34 - Sick

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Liz didn't want to talk about the funeral when she came home. Despite Nat's gentle prodding, she had no interest in talking about Matt Cook, or the shop, or how Nat's day had gone, or much of anything. She came home -- later than Nat had expected, the funeral itself or its after-party seemingly running long -- and made some noncommital noises in place of small talk. She settled in the den, curling up on the couch, her legs folded under her, and turned on the television, scrolling listlessly through the Netflix options, watching a few minutes of a show before changing her mind and going back to look for something else to watch. 

Something was clearly bothering her, Nat thought, but whenever she tried to broach the subject, Liz deflected or simply ignored her, as if pretending she hadn't heard anything. 

Was she that upset about Matt Cook? How close had they been? Had something happened at the funeral? Was something else going on that she didn't know about? 

Nat burned with questions she found herself too afraid to ask, questions that died in her throat when she tried to find a way to broach them. Instead, she found herself hovering in the door to the den, making banal offers. 

"Are you hungry? Do you want me to make something?" It felt pathetic even as she asked it, like she was playing a role. It felt fake, and she hated it, and couldn't stop doing it. 

"No." Liz clicked back, scrolled through the programming again as if searching for something specific. She frowned slightly, not lifting her eyes from the television. "I ate plenty there." 

"Oh. Okay." A long pause. Nat tried to think or something to say. 

Liz shut off the television, abruptly. "Sorry. I'm just not feeling well. I think I'm coming down with something. I'm gonna turn in early." 

Nat blinked, stepping aside as Liz rose and started to enter the hall. "Are you sure you don't need anything? Soup, or I can run the shower for you, or...?" 

Liz didn't look at her as she passed into the hall and started toward the bedroom. She certainly looked unwell. There was a listlessness to her movements. She seemed pale. 

Nat trailed after her, feeling as pathetic as a kicked puppy, hating the eagerness in her voice even as she spoke, unable to stop herself. "You should stay home," she said. "From work. Let me cover for you for awhile."

"I just need some sleep," Liz said, so robotically it seemed almost as though it had been pre-recorded; as if she'd somehow saved an earlier conversation and could just play it back over and over again. "It's fine."

Liz began to peel away her clothing. Nat thought she could make out beads of sweat standing out against the clammy paleness of her bare skin. 

"You don't seem fine. I think you need to see a doctor if this keeps up." Nat followed her into the bedroom, pushing against what seemed almost like an invisible boundary at the doorway. She came to her side of the bed, perching on the edge of the mattress as Liz climbed under the covers. She tried to smile. "Or I could play doctor?"

She reached out a hand, walking her fingers along the bare skin of Liz's belly, downward toward her thigh.

Liz caught her hand by the wrist, held it still. Pushed it away and made a small, impatient noise. "Not right now, hon."

Not right now. More like not ever. How long had it been?

That lazy Sunday morning together felt like an eternity ago. Tears sprang up in her eyes then, and she struggled to fight them back. Because crying was manipulation; because crying was a sure gateway to a fight, and a fight would push them further apart. It was almost impossible to think of anything worse than this cold silence...but a fight would be worse. 

She wondered, sometimes, if it had been different with Kyle. Was he the sort of person who enjoyed the makeup sex? Had they gotten into fights, before, just to get the blood pumping, that rush of adrenaline? She wondered whether she should fight harder, push back against Liz's resistance, if that was what she actually wanted or expected or needed.

But she didn't do it. She couldn't stomach the conflict. 

Instead, she withdrew her hand, and began to rise from bed. She hoped Liz would stop her.

"Can you put Liam to bed for me?" Liz asked, distractedly, instead. She rolled over, turning her back to her, curling into the blankets like a burrowing animal. "I just need to lie down."

Feeling a nagging sense of deja vu, Nat sighed and started for the door. "All right," she said, and hesitated, waiting for a 'goodnight' or an 'I love you' and was greeted instead with sleepy half-noises and silence. She closed the door behind herself and started for Liam's bedroom.

She suspected she would end up in the living room again tonight. 

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