Note: I've already written about the Charlotte/Cooper situation from Charlotte's perspective. I thought it might be a fun hiatus project to look at the situation again from Cooper's POV. We'll see where this takes us! Usual angst warnings apply, given the storyline they have going on, but this will be straight-up Charlotte/Cooper with the happy ending!
He opens his eyes his eyes in the middle of the night, and is instantly aware that she is wide awake beside him. She's gotten better at doing that without waking him. In the first weeks after what happened -he still can't say the proper word, even in his head- she'd wake up screaming, kicking at the sheets and thrashing away when he'd reach out to try and comfort her. He knows the nightmares still plague her, but she can mask it now, and she often doesn't even wake him. He is not sure this is an improvement.
He stretches a little, looks over, isn't sure what he should say. She's lying there, rigid and perfectly still and staring up at the ceiling with tearful, serious eyes. Her breathing is just a little too slow and careful. She's maintaining, at whatever level it is she's set for herself tonight. But she's working at it.
She looks over at him, then closes her eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't. I just woke up. Are you..."
"Don't ask that."
"I'm sorry. I..."
"Don't say that either."
A part of him is telling him to leave it, but the cro-magnon part of him that wants to help her just can't leave this alone. "All right, I won't ask. But will you tell me?"
She sighs, turns her head in his direction. But still won't open her eyes. "What's to tell? You know what this is."
"I know, I just..."
"Just leave it, Coop. Let me just lay here and try to...I don't know. Just leave it, will you?"
He can hear the almost-crying in her voice, so he leaves it. But he feels like a heel. Since when has Cooper Friedman ever left a woman, the way he's leaving her? Since when has he ever turned his back on someone who's hurting? But...under these circumstances...what else can he DO?
He drifts off again, and the alarm eventually wakes him. But she, he suspects, did not go back to sleep at all. He senses her twitch a little at the sudden noise of the alarm, but other than that, she is just as he left her-lying there, stiff, controlled, staring up at the ceiling and looking like she's trying not to completely freak out. She lets him lean over, lets him give her a tiny kiss. But he can feel her tensing when he touches her.
"So? You want first shower?" he asks.
"Breakfast? Pancakes? Waffles?"
"No. Don't talk about this. Don't start another day looking sorry. You get over this, Coop, you hear me?"
"What about me?"
"Will you get over this too?"
She bristles, hops out of bed. "Like I said. Don't talk about this."
He has a session with Sheldon, over lunch. He hasn't told her yet that he's doing that. He wonders if she'd want to know or if this would fall under the 'this' she has forbidden him from talking about...
"And then she says 'don't talk about this,'" he tells Sheldon. "So what am I supposed to do with that?"
"Well," Sheldon says. "I'd say you follow her lead. Look, I know this is frustrating for you. But you need to think less about today and more about the bigger picture. No matter how controlled she seems to you, she can't hold this in forever."
"Sure she can. You know her too, Sheldon, and..."
"Yes, I do know her. And as a professional, I also know her type, and I know what happens to people like her when they find themselves in situations this big and this scary. She'll repress it as long as she can, and then it will all come out in a big way, and everything will start getting better."
"It will be. And you need to be ready for it, Cooper. Because when it happens, she'll need you."
"And in the meantime?"
"In the meantime, hard as it's going to be for you, you pretend right along with her. You go about your day, your life, your routine like everything is fine and you show her, in whatever small ways you can, that you're there for her, that you love her, that you're safe and gentle and listening. She has to know, on some instinctive level, that when she does finally break, you'll be there to put her back together."
"Damn. This is the hardest thing I've ever done, Sheldon."
"It's the hardest thing she's ever done too. Remember that, Cooper. It's the hardest thing she's ever done too."
He thinks about what he would have done for her before this happened. Would he have gone into her office and asked her what she was doing for lunch? Probably not. He would have gone in there, sure, but it wouldn't have been lunch they had together. So how can he do this now? How can he pretend it's all the same when it isn't?
She solves the problem for him, comes in to his office while he's sitting there stewing about it, and sits down in his chair.
"I'm sorry," she says.
"For snipping at you. Didn't mean to, this morning. Just...just haven't been sleeping that well, I guess. Makes me a little snippy, when I don't sleep."
"No, it's not. I shouldn't have special rules, Coop. I know I'm...that I have...well, you know. You know what it is. But it shouldn't mean I get special rules."
"Because then it would just be something else about my life that's different now?"
He sighs. "All right. You were snippy. Bad girl."
"So, I'm apologizing. Now, you have to say you forgive me."
"I forgive you."
"Thank you. So, we go for lunch and I buy."
He goes for lunch with her, and she sits, smiles once, then silently eats without even looking at him. She doesn't seem to feel much like talking. He isn't sure he feels like talking either.
"It's weird," he complains to Sheldon after. "It's just weird, and I'm tired of it being weird. And I know what you're gonna say, it's weird for her too, but Sheldon, I need a little more right now."
"I know you do."
"You could bring her in with you one time," Sheldon suggests. "A little joint therapy, if you think she'd do it."
"Sheldon, she doesn't even know I'm coming in, let alone convincing her to come herself..."
"Well, a little therapy would help her. It doesn't need to be with me -probably shouldn't be, given my history with her- but it would help her."
"You want to try convincing her?"
"Why? Have you already discussed it with her?"
"Addison did. On the night of."
"Well, now that things have settled some, it might be worth revisiting. And not from Addison, either."
"Thing is, Sheldon, she told me she doesn't want to talk about this. So how am I supposed to bring this up?"
"Wait for an opening to present itself. And Cooper, it will. Maintaining, at the level of denial she's at right now, is very difficult. You'll have an opening. I'd take it when I could get it if I were you."
To his surprise, the opening comes sooner than he thinks it will. When he goes to the hospital at the end of the day to get her, she's fuming. Or shouting, anyway. When she doesn't come out to meet him, he goes looking at her and he can hear it from halfway down the corridor.
"Get out!" Charlotte is screaming, and he can hear an edge of out-of-control in her tone that alarms him. "Out of my office, out of my hospital..."
The voice that answers is Addison. "We're not done here."
He cracks open the door, peeks in. Charlotte is pacing, her face red, her eyes wild. Addison is standing still, speaking calmly, looking more concerned than angry.
Charlotte's voice is pure ice. "You stay away, Montgomery. Don't you dare touch that girl."
They notice him, and Addison turns his way, explains. "We have a patient."
"Addison..." Charlotte warns.
"Sixteen years old," Addison continues. "Signs of beating, and sexual trauma. She has a broken hand, Cooper. And a blow to the eye socket."
He flinches, recognizing the pattern of injuries. "Charlotte? Sweetie, are you..."
"She was maintaining," Addison says, with a nod to Charlotte, who is sitting now, looking pale and still and a little bit trembly. "At least, I thought she was. She was with me on a consult when I got the page, said she'd come with me and deal with the CAS call while I did my exam. And then the girl said she didn't want the rape kit..."
"That's her choice," Charlotte says. "That should be up to her."
"Except it's not, because this is California and we have mandatory reporting for assault cases involving a minor. Charlotte, I have to do the rape kit. It's the law."
"It's her body. She should have the choice!"
"I know she should. But she doesn't. And I have to do the exam. I can do it now, make it as gentle as possible. Or I can wait until the social worker gets here and over-rules you and hovers over my shoulder while I do it. But Charlotte, I need to do the exam."
Charlotte's hands are tight fists, her body antsy with fight. "You'll make it gentle? You'll make it GENTLE? You have any idea what it feels like to go through one of those?"
"Not personally, no, which is why I'm cutting you some slack for the way you've been speaking to me. I get why this is a button for you..."
"Oh, for goodness sake..."
"...but I am doing this exam, with or without your approval."
"Without my consent, you mean. That's the word, isn't it? Consent?"
Addison flinches. "This is not about you."
"Without her consent, than."
"She's sixteen years old!"
"It's her body. She should have that much."
"There are a lot of things she should have had today. Charlotte, I am so, so sorry."
"Real sick of hearing those words..."
"You can stay for it, if you want to."
"All right." Addison turns to him. "Cooper, she's sixteen. There are mandatory reporting laws."
He nods. "Let me talk to her."
Addison hesitates, then turns to go. "I'll wait outside. You come and tell me when I'm clear to go ahead on this. But Cooper, talk fast. The sooner we get this done, the easier."
He nods, but he's already turned his attention away from Addison, and to Charlotte. This is his opening. He's going in.