Title: Life’s A Game We’re Still Learning How To Play…
Pairing: Callica (but be patient for it)
Summary: What happens when a certain blonde cardio surgeon is back in town with more than one offer to make? (slightly AU)
Anything Else?: Comments (and constructive criticism/spelling errors) are more than welcome!
Part 8 - sorry it took so long, I had to spend some time catching up with a few things and trying to sort out where the hell this fic is going, since my muse seems to be taking it for a ride and I seem to be forced to follow! Anyway, hope you enjoy!
8 – Place your bets and take the risk…
“You’re ignoring me,” said Arizona in a sing song voice as she rolled to a halt in front of Callie.
The young Latina sighed. “No, I’m not, I’m just busy and I have a lot of things to sort out.”
“Which has pretty much amounted to you ignoring me,” said the blonde, repeating her point. “At least tell me what’s going on. You never know, maybe I could help?” she smiled.
The smile didn’t help the guilt Callie felt building within her. She had come to the decision that she would say nothing to Arizona until she had at least seen Erica for more than five minutes. It was entirely possible her previous reaction was borne out of the shock of seeing her again, and that after she had calmed down, she would feel nothing but friendly feeling towards the older woman… And would it really be fair to hurt Arizona when nothing was to come of it? “It’s just some personal stuff,” started Callie.
Callie sighed for what felt like the millionth time over the past few days. “An old friend is in town and I was going to meet them tonight for drinks…”
Arizona frowned. “What’s so bad about that?”
“We, um, we didn’t part on the best of terms. There was a fall out, some arguments…” said Callie, fidgeting with the pen in her hand.
“So you’re nervous that you two aren’t going to get along again?”
That was close enough, wasn’t it? “Yeah,” breathed Callie. “Something like that.”
Arizona breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank God. I’d been thinking it was something serious.” She shook her head, her bright smile returning. “Well, if you want to be friends I suppose you just have to take the chance.”
Callie nodded. “Yeah, I guess I do.”
Callie spent the walk from the hospital to Joe’s trying to figure out if she had been more nervous the night she kissed Erica for the first time, or tonight. It was a close call, although Callie did acknowledge that this time around there was a definite sick feeling deep in her gut which she had long since identified as guilt. Pausing outside the door, she wondered if she would be better going back to find Arizona and ending it now. After all, how could she look the smaller woman in the eye if anything happened tonight? No! She quickly stopped her thoughts from taking that particular avenue. She wasn’t going to let anything happen tonight whether she was a free agent or not. Tonight, she wanted to talk, to take this slowly, to see if Erica was still her Erica…
Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the door, her eyes quickly finding the blonde who was sitting with her back to the door. Edging closer, she could recognise the challenging look on Yang’s face as she pushed a folded sheet of paper towards the blonde. Curious to see how the situation was going to play out, and not wanting to interrupt Yang’s clearly unfinished salary negotiation she made her way to the bar, ordering herself a quick shot to calm her nerves before ordering a round for all of them. She figured the least she owed Yang was a drink.
As she leaned against the bar she found the rest of the world quickly fading away as she gazed at Erica. The woman had barely changed. Her hair was slightly longer, and she looked more relaxed, but apart from that…She smiled as Erica let out a small laugh at whatever Yang had written. She aimed a challenging glare at the younger woman seated across from her, under which Yang didn’t flinch.
“Fine, you get Altman on board to further this research and you I’ll give you it,” smirked the blonde, watching the devious grin spread across Yang’s features.
The young surgeon nodded. “Sounds fair. Now in convincing her, do I get to name and number drop?”
Erica chuckled. “You catch her interest and I’ll even come in to run through the practicalities and discuss funding allocation.”
“Done,” grinned Yang, feeling decidedly better than she had in a long time. It had been too long since she had felt so in control of her life. Felt like she was taking such a positive step forward. She glanced over to where Callie was standing at the bar, having clocked her on the way in. Barely refraining from rolling her eyes at the dreamy expression on her face as she glazed at the blonde, Yang turned her attention back to Erica. “It might take a few days to get her on board but…”
“I’m a free agent until the build is finished, so whenever you need to me to come in and discuss things just give me a call,” shrugged Erica.
Cristina nodded. “I will. But in the mean time, I need to be going. The boards are so close and I, feel like I have done nothing for them.”
“And what have the past few years been?” scoffed Erica.
“One long learning curve,” thought Yang aloud.
“No, that’s just life in general,” said Erica, taking a sip of her wine.
“I can’t argue with that,” agreed Yang, once more glancing in Callie’s direction.
“Yang, I know she’s there,” said Erica, breaking through the younger woman’s thoughts. “And has been for about ten minutes.”
“How?” asked Yang, without thinking. “You can’t even see the door, and I doubt you can see the bar from where you’re sitting.”
Erica simply smiled. “I just know.” Taking a deep breath, she finally turned in her seat, blue eyes meeting brown across the room.
“I should go,” said Yang, making to leave.
Erica turned, stilling her movements with a hand on her arm. “Stay for one more drink. She’s bought you one anyway.”
Yang turned to where Callie was indeed trying to lift three drinks in her shaking hands and settled back in her seat, trying not to wince at the sound of tinkling glass as Callie approached.
Erica smiled warmly. “Hi.” She pulled out the seat next to her, her smile widening at the adorable expression on Callie’s face.
“Yang said she was meeting you and I just…” she trailed off as she concentrated on getting the drinks on the table and not on the people sat around it.
“It’s great to see you,” said Erica as she quickly reached forward to take two of the glasses and gently place them down, saying nothing about Callie’s obvious nerves.
The younger woman smiled back, taking the chair Erica had pulled out for her. “So, did you two manage to come to an agreement?” she asked, trying not to be too affected by her close proximity to Erica. It was hopeless, of course, it always had been.
“I think she’s getting a fair price out of me,” smirked Erica as Yang nodded in agreement.
“So, is this a done deal yet?” asked Callie, reaching for her drink, needing to occupy her hands and stop them wanting to wander in Erica’s direction.
Erica and Yang looked at each other, neither daring to be the one to speak. They had almost come to a silent agreement that the offer was accepted, but until a contract was signed, neither would say as much.
“We’re still sorting out the finer details,” Erica finally said carefully, watching as Yang once more nodded in agreement.
“So basically Yang’s been too stubborn to outright accept?” smiled Callie, getting a kick from Cristina under the table. She merely grinned at her attacker. “That’ll be a yes, then.”
Yang rolled her eyes, downing the rest of her drink. “Right, I really do have to go. It’s my turn to come up with scenarios tonight for revision for the boards. I’ll see you guys around.”
With Cristina gone, both women instantly became aware of the tension that crept back in to the atmosphere. Finally, Callie could stand it no longer. “Did you mean it when you said it? That it was great to see me?” she asked nervously.
Erica smiled. “Of course I did. What, did you think I’d hate you or something?”
Callie blushed and dropped her gaze to study the amber liquid in her glass.
“Callie, I never hated you. Could never hate you.” She gently reached out, brushing Callie’s curtain of hair out of her face. “Callie, look at me, please.” She waited as the Latina slowly looked up, smiling when familiar chocolate orbs met her own. “You don’t know how amazing it feels to see you again. To see you so…” Alive. She gently wiped away the tears from the younger woman’s cheeks, even as they formed in her own eyes, revelling in the warmth under her fingertips.
“I tried to find you,” breathed Callie.
Erica nodded. “I know, but I wasn’t ready to be found.” She took a few deep breaths, blinking back her tears. “We were still learning, Callie, we…I needed to figure myself out and sort out what was going on in my head before I could be with anyone, let alone you.” She paused, her fingers unconsciously stroking the soft skin on Callie’s cheek where she hadn’t quite been able to remove her hand yet. “I had to leave while I could still blame you for us not working, because if I had let it be me…I could never have forgiven myself.”
Callie suddenly found it even more difficult to breathe. “What…what..?”
“What am I saying?” Erica interpreted, watching as Callie nodded. “It’s you, Callie, always has been.”
Callie covered the hand still stroking her cheek with her own, her thumb brushing the soft skin. She was at a complete loss for words, wanting nothing else but to lean forward and kiss the woman before her. But no, she caught herself. Not tonight. If things were to go anywhere between them, it was going to be slowly. They were going to do it right this time, and for her, that meant that she first had to speak to Arizona. “I don’t know what to say…”
“That you don’t hate me would be a start,” smiled Erica, surprised when Callie suddenly launched herself towards her, wrapping her in a fierce hug.
“I felt a lot of things for you, hate was never one of them,” whispered Callie, her lips close to Erica’s ear. She felt the shiver pass through the blonde. “I missed you so much.” The arms around her squeezed her tightly, before they both pulled back, regarding each other with teary eyes.
“There wasn’t a day I didn’t think of you,” admitted Erica, her voice shaky. She nervously fingered the pendant around her neck, all but stopping breathing when Callie reached out and took it from her fingers, inspecting it closely.
“A leaf,” she breathed, a sad smile gracing her features at the memory of that morning.
“I couldn’t resist when I saw it,” smiled Erica.
“I’m sorry,” Callie blurted, looking up into bright blue eyes as she let go of the pendant. “For everything I did. Really, I am.”
“We were learning, Callie, we were always going to make mistakes. Had we been twenty years younger, no one would have thought twice, but because we were older, we expected ourselves to know what to do. To get it right.”
“This time I will,” said Callie with determination. “I want to take you to dinner, and if you say yes, I am going to arrive on time and greet you like a normal human being.”
“So not another speech about embassies and safe words?”
Callie shook her head, watching as Erica bit her lip, an adorable little smile on her face.
“Then yes, I’d really like that,” she grinned.
“I’m going to do it right this time,” said Callie seriously. “I mean it. And to do that, I need to go now before I finally give in to the urge to kiss you.”
“I wouldn’t mind,” whispered Erica.
Callie shook her head. “I can’t. If I do, I want to stop.”
“I wouldn’t mind that either,” said Erica, letting her voice drop to its lowest register.
Callie gripped the edge of the table, feeling her control slipping. “No, I want to do this right this time. I want to treat you right.”
Erica smiled at the sight before her, taking in Callie’s death grip on the edge of the table, so in contrast with the soft tone of her voice. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to push. I just…”
Callie laughed. “You’re not pushing. Believe me, you don’t have to,” she grinned, blushing. “But I’m not rushing this this time. If you’re willing to give me a chance, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to savour every little moment of it.” Taking a deep breath, she stood. “But a girl only has so much control so I am going to go now, and I will call you about dinner.” She leant down and placed a gentle kiss to Erica’s cheek, relishing the hitch in the older woman’s breath it caused. She pulled back, smiling. “Thank you, for giving me this chance.”
Erica watched as Callie gathered her things, flashing her that mega-watt smile she loved before leaving. Sitting by herself, Erica let it sink in what had just happened, letting a huge smile spread across her face.