Disclaimer: I do not own Grey's Anatomy.
Summary: Sequel to "The Five Letter Word" and "The Four Letter Word".As Arizona begins the long grueling process of surgeries, Callie makes a decision she quickly learns to regret.
Author's Note: I couldn't stay away. With JCap's return to the show just around the corner I felt inspired to write one more story and bring a little more closer to this tiny series I've created. I do hope you enjoy!
The Seven Letter Word-
Callie Torres heard laughter.
She was surprised as the sound met her ears upon her arrival in the hospital cafeteria. It wasn't for the fact that the eating quarters were generally morbid places. Quite the opposite, really, the cafeteria was a place where a surgeon could forget their worries for an hour a day.
No, it wasn't for the fact that she heard laughter at all. It was whose laughter who had caught her attention.
Callie froze and looked across the room; lunch suddenly the farthest thing from her mind.
Teddy sat with Arizona at a table in the far corner, secluded from the hawk-like eyes of hospital workers who had heard of Dr. Robbins terrible accident. Teddy had her head bent, slightly to the side making a face of disgust that had sent Arizona into a fit of loud giggles.
Callie blinked, still not sure that she had heard correctly. The sound was so familiar, yet horribly foreign.
In the two days that Arizona had been back in Seattle Callie had yet to see the blonde laugh, let alone smile. Her bright blue eyes were void of the usual charm and charisma that lit them. The normally optimistic woman was replaced by only a shell of the person she once was. Callie's eyes traveled down Arizona's figure to her arm; snug securely at her side in a sling.
And, Callie knew, she didn't blame Arizona's sudden change in character on anything but horrible fate.
Callie watched as the two friends jumped back into their conversation and Callie felt the smallest twinge of jealousy pull at her chest.
They hadn't spoken since two days before when Callie had gently rocked Arizona's tears away. In the few meetings she, Owen, Mark, and Derek had had with her to go over her surgery schedule Callie would stand at the back of the room; arms crossed, avoiding eye contact at all cost, speaking only when she had to offer her professional opinion.
She didn't mean to act childish. She just…didn't know what to say as the picture of the last glimpse of Arizona's face Callie had seen as they stood in the airport juxtaposed itself with the blonde's features in the present; dancing around in Callie's mind.
And yet, whenever they were near one another, Callie made sure to pull her hair back into a ponytail; so Arizona didn't have to see the cut locks.
In the simplest of ways they could pretend that nothing had changed.
It was enough, she told herself, even though she knew it wasn't true.
Callie nearly jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Mark standing next to her; a sympathetic smile gracing his features, his eyes haunted with worry.
"Callie…" he whispered quietly and she felt her jaw tighten. She pushed away his comforting hand and out of the cafeteria food no longer appealing.
She stalked down the halls, a woman on a mission. Faster then she had realized she had been walking she arrived at the nurses station. She held out her hand, tapping her foot impatiently. Without having to hear a word, the nurse at the desk turned and pulled out a chart, handing it to Callie with an averted gaze.
She didn't have to ask. They all knew.
Callie flipped open Arizona's chart, reading the information she had memorized hours ago. Her eyes devoured the information; the little that there was. But, she knew, in the months to come the chart would blossom into an over abundance of information.
"You don't have to do this."
Callie slowly lifted her gaze to see Mark casually leaning against the station, his voice quiet and casual; his face just as sympathetic as before.
"Yes I do," Callie replied, looking back to the chart making herself clear that she didn't want to have a conversation.
Before another word was spoken, Mark pulled the chart from her hands. He closed the chart and handed it back to the nurse, never taking his eyes from Callie's. From the corner of her eye, she saw the nurse turn and leave and Callie thanked the heavens that some people they worked with valued privacy.
Callie huffed and folded her arms. "I'm trying to do my job, Mark."
Mark sighed. "If you two were still together you wouldn't even be allowed on this case."
"Yeah, well we aren't together, are we?" Callie snapped, speaking over her friend before she had even finished the sentence.
"All the more reason you should take a step back."
Mark's brow rose to his hair line. He pointed to a dark room window in front of them, their reflections barely visible in the glass. "Nothing about you says 'fine'."
Callie looked at herself. Her matted hair, tired eyes lined with bags, slightly wrinkled scrubs. She sighed and felt her shoulders sag, slowly Callie brought a hand to her temple and rubbed; trying to rid herself of the constant headache she only just realized was pounding in her ears.
"Callie?" Mark placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and guided her down the hall to a more secluded area, further away from wandering eyes.
"I want to be angry," she said quietly, moving her hand from her temple to her eyes, keeping her massage going. "I was preparing to be angry and yell and probably cry a little bit too." Mark snorted quietly. "But now…this…I don't…what am I supposed to do? I want to be angry, I am angry. But then I take one look at her and how she's so…and I just want to fly to Malawi and punch the ass who couldn't keep their jeep from tipping."
"Tell her you finally want to fly to Africa and maybe you won't have to worry about fighting."
A natural reaction, Callie stopped rubbing her eyes and punched her friend in the arm. She looked up to him through narrowed eyes. He laughed softly and pulled her to his side. "You should get Samson to take over; he's not bad with a scalpel."
Callie shook her head, simultaneously burrowing closer to Mark's warmth as she disagreed. "She needs the best. And I'm the best."
Callie rolled her eyes, too tired to hit him again. "I just need to do my job and then…"
Callie sighed and shrugged. Against her side she felt Mark move, ready to speak again when he froze and Callie didn't have to ask to know why.
Teddy and Arizona turned a corner; Arizona's street clothes a stark contrast to the blue of Teddy's scrubs. The duo froze when they caught sight of Mark and Callie at the end of the hall. Arizona's blue eyes widened, flying back and forth between the two of them. Callie clumsily detached herself from Mark's side, straightening her scrubs. Arizona lowered her gaze. Teddy smiled sadly and offered a shy wave before placing a hand on Arizona's shoulder and guiding her back down the hall.
Callie could feel Mark turn and look at her, obviously waiting to see what she would do.
She sighed and pulled her hair back.
Callie peeked around the door frame.
Trying not be seen, she watched as Arizona exited the bathroom.
Three days later and Arizona's first surgery had been a success. Taking small pride in her skills, Callie was pleased to know that Arizona was well enough to be discharged. She watched as Arizona pulled a small travel bag up onto the bed, stuffing an extra change of clothes and toiletries into the sack.
Callie watched as she tried to pack with one hand, wincing herself as Arizona subconsciously moved her injured arm. Her face contorted in pain and she dropped her toothbrush; disappearing behind the bed to pick it up before reappearing.
And like it always did, it happened.
Callie straightened as their eyes met and she subconsciously straightened her lab coat.
"Hey," Arizona spoke quietly.
"Hey," Callie croaked out, feeling as if she hadn't spoken in weeks.
"Come to do one final check before I leave?"
Callie almost smiled, thankful that Arizona was giving her an excuse to be there. Then again, she supposed it could just be the pain-meds the blonde had been given.
"How are you feeling?" Callie asked, taking a cautious step into room. She picked up the chart from the end of the hospital bed and mindlessly flipped through it before setting it back down.
Arizona pulled at the strap of her sling. "Ready to get home and sleep until I can take some more meds."
Callie nodded and the two fell into an awkward silence. Arizona dropped her toothbrush into her bag; Callie scuffed her shoe against the floor.
"Dr. Robbins?" Dr. Harrow, a new intern stuck her head into the room. Callie acknowledged her with a silent nod, the young doctor showed promise in Ortho. "They wanted me to tell you that your cab is here. When you're ready Nurse Anne will take you down."
"Thank you," Arizona said, a small kind smile gracing her features. Despite her best efforts to keep it at bay, Callie felt her stomach do a small flip at the sight. "Tell her I'm ready when she is."
Dr. Harrow nodded and left, leaving them alone once more. Their eyes met before Arizona lowered hers again and proceeded to pack again. Her efforts were labored and difficult, a natural righty, the blonde was having difficulty packing with only her left hand.
Callie took a cautious step forward to help then stopped herself.
What was she supposed to do?
"Ready, Dr. Robbins?" Anne asked, coming into the room with a wheelchair.
"Just about," Arizona said, slinging her bag over her left shoulder. "You know, now I understand why patients put up such a fuss having to be wheeled out."
Anne laughed quietly and Callie smiled; though she was sure it looked more like a grimace. She watched as the nurse helped Arizona get settled in the chair.
In another time, it would be Callie helping her out. Callie taking care of Arizona. Callie driving her back to their apartment so she could rest and recuperate.
Suddenly, curiosity grabbed Callie by throat and before she knew what she was saying she spoke: "Where are you staying?"
Arizona and Anne froze; the doctor's eyes were wide and surprised while the nurse looked like she would rather be anywhere else but in the room.
Callie immediately looked to the ground, not sure why she asked. She wasn't supposed to care anymore. And yet she did…she did immensely.
"At a hotel down the street."
"The Archfield?" Callie asked, brow high. Out of the corner of her eyes she could see Anne slowly retreat from the room.
The corner of Arizona's lips pulled lightly at the corner, apprehensive amusement tracing her features. "Just The Smithson. The Archfield is a bit out of my price range."
"I didn't mean to-."
They fell into silence again, Arizona and the chair blocking Callie into the room. Arizona picked at a thread on her jeans, Callie coughed.
This, this, was why Callie had avoided being in a room with the blonde and now she had gone and gotten herself stuck. She watched as Arizona looked over her shoulder, no doubt searching for Anne, but it seemed the nurse had disappeared.
"You should stay with someone who can help you," Callie finally broke the silence. Awkward conversation would be better then nothing until Anne returned.
"I'm not crippled."
"You know what I mean; you could barely pack a bag by yourself. You've had surgery Arizona; you're in for a long journey. You're going to need help."
Arizona sighed and finally looked up, meeting Callie's eyes. "Teddy doesn't have the room, neither do Derek and Meredith. I wouldn't survive living with Cristina, as much as I like Owen and I'm not even going to pretend like I thought about asking Mark," Arizona said, her tone making it clear that she didn't want or need to have this conversation.
"What about your parents? Your mom could fly out; she wanted to visit before…"
Callie's voiced trailed as she realized what she was saying and Arizona visibly froze. Their gazes dropped and the air thickened as unease grabbed Callie by the throat, an unease she was sure would be matched in Arizona's face.
"I love my parents," Arizona slowly began, sighing slightly and rubbing her eyes. "But they'd be more of a hindrance than a help. I'm not a child, I'll be fine."
"Stay with me."
The minute the words were out of her mouth, Callie regretted them. Arizona's eyes widened, horror filling them as she looked at Callie in shock. Callie gulped and took a tentative step back; needing to distance herself from the woman in front of her.
She couldn't believe she said it. She couldn't believe she thought it. They could harldy look at one another, could barely speak to one another, didn't know what to say to the other. But instinct had taken hold of her and instinct to Callie was protecting and caring for Arizona. She hadn't had open heart surgery, but Arizona was going to need help.
"The guest room. It's empty. You can take it. It'll be more comfortable then a hotel room."
"I'm working a lot, I'll hardly be there. Just…" Callie paused, hating how her voice suddenly took a turn to pleading. "Please."
Arizona sighed. "This isn't a good idea."
"It's a really bad idea, actually."
"Yes, it is."
"We haven't really talked about…"
"Then this will give us a reason to…"
"Really bad idea."
"Ready?" As if on cue, Anne returned, walking into the room cautiously. They both nodded.
Callie watched as Anne wheeled Arizona from the room; letting out a long breath she hadn't realized she was holding.
They would regret it, she knew that much. It was awful, terrible; bad as Arizona had pointed out. But Arizona could have said "No." Callie could have taken it back. Neither had, and a part of her knew, neither ever would. They couldn't keep away from one another.
Even if they tried.
Arizona stared at the hotel room.
It was strange to be in Seattle. To be in the place she called home. It was strange to be in the place that was home but felt so foreign.
How long had she been gone? She couldn't recall.
Sighing, Arizona walked further into the room; awkwardly wheeling in her suitcase. She kicked the door closed and, if it were possible, the room became even quieter.
She let go of the suitcase handle, trudging across the room until she collapsed on the bed. She groaned towards the ceiling, pain shooting through her shoulder and her hand at being jerked.
Right. She had to have surgery.
Despite the severity of her situation she kept forgetting she even had a problem to begin.
How had she gotten here?
How had this become her life?
A hotel room down the street from the hospital she had once worked. From the woman she once…still loved. The woman she now didn't know how to face. The woman she couldn't even think of words to say to..
They had stayed in the room after Mark had left for Arizona didn't know how long. Calliope had rocked her, letting her tears fall, as she calmed her. It was as if they hadn't parted. As if Arizona hadn't flown across the globe. And yet nothing was the same. They had parted. It was different.
When Arizona's tears finally subsided they had simply stayed there. Holding one another. Their bodies had been wrought with tension and their breathing had been labored. Arizona had been consumed with everything about the woman holding her. The way she smelled, the way she felt, her soft (yet drastically short) hair falling through her fingers.
And then Callie's pager had sounded and she had jumped away, stumbling through the door without so much of a backwards glance.
Arizona puffed out her cheeks and looked to the left, a window to the outside world. Just on the horizon she could see the hospital.
Even being there felt odd, foreign. Her time in Africa was done, she was back, and yet as what? A patient.
The Chief had approached her as she was leaving, offering her a consulting position. She would work and as she recovered she would be able to take on more. She had accepted, though she wasn't sure how she felt about it. She needed a job, to work, to find a new apartment, to buy a new car. But to be a doctor and not be a surgeon? It was almost unthinkable.
But she had accepted. Because getting back to before meant starting somewhere.
Even if she didn't quite know where that somewhere was.
And being back at the hospital did mean being next to Calliope once more.
She didn't know what to say to the woman. Or how to say it once she figured out what it was. What did one say to the love who hurt you and who you hurt in return?
They had been here once before and Arizona had promised herself never to return. And now they had. How was it that fate had lead them here?
There would be no tragedy like last time to lead them back together, or so she hoped.
Working together was, perhaps, their only saving grace.
A knock on the door startled Arizona from her thoughts and she nearly fell off the bed. With confusion tracing her features she rose and walked to the door. Peering through the peephole Arizona felt a semblance of normality flowing through her veins.
"How did you know I was staying here?" she asked as she opened the door.
Teddy smiled wryly, the corner of her lips almost pulling to a smirk. "You do realize where we work, right?" Sshe asked as she pushed past Arizona and into the room.
The door clicked shut and Arizona watched as Teddy took in her current living quarters. She turned, looked at Arizona to her sling and back to her face.
"I brought beer," Teddy said, holding up a six-pack of Arizona's favorite.
Arizona smiled. God, she loved her best friend.
It was nice to know that not everything had changed.
And that alone was enough to give Arizona hope.
Callie Torres regretted it.
She regretted it a lot.
Just like she knew she would.
It was bad.
Just like Arizona had said it would be.
Currently living with Arizona Robbins was nothing short of complex mess.
They did nothing but exist around one another. They didn't speak. They could barely make eye contact. Callie would come home to see Arizona reading on the couch and they would share an awkward gaze before Callie would retreat to her bedroom and stay there until she heard Arizona retreat to hers. Callie would go to Joe's with Mark and see Arizona there with Teddy. They would return at the same time of night and awkwardly try to squeeze through the door without the other noticing.
It was nothing and everything at once.
And yet, Callie would wake in the morning to freshly brewed cup of coffee, perfectly made, waiting for her on the counter.
And yet, Callie always made sure that, when she had the time to cook, there was always enough food for two.
When Arizona had trouble using her left hand, Callie would complete the task for her.
When Callie came home, exhausted from a thirty-two hours at the hospital she found the entire apartment cleaned and her laundry folded.
It was existing without knowing how.
Callie sighed as she unlocked the apartment door. She paused, taking in another deep breath before she slowly walked in. The room was dark except for the table lamp in the far corner. Arizona was no where to be found. She wondered if, perhaps, the blonde was out with Teddy.
And then she smelled.
The dark, musky, horribly familiar scent. One she despised above almost all others.
The faint smell of smoke.
Not needing to know where it was coming from, Callie followed her nose to Cristina's old room. She pushed open the door to see Arizona leaning halfway out the window; taking a long drag from a cigarette.
"What are you doing?"
Arizona jumped at the sound of Callie's voice, falling into a loud coughing fit. The cigarette fell from her hand and onto the street below.
When her coughing subsided, Arizona turned to her with wide blue eyes. "I made sure I kept it outside."
Callie shook her head. "You told me you quit."
Arizona sighed, running her good hand through her hair. "Callie…"
"It's not like it's a habit, you know that."
"You told me I quit."
Arizona huffed. "So I started again."
"Why does it matter?"
"Why won't you answer the question?"
"Why are you being so insistent?"
Callie shook her head, finally dropping her purse in the bedroom doorway. "I'm not playing this game with you."
"You think I'm playing a game?" Arizona asked, her voice taking the tone of affronted.
"It's a simple question, Arizona."
It was weird to be talking once again. And yet horribly familiar. It was, Callie knew, a testament to who they were. They barely spoke yet in the few times that they had conversation came easy. It was almost as if things hadn't changed. Almost.
If you didn't count the tension in their shoulders and their tones that quickly became agitated.
Arizona opened her mouth to reply, shook her head, and looked to the floor. Sighing, she replied: "Africa."
"Why what?" Arizona asked, rubbing her face in exasperation.
"Why did you start again?"
The corner of Arizona's mouth turned up in a small, wry smile. "Why do you think?"
Callie felt heat run up her neck and she looked to the floor. They awkwardly stood together, both looking anywhere but the other. "Well you should stop."
Arizona laughed quietly, humorlessly. "Until I find my own place, I think it's going to be my only saving grace."
Callie's head snapped up. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Arizona shook her head again. "You know what I mean."
"I'm not sure I do," Callie said, feeling a wall building itself in her chest.
"You do realize that I've lived here for two weeks and the first words you've chosen to speak to me are about my bad habits."
"You haven't spoken to me either." It was a playground response, but it was the best Callie could come up with.
And it wasn't like it was true.
"You're the one that invited me to stay."
"So that means I have to take all steps forward?"
With each word their voices were becoming more tense; clipped. Callie felt something in her stirring, rising, building in her blood. Their break-up in the airport. The months without Arizona. Her quick and tragic return. Their living situation. The Latina suddenly realized just how big a toll it had been taking on her and now that she felt its weight she wanted it gone.
Arizona sighed and shook her head. "It's late. We should talk about this some other time," she said, closing the window.
Callie snorted. "Yes, avoid the subject. You're good at doing that."
Arizona turned on her faster than Callie had ever seen the blonde move. "And what exactly is that supposed to mean?"
Callie shrugged, trying to be the picture perfect of nonchalance; though deep down she felt her entire core beginning to shake. "Just what it is. We've been avoiding one another and we're finally talking and you just-want to stop. Turn away, avoid it. It's like you don't even want to try."
Ever since they had started dating Callie could read Arizona like a book. The blonde's blue eyes were more expressive than any she had ever seen. And time apart hadn't ruined her skills at it. The minute the words had left Callie's mouth she saw something break in Arizona's blue orbs, replaced with a fiery anger she had only seen a handful of times.
"You think I don't try?" Arizona asked, her voice deadly level. "Wasn't it me who agreed to change my visions of the future I had? Wasn't I the one who agreed to get along with your ass of a best friend even though I'd rather not touch him with a ten-foot pole? I've tried Callie, I've tried a hell of a lot harder then you have."
Callie released a steady breath. She could feel it building, a hot passion that was reserved only for Arizona. A passion that was quickly manifesting itself in anger. "I tried to be happy changing my life when I was being forced to move to another continent."
Arizona's jaw dropped, "Forced?" She asked, taking a slow step forward. "Forced? I never forced you to do anything, Callie. It was your idea. You wanted to come with, I never forced anything on you. I thought you were coming because you wanted to. It's not my fault you had to be bitchy about it."
"It may have been my idea but I didn't see you coming up with any better ones. You wouldn't even talk about it."
"Because I was scared!" Arizona all but yelled, her eyes wide and her breathing hard. Her mouth immediately fell shut and she shook her head, slowly she moved to the edge of the bed, burying her face in her left hand.
Callie stood, completely still; her mind buzzing. She tried to remember how they had gotten here, but she could barely remember walking through the apartment door. Their lives had changed so fast, the day Arizona had learned she received the grant. Callie had seen her happy, she had seen her frustrated when they argued, sad when she came home that night.
Callie had only ever seen Arizona scared once before. And a man had been standing in a doorway holding a gun.
"You were what?"
Arizona sniffled and it was only then that Callie realized angry tears had welled in both their eyes. "I was scared," she said again, rubbing her eyes once more. "I was so happy and I had hoped you would be too. Happy and proud. But you were so-not. And I didn't know what to do. And then you suggested the idea of coming with and I took it, because I didn't know what else to say. And I was scared that if I opened my mouth to suggest anything else that would be it. That we would be done," she rambled, like she always did and if Callie hadn't been so riled she would have found it endearing as ever.
Arizona snorted a dry, ironic laugh escaping her lips. "And look where that got us."
Callie sighed, feeling her anger dissipate. She wondered how they, two people who worked so well together as a unit, could be so awful at communicating. She rubbed the back of her neck and slowly walked to the bed. "I was scared too," she said, slowly sitting down.
They were close. Platonically so. And it was painful.
"You've even said yourself, you don't believe in long distance relationships. You thought I wasn't proud of you and…if I didn't go…" Callie trailed off, looking at the wall across from them. "I was scared too."
Arizona sat up straighter, her gaze matching Callie's long distance to the wall. "We're quite the pair."
Callie chuckled quietly. "So people say."
Arizona laughed again, this time the sound almost joyful. It was a sound Callie had missed.
"I was proud, you know," Callie continued on. "I am proud of you. Even if I never said it…I'm…so incredibly proud."
"I know," Arizona replied. "Deep down, I always knew."
"I'm sorry too."
Silence settled over them as they both continued to stare at the wall. On the bed, their hands rested close, their pinkies almost touching.
There was so much that they had said. So much more that they needed to say. Their argument tonight wasn't a fix. And there was no telling when or what would lead them to it.
But for now…
It was enough.