Meditations in an Emergency
Fandom: Grey’s Anatomy
Pairing: Callie/Erica, Callie/Mark, Mark/Lexie, Erica/Other
Spoilers: 5.05, 5.08 casting spoilers
Notes: title and section epigraphs from Frank O’Hara, Meditations in an Emergency, full text here. Song quoted in segment vii is Amelia, “Happy After All.”
Disclaimer: Shonda owns the characters, along with ABC and a buncha people. All television shows, movies, books, and other copyrighted material referred to in this work, and the characters, settings, and events thereof, are the properties of their respective owners. As this work is an interpretation of the original material and not for-profit, it constitutes fair use.
Summary: Each time my heart is broken, it makes me feel adventurous…
i. …but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth.
It’s a way to punish herself for cheating on a fourth fiancé in fifteen years in exactly the same way she cheated on the first three. She voluntarily exiles herself with all the scum and cheaters in the surgical universe, exiles herself to the place where Preston Burke was loved and respected, and isolates herself, never mentioning why she would come to a place she despises, because she despises herself more.
Her born-Catholic, converted-to-Mormonism mother would laugh at the impressive display of guilt her wayward daughter shows at last. If her mother wasn’t long dead.
She hates everything about Seattle Grace, but (irony of all ironies) she deserves to be here.
ii. the clouds get enough attention as it is and even they continue to pass.
Cristina fucking Yang.
It’s like going to work every day and seeing herself in a very slightly distorted mirror. Passion, skill, arrogance, and dear god, let her not have been that annoying and approval-needy when she was a resident.
And a kind person, a person who is not in self-imposed exile would understand that Yang is trying so hard because she doesn’t know what else to do; cardio is her life, Burke was her heart, and Yang needs something to fill the void now that her guts and soul have been ripped out.
Erica gets it. They both have nothing except the work, cannibalizing as it sustains their immortal souls.
She understands, but she can’t let Yang in. There’s something so dangerous about the horrible and perfect symbiosis they would have, twin glares as they antagonized idiot patients and stupider interns before performing breathtaking surgeries. If she let them, they would be a unit that was closed to everything and she can’t do that to someone.
Cristina fucking Yang.
iii. My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time
“Do you want to know my name? My real name?” Callie asks.
It’s just past midnight and she’s been out dancing for the first time in seven years. They’ve been drinking, watching guys check them out — mostly Callie. She’s under no illusions here. Callie is gorgeous; she might charitably be called handsome.
Then again, she’s the one who’s got Callie’s attention, not the guys.
“What, Callie O’Malley isn’t your real name?” she asks, elbowing Callie companionably.
“God, no,” Callie says. “So do you want to know or what?”
“Might not be a good idea,” she says, grinning. “I know plenty of old folk beliefs that say if you tell someone your true name, you give them power over you.”
“Oh, whatever. I trust you,” Callie says. “So?”
“Tell me,” she says, wondering why it’s important.
“Calliope Iphigenia Torres,” Callie says, accenting the words. “So now I’m under your power. What should I do next?”
“Sign your divorce papers and fall in love with someone extraordinary,” she says grandly, feeling the whole world go sparkling bright. Maybe it’s the champagne they’ve been drinking. Or maybe the music, or maybe when Callie forced her to dance. Or maybe the giddiness of doing something different and realizing she’s not dead yet.
But the sparkling, that she’s sure of.
“Ooh, good call,” Callie says. “If that’s the sort of decisions you usually make, you can have all the power you want over me.”
She finds this idea a little more exciting than she should. And decides not to think about that too hard.
iv. Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde?
When Callie lets go, when the kiss stops, they both look away with shock.
“I’ll see you…tomorrow,” she tells Callie, turning away, shaken to the core.
Callie takes her hand. “Don’t disappear on me.”
She nods. The shock is too much for words.
She goes home and stares at herself in the mirror. In her opinion, she looks awful. Not that she likes make-up or that she should look good after that many hours in an OR, but god, there’s nothing to her.
Callie is so beautiful. Dark hair, dark eyes, this sense of herself that animates everything. The greatest smile. Curves that could turn a stick of wood on. Even tired out of her mind, Callie Torres is beautiful.
She’s a dishwater blonde. Her eyes are too close together, her upper lip is chapped, she has sallow skin, fat arms, and a tummy that will eventually be revealed.
If anything happens. If she’s not hallucinating that Callie Torres grabbed her and kissed her at the hospital. That’s possible. The surgery was insane. Maybe the concrete fumes made Erica hallucinate.
The point is that even in dreams, nobody like Callie would want her. She’s awkward and raw-boned and a bad teacher. And yet the memory of the kiss burns through Erica, making her heart pound and her head spin.
Please god, let it be true.
v. All I want is boundless love.
When they touch again and the same sparkling electric sizzle rocks through her, it’s like a light bulb going on.
Oh. She likes girls. She likes Callie most of all, but it clubs her around the head and shoulders with a realization that’s at least ten years overdue.
She’s always been attracted to women.
It explains why she kept cheating on her fiancés. Always at the same moment — the moment when she felt like she was trapped, when the idea of spending forever with a perfectly nice guy who loved her to bits. Men whose kisses she tolerated because they were good to her and she cared and she wanted them to be happy, but who never made her catch fire. It explains so much — why she didn’t mind weeks with no sex, months without passion, why the idea of a boyfriend never made her giddy like every other woman.
She’s not an alien, she’s a lesbian. It’s a relief to know, a relief she feels in her bones — maybe she isn’t the secret monster she feared being after all.
Callie can just look at her and she wants more. Kisses, caresses, long nights spent sleepless, naked, and sweaty. Her body has been plugged into this current where she’s alive and all the mushy personal stuff isn’t for wimps and people who speak a language Erica can’t follow.
It’s new and it’s addictive and it’s kind of why she won’t tell Callie that while she might be a virgin, this isn’t just about them.
Later, when it’s right.
vi. How am I to become a legend, my dear?
Joe’s always has too many people in it, but sometimes she hears interesting things while there. Especially now that the world has a new significance and people, while still venal and stupid, have a new weight to them that she finds fascinating.
“So if you had to choose between lo, our many sexy attendings, which one would you do?”
She’s been waiting for Callie for half an hour and is so bored that she’s eavesdropping on Grey and her new old friend, Susie or whatever, as they gossip about the attendings and who’s hot and who’s not.
“That is a good question,” Susie or whatever says, flipping her blonde hair and surveying the place like she owned it. “No offense, but Derek seems drippy. Besides, he’s yours. So I don’t want him. Chief is okay, but I’m not a big fan of the older man-younger woman dynamic. Dixon is insanely hot in her way, but I don’t need another mom.”
“Which leaves what, Sloan and Hahn?” Grey asks. “Great, another intern who’d do McSteamy.”
Susie snorts. “Please. He’s skanky and he spends all his time with that one girl,” she says. “No, I would be on Dr. McStrict over there in three seconds flat.”
“Really?” Grey asks. “I mean…really? I think she’s scary.”
“You’re such a straight girl,” Susie replies with a disdainful face. “Dr. McStrict has the right kind of energy. It’s all repressed because you know, she hasn’t found the right person to unleash it on, but it’s there.”
“I can hear you,” Erica says, putting her empty glass on the bar. “Girls, if you see Dr. Torres, tell her I needed to work on my journal article and I’ll see her tomorrow.”
Maybe she swaggers a little bit as she leaves Joe’s, even if she has been stood up. Susie or whatever is cute, and it’s flattering to hear that someone’s looking at her with desire.
vii. I admire you, beloved, for the trap you’ve set.
It’s a Tuesday night and they’re driving to Erica’s place for a night in, complete with new toys that she found online. The box is in the back seat of the car, and after much blushing and giggling, Callie had admitted she thinks it’ll be fun.
New, she says, but fun.
Callie’s driving, and Erica has her head leaned back on the headrest, eyes closed, idly fingering the top of her collarbone.
The music is slow — something indie that Erica bought a while ago, the kind of CD Callie jokes is lesbian music. Probably this is true (and she doesn’t care, because hey, she is in fact a lesbian), but it doesn’t stop Callie from singing along to it.
“I’m glad that you came to speak with me here, I’ve been so confused, so bridled with fear, oh oh….” she sings. One of the things she knows about Callie that nobody else does is that Callie sings. But she’s the only one at Seattle Grace that Callie sings for, even if it’s just singing along with the stereo on the way home.
“Looks like I’ll be happy after all…”
And she is perfectly, blissfully happy, reaching out to draw her hand over Callie’s arm and smile, eyes still closed.
When she opens them, Callie smiles at her.
“You’re so…you’re something, you know that?” Callie murmurs.
“Yeah, well. I like when you sing,” she says. “I like you, period. But especially when you sing.”
It’s not exactly the declaration of love she wants to share, but it’s close enough.
viii. Heterosexuality! you are inexorably approaching.
“Don’t you miss guys, ever?” Callie asks, stroking her back one random Saturday night after an hour of toe-curlingly good sex.
She wonders, sometimes, if Callie will ever get tired of asking that question.
“Not really,” she says.
Something had changed, which she thought was a good change at first, at the start of the year. At first Erica was so sure that Callie was going to end it, after all the freaking out about having sex, or standing her up at bars and being on-call and busy or tired so that it was maybe twice a week that they got together. Sometimes less.
And then Callie had shown up one night — it had been raining, and Erica’d been home alone working on a journal article with a bottle of wine and her laptop — Callie had shown up, hair plastered to her head, breathless, and looking at her with huge, bright eyes.
“I love you,” she’d said at the door. “I want to be with you. Just you.”
They hadn’t even made it to the couch.
And it had been the honeymoon they’d never gotten all of a sudden. It had been the honeymoon and the time where all the secrecy stopped and Karev had taunted O’Malley and everyone had been primly happy for them.
Bailey hadn’t been prim. She’d said, “if that girl’s smart, she’ll know how much you love her” to Erica. Cryptically. While prepping for surgery.
But Bailey was like that, and she always wanted to believe the shadows and hints were all in her head.
“If I’m smart, I’ll make sure she knows,” Erica had replied bravely.
The slow death of that giddy period was, well. It was what it was.
And now Callie missed boys.
And she didn’t.
ix. Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else for a change?
Do you want to live with me?
Maybe you should ditch Yang and come live with me. I’m cleaner.
I love you. Move in with me.
I know that four months isn’t long, but I can’t stop thinking about you. About what it would be like, together.
I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. We can get a different apartment if you want, so it’s not like I’m in charge of everything. I don’t want to be the boss of you.
Move in with me, be with me, I love you, I don’t know how to say it.
She wants to say this. All of this. Any of this. Whatever is the right combination of words. There are butterflies tied up in her stomach, but it’s time.
“Dr. Hahn?” a tentative, scared little voice says. It’s a voice that sounds like the one in her head, which makes it worse.
“What?” she asks, irritated to be distracted while she’s on this mission to declare that she wants to move forward with Callie. Irritated to realize how scared the voice in her head sounds.
The little voice belongs to a very pale Lexie Grey, the latest in Mark Sloan’s many attempts to feel twenty-five instead of forty. She’s a decent surgeon-in-embryo. If Yang thinks so, Erica is apt to agree.
“I think there’s something I have to tell you. About Mark. And Dr. Torres. About Mark-and-Dr-Torres,” she says, words speeding up as she speaks.
The girl’s words are knives in her stomach.
“Well, tell me,” she says, a thousand little hints becoming foreshadowed doom and lovesick naiveté. “Or are you too scared and stupid to do that?”
x. Destroy yourself, if you don’t know!
There was a legend that went around Seattle Grace that Meredith Grey had almost run Shepherd over with her car when she found out about Addison and that whole mess.
There would now be a legend about how Erica Hahn had tried to kill herself in traffic over Callie Torres screwing Mark Sloan, off-and-on, since the beginning of their affair. Which — fine. If people wanted to think she was a suicidal loser, it was better than some alternatives.
Unlike the legend about Grey, the legend would be mostly false anyway.
What had happened was that she had started crying in the car, away from all the gossips and leering assholes, just as she was pulling out of the parking lot. And that was when she’d gotten rear-ended by the upset patient who caused her to lose her grip on the brake pedal and hit the gas instead.
And that was when she ended up knocked into traffic with a totaled car and a very public end to her first gay affair.
All in all, it was a low place that ended with her staring at her bruised and swollen face and realizing that nothing that she could want so much would last and that nobody could want her anyway.
She told the nurses not to let Callie anywhere near her, right before they gave her a mega-dose of morphine so she could sleep and not feel things for a while.
She knows it’s a good idea.
It makes her feel hollow inside anyway.
xi. I am always looking away. Or again at something after it has given me up.
“Seriously, I thought you were hot long before I found out you were a lesbian,” explains Sadie, fingering the top of her glass. “It wouldn’t be pity sex. It would be filthy fantasy fulfillment for Sadie.”
“It would be inappropriate, so stop offering,” she says.
The strangest thing about existing in the lowest place is that suddenly she has friends. Allies. Well-wishers. Callie might not have gotten near her after the accident, but Virginia Dixon was back at Seattle Grace like a shot to offer tough love, Bailey was there cursing Sloan’s name for her, and she now has the loyalty of a few interns. Mostly Sadie and Lexie Grey, but they’re the ones she’d want anyway.
But this is what stumps Erica. She has not been allowed to hide in a corner and deal with a broken heart and broken ribs alone, which is how she imagined it would happen. Isolation and shame, followed by a hasty resignation from the shame of having a dramatic breakup even by Seattle Grace’s notorious standards.
Instead, Richard told her to her face that he wouldn’t take her resignation and that she’d become a better teacher in the last year and that she should be proud of herself for who she’s let herself become.
She wants to say it’s too much, because people are still stupid and annoying and gossiping when she walks by, but it’s not.
“Ew. Slutty ex, ten o’clock,” Sadie says.
“Sadie, that’s not nice,” Lexie says. “Anyway, I think Sadie is right and we should take you out somewhere. A gay bar. I’ll even go if you guys make sure I don’t go home with a girl and it’s not inappropriate.”
“The gay bars here suck, but whatever, you will get so much love from the women between that bruised eye and your awesome career and the crappy ex,” Sadie says. “Lesbians are such suckers for bruised hearts, and you’re hot to boot.”
“I am going to go now,” she says.
“We’re doing it!” Sadie yells as Erica makes her way to where Callie is sitting alone.
There’s been a discreet shunning, she hears. She’s not sure what to make of that, because shunning? Is so high school.
“Hi,” she says.
Callie stares at her. “Oh my god, your face,” she says. “The nurses and Bailey wouldn’t let me near you. But! Your face.”
“Yeah, it’s gruesome,” Erica says. “Are you okay?”
Callie gapes at her, which doesn’t make her feel any more hideous and unfuckable, oh no, of course not. “I…why are you even talking to me? I wouldn’t talk to me. Five different people have told me just what a bitch I am, including Grey’s sister and Izzie Stephens, so…”
“I loved you,” she says. “I wanted you to know that. I think there’s gonna be a part of me that always loves you.”
“Erica,” Callie says. “I…”
“No, listen to me,” Erica says. “I gave you too much power over me. I cut out bits of myself, even though falling in love with you made everything about my life better. And it wasn’t any better for me than it was for you.”
Callie looks at her with such intense longing that she could almost get on her knees and tell her that all is forgiven. But it’s not. She can’t bring herself to let someone who thought the way to make Erica happy was to sleep with a boy have that power over her again.
“Is there anything I can do that can make it better?” Callie asks, the regret and desperation clear on her face.
She leans over, her mouth against Callie’s ear, knowing that half the bar is watching them.
What she says…well, that’s only for them to know. She’s changed, but the person she was is still to some extent the person she is. And Callie closes her eyes, nods, and kisses her on the cheek when Erica finishes saying what she has to say.
“Live happily ever after for me,” Callie says, eyes closed against the pain they both feel. If things had been a little different, it would have worked. But if things had been a little different, they never would have even had anything to make work. “Because I loved you, too.”
xii. It’s like a final chapter no one reads because the plot is over.
Her name is Alison, and she’s the daughter of a friend of Virginia Dixon’s. She’s a program manager for a software company, early thirties, just moved up to Seattle from Portland.
Apparently, she sings, too. How Virginia knows about these details that make everything right, Erica will never know.
“So I used to work as a teacher in Japan, you know, back about five or six years ago,” Alison says. “That was where I realized I was gay, gay, gay. And there’s nothing like being quietly gay in Japan. I mean, I was only out to the expat community, so it was like, I trolled the bars in Tokyo when I could make it down there. Madame Mars of Mars Bar — you should meet her. She’s awesome. She told me I had awesome tits.”
She doesn’t look much like Callie; green-eyed, white, not blonde (thank god), though they’re about the same size. Not as jaw-droppingly beautiful as Callie, but who is? Alison is cute and impish.
“You do at that,” Erica says.
And the world is new.