were you that drunken girl who dances by herself?"

"I danced with people!" Izzie replied. "Iím in my happy moving on place."

"So, youíre finally over Karev?" Yang asked, sounding skeptical. "Your diary said that -"

"I know what my diary said!"

"Then how did this happen?"

"Just because a guy tells you that heís in love with you ... it doesnít make it true."

Callie sat up a little straighter. She hoped that the Jedi mind meld that she was sending Cristina would work and she would pursue the topic. She held her breath when Meredith said, "Wait a minute. When did Alex tell you that he loved you?"

"A couple of days before he left with Callie. He kissed me when he found her DNR paperwork in my back pocket and then he told me that he had been madly in love with me when I left him for Denny and that he still falls back in love with me every time the old me comes out."

"Then he doesnít love you at all anymore. Pod person," Cristina scoffed. "And you kissed him?!"

"He kissed me," Izzie replied. "You know, I didnít even believe that he was with Callie when the came back. I thought he was trying to make me jealous."

"Did it work?" Meredith asked.

"Did I not hit her with my stethoscope?" Izzie asked. "I still think that he loves her money and the lifestyle she gives him. I mean, sheís got issues. Major iss-ues."

"Isnít there a saying about not throwing stones when youíre in a glass house?" Cristina said. "Heís crazy about her. Anyone with eyes that are not blinded by jealousy can see that."

"I am in no way, shape, or form jealous of the resident head case."

"Thatís because your head case is four billion times worse than hers."

"I was jealous of Alex, Cristina! I thought - I thought with him declaring his feelings *finally* that heíd want to pick up where we left off." Izzie sighed. "I guess not. He wonít talk to me."

"Not wondering why." Cristina shot back. "Weíre early. Letís go raid the snack line.

There was a shuffling of feet and a bench rubbed against the floor, squeaking in protest.

When blissful silence finally fell again ... Callie stood, stone faced and resolved.

Her spine was ramrod straight.

She would not be crying again because of something Izzie Stevens said.

And if Alex Karev had done what Izzie said ... she wouldnít be crying over him either.

It would just be over.

One lesson had stuck with her.

Never go down the same road twice.

She'd be damned if she would be the third person in a relationship again.

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 32

Callie had an emergency surgery to perform right off the bat. It was complex and exhausting and she welcomed the fact that she had to concentrate on it. As soon as she began to cut, everything Izzie had said that morning fled her mind leaving nothing in it except the procedure. She moved fluidly, controlled. The surgery itself took nine hours and she didnít request a break, even when Chief Webber came in to relieve her. She simply shook her head and continued operating. When sweat finally beaded on her forehead during the final phase, she took a deep breath and asked the scrub nurse to put the patientís X-ray on the boards. She took a step back and gazed at the black and white film until it calmed her. And it did calm her.

It always had.

She knew X-rays.

Callie also knew herself and she straightened her back to remind her that her spine was still ramrod perfect and not bent in the least.

After the patient was sutured and she left instructions for follow up care, she walked out of the OR and took off her surgical scrubs. She washed her hands and pulled her cap off, massaging her scalp. With a determined nod, she pulled out her phone and called Alex.

"Hey, Gothika."

"Where are you?"

"Iím stuck in the pit. A bus crashed through a guard rail and rolled into a ravine. Weíve been dealing with some massive injuries down here. What about you?"

"Iím just coming out of surgery," she replied. In a light, conversational tone, she added, "Hey, did you enjoy kissing Izzie when you found my DNR paper in her pocket?"

There was no sound on the other end of the line. Callie shook her head angrily; his silence was all the confirmation she required. "Or maybe you enjoyed telling her that you loved her and, let me try to remember, that you fell for her a little more every time the old Izzie came out."

Alex still didnít speak.

Callie took a deep breath. "Correct me if Iím wrong, but did you not tell me that I was the only person you had ever said that to? Youíve said it more than once ... that I was the only one. She didn't hit me because of George ... she hit me because she's jealous and that's understandable since *you* made her believe that you loved *her*."

"Where are you at right now?"

"Tell me, Alex. Tell me the truth that you set so much stock in."

"Iím not doing this over the phone. Where are you?"

"Did you say that to her? Did you kiss her? Did you go to California with me just to upset her? To make her jealous? Is that why you stay?"

"Do not do this, Callie. Do not get yourself worked up over nothing. Tell me where you are and Iíll come right now and explain everything."

"I donít think I want to hear anything you have to say." She hung up the phone and turned it off for good measure. In a soft voice, she whispered, "What would mom say? Sheíd say ĎFuck ití. Thatís what sheíd say. So fuck it. Just ... fuck it. This is not going to get under your skin, Calliope. We have thick skin in our family so own it. Wear the skin it does not wear you ... Dear God, I sound just like her. And ... I needed to hear that."

"Talking to yourself is a sign of insanity," Dr. Jamison, the anesthesiologist, appeared behind her.

"Itís one of many signs that Iíve been exhibiting lately. Gullibility was the first one and it wonít go away."

The man took his mask off and smiled at her. "I think thatís just a sign of being human."

"Considering that I donít like humans ... isnít it a shock that Iím a doctor?"

He laughed outright. "Well, human hatred aside, youíre a fine doctor. Very fine ... if I can just be honest."

It was enough to bolster her wounded pride. He was *flirting* with her. Nodding, she smiled. "Yeah, there is that. F.I.N.E., fine. Seeya, Eric."

"Seeya, Callie."

In the hallway, she used the phone at the nurseís station to call Addison. Her friend was already gone for the day and cheerfully told Callie that she was cooking Mark a special dinner, but had no idea what a special dinner consisted of. Unable to spoil Addyís good mood, Callie ignored her own problems and rambled off the ingredients for Blakeís chicken parmesan.

While she changed into her jeans and sweater in the locker room, she held her breath, half expecting Alex to walk in.. She was technically an hour over what Sydney had scheduled her to work, so she grabbed her purse and headed for the elevator.

She would simply go home ... where the alcohol was that she had not yet poured out.

"No. No way," she said out loud. "Running? Not so much."

She took the stairwell to the basement instead and sat down on a pile of crates that took up the spot where her bed used to be. This had been her safe haven, she thought. She had hidden away from her parentís money, been first to respond to all the good cases, and never had to worry about anyone interrupting her power naps like they did in the on call rooms. She missed it, in a way. Staring around the room, she changed her mind. It was dark and depressing. Like a cave. She much preferred standing in the sun while Goon Docks bobbed in the waves. Especially when Alex was there.

Closing her eyes, she remembered the day that Denny Duquette had died. Alex had been the one to lift Izzie from the manís bed and hold her until she calmed down. Callie had been touched by it, by the way he spoke to her. She had seen something in him that day that obliterated everything she had heard about him. He wasnít just a ĎFratboy Jockí at all. He was a man who could be there for his ex-girlfriend when she needed strong arms around her. That meant he was forgiving. A good trait to have.

And since Callie had experienced his arms around her when she needed him most ... she knew that it was another great trait he had.

He had a lot of them.

She knew that Alex and Izzie had been intimate. It was a fact that she had successfully repressed, however, because the thought of another man comparing the two women in bed wasnít something she liked to entertain. Alex had never given her any reason to believe that he was thinking anything like that. He had, in all fairness, told her she was the best lay heíd ever had. Several times.

Alex was *hers*.

He had erased all doubt.

Repeatedly.

Yet here she was ... torn.

When she opened her eyes again, she realized that the recessed corner of the basement had become a temporary storage for films while they remodeled the old records department. It took a few minutes, but she finally found a mangled hand to look at. She had told Dr. Gellar that she would do this instead of something crazy.

And she had promised herself as well.

She gazed at the X-ray and traced the bones that would need pins.

She breathed.

She survived.

And after a while she wasnít very angry anymore.

*~*~*~*~*~

After checking the roof, the on call room, and the parking lot to make sure Callie had not left him, Alex checked the basement. He was close to giving up when he finally found her holding an X-ray up against the poor fluorescent lighting in the darkest corner of the place. She had not flown. She had not run. Granted, she was also not answering her phone, but heíd take a small victory. "Hey."

She didnít lower the film or look at him.

"Okay, so look ... I did kiss Izzie when she took your DNR paper. I was grateful. She had given me back my best friend. You, by the way. And it was not a kiss like what youíre thinking ... it was one second of my lips on hers in *gratitude* and then it was done."

Callie said nothing. Alex reached up and took the X-ray from her and she crossed her arms over her chest, not looking at him. "And I did tell her that I had been in love with her, but that was a lie. I just didnít know it at the time. I was honest with *you* when I said that you are the only person I have ever loved or said it to. I never said ĎI love youí to Stevens. I said that I had *loved* her, past tense, but now that I know what love feels like ... I know thatís not what I had with her."

He pulled her around to face him. "And I did not go to California with you to make her jealous. I didnít know where we were going that day, but I knew that if I didnít get you alone I would die. And I stay because I need you, I need to be near you ... just to breathe. I donít care if sheís jealous, but I care that you are. You donít have a reason to be."

"I am not jealous!" she snapped. "I just donít understand why that *girl* is in every relationship I have."

"Do you see her anywhere? Do you see me talking to her? Do you see me giving a damn whatís going on with her?"

"No," she admitted begrudgingly.

"You didnít run this time, Callie, so that means that you are nothing like my mother and I have nothing to fear. And Iíll be damned if I let Izzie Stevens cost me the only thing Iíve ever wanted in life, so that means that Iím nothing like George and you have nothing to fear." He curled a lock of her hair around his finger. "So can this please be a fight that we donít have to have? I am so tired of fighting with you."

"Me too."

"Could I have a kiss?"

She shook her head. "Iím thinking that Iíll kiss you after we go to Vinnieís Italian Bistro and you sing to me."

"No, baby, you would not kiss me because you wouldnít want anyone to know you were with me. Iíd humiliate myself and you."

"A good dose of humiliation would serve you right."

"Come on, Elvira. Give me a pass on this one. I am hungry, though. We could go eat there and you could sing to me."

"Whatís a good man hater song?"

"You donít hate me," he replied. "Letís go."

"Not until you button your shirt the right way. Did you get dressed in the dark, Jock Strap?"

He looked down and swore. "So thatís why someone asked me if you and I had been in the on call room. I was in a little bit of a hurry to find you and make sure you understood what actually happened."

She watched as he opened his shirt and began working on the bottom button. His chest was bare beneath it and she licked her lips. "Just so weíre clear ... Iím not jealous, Alex. but I am territorial."

"What are you going to do? Piss on me?" he laughed, but it faded when she glared at him. "Okay, maybe that wasnít funny."

Gripping the front of his shirt, she pulled him forward and kissed him. He responded immediately and was about to push her back against the wall, but she slammed him against it first and moved to his neck. His eyes widened when he realized what she was doing.

She was giving him a hickey.

And she wasnít content to stop at just one.

"Callie, I have to see patients. This is -"

"Turtleneck." She moved to the other side of his neck and then stood back, content with her handiwork. "Iíll keep them updated, by the way."

"Okay. Ow." He massaged his neck and shook his head. "People have actually died from this, you know."

"That is an urban legend, ass."

"Well, itís a pain in the neck. Uh, which actually wasnít intended as a pun."

Her arms crossed over her chest again. "You told me you wanted fifty years with me."

"Yeah, I did. I do ... I think."

"You know what endures for fifty years?"

"My love?"

"Nice try, Jock Boy," she replied, her tone deadly. "Ink. Tattoo ink."

"You want me to ...."

"Yeah, I want you to. Right now."

He laughed again and shook his head. "What the hell is that going to prove?"

She kept her poker face on, fighting the urge to smile. "Well, any woman who sees my name on your dick will think twice about it."

The look on his face was priceless. All the color drained from it and when he swallowed, it was loud. "Youíre kidding, right? Because you donít look like youíre kidding, but the words youíre making are very funny."

"Iím not kidding."

"No one except you will ever see my dick!" Alex protested. "And if I did that to myself ... I couldnít use it for long time and then Iíd die."

"You either do this or itís over."

His jaw dropped. "Callie, my balls are in my *stomach*. Donít tell me something like that right now. We are not over. Weíre not even nearly over. Over is not in our vocabulary. And neither is tattooed penis."

"Iím pretty sure I called it a dick. And this is what I want for my birthday." She lost control of her resolve when he rubbed both hands over his face. When she saw that they were shaking, she started to laugh. "Youíre so clueless. Do you actually think that I would ask you to do this knowing that it would put *me* out of sex?"

"Oh, thank God." He hugged her. "I take back everything I ever said about your poker face. And you wonít have to piss on me to mark your territory because I think I pissed myself."

Callie put her hand on his crotch and said, "No. You didnít."

He narrowed his eyes at her when she began to massage him through his pants. "If you start this ... you better finish it."

She responded by taking off her shirt and letting it fall onto the file boxes. "You finish it."

Half an hour later, they were both sitting in the floor, trying to catch their breath. Callie said, "I donít want to have this conversation again."

"Which one."

"All of it."

"Because I was thinking," Alex said. "Why donít we go get inked? After we eat. Letís just do it."

"What the hell would we have tattooed on us?"

"I have an idea. Letís go."

"Are you kidding?"

"No! Come on!" He pulled her to her feet and tossed her clothing to her. "Iím just as territorial as you are, but Iím not bothering with something that *fades*."

*~*~*~*~*~

"Why are you walking like you have a corn cob up your ass?" Addison asked as Callie slid into the chair beside her the following morning. "What did you do? Sex, right?"

"Not quite. Probably not for a couple of days."

"Youíre on your period? No, you take Depo. I know this because I have to see your naked ass every three months."

"I got a tattoo."

"WHAT!? Why?"

"Because I marked my territory and turnabout is fair play." She made a face at Alex, who was clutching his chest as he walked toward her. "He writes way too big."

"Hey." Alex leaned down and kissed Callie. "Howís your hip?"

"Every time I move I feel like Iím ripping open stitches. Why did you want it there. My hips move when I walk!"

"Thatís because youíre a prissy diva," Addison told her.

"At least Iím not a PISSY diva, bed wetter."

"Enough with the painful reminders, Calliope!" Addison told her. "So, show me what you got!"

"I am not lowering my pants over breakfast for your amusement."

"Chicken shit." Addison looked up at Alex. "Letís see yours."

He happily lifted his scrub shirt and displayed his chest. Emblazoned above his heart was a kiss. The shape was unmistakable. It was Callieís kiss. And she had signed ĎLove, Callieí just below it. The lips were outlined in black and colored in with red, making it appear 3-D with the artistic shading.

"That has *got* to be the cheesiest, the corniest, and most ridiculous thing Iíve ever seen!" Addison said. "But considering that both of you need to be wearing turtlenecks, I canít even pretend to be shocked by anything anymore."

"Clearly, symbology is lost on my friend." Callie shrugged, but touched her neck self consciously.

"What did you get? Tell me that Karev didnít pucker up for you, too."

"I got a bastard flower and his name." Callie narrowed her eyes at Alex again. "Which he signed, very, very big."

Alex crossed his arms over his chest and winced. "She refused to get a football or baseball or anything else that was purely *me*."

Callie smiled at him. "Honey, the bastard flower? Itís a permanent apology because youíre always pissing me off."

"You called me 'honey'." He leaned down and kissed her again. "Youíre making me horny."

"My body is a temple and services are over. Iím in pain, but you on the other hand could do things to me that would-"

"Iím sorry. I think I need to vomit." Addison heaved.

"Oh, thereís Stevens. I bet her scrubs would soak it up," Callie replied innocently, finishing off her bagel. "Iím going to Joeís for lunch. Iíve had enough hospital food for *years*."

*~*~*~*~*~

The days passed swiftly and the nights became colder as Halloween approached. The hospital staff, anxious to find fun where they could, had taken to donning masks and terrorizing each other. Chief Webber put a stop to it after Dr. Gellar leaped out at him from a supply closet wearing a Freddy Krueger ensemble that was so realistic that it was gross. Webber had spilled coffee all over his sweater, yanked the bladed glove from Gellarís hand, and threatened to dispose of it in places that were very unprofessional and much scarier than any mask. Webber's mood was a direct result of having been chased by Dr. Shepherd, who carried a fake rat that had Ďbittení his hand, the previous day.

Naturally, when the Chief went home every day the masks were brought out again and it kept the mood at the hospital light. And comical. Everyone agreed that the funniest moment had been the eerily realistic rubber snake that Callie coiled in a box and gave to Addison, telling her that she had brought her breakfast. Callie had somehow tied string around the snake's neck so that when Addy lifted the lid, the snake appeared to leap up at her. Addison had climbed onto the nurseís station, screaming, and doing a bang up impression of Pee Wee Hermanís tequila dance. Beating Addisonís display by a landslide, however, was the fact that Callie had peed her pants laughing.

And Mark Sloan had photographed the proof which he liked to show everyone.

Happiness was enough to staunch Callieís humiliation and she took her lumps with dignity. And by putting the snake in Addisonís locker that afternoon. The screams were phenomenal.

Cam and Blake arrived the night before Halloween and agreed to stay on Goon Docks. Callie, who had picked them up at the airport, was thrilled by this. She had insisted, after all. When they arrived at the garage, Leon came out, looking terrified, wringing his hat in his hands. "Miss Callie?"

"Hey, Leon. This is my brother Cam and his boyfriend Blake."

Leon inclined his head, but didnít speak to them. "Miss Callie, thereís a problem."

"Oh?" she asked, trying to look as sincere as possible. "What is it?"

"I think I caught that thing thatís been making all the noise. You may want to take a look at it."

Her eyes widened dramatically. "Is it dead?"

"I clubbed it to death with my flashlight." He nodded. "You might want to prepare yourself. I ainít never seen nothing like it."

Cam moved in front of Callie, a protective hand on her stomach. "Where is it?"

"What is it?" Blake asked, peering over Callieís shoulder as if he expected to see the creature hobbling into the room. "Are you sure itís dead?"

"Come on." Leon continued to wring his hat and Callie thought it was a nice touch when he went on and on and on and on and on about how he had courageously struggled with the beast. To her astonishment, he had a realistic looking scratches on the backs of his hands and arms, which he proudly displayed. *He* should win an Oscar, she thought.

They entered the guardís area and Callie bit the inside of her cheek. She had spent days setting up the remote controlled demon dog. It was pale gray, suffered from mange, and had a tongue that glistened as it lolled from its mouth. The fur it did have was matted and the tail was mostly bone; most of the skin had been ripped away, making it look like a barb. It was ... disgusting. Leon had taken extra care to make sure the face was a mangled mess. For good measure, he picked up his flashlight and said, "I didnít leave it laying like that, maíam. That thing's moved."

"WHAT IS IT!?" Blake cried again, finally getting a good look at it. "Oh my god. Itís a hell hound!"

Callie squatted down beside the animal and reached down to touch its side.

"NO!" Cam cried, grabbing her hand. "Itís probably poisonous. I can smell the disease."

Callie knew that what he smelled was Canned Farts, but she played along. "If itís not dead then -"

"Cut its head off!" Cam suggested. "Think of it as ending the suffering of a hideous, ugly, and hairless mutt... demon ... thing."

"Leon, can you help me take it outside?" Callie asked.

"I canít. I hurt my back real bad getting it in here."

"That leaves you, Cam." Callie moved to the feet of the dog and grabbed hold of the towel that it was resting on. "Blake's already having a stroke."

"Why do I have to carry the business end?" Cam moved to its head and made a sickened face that was hilarious. "Oh dear Lord Jesus, God in Heaven, make it stop smelling like farts."

"On three." Callie glanced at Leon as she said it. "One, two, three."

The twins lifted as one and the dog began to howl, thrash, and kick. It bucked so hard that it flopped off the towel and onto the floor, landing near Blake thanks to Callieís added flip of the towel in that direction. It happened in slow motion. Cam, who was wearing a long leather duster, attempted to climb the wall and appeared to actually levitate toward the ceiling (although he was only power jogging up the filing cabinet) because his legs were hidden by his coat.

And Blake.

Poor Blake hit notes that would make opera singers weep with envy and his fancy footwork could have easily secured him the lead role in ĎRiverdanceí. Instead of running from the room, he leaped back and forth over the thrashing dog, obviously torn by whether he should help his boyfriend or rush to safety. He was suspended in a mid air arabesque, his arms flung wide, when he realized that Callie was rolling on the floor with tears streaming down her face.

His first cognitive thought was that she must have been bitten. He pulled out of the move so suddenly that he landed on the dog, whose renewed efforts caused him scream in agony, sounding like *he* was being bitten. He stomped up and down on the animal, screaming, "Itís trying to kill me!! Get it off me!! GET IT OFF ME!!!"

"Youíre on it!" Callie wheezed, pushing herself into a sitting position. "Oh my god! That was *classic*! Say hello to my little friend!"

Cam, who had wedged himself in the four feet between the top of the filing cabinet and the ceiling, shouted, "CALLIOPE IPHEGENIA TORRES! I AM GOING TO KICK YOUR ASS!"

"Worth it! Oh so worth it!" she cried. "Leon, did you get it on film?"

Leon wiped the tears off his face and nodded, the camera still pointing at Blake. "Mostly him. I couldnít look away."

"Happy Halloween, guys!" Callie got to her feet and smiled from one to the other. "Never, ever laugh at a woman who has fallen into a mud hole that smells like the ass crack of a homeless dude in the middle of July."

Cam lowered one leg, glaring at her. "Youíre about to find your way back into that fucking mud hole."

Callie screamed and ran.

Cam caught her easily and threw her over his shoulder, stalking down the trail.

She slapped at his back. "Look down, dummy. Itís *cobblestone*. The mud hole is gone."

They met Alex halfway down the trail. He was hurrying toward the source of the noise that had woken him up. "What did she do?" he asked, knowing exactly what had transpired. His girlfriend had been lying in the bed every night for the past week randomly laughing as she thought about the dog. She even laughed in her sleep.

"She filmed it. Iím sure sheíll show it to you on repeat every day for the rest of her life." Cam stalked down the stairs and walked to the edge of the dock. "I know I told you to stay out of the water, little sis, but Iíve changed my mind."

"Donít you *dare*," Callie growled, wadding the ends of his jacket up in her hands. "If I go in, you go in!"

"Fine with me." Cam stepped off the side of the dock and threw her to one side. They both went under.

Alex stood with his mouth wide open, not believing what he had just seen. Callie came up, swearing and coughing, and headed for the ladder. She climbed up and said, "Itís four degrees below zero out here and he throws me in the water! Where the hell is he? Iím drowning him."

Blake came down the stairs and stood beside them, watching for Cam to resurface. "Somethingís wrong," he said after a full minute ticked past. He toed off his shoes.

Callie dove before him. She was aware of two loud splashes and felt someone brush against her as they swam in the opposite direction. Her entire body was numb and it was a struggle after a few seconds to get her limbs to cooperate. Thinking of Camís jacket and how heavy it would be, she kicked toward the bottom and felt around frantically. When her lungs could take no more, she broke the surface and took a deep breath to prepare for another dive.

Alex and Blake popped up on either side of her and she said, "Oh god! Where is he?"

"Right here!" Cam called. He was sitting leisurely on the dock, his legs hanging over the side. "I donít have a video camera, but this image will never leave me."

"You asshole!" Blake screamed, swimming toward him. He ranted in between his breast strokes. "I did not come to Seattle to be tormented. I did not come to Seattle to freeze my balls off in frigid water or to bruise my ass on a fucking fake dog!"

Alex nudged Callie and said, "Paybackís a bitch and apparently I get punished because I'm with you. Come on."

"Canít. Move." She shook her head as her teeth chattered. "Cold."

Gripping her arm, Alex pulled her along with him and watched Cam pull her from the water. Blake helped him out and Callie stood there shivering, glaring at her brother. "Blakeís right. You are an asshole."

"I guess you can see, Callie, that Iím a much better swimmer than I used to be." Cam threw his head back and cackled. "Look at all the little drowned rats."

Blake pushed him off the dock and back into the water and then stalked toward Goon Docks. "He is *not* sleeping with me!"

~*~*~*~*~*

Callie was dreaming about the demon dog. In it, the creature was chasing her and she was running, but there was a treadmill under her feet that didnít let her get away. The animal gnashed and snarled at her legs and she put on a burst of speed. It didnít smell like farts anymore. It smelled like bacon and eggs and possibly pancakes. She turned to look at it and it leaped, landing on her face. For a partially hairless dog ... it was incredibly soft.

Something scurried down her neck and over her chest and she gasped, sitting up in the bed. A sable ferret was gazing at her intently. Her mouth dropped open and she lifted it into her arms where she ran her fingers over the black and silver markings on its thin body. It nudged her fingers, sniffing and playfully nipping. She held it up, confirming that he was a boy. He strained toward her, pushing against her hands with his paws, and she touched her nose to his. She knew it was love when he sneezed on her.

Alex stood a few feet away, watching her with a smile on his face. He joined her on the bed and kissed her neck. "Happy birthday, baby."

"You could not have gotten me a better gift."

"Leon would probably disagree. This thing scratched him all to hell and back last night." Alex reached down and rubbed the ferretís ear as it explored Callieís sheet covered lap. "The woman I bought him from says that heís already litter trained which is a good thing. Heís from a ferret rescue instead of a mill."

She leaned her head against Alexís. "Whatís his name?"

"He doesnít have one. The woman referred to him as a number."

"Well, thatís just mean." Callie picked the ferret up again and concentrated on his face.

"What are you doing?"

"Ferret whispering." A crease appeared between her brows. "No, weíre not calling you that, little guy. Think again." She wrinkled her nose. "He says that heís Italian. Italian food was our first date. I guess we better call him Fratelli."

"Fratelli?"

"The bad guys in ĎThe Gooniesí." The ferret scrambled up her arm and nuzzled the side of her face. "Yeah, heís apparently a fan."

"You are so strange."

"I try."

Someone knocked on the door and Callie pulled the sheet up over her naked breasts. Blake and Cam stood side by side. Blake took a deep breath and said, "Callie, breakfast is ready. Would you mind letting your brother know?"

Callie looked at Cam, then back at Blake. "Uh, heís standing right there."

"I havenít heard from him all morning. I donít see a thing." Blake put his hands on his hips.

"You see *her*," Cam said, shooting Callie an evil look. "And sheís the one who started it."

"Never, ever make the person you love think youíre dying, Cam," Callie advised. "Thereís funny and then there is abuse of privilege."

"You should know," Cam replied, tossing a rectangular package onto the bed. "Happy birthday, brat."

Alex picked up the ferret as Callie secured the sheet a little tighter and opened her gift. When she saw the box, she gasped. "Is this - did you - how the hell?"

"Iíll never tell."

"But this game doesnít even release until next year!" Callie cried, turning Samurai Ambush: Total Destruction, over in her hands to read the back of it. "How did you get this?"

"I handled a business deal for the father of the guy who created it." Blake smiled. "Cam canít take *any* of the credit."

Callie grinned. "Iíd get up to hug you, but Iím naked."

"Okay, now Blakeís not the only one who canít hear anything." Cam closed the door, winking at her.

She sighed in contentment and snuggled back into the covers. Fratelli found an opening and crawled in beside her, his body flush against her stomach. "I feel that I should be allowed to sleep in."

Alex nodded. "Thatís probably a good idea, because your *other* present is a red bow. Iíll give you two guesses where Iíll be wearing it tonight."

"I only need one."

"Youíll have multiples, Gothika. Bank on it."

*~*~*~*~*~

"I just feel that weíre not *romantic* enough, Mark."

"In what universe, Addison, is self mutilation *romantic*? Tattoos are not romantic. Hickeys are only romantic if youíre in middle school and if I gave you a ferret youíd scream because you think anything small with fur is a rat." He took his tie off and hung it in the closet. "Weíre very romantic."

"We eat, sleep, and have sex."

"What else do we need?"

"Forget it." Addison toed off her heels, exasperated, and then slipped her earrings out. "Tonight was fun. I love seeing Callie happy. And with Cam. Isnít it weird how they finish each otherís sentences?"

"Well, they are twins." Mark unbuttoned his shirt while he watched her take her dress off. Her face was red and her nostrils were flaring. "You want to tell me how I managed to piss you off?"

"Itís PMS." Addison crawled in next to him and rested her head on his chest. "I have cramps."

He rubbed a hand over her hair and smiled. "You know what would stop your period?"

"Depo Provera. I know. I just donít like needles and -"

"Being pregnant," he corrected. "Nine long months of no cramps or -"

She sat up, looking down at him with shock and fear. "What!?"

"No cramps or tampons so you wonít have to worry about getting your hand caught in a machine again and ... this is a big one ... pregnancy tends to increase a womanís sex drive and Iíd be very happy about that."

"And then your sex life comes to a screeching half for eighteen years!" Addison pulled a pillow into her lap as if shielding her stomach would change the subject.

"You said weíre not romantic enough." Mark sat up, facing her. "I think the most romantic thing in the world ... would be a person we make who has the best of both of us in them."

"Is this a Halloween prank? Because I'm so over Halloween."

"No."

"You want a baby?" Her mouth dropped open as she said it aloud. "Like, an actual baby who will grow into a toddler, then a sullen tween, then a rebellious teen, and then put us in a rest home one day and take our house."

"Iíll tell you what I want." Mark leaned over and opened his sock drawer. He withdrew a small, blue box and fisted it in his hand so she couldnít really see it. "I was going to do this on Christmas morning after I gave you a crock pot or something else youíd hate. I was going to tie it to a ribbon and hang it from mistletoe. I was going to pull you under it and kiss you and tell you that the best Christmas gift you could give me would be one word.

"One word, Addison, and Iíd have everything I ever wanted." He opened his palm and watched her eyes widen in shock when she saw the box. Reaching up, he flipped it open and heard her gasp. "Now maybe this is not romantic to you, but Iíd still like to hear that word. Will you marry me?"

Her eyes took in the enormous round diamond which was circled with several smaller diamonds. It gleamed in the lamplight and she took a deep breath. Looking at Mark again, she saw that his jaw was tight. As she watched him, he gave her the smile that always turned her insides to mush. "Mark-"

"Thatís not the word, Addy. Although I do like hearing you say my name." He reached up and brushed her hair back. "Iím not asking for much. Just ... forever."

Addison caught his hand in hers and squeezed it. Her heart was pounding, her mouth was dry, and she was so in love that it made it hard to exist at all. "Yes."

"Yes?" His eyes widened and he leapt from the bed, punching the air. "Yes!"

She watched him, amused, as he strutted around naked, talking about the life theyíd have. He still carried the box and when he launched into what heíd be doing to her on the honeymoon, she cleared her throat. "Mark?"

He stopped in mid-stride and looked at her with trepidation. "You canít take it back."

"In your Christmas morning fantasy ... did you actually put the ring on my finger or did you carry it around until New Yearís Day while you crowed like a rooster?"

"Oh, right." Sitting beside her, he slipped the ring from the box and took her left hand. "Am I supposed to say anything while I put it on?"

"Uhm, no. Those would be wedding *vows*, Mark."

"I donít care. I have something to tell you." He smiled at her again. "Iím still the guy who has to program Christmas into his phone, but Iím also the guy who has been thinking about Christmas morning for weeks now. And Thanksgiving. Iím *thankful* for second chances and for you. Iím going to make you so happy."

"You already did." Addison replied, her eyes welling with tears. "I love you."

"I love you, too." He slid the ring into place and nodded. "Perfect fit."

"Yes, we are."

"So, do you have PMS or is your period actually here?"

"Iím still the girl who fakes PMS when sheís pissed." Addison pushed him back on the bed and straddled his hips. "This was very, very romantic, Mark."

"It wasnít Christmas."

"It was better." She eased down onto his cock and closed her eyes. "And if you get me a crock pot anyway, Iíll bash your head in with it while youíre sleeping."

"Damn."

Arching her back, she moved upward, letting him almost drop from her. Then she slammed down onto him and nodded. "Damn."

*~*~*~*~*~
CH 33
The first week of November was intolerable for Callie and Alex. They helped Mark and Addison celebrate their engagement over a plate of crab legs and had to pull over on the way home because they were both so ill. The flu season had taken hold of them both and they spent all their time alternating between praying to the porcelain princess and trying not to kill each other. Callie blamed Cam for throwing her in the bay ... in between the choking and whining. After quarreling over who would puke where, Alex camped out in the guest bathroom, his pillow in front of the toilet and Callie staked claim to the master bath. They called back and forth to each other, an hourly litany of Ďare you okayí and Ďyeahí or Ďnoí ... depending on the circumstances.

It took six full days for either one of them to feel like humans again. Poor Fratelli had to go and stay with Addison, who had a running fit when Callie suggested that she *hold* the ferret. Addison and Mark took turns bringing food every day, masks over their faces, and gave them injection after injection of Reglan for the nausea and Tamiflu pills. When the miserable but recovering twosome finally returned to work, they were sluggish and pale. Callieís new scrubs were so ill fitting that she had to tie the drawstring tight enough to bunch the top of her pants into an uncomfortable mess. Food turned her stomach and since Alex was in the same boat, he didnít pressure her. Much.

When their first four days back at work ended, paving the way for two days off, Alex breathed a sigh of relief and headed into the locker room. He showered and dressed in his jeans before he walked, barefoot and shirtless, back to his locker. The others had trickled in and he greeted Meredith and Cristina, but ignored Izzie, who seemed to be doing the same thing to him.

Alex tugged on his socks and shoes and then stood, searching for the shirt he had worn in that morning. He found Callieís panties in his bag and smiled, running his fingers over the red lace. A paper was pinned to the crotch that read, ĎGuess what Iím not wearingí.

"Are those panties?" Cristina snatched them and held them up by the spaghetti string. "Callie likes lace? I had her pegged for commando.Wonder what Bailey would do if I put these on the board."

Alex yanked them from her hand and put them in his pocket. "You need to get laid, Yang."

"Hey, what is that on your chest?" Cristina squinted her eyes at Alex, then wrinkled her nose when she saw the unmistakable red lips. "Okay, thatís beyond grotesque."

"What is?" Izzie asked, closing her locker and turning around. Her eyes widened when she saw the tattoo. "Is that permanent?"

"You bet your ass it is." Alex glanced down at Callieís kiss and rubbed his thumb over it. They had gone back to the tattoo parlor the previous day to have one more thing added and it was still tender to the touch. "Very permanent."

Meredith grinned at him, leaning closer to see the detail. "I think itís, well, I wonít say beautiful, but -"

"You can say beautiful. Itís part of her." Alex grinned. "Her lips make me crazy."

"Well, yeah. They move and sound comes out." Izzie rolled her eyes and then realized that silence had fallen all around her. She tried to play it off when she saw the look on Alexís face. "Haha, I made a funny."

"No, you didnít." Alex pulled his shirt on, glaring at her. "You just proved that youíre still a bitch."

Izzieís jaw dropped. "You donít get to call me a bitch! A few weeks ago you were-"

"Delusional," he cut in. "I was delusional enough to think that you had located the one human cell you still have in your body and could use it to become a decent person. Clearly, I was wrong."

"Iím not a decent person? *Iím* not?" Izzie pointed her finger at him. "What have you done thatís so great? Besides shack up with a married woman and live off her money? And -"

"Letís get something straight," Alex interrupted. "I donít give a flying fuck what you think, but youíre going to stop dogging Callie. Especially to me. Weíre not friends, Izzie. Weíll never be friends. All you are to me ... is just a mistake that wonít go away."

"Scoreboard. Alex, ten. Izzie, none," Cristina said, tying her shoelaces. "And you canít say shit about him hooking up with a married person, Iz. Youíre the reason sheís getting a divorce."

Izzie ignored her. "Maybe Callie would like to know that you kissed me and that -"

"I already know," Callie replied, walking from the back of the room, where she had been changing clothes at her own locker. "And I donít give a flying fuck either because mistakes happen. I should know."

Meredith cleared her throat, clearly uncomfortable. "Callie, did you get a tattoo also?"

Smiling, Callie nodded. "I did."

"So, share!" Cristina motioned for her friend to display the ink. "Unless itís in places that only Dr. Montgomery should see."

"Iím not quite that brave." Callie happily unzipped her jeans and slipped them down on the right side, displaying the rose on the front of her hip.

Cristina sighed and shook her head. "This from the girl who said sheíd never wear a bow on her ass or flowers in her hair. Now you have a flower on your hip which is your front ass ... in a way. Iím so disappointed. Youíve gone soft."

"Shut up," Callie told her, a twinkle in her eyes. Izzie was trapped between Meredith and Cristina and she had the distinct feeling that it had been intentional. The blond looked like a deer frozen in headlights.

"ĎYou belong to me, love Alexí," Meredith read, sitting down on the bench to get a better view. "Aww, thatís so sweet."

"Itís our song," Alex trailed his fingers over the new words on Callieís hip, which had scabbed over. He had the same spiraling script over the tattoo on his chest. "She sang it on our first date and we realized it was us."

"The lyrics could not *be* more us." Callie pulled her pants back up and buttoned them. A sharp pain sliced through her side and she jumped a little. It had been aching for days, but it had never felt like a knife before.

"You okay?" Meredith asked, looking up at Callie, who nodded at her.

"So, which song is it? ĎYou Belong To Meí? Which version?" Cristina stuffed her dirty scrubs in her bag.

"The old one. Patsy Cline did it and so did Dean Martin," Callie replied. "You know the one ... see the pyramids along the Nile, watch the sunrise on a tropic isle. That one."

"Itís because she likes to travel," Alex said. "And she can go to Algiers, to the Nile, or fly her plane across the ocean ... but sheís still mine."

"And Iíll always come back," Callie assured him. "Because for some reason I seem to be hooked, Jock Strap."

"Iím officially dying from cute overload." Cristina got to her feet and poked Callie in the hip, causing her to wince. "You should eat more and tattoo less, Torres. Youíre going to look like Amy Winehouse if you donít start consuming more than semen."

Callie turned and kissed Alex, saying, "Are you ready to go? Iím hungry."

"Ew. Ew. Ew." Yang poked her in the hip again. "Skank."

"Crack whore," Alex and Callie said simultaneously, causing everyone except Izzie to laugh.

The door of the locker room opened abruptly and hard enough for it to hit the wall. Addison and Bailey practically charged into the room. When Addison saw Callie, she leaped up and down, clapping happily. Callie looked at Alex and said, "Is she trying to tell us that she got a spanking again?"

"No, pervert. You are not going to believe this!" Addison cried. "I was killing time in the clinic waiting for Mark to finish his surgery so I was answering the Ava line and Oprah Winfreyís people called! They want to feature her on their holiday show about missing people!"

"Get out!" Callie looked at her friend in disbelief. "Really?"

"And thatís not all," Bailey said, beaming in triumph. "Sheís donating two million dollars to the clinic and will mention it on her show as well."

"Callie, this is huge! High five!" Addison pushed Alex out of the way and slapped her palm against Callieís, then hugged her so hard that Callie was sure her ribs were breaking. She finally let go after Callie groaned. "We *must* celebrate!"

Callie massaged her right side, which continued to throb so much that she sat down on the bench. She rested her elbows on her thighs and leaned forward, taking several deep breaths. Alex kneeled down in front of her and said, "Are you talking to the Opus Dei again?"

"No. I think Iím still sick."

Addison put her hand on her forehead and nodded. "Sheís got a fever."

"Iím gonna barf if you donít shoot me up with Reglan, guys."

"Iíll get it," Meredith said. "Chart or no chart?"

"Take it from the clinic," Bailey said. "Iíll cover it somehow. Just like I did all the other doses you gave them."

*~*~*~*~*~

"So, then she was all like Ďoh, itís our song and arenít we so ridiculously happy and perfect and greatí and he was like Ďyouíre not my friend because youíre a mistakeí and she was all, Ďooooh, Iím so sickí so she could get all the attention. I was like Ďgag me until Iím freakiní deadí." Izzie took a deep breath and finished off her third donut, looking at George. "Hello? Iíve finished ranting so itís your turn."

George chewed his hot dog and swallowed before he spoke. "I had a pretty good day, actually. No ranting here."

"Did I mention that they have their names on each other!? Like *on* each other. In ink."

"Did I mention that I was asked to scrub in on a Humpty Dumpty for tomorrow? You think Cristina would give me her notes?"

"George-"

"Because Iím not really getting enough information online about it and she actually performed one with Burke. Iíll have to ask her."

Izzie picked up her burger and bit into it. "Look at what theyíre making me do! I ate three donuts before dinner! And Iím still starving."

George smiled at her. "You may want to hurry. Our movie starts in thirty minutes. Hey, do you want to race against me in the arcade?"

"No, George. I donít want to play a video game. I hate video games. I donít want to race or do anything except have you agree with me that Callie is a -"

"I have more in common with Alex than with you on this. I donít want to hear it." He wadded up his food wrappers and tossed them into the trash can. The food court of the mall was crawling with people and he grinned when he saw Addison and Mark holding hands nearby. "Theyíre getting married."

"Callie and Alex!?"

George shot her a pointed look. "No, Izzie. Dr. Sloan and Dr. Montgomery." He indicated where they were with his head.

Izzie turned and looked at the duo, who were waiting in the Dippiní Dots line. She watched as Mark wrapped his arms around the red head and kissed her forehead. "You think thatís the reason that Derekís been such a bastard lately? Meredith said that he hasnít said