Disclaimer: Grey's Anatomy is the property of ABC television, Shondra Rhimes and Co. No copyright infringement is intended.
Ghosts: Chapter Four
Cristina sat on the chair at the end of her bed, a book lying face down on her lap. Reading was proving to be a pointless exercise. Owen lay amidst the tangle of blankets in front of her. He was too close for her to concentrate and too vulnerable to ignore, even in his current state of exhaustion. Sighing softly, she stood and left the book on the chair. The apartment was dead quiet. Not even Callie's habitual snores penetrated the stillness as Cristina navigated her way to the kitchen in the dark. She pulled a bottle of water from the fridge, thought better and grabbed two. On the way back through the living room she bumped her hip against a bookshelf and swore vehemently. Once inside the relative safety of the lamp-lit bedroom, she pressed one cold bottle against the fresh bruise and reached for the book.
She dropped both bottles and spun around to find Owen sitting against the headboard. One knee was drawn up and his elbow rested on it. "You were asleep. I'm sorry I woke you," she managed when the shock had passed.
"No, no you didn't." He scrubbed a hand through his hair and across the back of his neck. "Sorry I scared you."
"Yeah, well, it's late."
"And you're reading?"
He cocked an eyebrow, sensing the lie.
"Okay, trying to read," she amended testily. "Go back to sleep."
"I'm sorry about..."
"I know. We'll talk about it later."
"Lie down with me?"
Owen flipped back the blankets. He swallowed audibly and nodded to the empty space.
Cristina leaned down to pick up the bottles, stalling for time. She had repeatedly considered crawling into bed with him over the last few hours. It had been a long night of her drifting in and out of the room. Unwilling to leave him for too long lest he wake up alone, but unsure what she should do in the wake of his breakdown.
Her name was softly spoken, not quite but almost a plea. She bit her lip and placed the bottles of water on the nightstand. The bed creaked loudly as she sat on the edge of the mattress and took off her shoes. His distress was palpable, existing as a creeping chill filling the space between them. She wondered how he had slept up until now. Slipping off her watch, Cristina pulled up her legs and turned to face him.
Wide blue eyes streaked with red met hers. Owen's jaw muscles rippled and his teeth clicked as he bit back whatever had come to mind.
"Lie down," she said.
"You don't have to…to touch me."
"Lie down," she repeated firmly.
Owen dropped his knee and eased down until his head rested in her lap. Cristina put her hand on his shoulder. The weight on her legs was inexplicably light as if he were holding himself aloft. She urged him to relax with gentle pressure. There was resistance and then a deep sigh as Owen draped his arm over her legs and cupped her thigh. The silence stretched out and she was just starting to wish she had picked up her book when he spoke.
"Earlier...I didn't know what would happen. I didn't expect...Mike and I are old friends. He meant a lot to me for a long time and seeing him again…like that…" His grip tightened and his voice lowered to a jagged whisper. "Seeing him brought back memories of things…of people I wish to Christ I could forget…"
The muscles beneath Cristina's hand were taut and trembling. She pushed up the short sleeve of his black t-shirt and gently stroked the skin, waiting.
"I keep thinking that just one more patient, one more success, will mitigate some of what's happened. It can't stay this bad…" Warm air bathed her leg as he huffed a sigh. "I can't sleep. I can't eat without wanting to throw up… I can't…"
He trailed off and the shaking increased. She rubbed his shoulder and covered the hand on her thigh with her own. His fingers interlaced with hers. Their knuckles cracked and she winced at the sound. Outside the traffic crawled by. The sound of the tires on the damp asphalt underscored his rapid breaths with a low shushing hiss. Cristina stared at the ceiling, silently willing him a calm she did not feel. Eventually the tight muscles smoothed out and his hand moved to cover hers.
Cristina reached to brush the damp hair back from his temple. "You need to talk to someone about this. You can't do it alone. You do see that, right?"
"Not easy," he murmured thickly.
"And what happened earlier, what's been happening, is easy?" Cristina countered with a trace of irritation. He did not reply, nor did he move. The emotional outburst in the parking garage had crumbled the last of his barriers to dust. She needed to press the advantage before he could regroup. The irony of this most basic tactic brought a wan smile to her lips. "You asked me for another chance. I want to give it to you or I would have sent you home in a cab instead of leading you over here tonight. This is eating you alive. Go and talk to someone before you're no good to anyone, not even yourself."
"And why would you wait for me to figure it out?"
Cristina could feel the tension in every molecule of Owen's body. He expected her to run. Was certain that it was only a matter of time before he was left alone with the ghost of the person he had become. He would have been right not so very long ago, she mused. After Burke, after the sell out of her soul, Cristina Yang would have run screaming from the complexities of a man like Owen Hunt. Time brought clarity of purpose and definition of persona. She had stood up in front of a room full of her peers and taken credit for what was her due. There was success to be found after Burke. Success that was earned and not manipulated out of some misguided sense of loyalty or obligation. "And why wouldn't I?" she challenged. "Don't you think you're worth it?"
"Worth it?" He chuckled ruefully and kissed her leg. "I honestly don't know anymore."
"I do." Cristina ran her fingers through the short red hair, delighting in the warmth of him. Owen tightened his grip and a flush of pleasure spread through her chest. Someday she would tell him about Burke. Explain the reasons why she had thought to run and why she needed to stay for herself as much as for him. Someday soon, but not tonight.