Note: This will be a little different from my other stories in that I aim this to be an ongoing epic, starting from 4.11 and spanning the rest of the season, dealing with events (and complications) both 'off-screen' and in the episodes. Therefore, updates during weeks we have no episode might be less frequent, but the story will continue until the season ends. It will be independent of the other stories I have written and will follow the show's events more closely, although there may be some embellishments. I hope my fellow Cooper/Charlotte fans will enjoy it! I am not a fan of interrupting the story with huge author notes in every chapter so I don't always respond to every feedback, but I truly treasure all the wonderful comments that have been left on my previous stories and am always so grateful when people take time to comment. I hope you'll join me for another story, and I welcome any suggestions for events you want to see happen!
We'll be alternating viewpoints, with one chapter for Cooper, one for Charlotte per episode:) You'll see highs and lows for both of them-please don't expect either one to always behave perfectly, but there will be a nice ending, I promise! I have received some nasty messages through the PM system and elsewhere regarding this, and I have to admit, it was a little disheartening. We all have our own interpretations- there is no right or wrong. Just please remember that people like me are doing this for fun. If you want to read it and you enjoy it, that's amazing. If you find my style is not your thing, nobody is forcing you. Let's just enjoy the season together as fellow fans.
The Tricks That We Use
It would be great to be so strong
Never needing anybody else to get along
But we're so scared of the silence, and the tricks that we use
Oh We're careful and we're cunning, but we're easily bruised
I don't want to lie about it, I'm not bulletproof
"I made her smile again."
He's in Sheldon's office, the morning after the Chicken Sex, and he's reporting back on the night's events.
"Oh?" Sheldon says.
"Uh huh. It was a weird night, Sheldon, a really weird night. We tried...well, I thought we did. Or we were going to. And then it just..."
"Just what, Cooper?"
"It didn't feel right, somehow. And...I don't know. I freaked out a little, because all this time I was worrying that SHE wasn't ready, and it never occurred to me that I might not be..."
"That's an important realization."
"But then I remembered that you said we had to work up to it. And I thought maybe this is just like the talking thing, you know? Like, we don't have to talk about this, necessarily. We just have to talk about something, you know?"
"So what did you talk about?"
"We talked about the best place in Southern California to get fried chicken. And now, we have a little thing. You know, it could have gone the other way, last night, with tears and apologies and a whole angsty thing. I made her smile instead. And maybe it wasn't sex, but it was something."
"Yes," Sheldon says. "And you can build on that, Cooper. Little pockets of normal, one moment at a time."
"Can I...can I ask you something else, while I'm in here?"
"Of course you can."
"She's...she's a little nicer now. A little softer, maybe. To me. To other people. Is is really, really awful that I'm kind of glad about that?"
"I'll answer your question and say that you are not really awful. But I'd like to table any further discussion on it, if that's all right. Cooper, there are a lot of things about Charlotte's life that are in flux right now. It's like...it's like her life was a boat, and the attack threw her off the side of it. She's made it to the life raft now. But she's still all alone out there, in the middle of the ocean, trying to survive until she finds terra firma. And that can take awhile."
"But she's not alone."
"A part of her is, Cooper, and always will be in this. Because she's the only one who saw, who felt what happened that night. There's a part of what she's been through that she can never really share with you."
"So, what do I do, Sheldon? How do I make her not be alone in this?"
"You do what you're doing. You take things slow with her, and you build up the normal until it's there more often than it's not and she feels like she's back on steady ground. I wouldn't try the sex again just yet. Touch, cuddle, kiss. But leave the sex alone until it feels right -really right- for both of you. Just picture her alone in that life raft in the middle of the ocean. And try to be the light that guides her back to shore."
"Poetic, for a shrink."
"I have my moments. If I might give you one tiny caution before you go?"
"You had a good night, Cooper. And I don't want to take that away from you. But believe it or not, it's still pretty early days for this kind of thing. You can't expect that every night will be good. You understand me?"
"Yeah. Thanks, Sheldon."
"So, are you gonna tell me?"
"Tell you what?"
"The best place in Southern California to get fried chicken."
On that happy note, he leaves and goes to get himself ready for his day.
He stops by the hospital at lunchtime, but she isn't there, and nobody seems quite sure where she is. A nurse thinks she was with a patient, but doesn't know which one. Another nurse thinks she had a budget meeting. A third says she's at the practice, but he's just come from there...
He calls Violet. "Hey. Can you check for me, is Charlotte there?"
Violet puts down the phone for a second, then comes back. "Nope. Everything okay?"
"Just...she isn't here either. So..."
"So maybe she went out for awhile."
"Or maybe she's...god, Violet, what if she's hurt again? He's still out there, the man who...he's still out there. A lot of people are still out there, and she could be hurt, and she could be scared, and she could be..."
"She could be at the bank. Or at the coffee shop. Or..."
"Damn it, Vi! She could be hurt!"
"Okay," Violet says. "I can see where this is coming from, but it's not gonna help you, Coop. Slow down for a second, take some deep breaths for me, okay?"
"This was a trauma for you too. You know that, right?"
"You're having a panic reaction, because this was a trauma for you too. But Cooper, you're not going to get through this by flying off the handle every time she's out of your sight. She's going to need space, sometimes. To go off and think for awhile, to go about her life. She doesn't have to account for where she is at every moment of the day."
"It's lunchtime. I always try and find her at lunchtime to check in and see if she wants to eat with me."
"That's sweet. Now, tell yourself she just wanted to eat alone today."
"She could be hurt, Violet. She could be lying in a ditch somewhere."
"Or she could be trying to pace herself after a maybe stressful morning by getting out of the hospital for a breather. Remember, that hospital is where it happened, Coop. It's a trigger now. And if something happened this morning that set that trigger off, she'd want to get away so she could calm down again."
"But...why wouldn't she call me? Why wouldn't she just let me know where she is?"
"Would she have before?"
"So there you have it. Look, trust her a little. I know it's hard because she's not exactly a world-class sharer and you feel like you can't be sure she's always okay, but trust her. She's come to me, about things. She's gone to Naomi too, I think. When she needs something, she asks for it."
"Okay, that's great, but...but she's not HERE, Violet. Where could she be?"
Violet sighs. "All right, come on back here to the practice and wait with me, okay? She has a consult booked here in about an hour. If she's not here by then, I'll entertain your ditch theory."
What can he do? She isn't here. But he knows where she'll be. So he heads back to the practice like he's been told, and he waits for her.
"Okay," Violet says. They're back in her office, and he's trying to sit, but his foot keeps tapping, and he can't stop checking his phone for a message or text. "We have some time, so we're going to practice."
"Practice not flying off the handle at Charlotte when she turns up for her consult."
"I mean it, Coop. It won't help things, if you do. I promise you that. So, whatever stressing you want to do, you get it out of your system now, with me."
"I'm not stressing, Violet."
"You totally are. She's in a ditch, and you're right there with her, and you're freaking out, and it's not gonna help. So, put the phone down and look at me, Cooper. Pretend I'm Charlotte, and I've just come in. What do you say to me?"
"I say where the HELL were you, I was worried sick!"
"Um...I say hey babe, how was your morning?"
"Then I casually mention I went by the hospital earlier and couldn't find you."
"All right, how's this? Um...I had to work through lunch today. What did you wind up getting?"
"Better. See? This is helping."
"Where is she, Violet?"
"I texted her like three times. Where IS she?"
Ten minutes before the scheduled consult, Charlotte rolls in, and he has to stop himself from pouncing. He keeps his pace casual as he follows her into the kitchen, Violet hot on his heels and whispering a warning 'relax...' as she takes watch by the door to monitor his progress.
Charlotte closes the fridge, looks his way. "Oh. Hey."
"How was your morning?"
"It was fine too."
"Good. We're both fine."
"What, Coop? You're using that checking up tone with me. What do you want me to tell you?"
"Just...I was at the hospital before and I couldn't find you. I kinda...kinda worried, a little."
Her eyes narrow. "How much of a little?"
"Well, okay, more than a little. I texted you, like, three times."
"Yeah. I saw."
"And I was driving, so I couldn't answer. And then I wasn't driving, but I was annoyed with you for acting like a stalker. Okay?"
He's not quite sure where this mood has come from. But, even though he sees that she's okay, it's making his worry not quite go away...
"Charlotte? Where were you driving?"
"I was driving to someplace I had to be. And that's all I'm gonna tell you. If you're done inquisitioning me, I have a consult, so..."
He frowns. "Do I need to apologize? Because it sounds like you're angry, and I'm not sure what I did except be worried cause I couldn't find you and I didn't know if you were okay. And I worry about that because I love you, you know?"
"Uh huh. Look, I have a consult..."
He sighs. "All right. So...we'll talk later?"
She shrugs, leaves. Never quite gives him his answer. Violet comes over and pats his arm. "Well," she says with a chipper smile. "That went better than I thought it would."