Author's Note: Watching 4.10, I had to respond to the Cooper/Charlotte situation and see where it took me :) This is NOT connected to my other fic series. I am going AU, but from a different angle, from 4.10 onward. Hope you enjoy!

Good Man in the Storm

"Baby, I'm sorry. Come on, just please come out already? I'm so, so sorry, Char, come on..."

She's tuned him out. His pleas lost their intensity about five repetitions ago, so she checked out of it then, tried to focus on her breathing, get things back under control. It's taking more effort than she thought it would. She can't stop shaking, and the sound of his voice is just making it worse, but the thought of facing him to tell him that now makes her ill and so she just huddles there, shivering, and wills him to go away. And finally, he does, that turncoat boy of hers. Just gives up and goes, and part of her is so relieved she wants to cry again, and part of her is so angry she wants to smack him.

"Huh," a voice says. "Son of a bitch, that one, ain't he?"

She looks up, sees those eyes, that beard, that presence. Nearly loses it again. "Big Daddy?"

"Hey, baby girl."

"But..."

"Now, none of that. Come on, buck up, you'll have to go out there sooner or later. Before you do though, I'd best set that boy of yours straight, hadn't I?"

"I..."

"Now, you just sit tight, baby girl. I'll be back in a jiffy."

And he walks out, straight through that wall, and he starts yelling.

"Now, you listen here, Mister Man. You got no call raising your voice to people, you hear me? That's not how the good man in the storm treats his missus, you hear? That's my baby girl in there, and she's a precious flower, you understand that, boy? So man up, and be there for her!"

It goes on a little, but she's so tired. The words blur together, but she remains aware, even as she drifts off, that she's hearing them, and the yelling-on her behalf, this time-is a balm on her battered soul. That voice, his voice, being there for her, it lulls her at last into a restless sleep.

She wakes up and she's in bed somehow, but she's still shivering. Her head is pounding, and when she scrunches shut her eyes to stem the pain, all she can see are blurry images coming at her too fast to let her breathe. Damn. Last thing she needs is for Coop to wake up and see her this way again...

"Well, why shouldn't he see?" Big Daddy asks her. "This mess ain't all on you, is it? Told that boy he shouldn't have shouted. Now, look here, baby girl, this isn't all on you."

Her lip trembles. She is afraid, and she doesn't know if she can stop the tears...

Big Daddy sighs. "All right, if this is how you want to play it. Let's see if we can work this through before you wake him. Deep breaths, baby girl. Come on."

He talks her through it. Gets that edge of panic dulled just enough that she although she senses Cooper stir beside her, he turns over again and falls back to sleep without waking.

She exhales, relieved, and Big Daddy sighs again. "Damn it, baby girl. I can see we got work to do."

At breakfast, she doesn't talk to him. He says something, and she nods, but she isn't talking. Big Daddy had joined them at the table just as Coop was dishing out his atonement breakfast, pancakes with syrup, and sausages, and orange juice. She smiles, and she nods, but she doesn't talk. Big Daddy's still on a roll, and it's so much easier to just let him do the answering...

"So, I know you have this budget meeting," Coop is saying, all casual, just like he never yelled at her. "I can drop you off on my way to work, if you want to."

"Course she wants to," Big Daddy says. "Last thing she needs is to spend the day at that practice of hers, with the likes of you to check in on things."

"I can meet you for lunch though. Say, noon-ish?"

"There some other time people lunch around here?" Big Daddy asks.

"We can go to that place you like, with the buffalo caesar salad..."

"Still feeling guilty, are ya?" Big Daddy smirks. Then, to her, he says "I'd go for steak if it was me, but fine. You want to lunch on salads with this lunk?"

She shrugs, nods her head. It satisfies both of them. She gets out the door without any further talking.

She comes to the practice after the budget meeting, sees Violet, sees Addison. Does the big smiles, those two seem to bring that out in her. She sees Amelia and almost confesses that she'd kill for a drink or something, but she bites her lip, gets on with things. Big Daddy trails behind her, offering his usual insightful commentary.

"Charts? That all you came in in here for?"

She shrugs, nods. And he keeps talking. "Though I suppose you don't rightly have the time to keep this place more than just a moonlight. Guess it raises your profile some, having this affiliation. Makes it worth the hours you must put in. Two jobs, baby girl. Not sure how you do it, though I'm betting you welcome the distraction right about now."

More work brings more people her way though, there is that downside. She smiles through an overly cheerful hello with Sheldon, then another one with Pete, who keeps looking at her like he knows all her secrets. She rounds back to her office, closes the door and at last, takes a breath.

He's still there, watching her.

"Big Daddy?"

"Yes, baby girl."

"You gonna be here long?"

"Haven't rightly put a date on it, if that's what you're askin. I was needed, I came. Like any daddy worth his salt would do."

"Only thing is, this particular daddy that I personally have...he passed on, see."

"I know that, baby girl. I was there. Come to think of it, so was that boy of yours, wasn't he?"

"He was."

"Did right by you, as I recall."

"He did."

"Well, that's something, I guess. Suppose I should apologize for the names I called him when I yelled at him yesterday."

"Oh, he deserved it."

"That he did, baby girl, that he did. That boy of yours, right by you thought he may be, he needs a few lessons about being the good man in the storm."

"Reckon I need a few lessons about being the girl who sent him out there."

"Reckon you've had all the lessons you need. You have to understand, baby girl, this isn't on you."

"So people keep telling me. And yet..."

"And yet you're still hurting. I know you are."

"Reckon all of them know it, too."

"So, here's what you do, you got two choices. Choice one, you pick one of 'em, you let 'em in on this. Don't need that whole motley lot knowing your business, so you choose one."

She winces. "And choice two?"

"Take some pills. Dull the pain until it don't hurt so bad."

That, finally, is what sends her over the edge. She's come so far without going that way, and now he's gonna be the one to send her there? Unacceptable. But what can she do? She has to do something. What can she do? She closes her eyes, clenches her fists, bangs her head against the wall. And starts screaming.