Cooper

Jeff note: To avoid any issues with Mark or have Cooper accuse James of being a sap, I'm writing this chapter. Phil was supposed to write it but James kicked him out a window and Glenn had to take him to a hospital. So yeah…I got the responsibilities for this. This should be real interesting…

Mark

I get a lot of heat for this particular subject. A lot of it. Like I get flat out roasted. And it's whatever, I don't really care. Cooper and I have never gotten along and we more than likely never will. Cooper's been a pain in my ass for a very long time now and I know he's got a laundry list of issues with me. One of them being either he's angry at me for being his father or not at least trying to take responsibility for him-I get confused as to which it is because it seems to change sometimes. But whatever the case is, the fact of the matter is I was sixteen when Annabelle got pregnant and seventeen by the time Cooper was born. I wasn't anywhere remotely near ready to be a father. Annabelle sure as shit wasn't ready to be a mother and I knew she sure as hell wished I wasn't the father. I think she would have taken Cooper being her and James's weird, inappropriate and creepy love child over being my spawn.

On the subject of James, there are some of those who question as to why he would overstep his bounds as uncle and take over the father role. From day one he didn't consider himself anything but the father, even though biology proved differently. For the longest time it baffled me. It really really did. I mean I understood that he wanted to help Annabelle and stuff so she didn't have to raise Cooper on her own but the way he was about it…it was just beyond anything that he actually needed to do.

It was Glenn that pointed out what probably was the real reason and while skeptical of pretty much any psychobabble bullshit, even I think it fits for him. Lawson spent the first seventeen years of his life chasing love that didn't exist from Caroline and it drove him absolutely nuts. Then the whole pregnancy thing came along and like some chicks tend to do, he wanted that baby because it was going to love him unconditionally or whatever. A little nuts in my opinion, but whatever. Lawson's never been a bucket of sanity so it works for him.

James

The first time I held Cooper in my arms I was silently freaking the hell out. Imagining what it would be like and actually doing it were like two entirely different things. And I had like a million questions going through my head. Was he going to know how fucked up I was? I had only killed Caroline a couple of weeks before he was born and Belle and I were in the process of looking around for a different house for us to move into. We could not stay in the one we were at. Too many bad memories were associated with it. But with all the last minute preparations for Cooper being made and both of us being nervous wrecks and not able to talk about it for our own reasons, house hunting wasn't getting the priority that it probably should have been. I was being plagued by nightmares, the majority of them flashbacks to things I would rather forget and being in that house just made it all the worse. And then I held Cooper and after going "Holy crap his hair is orange", I was like "Holy crap…" just in general, you know? There I was, a damaged fucker in my own right and I was expecting to be able to help raise this child. I didn't actually tell anyone I was thinking all that though. I was putting on a much much stronger and more confident front for Annabelle and any time anything Cooper related was brought up around Mark it usually led to us having a fight. So I just bottled my issues up and ignored them as I tried to figure out just what the hell I was supposed to do. I didn't have any even halfway decent parent figures in my life nor had I ever so I just went with a general rule: don't be my parents. They fucked me up three ways to Sunday and I couldn't become them. Not ever.

As far as sleeping through the night and general fussiness or whatever, Cooper was good about that. He was sleeping through the night not long after we brought him home, he didn't really cry too much and when he did we always got him settled back down pretty quickly. We were pretty lucky that he was so easy because I don't know what we would have done if he wasn't. When he was three months old we moved out of the old house and into a new one. It was a much nicer house in a much better neighborhood. There were other new parents in the area, which made Annabelle happy because she wanted Cooper to have plenty of friends (that didn't exactly work out too well but that's another conversation entirely) and I was just glad to be out of that hell hole. Living there was too much because I (and Belle) could feel Caroline's presence still lingering on and it was just too fucking creepy.

Sounds like all roses right? Well not exactly. We had a few issues. Mark seemed to get more and more annoyed with me because I was much more content to stay at home with Belle and Cooper than go out and do what he wanted to do. That lead to more to our share of fights and for whatever reason, around the time Cooper was nine months old, Bearer got it in his head to start calling and giving Annabelle shit for having him out of wedlock and not doing the "right thing" by making Mark take responsibility for Cooper. I really don't know what inspired that bullshit because he knew damn well Mark and Belle hated each other; the only conclusion I've ever really drawn was that he was just doing it to be an asshole. That led to a fight with me and him and then it led to another fight with Mark because I demanded for him to step in and shut up Bearer.

"Why do you insist on dragging me into it?" Mark asked in exasperation. He was sitting at the kitchen table, trying to concentrate on the beer he had in front of him.

"Because you know he won't listen to me," I replied. "And for whatever reason you seem to almost like having him around and get irritated with me saying I'll kill him. So if you want him to live, maybe you should get him under control."

Mark grunted loudly and took a big drink of his beer. "You're not killing him Lawson. Bearer's an idiot but he's a useful one."

"Useful?" I shook my head in disbelief. "Useful? Really? Useful for what exactly?"

"Nothing YOU care about." That meant wrestling of course. Bearer was Mark's connection with that whole world and he was looking to exploit that connection any way he possibly could.

"James?" Annabelle coming in with Cooper put an end to our fight for the moment.

"Yeah?" I was trying to ignore the not so pleasant look on Mark's face but that didn't really go too well.

"We're out of milk and I need it for dinner tonight." Annabelle was getting Mark's glare and even me reaching over and whacking the back of his head didn't do anything to defuse the situation. "Could you-"

"BAH!" Cooper suddenly launched the bottle he was holding at Mark, getting him right in the face.

"Mother FUCKER!" Mark yelped and flew back, mostly from shock than anything else.

Cooper howled with laughter and clapped his hands together and I couldn't stop the grin that came over my face. Annabelle was attempting to tell Cooper he couldn't throw things but he looked just so happy that he did it that I didn't have it in me to tell him no. Some people have claimed that I let my kids run wild. Mark, Crispy and Bearer especially always have said that I need to tame my kids. But what did they know? Bearer sucked, Crispy has never had kids and Mark has four kids he's never really raised. So really, what the fuck have they ever known? That's what I want to know.

So the throwing things at Mark continued, although it was only when I was around and not Annabelle. Mark wasn't entirely pleased with it but I just told him it was a phase and he threw things at other people too. And it wasn't even like I was lying. He launched rattles at the cashiers at the grocery store, he threw his bottle to make me go get it and he even launched his stuffed animals at me, laughing when they hit me in the face. So yeah, I told Mark he needed to stop taking the shit so personally. He was a baby he threw shit. It happened.

And once Cooper learned to crawl? That was it. He went pretty much anywhere he could and got into anything he could reach. He actually used to get really mad at the gate we put up by the stairs because it was blocking where he really wanted to go and then he always made faces at me because I would sit there next to him and laugh.

"You KNOW that's mean right?" Annabelle asked me as I was sitting next to Cooper, who had pulled himself up into a standing position using the gate (he wasn't good at keeping his balance yet so the gate was also acting as his support to even stay up) and was trying to shake it down.

"It's not mean," I denied quickly. "I'm not laughing AT him…I'm just laughing cuz he's cute." I looked at Cooper and nodded my head as he tried to shake the gate. "You're going to get it aren't you? You're going to knock it right down aren't you?"

"Da Da Da!" He started shaking the gate harder and banging on it with the palm of his hand.

"Come on you can do it," I encouraged. "You can do it. Get that mean gate down. Get it get it get-whoops!" Cooper had tried to kick the gate and ended up falling on his ass. "Aw, poor Cooper." I scooped him into my arms and bounced him lightly. "That mean gate knocked you down didn't it?"

"Da Da DA!" Cooper reached down and somehow managed to snag my knife out of my pocket. Apparently it had been sticking out without me realizing it and it had attracted his attention.

"James!" Annabelle squeaked out.

"Hey now, that's Daddy's." I grabbed on to his hand with the knife and then playfully gnawed on his arm until he squealed and let it go. "You're too young for this. Daddy will get you one when you're older." I looked up at Annabelle and noticed the unhappy look on her face. "What?"

"James…why do you have that with you right now?" She took Cooper from me and hugged him tightly.

"Have what?" I followed her gaze to my knife. "This? I always have it."

"Around him?"

"It's not like I whip it out all willy nilly." I pouted a bit and got up to my feet. "I-"

"He's a BABY James you can't have your knife around him! And you can't be promising to give him a knife. That's not…" she shook her head. "You said you would try to stop."

"I have been trying."

"You tried for two days and then you went hunting last night." Crap. I was busted. "You don't even want to stop. You tell me will because that's what I want to hear." This was pretty much the only subject we ever came close to fighting about. She wanted me to stop killing. She didn't like that I did it (never liked it actually) but now that Cooper was in the picture she was trying to stand her ground on it and say that I needed to stop for him. What good was I going to do for him if I got caught and thrown in jail for the rest of my life? When I tried to assure her I wouldn't get caught, she would just get mad at me and say I didn't get it. Then when I tried to explain to her that I needed it she just got even more upset and always went off, leaving me to feel bad.

"Ma ma ma!" Cooper rested his head on her shoulder and petted her face, trying to direct her attention all to him.

"I'll try harder," I told her. "I will I'll-"

"James…please…" She shook her head. "Just don't. I can't do this right now."

"But-"

"I gotta make dinner." It was a flimsy excuse, one only used because she was too timid to make this into a big argument. Still, it served its purpose. It made me feel like complete shit but I didn't know what to do. I couldn't stop. I NEEDED to do it, needed it more than I could ever convey to her without scaring the shit out of her. I always played it off to Mark as I just liked doing it but the truth was I needed it. It gave me a sense of power, a sense of control…I knew Annabelle hated it but I couldn't stop. Not for her.

And not even for Cooper.