Author's Note: I know, I know. ANOTHER one. And ANOTHER baby one on top of it. This one is all on Afrouz. Blame HER.
Also, this more a series of vignettes than an actually story. It will follow a currently pregnant Charlotte – currently as in during a fictional season 6ish time frame. I can't guarantee the speed w/ which I will update it. I can't guarantee a strong through-line other than that eventually she'll be poppin' out a kid. I don't know how many chapters it will be. This is a pregnancy brain-dump for me. I've gotta get some of these ideas out of my head.
So. Here we go again. I promise to work on Suddenly Everything Just Changed tomorrow.
She does it all behind his back, even though she's vowed to try her damnedest not to do that to him anymore. But she can make an exception this time - she knows it. On this one matter, she doesn't have to ask his approval - he's made his feelings perfectly clear, time and time again over the years, and she's fairly certain having Mason around hasn't changed things. It's illicit, and sneaky, and she gets a little thrill over lying to him, over having to keep up the appearances that things are normal while her body adjusts to handling its own rhythm for the first time in decades.
She still buys her birth control pills, flushes one every day. To keep up appearances. She wants to surprise him, and it's no good if he finds her out before she's ready. Before she's successful. She wants to see the look on his face when she tells him. She's only plannin' on doing this once, and she wants it on her terms, damn it. No months of disappointment when that second blue line doesn't show up - not for him. No crestfallen looks when she starts bleeding. No being unable to resist telling their son and roping him into the roller coaster of emotions right along with them.
Mason's the real variable here, to be honest — whether he's ready after all he's been through. Whether this kind of change is bad for him. Whether he deserves to be the only kid for a while longer. She weighs her options, thinks long and hard, and frowns over him day after day. In the end, though, it's her biological clock that decides for her. Three months to the day after Erica dies, she decides she's getting older by the minute and can't afford to wait anymore. The longer she waits, the higher the risk of complications, and the higher the risk of complications, the more stressful this becomes for all three of them. Health risks, a dangerously high risk of C-section, the necessity of painkillers afterward - even under medically sanctioned conditions - and the potential disaster that can bring down on all of them. She tells herself that by the time she gets pregnant and carries the baby, Mason will have had well over a year to adjust, and it will just have to be enough.
So she can lie, she can sneak, she can keep up the ruse. For once, her penchant for secrecy comes in handy.
It's harder than she thinks it'll be - it turns out her body's not all that regular on its own anymore, and her periods come and go as they please for the first few months. Six weeks in between, then three, then seven, then two. It's frustrating - made doubly infuriating by her body's betraying rebellion every time it's gearing up to go. She's never been immune to PMS, but she's fallin' prey to it more than ever now. Headaches, and backaches, and cramps that make her want to curl up in bed all day and cry, or reach for a pill she knows she can't have to ease the pain. She muscles through it, doubling up on ibuprofen and Midol, forcing a smile when she wants to dig her uterus out and throw it across the room instead of bear one more minute of it squeezing and punishing her. If Cooper ever notices something is amiss, he never says anything.
She considers it a testament to her stealth.
When it finally happens, she's remarkably unprepared. It doesn't even occur to her that she might be pregnant until someone else suggests it. She hasn't had a period in five weeks, but that's not all that uncommon lately, and the yo-yo of am-I-or-aren't-I? has left her so emotionally drained that she decides to take a round off and not sneak her usual monthly pregnancy test. Less pressure, less of a let down when she isn't. Again. She's been thinkin' how she'll have to tell him soon, how if this keeps up without success they might have to consider a more intentional approach to baby-makin' than a whole lot of sex and a little bit of prayer.
She's tired - exhausted, really. Draggin' her ass through the day on the power of coffee alone, so many cups she's jittery all day. When her stomach takes a turn for the worse, she figures it's the overload of coffee, the exhaustion, maybe a touch of the flu.
And then Jake smirks at her, and teases, "Maybe you're pregnant," and she rolls her eyes and smiles while on the inside everything clicks into place.
"I think I'd know if I was pregnant," she tells him, at the same time sayin' to herself, Maybe I'm finally pregnant.
"You'd be surprised," Jake says, grabbing his coffee and leaving the kitchen. He doesn't mean anything by it, but he's made it all crystal clear for her. She's begun to learn her unpredictable body, and this is a whole new set of symptoms. This is different. This could be it.
The rest of the day passes slow as molasses, jam-packed with back-to-back appointments and meetings that leave her no time for a pregnancy test - at least, not at a time that nobody will notice. It's her turn to pick Mason up from school, and it's not until she has him in his room, settled in with some lengthy math homework, that she gets a minute to herself.
She locks herself in the bathroom, opens the drawer that houses her make-up, the birth control she's been shunning for months, brushes and combs, and all the way in the back - her emergency pregnancy test. She tears it open, thinks of rivers and waterfalls and all that crap. Then she waits. She's had a good mess of agonizingly long two-minute waits in the last few months, but this one seems longest. She counts it out, second-by-second, to give herself something to do.
When the time finally passes, she says a silent prayer, then looks down at the test. Two distinct lines stare back at her and she grins, a sudden, sharp surge of emotion choking her for a second. Her eyes well with tears, and she blinks hard to clear them, takes a deep breath.
It's over. She did it.