Note: This is a sequel to my previous fic, Moving On. It helps if you read it first, but if you haven't, the gist is that this follows Charlotte and Cooper post 4.07 and goes AU from there. In this AU, Charlotte and Cooper are struggling to deal with the rape. Cooper has begun attending a spouses and partners support group, Charlotte is working through some panic attack issues (and not much else productive) with Violet, and Amelia has become a friend and recently a neighbour as well. And now, the story continues with a visit from Addison's Grey's Anatomy friend Callie, who comes to visit, and it's a good thing too because her specialty will turn out to be very useful. Apologies if I get any of the medical info wrong-I am relying on Dr. Wikipedia and years of medical drama watching for all of it except for one aspect. I did my best to get it right. Oh, and this fic is an angsty one-it has a happy ending, but there is a rough patch first. Consider yourself warned.
Strangers in the Night
She's woken, again, by the pounding, ear-splitting pulse of her own screams. There is a hand on her. She thrashes, sheer instinct, sheer fight or flight, and kicks against the pressure and the noise and the panic. There are lights. Real ones, not dream ones this time. And a soft voice crooning gently in her ear.
"I'm here, I'm here, it's okay..."
But she's still reeling, still trying to separate the now from the dream, and her body recoils instinctively from the pressure of his hands against her skin. She whimpers, shrugs out of his grasp, buries her face deep within the blankets. Hears him sigh and feels the bed lighten as he leaves it. She is aware of lights going on in the other room, and his voice again.
She sneaks away into the bathroom while he is occupied. It's sweet that he's been so attentive. But right now, she really needs to be some place where she can close the door on him.
She's cradled up against the cool tile wall of the bathroom, legs crossed, yoga-style. She's doing the meditation breaths, like Violet taught her, when at last there is a knock on the door.
Amelia. Not him. Third time this week he's called her down here for something like this, and she's wondering if Amelia is starting to regret becoming their neighbour. A part of her is still herself enough to register disgust at this state of affairs. She can't remember a time in her life since infancy where she has needed this much tending...
"Char, honey, it's Amelia. Can I come in?"
She takes a deep breath. "He out there?"
"You want him to be?"
"Just you right now."
She cracks open the door, lets Amelia come in. Lets Amelia look her up and down as much as she can in the dim glow of the nightlight...
"So?" Amelia asks.
She shrugs. "Just needed to be somewhere quiet and dark right now."
"Fair enough. You want to tell me about it?"
"You want to go back to bed yet?"
"You know, I could give you a lecture about this. Tell you that you need your sleep or something."
"But you won't, because you know I'll smack you?"
"But I won't because I'm neither boring nor predictable and that's what lectures are. You gave Coop a scare, babe."
"That's the least of what's wrong."
"I know. But you scared him just the same. He'd really like to come in here and see you right now."
Meditation breaths. One, two, three...
"Fine," she finally says. "Let him come and see."
She registers the relief on Amelia's face, feels momentarily guilty. But she doesn't dwell on that. Let other people deal as they will. She has enough dealing to do herself.
He's limping a little. She softens. "Did I get you?"
"Nowhere that'll leave a mark. Charlotte..."
"No. I'm done talking. You and Violet, you want to talk all the time..."
"I want to understand," he says. "I want to know where you go in your head when this happens."
"Then I want to know why you go there, so I can know how to stop it from happening."
"Don't know. Don't know."
"And then I want to know what I can do to bring you out again."
She reaches out her hand for him. "Yeah. That's the tough one, ain't it?"
"What can I do, Charlotte? What can I do? I know that this is...it's bigger than me, than you, than...I know, I really do. But can you give me one thing, maybe? Just one thing tonight, that I can do?"
Meditation breaths. Escalation, she reminds herself as she feels her fingers clenching. That's all it is, it's a stress response and it's an escalation and she can dial this back again. Meditation breaths...
"Your hands," she finally says.
He frowns. "My hands? What about them?"
"Just that if it's...if it's bad, like it was tonight, I don't always come out of it right away. And I can't tell that it's your hands, not his..."
He winces. "I just...just want to hold you. When I see that you're hurting, I want to hold you and take away your pain..."
"Then hold me now, after. But when we're there, in that moment, you need to control yourself and keep your hands away."
Her eyes are hard and strong and fortified by meditation breaths. His are swimming with tears. "I love you," he says. "I don't want to hurt you."
She nods. "Then keep your hands away. I love you too, Coop. But keep your goddamned hands away."
They send Amelia home again, and Cooper declares himself too shaken to sleep again.
"You want some tea?" he asks. "Breakfast, maybe? I could make French toast..."
She rubs her eyes. "What time is it?"
"In the morning?"
"Damn," she says. "Bet Amelia's fit to be tied."
"I don't want her understanding. I want this not to be...not to..."
"Shhh. I know, sweetheart, I know. Can I...can I hold you now? God, Charlotte, you scared me to death, can I just hold you for a few minutes?"
She doesn't really want him to. But she submits, in the name of him shutting up already. She sees now why he and Violet are such good friends. They both love to talk like nobody's business.
She goes into work with him-cleared for that now, going on a week-and she has to admit, she's feeling groggy. It'll wear off. Enough caffeine, or enough sugar-that's Amelia's doing, that vice-and it'll wear off. She just hopes it wears off before Violet sees her...
No luck. Violet's waiting in her office when she gets there.
"Good morning, Charlotte," Violet says.
"Damn. Which one of 'em called you?"
"That's not really relevant."
"Like hell it's not! Which one, Violet?"
"I'm not discussing that with you. Can I ask, how you're feeling?"
"Damn tired of talking about this."
"Damn tired of hearing that too. Did you want something, Violet? Cause I actually do have some charts to catch up on..."
Violet sighs. "You know, this would be a lot easier if you would just open up a little."
"Nothing about this is easy. Well? We done?"
She finds her morning more than a little frantic. The charts really have been piling up in her absence, and she still has one arm in a cast to boot. It's the one bandage that hasn't come off yet, and the itching has been driving her crazy. Last day or two, it's been hurting too, and she thought she was over that.
Amelia comes in just as she's hitting her limit.
Amelia nods to the charts. "Your eyes crossing yet?"
"Damn near. You got plans for lunch today?"
"Addison has a friend from Seattle coming in. We were supposed to go meet her at the airport, but I heard the plane was delayed. Fog."
"From Seattle, that don't surprise me. So, you got plans?"
"Feeling like I could do with a meeting..."
Amelia immediately gets quiet, looks her up and down appraisingly. "Your arm?"
"Did I say I wanted to talk about it?"
"Okay, okay, I get it. All right. We'll go."
She sits through the meeting, but it doesn't help her much. By the time it's done, she's hungry and she's irritable and she has to admit, she isn't feeling great. She's used to little sleep-she's a doctor, after all-but lord knows it's something more draining than work that's keeping her up these days, and her arm is throbbing something fierce. By the time they're out, she is resigned to admitting that she needs to bail on the day.
"Can you drop me home instead?"
Amelia stops, stares at her. "All right. Spill."
"You're not. Char, what is it, hon? What aren't you telling me?"
"Very many things. Look, just drop me, will ya?"
Amelia frowns. "I'm calling Cooper."
That does it. She's had it. Enough with the goopy eyes, she expects that from Violet, from Cooper, but not from Amelia too. And she is so, so sick of all the minding, and watching, and meddling, and lord have mercy, the talking...
"Look, just drop me or don't," she snaps. "I'm not saying anything else."
Amelia drops her at home. She's back to her usual poker face and she doesn't even look angry that she's been yelled at. Great. Something else to feel guilty about.
Cooper is late, coming home. "Addison's friend Callie is in town," he says by way of explanation. "She brought her by the office just as I was leaving and I had to say hi. They invited us over, for drinks. If you feel up to it..."
"Of course I feel up to it," she snits. "Why wouldn't I?"
He's eyeing her warily. He's clearly been briefed by Amelia...
"Okay..." he says slowly. "So...I'm going to go change my clothes. And you could change yours too, if you wanted to. Or have a snack. Or have a nap..."
"So help me, Coop, if you keep hovering on me like this, I'll take you to Addison's and leave you there."
"Okay," he says again. He pastes on a cheerful smile and slowly backs away into the bedroom. "Um, twenty minutes?"