A.N.: Hey guys! It's been a while! To make this easy on you, this chapter takes place the same day as the last. So reread if you have to. Hopefully i'll be updating more frequently now. 'Hopefully' being the operative word. ;) Thank you for reading and reviewing! Happy June!
It's been one of those long-drawn-out days, that somehow still seem to lack the adequate amount of hours needed to get everything done, and she's tired. Dead tired.
The ER's been a madhouse— one difficult patient filing in after another— and she'd be paged, forced to leave the peaceful solitude of her office, only to return some number of minutes later to find yet another stack of paperwork staring her in the face.
And then the cycle would repeat itself. Dammit, it never ends does it?
She glances at the clock. A quarter before seven. Still early— nothing compared to her late nights. But she's beyond ready to get the hell out of here.
It's becoming difficult to concentrate. Her mind is too focused on headin' home, slippin' into somethin' a little more comfortable (her favorite pair of sweats, or if Cooper has his way, her birthday suit), veggin' out with her man on the couch (think she can talk him into a foot rub?), pretendin' that she'll never have to move, never have to deal with another damn piece of paperwork or shit-for-brain patient ever, ever again for as long as she lives… (that delusion ending with the chime of her alarm the next morning)…
And lest we forget round two of playin' doctor tonight...
God, that's just what she needs right now…
But reality check— she can't leave just yet. She has work to do. And like Big Daddy always used to say: Either fish or cut bait.
And given that this papery sea of chaos is currently submerging what she usually considers a tidy and professional display… she better get a move on and grab a fishin' rod.
So she straightens up, scoots herself closer to the desk, picks up a pen, and scans the flood of papers in front of her. Jesus. How in God's name did she fall so behind? Sure she was busy, but it wasn't like she didn't have ten minutes here and there to fill this crap out.
Her cell phone chimes: Her battery's gettin' low. Thanks a lot, Coop.
He'd been messaging her off and on all day. Some suggestive texts. A few sweet compliments. One very inappropriate picture…
Tryin' to keep her all riled up for tonight's entertainment, bless him.
Oh lord, and then the idiot made that crazy-ass comment about his—
Now it's startin' to make sense.
All that textin' nonsense may have a little somethin' to do with her desk still bein' covered with this daunting mound of unsigned forms.
But she figures she can't be too mad about that. Honestly, it kept her in a decent mood despite all the aggravatin' commotion goin' on— and good thing too, because if she wasn't in her current cheery disposition, someone's head would've definitely been chewed off by now.
Instead, she's still sportin' a smile as she separates her remaining work into her habitual, three piles:
- Can wait 'til tomorrow
- Comin' home with me
- Gotta be finished before I can even think about leavin'
… and then she spends the next thirty minutes-or-so writing like a mad woman.
She's just about ready to take off when there's a knock on the door and Addison meekly pokes her head in.
"Hey! Oh…," her gaze switched to the purse readily sitting on Charlotte's shoulder. "Heading out?"
"Gettin' ready to. Still have to make a quick stop at the practice, and I think I've had my fill of this place for the day." She evens out the pile in front of her and gathers it between her forearm and her chest, all with the intention of standin' up, stayin' true to her word, and marchin' straight on out of there.
But Addison looks uneasy, like she's wanting— or really, not wanting— to talk. So Charlotte relaxes in her chair, allowing the stack of files to drop and her purse to slide down to the crook of her arm, and gestures the doctor in with a, "Why? You need somethin'?"
Addison's keeping her distance. She's still leaning against the door so that it's partially ajar and smiling timidly in Charlotte's direction, but her eyes keep drifting nervously through the propped-open door. Either she's eyein' the nearest exit for a swift escape, or she's keepin' watch on someone.
"Addison," Charlotte soothes, "I'm not gonna bite."
She finally loosens up a bit, letting her shoulders sag and the door fall shut behind her. It doesn't escape Charlotte's attention, however, that her hand never leaves the handle.
"Amelia told me what happened."
"Ah." Should've guessed. "And you disagree with my decision to suspend her?"
"No!" Addison asserts almost too sharply, too compliantly. "No, not at all. I would have done the same thing if I was in your position. Amelia was wrong. I mean, God… when I sit and think of all the things that could've gone wrong…," she shakes her head, runs her fingers through her hair and peeks back over her shoulder towards the door.
Charlotte nods her head slowly— half out of agreement, half waiting for the 'but' that's undoubtedly looming. She decides to keep up with her defense by reminding, "And as much as I care for Amelia, I can't play favorites here. I run a hospital. There's a lot on the line."
"Of course. We're all professionals here."
There's a long, awkward minute of cordial smiling before Charlotte calmly (though somewhat sardonically—she can't help it) asks, "So… what? You come all the way over here just to tell me that I made the right call? 'Cause I already knew that."
Her tone is lighthearted, and it gets a chuckle out of Addison who is gradually creeping her way closer to the desk. Charlotte further encourages her, pointing to the chair opposite the one she's in and bows her head as a silent invitation for her to sit, and she's really hoping she does. All that anxious teetering is making her uncomfortable.
But much to her displeasure, Addison holds out her hand in refusal.
Well, at least she's standing still now...
"Actually, I had a long chat with Amelia, and I was hoping, maybe, that you two could talk— reason with each other— maybe figure out some way for her to earn your trust back? To get her back to work?" She's looking for words, not necessarily stuttering, but if she did have a speech planned before stepping into the office, it went flyin' out the window- most likely after catching a glimpse of Charlotte's glare. She does not look pleased. Not. One. Bit.
But Addison pushes on, adding, "She needs this Charlotte. Surgery means everything to her and not being able to do it… it's not good for her. Especially not now. Right now, she needs something positive and meaningful to focus on."
There's no response from Charlotte. She's just sitting there, her mouth curved into a permanent scowl, her green eyes locked harshly on Addison's blue ones, her fingers drumming silently, warningly, on the edge of her desk…
"Maybe," Addison tries again, "you two can come up with some sort of compromise? Like she can—"
"A compromise," Charlotte echoes, though her tone is a far cry from the composed gentleness of Addison's suggestion. "Really Addison? Use your goddamned head, there's nothin' to compromise. I've said it before and I'll say it again: this isn't personal, this is business. This is the consequence of Amelia's reckless, irresponsible action that could have resulted in a patient needlessly bein' sent to the morgue— to a family askin' umpteen million questions on 'what went wrong', 'how'd this happen', and what would I have had to tell 'em? That one of my doctors operated while under the influence of alcohol? That she accidentally nicked somethin' when her vision was obscured or her hand was twitchin'? That she killed their son, their brother, the person that they loved, all because she was stressed and needed a little reprieve when she knew she was on call. But please, don't hold it against her, 'cause she's my friend. And it was just a mistake, right? It could've happened to anyone. Yeah, that would've went over real well..."
"And what about me? What about St. Ambrose? Do you understand what kind of fire this hospital would've been under? The lawsuits? The hospital's reputation would be tarnished. The medical board would question my competence as Chief of Staff. Not to mention what would've happened to Amelia! Her medical license would have been revoked, and instead of havin' to deal with a trivial suspension, she'd be lookin' at a permanent vacation— very likely one behind bars!"
She's worked up now, and Addison doesn't know where to go from here. Should she just leave? Cut her losses? Attempt to bring it back up again in a few days? Or should she push back harder? Fight. This is for Amelia. She needs Amelia to get back to her old self. And getting her back to work would at least be something. It's small. But it's a start.
And as that all cycles through her mind, Addison's stays quiet, giving Charlotte a moment to calm down a bit and question her own intentions. Though she felt it was necessary, guilt is washing over her for raising her voice when clearly Addison isn't against her or the hospital…
She's just worried about her friend.
And so is Charlotte. More than anyone else realizes.
"Charlotte," Addison pleads, "I'm worried. You know her history."
Charlotte's face softens then, her stare goes from shrill to warm and concerned, and as she rests back in her chair, she tenderly asks, "How's she doin'?
A shake of the head is all she gets in return before Addison turns, walks to the door, opens it wide, and with a tilt of her head motions in a loitering Amelia.
And just like that, Charlotte has her answer.
The practice is quiet when she arrives.
Not empty, just quiet. Patients are gone for the day.
She spots Cooper in Violet's office, and though she was hoping he wouldn't, she's pretty sure he noticed her walk by. But she's not going to give him a second glance.
Her eyes are trained forward, not blinking, a little red from her tearful car ride, and dammit, if she'd known that she was going to be this outwardly emotional, she would have stayed in the car a little longer.
Because she knows what's going to happen. Cooper's going to see her— see right through her tight smile and misty eyes, ask her what's wrong, and she'll break down and tell him all about her confrontation with Amelia at the hospital. She'll tell him all her fears and stomach-churning feelings about the months ahead, and instead of the frisky amusement they had planned, their evening will be filled with nothing but heartache and cautious conversations. Cooper's not all that comfortable with addiction talk...
But she's at her office now, and as fast as she swings the door open, she closes it— her body leans against it, her eyes finally fall shut, and she's only there a minute before she feels the door push against her as Cooper makes his way in.
He feels her weight, he knows she's right there, so he doesn't even get the door completely open before announcing, "It's been very hard for me to concentrate today thanks to you Mrs. Freedman." Then the door is entirely opened, and it takes a second for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. His hand fumbles for the switch as he mutters an almost incomprehensible, "Why are you in the dark?"
Charlotte's the one who flicks the light on, and the visibility makes her tense up. Her lips impulsively curve up into a pathetic attempt of a smile, her brows arch up with the intent to brighten up her eyes, and just like she figured, Cooper is staring at her unconvinced.
"What?" she snipes before she can help it, and this is no where near the mood he was expecting to find her in.
"Don't shut me out… please."
She breathes a defeated sigh, and Cooper takes that as his cue to move in closer. "Addison and Amelia stopped by my office at the hospital," she says, and great… she's taking in one of those quivering breaths… he hates those quivering breaths. They kill him.
She starts again. "They stopped by my office to talk about me lettin' Amelia get back to surgery— for me to lift her suspension."
"Addison's worried. She said uh… she said Amelia needed things to get back to normal and that she'd learned her lesson, and I almost said 'fine, let her come back, we'll see how it goes'." She's sidetracked for a moment, her gaze switching to Cooper's hands that are resting on her upper arms now, his thumbs mildly massaging her shoulders. A silent comfort. She's still watching his hand when she whispers, "Then she brought Amelia in." She shakes her head, her eyes meet his, and she shrugs, "I said no. I had to say no. That girl standing in front of my desk was not Amelia. And Addison knows it's bad, but she has no idea how bad it is— she's turnin' a blind eye to it. But I know. One look and… I know."
She's hurting and Cooper cannot shake the feeling of annoyance that's overwhelming him. He made it clear this morning that he wanted Charlotte to focus on Charlotte. Not on Amelia and her problems. On Charlotte, on herself. On them. Sure that might be selfish, and probably unrealistic, but Amelia has her people. She has Addison and Sheldon breathing down her neck and making sure she doesn't run off and drink herself into a coma. Charlotte has him. He has Charlotte. It's his job to protect her and keep her happy and God, can't they just be happy for a while? Can't they have their time?
And then he feels her delicately lean into him. He see's her chin quiver. And now he's not just annoyed, he's hurting right along with her... and at the moment, all he can think to do is to pull her in for a well-needed hug. "She's in trouble, Coop. I just don't know what to do," she murmurs against his neck, and the pain in her voice just makes him hold her tighter.
They stay like that for a moment before Cooper suggests, "Nothing. You do nothing."
"Nothin'?" What do you mean, nothing'," she snaps, pulling away from his grip.
"Charlotte, you've done enough. You've asked her to go to meetings with you, you've tried to talk sense into her and she hasn't listened. She doesn't want to listen. You've done your part. Addison is watching her, Sheldon's staying on top of it, and I promise that between the two of them, Amelia is safe."
"They're not addicts, Cooper. I am. A recovered one, but an addict just the same. Addison and Sheldon love Amelia, I'm not arguing that, but they can't possibly know what they're dealin' with. Addison made that very clear today. Amelia was strung out right there in front of me and Addison dismissed it, excusin' it as some sort of slump. She doesn't get it, I do, and I can't just sit back and do nothin'. Not after all Amelia's done for me. No, I can't do that."
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry." There's no point in arguing with her, her mind's set. And he really doesn't want to upset her anymore than she already is. "Lets get out of here. We can head home, you can take a hot, bubble bath…get all comfy. I'll make us a bite to eat, and we can figure something out. We'll just relax, and talk, and figure something out. Okay?"
He watches her face melt, as she nods and offers him a sincere, "Thank you."
His response is a soft kiss on her cheek, and then he leaves for his office to grab his stuff. Charlotte turns to do the same, gathering the files she came for and reading the messages left on her desk. She hasn't missed much— a welcomed relief.
Lastly, she plays the voicemails on her office phone. One's an update on a patient. She already got that memo at St. Ambrose. And then there's the second…
Hi Dr. King, this is Marcia Jenkins from the woman's support group. Just wanted to see how your first meeting went. Sorry I couldn't be there. I heard you didn't stay for the whole thing, and that's okay. The first session is almost always the hardest. I do hope you come back and give it another chance, however. Feel free to call me if you have any concerns or if you just want to talk. Looking forward to meeting you in person next time! Take care.
Charlotte whips her head up. No sign of Cooper. Thank God. That's the last thing she needs right now. She quickly hits delete just as she hears the patter of his casted foot walking towards the door. "Ready?"
"Good, let's hit it. I don't know about you, but I feel like another round of Cooper Freedman's famous chocolate chip waffles."
"They are the best," she agrees. "Just like the chef."
It may not be the night they had planned (not even close), but because she has him, she'll endure it.
And the chocolate chip waffles definitely won't hurt.