A/N: This is a story that has been brewing in the background for quite some time. I've written a scene or two at a time over the years as inspiration struck in the midst of other stories, but I feel it's finally coming together as a complete story and is ready for sharing with all of you (don't worry, I'll also still be updating the other stories I've got in progress - I expect to have the next chapter of Her Mother's Daughter up in the next week or so, and the epilogue to Missing Pieces later this month). This actually started as two separate stories that I was working on, but they seem to have blended nicely into one overarching story. In terms of the timeline, this story begins immediately after the big fight that Natalie and Jessica had in September 2011 (right after Natalie and Brody got engaged). And for those who are wondering - yes, this story will be Jolie endgame. I hope you all enjoy!
Natalie Banks stared blankly at the taupe-colored walls of the small hospital room, a completely passive expression on her face as the nurse wheeled an ultrasound machine into the room and plugged it in before handing the probe to Vivian Wright.
"Are you sure you don't want to have Brody in here for this, Natalie? Is he in the waiting room?" Vivian asked. "I can have someone go get him if you'd like."
Natalie shook her head slightly as Vivian pulled a stool up next to the bed and began adjusting the machine.
"I sent him to the cafeteria," she said. "I told him there was no point in hovering and I'd call when I was done being examined. He'd ask too many questions if he saw you in here with that machine."
Vivian frowned slightly as she placed the ultrasound probe on Natalie's abdomen and watched the screen for a few minutes, carefully maneuvering the probe in an attempt to find what she was looking for. "Natalie…does he know?"
"Is there anything for him to know now?" Natalie asked, turning her head to look at the ultrasound screen.
Vivian sighed as she removed the probe and reached for a towel to wipe the gel off Natalie's abdomen. "I'm so sorry, Natalie," she said. "There doesn't appear to be a heartbeat, and with the cramping and bleeding you've experienced already…well, I wish I had better news."
Vivian hesitated, wanting to say more but knowing there was a lot more to the situation than Natalie was letting on. "Alright, well, I'll let the ER team know what's going on," she said. "From my perspective, you'll probably still be able to go home tonight, but I'd like to keep you here for a least a few more hours to make sure that things proceed as expected and we don't need to do any further interventions. Okay?"
"Yeah, okay," Natalie nodded, barely making eye contact as Vivian squeezed her forearm gently and stood up before exiting the room.
Closing her eyes, Natalie leaned back against the cold hospital bed as she silently reviewed the events that had led her to this moment. The one night stand with her sister's boyfriend. The cascade of lies. The falsified DNA tests. The dissolution of pretty much every important relationship in her life. She could see the disappointment in her mother's eyes. Her father's disdain at the idea of her marrying Brody. The despair mixed with disgust on John's face every time he looked at her. And, most recently and perhaps most painful of all, the hatred in her sister's eyes as they'd traded barbs and then punches.
It was all over now, she knew that. There'd be no more family holidays, no playdates for the young cousins, no more late nights laughing with her sister, no more heart-to-heart chats with her mother. The family had taken sides, and she was going to be out in the cold again. She'd thought she was doing the right thing, making a family for herself with Brody and Liam, but suddenly, she just wasn't sure about any of it.
With a heavy sigh, she opened her eyes and knew what she had to do. Standing up as fast as she could with the aches and pains that seemed to accompany her every movement, she pulled out her IV line, stripped off her hospital gown, and put her regular clothing back on. Poking her head cautiously out the door, she waited until the hallway was clear before she slipped out of her room and quickly made her way toward the ER's back exit.
"Alright, Liam, I think that's everything," Natalie said, looking over at her son as she pulled the zipper closed on her small suitcase. Taking a quick look around the bedroom area she'd shared with Brody, she winced as she picked up the suitcase and put Liam on her hip.
Pausing in the kitchen, she wondered if Brody had realized yet that she wasn't still in that ER room. If he had, she knew she didn't have much time before he came barging through the door, because their apartment would be the first place he'd come looking for her. With a sigh, she set the suitcase down and reached into her back pocket, pulling out an envelope that contained a hastily written note. Dropping it on the table, she slowly removed her engagement ring and placed it next to the envelope, feeling oddly light without the ring on her finger.
"Mama," Liam said, reaching out and touching her cheek.
Natalie smiled sadly and kissed his forehead. "Don't worry, sweetie, we'll be okay," she whispered, more to herself than to Liam. "It's just going to be me and you for a bit while Mama figures some things out, but we'll be okay. I promise, I'm going to figure out how to fix this. We'll be okay."
With one last look at the apartment she'd thought for a time might become a home, she once again picked up the suitcase. Holding her son tightly, she walked out the front door, knowing that, in what she figured was true Natalie style, she was leaving a bonafide disaster in her wake.