AN:A huge thank you to everyone for following this fic through my infrequent updates and tangential distractions with various one shots. I hope that you've enjoyed the storyline, or at least, enjoyed reading my take on where I took the initial idea. I can't thank you enough for the regular reviews, alerts and pm's – I know it's really tough to stay with a fairly lengthy fic when there isn't frequent updates, so if I haven't messaged you or you're a guest reviewer, I really appreciate your time and effort in reviewing/commenting.
Always tough to know how to finish off a long piece, and I mulled over this for some time. Then I just went with it, so hopefully it pleases at least some of you! :-)
Thanks again…and on with the epilogue…
"It seems like yesterday." Piercing blue eyes glanced up at the warm breath over her ear and she grinned, squeezing the hand that had maintained a gentle hold for almost twenty minutes of speeches. The endless stream of kind words and tearful declarations had culminated in a spectacular display of images and recordings, projected across the wide wall to the side of the function room.
"Then why do I feel so old?" Arizona questioned shakily, laughing with familiarity and leaning slightly so her shoulder pressed to Callie's chest.
"You still look good from my perspective," Callie prompted, coughing lightly as she took a small sip of champagne.
The room erupted suddenly in laughter, as a scene played out of two young children hitting countless baseballs towards a youthful Arizona; Callie's hysterics could be heard emanating through the speakers. The children were characteristically miniature versions of their mothers, one boy, just a toddler with a mass of messy blond curls that fell almost to his shoulders. An older girl, perfectly tanned skin and dark eyes, wore her long dark hair in a ponytail and a wide grin that was a mirror image of Callie. "You do realise," Arizona murmured as the crowd died down, "that our grandchildren are the same age Timothy and Sofia were in this."
"And you still can't catch…" Callie teased, pressing a chaste kiss into the short naturally grey hair that Arizona now proudly displayed. With a well practised chiding glance, Arizona returned her gaze to the images, settling closer to her wife and relishing the range of comments that their two well accomplished children were happily throwing in, sharing a microphone between them. Slowly, the photographs and videos worked the crowd of family and friends toward the present, from the informal wedding in a sandy atoll of the Maldives through to the birth of their children, and various sporting finals and music recitals. There were a range of medical awards throughout their career, including ground breaking research and treatment that earned Callie front page rights of an International Orthopaedics Journal and a brief stint that Arizona did in Africa, when her protégé won the prestigious Harper Avery under her supervision. Of course, they paled in comparison to the crayon coloured birthday cards with misspelt words and lopsided bodies. Callie had always showered their young children with praise, yet her and Arizona had laughed and joked, as only the children of an Orthopaedic Surgeon could put only four fingers on each hand yet design the most intricate guitar or plot a perfect weather map down to the last degree.
Slowly the images faded to white, each grandchild proudly displayed in their grandmothers' arms, though the familiar sound of children and laughter continued. Callie's voice emanated through the speakers, threading that fine line between strong, loud tones and the most delicate of words, in a way that only she could.
Arms wide…wide…wide…that's how much I love you.
What about Mama? Mama, how much? How much do you love us? Childish giggles followed with the rustling of excited movements; children who had an inability to sit still.
The quieter, more lyrical voice of Arizona broke a prolonged silence. You find a way to measure something that never ends and then you'll know…
Applause erupted and Arizona shared an almost embarrassed look with Callie, rolling her eyes at Timothy who held the microphone, standing next to his sister. They were characteristically middle aged, though clearly fit and healthy with careful attention to their appearance and dress, with Sofia proudly displaying a low cut crimson gown that Callie would have worn forty years before. "So," Timothy began, one hand in the pocket of his suit pants and one leg slightly bent, "our parents would have that exact same exchange at least a hundred times throughout out lives, or at least until we turned into rebellious teenagers." Callie and Arizona eagerly nodded, smiling. "But I remember so clearly, when I was twenty two and just returned from my first sail around the world, and after making it back both alive and intact, I was being made to promise that I would never go again. Of course, clearly, five times later, they didn't win that argument."
Coughing, Callie interrupted his speech with a few quick words, still as sharp as she ever was. "What about the time I would have killed you, had I not had to fly to Cape Town and save your arm?"
Timothy grinned in response, pausing as Sofia murmured into his ear before throwing his head back. "Sofia just said that I had it easy compared to having to stay at home and keep Mama relaxed."
Arizona nodded her agreement; although neither of their children had followed in their medical footsteps, they had raised two incredibly independent and confident adults who had done nothing but excel in their chosen fields. Timothy, after spending his youth sailing and breaking various world records, had eventually settled down and become a Naval Engineer. He had spent time in the Marines before moving more into design and now managed a business that created and built groundbreaking Maxis that competed around the globe. And until recently, when he finally married his long term girlfriend and she gave birth to twin boys, had regularly taken his family sailing.
And Sofia, a few years his senior, had spent years backpacking her way around the world, before returning for college. Finishing a business degree first, she eventually completed post graduate qualifications in international aid, dividing her time between the African Medical Clinic Arizona had been involved in and being CEO of a major cancer charity based in New York. Her three children were older, two girls nineteen and fifteen and a boy who had just turned nine. Her nineteen year old had recently introduced her first girlfriend to the family, an incredible symmetry given, when as a toddler, she had been an excited flower girl when gay marriage had finally been legalised and Arizona and Callie had taken the opportunity to renew their vows, a tribute to their original celebration so long before.
"Anyway," Timothy continued, animated in his exchange with the attentive crowd, "I got off the boat and we did what we had to do and eventually, a few days later went out for an incredible dinner. We all may have had a few celebratory wines…"
"A few?" Sofia tossed in with a loud laugh. It echoed through the room and if Arizona closed her eyes it was every bit of Callie.
"Yes, just a few. Mama was all emotional and teary, begging me to stay at home and do a medical degree at college, because surely one of us was going to have to be a surgeon – which didn't eventuage, sorry about that."
"Oh, I think Jacob is a definite, the kid can remove peas from a pie with surgeon like precision," Sofia interjected.
"Seriously, it's a miracle I ever got a word out as a child," Timothy teased, elbow jutting out and rolling his eyes. "So, we leave the restaurant, and Mama's got this death grip on my arm and asks if I've figured out how much she loves me yet." Arizona grinned as Callie gave her a confused look; her little sensitive, intelligent boy who even well into his twenties would talk to her for hours about the children she had operated on or the ones she couldn't save. "Being the know it all that I was, I tell her that since I've circumnavigated the globe, than I've figured out that is forever, around the world and back to the start, therefore, creating a continues cycle. I think at the time, I had some complicated rationale that I also threw in there. Then she immediately looked at me, with this completely perplexed look on her face and says, oh Timothy, you've been away too long and you underestimate me; of course, I'm defiant and argue my mathematical point over a philosophical equation. And Mama just says calmly in the end, when you meet someone and have children, you'll understand what I mean when I can't define how much I love you and Sofia, and your Mom. And she said to me, that when I find that kind of love, I should do whatever it takes to keep it. And, out of all the things Sofia and I were taught, all the knowledge and the opportunities, the values and life experiences; nothing compares to that. Because I understand now, I completely get it." Holding his glass up, Timothy waited for Sofia to follow suit and they both looked to Arizona and Callie intently. "We are, so fortunate, so lucky and just in awe of you both and of whom you raised us to be. Everything we are is because of you and…" he trailed off, and raised his eyebrows at Sofia, who tearfully continued.
"And because you brought us up to believe in something, to think and to be humble. You raised us in a home that was never perfect, because life isn't, but when Tim and I were planning tonight, we realised that not once, in our entire memory – our childhood or our life, have we ever questioned your love for each other or for us, or our families. And that, is something to celebrate. So, if we can ask everyone to raise their glasses…" she paused, waiting whilst people hastily tipped champagne from bottles and stilled. "To Abuela and Nan, Mom and Mama; Calliope and Arizona, congratulations on your fifty years of marriage. We love you and here's to a few more years to come."
Holding his glass high in the air, Timothy nodded and added, "To Calliope and Arizona." An echo followed and the distinct sound of clinking glasses and an explosion of laughter and conversation followed quickly. Callie and Arizona were enveloped by hugs and kisses from their family and friends until the flow of dessert plates settled the celebrations momentarily.
Returning to entwine their fingers, Callie and Arizona eased themselves into their chairs, and shared a brief kiss. "Our kids are…" she halted briefly, finding the word, "amazing. We're so lucky."
"The credit is surely ours?"
"Of course Mama…of course."
"We're old Calliope, we need to accept it," Arizona muttered, groaning as she padded through the house from the front door, heels discarded to the corner of the lounge. "We have children and grandchildren and truth be known, we're not too young to have great grandchildren over the next few years."
"We're not old, because let's face it, one of us is still consulting and you, still give guest lectures and keynote speeches. We're slowing down, but we're not old."
"It's eleven pm and I feel like I used to after working thirty six hours straight, we're not getting any younger."
They fell into silence, going about their evening routine with familiarity and comfort. Arizona poured their glasses of water from the filter in the fridge and placed them on the bedside table, a vitamin each and an antihypertensive pill for Callie. She pulled the duvet down and folded their sheet from the immaculately made bed, fluffing the pillows and placing their favourite hand creams onto the bedside tables.
Callie returned their dresses to hangers as Arizona washed up, flicking the television on to have the news play softly in the background as they settled for the evening. Slipping under the sheet, Callie eased herself back and brushed dark hair away from her eyes and behind her neck; she still wore it long and with only a few grey strands littered around her temples, she was as beautiful as she was when she was in her thirties. Arizona made sure to tell her that most days and the sentiment was always returned. "That really was an incredible night," Callie said quietly as Arizona joined her in bed, groaning as she manoeuvred back against the pillows.
Nodding her agreement, Arizona said, "I know, I don't know how they did it. People that we haven't worked with since Seattle Grace and Residents we trained; and Teddy and Mark, we haven't seen them since what…that reunion five years ago?"
"Mmmm, just after that was Holly's funeral and we talked to them a lot for a while."
"Oh of course, that's right."
"They really struggled."
"Well, look at our two; I can't imagine losing a child."
Callie nodded, adjusting the volume on the television to dip it even lower, taking off her glasses and folding the arms before placing them on the table next to her. "I remember how hard it was when we were trying to have Tim, the miscarriages and failed IVF." She stopped and smiled slightly before murmuring, "Lesbians have it so much easier than they did in our day."
"Oh, and now who is sounding old? Back in our day," Arizona teased, wincing as she sunk further under the covers.
"True, but the success rates and technology, people have no idea what we had to go through to conceive. You know, speaking of Mark and Teddy, I like to think we helped them together, all those years ago."
Arizona slowly nodded, turning her head and meeting Callie's gaze. "They were always good together; they just didn't know it, completely caught up in their careers and other people for so long. And they were incredible friends to us, for a long time weren't they?"
"They were," Callie murmured, "they really were. Still are I think, it was like no time had passed at all when we talked to them tonight." After a few moments silence, tired eyes were still fixed intently on Callie's and she raised her eyebrows. "Are you alright?" she prompted gently.
"Just reflective after tonight, that's all. All the things people said and the photographs, the memories; we've been through a lot."
"We have," Callie agreed, shaking and slightly arthritic fingers reaching up to gently trail down Arizona's cheeks. The loosened skin and lines bore witness to their life together, to years before they met and the lifetime they shared after.
"For our life?"
"Hmm mmm," Arizona confirmed.
Callie contemplated the question, as she always did. Careful to give any of Arizona's genuine and serious questions the consideration they deserved. "Only one," she whispered. "I wish I had met you earlier because it would have meant I could have loved you just a little longer."
A smile curled at the corner of Arizona's lips and her blue eyes glazed with unshed tears. "That's your only regret?"
Nodding, Callie responded, "Yes, my only one. And you?"
"I once wished for that, particularly in my, darkest times I suppose. I know that sometimes, back when we were first married, that I wasn't easy to love all the time. And there were days when I wished you had met me earlier and I could have avoided the…the experiences that I had; that we had."
"You're wrong; you were always easy to love. Were, and still are."
"You have always been too kind to me; but to answer your question, no, I have no regrets. Although if we had gotten those matching tattoos for your seventieth, I might have had one." She smiled through the tears, and Callie couldn't help but laugh. Her wife still made her swell with emotion and laugh like a child; they could still argue passionately over politics and trivia questions, and could easily sit for hours with their hands tightly clasped. After all the years that had passed, they were still as in love as they once were, standing outside the hospital, in the midst of chaos and making promises that they couldn't live without each other. And their ten kids; thank God for only two, they never would have managed ten of the spirited two they raised.
"Good," Callie muttered, "then should we put these tired, aging, regretless bodies to sleep, my wife?"
"Oh yes, I'm exhausted. And we do have to see all of our own tiny humans tomorrow while they're in town."
"We need our energy then."
"There's one other thing, Calliope," Arizona said softly, switching the light off and letting her eyes adjust to the slight natural glow in their large bedroom.
"Happy Fiftieth Anniversary," she murmured, lying on her back and guiding her palm down Callie's forearm until she could slip their hands together. They clutched tightly, fingers slowly gripping as they entwined. "Thank you for a lifetime of love and happiness."
Working hard to roll smoothly on to her side, Callie tipped her chin forward and pursed her lips to Arizona's cheek. She lingered, waiting until she drew a gentle laugh from Arizona. "Thank you," she emphasised, falling back and tugging Arizona's hand to press against her hip. "I love you Arizona, more than I ever thought possible."
Silence drifted between them for just a moment. "And I love you," Arizona whispered in return. "Who knew that a kiss in a bar bathroom would have led to this?"
Callie smiled. "It made a good story for the kids."
"Of course. Calliope?"
"Mmmm, my love?"
"Do you know how much I love you?"
Taking a deep breath, Callie moved Arizona's hand slightly, as if tugging to get her attention. "What is the answer to that? For fifty years, I've thought it was just a game with the little ones."
"The answer," Arizona whispered, "is no, you don't know."
"You can't know, because it's impossible to measure. There's no possible way to quantify something so great, so immense."
"Ohhhh," Callie articulated with a long exhalation. "How long have you been waiting for one of us to get that?" she joked.
"Just a while," Arizona replied quickly, voice husky with tiredness and emotion, but her smile was wide. "I think you all got the sentiment over the years."
"So you really still love me that much, Arizona? After all these years and with my saggy breasts and sketchy memory? I'm not the Ortho God that you met all those years ago."
"More Calliope; I love you more." They drifted quickly to sleep then, curtains swaying gently in the breeze and duvet lightly over their waists.
And when the sun woke them early the next morning, they remained, supine and unmoving, their limp hands still resting comfortably together, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
And it was.
When we find ourselves
At the end of forever
Should such a place exist
Calloused by life
Will still be held in mine