They had a thing, with the coffee, right before their shift. Sometimes, it was just two of them. Sometimes, all three. Sometimes, one would be coming off of work while one would be going on again. Most days, they managed to find a little time.
Callie poured five sugars into her drink, the Addison grimaced. "Eww. I still can't believe I am friends with someone who not only drinks coffee, but puts five sugars in."
"Hey, I need my strength. Not all of us just stand there and cut, you know. Some of us actually have to be strong and, like, move bones together and stuff."
"Hey!" Miranda snapped her fingers to bring them to attention. "No turf wars, you two. Callie, you are mighty and powerful and mortals tremble beneath you. You are in no position to take smack from someone whose drink smells like fruit."
"It's herbal tea," Addison said. "It has antioxidants."
"As I was saying. And you, my friend---you have gorgeous hair, and an intern who is afraid of you. So you don't need to be taking smack from someone who has melted five sugars into her caffeine. There. We are all superior. Can we move on?"
They looked suitably chastened. "Yes, Miranda," they said together.
"Great. Now, who has something to share?"
"I do," said Addison. "I would like to share that I will not be joining you at Joe's tonight, because I have a hot date."
"What? I'm down to once a week with Sydney now, and she thinks I'm ready. And it turns out she has a really cute brother who is a nurse in the PICU…"
"Addison Montogmery, slumming with the nurses?" Callie teased.
"Hey!" Miranda snapped her fingers again. "What'd I tell you?"
"His name is Michael," Addison continued. "He has dark hair, and little tiny glasses, and a band of freckles on his nose, right there…"
"Awww. She's smitten!" Callie said.
"No! I…look, it's too early for that. I mean, I've only been out with him three times…"
"Three times? And you're telling us only now?"
"Well, I didn't want to rush into things. We're taking it slow, Michael and I. Tonight's the first time we're…well…dressing up. He's taking me to this Italian place he knows. He's either trying to get me into bed, or trying to sell me on his neighbourhood now that I'm looking to get out of the hotel."
"Well, it's been three months," Callie said. "Even I'm ready to get out of the hotel."
"Wait," said Miranda, still parsing that last bit. "What do you mean, trying to get you into bed? Three dates, and he hasn't done it yet?"
"I asked him not to."
Callie's eyes widened. "You asked him not to? And he just…just went along with that?"
"I…Sydney helped me. She told me I was ready. I mean, I am ready. To get back out there, I mean. But she helped me realize that when I take things slow, the bad stuff, relationship-wise, is less likely to sneak up on me and go whammo. So I told him I liked him, told him I thought he was sweet and funny and really, really cute, and then I told him that if it was okay with him, I wanted to take things slow for awhile."
"Does he know about…Mc-You-Know-Who?"
At that, Addison's brow creased into a tiny frown. "I would think you'd be hard-pressed to find a single person in this hospital who didn't know about that. But I really am ready to move on, you know? I want to give Seattle a try on my terms. See if I can really build a life here."
"And if you can't?"
"Then at least I am starting to believe I can build a life somewhere. It does take time, you know."
They all looked sober at that. "Yeah," said Callie. "I know it does."
"And I don't have to wait to move on with my life until everything's perfect. But I'm ready now to get out there again—not 'desperate validation from men who are bad for me' out there, but just, you know, out there again. And he isn't perfect either. You don't get to be a real adult without a little baggage, you know?"
"So, we're going slow, and easing into it, his baggage, my baggage, just enjoying each other. One day at a time, right?"
"On that healthy note," Callie said. "I need to dash. See you two later?"
They said their goodbyes to her. Then, Addison turned to Miranda and said "Miranda, I need to talk."
She always said it that way, quickly, without preamble or embellishment. The magic phrase. She went to Callie for her depression days. Miranda sensed the ortho resident might have some history of her own in that department, although they hadn't spoken of it yet. But she seemed to prefer Miranda for the days she had to talk about Derek.
"Sydney suggested something."
"She thinks…she wants me to…well, to try a double date. Michael and me. Meredith and him."
Him. She still had trouble calling him by name, sometimes.
"Yeah. She thinks it might be good to interact with him outside the hospital in a non-threatening way, to just experience being with him again, as a friend. I know we have no real reason to…I mean, there are no kids, no ties…but I'm having trouble with the idea of just throwing away a third of my life like that, you know? All that history…all that major, major stuff that he was there for, that he was part of…part of me is still really sad that it ended the way it did, really hurt, too, that he…well, I know I made mistakes too, but it wasn't all me, and he did find a rather spectacular way to drive the final nail in, so I'm still a little angry too. But if we can find a way to be friends…make peace…"
"Yeah. That sounds nice."
"It's too early to say just where I'll end up. If I do wind of staying in Seattle, I do have options besides working here. Seeing him every day like this, it might not turn out to be the healthiest long-term option. But I would like to be friends. I would like to believe that if his sisters were in town, we could all go out for drinks together. I would like to think that just because it's over, it doesn't have to be…over, you know?"
"Uh huh." Reflecting it back, without comment or judgment, just as Sydney had told them to do. "I get that."
"So, the double date. He would have Meredith, to cut the awkward for him. I would have Michael, to cut the awkward for me. And we'll see how it goes, this whole just being people thing."
"Worth a try, I guess."
Addison chugged back the last of her drink. "Well, I'd better go. You know, babies to save. Thanks, Miranda."
"Tomorrow is your turn to buy."
"And I'm just saying. That fruity tea set me back three bucks. You'd better be buying me a cookie."
"A sugar freak and a cookie monster. Some friends I have."
"That'll be two cookies now. You going to open that smart mouth of yours again and make it three?"
They traded satisfied glances and pushed aside their drinks, fortified to go off into the world.