Disclaimer: I do not own Grey's Anatomy.
Author's Note: I had made a decision to stop writing fanfiction to focus more on my own writing…but the muse struck and wouldn't stay quiet. So here I am with one final (for now) story. Please, do enjoy.
Summary: AU. Callie followed Arizona to Africa, only to return home four weeks later, alone. Now, three years passed, Arizona returns to Seattle; ready to pick up her life where she left it.
The Last Three Years-
She watched as a single tear fell onto her black leather jacket.
Callie sniffled and coughed; carefully she set her jacket aside and continued packing.
This wasn't how it was supposed to happen. This wasn't supposed to happen at all. But it was. She was packing to leave. To leave Africa and return to Seattle for good. Alone. Packing to leave. To leave.
To leave Arizona.
She knew she was in denial. She told herself it wasn't true. But the silent tears rolling down her cheeks told a different story.
She thought this had been it for her. That Arizona had been it. The finale. The end game. Her happily ever after. So why, when, was she saying good bye?
Callie sighed and folder her scrubs setting them neatly in her pack.
Arizona had been her fin, but now they could barely stand to look at one another.
This, she knew, was their only option. It was as if neither had a choice in the matter.
Perhaps she should have seen it coming, long before their plane landed across the world. But she had been too hopeful. Hopeful that for once she could be in a relationship that wouldn't unravel at the seams.
They had just fixed themselves. And yet it seemed as if fate had different plans for them.
Callie knew she had been hard to put up with in the days leading to their departure from Seattle. She wasn't quite sure how Arizona had even put up with her. But she had thought it would be a phase, something to pass through until she got to Africa. Until they settled into their new life. Until her mind could finally catch up with her body and the quick pace at which her life had changed.
But it hadn't been a phase. Despite the joy she had gotten from the work she was doing—and their was joy, she could practically see the change that was happening in the lives of those young children she was helping. Despite the fact that she was proud of her girlfriend for winning the grant. Despite the fact that she could see the accomplishment plainly painted across Arizona's features. Despite it all. Her mood hadn't changed.
She couldn't bring herself to love this place like Arizona had. Arizona had a choice in coming, and as far as Callie was concerned, she hadn't. So she had remained bitter, perhaps a little bit resentful, and full of contempt.
Her mood had quickly manifested itself in Arizona and by the end of the first week they were arguing. By the end of the second they didn't so much as touch one another. By the third conversation had stopped. By the fourth—Callie sighed-by the fourth she was packing.
It was a sad, twisted ride on the merry-go-round of life they were being forced to take.
Callie huffed and stuffed her spare pair of shoes into her bag.
Suddenly, there was a soft knock on the door before it opened. Callie froze and turned slowly just as Arizona's head peaked around the corner.
They both stared wide-eyed and weary. And Callie felt panic well in her chest.
Arizona wasn't supposed to be back to their room until later this evening, when Callie was already on her flight back. They had both agreed it would be better that way. Easier. A clean break. And yet, here they were.
Life could kiss her sweet ass.
"Hey," Arizona said quietly, stepping into her room and lowering her gaze.
"Hey," Callie replied, unable to look away.
"What are you-."
"I just came to get-."
They both spoke and paused at the same time. Arizona smiled awkwardly, resembling more of a grimace, and scratched the back of her neck.
"I needed some books," Arizona said walking across the room and picking up a pile of medicinal references books she had brought along.
"Well I'll just…" Arizona slowly motioned to the door and walked backwards.
Callie finally tore her gaze from the other woman, returning it to her half packed bag.
"Calliope." Arizona's voice broke the silence. Callie turned to see the blonde paused at the door; her hand outstretched and frozen on the door handle. Her head was tilted slightly back, as if looking over her shoulder yet keeping her gaze away from Callie.
Arizona took in a deep breath. "I…" Her voice broke and she trailed off.
Callie took in a deep shuddering breath. "Me too…"
Arizona nodded and threw the door open, walking away without a backwards glance..
Callie felt her eyes dry, tears no longer able to fall as a resigned anger filled her belly. For two people who used to have no problem with conversation it was hard to believe those would be the last words they spoke to one another.
Callie sighed once more and picked up the next item in her To-Pack-Pile. The day-to-day x-ray calendar Mark had gotten her as a going away gift. She ripped off yesterday's paper and crumpled it, tossing it behind her. A dry laugh escaped her throat as she looked at the current date staring back at her. Mocking her.
December 7th, 2010.
A date which would live in freakin' infamy.
Callie's eyes snapped open and she breathed heavily.
Her mind quickly played over the events of her dream; though, she knew, dream was far too wrong of a word. Her memory. A memory that haunted her nights like a monster under the bed. A day hadn't gone by since she had returned to Seattle that she hadn't replayed their last moments together in her mind.
Even when she hadn't been alone. Even when her bed had been filled with another; another woman, another man. It hadn't mattered. The memory was still there. Plaguing her. Even though three years had finally passed, Arizona Robbins was still fresh in her mind.
Callie rolled across the bed and onto her side, feeling a lead weight settle in her stomach when she looked to her alarm clock, as the date and time flashed back at her.
She almost forgotten. Almost.
Fresh in her mind and today more so than ever.
Callie was just beginning to panic when the door was thrown open and Mark walked in, clad in his scrubs and lab coat.
"Mark!" Callie yelped, jumping up and grabbing the sheets to cover her body.
"Relax, it's not like I haven't seen it before."
Callie rolled her eyes. "How many times do I have to remind you that you have a fiancé?"
Mark laughed. "That fact still isn't going to change the past."
Callie huffed, blowing a piece of her short, sleep heavy hair out of her face. She had gotten it cut upon her return to the States and hadn't let it grown past her shoulders in the last years. "Can you leave, please?"
"Are you going to get out of bed if I do?" Mark asked, his brow high.
Callie flopped back onto the bed.
"You're going to be late if you don't."
"So I'm a little bit late."
"Bailey told me that if I didn't get you to the hospital in thirty minutes, she'd come over here and do it herself."
"Since when do you listen to Bailey?"
"Since she threatens me with scalpels."
"I'm not even supposed to be in for another twenty minutes, what's got her scrubs in a twist?"
"What?" Callie seethed, sitting up again.
"Get out of bed. Today is going to be fine."
Callie sighed. Mark carefully stepped forward until he was sitting on the bed, Callie ducked her head as he placed his hand on her shoulder. "Go to work. Do a surgery. Kick-ass. Worry later."
"Mark," Callie said shaking her head. "Today is just…what if…I don't know if I can do this. What do I even…?"
"You don't even know if you are going to see her."
Callie opened her mouth to respond, eyes narrowed and skeptical, but Mark continued on.
"Worry. Later." Mark said with a gentle push into Callie's shoulder. He stood and straightened his lab coat, walking towards Callie's door. "I'll see you in fifteen minutes," he said, leaving no room for argument. "Walk tall, Torres."
The door closed, leaving Callie alone. She turned to her left and looked at the alarm clock again.
December 7th, 2013.
A day that had approached before she was ready. A day that she had been dreading for the last month. And yet, despite her reservations, a small spark of hope settled into her heart. Which made her hate today even more.
How could she still be hopeful after all this time?
Despite three years of separation, Arizona Robbins was about to come into her life once more. And she just wasn't sure she was ready for that.
News of Dr. Robbins return to Seattle Grace-Mercy West had spread like wild fire. For a month, it seemed that every corner she turned quiet gazes were trained on Callie. Hushed whispers followed her back. As if people were actually expecting an ambulance of incoming drama.
And maybe they were. And now it seemed, her friends were going to make sure she faced it; whether she wanted to or not.
Callie sighed and fell against her bed again, burrowing under the covers.
Her alarm clock went off.
Arizona Robbins stood in the rain.
She shifted her purse higher onto her shoulder and clutched tightly to her umbrella. She had half the mind to drop her umbrella and let the drops soak her skin. She had missed it, the rain, and she wanted nothing more than to let it envelop her. But she was about to have a meeting with the Chief, and she was certain that coming in, soaked to the skin, wasn't the brightest of ideas.
So she simply stood, staring at the tall imposing building before her, covered in an umbrella.
She expected to feel a sense of elation upon returning to her former place of employment. A sense of pride and joy to be back after three years, to be able to speak of her accomplishments to her closest friends. To see the people she cared about most in the world. Her second family. The ones she-loved.
And she did, she really did, but despite it all she felt a heavy sense of dread and uncertainty settle in her chest. What if she wasn't as welcome as she thought she would be? What if no one wanted her back?
It was this fear that had kept her at her parents place in D.C. two weeks longer than she had originally intended. Why she had spent a month brooding and wondering if returning to Seattle would be what she wanted. Needed.
It was a month to distress. The first vacation she had had in three years and it had been heavenly. She had been able to plan, prepare for returning to her life. Structuring everything neatly so she could make the move as smooth as possible. Return to what life had been like three years before.
If that were at all possible.
And she knew it wouldn't be.
But she was going to do her best to try.
The glass doors slid open before her, a silent beacon, as a body stepped out. Tall and muscular, lean though a few pounds gained; she recognized the form instantly.
Mark, clad in only scrubs and lab coat, slowed as he neared Arizona.
"Robbins?" He asked, bemused surprise lacing his words., his own umbrella bumping hers.
"Hi Mark," Arizona replied with the best smile she could muster. Of all the people she had expected to see first see she hadn't thought it would be Mark Sloan.
"You going to go in?" He asked as he stopped next to her, looking over his shoulder before returning his gaze to hers.
Arizona shrugged. "Where are you doing?"
Mark pointed to the complex across the street and Arizona felt a lump rise in her throat.
In all her planning to return to Seattle, Arizona had wondered about that the most. What would happen with the woman who had left her in Africa. Would she be single? Could they be friends again? Lovers? Would they even want to.
It was an endless cycle of questions that made her dizzy, so she chose to ignore them. But, it seemed, fate and Mark Sloan would not allow her to do so.
"You look good, Robbins," Mark said with a nod.
Arizona's smile widened and she nodded her thanks. She looked back to the apartment complex. "Mark, I-."
Arizona stopped when Mark held up his hand. "I reserve judgment for later. Go inside, Robbins, it's colder than hell out." Without another word, Mark took off again; heading straight for the apartments.
Arizona watched as Mark disappeared across the street. She had never understood the man before she had left; and now, it seemed, she had much more to learn.
With a self-assuring nod, Arizona righted her shoulders and stepped forward, through the sliding doors and into the warm embrace of the hospital.
"I still can't believe you got married."
Arizona laughed as Teddy rolled her eyes.
"And divorced," The cardio-surgeon added as she handed another picture to Arizona. "Henry and his wife are expecting twins next month."
"Do I sense some jealousy?" Arizona teased, feeling a great sense of ease as she talked to her best friend. It was as if three years hadn't passed. Though, she knew, it could have had to do with the fact that Teddy was one of the few people, including her family, that she had kept in steady contact with.
"Aunt Teddy is perfectly happy for them," Teddy said with a roll of the eyes.
"I still wish I could have been there."
"It was really romantic; the court house even had a picture of Elvis and everything."
Arizona snorted. Both women sighed as they settled into their chairs in the cafeteria, enjoying an easy lunch on Teddy's break.
"I'm glad your back," Teddy said after a moment's silence.
Arizona smiled. "Me too."
"Are you?" Teddy asked, her brow high.
Arizona looked around, taking in the cafeteria around her. So many new faces mixed with familiar ones. But the bright lights and the tables were the same. "I am. Everything is so—different and the same, so…yes, yes I am."
Teddy nodded, and though silent, Arizona knew the other woman understood.
A loud buzz sounded from the table.
Teddy sighed and picked up her pager. "I definitely didn't miss that," Arizona said, eyeing the pager with slight disgust.
"You'll get used to it again soon enough. I have to go, 911 to the Pit."
Arizona nodded. "I need to go get my picture taken for my new ID badge, anyway."
"Good. See you later?"
Arizona sat in her chair after Teddy left, finishing the last of her tea. She stood and gathered her belongings, nodding greetings as people passed her by and welcomed her back. She was about to cross the room and head to HR when the doors opened and she felt her heart freeze.
Standing across the room was Calliope, her hair short and her sleeves rolled up. Arizona felt her stomach turn at the sight of her ex. Hair chopped off, her face a little thinner than remembered, but still as beautiful as ever.
She felt it in her, a magnetic force, and before she knew what was happening her gaze met the Latina's from across the room.
They stared. Arizona could practically see the fear in Callie's wide eyes and she was certain the look on her face mirrored the one she was seeing. She hadn't planned this part yet. She had avoided it so. And now, she didn't know what to do.
Arizona willed herself to move. She willed Callie to move. She willed something to happen. But nothing did, they simply stared.
Noise around them ceased, whether it was in her own mind or from the fact that people were probably staring she wasn't sure.
Tentatively, Arizona raised her hand and offered a shy wave.
The movement was all it took. Calliope broke their gaze and turned, quickly retreating from the cafeteria. The doors swung shut behind her.
Arizona hated paper work.
Hated it with a fiery, burning passion. It was stupid and pointless and, God, her hand hurt.
With a final flourish she signed the last page and handed the stack back to the woman behind the desk. "Glad to have you back, Dr. Robbins."
"Thank you, Angie," she said as the woman handed her her new ID badge and scrubs.
There was a thud as a stack of charts landed on the desk next to her. "When is your first day back?"
Arizona peered around the charts to see Bailey standing before her. "Wednesday," she said with a smile.
Bailey nodded. "You want help moving your things into your office, ask Karev. He's been going stir crazy these last few weeks."
"He has?" Arizona's brow rose high.
Bailey nodded. "Three years and two incompetent department heads will do that to a promising surgeon."
"My department is going to be in ruins, isn't it?"
"S'what happens when you leave for long periods of time," Bailey said. "Idiots are put in charge. Things change."
"It's nice to see you again, too, Bailey."
"You take pictures while you were away?"
"I have them here." Arizona nodded, and went to pull her camera out of her purse.
Bailey held up her hand. "I'll see them tomorrow. My shift ended thirty minutes ago. Have a good night, Robbins."
Arizona smiled as she watched Bailey walk away. Apparently, not everything had changed, she mused. Shaking her head Arizona grabbed her new belongs and turned, only to have her steps fall short once more.
Down the hall she could see Calliope, arms crossed, leaning casually against the wall; the bemused smile on her face let Arizona know that she had just witnessed her exchange with Bailey.
Their eyes met and both of their smiles fell. Callie shifted to stand completely and Arizona sighed. When nothing more happened, Arizona sighed once more. Offering Callie a sad smile she turned and began to leave.
Arizona paused and turned to see Callie, frozen in surprise at her own request and step forward. Arizona's brow rose. Callie slowly walked forward, motioning with her arm for Arizona to lead her outside. Arizona needed no further encouragement as she felt the eyes of a few nearby nurses and doctors trained on them both.
They stopped short of the parking lot, staying dry beneath the small awning as the rain continued to fall around them. They stood, both facing forward, watching the drops fall.
"I'm sorry about-."
They smiled awkwardly as they simultaneously tried to start the conversation.
"Sorry, go ahead," Callie said quietly.
Callie nodded and they fell into silence again. "I just." Another silence. "I wanted to say sorry for running from the cafeteria earlier. You just-surprised me."
Arizona smiled slightly, "It's okay. I don't blame you."
Arizona's brow rose high at Callie's inquisition; her tone hinting at something far more different than the cafeteria. "Not completely, no."
Callie nodded. "Me neither."
Arizona returned the nod as they fell into another silence. It wasn't comfortable, Arizona mused, but it wasn't completely uncomfortable either. It was just-different.
"Well, I should…I need to check into my hotel."
Callie nodded and took a step back towards the hospital doors. "Right. Well, have a good night."
Arizona nodded and pulled out her umbrella. She popped it open and took two steps into the rain before turning slightly. She expected to see nothing but an empty doorway. Instead, she found Callie; still standing, waiting. And for what, Arizona knew exactly.
In their time together, Calliope had made it a point to always make sure Arizona got to her destinations safely. Whether it be from a car to a building or building to car. A drive down the street or a drive across town. She would watch if she could and when she couldn't, she always asked for a text from Arizona.
It had become such a part of their routine that Arizona hadn't realized how much she missed the simple act.
And now, as the rain fell still, Arizona saw it as the tiniest beacon of hope.
"Calliope?" she asked, taking a step back towards her ex.
Callie's gaze focused on Arizona and it was as if she was seeing her for the first time; her brown orbs clear and focused. "Yeah?"
"Would you—I mean—if you," Arizona paused, uncertainty seizing her throat. But, she knew, if she wished to find closure with Calliope; closure of any kind, it had to be done. "Do you want to get something to eat…after your shift I mean."
Callie's eyes widened. "I-. Really?"
Arizona stumbled backwards a step, holding her arm out. Not exactly the response she had been hoping for, or expecting. Though she hadn't really known what else she would receive. "No, sorry, you're right…too soon, you're probably seeing someone, anyway. It was stupid…Forget it—I'll just…"
"Arizona," Callie intervened, taking a step forward. "Dinner sounds—nice."
Callie nodded shyly and stuffed her hands into her coat pockets. "I get off at seven."
"Elmo's?" Arizona asked, offering their once favorite pizzeria to play host.
"Elmo's at seven-thirty."
"I'll see you then."
"See you then."
Arizona watched as a small smile tugged at the corner of Callie's mouth; the image making her own lips pull upward.
With a final nod, Callie turned and began to walk back towards the doors.
"Calliope!" Arizona called, taking one more step forward.
Callie turned her brow high. "Yes?"
"Your hair," Arizona said. "It-you look really pretty."
A blush painted itself across Callie's features. "Thanks," she said quietly before disappearing through the doors.
Arizona watched through the glass as Calliope walked away, disappearing around a corner with one final quick glance in Arizona's direction.
Arizona felt part of the weight that had settled in earlier lift from her chest, as her smile widened. Carefully, she closed her umbrella and put it away. Pulling her belongings close to her chest, Arizona stepped into the winter rain; feeling it soak her skin.
It felt different than she remembered. Colder, icier, harsher.
But-as Arizona was quickly coming to learn.
Different could be good.