Author's Note: Following my one-off episode response, there seemed to be demand for a longer fic exploring Charlotte's life after what's happened. This fic is my attempt. Hope I do it justice! Comments are truly cherished and appreciated. Hope you enjoy...
The Short, Dangerous Friendship of Amelia Shepherd and Charlotte King
He's home for two painful, somber days before he gets the first work page that he can't ignore.
"Babe?" He shows her the pager. "Babe, I have to go out for awhile."
"Fine," she says.
"Amelia's coming over."
"Damn it, Coop, I said it's fine."
"I know you did. But she's the only one I could find who isn't working right now, so she's coming over."
"I'm not a baby."
"Didn't say you are."
"Or an invalid."
"Now, that one is debatable. Go on and pour yourself a glass of juice-without me-and I'll call her off and leave you to it."
She takes in the inevitability of the impending humiliation with one sweeping look from bandaged hand to fridge door to cupboard full of glasses.
"I can go without juice for a couple hours," she says after a moment.
"Be that as it may, she's coming over. I love you, babe."
She can't say anything to that. And if she's being honest (not that she is, necessarily, but if she were) she still isn't feeling great and she could use the distraction. And of the potential choices, she supposes Amelia is at least the less awkward one. She is trying to imagine Pete minding her-or Addison!-and she supposes she can handle Amelia Shepherd.
"Ground rules," she says, as soon as Cooper is gone. "We don't talk about this."
She sees a very brief flash of sympathy-briefer, thankfully, then what she'd get from any of the others-and then a curt, all-business nod. "Fair enough."
"And you don't treat me like a baby. You're here for Coop. He wants it that way."
"I'm here," Amelia says. "Because we're friends now, you and me. And I was in the mood for hanging out with my friend. You understand?"
Oh, yeah. Definitely the lesser of the evils, this one.
"Do you play Scrabble?" Amelia asks.
"Scrabble. There's a board full of squares, and tiny plastic tiles, and..."
"Amelia. My hand."
"Oh, bull crap to your hand, Charlotte King, there is nothing better for fine motor rehab than putting those tiny little tiles on a game board. Unless you're afraid I'll win?"
It takes her almost seven painful minutes to work the first word out of her tile rack and onto the board, and although she checks Amelia periodically for signs of impatience, or of pity, the woman is as poker a face as she has ever seen. And not a half-bad Scrabble player either. By the end of the game, she is exhausted, and her hand is throbbing something fierce, but she does feel a tiny bit less awkward in the giant bandage. When the hours drag by and she answers the call of nature, she manages the worst of it without assistance for the first time since the-the accident-and is spared the humiliation of help until she gets to the hand-washing part.
"All right," Amelia says. "You hungry?"
And again, Amelia pushes her, that poker face never revealing a hint of anything beneath the surface. A sandwich and chips, instead of the easier cup of soup Cooper's been making for her. Work those fingers, Charlotte King. Pick up the tiny chippy pieces and work 'em good.
It's all fine (it is, it is) until Amelia suggests she rest for a minute while the dishes get seen to. She's worked that bum hand harder than she planned to, and it's feeling sluggish and clumsy, lying like a shriveled sausage at the end of her bruised, tired arm. So when she reaches for the water glass, she isn't moving like she should, and that hand of hers swats itself into the lamp and sends it sprawling.
She remembers the crashing sound, the tinkle of broken glass as it falls to the floor, and then blackness. And screaming.
She comes to, and Violet is there. And Cooper. She's on the floor, and she doesn't remember getting there, but she's huddled up against the wall, forehead banging rhythmically into drawn, shaky knees, and she's screaming.
"Charlotte?" Violet's voice is first a question, then a strong, firm command. "Charlotte, look at me."
She bangs her head again, doesn't find the focal point she needs, screams some more and closes her eyes. Images, too fast for her to focus on. Broken glass. Spots of prickly light behind clenched, leaking eyes. And pain, oh god, the pain of it...
"Charlotte! Deep breaths hon, come on. Come back to us, Char. Deep breaths..."
At last, a task to focus on. She times the breaths to the bang of her head into her knees, one, two...then her equilibrium catches up to her again, and she stops screaming, stops banging. Goes limp.
Cooper, behind Violet. "Thank god. Violet, what the..."
Violet shushes him away, turns to her. "Charlotte? Can you look at me, hon?"
She lifts her head up from her knees, still feeling off somehow, like she's just waking up, like she's moving through sand.
"I knocked over the lamp," she says.
She sees Violet slump a little, and trade relieved glances with Cooper. No poker face, this one...
"God-damned hand. Still clumsy. Knocked over the..."
"I see that. You okay?"
She manages a short, bitter laugh. "Oh yeah. Just swell."
Violet makes a therapist face, suggesting to Cooper that he grab himself a cup of tea. He flees, a little gratefully, into the kitchen, taking Amelia with him. And Violet kneels down beside her and holds out her hand. "Shall we get you off the floor?"
It's a flashback, Violet tells her later. And knocking over that lamp was a triggering experience.
"But I don't remember seeing flashes," she protests. "Just...just hearing 'em, I guess. And then...and then you were here."
Violet seems only mildly alarmed at this clarification. She says something about another neuro exam, just to be on the safe side, but then explains that a flashback isn't always pictures. "It wasn't the image that triggered it, it was the sound. The glass breaking."
"So you're saying I got more of these coming my way, every time I knock something over with my stupid, clumsy hand?"
"I'm saying that today, right now, that was the trigger. It may be the only trigger. It may not be. But yes, you probably do have more of these coming your way. And that's normal, while you're in recovery."
"And how long do you expect this 'recovery' will take?"
"That depends a lot on how you handle this. Are you amenable to counseling, Charlotte?"
She's about to say no, when she remembers NA. She's not dumb enough to turn away a tool if it's useful, and she says so. Violet is again relieved.
"Okay, that's good. You know, there are special...there are people who specialize in the sort of experiences you've had. I can give you some names..."
More people, into her business. She shudders. "No. You."
"If you would prefer it that way, I'm honored."
"Just keep it business, you get me? When those sessions are done, I am still your chief of staff and you treat me that way if I ever need you for a consult, you hear?"
"You know, I have done this sort of thing before, Charlotte."
"I know. Just saying. I haven't, see?"
Violet moves closer, but is careful not to touch her or take her hand. "Well, whatever I can do to make this easier..."
She shakes her head. "Won't get easier until the pain heals up, I think. No meds, Violet. I'm still feeling it, like it happened just now."
"Well, that might explain, why the flashback was so intense for you. But even so, I'd still like that neuro check-up. Can you go in with Amelia tomorrow? Get it looked at?"
More time with her new buddy. Woo hoo.
To be continued...