Breaking Your Own Heart
Author's notes: Well, hello there. I set out for this to be a short series, exploring what might have happened if Callie had crossed paths with the Foster's (specifically Stef) a couple of years earlier. That was about 40000 words ago, and I'm still not quite done. I was going to hold off posting until I had revised the entire thing, but I got impatient. As a warning, this fic is set when Callie and Jude are still living with the Olmsted's, so will feature a fair amount of Liam. I hope that doesn't turn readers off too much. i'm also looking for a beta, just to look over grammar and maybe discuss characterization. I'd be glad to return the favor.
She couldn't get away from the screaming.
The echo of it seem to physically follow her out into the hallway, coiling around her throat like a too tight scarf. Ducking around a corner, Callie drank gratefully from a water fountain. It did nothing for the antiseptic smell burning at the back of her throat, but at least she finally had a moment to herself to catch her breath.
Would anyone notice if she called to check on Jude? A nurse had yelled at someone for even taking out their cell phone in the waiting area, which made no sense. How else were people supposed to find out that you were in the hospital, if you weren't allowed to tell them? Logically, she knew Liam would have made sure Jude was not only safe, but far, far away from the house long before the police had come. Jude wouldn't have liked leaving her, but Liam would have insisted. Hell, their mutual dislike for authority figures might be the only thing they would ever have in common.
Even so, she couldn't help herself. Waiting for a nurse to pass back into the emergency room, she Perched on the edge of a bench and was halfway through a rapid fire text when a hand fell on her shoulder. Reflexes were the only thing that kept her phone from sailing across the hall, and she was on her feet instantly, her free arm coming up in defense, even as it throbbed in protest.
"Hey, woah, easy." It was one of the cops from earlier in the evening, the pretty blond woman who had kept calling Janet 'sweetheart' in an attempt to calm her down.
"I'm sorry, I just wanted to check on my little brother. Please, don't take my phone." God, why had she said please? Why was her voice coming out so wispy, like she had been the one screaming?
"No, I'm not going to take your phone." The cop was now using the 'sweetheart' voice on her, but she at least had the sense to keep her hands to herself. "I just wanted to see how you were doing before we leave. I think your parents are going to be busy for a while, and I saw you out here by yourself."
"Foster parents, they're our foster parents. But is Janet… um. Is she better?" The cop's expression shifted from awkward to exhausted, and Callie was surprised to glance down at her phone to see that it was only 9:30. They'd been finishing dinner two hours ago, everything a totally normal Tuesday evening.
"Is Janet your sister?"
She shook her head. "No, but she's been living with the Olmsted's longer than Jude and me." They weren't close, not like her and Jude, and certainly not like her and Liam.. Still, Janet had been there from the start.
"Well, I think she'll be staying here for a few days." The cop said this fast, getting it all out in the open in one sentence, which Callie appreciated. Cops who wouldn't stop beating around the bush drove her crazy.
Speaking of things making people crazy: that was that. The Olmsted's had said one more trip to the psych ward would be the end for Janet. Callie couldn't honestly say she was surprised, or even disappointed. "I hope this time actually helps." This seemed like the right thing to want. When she wasn't pissed and in pain, she would want that for Janet.
Now the cop looked even more uncomfortable, and Callie wondered if she was new. Cops usually gave her the no bullshit stare, not this oh god, I'm so, so sorry for your life look.
"Hey, why don't my partner and I give you a ride home? I'm sure your pa - foster parents wouldn't want you stuck here on a school night."
On the other hand, she could really grow to like the perks of a pity stare. "Yeah? That would be great."
So that was how she found herself in the backseat of a police car ten minutes later. Blond cop, who's name was Stef, kept glancing back at her, like she expected Callie to lose her shit at any moment. Which could very well happen, if Liam didn't start answering his freaking texts. Jude should have been in bed fifteen minutes ago, and she had no idea if they were even home.
"Are you going to be all right by yourself?" Stef asked, as they were finally getting close to the Olmsted's.
"My brothers should be home by now." It always felt weird to call Liam that, but it needed to be said to get this chick off her back. "Liam's over eighteen," she added. saying that always made her feel extra important. The fact Liam was an actual adult and still liked hanging out with her would never not make her feel important.
"Should we come in and talk to him about what's going on?" Callie caught the look the two cops exchanged in the rearview mirror, and inwardly cheered. Stef's partner did not look happy at this offer.
"No, it's okay. Jude - my little brother's kind of scared of cops, so I don't think that would be a good idea." Truth be told, she was no fan of the police herself, but they had nothing on her hatred for hospitals.
"Are you sure? We really don't mind, do we, hernandez?" That last sentence was more command than question, and Callie felt her lips involuntarily curving toward a smile. Annoyed Stef was kind of cool, just not cool enough to risk scaring Jude.
"We'll be fine. This has happened before, I know how to handle it." Stef looked far from appeased, but she also wasn't the one driving. Callie turned her smile on Hernandez. "Thanks a lot for the ride, it was a big help."
"No problem, kiddo." Now that he was relieved of babysitting, Hernandez suddenly seemed a lot more agreeable.
"Kiddo?" she couldn't help muttering, feeling her cheeks warm as she caught Stef's responding raised eyebrow. To Callie's relief, Stef just looked amused.
Hernandez turned into the Olmsted's driveway, and she was halfway out of the car before Stef's voice stopped her. "Hold up, Callie. If you guys do need anything, here's my card. That has my cell number, so you can call me anytime, all right?"
"I - Thank you." this gratitude was far less automatic, and Callie hoped Stef could tell by her smile. No one had ever given her their personal cell number before, not even their social worker.
"Take care of yourself." Stef put out a hand, like maybe she was going to pat her arm, but seemed to change her mind at the last second. Good choice. Callie nodded at Stef, tossing out some sort of goodbye before slamming the car door and sprinting up the front walk.
"Callie!" Jude was on her before she was fully inside, barefoot and in too small Ninja Turtles pajamas. "What happened? Why were you with the police?" Did they take you away, like Janet?" His thin arms twined around her neck, and until that second, she didn't know how truly tense she had been.
"Calm down, monkey boy." She clasped him to her with her good arm, so, so grateful he wasn't too old for this just yet. He smelled like shampoo and toothpaste, such a warm, sweet contrast from the impersonal cold of the hospital that was still lingering in her throat. She had to swallow several times before she felt able to speak again. . "Everything's all right now." She pried him lose just long enough to close and lock the front door.
When she turned back around, she saw Liam watching them from the landing. Jude began a string of anxious babble about blizzards and snickers against her shoulder, but she couldn't look away from Liam. He was standing there in nothing but a towel, staring down at her like she was the blizzard,, and any angry retort about ignoring her texts instantly evaporated..
"Long night?" he called over the railing, making Jude jump.
Her hand stroked his hair automatically. "Nothing I couldn't handle." Truthfully, she was exhausted, and dreading the fact she had a pile of homework waiting for her upstairs, but Liam made her feel invincible. "C'mon, monkey. Bedtime."
Jude still wouldn't let go of her. "Do we have time for a chapter?"
"Not tonight, it's really late. But tomorrow we can start early and do two, all right?" The routine of reading would have undoubtedly been relaxing to both of them, but Jude had trouble getting up in the mornings when he went to bed on time.
"Kay. What about your ice cream? Lee got your favorite."
"I'll have it for after school. It'll be like a reward for going." She guided him up the stairs and into his room. He could put himself to bed, but Callie liked having this time with him, particularly on nights like this, when everything around them was thrown into chaos. She didn't offer to stay once he was tucked in, and he didn't ask her to. That was good, maybe he wasn't as upset by her mode of transportation as she'd feared.
"Callie?" he called, and she hesitated in the doorway. "Does this mean we're not gonna see Janet anymore?"
"I'm not sure, Jude. She needs a lot of help, and this might not be the best place for her to get it."
"She won't get to hear anymore of Fudge."
"I don't really think she liked them that much."
"She still should have gotten to hear the end."
There wasn't anything to say to that, so she just blew him a kiss and closed the door. Janet was closer to her age than Jude's, and the Fudge book series were for younger readers than them both. But Callie's mother had read them to her, and she'd finally gotten enough saved to buy her own copies late last year. If Jude thought they were too babyish, he never said so. Janet would scoff, but she had almost always skulked into Jude's room during their nightly chapter.
That last glimpse of Janet remained on her mind all through her math and history homework, which meant she got more answers wrong than usual. It was hard to solve for X when screams were replaying themselves in your head, morphing from rage to terrified once Janet had registered the restraints.
It was long after 11 when she finally finished the last equation, and she was too exhausted to even contemplate reading for English. She set her alarm for half an hour early, hoping that would be enough time to get it done. Her door creaked as she was getting into bed, and her heart surged into her throat. She'd given up hope of seeing him half an hour ago, the only reason she'd started the math to begin with.
"Hey." He peered around the door. "STill awake in here?"
"Hey yourself." That was all the answer Liam seemed to need before He was kissing her, full and long, and she was incredibly thankful she'd found the energy to brush her teeth.
"Missed you," she mumbled when he finally came up for air, feeling her face stretch with her smile.
He laughed, easing down under the covers beside her. "Sap."
"Shut up, tonight was kinda bad."
"Yeah, we left when the screaming started. Jude was mad, but he got over it by the time we were at DQ. You owe me fifteen bucks, by the way."
"For two blizzards?"
"Hey, you said you'd pay for mine. That's why I agreed to take you and rugrat in the first place, remember?"
"You're such a jerk. I end up at the hospital, and you're making me pay for ice cream?"
"Wait, so, back up. She's in the loony bin again? What drove her over the edge this time?" Both their gazes went to Janet's side of the room. Her bed was still unmade from that morning, a pile of clean laundry precariously close to collapse. Somewhere under the clutter was Janet's stuffed rabbit, and Callie wished she could find a way of getting it to her.
Sighing, she forced herself to focus back on Liam. "I don't even know, she was pissed about not getting to go for ice cream. I told her I'd bring her some, and she just lost it. Broke that ugly lamp in the living room. Actually, I think she was trying to hit me in the head with it, but I ducked. One of the neighbors must have called the cops, cause they were just suddenly here. Think they would've broken down the door if your dad hadn't answered."
She didn't mention that the only reason she had ridden along to the hospital in the first place was because they were worried Janet might have broken her wrist in the struggle. A doctor had given it a cursory glance, and it must have been fine, because Callie had never seen him again, and no one had mentioned it when she had asked to leave. It was just lucky that Stef hadn't known, or Callie might still be there.
Liam stroked a hand over her back. "God, what a head case."
"It's not her fault." She unsuccessfully tried to move away to look at him fully, but her bed refused to accommodate her.""It's no one's fault when they're sick."
"Whatever, Florence Nightingale. At least her craziness is great for us." Just like that, he was content to start kissing her again. she tried to fall back into it, but it felt wrong to be having fun when Janet was scared and more than likely alone. Liam's hand edged up under her shirt, moving quickly to her stupidly still small breasts. She wished he would slow down, but he had a long day too. It would be bitchy of her to tell him to stop, even though he knew perfectly well she wasn't ready for this kind of thing.
"I gotta sleep,' she finally mumbled into his skin as the garage door was opening, announcing the return of his parents. "I need to get up early and finish my homework."
"God, you had all night to do that." Could he really have forgotten where she'd been so quickly? He blew humid, peanut butter tinged breath into her face.
She forced out an apology. it was always better to keep grievances like these to herself. She would be over this in the morning, but Liam could hold onto a perceived slight for days.
He sat up, her quilt pooling in a heap on the floor. Middle schoolers." Too late. She hated when he called her that, and Liam knew it. It wasn't even true anymore, she was over a semester through ninth grade. Regardless, he stormed out of the room before she could think of a reply, not bothering to say good night.
Finally alone, the pain in her wrist morphed from a dull throb to sharp stabs. It was oddly quiet without Janet's breathing in the bed across from hers, and it took her a long, long time to fall asleep. She found herself almost wishing Liam had never come.