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Last 10 Posts [ In reverse order ]
King & Freedman Posted on Apr 29 2011, 04:00 AM
  I'm always excited when I see that there is an update to this. It is a phenomenal story so far, and it just keeps getting better. I'm curious to see where this is going to end up heading, and I'm enjoying each milestone they face together.
writergrl Posted on Apr 10 2011, 02:20 AM
  Title: Life As We Know It
Author: WriterGrl
E-mail: tracyj16@gmail.com
Twitter: TracyJ516
Content: Charlotte & Cooper, Private Practice
Premise: As Charlotte & Cooper make preparations to spend their lives together, they are faced with a life-altering challenge sooner than anticipated.
Disclaimers: I own nothing and borrow lots. All Private Practice characters are property of ABC and Private Practice. All I own is the story I write and any characters that I create. Everything written is purely for fun, creativity and for my imagination.
Feedback: I always appreciate feedback. It helps me write the story, as I take into account the thoughts of others
_____________________

Chapter 11 - Bonding and Reassurances

It was the end of another busy day and once again, Charlotte found herself standing at the window of the hospital nursery. This was beginning to turn into a daily stop for her, not really knowing the reason why she felt compelled to end her day there, but it just seemed right. Some days, she'd stand there by herself for a while, staring at the newborn babies and think about her life with Cooper and Zane, and how lucky she was to have them. Other days, she'd have company, usually it was either Addison or Naomi.

Today she wasn't alone, as Addison casually joined her and stood by her side. "Hey, this is becoming a regular stop for you, isn't it?" the auburn haired doctor asked.

Charlotte shrugged. "Just my last stop during the end of the day walk-through I like to do. Not sure why it is, though. I think watchin' them has a calming effect."

"Guess I understand. Babies have a way of doing that," Addison responded. Her gaze moved from one newborn infant to another, a smile curling at her lips as she looked at each one of them.

"Miracle of life, I'll tell you that," the blonde commented. Like Addison, she couldn't keep her eyes on just one infant. She then focused her attention on one in particular, a baby boy swaddled in a blanket. It made her think of Zane, wondering if that's what he looked like in his first hours of life.

Addison turned head her to look at Charlotte for a few seconds. She couldn't help but notice the contemplative look in the blonde's eyes, curious as to what was going on inside her head. "They truly are," she replied. "I bet Zane does the same thing for you and Cooper. How is the little guy?"

"Walkin' his heart out all over the house," Charlotte replied with a small chuckle. "Cooper and I can barely keep up with him sometimes."

"I bet it wears the both of you out."

"Yeah, but Cooper doesn't mind. He likes chasin' the boy around. I just supervise and make sure no one gets hurt."

Addison laughed. "You make it sound like you're watching over two kids."

"Well, Cooper can be a big kid sometimes," Charlotte checked her watch before digging her hands into the pockets of her white coat. She knew it was almost time for her to head home, but a part of her didn't want to leave just yet. For some reason, she felt compelled to stay, not just to stand there and stare at all the babies, but because she was enjoying this talk with Addison. They had short conversations in the past during prior encounters, but today was different.

"Cooper's got fatherhood down pat, I can tell," Addison complimented, having witnessed how her colleague handled Zane's crying spat the other day at the practice, during a time when Charlotte was at the hospital. "Nothing fazes him."

"We've had Zane for a little over two months now and Cooper's a natural," Charlotte agreed. "There are times when I think the little man likes Cooper more than me. But I think it's because he spends more time with him than I do."

"Is that something you'd like to change?"

"What's that s'posed to mean?" the blonde finally turned her head to look at her colleague. She knew her remark came off as somewhat defensive, even though it wasn't intended that way. "Just because Zane's spendin' more time with Cooper doesn't mean I love him any less."

Addison smiled reassuringly. "Charlotte, relax. I didn't mean anything. I was just interpreting what you said. It sounds like you want to spend more time with your little boy."

Your little boy. It was the first time Charlotte heard someone refer to Zane in those words. Truthfully, he was hers and Cooper's in every sense, considering he was in their care and they were the ones raising him. "I do," nodding her head. "But with the job I got, sometimes getting home at a decent hour isn't possible. But I try. I really do try."

"Then that's what matters the most," Addison said comfortingly. "And you know, it's always the little things like reading him a story before you put him down that matter to when it comes to spending time with him. I remember doing it with Lucas when Violet went MIA for a bit."

Charlotte took her colleague's suggestion to mind and peered at her watch. "I should go. Nothin' left for me to take care of today. Have a good evening."

"You too, Charlotte," Addison responded, watching the blonde walk away.

--

"Alright, here we go, one more," Cooper scooped a tiny bit of pasta onto the spoon and brought it to Zane's tiny mouth. "Mmmm…" he said, mimicking the child's chewing. "Yummy right?"

Zane held up his tiny toy car to Cooper before gliding it across the tray in and around the small mess that was there. "Broom…." he gave the older man a gap-toothed smile.

Cooper smiled back at the baby boy. "You like it a lot, huh? Let's go for another one," he said, holding another tiny spoonful of pasta. "Open the hangar 'cause the airplane is coming in for a landing…" guiding the food into Zane's mouth. "That's my boy," he said, reaching for the napkin and wiping his cheek. "See, you finished all of it!"

Zane clapped his hands, his way of echoing Cooper's joy. "Daaaa…"

Cooper handed the baby boy his sippy cup filled with water. "Here you go, buddy. I'm gonna get this mess clean up before Charlotte gets home." He went to the sink and began washing the dishes he had used for dinner. Every now and then, he glanced over his shoulder at Zane, making sure the child was okay in his chair.

"I see you," he grinned at him from the sink. "Your sippy cup empty already?" he asked and saw Zane nod his head. "Give me another minute and I'll fill it back up."

Charlotte entered into the house, dropping her car keys on the table by the door. She walked into the kitchen, finding Cooper still at the sink and Zane seated in his high chair. Heading to Zane first, she leaned down and kissed the top of his blonde haired head. "Just finished dinner?" she surmised from looking at the small mess of pasta on Zane's tray and the stains on his bib.

Cooper turned off the water and dried his hands with the dishtowel. "The little guy is all fed. All that's left is his bath," he said, walking over with a damp paper towel to wipe up the mess on the tray. "I'll take him up in a bit."

"Coop, mind if I give Zane his bath tonight?" Charlotte said, uncovering the plate of food sitting on the table. She smiled, grateful Cooper had dinner ready and waiting for her. It was little things like this that she loved about him. Truly they were evolving into a functional family.

Dropping the paper towel into the trash can, Cooper looked back at her. "You want to? I figured with the long day you had, you wouldn't want to have bath time duty," he arched an eyebrow. "I'm fine with getting the little guy all cleaned up. You go and relax."

Charlotte swallowed her food before replying. "Yes I'm sure," she looked over at Zane, who was occupied with playing with his toys. "I'm givin' you a break from daddy duty tonight. So let me do it, okay?"

Cooper stood in place for a few seconds before finally relenting. He bent down and met Charlotte's lips for a kiss. "Okay, you get to have the bath time fun with him. Just remember, he likes for you to squeeze the rubber ducky and push the toy boat around."

"Duly noted," the blonde laughed, continuing to eat her dinner.

Later that evening, Charlotte was kneeling in front of the bathtub, as Cooper said before, pushing Zane's toy boat around. Periodically, she had to shield her eyes from the water splashing in her face, but not once did she let it bother her. As she knelt there, giving Zane his bath, she thought about her conversation with Addison earlier. Obviously, she took those words to heart, spending a part of her evening with the little boy.

"Duck!" he babbled, pointing to his rubber duck.

"Yes, duck," she reached over and squeezed it, causing him to laugh.

"Duck!"

"Okay, Little Man. Let's get to dried off and into your pajamas," Charlotte said, lifting him out of the bathtub and wrapping a towel around him. She carried Zane into his room and laid him on the changing table. "Quit bein' a squirmy worm, will ya," she chuckled at the giggling baby boy, trying to get him to lay still. It would take her a few minutes to get him dressed, but soon enough, she succeeded and picked him up.

Carrying him to the corner of the room, she sat down in the rocking chair and put her feet up on the foot rest. Zane looked at her, patted her cheek and yawned. "Someone's ready for bed," she inhaled the fresh scent of baby shampoo in his hair, cradling him in her arms. Slowly, she began rocking back and forth, humming quietly. Soon, the hums turned into a melody, Charlotte softly singing the words to a lullaby.

"As you lay sleepin' on my chest, a million thoughts run through my head. Someday you'll think, you're too big to hold," she sang soothingly. "You'll spill milk on my favorite dress, fall down and scare me to death. And you'll refuse to do anythin' you're told," watching Zane's eyes slowly close, she continued to rock back and forth, closing her own eyes. "And I'll be so mad, that I'm almost in tears. But you'll smile that smile and they all disappear. Sometimes you'll hide, your perfect wings. But through these eyes all I'll ever see, is that sweet angel of mine."

Unbeknownst to Charlotte, Cooper had been standing at the door the whole time, watching her put Zane to sleep. Leaning against the doorway, his heart swelled with warmth, having never heard Charlotte sing before. While he knew she didn't have the best voice, her love for the child was definitely there and that's what mattered most. Still, the sight was touching and it made him wish he could take a picture of it so the memory could be preserved forever.

Charlotte opened her eyes and looked up, noticing Cooper standing at the door. She continued to rock back and forth in the chair, not wanting to disturb Zane. "He went down pretty easy tonight," she spoke softly, looking at the sleeping baby in her arms.

Cooper quietly walked into the room and knelt down next to her. "Where's that song from?"

"What?"

"The song I heard you singing to him," he said, smoothing down Zane's blonde hair. "Where's it from?"

"Oh, it's just something that was on a CD Duke gave me before we left," Charlotte replied, wondering how much Cooper had heard. "The song is called Sweet Angel of Mine. Duke said his wife Daisy started singin' it to Zane the night after Landry and Shelley died. From what Duke tells me, it calms him down."

"It's sweet."

Charlotte felt Zane stir slightly, still cradling him in her arms. "It is. Not sure what got into me, I was humming it at first, started singin' the words before I could realize I was doin' it."

"Well, it did the trick," Cooper smiled. "I should let you put him to bed every night, since it looks like you have the magic touch," he leaned over, ready to take Zane from her so they could put him in his bed.

"It's okay, I've got him," Charlotte assured, not wanting to let the baby boy leave her arms just yet. "Why don't you head on to bed. I'll be there in a lil' bit. I just want to spend a little more time with him before I put him down."

Cooper moved closer and pressed a kiss to Charlotte's lips. "I'll see you in bed."

"I won't be long," the blonde responded. "Just gonna be here a few more minutes."

"Okay," he slowly got up onto his feet and tiptoed out of the room.

Still holding a sleeping Zane in her arms, Charlotte started humming softly once again. She leaned her head back in the chair, gently rocking back and forth, completely relishing this time with him.

--

Cooper peered through the blinds of Sam's office, checking to see if his colleague was busy. He gently knocked on the door before sticking his head inside. "Hey, I need a favor."

Sam looked away from his computer screen and up at Cooper. "Depends on what it is," he watched the other doctor come into his office, shutting the door behind him. "Okay, so this is serious. What do you need?"

Cooper sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the desk. He thought for a moment on how to word his request. "Charlotte and I haven't had a night out in a while. And I was thinking of taking her to dinner," he explained, hoping Sam would agree to the favor. "But we'd need someone to watch Zane for the evening…and I was wondering if you and Addison were free, could you maybe…"

Sam didn't reply for a few seconds, sitting in his chair with his fingers pressed together as though he were thinking about the request. "Sure, I'd say Addison and I are willing to babysit," he replied, already knowing his girlfriend would agree regardless of the fact that he said yes for the both of them. "So a date night? Dinner and a movie?"

"Just dinner," Cooper responded, relieved that Sam agreed to watching Zane for the evening. "Nothing too fancy. I was thinking dinner at an Italian restaurant, a little break from the kiddo for a few hours, you know."

"Understandable," Sam nodded. He sympathized with Cooper, knowing that every now and then parents did need a break from the kids. "So, what time should Addison and I come by?"

"Seven. I made reservations for eight."

"Alright, we'll come by at seven."

"Great," Cooper stood up. "Thanks for this. I owe you one."

Sam jokingly dismissed the gratitude with a wave of his hand, "No need to. Been there, done that. We'll see you later."

--

Charlotte's phone rang at her desk, interrupting her quiet afternoon of productivity while Zane napped a short distance away. She quickly answered the call, pressing the receiver to her ear. "Hello?"

"Hi Lottie, just thought I'd say to see how things were goin'."

The blonde immediately recognized her brother's voice and welcomed the interruption. "Hi Duke. Things are fine here. Just busy as always."

"And little Zane? How's the boy doing?" Duke asked.

Charlotte turned in her chair, looking towards the sleeping boy in his playpen. "Gettin' bigger everyday. He's napping right now. Cooper's gonna take him for the rest of the day while I head over to the hospital," she checked the clock to see how much time she had before it was time for her to go. "Other than that, everything is fine."

"Alright, now how about you, Lottie? How you been these days?"

"I'm doin' okay, Duke," Charlotte responded, touched by her brother's concern. "I had my qualms at first, but now, not so much. Zane's really become a big part of my life and Cooper's. I'm not sure if I told you this, but the lil' man is walkin' now."

"Oh really? That's wonderful to hear. I bet you and Cooper are chasin' him all over the place."

"Mainly around the house…wherever his tiny legs take him."

"I remember when Jacob started walkin'. I had to make sure I knew where he was at all times and believe me, there were times where I thought I lost the kid in this big house of mine."

Charlotte laughed. "Well, Cooper and I always make sure one of us is lookin' after Zane. And our house isn't as big as yours, so no way we'd lose the boy."

"Then you and Cooper are farin' better than I did. You don't wanna know the sorts of things Jacob got his hands into when I wasn't looking. So, how are you and Cooper? I'm hopin' all is well."

"Yes, all is well," she said, looking over and seeing Zane stir. Slowly, he sat up and peered through the netting of his playpen. Charlotte went over and handed him a stuffed duck that had been tossed aside during his nap. "I'm actually gettin' ready to bring Zane over to him in a few minutes."

"Where you headed off to?"

"My Chief of Staff duties over at the hospital," she responded, gathering up Zane's things and putting them into the bag.

"Busy, eh? Between you workin'and raising Zane, where you findin' the time to plan your wedding? Are you and Cooper still looking at a September ceremony?"

"Nothin's changed, Duke. I'm thinking Cooper and I can still pull it off," she looked around her office, making sure she had everything. "I'm not puttin' on a big, white wedding. It's goin' to be small and simple. You're still coming, right?"

"Of course, I am. I wouldn't miss it."

Charlotte grabbed the baby bag and draped the strap over her shoulder. "Good. Alright, I'm gonna have to cut this call short so I can bring Zane over to Cooper. We'll talk again in a few days."

"Sure thing, Lottie. Take care."

"You too," Charlotte placed the phone back in its cradle and grabbed her purse. She bent down and picked up Zane. "Let's get you over to Coop," she said, walking towards her fiancee's office and going inside. After placing him down in the playpen that was set up in there, she dropped Zane's bag on his couch. "He just woke up from his nap. So he might be hungry. You also might want to keep an eye on him. He's been feelin' a bit punchy all mornin'."

Cooper picked Zane up into his arms, brushing his blonde hair back with his fingers and feeling his forehead with the back of his hand. "He's a little warm," he replied, some concern in his voice. "I don't think it's anything to be too concerned about. It could just be a cold."

Charlotte went over to them and reached up, pushing some of Zane's hair away from his face. "Just keep an eye on him. Right now, I need to go. I'm already runnin' late as it is. Duke called, held me up a bit."

"Oh, how's he doing?"

"Doin' well."

"Hey Char?" Cooper called out, just as the blonde was about to walk out the door. "What time do you think you'll be done today?"

Charlotte's brow furrowed. "I don't know, maybe six? Why?"

"I made dinner reservations for the two of us tonight," he said, hoping she'd be up for going out in the evening. "Sam and Addison agreed to watch Zane for a few hours. I figured we could use a night out, just the two of us."

Charlotte tilted her head slightly, giving him a thoughtful smile. While she was hesitant at the idea of going out when it looked like Zane was getting sick, she relented, knowing Cooper was doing this for the both of them. "Alright. I'll make sure I'm home a little after six then. But for now, I need to go. I'll see you later."

--

Cooper transferred Zane into Addison's arms, brushing the back of his hand along his forehead. "He's got a little bit of the sniffles, but other than that, he should be fine," he advised, running his fingers through his hair. "Of course you've got my cell and Charlotte's so I don't need to worry about that. And it's just dinner, so we're not going to be out too late."

Sam placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Cooper, we've got this one. You and Charlotte should go and enjoy yourselves. Zane's in good hands."

Cooper looked over at Addison, who was walking around with Zane at the other end of the living room. "Yeah, I know. Just can't help it, I guess," he replied, checking his watch. "Charlotte, we need to leave soon. I don't want to be late for our reservation," he shouted upstairs.

Charlotte came down within a minute, securing one of her earrings. "I'm ready. I'm ready," she said, stopping at the bottom of the steps and looking at Sam. "You two gonna be alright? You got our numbers and Coop told you where we will be. "

"Yes, it's all covered," Sam smiled. He guided Cooper and Charlotte towards the door. "Now, go to dinner. Addison and I will be fine."

"Call us if anything happens," Cooper said as he stepped out the front door.

"We will," Sam assured, practically shoving the other man outside before closing the door behind him. He turned around and walked back into the living room where Addison was seated on the couch with Zane and sat down next to her. "I thought they'd never get out that door."

--

Cooper held the door open for Charlotte, motioning for her to enter first. They were immediately ushered to their table, a corner booth in a part of the restaurant where it wasn't as noisy. While deciding what to have for dinner, Charlotte looked up from her menu and reached for Cooper's hand.

"What's that for?" he asked, not minding the gesture.

"For reminding me that sometimes we need a break from being parents," she responded, squeezing his hand. "We've been so busy that we've forgotten to take time for ourselves."

Cooper smiled. "I thought we could use an evening out. Sam was more than happy to do us the favor of watching Zane."

"I'll bet Addison was thrilled, knowin' how baby crazy she's been."

"Which is why I asked them and not Pete and Violet," he moved closer to Charlotte, wrapping his arm around her. "Let's have one caveat for tonight. No baby talk. I want us talk about other things."

Charlotte arched an eyebrow. "And what else exactly is there for us to talk about? Not like we can talk shop or anything."

"Maybe our wedding?" Cooper shrugged. "It's coming up in a few months. My mom called and she's bugging me about when I'm going to talk to a rabbi."

"And I thought I mentioned to you about talkin' to my pastor."

Before either of them could say something else, their food arrived, momentarily interrupting their conversation.

"Coop, how's this gonna work? How are we goin' to choose between pastor versus rabbi?"

"I thought we settled this already," Cooper suggested in between bites of food. "Pastor and rabbi."

Charlotte thought about the suggestion for a moment before nodding in agreement. "Or we could just get a justice of the peace to marry us and avoid the dilemma altogether."

"Yeah, my mother will be thrilled," Cooper replied with a hint of sarcasm. He used his fork to steal a morsel of food from Charlotte's plate. "But do you like the idea? We can have both."

"I don't see why not," the blonde said, continuing to work on the food that was still on her plate. "We still need to find a place to have the ceremony," she reminded, thinking to herself of possible locations in the area that could accommodate them on short notice.

"Obviously, we want it outdoors," Cooper immediately put the idea out there, as it had been something they discussed in passing. "And we want it on a Saturday, during sunset. How about the garden where Pete and Violet had their ceremony? I can't remember the name but I'll ask."

"Good. Now we just hope they'll let us use the space," Charlotte replied, unconsciously moving her fork around her plate. "But I don't see why not. We're not having some big party. The guest list isn't huge."

"I'll get it taken care of," Cooper reassured. "You can count on me for that. Now, how about we order some dessert, since it looks like you're done with your food," he said, noticing how Charlotte had been moving her food around with her fork.

Charlotte looked down, not realizing what she'd been doing. "Dessert sounds good." She motioned for the waiter to bring over the dessert menu.

While trying to decide what to have for dessert, Cooper's phone rang. He reached into his pocket and saw the caller id, "It's Sam," he answered the call. "Hey, what's up? "

"Hey Coop, I know you and Charlotte are having a night out…and I don't want to worry the both of you, but Zane's fever just spiked. Addison just gave him something and she's upstairs calming him down. You don't have to hurry home, but I thought we'd just call to let you know what was going on. We're taking care of him."

Cooper nodded, trying not to let the concern on his face show. The last thing he wanted to do was cause Charlotte to worry, when there was no need to since Zane was in capable hands. "Are you sure? Because we can…" listening to Sam tell him not to cut their night short. "Okay, thanks."

Charlotte was watching Cooper the whole time, wondering what the call was about. She suspected it was Sam calling about Zane, judging from the tone of his voice and the look on his face. Even though Cooper didn't have to say much, she began to worry. "What's goin' on? Why did Sam call?"

Cooper slipped his phone back into his jacket pocket. "Zane's fever spiked," he informed the blonde in the calmest of ways. "He said not to worry and that he and Addison have it taken care of. He didn't want us to cut our night out short."

"We should go home," Charlotte motioned for the waiter to bring over the check. "I know Sam said not to worry, but if Zane is sick, we need to go home and be there," she reached for her purse, searching the restaurant. "Where is our waiter and the check?"

"Charlotte, calm down," Cooper placed a comforting hand on her arm. "He's coming over right now. I'll pass him the cash and then we'll head home. Okay?" he said, trying to ease the worry she was feeling.

Charlotte relaxed her posture for a moment, exhaling a breath she didn't realize she was holding. "Okay."

They arrived home a half hour later, Charlotte heading right up the staircase and into Zane's room, where Addison was walking back and forth with a crying Zane in her arms. "Give him here," she took the little boy from Addison, rubbing her hand up and down his back hoping it would soothe him. "I knew I should have trusted my gut and stayed in tonight. I had a feelin' earlier that he was coming down with something. But no, Cooper wanted to go out for dinner and said it was just a cold."

"Hey, don't beat yourself up over this," Addison said comfortingly. "He was fine earlier. You didn't have to cut your night short, Sam and I were handling things."

Charlotte cast a glare at the auburn haired doctor. "And I'm here now, so there's really no need for you to stay. I think it's time you and Sam head home."

Addison bit the inside of her cheek, tempted to reply but decided to just walk away. Turning around, she left the room and headed downstairs where Sam and Cooper were talking at the bottom of the steps. "Well, I'd say Charlotte's got the mother bear role down pat. She just kicked me out of the room," Addison sat on the step above Sam and Cooper. "I never knew she had it in her, but she does."

Cooper smiled apologetically. "Sorry. I told her the two of you were taking care of Zane just fine."

"No, it's okay," Addison replied, pushing her hair behind her ear. "She's worried. I understand. I'm going to head back up and check on her."

Sam arched an eyebrow at his girlfriend. "Are you sure you want to do that? She'll probably tell you to go away."

"No, I don't think she will," Addison said confidently, standing up.

"Suit yourself," Sam replied. He turned to Cooper, "Want to bet she's back down here in two minutes?"

Addison looked into Zane's room and saw that Charlotte wasn't there. Walking down the short hall, she saw the door to the master bedroom open. She knocked lightly on the door and saw Charlotte sitting on the bed, leaning back against the pillows with Zane resting on her chest.

"Hey, I figured you'd be in here," Addison stood at the doorway.

Charlotte motioned for her to come inside. "Yeah, I needed to get off my feet."

Addison sat down at the foot of the bed, watching Charlotte slowly run her hand up and down the baby boy's back. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Charlotte nodded, trying to hide the worry on her face. "I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to snap at you like that."

"It's fine."

"I was just mad at myself," the blonde said solemnly. "You know, Violet once told me, when you have kids, your heart breaks for them a thousand times a day. But my heart just races. I just keep thinkin' that something could go wrong or I'm doin' something wrong," she said, expressing her worries out loud. "To this day, I still wonder why my brother picked me to raise is son."

Addison was at a loss, not quite sure how to respond. It was the first time she heard the blonde open up to her, which caught her by surprise a little bit. Then again, she should have seen it coming, considering the conversations they shared outside the hospital nursery as of late. "I think your brother figured that since you knew him best, you could tell Zane how great his dad was."

Charlotte looked down at the sleeping boy on her chest, sighing softly. "I just feel bad for him sometimes. I really do," she paused, swallowing the lump in her throat. "You know, it's like he's had tickets for this great Broadway show and he goes and sees in the program, the part of his mother and father will now be played by Charlotte King and Cooper Freedman," her gaze fell, pausing for a beat, "No one deserves understudies for parents."

"I'd see that show. And I know a few other people who'd come to that show too," Addison said, hoping her words offered a little comfort. "Thing is, you and Cooper aren't understudies. You're the real thing. Zane may be your nephew by relation, but he's become your son in every sense of the word. And the both of you are his parents now. You rushing home tonight, despite mine and Sam's reassurances that we had things under control, is what any normal parent would do. I would have done the same exact thing if it was me in your shoes."

Charlotte sat there, silently digesting what Addison said and finding some consolation in her words. Meeting her gaze, she smiled a little. "Thanks. It means a lot to hear that."

Addison returned the smile and stood up. "I should go. You don't need two extra doctors hanging around taking up space," she said, trying to lighten the moment. "I hope Zane feels better."

"Thanks," Charlotte said as Addison left the room. She slowly placed Zane down beside her on the bed and got up to change out of her dress. Twenty minutes later, she was back in the same spot, watching the baby boy sleep.

Cooper came into the room and went to change his clothes. Leaving the door slightly ajar, he walked around to the other side of the bed and climbed in. He brought his hand to Zane's forehead, feeling it was still warm. "If you want, I can stay up and keep an eye on him" he said, noticing Charlotte's tired eyes. "You should sleep."

"No," she shook her head and yawned. "I'll stay up with you."

"Are you sure? You don't have to."

"Coop, I want to. I'm worried about our boy, so don't try talkin' me out of it."

Cooper reached across the sleeping boy and pushed away a lock of blonde hair from Charlotte's face. Together, they would stay up for the rest of the night with Zane sleeping between them, keeping watch over him. As daybreak came and Zane's fever had gone down, Charlotte surrendered to exhaustion, falling asleep next to him.

Returning from the bathroom, Cooper stood at the foot of the bed for a moment and gazed at the sight of Charlotte and Zane asleep. It was picture perfect, his little family soundly sleeping in bed. With Zane's fever having broken a short while earlier, he climbed back into bed and took advantage of this time to catch up on some sleep himself. After pressing a kiss to both their foreheads, he closed his eyes and drifted off to slumber, smile on his face with his family sleeping next to him.

~end chapter
King & Freedman Posted on Apr 3 2011, 05:29 PM
  I love this story more and more with each chapter I read/ And Zane took his first steps! I'm glad that Cooper and Charlotte got to witness that moment together. And I'm really digging the Naomi/Charlotte friendship. I think they'd make great friends. I'm excited for the next installment.
writergrl Posted on Apr 2 2011, 06:03 PM
  Title: Life As We Know It
Author: WriterGrl
E-mail: tracyj16@gmail.com
Twitter: TracyJ516
Content: Charlotte & Cooper, Private Practice
Premise: As Charlotte & Cooper make preparations to spend their lives together, they are faced with a life-altering challenge sooner than anticipated.
Disclaimers: I own nothing and borrow lots. All Private Practice characters are property of ABC and Private Practice. All I own is the story I write and any characters that I create. Everything written is purely for fun, creativity and for my imagination.
Feedback: I always appreciate feedback. It helps me write the story, as I take into account the thoughts of others
___________________________

Chapter 10 - Milestones

Cooper stood in front of the refrigerator with a cup of coffee in hand, scanning the shelves. It amazed him how fast they were going through food these days, recalling they never had to restock as often when they were living together at the loft. His gaze landed on the almost empty container of milk, realizing that they'd need to make a trip to the grocery store. If there was one thing they could not run out of in the house, it was milk.

"Charlotte, we need to go to the store today!" he shouted to the blonde, who was upstairs changing Zane. "We're almost out of milk!"

"Geezus Cooper, I can hear you just fine. No need to yell," Charlotte said as she descended the staircase with Zane in her arms. She passed him to Cooper and grabbed a mug from the cabinet. "Now, as you were saying. We're out of milk…weren't we plannin' on going on a grocery today anyway?" she asked, taking a sip of her coffee.

"Yeah," he replied, putting his empty coffee mug in the sink. He reached for a small plastic container from the rack and poured some cereal into it. With Zane perched on his other arm, he held the container to the little boy who reached for a piece of cereal. "Should we make a list or something?"

"No, don't think we need to. But it'd be nice if you changed out of your pajamas."

Cooper looked down, realizing he was still in his shorts and t-shirt while Charlotte on the other hand was dressed for the day. He passed Zane to her. "I'll be right back."

--

Charlotte walked alongside Cooper who pushing the cart up the produce section. As they walked by, random people would smile at them, most likely because of Zane. It didn't dawn on Charlotte for a few moments that it was a majority of women smiling at Cooper and Zane.

"Now I see why you like taking Zane to the store with you," Charlotte muttered, stopping in front of the oranges. "You enjoy all the attention you get from the women."

"What? I have no idea what you're talking about," he smirked, denying the accusation.

Charlotte tilted her head to him, raising an eyebrow. "You know exactly what I'm talkin' about." She looked around, noticing one woman who was watching him from the distance. "See, like her. She's lookin' at you right now."

Cooper followed the blonde's gaze. "No she's not," he replied with a laugh. "Like I said, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Well, she was," Charlotte placed a bag of oranges into the cart.

They moved further down the aisle, Charlotte picking out other fruits and vegetables, placing them into their half filled cart. Turning the corner, Cooper spotted some familiar faces.

"Hey guys," Cooper stopped the cart, greeting Violet and Pete, who were also doing some food shopping with Lucas in tow. "Weekend grocery run?"

"Yeah," Violet replied, spotting Lucas' favorite cereal and placing a box in the cart. "Looks like the same for you and Charlotte." She looked at Zane and smiled. "Hi cutie."

Zane held up his toy car to Violet and giggled back.

"We were out of milk, among other things," Cooper said, wondering where Charlotte disappeared to.

"That's why we buy in bulk," Pete grinned. He maneuvered his cart around Cooper. "I'm going to grab a couple more things. Meet you by the registers," he said to Violet. Before walking away, he turned to Cooper. "The three of you are still coming?"

It took Cooper a few seconds to remember what was going on later in the day. "The barbecue. Yeah, of course."

The confused look from Cooper did not go unnoticed by Violet. "You forgot, didn't you?"

Cooper tilted his head, smiling ruefully. "Yeah… but no worries, we'll be there."

"Good. It's been a while since we've all gotten together."

"A while, as in never?"

"Well, you and Pete have your poker nights with the guys every now and then, while we girls have our own nights."

"Without Charlotte."

"Hey, we ask her and she says no," Violet replied, as though she was trying to defend herself when there was no need to. "Anyhow, it'll be fun," she noticed Pete standing by the registers, which meant it was time for her to go. "I'll see the three of you later."

Cooper moved the cart aside so Violet could walk around it. He saw Charlotte coming toward him, carrying a couple more items in her arms. "We got everything?" he asked, looking at what the blonde added. "Looks like we're still missing one more thing."

Charlotte stared at the cart with Cooper for a second, running through the mental list she had made in her head. Looking at him, they spoke simultaneously. "Milk."

--

Charlotte sat with a drink in hand, her attention focused on Zane who was playing with Lucas. At first, she was reluctant about going to the barbecue, but realized it was probably good that they went, seeing as how it would give Zane a chance to be out, a welcome change from spending his days at the practice while they worked.

"So, it looks like the boys are getting along," Naomi sat down next to Charlotte. She brought her wine glass to her mouth and took a sip.

"Which boys? The little ones or the big ones?" Charlotte chuckled.

Naomi looked across the patio and then to Lucas and Zane who were playing on a blanket that was laid across the grass. "I was going to say Zane and Lucas, but I see the big boys are having themselves a good time, also."

Charlotte nodded her head in agreement. "It's the first time in a while Cooper's been able to let loose. So today is for him."

"And how have you been?" Naomi asked. She followed Charlotte's gaze over to where Lucas and Zane were playing. "He's precious."

"That he is," the blond agreed. She brought her attention back to Naomi. "Just unfortunate how he'll never get to know his daddy."

"I know. But he's got you and Cooper," Naomi replied, unable to fathom what life for Olivia would have been like if Maya had suffered the same fate. "I'm not saying the both of you are replacements, but the important thing is that Zane is with family that loves and cares about him."

Charlotte smiled slightly. "Right."

The two of them sat for the next few minutes not saying much and just watching what was going on around them. Cooper, Pete, Sam and Sheldon were busy standing by the grill, sharing a laugh while Addison, Amelia and Violet were having their own conversation at the opposite end of the patio.

Looking to make some conversation, Naomi brought her attention back to Charlotte. "I know you're not a very open person," she began, earning a raised eyebrow from the blonde. "But I think of you as a friend, so I hope you don't mind me asking how you're doing? Last time we had a chance to sit down and talk, we were talking about you and Cooper getting married in the fall."

"We're still plannin' on it," Charlotte replied.

"Oh, I just thought the both of you would postpone…" Naomi said, somewhat surprised.

"Because Cooper and I have an unexpected addition?" the blonde finished the other woman's thought. "I still think it can be done. It's not like I'm going all out for this wedding. No need for lots of bells and whistles. I'd like it to be small, sweet and to the point."

Naomi understood. She could sense from the type of person Charlotte was, having a big, white wedding wasn't her kind of thing. "Simple is good. It makes for less headaches."

"Got that right," Charlotte chuckled. "Although with Cooper and his parents, I'm not sure what to expect. I suppose he and I should talk about that one of these days. Life's been busy considerin'."

"I know," Naomi glanced over her shoulder at Zane. "How's that going?"

"A bit tryin' at first, but Cooper and I have it down now. Or I think we do. Everyday's an adventure, especially when it feels like it's two kids I got underfoot," she smirked, thinking about those random moments when she'd watch Cooper playing with Zane. "But that's Cooper for you. He was made to be a daddy."

"And you?"

"I'm good. I still have my moments where I doubt myself, but it's happening less and less. Never thought I'd say this, but that little boy has really found a way into my heart."

Naomi laughed. "Well, you're not heartless."

"Tell that to my staff," Charlotte laughed. "Some of 'em still think I'm a bitch," she brought her drink to her mouth and took a sip. "But back to talking about Zane. It wasn't that long ago that Cooper and I had this argument about having kids. He wanted them and I told him how worried I was about not being the mommy type, how I was afraid I'd screw them up. Funny how certain events in life cause things to change."

"And now?"

"I'm lookin' at things a little differently now. Maybe I'm starting to come around to the idea of having kids with Cooper…in the future, that is."

Naomi smiled. "Why Charlotte King, are you going soft on me?"

"Maybe I am, but if you say it to anyone else, I'll deny it," Charlotte warned.

"Your secret is safe with me," Naomi swore.

The blonde found herself looking towards Zane again. "He's an angel though…Zane, I mean. Cooper and I have had him with us for two months now and I don't think I can imagine my life without him. My brother was right. That lil' smile of his just has a way of brightening up even your worst days."

"I know the feeling. It's the same for me whenever I have Olivia around."

Charlotte turned her attention back to Naomi. "This parenting thing, it never gets old, does it?" she asked with a bemused smile.

Naomi returned the blonde's facial expression with a smile of her own. "No, it really doesn't. I think you said it best earlier, everyday's an adventure. One of these days, when you have time, I'll tell you stories about Maya growing up."

"Thanks. I'd like that."

--

It was mid-evening when Cooper and Charlotte finally got back to the house. They ended up staying at the barbecue longer than planned, which turned out to be a good thing because it gave both of them time to reconnect with friends, something they didn't have a chance to do in the past few weeks. Even Charlotte would admit that she had a good time, talking with Naomi and being able to do something other than work or caring for Zane.

After getting Zane bathed and changed, Cooper was downstairs with the baby boy, sitting on the living room floor watching TV. Once again, he was at Zane's mercy, being subjected to another episode of The Wiggles. Cooper didn't seem to mind, as this was becoming a nightly routine for the both of them.

"I don't know about you, but I think Wags the Dog is becoming a favorite of mine," Cooper commented, leaning against the couch. "His tunes are really catchy." He looked over at Zane and couldn't believe his eyes. "Charlotte… Charlotte! Get down here!"

"I'll be down in a second!" the blonde shouted back.

"You'd better hurry! You need to see this!" Cooper kept his eyes on Zane, hoping Charlotte would get downstairs soon. "Stay right there, buddy. Zane's standing up! He's about to take his first steps!" he heard the sound of hurried feet rush down.

"I'm comin'… I'm comin'," Charlotte came down the staircase, arriving at Cooper's side in time to witness the sight. Together, they watched Zane tentatively take one step, then two, then three before falling on his rear. "Well I'll be… he's mobile now."

Cooper smiled. "Not like he wasn't before." He bent down and picked Zane up into his arms. "Don't worry Zane, you'll get the hang of this walking thing soon."

Charlotte reached over and smoothed down the child's blonde hair with her hand. "He most certainly will," she watched him yawn and rub his eyes. "But I think this little man has had his share of fun for the day. It's bedtime for him."

Cooper and Charlotte climbed up the steps and walked down the short hallway to Zane's room. Hoping the gentle movement would lull Zane to sleep, Cooper sat down in the rocking chair and rocked back and forth while holding the baby boy in his arms.

"Today was nice," Cooper spoke softly.

"Yeah, it was," Charlotte replied, leaning against the dresser. "I will admit, I'm glad we went. I saw you were havin' a good time talking with Pete and Sam."

"And Sheldon," Cooper added.

"Yes and Sheldon," Charlotte nodded. "Though the man could use a lil' help with his wardrobe."

Cooper's brow furrowed, trying to recall what Sheldon was wearing at the barbecue. "Yeah, I think so. The shirt he had on was a bit on the loud side, wasn't it?"

"Definitely different from what he wears to work," Charlotte chuckled, looking down at Zane. "I think he's asleep."

Cooper looked down at the baby boy, sleeping against his chest. "Out like a light," he slowly got up and went over to the crib, gently laying him down.

Charlotte pulled the blanket to Zane's chest, kissing her fingers and pressing them to his forehead. "Snug as a bug in a rug." Before leaving the room, she saw Cooper check that the nightlight and baby monitor were turned on then walked out into the hall. Together, they went to their bedroom, both of them climbing into bed.

"You know, now that he's walkin' we have to put up those baby gates," Charlotte reminded, settling against the pillows. "Last thing we need is him making his way to the stairs."

"I'll get that taken care of tomorrow," Cooper replied, making a mental note for himself. He leaned over and met Charlotte's lips for a kiss. "I'm glad you had a nice time today. I saw you talking with Naomi. Good to see the both of you becoming good friends."

Charlotte relaxed against Cooper's body, taking hold of his hand. "I guess we are…definitely something I never expected, becomin' friends with her. But I suppose that's a good thing. She's got a good soul and you know that's sayin' a lot considering how I don't like people much."

"Well, I'm glad you have a friend," Cooper ran his fingers through Charlotte's soft blonde hair.

"I am too," Charlotte yawned, closing her eyes. "I know I'm not one for sharin' my feelings and such, but I do like havin' someone to talk to about this parenting stuff. So I guess Naomi's it."

Cooper smiled, happy to hear how Charlotte was beginning to reach out to others, even if it was Naomi. Just having one person she could open up to was big for her and it made his heart feel good that Charlotte had that. Turning his head slightly, he saw the blonde had fallen asleep. Pressing one more kiss to her forehead, he whispered, "Good night," before wrapping his arm around her and closing his eyes, drifting off to sleep himself within minutes.

~end chapter
King & Freedman Posted on Mar 21 2011, 05:33 PM
  Ah, they are so cute together. I loved their little family outing and how comfortable they seem with Zane now. This is a great story and I'm excited to read more.
writergrl Posted on Mar 21 2011, 12:32 AM
  Title: Life As We Know It
Author: WriterGrl
E-mail: tracyj16@gmail.com
Twitter: TracyJ516
Content: Charlotte & Cooper, Private Practice
Premise: As Charlotte & Cooper make preparations to spend their lives together, they are faced with a life-altering challenge sooner than anticipated.
Disclaimers: I own nothing and borrow lots. All Private Practice characters are property of ABC and Private Practice. All I own is the story I write and any characters that I create. Everything written is purely for fun, creativity and for my imagination.
Feedback: I always appreciate feedback. It helps me write the story, as I take into account the thoughts of others.

______________________

Chapter 8

Cooper woke up to the sound of soft cooing coming from the baby monitor on the nightstand. He turned over in bed and saw Charlotte was still asleep. Not having the heart to wake her on this Saturday morning, he carefully extricated himself from under the covers and slipped on his shorts. Tiptoeing out of the bedroom, he pulled the door shut behind him and walked down the hall, making a quick stop at the bathroom before reaching Zane’s room.

Opening the door, Cooper looked inside and saw Zane peeking out from in between the bars of his crib, spotting the now familiar face. “Hey there, buddy,” Cooper said with a smile on his face. He reached inside and picked up the baby boy. “I hope you don’t mind the bedhead. You woke your Uncle Cooper up a little earlier than he’d like on a Saturday morning.”

Zane looked at him, oblivious to what he was saying and patted him on the face. “Gooo…” he responded. “Gaaa…”

Cooper carried the boy out of the room. “Charlotte is still asleep, so it’s just you and me for breakfast,” he said, going down the stairs. Opening the cupboard, he stood there for a moment and wondered what to feed Zane. “How about some cereal. Sound good?” he brought the box to the counter and set Zane down in his high chair. “Now you sit tight, breakfast will be ready in a bit.”

It didn’t take long for him to prepare the cereal, as well as brew some coffee. He brewed enough for himself and Charlotte, knowing she would want a jolt of caffeine when she woke up. Cooper spent the next hour feeding Zane, while he himself munched on a bagel at the same time. Despite the small mess, he enjoyed this time with the baby boy, reveling in some male bonding time.

After cleaning up the remnants of breakfast, Cooper took Zane back upstairs to get him changed into a new outfit since the one he was wearing had cereal stains. “Ah, good as new,” he said, feeling rather proud of how he tackled his fatherly duties without any mishaps. “Why don’t we go take a peek and see if she’s awake,” he whispered, opening the bedroom door slightly and looking inside. “Nope, still asleep.”

Cooper took Zane out to the back of the house and sat on the chaise lounge chair with him on his lap. Together, they looked out at the ocean, taking in the morning breeze. “You know bud, when I was a kid, I used to dream about the ocean,” he said to the baby boy. “Where I grew up, there was no big blue sea for me to look out at. You’re one lucky kid, getting to grow up here in sunny California by the ocean. Maybe we’ll get you some surfing lessons when you get older,” he pondered the amusing thought. “Or maybe not… Not sure how Charlotte would feel about you growing up and turning into a surfer boy.”

He sighed to himself as a familiar face came to mind. “I used to know a guy that surfed. His name was Dell. Used to work at Oceanside but he’s up in heaven now with your dad.” Cooper leaned forward, pressing a kiss to the top of Zane’s head, quiet for a moment as his thought about how the baby boy would never get to know his father. Turning his head, he spotted a familiar face in the distance, jogging toward him.

Spotting Cooper, Sam slowed his pace as he approached his colleague’s beachfront deck. He pulled his earbuds out and draped them around his neck. “Hey Coop,” he wiped off the sweat from his brow. “Up early for a Saturday.”

“The little guy likes to wake with the sun,” Cooper replied, smoothing Zane’s hair down.

Sam smiled. “Ah… well, it’s nice to get an early start to the day,” he said, sitting down on the other lounge chair. “Charlotte awake?”

“Still sleeping,” Cooper glanced over his shoulder at the balcony. “She got pulled into a last minute meeting and came home late. So I thought I’d let her catch up on sleep.”

“That’s pretty nice of you,” Sam smiled at little Zane. “So, how’s it going… all settled in?”

“Just a few boxes left to unpack but pretty much settled in.”

“Great. And it looks like you’ve made the adjustment to being a dad.”

Cooper looked down at the baby boy, smiling. “Pretty much. I mean, it hasn’t been easy but Charlotte and I are doing the best we can. Like all new parents, we’re learning.”

Sam nodded. He felt for his friend, having been in the position many years ago when Maya was born. “It gets easier…well, not literally because raising a kid doesn’t get any easier as they get older.”

“Gee Sam, thanks for the warning,” Cooper rolled his eyes.

“Oh, you know what I mean,” Sam chuckled. “I meant the whole being parents thing. It has its moments,” he reached across to hand Zane the toy block that had fallen onto the floor.

“I know what you mean,” Cooper laughed. “I’ll admit, it’s a little weird to be doing the parenting thing before Charlotte and I make it down the aisle. But then again, nothing is ever ordinary with us.”

Sam echoed the sentiment with a small laugh of his own. “Speaking of things out of the ordinary, I hear Charlotte and Violet were having an actual conversation the other day?” he inquired, having heard the tidbit from Pete. “Not saying that I don’t believe it, but I thought I’d get confirmation from you.”

Cooper nodded, recalling what he’d witnessed a few days ago. “You heard right. Pete and I were standing outside of her office. We couldn’t believe it at first, but they really were nice to each other. I think it’s because of the little guy.”

“Well, kids will do that,” Sam checked his watch and got up. “I should go and get back. Addison is probably up by now. Oh hey, before I go. If you and Charlotte ever need someone to watch Zane, we’re happy to volunteer. Actually, Addison volunteered the both of us. But I thought I’d put it out there.”

“Thanks. We’ll keep it in mind. See ya,” Cooper said, watching Sam jog away. He sat back in the chair, making sure his arms were securely around Zane. They would stay like that for the several minutes, enjoying the breeze and the sound of the ocean waves crashing against the shore.

It was a little past nine when Charlotte finally awoke, turning over in bed and expecting Cooper to be there. She was met with surprise to find his side of the bed empty. Figuring Zane had woken him up, she got out of bed and heard the sound of a baby laughing from outside. She opened the French door which led out onto the balcony and saw Cooper lying on the lounge chair with Zane. Standing there, she watched them for a few seconds, smiling as Cooper played with the baby boy.

“Hey…” she called out to them. “Careful you don’t drop him.”

Cooper sat up and turned around. “I won’t… Come down and join us!”

“I will, just give me a few minutes,” Charlotte disappeared back into the bedroom. Twenty minutes later, she was outside on the deck with a cup of coffee in hand. She sat down in the other lounge chair and took of sip of her drink. “How long you been up?”

“Since seven. Zane woke me up so he and I had some breakfast and enjoyed some male bonding time.”

“Male bonding time, huh?” Charlotte laughed, holding her arms out.

“Yeah. Me, him and Sam” Cooper sat up, passing the baby boy to her. “Any ideas on what to do today?”

Charlotte held Zane in her arms, letting him stand on her lap. “I was thinkin’ we go shopping or somethin’ Get this boy a couple of new outfits. I was fixin’ his stuff the other day and there’s a bunch of clothes that I know won’t fit him anymore.”

“Alright, I’m going to go get dressed. I can go change him if you want me to,” Cooper offered. “I know you haven’t had breakfast yet, so I can do it while you have something to eat and finish your coffee.”

“Yeah, that’d be great,” she replied, transferring Zane into Cooper’s arms. She followed them back into the house and went into the kitchen while Cooper went upstairs. Standing in front of the open fridge, she looked inside and grabbed a container of yogurt. It wasn’t her ideal breakfast, but it would have to do for the morning.

After driving all around Santa Monica, Cooper and Charlotte finally spotted the store they were looking for. They walked inside, Cooper carrying Zane in his arms and Charlotte next to him. For a moment, it was a bit overwhelming as they stood in the store not knowing where to start, since they never went clothes shopping for a child before.

“Oh look, a cute robe with ducks,” Cooper said, picking it up with his free hand.

Charlotte took the robe from him and placed it back on the rack. “We do not need a cute robe with ducks, since we never put him in a robe. We need to find some new stuff for him to wear,” she began looking through the various shirts hanging in front of her. “I think we’re going to be here a while.”

“We’ll be over there,” Cooper pointed towards the corner of the store.

Charlotte nodded, continuing to peruse the clothing rack and setting aside what she thought would look best on her nephew. She would remain there for a good period of time until Cooper returned, causing her to laugh when she saw what Zane was wearing.

“What? Too formal?” Cooper grinned.

“He looks like a tiny Monopoly guy,” she tried to stifle her laughter. “Only thing he’s missin’ is a top hat and monocle.”

“I was thinking a mini-Donald Trump,” he took hold of Zane’s arm and pointed. “You’re fired!”

Charlotte laughed out loud, drawing attention to some of the people around her. “Cute. We’ll have to revisit this tux when our wedding gets closer.”

“We’ll be back. Time to get the kidlet out of the penguin suit,” Cooper walked away. Ten minutes later, her found Charlotte in a different area of the store and presented Zane to her. “Well, what do you think?”

Once again, Charlotte laughed. Zane was now dressed in a pair of khaki colored pants, a plaid shirt and a brown sweater. “Wow Coop, you created your mini-me,” she said, noticing her fiancée's signature style and lack of color coordination. “I think that outfit is a keeper.”

Cooper smiled. “I’m going to trust what you just said was a compliment.”

The blonde smirked. “You could.”

“We’ll be right back,” Cooper walked away again, with the intention of changing Zane back into his own clothes. As he was about to do that, he was tempted with another outfit, knowing this one would certainly amuse Charlotte. Grabbing it off the rack, he went into the changing room and emerged a few minutes later. “Okay, last one.”

Charlotte eyed Zane for a few seconds. “You’re kiddin’ me right?” She knew Cooper was just playing around, or at least hoped her was upon seeing her nephew wearing a pair of board shorts, a sleeveless shirt, flip flops and a pair of sunglasses. “I refuse to dress him lookin’ like a surfer boy.”

“I like to call it beach wear,” Cooper replied, adjusting Zane’s sunglasses.

“Same thing,” the blonde commented, putting everything she’d picked into one neat pile. She carried everything to the counter. “Bring the last outfit you had him in over to me. I think we’re done here.”

“Be right back,” Cooper quickly disappeared into the changing room and put Zane back in his original jeans and t-shirt. He met Charlotte back at the counter, handing her the pants, plaid shirt and sweater.

As they walked out, Cooper couldn’t help but laugh. “I thought we were just going to buy a few things,” he said, eyeing the four bags of clothing Charlotte was carrying.

Charlotte shrugged, having remembered what she said earlier. “I like to have all our bases covered,” she said as they walked back to the car and placed the bags in the trunk. “He’ll grow out of all of ‘em before we even realize it.”

“You’re right. In fact, I think he’s already grown an inch since we left the store,” he smirked, earning a light smack in the ribs from the blonde while closing the trunk of the car.

“Very funny Coop,” Charlotte replied, walking to the passenger side. “Let’s grab some lunch. I’m starved and I think Zane is too.”

They spent the rest of the day driving around town, running errands and simply enjoying the nice day together. In some ways, this was the first time Cooper and Charlotte had had themselves a family day. The month was filled with craziness, between getting back up to speed at the workplace, finalizing the purchase of the house and the task of moving. For both of them, it felt good to finally have a day to breathe and enjoy each other’s company.

While it seemed out of the ordinary at first, Cooper and Charlotte were beginning to settle into their roles as parents. It wasn’t anything easy and given the ups and downs of the past few weeks, they were finally getting into a routine of sorts. Dinner was usually delegated to Cooper while clean up something Charlotte volunteered to do. Occasionally, they would alternate depending on how early or late Charlotte got home.

Bath time was probably the one task they flipped a coin on, since it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Usually, whoever bathed Zane would emerge from the bathroom with their shirt or blouse covered with water stains because of how squirmy the baby was. Yet, neither of them really minded much since it was one of the times they’d see the most mischievous of smiles on his face.

That night though, Cooper volunteered to bathe Zane while Charlotte cleaned up the kitchen. It didn’t take long for her to complete the task, since they brought back pizza from their day out. Climbing the stairs, she heard the splashing of water and laughs coming from the bathroom, causing her to wonder if she was going to open the door and find a mess. Much to her surprise, she wasn’t met with a mess of water in the bathroom and found an amusing surprise instead.

“Coop?” she stood at the doorway, completely unable to contain her laughter at the sight before her. “Enjoyin’ yourself?” she asked, approaching the bathtub where Cooper was sitting inside with Zane on his lap. The two of them were surrounded by bubbles and various toys floating in the water. “Actually, I take that back. You two look like you’re a good time.”

Cooper handed Zane the rubber duck. “I didn’t want our fun day to end, so I thought I’d join him in his bubble bath,” he replied with a smile. “I figured it’d be easier to clean him up this way.”

“As long as the both of you get clean,” Charlotte bent down on her knees, pushing a toy boat towards Zane.

“We will.”

“You need help puttin’ him to bed?”

Cooper shook his head. “No, I got this one. You go and have martini or something. Relax. I’m going to enjoy daddy duty tonight.”

Charlotte smiled and got back up. “I’ll see you in bed.” Heeding Cooper’s suggestion, she went back downstairs, mixed herself a martini and savored it. The remainder of the evening was spent in bed, catching up on some reading while Cooper was busy with Zane. By the time he came into the bedroom, she had gotten through half of her book.

Cooper climbed into bed next to her, snuggling up against her warm body. “Today was fun,” he said, pressing a kiss to her cheek. “We need to have more days like this.”

“Yeah, I enjoyed this. First time in a long while I didn’t have work on my mind,” the blonde replied, setting her book down on the bedside table. She settled against the pillows and reached for Cooper’s hand. “And I’ll admit it, I had fun clothes shoppin’ for Zane. Never thought I’d enjoy it that much, but I did.”

“Welcome to parenthood,” Cooper smiled.

--

The slight breeze coming in from the window caused the curtains to sway slightly, while moonlight shone into the dark bedroom. Cooper slept peacefully in bed and he was having the most sensual dream. He was lying on the beach at a tropical island with Charlotte and she was feeding him grapes. Wanting to enjoy the moment more, he rolled over in bed, ready to envelop the woman in his life in a warm hug, but was unpleasantly surprised into wakefulness when his arm caught empty air in a now empty bed where his sleeping partner should have been.

“Charlotte?” he whispered out loud.

Expectations aside, this dreamtime quest for the woman he loved caused his heart to tighten a little at the suddenly lonely feeling. It had been a while since he slept without anyone at his side. Cooper was now completely awake, looking at the empty space and the bedding cool to the touch where his fiancée should have been. Blinking his heavy lidded eyes, he looked at the digital clock which read 3:01AM, the room still pitch black except for the moonlight that shone through the curtains courtesy of the night sky.

Cooper looked at the clock again, his eyes adjusting to the darkness around him. 3:02AM and where was Charlotte?

“Shhh, it’s okay Little Man, I’m here. You can go back to sleep now.”

Charlotte’s voice was still in the room, her tone so soothing it caused a smile to curl at his lips. He wondered what people did before baby monitors, laying back against the pillows, relishing the gentle and loving sound of Charlotte’s voice lulling Zane back to sleep. In the weeks since their return from Monroeville, this was the first time he heard her speaking so lovingly to the child.

Cooper wondered what else she was going to say to the baby boy, thinking to himself that if she began singing a lullaby he would definitely be a goner.

After another few minutes of listening, he got out of bed and made his way to Zane’s room. Cooper stopped at the doorway and simply stood there for a moment, gazing at a sight that would take anyone’s breath away.

His eyes became affixed on Charlotte. She was sitting in the rocking chair, holding Zane against her chest, her eyes closed as she hummed the melody to “Baby Mine.” The image made Cooper smile and his heart melt in such a way where words would not do the description justice.

For a moment, he thought to the future when she’d be holding the child that they created in her arms. In some ways, he hoped the image would become a reality in a year’s time.

Walking quietly into the room, he crouched down next to the rocking chair, pushing aside a lock of blonde hair away from her face. “Hey…” he whispered. “I was wondering where you disappeared to.”

Charlotte opened her eyes and looked at Cooper. “He was crying. I think it was a bad dream,” she replied, still cuddling Zane close. “Not that I know if babies dream or not.”

Cooper brought his hand to Zane’s head, smoothing down his hair. “Yes, they do dream. Not necessarily bad dreams though. I think he’s still adjusting to being with us.”

“You think?” the blonde asked, wondering if Cooper was right. “I guess I’m just thinkin’ about whether he’s missing his momma and daddy.”

“Or maybe it’s a little bit of you missing his daddy too?”

“Perhaps.”

“I think it’s more him getting used to being in a new place,” Cooper replied, trying to stifle a yawn. He looked at Zane, who was sound asleep in Charlotte’s arms. “You know, he looked mighty cute in that tux I dressed him in today.”

Charlotte recalled the image from earlier, laughing softly. “Yeah, he did.”

“You mentioned something about revisiting the outfit when it came time for our wedding,” he responded, broaching the subject carefully. “I know we haven’t talked about it much since we set a date, but I was thinking, with everything that’s happened…we can move the date back. I mean, if you want to.”

“I don’t think we should,” she replied, adjusting Zane who had fussed slightly. “I think we can still do it.”

“Think so?”

“Yeah, we can. I don’t think we should put it off. If we’re going to be parents to Zane, I want us to be officially together in every sense of the word. Plus, we’ve waited long enough. Life is too short Coop. We need to grab it by the horns and savor it in every way we can.”

Cooper’s heart swelled as he heard Charlotte talk about commitment. “Okay, we’ll keep the date as is.” Looking at Zane, he slowly got up and held out his hand. “Let’s go back to bed. Kiddo is sound asleep.”

“It’s alright, you go back. I want to stay here for a few more minutes. Make sure he’s snug as a bug in a rug,” Charlotte slowly stood and walked to the Zane’s crib. She gently placed him back down and pulled the blanket to his chest. “Go on.”

Cooper wrapped an arm around Charlotte’s waist, kissing her head. “The bed’s kinda lonely without you. So I’ll wait until you’re ready,” he said softly. “I’m content staying here, just watching him.” Truthfully, he just didn’t want to leave her side yet.

Charlotte sighed, reveling in the warmth of Cooper’s arms. She leaned her head against his shoulder, feeling his patience and trust. She was grateful for that, having someone who loved her so much in her life despite her flaws.

“Coop, I don’t know if I’ve said to you lately but I love you,” she placed her hand on top of his, her gaze still fixed on a sleeping Zane. “I know you don’t hear it much from me because I’m usually always comin’ or goin’ and my mind’s always on somethin’ else, but I love you.”

Cooper maneuvered himself around Charlotte, wrapping his arms around her from behind. Resting his chin on her shoulder, he looked down at the baby boy and whispered. “It’s okay, Char. Even when you don’t say it, I just know. I always know.”

~end chapter
King & Freedman Posted on Mar 13 2011, 01:43 AM
  another great update. I love how they already have Zane incorporated into their lives. I can't wait to read more.
writergrl Posted on Mar 10 2011, 11:40 PM
  Title: Life As We Know It
Author: WriterGrl
E-mail: tracyj16@gmail.com
Twitter: TracyJ516
Content: Charlotte & Cooper, Private Practice
Premise: As Charlotte & Cooper make preparations to spend their lives together, they are faced with a life-altering challenge sooner than anticipated.
Disclaimers: I own nothing and borrow lots. All Private Practice characters are property of ABC and Private Practice. All I own is the story I write and any characters that I create. Everything written is purely for fun, creativity and for my imagination.
Feedback: I always appreciate feedback. It helps me write the story, as I take into account the thoughts of others.

_____________

Chapter 6

Sam pushed his sunglasses up and checked his watch. He leaned against his car, patiently waiting for Cooper and Charlotte to arrive. It had been a busy morning for him so far, having to shuttle Maya and Olivia around for errands because Dink was pulling an extra shift. Sam hoped Charlotte and Cooper didn’t mind the baby seat in the back, although he recalled Cooper telling him it was a good thing he did have one, since it would come in handy.

A few minutes later, Sam saw the reason why, raising his eyeglasses to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.

Charlotte King was walking towards him carrying a baby in her arms. He saw Cooper a few steps behind, pushing the cart with their luggage and a baby bag strapped over his shoulder.

“Hi…” Sam said, a bit confused at the tiny human Charlotte was holding. He distinctly remembered them leaving as a couple a few days ago and now they returned with one extra person in tow. He watched Charlotte walk past him and stand by the passenger side door. Sam immediately opened it for her and then looked over his shoulder at Cooper. “Do I want to know?”

“I’ll explain later,” Cooper replied. He placed the suitcases in Sam’s trunk, walked back around the car and got inside, holding the baby bag in his lap. He turned around, “You okay back there?”

Charlotte gave him a tired nod. “We’re fine. Let’s just get home.”

They drove in silence for the first few minutes until Sam couldn’t take it anymore. He glanced in the rearview mirror at the blonde haired, blue-eyed baby boy sitting in his granddaughter’s baby seat and was curious to find out where he came from.

Charlotte wasn’t oblivious to his occasional glances and decided to save him the trouble of asking. “So, you’re wonderin’ why Coop and I have a baby with us. ‘Cause don’t think I didn’t notice that weird look on your face when you saw me comin’ towards you.”

“Can’t hide anything from you Charlotte, huh?” Sam laughed as he drove. “Okay, yes. I am wondering why there is a baby. I’m assuming he’s related to you.”

“He’s my nephew,” the blonde answered. “Sam Bennett, meet Zane Nicholas King. I’d get into the whole story, but I’m too tired. I’ll let Cooper give you the cliff notes, since he likes to share.”

Sam glanced sideways at Cooper, but could tell his friend wasn’t up for telling any stories at the moment. Turning the corner, he pulled up in front of Cooper’s building. “Alright and we’re here,” he got out of the car and went to take the luggage out of the trunk. “I’ll let Addison and everyone else know you’re back.”

“Thanks,” Cooper replied. “Give us a day or two…”

“No problem,” Sam said, getting back into his car and driving away.

With the baby bag over his shoulder, Cooper grabbed hold of the other bags and walked inside with Charlotte and Zane. They went up to the loft quietly, except for the occasional soft cooing from Zane. After seeing Cooper struggle to get the door unlocked, Charlotte stepped in and turned the key, saving him from any further trouble.

Charlotte walked inside with Zane in her arms. “Well, this is going to be a tight fit,” she said, standing by the couch. “And we still don’t have anywhere for Zane to sleep.”

“Already taken care of,” Cooper called out from the bedroom, where he was putting all their bags. “I’m going to go by Violet and Pete’s in a little while to borrow some things. But it would also mean me telling them the reason why we need some of Lucas’ old stuff. Are you okay with that?”

“Go ahead and tell ‘em. Not like it’s a secret anymore, since Sam knows,” Charlotte sat down on the couch. She placed Zane down next to her and handed him the set of plastic keys to play with.

Cooper grabbed his sunglasses and car keys. “Okay then, I’ll be back as soon as I can. I’ll grab some dinner too while I’m out.”

“And food for the baby while you’re at it.”

“Yes, already on my list.”

The door shut behind Cooper, leaving Charlotte alone with Zane. Her brow furrowed as she looked down at the baby boy, wondering what they could do to occupy their time. Their home wasn’t exactly equipped for kids, which left Charlotte at somewhat of a loss. And toys would only keep the baby boy distracted for so long.

“Well, I guess it’s just you and me,” Charlotte spoke, running her fingers through Zane’s soft blonde hair. “Got any ideas on what we should do?”

Zane looked at her, dropping the keys into her lap.

“I’d feed you, but Coop’s out gettin’ you some food,” the blonde said, knowing that she wouldn’t get a reply. “Maybe you want some milk? I think we’ve got some in the fridge.” She moved to get up off the couch but stopped, realizing she couldn’t leave Zane sitting there by himself. Spotting the baby bag, she reached for it and grabbed one of the empty bottles. “Alright, let’s go make you that bottle of milk,” she said, taking Zane into her arms.

It was a bit of a challenge, but a few minutes later, Charlotte was back on the couch with Zane cradled in her arms along with a bottle of milk. Realizing that she couldn’t just sit there and do nothing, she grabbed book from her bag and opened it to where left off and began reading, despite the precarious position.

An hour later, Charlotte heard the jingling of keys on the other side of the door, surmising Cooper was back. She was ready to get up and lend a hand when she looked down and saw the baby boy was still asleep. As the door opened, she pressed a finger to her lips, motioning for Cooper not to make too much noise as he carried in the portable crib.

“I’ve got a couple more things out in the hallway,” he said softly, walking back out and returned with diapers, some toys and bags of food.

“Geez Coop, what’d you go and do? Buy out the store?” Charlotte eyed everything he had carried in.

“No. I just got what I thought we needed,” Cooper replied, immediately getting the portable crib set up so Zane could lay in it. “Some of this stuff was Violet’s idea.”

Charlotte chuckled. “You and Violet must have had a field day then. What’d she say when you told her about our situation.”

“You mean about Zane,” he said, getting up to take baby from the blonde’s arms. He carried him to the portable crib and carefully laid him down. “She didn’t say much aside from offering to help if we needed a hand.”

“I’m surprised she didn’t follow you home so she could meet the little rascal,” Charlotte replied, stocking the cabinet with the food Cooper had bought. “Potato wedges, macaroni, cheese, carrots…” she looked inside the other bags to find more food than they ever had before. “Guess it’s time for us to change our eating habits.”

Cooper nodded, helping the blonde stock the kitchen. “Less take-out, more home cooking.”

“And how exactly are we going to figure all of this out? I have a packed schedule already with Oceanside and St. Ambrose. I’m not goin’ to have any time to cook dinner when I get back here,” Charlotte leaned against the counter, folding her arms across her chest. “You know, maybe it was better than Duke took Zane than us. Coop, we’re not ready to be parents.”

Cooper moved toward Charlotte, pushing her chin up with his hand. “Char, look at me. We can do this… I’m not going anywhere,” he said, looking intently into her eyes. “I know this is a big life change for us and we didn’t anticipate any of this, but that baby boy in there needs you, needs us. So we’re going to find a way to make this work.”

Before Charlotte could reply, a cry came from the bedroom, which meant Zane was awake. She was about to move away but Cooper stopped her, saying he’d go and pick him up. Charlotte meanwhile remained in the kitchen, watching him from a distance as he gently took the baby boy into his arms.

“Sounds like someone is hungry,” Cooper smiled at Zane, brushing his finger along his cheek. He pointed to a small container on the counter. “That’s chicken and rice soup inside of that. Let’s get the kiddo fed before he cries up a storm.” He disappeared for a few seconds to get a bib from inside the bag and tied it around Zane’s neck. “Alright, we’re going to have to work together on this one, since I don’t have the baby chair set up yet. Do you want to feed and I hold him or the other way around.”

“I guess I’ll try and feed the boy,” Charlotte shrugged, sitting down at the table with Cooper. She took of the lid and dipped the spoon into the soup. Before giving it to Zane, she brought the spoon to her lips and checked to see if the broth was still hot. “Alright, here goes nothin’,” she slowly moved the spoon towards Zane, who opened his tiny mouth slightly to take in a little bit of broth. Both Cooper and Charlotte held their breaths for a second and waited for a reaction. Much to their surprise, the baby boy didn’t spit any of it back out, which of course was a relief.

They spent the next two hours feeding Zane and then bathing him. It was a team effort and frustrating at some moments, but together, they accomplished the tasks. By the time they got Zane down to sleep, it was a little after ten and they were both exhausted.

Cooper walked out of the bathroom and climbed into bed. “I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.”

“He down for the count?” Charlotte asked.

Cooper looked over at a soundly asleep Zane laying in his crib. “Yep. And with our luck, sleep through most of the night.”

“I think you may have just jinxed us,” the blonde replied, settling against the pillows.

“Hopefully not,” Cooper reached over to turn off the bedside lamp. “Good night,” he said, kissing Charlotte as he laid his head on the pillows.

“Night,” Charlotte sighed. Unable to fall asleep right away, her gaze fell upon the sleeping baby boy. “Coop?”

“Yeah?”

“How are we goin’ to do this?”

Cooper sat up a little, propping his elbow on the pillow, head resting in his hand. Following Charlotte’s gaze, he replied, “It’s going to take a bit of compromise from the two of us, but I think we can work out something,” draping his arm over the blonde’s waist and pulling her close. “I know most of your hours are spent at St. Ambrose and when you’re not there, you’re at the practice.”

“Mmhmm…” Charlotte continued to watch Zane sleep from where she was laying in bed. “I don’t want to just pass the kid off to some babysitter or nanny. Duke, Landry and I had enough of that growin’ up. I mean, if we’re gonna be parents to Zane, I want us to be around as much as we can.”

“Why Charlotte King, it sounds like you’re thinking like a parent,” Cooper chuckled. Although she had her back to him, he was smiling at how his fiancée was beginning to come around to the idea of being a parent.

Charlotte turned over to face Cooper. “Well, not like there is much I can do. And I refuse to let that boy have the kind of life I did growin’ up. He’s gonna know he’s loved. So if I gotta change my ways a little to make sure he gets the best life possible, then that’s what I’m gonna do. But if you ever tell anyone I’m going soft, you can bet you’re not gettin’ any for a week.”

“Ah, there’s the Charlotte I know and love,” Cooper pressed a kiss to her forehead and smiled. “But see, you’re thinking like a mom already. You’re putting Zane’s needs before your own,” he pulled her closer so her head was resting on his shoulder. “We’ll work out some sort of a schedule so Zane won’t have to be with a babysitter all the time. For now, we can take him to Oceanside with us and he can stay with me when you’re at St. Ambrose.”

“I’m not too keen on that idea. That place is a bed of germs sometimes, dependin’ on how many sick kids go in and outta there,” Charlotte said, knowing it was a good point to bring up.

“Pete brought Lucas in for a period of time if I remember,” Cooper mentioned.

“But Pete doesn’t have kids coughin and sneezin’ all over him everyday.”

“Hmm…point taken. We need to come up with something, though,” he thought quietly to himself for a few moments before another idea came to mind. “But for now, we play it according to our schedules? Depending on how many patients I’ve got and what you have going on at Oceanside and St.Ambrose, we’ll work things out from there.”

“Fine,” Charlotte yawned, sleepiness beginning to set in. She moved closer to Cooper, resting her head along his shoulder. “Night.”

“G’night.”

Cooper awoke the next morning, hearing soft cooing from the other side of the room. Slowly, he turned over in bed only to find out the spot next to him was empty. Opening his eyes, he shielded them from the sunlight and saw Zane sitting up in his crib. He got out of bed and picked up the baby boy.

“Good morning, kiddo,” he smiled. “Did you sleep okay?”

The bathroom door slid open, Charlotte standing at the doorway showered and dressed. “Oh good, you’re up,” she stepped into the bedroom and walked toward the dresser to grab a pair of earrings. “I need to check in at the hospital,” she said, checking herself in the mirror then turning around and noticing the furrowed brow on Cooper’s face. “Come on now, what’s wrong?”

Cooper shrugged, a bit surprised the blonde was going into work. “Nothing, I just thought that we’d spend the day together. Maybe get things organized, take a look at a house. I don’t know.”

Charlotte walked over to Cooper, tilted her head and smiled at him. “And we will, later on today. I just need to check on things at the hospital. I’ve been gone from there long enough and I refuse to let someone else run things,” she cupped his face with her hand. “Coop, I need this. Just for a few hours, okay?”

“Fine. Go,” Cooper relented, knowing he wouldn’t be able to convince her to stay. “But this afternoon, we’re going to look at the house, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Good. Sooner you go, the sooner you get back.”

Charlotte kissed Cooper on the lips then went to grab her bag. “I’ll see you later.”

“See ya,” Cooper waved, taking Zane’s tiny hand and waving it at the blonde also. He watched the door close behind her before turning his attention to Zane. “Well buddy, it’s just you and me. How about we have some breakfast. Sound good?” he heard Zane coo a reply. “Alright, then. Breakfast.”

Later that morning, there was a knock at the door. Cooper opened it and found Violet standing on the other side. “Hey,” he smiled. “Someone is playing hooky, I see,” opening the door wider so she could come in.

Violet stepped inside. “No, not really. I don’t have a patient until two, so I thought I’d…” her eyes were drawn to the blonde haired baby boy sitting on the couch playing with a soft plastic car. “Oh my, is that?”

Cooper nodded, sitting back down and pulling the boy onto his lap. “Yes. Violet Turner meet Zane King.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you Zane,” Violet leaned over and gently shook the baby boy’s small hand. “He’s adorable, Coop.”

“Thanks. You should’ve seen all the flight attendants, they were all baby crazy on the flight back here,” Cooper recalled their flight experience from the day before. “Charlotte couldn’t get off the plane fast enough when we landed.”

Violet looked around. “Speaking of Charlotte. Where is she?”

“St. Ambrose,” he replied. “When I woke up this morning, she was already showered and dressed.”

“Why am I not surprised? How’s Charlotte doing?”

“As well as can be said. I think she’s just trying to find some normalcy after the last two weeks.”

Violet held her arms out. “Mind if I hold him?” she asked. Cooper willingly handed the baby boy over. “Hey there,” she smiled, noticing his big blue eyes. “Oh, you are such a cutie. Lucas has a new playmate,” looking up at Cooper. “We should schedule a playdate or something. Come on, you know it’s a good idea.”

Cooper laughed, agreeing with his best friend’s suggestion. “Sounds good. We can do that after Charlotte and I, and Zane get all settled in.”

“So, finally taking the plunge, huh?” Violet replied, while letting Zane wrap his tiny hand around her finger. “Not quite the way you thought you and Charlotte would be starting a new life.”

“Well, most things in life are unexpected,” he glanced at Zane. “I mean, I never imagined becoming an instant family before marrying Charlotte, but now that it’s happening, I guess we’re just going to take it in stride.”

Violet raised an eyebrow. “And how is Charlotte handling all of this? I know she was never too keen with the idea of having kids and the whole building a family idea,” she inquired, curious to hear what Cooper had to say. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to pry.”

“She’s starting to think a little differently, in terms of priorities,” Cooper replied, recalling the conversation from the night before. “I’m just hoping raising Zane will help bring her around to the idea of having one of our own someday. I think it will, though.”

“Oh? How so?”

“You have to see her with Zane. There’s a softer side of her that comes out,” Cooper smiled. “I think it’s more of her wanting to make sure the kiddo gets the best life possible. She’s mentioned over and over how she doesn’t want Zane to have the same kind of life she had growing up.”

Violet sat back, still holding Zane in her arms, who seemed content where he was. “What has she said?”

Cooper raked his fingers through his hair. “Charlotte told me about how it was mostly the nanny that had a presence in her life growing up. And after they got too old for a nanny, Charlotte’s dad put her in charge of making sure her brothers stayed in line,” he explained. “They never really had any role models growing up, which is why Charlotte’s been so reluctant about kids. But every time I see her with Zane, the nurturing aspect comes so naturally to her. I don’t know if she realizes it.”

“I’m not surprised. I’ve always figured there was a loving and caring person lurking inside that tough exterior.”

“She’s always been there, Vi,” Cooper reminded his friend. Reaching over, he carefully took Zane into his arms. “Uh oh, I think someone needs to be changed,” he sniffed near the baby boy’s rear end. ‘Yup, you do.”

Violet laughed. “I’m going to head back to the practice,” she got up and grabbed her purse. “When are you back at work?”

“Tomorrow, most likely. I’ve got the Waverly twins coming in at noon,” he answered, walking Violet to the door. “Thanks for coming by.”

“See you,” Violet smiled, reaching up and gently pinching Zane’s cheek. “And hopefully I’ll see you again soon, cutie.” She turned and saw Charlotte coming toward her. “Hey Charlotte, I was just about to head out. Your nephew is adorable.”

Charlotte nodded, giving the other doctor a small smile. “Thanks,” she watched her walked past. “Why are you running out like your pants are on fire?”

“Stayed longer than planned, got patients to get back to,” Violet shouted back, disappearing into the elevator.

Not thinking much of it, the blonde shrugged and walked into the loft. She dropped her bag by the door and looked around the room. “Coop? I’m back,” she called out. “Cooper?”

“In here,” he spoke from the bedroom.

Charlotte walked around the couch and went into the bedroom, where she saw Cooper trying to put a new diaper on Zane. From what she was able to observe, he was struggling considering how fidgety Zane was while laying on the bed. “Need some help?” she asked, unable to hold back a laugh.

“Please,” Cooper pleaded, smiling innocently. He handed the new diaper to the blonde, hoping she would be more successful. “Um… maybe you should… um… Char…”

Charlotte turned her head. “What? Can’t you see I’m tryin’ here?”

“Yeah, but it helps if you lift his legs,” he leaned over. “How about we tag team on this one.”

“Fine,” she moved over a little. “You take the legs, I’ll slip it underneath.”

Working together, they successfully put a new diaper on Zane. It wasn’t perfect, but they did it, which was the most important part. Charlotte reached for the baby boy’s shorts and put them back on Zane, then picked him up. “I was able to work out my schedule for the week. It meant moving some meetings around, but I think I’ve got it all covered.”

“That’s great!” Cooper came out of the bathroom, drying his hands with a towel. “And I’ve got a light schedule tomorrow. So maybe we can take him in with us to Oceanside? I’ll set up a playpen in my office?”

Charlotte still wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of bringing Zane to Oceanside Wellness, but since there was no alternative, she relented. “Alright, we’ll do that,” carrying Zane to the other side of the room and placing him in his crib. “I’m gonna get something to eat before we head out to meet the realtor. You made the appointment?”

“Yep, at two. It’s all set.”

“Good. The sooner we can get the paperwork going, the sooner we can be somewhere bigger and give us a little more room to stretch our legs.”

By the end of the day, Charlotte and Cooper had placed a down payment on a house by the beach. As it turns out, the house they had seen a month prior was no longer on the market, but they were able to find a more suitable place. The convenient upside of it all (in some ways) was that they’d be living a few houses down from where both Sam and Addison lived.

Cooper and Charlotte walked out of the elevator at Oceanside Wellness the next morning, pushing a stroller in front of them. Hoping not to draw attention to themselves, they walked past the reception desk and into Cooper’s office. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful as they caused their colleagues’ heads to turn as they stood in the kitchen. One by one, they filed out into the corridor and stood outside of Cooper’s office.

Infamous for her lack of a verbal filter, Amelia was the first to speak. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but those two didn’t have a kid last time we saw them.”

Violet walked up to her friends and stood next to them. “Hey, what are we all looking at?”

“Cooper and Charlotte…and a baby,” Sheldon replied.

“Oh good, they’re here,” Violet smiled.

Naomi continued to watch the couple through the window. “Sam didn’t mention anything about them coming back with someone.”

“Whose kid is that?” Amelia asked, albeit abruptly.

“Charlotte’s nephew,” Sam answered, joining his colleagues outside of Cooper’s office. “Zane King, if I remember right.”

“Oh my God, is that?” the realization finally dawned on Naomi. “Charlotte’s brother wanted her to raise his son?”

“Yeah,” Violet nodded. “Sad isn’t it?”

Amelia turned to look at Violet, confused. “Did you just say it’s sad that Charlotte is raising her nephew? Well, there’s a vote of confidence if I ever heard one.”

Violet rolled her eyes.

“What’s going on? Why are we all standing outside of Cooper’s office?” Addison asked, the newest member to join the impromptu pow-wow outside of Cooper’s office. “Oh, is that the little guy?”

“Yes it is,” Sam said.

Charlotte turned around, startling everyone who had been standing outside watching her and Cooper. “You do know we can hear everything you all are saying,” she stated, crossing her arms in front of her. “If you all are so curious about what’s goin’ on, then just ask. No need to be standin’ there asking questions to each other when Cooper and I can give you straight answers.”

“Sorry,” Addison apologized. She was the first to go into Cooper’s office and bent down in front of the stroller. “Hey there buddy,” she smiled, heart melting at the sight of the baby boy. “How old is he?”

“Just turned a year old two weeks ago,” Charlotte replied. She turned her attention to Cooper who was still working on the playpen. “You gonna be much longer Coop?”

“Almost…” Cooper secured the last buckle. “Alright, done!” he motioned to the completed playpen. “There we go, now Zane has somewhere to stay while you and I work.”

Charlotte picked the baby up out of the stroller, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. “Good. Can you take him for the morning? I’ve got a patient coming in about a half hour and I need to prep.”

Cooper reached for Zane, taking him into his arms. “Go, I’ll be here. I’ve got nothing going on until the afternoon.”

“Thank you,” the blonde smiled. She brushed her hand along the top of the baby boy’s head. “now you be good for Cooper, you hear?” smiling playfully at him. “I’ll be back in a lil’ bit,” she walked out of the office and down the corridor to hers. “Y’all better not spoil the boy while I’m gone,” she shouted before disappearing inside.

Amelia, Sheldon, Sam and Naomi all laughed softly as they piled into Cooper’s tight office. Immediately, they crowded Addison, who was holding Zane. Each of them doted over the baby boy, as they passed him around the group.

“God, we’re such baby crazy people,” Naomi laughed, handing Zane back to Addison.

“No way, not me,” Amelia shook her head. “Babies are fun, when they’re all happy and smiling. But when they start crying, forget it… you’ll see me running out the door. I am so not ready for kids.”

“Well, not everyone is ready for the responsibility,” Violet said, her gaze focused on Zane. “Don’t worry, you’ll know when that time comes.”

“Yeah, sure,” Amelia chuckled. “I gotta go. I’m already running late for the monthly meeting of the nerd minds.”

Sam’s brow furrowed as he looked at Addison.

“Monthly neurologists brunch,” Addison clarified. She gently bounced Zane in her arms. “Hence, the meeting of nerd minds.”

“Oh,” Sam nodded. “Well, this is my cue to disappear. I’ve got patients,” he said, making his exit.

Violet, Naomi and Sheldon left for their offices not too long after, both citing the same reason of having patients waiting for them.

Cooper was now left Addison standing in his office. And from the looks of things, he could tell she had fallen in love with Charlotte’s nephew. “You know, you’re welcome in here anytime,” he said, watching her as he sat in his chair. “I don’t think Charlotte would mind.”

“Are you sure?” Addison sat down on the couch, letting Zane wrap his small hand around her finger. She looked into his blue eyes and smiled. “I don’t want to impose or anything.”

“No, it’s fine. Charlotte and I are still trying to work out some sort of balance in our schedules and we could use all the help we can get,”

“Well, then I’ll be glad to help.”

“Thanks.”

Addison spent the next hour in Cooper’s office, entertaining Zane and possibly, being entertained herself by the baby boy. In a way, it had been a good thing as it allowed Cooper to get caught up on some patient files. Cooper looked at the clock and noticed it was almost noon. As he was about to get up and take Zane to get fed, Charlotte walked into his office.

“Oh you’re still here,” Charlotte said, surprised to see the red head sitting there and began to wonder if she even left. Walking to Addison, she sat down and reached for Zane. “Hey there, were you a good boy?”

“No trouble at all,” Addison replied. “Right Coop?”

Cooper nodded, grateful Addison had helped him out by watching Zane all morning. “He was a perfect angel.”

Zane began to fuss in Charlotte’s arms. “That’s what I like to hear,” she said, noticing how the boy was whimpering. “Where’s the bag Coop? Sounds like Zane’s wantin’ something to eat.”

Cooper slid his chair back and picked up the baby bag. He opened it and took out a small container they had packed with food. “Here you go,” he handed it to Charlotte. “Need some help?”

Charlotte looked up at the clock. “Don’t you have the Waverly twins coming in a little bit?”

“They just called. They’re running an hour late,” Cooper replied. “I’ll go heat this up. You stay here.”

“Thanks Coop,” Charlotte sat back down, noticing Addison hadn’t left. “Don’t you have patients Montgomery?”

“Yeah, I do but not for a little while,” the redhead replied. “So, how are you holding up?”

“I’m fine,” Charlotte said, adjusting Zane in her arms. She saw the concern in the other doctor’s eyes. “Really, I’m fine. My brother’s dead, but I can’t dwell on that ‘cause I have to take care of his son now. Gotta keep movin’ forward, like he always said.”

Addison nodded. She could tell that Charlotte was avoiding the subject, surmising that she hadn’t allowed herself time to deal with the loss of her brother. Not wanting to press the subject, she shifted her attention to Zane. “So, I hear you and Cooper put a down payment on a house not to far from Sam and me.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, if you ever need any help or anyone to watch Zane.”

“Thanks Montgomery, I’ll keep that in mind. But I think Cooper and I are fine for now.”

“Just putting the offer out there,” Addison knew to retreat. She checked her watch, figuring it was time to return to her office. “I’m gonna go,” she said, as Cooper was coming back in. “I’ll see you all later.”

Cooper sat down next to Charlotte, brow furrowed at Addison’s sudden exit. “Did I miss something?”

“Nothin’… just Addison trying to get me to talk about how I’m dealin’ with everything.” she knew Addison meant well, trying to get her to open up, but in reality, she wasn’t looking to deal with those feelings just yet. Her main concern and priority were Zane and Cooper.

“Oh, okay,” Cooper said, knowing not to push the subject either. Scooping some mashed potatoes onto the tiny spoon, he held it up and motioned it toward Zane’s mouth, making the sound of an airplane along the way. “Here is comes,” he smiled. “Vroooommmmm…”

“An airplane doesn’t go vroom, Cooper,” Charlotte said, unamused.

Cooper playfully pouted. “Well, then what sound does it make?”

“Take Zane,” the blonde transferred the baby boy to Cooper and took the food from his hand. She scooped a little mashed potato onto the spoon. “Alright… here comes the plane,” she said, bringing the spoon to Zane’s mouth then looking up at Cooper. “You tell anyone I just did that, I will deny it.”

“Your secret is safe with me,” Cooper laughed. They spent the next half hour feeding Zane, before Cooper had to head over to the exam room to tend to his patients.

Charlotte placed Zane in his playpen and handed him a toy to keep him occupied. Leaning against the edge of his desk, she watched Cooper clean up the small mess that had been on the table. Surprisingly, she had enjoyed the last half hour with Cooper, as they both fed Zane. She never expected to enjoy it so much, but seeing how they both were struggling it made her feel good, knowing she wasn’t alone in this.

Life had thrown her a curveball, but she was dealing with it in the best way she could.

Cooper tossed the garbage into the trash can and saw Charlotte looking like she was a million miles away. “Hey,” he lightly rubbed her arm. “What are you thinking about?”

Charlotte shrugged. “Nothin’ much. Just thinkin’ about Landry,” she turned her gaze to Zane. “I have these small moments where I miss him.”

“I know, Sweetie,” he kissed the top of her head. “You can talk to me about it, if you need to. I’m here.”

“Yeah I know,” she sighed, leaning her head against his chest as they both stood there, watching Zane.

The rest of the day went by quickly, Charlotte spending a portion of the afternoon with Zane before asking Addison for a favor while she had to do a consult over the phone. She hated having to ask for help, but saw no choice as Cooper was tied up with a walk-in.

They arrived home just after sunset, Cooper opening the door for Charlotte who was carrying a sleeping Zane in her arms. Their evening was a quiet one, as they settled into a routine of dinner for themselves and then Zane. Not too long after, they bathed him and got him down for bed, Cooper taking the time to read a bedtime story to the one-year old.

Charlotte sat on the bed, amused at how Cooper was doting over the boy. While she wouldn’t admit it out loud, watching him tend to Zane warmed her heart. Cooper was truly meant for fatherhood.

Climbing into bed, he kissed her and smiled. “He’s down for the count,” he noticed the somewhat forlorn look on the blonde’s face. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing… just thinkin’ about how our lives have changed,” she replied, trying to hide her sigh. “It’s been a week since the funeral and I’m still trying to grasp the fact that my brother is gone and his boy is here with us.”

Once again, Cooper saw the same faraway look in the blonde’s eyes, as he saw earlier in his office. It worried him slightly, wondering what it was that was going on in Charlotte’s head. “Hey, penny for your thoughts?”

Charlotte shook her head, Cooper’s voice bringing her attention back to the present. “It’s nothin’.”

“You sure?” he tilted his head slightly, looking at her with concern in his eyes.

“I’m fine. Just have a couple of things on my mind,” the blonde responded. “That’s all.”

“Things like what?

Charlotte rolled her eyes, knowing he wasn’t going to give up until she gave him some sort of an answer. “For once, Coop. Can I just have a time where I can keep my thoughts to myself? I just don’t feel like sharin’ right now.”

“Okay… okay,” Cooper responded in retreat. “Promise me something though?”

“What?”

“If you can’t talk to me, at least talk to someone… I don’t know, maybe Violet or Sheldon?”

“I don’t need my head shrunk I’m fine,” Charlotte countered. “But if I want to talk to someone, I will. For now, my priorities…our priority is making this instant family work.”

“But you’ll keep it in mind?”

Charlotte didn’t reply for a few seconds then finally relented. “Yes,” she breathed exasperatingly. “I’ll keep it in mind, but I’m not promising.”

“That’s all I need to hear,” Cooper smiled, knowing he hadn’t exactly won the battle, but still enjoyed the small victory, hoping this would be the start of Charlotte letting her walls down.

~end chapter
King & Freedman Posted on Feb 15 2011, 04:09 PM
  Great update. I love the Cooper/Charlotte relationship that you've established. I can't wait for them to head back to LA with the baby and see how everyone reacts.
writergrl Posted on Feb 15 2011, 03:04 AM
  Title: Life As We Know It
Author: WriterGrl
E-mail: tracyj16@gmail.com
Twitter: TracyJ516
Content: Charlotte & Cooper, Private Practice
Premise: As Charlotte & Cooper make preparations to spend their lives together, they are faced with a life-altering challenge sooner than anticipated.
Disclaimers: I own nothing and borrow lots. All Private Practice characters are property of ABC and Private Practice. All I own is the story I write and any characters that I create. Everything written is purely for fun, creativity and for my imagination.
Feedback: I always appreciate feedback. It helps me write the story, as I take into account the thoughts of others.

________________________

Chapter 5

Cooper came into the study and found Charlotte on the phone. He surmised she was checking in with a member of her staff at St. Ambrose makeing sure things were running smoothly. While she remained on the phone, Cooper decided it would be a good time to call someone at Oceanside, just to see what was going on there.

“Hey Violet,” he spoke, stepping to the opposite end of the room so his conversation wasn’t clashing with Charlotte’s.

“Hey Coop. What’s going on?” Violet replied on the other end.

“Oh not much… Hey, I was wondering if I can ask a favor.”

“Sure, anything.”

“Can you go into my office and check my desk,” Cooper scratched his head, hoping what he needed was still there. “I think there’s a business card somewhere. It’s got the number for a realtor.”

Violet got up from her chair and went to Cooper’s office. “Okay, what am I looking for again?”

“A business card,” he replied. “Did you find it?”

“Hold on, I’m looking,” she said, searching his desk. “Oh, here it is. Palm Realty, Ellen Reed. You need the number?”

“Yes please,” he grabbed a pen and took down the phone number from Violet. “Thanks Vi.”

“I thought you and Charlotte were going to hold off on getting a new place. Did you two change your minds?” Violet inquired. She was aware that Cooper and Charlotte started hunting about a month ago, but had already heard that they decided to wait until they got married to move somewhere bigger than his loft. “Sorry, Coop. I shouldn’t even be asking. It isn’t any of my business.”

Cooper bit down on his lower lip. He was dying to tell Violet the news, since he always told his best friend of everything that was happening in his life, but he held back. This wasn’t his news to tell. It was Charlotte’s and it wouldn’t have been fair to her to say anything to anyone. “It’s nothing. We were just talking about it today and Charlotte wanted me to check with the agent to see if anything else had popped up on the market.”

“Okay… so how’s Charlotte doing?” Violet asked.

“Doing as well as can be expected,” Cooper looked over his shoulder at Charlotte, who was still on the phone. “She’s on the phone with whoever she left in charge at St. Ambrose. And from the looks of things, she doesn’t seem so happy with what she’s hearing.”

“Well, you know she runs a tight ship.”

“Yes, that she does.”

“But how is she dealing with her brother’s death?” Violet didn’t mean to slip into shrink mode, but it was second nature. Deep down though, she just cared about the blonde.

Cooper sighed. “She seems fine. I mean, she spoke at the service yesterday, despite saying she wouldn’t. So I think that’s something. I’m not too worried though. She hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary.”

“Well, everyone deals with grief in different ways, so maybe Charlotte’s found a way to deal with it all.”

“I think she has,” he replied, thinking about Zane. “Alright, I gotta go. Thanks for getting me that number. I’ll see you when I get back in a few days.”

“Okay, Coop. Talk to you soon.”

Just as Cooper was putting his cell phone down, Charlotte finished her call at the same time. She met gazes with Cooper, who was looking at her with concern.

“Is everything okay at the hospital?” he asked, but already knew the answer.

“Yes and no, but there really isn’t much I can do from here,” Charlotte ran a hand through her hair, wishing she could be in two places at once. Truthfully, she hated being away from her hospital, but there wasn’t anything she could do, as there were family matters that needed tending to.

Cooper moved toward the blonde, wrapping an arm around her. “I realize I haven’t asked you this lately, but how are you holding up? You looked pretty ragged.”

“I’m fine Coop,” Charlotte insisted. “Only reason why I look so ragged is because I’ve had a lot of my mind and I haven’t been sleepin’ well. I don’t think I have to tell you the reason why.”

“I was just checking.”

“Like I said, I’m fine. If I wasn’t feelin’ fine, I’d say something…and you know how much I hate when you smother me.”

“Sorry, sorry…” Cooper retreated. “So, I take it we’re in agreement that we need to move to a bigger place.”

Charlotte’s brow furrowed, wondering why they were having this conversation again. “I thought we talked about this earlier. Yes, we need to move to somewhere bigger than the loft if we’re gonna fit a crib for Zane and all his stuff.”

“Okay I was just making sure. But you’re aware that we’ll have to stay at the loft until everything is finalized,” Cooper reminded her. “We can set up a portable crib in the bedroom temporarily.”

“How long do you think it’ll take to get things finalized?” the blonde wondered. She figured it wouldn’t take too long if the property was still vacant.

“Maybe a week or two?” Cooper estimated. At best, it was an educated guess since he wasn’t a real estate expert. He figured the process would be fairly easy since they were already in the initial stages of buying a place, not too long ago. “I’d also have to talk to her about putting the loft on the market. But that shouldn’t be too hard.”

Charlotte looked at the clock on the wall. It was a little past noon and Travis was supposed to be coming around one o’clock to discuss Zane’s guardianship. She tried to stifle a yawn, feeling somewhat tired after not getting much sleep the night before. She had spent most of the night lying in bed, thinking about how her priorities would have to change, both hers and Cooper’s. It was a thought that wasn’t very appealing to her, but there really was no choice in the matter.

“Travis is should be here soon. I think there are some papers he needs me to sign or somethin’ like that,” Charlotte leaned against Cooper, reveling in the comfort of his arms.

“Do you want me to stay? Because, I can go and do something else if you need me to,” Cooper asked, inwardly hoping she didn’t want him to go anywhere.”

The blonde nodded. “You can stay. It’d be a good idea if you did since it’s you and me doin’ this together.”

“Okay.”

Travis arrived at one o’clock on the dot. He sat down across from Cooper and Charlotte, opened his briefcase and took out a set of papers. “Alright. This shouldn’t be too hard. It’s just some documents making it official that you’ll be Zane’s guardian,” he said to Charlotte. “Just formalities and all.”

“Alright,” she replied. “So, where do I sign?”

“Here,” Travis pointed to the bottom of the first page. Then he flipped to subsequent pages, “And here…here…and one more time here.”

Charlotte grabbed a pen and went about signing in the designated areas. After she was done, she handed back the document to Travis. “So that’s it? Everything is official?”

“Pretty much, yes,” he slid them back into a folder and put it inside his briefcase. “I just have to file them. But other than that, you’re now Zane’s official guardian.”

“What about Cooper? I mean, he’s raising the child with me and we’re engaged,” Charlotte inquired. It was a legitimate question to ask, considering Cooper was going to be a part of the child’s life.

“Well, when are you two plannin’ on gettin’ married?” Travis asked.

Cooper was quick to reply. “Sometime later this year.”

“Oh, well… that’s something I think we’ll handle when that time comes,” Travis answered. “Give me a call when you two officially tie the knot and I’ll see about Cooper,” he sat back in his chair. “So, the two of you gonna set down some roots here in Monroeville?”

“Actually, we’re going to bring Zane to California with us,” Charlotte replied, making it more of a statement than an answer. “We both have steady, respectable jobs out there.”

Travis raised an eyebrow, somewhat surprised that Charlotte wasn’t planning on staying in Alabama. He figured with her younger brother Duke close by, it would be sensible to stay near to family. “Ah, I see. I just thought, you know… you’ve got your brother here and all.”

“Well, we’ve both got established lives in Los Angeles. It’s kind of hard to leave that behind,” Cooper commented. He wasn’t sure where Travis was going with this and it suddenly made him feel a little uneasy. “By the way, how can we get a hold of Zane’s medical records? It would be very helpful if we had that, in case anything should happen.”

“I can have those sent to the pediatrician, as soon as you get me his name,” he replied.

Cooper smiled. “You’re looking right at him.”

“I’ll have those dropped off here later this afternoon.”

“Thanks.”

Charlotte sensed the tension building in the room, most of it between Travis and Cooper. She knew it was time for this meeting to come to an end before things escalated. “Is there anything else I need to do?” she interjected. “Any other papers to sign?”

“No, that’s pretty much it,” Travis stood, picking up his briefcase. “I’ll have someone messenger Zane’s medical records over. You’ll have them before the evening.”

“Thanks,” Charlotte said. She walked around the table. “I’ll walk you out.”

Travis held up a hand. “No, it’s okay. I know my way. Take care and good luck. We’ll probably be in touch again soon.” And with that, he left the room.

Charlotte turned to Cooper and glared somewhat at him. “What was that? If I didn’t jump in, I thought I’d have to tear the two of you apart.”

“Sorry. There was something about him that didn’t feel right,” Cooper ran a hand through his hair. “Did you hear the way he was talking when we told him that we’re going to raise your nephew in LA?”

“Well, I’d much rather raise Zane here in familiar surroundings, since it seems like the most sensible ideas,” Charlotte started to explain. “But we have our lives out there in California. Not to mention our jobs. And while I love having family around… having Duke close by, I also don’t want to get caught up in the whole small town thing. Everyone knows everyone else’s business here. It’s like Oceanside on crack.”

Cooper laughed, amused at how his fiancée explained the Monroeville community. “So you’re saying no one can keep a secret here.”

“Pretty much,” Charlotte made a funny face. “You say one thing to the manager at the General Store and by evenin’ time, the pastor’s mother’s sister-in-law’s son who knows the deacon who knows the malt shop manager who knows the drug store clerk has the news. I’m tellin’ you, nothin’ ever stays a secret ‘round these parts.” She sighed, “You saw how many people showed up at Landry’s funeral. Practically the whole town.”

“I noticed,” Cooper said as he remembered the turnout. “All those people knew Landry?”

“Most of ‘em,” she nodded. “Some of ‘em knew of him, but came to pay their respects. You know how it is. Anyhow, we’re gettin’ off track. Is there somethin’ about Travis that seems off to you?”

Cooper shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Maybe it was just me. I was a little put off with the way he was talking. It’s nothing.” He pulled Charlotte into his arms. “So your brother has Zane right now and we’ve don’t have anything to do this afternoon. I was thinking we could go for a walk? Maybe to the stables?”

Charlotte grinned. She had a feeling of where Cooper was going with this. She decided to go along with his idea. “The stables you say?” she said, eyebrow raised. “Maybe we could go for a ride or something?”

“Or something…” Cooper winked. He grabbed Charlotte’s hand, eagerly leading her out of the study.

Cooper and Charlotte were definitely going to have fun while they had the time.

--

“So, we agree to split the assets fifty-fifty?” Duke asked, holding yet another set of documents in front of him as he sat across from Charlotte.

“Yes, split the money equally,” Charlotte agreed. “You can have Landry’s house if you want. I got no use for it.”

“Are you sure about that Lottie? I mean, it’s Zane’s home too,” he replied, hoping his sister would change her mind about raising their nephew in California.

Charlotte sighed. “Duke, I told you already. Cooper and I have our lives in LA. We have friends there and jobs.”

“You can both be doctors here,” he countered. “I know County Hospital would hire you in a second as Chief-of Staff. And Coop… everyone would love another pediatrician in town.”

“Duke…” Charlotte drawled, saying his name with more emphasis. “I’m not gonna get into this again with you. Okay?”

“Alright,” Duke held up his hands, a sign he was retreating. The battle was already a lost one for him. “Just promise me one thing, Lottie.”

“What’s that?”

“Don’t go turnin’ Zane into some surfer boy. Remind him of where he came from.”

Charlotte nodded, smiling. “I promise. Now hand over those papers so I can sign ‘em.” She watched Duke slide them across the table. “Where do I sign again?”

“Right there on the bottom of the page,” he pointed. Charlotte signed her name and passed the documents back to him. “Alright, I’ll bring these over to Travis’ office tomorrow and then we’re done. All of Landry’s affairs have been taken care of.”

“And Zane’s things? They’re all packed?”

“Got everything you needed waitin’ in the foyer. What time are you and Cooper flying out tomorrow?”

Charlotte placed the cap back on the pen. “Early afternoon. Puts us back in LA sometime late afternoon.”

“I’m gonna miss you,” Duke smiled, ashamed to admit that he didn’t want his sister to leave. It had been nice having her around for the past few days, albeit the circumstances.

“Nothin’ is stopping you from comin’ out to visit,” Charlotte said nonchalantly. “It’s not like you can’t take a vacation or somethin’.”

“I guess the thought never crossed my mind.”

“You’re welcome to visit anytime. Plus, you’ll wanna see how the baby boy is growin’. “

Duke nodded. “Speaking of… where’s Zane?”

“Cooper’s got him. I think he was giving him a once over before we make the trip tomorrow,” the blonde replied. “He wants to make sure he’s okay and all.”

“You’ve got yourself a good man, Lottie. Don’t you ever let him go,” Duke advised, which pretty much meant he was giving her his seal of approval. “Don’t you worry what Momma thinks. She’s so far gone that she doesn’t even know what’s goin’ on half the time.”

Charlotte sighed deeply. She had gone to check on her mother earlier, just to see if she was remotely close to being lucid to talk, but saw it was of no use to even try. The minute she had opened the door to the room, her mother had was in any condition to have a conversation. So she turned around and walked back down the hall, reminding the help to check in on her every so often during the day.

“Duke, can you do me one thing?” the blonde asked. She realized the request may not go over so well, but thought to bring it up anyway. “I know Momma is a sore point with us and we’re evil for turnin’ our backs on her, but you think you could stop by here every now and then. You know, to check on things here. It’s the home where we grew up after all…and I’d hate to see things well…”

The younger man reached across the table. “Yes, I’ll check in on Momma every now and then. As much as we don’t like her, she is still our Momma.”

“Thank you Duke.”

“You should go on upstairs and get some sleep. Go be with Cooper and Zane. I’ll come by tomorrow before you go to say goodbye.”

Charlotte pushed her chair back and stood. “G’night Duke.”

“Night, Lottie. Sleep well…at least try to. Don’t think I haven’t been noticin’ the tired look in your eyes.”

“Nothing ever gets past you.”

“Nope, nothin’.”

Charlotte climbed the staircase and walked down the hall to the bedroom she was sharing with Cooper. She opened the door and found him sitting on the bed with Zane, rolling a ball back and forth with him. Every time Cooper rolled it toward the baby boy, he would giggle, which made Charlotte smile.

“Hey,” Cooper saw Charlotte standing at the door. “Come and join us. Zane and I could use the company.”

“In a minute. I just wanted to make sure everything is packed,” Charlotte walked over to their bags, looking to see if they had left anything out.

“Char, come on. I packed everything. Join us here on the bed,” Cooper urged. He wanted Charlotte to get to know her nephew a little more. “Please?” he took the child into his arms and pursed his lips together in a puppy-doglike face.

Charlotte shook her head, laughing because there was no way she could say no that face. It was probably her one weakness whenever Cooper looked at her that way. “Fine,” she relented, walking over to the bed and sitting down next to them. “Okay, now what?”

Cooper slid closer, still holding Zane in his arms. “I think someone wants to be held,” averting his eyes to the baby boy. “Go on, take him. He’s not going to break,” he watched Charlotte carefully take Zane into her arms. “See, he likes you.”

Zane fussed for a few seconds, before settling in the blonde’s embrace. He looked up at her curiously, his hand reaching for her necklace.”

“Hey now,” Charlotte gently pulled his tiny hand away and smiled slightly. “When you get a job of your own, you can afford your own jewelry.” She looked down at the smiling baby boy and gazed into his blue eyes. They reminded her so much of Landry and for a moment, it was like she was looking at her brother. “He looks just like him.”

“Really” Cooper asked, looking a little more closely at Zane. “I can see he’s got Landry’s eyes.”

“And his smile.”

“Think so?”

“Yeah, it’s just like the smile that Landry used to give me whenever he begged me not to tell Big Daddy on him,” Charlotte said, as Zane wrapped his tiny hand around her index finger. She turned her attention to him, admittedly somewhat taken by his adorable presence. “What?” she said, noticing Cooper was staring at her. “Why are you lookin’ at me like that?”

Cooper smiled. “No reason. Just watching the way you are with the kidlet.”

“Am I doin’ something wrong?”

“No, you’re doing just fine.”

Charlotte breathed a small sigh of relief. “Oh, okay.”

“I spoke to Sam earlier. He’s going to pick us up at the airport,” Cooper told her. “Since he’s got a baby seat in his car because of Olivia, we can put Zane in there for the drive back to the loft. Also, I’m going to ask Violet and Pete to lend us Lucas’ portable crib until we can get one of own. Lucas has outgrown it, so they’ve got no use for it anymore.”

“Sounds good,” the blonde replied. She saw Zane yawn and looked over at the clock. “I think it’s his bedtime. We should put him to sleep so he isn’t cranky tomorrow.” She watched Cooper move off the bed, wondering where he was going. “Hey, you runnin’ away from me now? I thought you said you’re gonna help.”

“Relax,” Cooper reassured her. “I’m going to get his bottle. Warm milk will help put him to sleep.”

“Oh…okay,” Charlotte said, feeling a little embarrassed. It was moments like this that showed that she was definitely a novice at parenting. She looked up at him. “Sorry Coop. I didn’t mean to jump all over you. I just thought… I’m new to all this parenting stuff.”

Cooper sat back down, reaching for her hand. “Char, don’t worry. We’re in this together and it’s going to be a learning experience for us,” he leaned over, kissing her. “You’ll get the hang of this soon.”

Charlotte bit down on her lip, looking away. “You seem light years ahead of me. I haven’t the slightest idea what to do.”

“You’ll learn.”

“I’m afraid of screwin’ up.”

“You won’t screw up,” Cooper admonished. “You’re doing a good job right now, knowing that it’s time to put him to bed. Now if you’ll let me go get his bottle, the sooner we can get him to sleep, the sooner you and I can get some sleep ourselves, with maybe some pre-bedtime fun.”

Charlotte nodded. “Okay, go. I’ll be fine here with him.”

“I’ll be right back,” Cooper rushed out of the bedroom.

Charlotte turned her attention back to Zane, who was busy playing with a set of plastic keys. She looked at him for a moment, hoping Cooper was right, that in time, she’d get the hang of being a parent. Smoothing down Zane’s blonde hair with her hand, she smiled at him. “I know I’m nothin’ like your Momma or your daddy, but I promise you that Cooper and I will do our best. I still think your daddy was crazy, wantin’ me to raise you but not much I can do ‘bout that now, so I guess you’re stuck with me,” she smiled slightly at the baby boy. “So you’ll have to cut Cooper and me a little slack. Okay?”

Zane gurgled, giving the plastic keys to Charlotte smiling back at her. “Alright, then I’ll take that as a yes.”

~end chapter

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