A/N: Thank you everyone for following the story. It meant a lot. Enjoy the end.
Ten years later
Blue eyes lift, searching through the clouds until they break open, the city below leaking out and into view. She breathes deeply and lets the sun-reflective surfaces of Seattle attempt to still her beating heart. The Sound comes into view, its mass reduced to a small surface as the plane soars upward. She feels so very small.
A warm hand finds her jean clad thigh, clutching at the muscle. A soft face comes next, chin finding purchase on her shoulder as a warm breath washes through her hair.
What the city could not do, Calliope does without effort. Arizona feels instantly safe as she threads her fingers with those of that tanned hand on her thigh. She places her other hand on top, cementing the two women together. Blonde curls tangle with long brown ones, cheeks together.
There will be stops. There will be delays. There will most certainly be racing from one terminal to another in order to catch all the flights that are needed to make the journey there.
Callie finally pulls back from her wife's shoulder. She turns her body in her seat as Arizona immediately shifts to do the same so that both women are facing each other. Cheeks against scratchy airplane seats, noses only a few inches from each other, breath tangling.
Arizona places their still intertwined hands on the center console between the two. It's been almost exactly ten years since they took this flight. Twelve years ago they flew it separately, meeting in Detroit, a few days later being flung to Botswana. Two years after that they returned, sitting in similar fashion as they do today. Their faces may be a little more worn, the laugh lines are definitely more fierce.
Arizona untangles one hand and traces Callie's cheekbones with one finger. She leans in closer. "You are even more beautiful."
Callie smiles, laughs softly into her lover's face.
Arizona's finger pauses along Callie's lips. "I'm scared." It's so soft that if Callie were not feeling exactly the same, she might not have caught it. She rests her palm over her wife's hand that still lingers on her cheek.
The smiles are light. So many things could go wrong. But they are willing to try. They are willing to hope beyond hope, fight beyond fight.
This is another one of those moments, Callie thinks. Arizona shifts even closer, placing a soft kiss on her wife's lips. Their mouths tug lazily at each other, tongues softly slipping into warm havens. A sound spills through the plane, alerting the passengers that they are free to move around the cabin. They pull back, unfasten seat belts and push up on the center console. Arizona pulls her legs up and curls more fiercely into Calliope's side.
Both close their eyes and urge sleep to make this journey short. It comes for neither. But they take strength in the other's warmth. And eventually Arizona does feel Callie's breathing settle as she falls softly into a light sleep. Only then does Arizona feel the dreams start to tug on the corners of her eyes. She settles deeper and lets her own breathing pattern settle in time with her wife's.
They sleep lightly. Both hearts beat slightly faster than normal. They wake individually on and off while bouts of fear wash over their cocoon. One tugs the blanket back up, kisses the other's forehead, cheek, palm and soon, soon they sleep again.
When the plane touches down it feels like home.
The two women rise, stretching limbs that have been settled in limited positions for far too long. Callie reaches the aisle first, extracting the two small pieces of luggage from above before moving forward to allow Arizona to squeeze out and fall into line. The path to the exit starts and stops as passengers reach for carry-ons, gather backpacks, slam on shoes. Arizona finds herself resting her head between the strong shoulder blades of the woman she loves, breathing her in to gather strength.
With each step down the aisle, a memory flashes. Two memories intertwine, pacing evenly with the other. There are certain places that bring with it the warmth of memories that are too important to be forgotten. Sometimes it's a hint of lavender or the opening chords of a certain song. A phrase overheard or a glimpse of a woman's sweater. It can be a specific Arizona smile, a distinctive Calliope laugh. It strikes them both that their memories are so wrapped up in each other. That one little thing can send a sly grin to one face, a soft elbow to the other's ribs, reminding them of a moment. Certain glances with raised eyebrows, hints of laughter in really bright eyes, can communicate the memory of an entirely different time, an entirely different place.
There's that antique jewelry shop that the two stumbled upon when driving from Miami to Seattle, Callie's life in the backseats. They had only been back in the States for a week. For the rest of their lives the smell of incense immediately brings with it memories of wide smiles and giddy hands while rings were found, purchased and slipped onto fingers. Vows and promises were already being whispered in ears as they settled themselves back into Callie's corvette.
The sound of dogs playing, barking and begging to be let inside, throws both women back to that day where Arizona brought her fiancé home to meet her parents. Callie kept tugging at the t-shirt she'd spent too many hours in along their journey across the country. Arizona ran her fingers through unruly curls before giving up, shrugging her shoulders and pulling Callie up to that back door. Arizona's hand barely touched the screen before it was being thrown open and her mother's arms were engulfing her. She hadn't even raised her own arms to hug back before the body was gone and Callie's outstretch hand was being pushed aside. Barbara Robbin's pulled her new daughter-in-law into her embrace. The dogs in the backyard ran around their feet, their big bodies almost sending Arizona down a few times. Colonel Daniel Timothy Robbins had waited for Barbara to release Calliope and then he stepped forward. Like always his presence commanded attention, his voice the same. He eyed his daughter whose bright face was impossible to not see. Callie, he said, welcome to the family.
Then there's that coffee house in downtown Philly, the one with the eclectic lamps. The smell of those particular coffee beans reminds them both of the days of finals and cramming. It's a series of images. Hunched shoulders, wild hair falling into eyes, mindless fingers as they lift forks of soggy salads for dinner, brains that hurt as more and more information is jammed inside.
The tiny apartment that sits in the heart of Manhattan. It belonged to a family whose child Arizona use to tutor when she was doing her undergraduate. The husband hardly ever did business in that city, but the rent-controlled apartment was too precious to sell. They constantly told the girls to go, to take a long weekend off from school, to run away from the craziness that was life if only for a few days. The New York traffic became its own soundtrack.
Of course that outdoor garden where the two were married. That day was most likely not the first day of spring. But even six years later whenever Seattle starts to thaw, the freshness and promise of blooms and sunshine flirting at its edges, it's enough to throw both women back to that moment.
The rustle of granola bars being opened is the only thing Arizona remembers about their first forty hour shift, the very first day of being interns at Seattle Grace Hospital. Every time she turned around there was Callie unwrapping a snack, handing it to her wife, telling her to not lose her energy. Arizona refuses to eat oatmeal raison anything even to this day.
Last year Arizona received her formal invitation to complete her Pediatric fellowship at Seattle Grace. Two days of the most intense nerves went by before Callie was offered the Orthopedic fellowship. The smell of the brunette's lilac shampoo was fierce as she and Arizona jumped around the locker room, dancing to their own happiness.
These are their moments. These are a few of them. Right now, in this airport, is another.
The nervous energy that has been coursing through these women for the last few years, the intensity that grew in only the last twenty-four hours, seems to settle into a more even beat, a more manageable hum. Its edges have blurred slightly, tipped in something more like excitement. The view of Tambo International Airport is limited, the edges of Kempton Park barely hinting at its edge. The promise of the rest of South Africa lingers in the distance.
That feeling of importance, that feeling of a bigger moment than either can comprehend seeps into the air between the two warm bodies. The line shifts and Arizona raises her head to follow Callie's strong back as she makes their way through the aisle and finally out of the plane and into terminal. Arizona shifts her luggage to her left hand so that she can clasp Calliope's free hand with her right.
That big moment, the one that was making its home in that space between the two, waifs up and wraps itself around the both of them.
With each step towards their future the feeling grows. It tells them that they are about to add another. They are about to create another memory that will last forever, one that will be told countless of times. Wearing down the memory until its edges are soft and comfortable, happy and always told with the slight reverence of- listen up, this memory, this moment, it's a big one.
Forty-five minutes later Callie and Arizona are standing on the curb, the morning sun attempts to gather its strength. A Jeep pulls up, slams to a stop and a tall man who will forever be a seven year old boy jumps out.
Two voices call his name in excitement as long arms engulf both women.
"You're here." He laughs it out into the mass of blonde and brown waves that his face is surrounded by.
Four arms push him back and then two sets of eyes look him over.
"He's taller Calliope."
"That he is. He's too thin too." Callie nods at her wife before gripping Baruti's jaw in her hand. He flushes in happiness and their ritual of talking as if he isn't there.
"So where's this girl?" Callie tugs on his jaw so he has to bend his head down a bit.
"She stayed home. Her sister is having a baby."
Callie peers at him as if deciding if she buys it. Arizona clutches at her wife's hips from behind, standing on tip-toe to peer over Callie's shoulder. "Maybe he made her up."
Baruti laughs and then Callie does, releasing his jaw. She pecks him on the cheek one more time. He can't help but hug them both again, telling them how much he missed them.
Baruti's first visit to the States was the summer after he turned fourteen when his mother finally conceded to him flying across the country by himself. For four consecutive summers he stayed with the two Americans he first fell in love with when he was six years old.
He wants to take them home, pour them some milk and give them some cookies. He wants to recreate the wonderful memories they gave him all those years. He catches Arizona flipping her wrist to check her watch; Callie peers over at her. It reminds him that this is not a social visit.
He decides to just jump in. "Okay. Some of your plans have changed."
Arizona jerks her chin up at him, eyes much too wide. He watches as both automatically shift closer to the other, hands immediately searching and finding contact.
"Nothing." He waves off the panic that is leaking onto their features. "Just readjustments. Sonya called me a few hours ago. She wants to meet with you today if it's possible. Apparently someone there, the commissioner I think, has to suddenly leave for somewhere tomorrow. His absence could make things more difficult. Not impossible, she wanted to be clear about that, just harder."
"They want to meet us sooner?" Callie's hand wraps harder around the blonde's.
"Yeah. Like as in, they'd like to meet you in three or so hours. Should I call back?"
"Baruti! Yes! Now, now. Call now." Arizona steps forward, gesturing madly with both her hands, dropping Callie's in the process. "What are you doing standing here talking about whatever it was we were talking about. Start dialing! Go, go."
Callie runs her hand up Arizona's arm, rubbing softly as she speaks to Baruti. "Give me your phone, I'll do it." She smiles at the boy. "She's a snot when she's nervous. It's not you."
Arizona turns sharply in the embrace. She starts to talk but Baruti hits a button on his phone and hands the device to the brunette. The smaller woman stays quiet.
"Hi, this is Calliope Torres. Can I speak to Sonya Delport concerning an appointment."
Callie waits for a beat. Baruti loads the bags.
"Hi Sonya. Yes, we just arrived and got your message. We are prepared to come in whenever is most convenient." Callie bends her head and kisses Arizona's cheek while she listens. "Yes, eleven will be fine. We will see you then."
She hands the phone back to the boy. "Well that gives us three hours to get presentable, eat something, try not to hurl it up and be on our way."
Arizona stays silent but follows as Baruti helps her up to the backseat. Callie starts to climb into the front but one peek at her nervous wife sends her changing her mind. She scoots in next to the other woman who grabs her thigh in thanks.
Two hours later they are checked into the hotel. They are showered. They are dressed. Baruti brought up breakfast which mostly went untouched. Bottles of water have been downed. They've covered the basic conversations, both women genuinely interested in the latest information concerning Baruti's college acceptance. He tucks his head shyly and thanks them yet again for the opportunity. They smile broadly, telling him that he deserves it and they are pleased to financially provide him with the chance to do something great.
Arizona flips through their files a few more times, making sure everything is accounted for. Finally she nods and the three of them make their way downstairs. Baruti keeps the windows up this time and focuses on driving safety and conservatively the thirty minutes into Johannesburg. He tries not to notice how many times Callie smoothes her skirt. How many times Arizona tugs at her slacks. They nervously straighten their hair, shuffle the folders on their laps. When they arrive he opens their door as they step down. He clasps two hands, tugging them to look at him.
"You will do great." He squeezes gently, shifting his sweet gaze from one woman to the other.
Blue eyes start to well up and then Callie comes forward and hugs him fiercely before stepping back and letting Arizona do the same.
The blonde stays in his embrace a little longer, gripping his waist. "Thank you sweet boy. We'll call you when we're done."
He nods and watches them walk hand and hand. He sends a small prayer upward, telling and demanding his god to give these good people everything they want. He watches them glance at each other, smiles tight and eyes bright. And then they are gone.
Every smile is dissected. Every nod, glance, or pause that is shot anywhere near their direction is scrutinized, investigated, poured over. They pull out their surgeon minds to try and come up with a diagnosis, a conclusion, a anything. They are certain of nothing.
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Addison Montgomery and I have had the honor of knowing both Calliope Torres and Arizona Robbins for over ten years.
Twelve years ago I boarded a flight to Botswana as a volunteer of the United States Peace Corps. At the age of twenty-four, I expected a whole host of things. I expected to be changed, to grow, to inspire, to be inspired. That however, is my story. What I never expected was to be witness to a completely different story, to the love story that is these two women. I consider it an honor to have had the privilege of watching both Arizona and Calliope become the women they are today.
Everything should be in order. Everything has been checked and checked, cleared and cleared, over a dozen more times. Their entire lives have been processed. Everything from financial records to health information, educational background, work history, and personal relationships. There have been letters of intent, letters of reference, letters of good character. They have signed their signatures enough times that even their doctor hands are tired. So much has been done already. They have spent countless of months waiting. Countless of hours on the phone. Countless of sessions over Skype. They have had people to their home. They have had so many interviews. They have stood in so many lines waiting for official papers. But now they are here. They are here and still everything could change. Still they could be told no. Still they could be told, we don't approve.
I contemplated telling you about these two women separately, as individuals. They are indeed both gifted surgeons who have dedicated their careers to advancing their respective fields.
I considered telling you about the military home that Arizona comes from. It would be true to tell you that Arizona is the most unwavering, honorable human being I know. I considered telling you how big Callie's heart is. To tell you how she fights battle after battle to ensure that patients who have been told they will never walk again, get a second chance.
As individuals these women are stunning examples of good, decent, and outstanding citizens. Their records, careers, and life decisions speak to that.
When they meet Sonya for the first time Arizona can't help but hug her. Callie laughs softly, rubs her wife's back gently to encourage her to release the woman. Sonya is a blessing; she smiles and laughs kindly in return.
They've never met her face-to-face yet they have spent the last eighteen months almost in weekly contact with each other. Sonya tells them things she has already told them. They nod and take it in as if they haven't memorized every detail about all of this.
What I want to tell you about, however, is who these women are as partners, as a family. As a fellow surgeon I am aware of the complexities of this career. It would be inaccurate for me to tell you that this job is not demanding and at times all-consuming. Arizona and Callie handle the realities of being surgeons with the ease and grace that I have never seen done. Their careers are simply that, careers. Their lives, their home life, comes first and foremost. There is so much love in that home, that a child's presence is the most natural thing to imagine.
Five hours and three location changes later Sonya gathers up the files and folders that are spread across her desk. She stacks them neatly off to the side. Neither woman catches the smile that tugs at her lips. Finally she lifts her head.
I could tell you how good they are at their jobs. How Arizona is on her way to being one of the most renowned pediatric surgeons in the country. I could tell you how Callie is reshaping the field of orthopedics. I can without a doubt guarantee the physical safety of any child that were to be placed in their care. What I also believe though is that as mothers, these two women will raise a child who is strong of character and kind of heart. The home that Callie and Arizona have created for themselves is a home that teaches strong values, authentic core beliefs and the importance of family.
"Alright you two. I know this has been a so very long process. I know you are anxious to meet her." She pauses here, her own voice hinting at an emotion. She has gotten to know these women. They are good. They are good people. She swallows and continues.
"Everything has been cleared at this stage." She looks pointedly from face to face, forcing them to hear it. Blue and brown eyes watch, they are wide, emotional. "You've gathered everything your own country needs and now all that is left are the final steps here in South Africa. As I have said before things are always subject to change. Nothing can be predicted or promised. But at this point the only thing that remains is your final court hearing which we have scheduled for the day after tomorrow. After that it will take approximately a week to get all of Teagan's papers in order. At this stage, very few things could go wrong."
They have not made this decision lightly. Both these women understand the importance and significance of bringing a child into their home, a home that will be that child's for the rest of his or her life.
Callie reaches for Arizona first, their hands clasping together in fierce contact. "Are you-" Callie swallows, tries to find her words.
Arizona's question comes out in a breath, soft, careful. Hopeful. Oh, so hopeful. "She- she's going to be ours?"
Sonya smiles brightly now.
"All that is left is some of the official signing off. After your hearing on Wednesday the judge will declare you Teagan's legal parents. At that point the adoption will be complete."
This is one of those big moments. This is one of those times that defines who you are. Arizona is answering. She's crying and she is thanking Sonya over and over.
"When?" Callie asks it, wondering if their little girl is already in this building.
"You can wait for tomorrow or you can meet her now. Today." Sonya poses the question, waits, waits for a response.
"Now, yes, now."
"Oh today, today please."
The answers come back at once, leaving both women's lips at the same moment.
Sonya stands. "I'm going to go check on some things. It may be a little bit of a wait."
"Yes, we'll wait."
When Sonya leaves she catches a glimpse of a private moment. She watches Callie pull on Arizona's hand, the woman standing and settling on her wife's lap. Their arms surround each other, tears pouring from faces.
She closes the door behind her. She smiles at their warmth. She goes to find their daughter.
A decade ago Botswana brought these two women together. Botswana produced two doctors that have dedicated their careers to saving lives. When Botswana told these two women that they could not adopt a child in need of a home, Arizona and Callie did not abandon the idea. Instead they reached out to your organization that places children with good parents, regardless of societal norms. The Jo'burg Child Welfare Center of South Africa is lucky to have Arizona and Callie and the home they are willing and wanting to provide for a child in need.
She's here. She's here.
They whisper is back and forth to each other. Dozen upon dozens of times.
She's here. She's here.
It's spoken like a prayer. It's spoken between the two, reverent and holy.
She's here. She's here.
The promise washes over their skin. Over and over.
She's here. She's here.
The lives that these two women lead teaches the balance of taking care of one's self and one's family but at the same time contributing to society, making an impact, and continuously striving for change and growth.
Forty minutes later Sonya comes back into her office. The women sit in their own chairs, knees touching, foreheads resting together. They straighten when she comes in, eager eyes turning in her direction.
"Teagan is downstairs."
They nod, scooting their chairs closer to Sonya's desk as she crosses the room to sit back down.
In the moment it takes Sonya to cross the room every piece of information the two have about their daughter flashes through their minds. They have read the files over and over since that day five months ago when they were matched with a child. They have examined her medical chart so thoroughly that her information falls off their tongues as easily as their own.
Teagan is three years old; her birthday was last month.
Teagan was orphaned seven months ago.
Her biological mother and father were both of black African ancestry.
Her biological father died of AIDS a month before she was born.
Her biological mother was HIV positive when Teagan was conceived.
Her mother began treatment for prevention of mother-to-child transmission in her fourteenth week of pregnancy.
Her biological mother died of AIDS when Teagan was two and a half years old.
Teagan is not HIV positive.
They have seen pictures. The first one they were sent has been touched and stroked so often that the paper feels more like cloth than anything else.
Sonya finally sits. "Just a reminder. Teagan is as aware as we believe a three year old can be of her situation. She talks often about waiting for her family. It is your prerogative to decide how you want to tell her about who you are. Her English is startling good. She absorbs everything like a sponge."
The two of you have discussed this before. You've spent hours at home, facing each other in bed with the sheets pulled up tight. You've practice what you want to say. You aren't sure if a three year old will really get it. You figure she'll understand when she understands, your only job as mothers is to love her. You've also decided that you can't bare to say anything at all until after the court hearing. Until after everything is final.
Sonya asks if the two of you have any questions.
"What-" Callie pauses to control her emotion. "What happens after today? I mean tonight. What happens tonight? Where will she sleep?"
Sonya wants to hug these women. These two women and the love they have for a child they have yet to meet.
"Teagan will stay at the orphanage tonight. Tomorrow, a social worker from the orphanage will meet us at the court house with her. After the hearing, then. Then she can go with you."
Callie nods her head in understanding.
"Now?" It comes out in a rush of emotion, almost as if Arizona has been holding her breath. "Please."
Callie's index finger rubs against the knuckle of the hand that is still interlocked with her own.
They stand and follow the social worker from the room. They step into the instructed elevator. The doors open and Sonya leads them down a hall. She pauses outside of a room.
I am excited to one day have the experience of witnessing these two women as mothers. I am grateful to have the opportunity of one day knowing the outstanding child that Arizona and Callie will raise.
It is a privilege to know these two women.
I am proud to call them my friends.
Addison Adrianne Forbes Montgomery, M.D.
"Inside is one of the women who works at the Jo'burg Child Welfare Center. Teagan knows her well. Remember all the things we talked about. About all the different reactions that can occur. The first meeting is always a little awkward. Be yourselves."
And with that Sonya opens the door.
The first time you meet your mothers you have a half-dozen crayons jammed in one fist, your lip between her teeth and a look of utter concentration on your face as your right hand draws yellow sun rays on your giant piece of paper.
The nice lady named Sonya tells you she has some people she'd like you to meet. Your sunshine drawing is just coming together but you like this lady. This lady has the best crayons ever! So you give your drawing one last look before sitting back on your haunches.
Standing behind Sonya are two of the prettiest ladies you've ever seen. The adults are talking but you watch the two women who are watching you. One of them, the one with the hair that matches your crayon, asks if they can see what you're drawing.
You nod your head, hard.
Whatever it is these adults are talking about, nothing could be more exciting than the yellow sun that is just about to burst forward onto the paper.
But something is different.
Most adults peer down from standing positions, nowhere near close enough to actually see anything. So you do what you always do. You grip the paper between two hands and hold it up and out so the ladies can actually see your pretty trees and half-way done sun.
But then suddenly both women are sitting on the floor next to you and they aren't even in their play clothes or anything. And then they're looking, really looking at the drawing.
"Teagan." It's that Sonya lady again.
You look up.
"Callie and Arizona are going to stay with you for a bit, okay?"
"Okay." You look back at the two women sitting on the floor around your little table. They are smiling really big. Really really big. "Want to color with me?"
They nod and tell you yes, yes they would love that.
So you say the only thing that there is left to say. "There are so many crayons here. Just wait!" And with that you dump the whole box out onto the table and suddenly they are asking you which one is your favorite.
After a while the one with the blue eyes starts to teach you how to draw a puppy dog face. You can't see so good so you decide to crawl onto the lap of the one with the pretty brown hair.
And then you get back to business, lip back between your teeth. You watch hard as she shows you the shape for the puppy dog's nose. You copy it perfectly! They tell you so and then you laugh really hard when the puppy dog gets a silly bright purple tail.