Title: Late

Author: Beth Pryor

Rating: T

Summary: It was just one of those mornings…If you've had one you understand, if you haven't you can probably empathize. Charlie/Susan circa 1997

Disclaimer: None of it's mine, but I thought the actress who played Susan was lovely. If I had my way, she'd have stayed for a long time. I don't have any claim to Sephora or Posh Spice, although I'm fans of both.

A/N: Thanks to Carolyn, who served as an impromptu beta and Dr. Hembree, whose lecture inspired this little offering.


Susan Berry was having her favorite dream. She curtseyed bowing her head low as she accepted the medal and the folio from the King of Sweden. As she stood up to her full height Carl XVI Gustav offered her his hand.

"Congratulations Dr. Berry. You contributions to the world of science and medicine have proven invaluable for the good of mankind. By the way, have you met my son Carl Philip?" he asked as he stepped to the side revealing the handsome young man behind him.

She was stepping forward to greet the dashing gentleman when someone grabbed her right shoulder and pulled her back. "Just a minute, Charlie, I'm about to meet the Prince," she sighed as she rolled over onto her back.

"I'm sorry to interrupt your Nobel Prize Ceremony, but it's almost 7:45."

"Quarter to eight? God, Charlie, I've got to meet Dr. Beresford at 8:30 in his lab. I'll never make it on the tube," Susan cried as she jumped out of bed and across the hall into the shower. "I didn't even get my 7.5 million kronor!"

Charlie laughed as he pulled his sweatshirt over her head. "I guess we'll have to go on with Student Loans for a few years more, then."

"You laugh now, but just wait. All that was holding me back until now was my grant and now that it's come through, it's on to Stockholm," she yelled back as she rinsed off, thanking God and Sephora for the all-in-one soap/shampoo/lotion concoction that smelled like peppermint.

Grabbing a towel, Susan splashed water all along the tile floor from the shower to the space in front of the sink. She pulled her toothbrush out of the cup and squirted a little toothpaste on top. She stuck it in her mouth and flitted back down across the hall to the bedroom. On the floor beside the bed, she found a pair of jeans that she was pretty sure she'd only worn once this week. A blue long-sleeved t-shirt was hanging over the back of the desk chair. She snatched it up along with her messenger bag, books and notes that were spread out on the surface of the table. Tugging the shirt over her head, she slid down the hall on stocking feet into the kitchenette where Charlie was standing over the sink shoveling cereal into his mouth.

"Hurry up, Susan. I'll wait for you, and we can take a cab, but I have to be out the door in 5 minutes."

She sat at the table long enough to take a drink of the juice he had poured for her as she stuffed her feet into the brown leather hiking boots beside her chair. Once she was fully dressed with the bag slung over her shoulder, she made her way back down the hall and vainly grabbed the hairdryer. She shot her hair with heat for approximately three minutes. That was really all she had time to do, but luckily, thanks to Posh Spice, the bob was back in style.

As she started to go back to meet Charlie, she felt a dull ache in her back and a sudden cramping pain along her middle. Crap, she thought, it's about that time. She reached under the sink and groped for the box of tampons. Selecting one, she opened the side pocket of her bag to deposit it. Shockingly, there was already one occupying the spot. Now, Susan knew that she wasn't ever the girl who carried an extra, just in case. In fact, she was usually the girl bumming off one of the other TA's.

She pulled her day planner out of her bag and checked. There were no numbers circled in red in the current month, but today was only the 17th. She counted back the weeks to the last circled day. One. Two. She flipped the page back a month and started at the bottom. Three. Four? Five??? She turned ahead to the current month. Last Thursday's date was marked with the customary pencil dot. That was to remind her to be prepared. That's where the tampon had come from. But nothing else had come.

Frantically, she tried to replay the past month in her mind. The pills gave her headaches, so she had stopped taking them two months ago, and they had gone back to condoms. They had been insanely careful! Besides, she had been spending 100 hours a week in her lab and interviewing subjects, anyway. They hadn't seen each other long enough to do anything in the past month. Except…March 28th.

Her project's funding had been announced that day, three weeks ago. The grant her research team had spent more than a year preparing had been accepted. The entire lab staff had gone directly to the Pub. Charlie had met them later and joined the partaking of the pints. She still wasn't clear on how they had gotten home. Perhaps a cab? Charlie had taken care of it. He was way less drunk than her. But had they been too drunk for sex? Too drunk for a condom? Both? Neither? She had no idea. She heard Charlie barreling down the hall and quickly stuffed her planner back in the bag and scooted out into the hall.

"Suze! Please. You know how old man Flannerty locks the lecture hall before he starts." He saw her coming toward him and pivoted, moving quickly toward the door, still talking, "And I have gone over this proof at least 30 times, so I'm definitely going to point out the error in the 5th step. There's no way he can transition from his ideas like that without more certainty…" and he was out the door.

She followed behind him, still in shock. He was one of the most brilliant math minds the world had known in nearly a century and she was an up-and-coming neuroscientist, just now settling into her first post-doc assignment. How in the world did something like this happen? She pulled an anorak from the peg beside the door and locked the flat behind them. Charlie had already descended the stairs and was 10 yards ahead of her down the street when she made it to the sidewalk. He finally seemed to notice that she wasn't right behind him. He turned his head toward her while his body signaled a passing cab.

"Susan, come on! We're gonna be late!"

She picked up the pace, but there was no "gonna be" about it. Susan Berry already was.