Hello, Numb3rs fans! I never thought I would write a Numb3rs fic (the math subplot is great to watch but writing it is way beyond me!), but then again, I also thought I would never write fan fic, but here I am. I've always loved Liz so I'm really excited that she's a series regular this season and of course, I'm always happy when the show throws us any bone from her backstory. Her backstory was amazing in "Hydra" and this is probably the fastest any story has ever come to me and it has been so fun to write. I only hope it does her and the show justice. If not, constructive criticism is always welcome!
Spoilers: Based off Liz's revelation in "Hydra" (6x05)
Disclaimer: Numb3rs and certainly the character of Liz are owned by CBS; I only claim all the OCs
Turn of the Kaleidoscope
She was jogging when it happened, trying to outrun the anger and the fight and her own rising panic. She stopped once to catch her breath and let the sudden dizziness pass, but angry at her own weakness, she pushed on, letting the mildly stinging breeze calm her and gritting her teeth through her pain-laced lower belly. When the pain got worse, she ran faster, counting on the adrenaline to sweep away the breathlessness, to sweep it all away.
They told her she was lucky she had been in an open area with people to rush to her aid. Wondering what unlucky was, she stared past the nurses, pretending the red and yellow leaves drifting to the ground outside the window were falling stars and wishing for a do over. She didn't even remember collapsing. That was okay, they said. She was okay. She pressed a fist to her stomach. She didn't feel okay though. Not since they had looked at her uneasily and told her very gently that she had lost the baby. Not her fault, they had said. It happens sometimes. She hadn't even known if she was going to keep it, and the way things had stood between her and Nick, she might have gone and lost it anyway. But now it didn't matter. Now there was nothing to decide and she felt cheated.
The first day back was hard. She hadn't wanted to be discharged but she also hadn't wanted a psych evaluation so after spending the morning staring at the discharge papers in her lap, eyes unfocused, she had scribbled her signature and braced herself. Deep breaths in, deep breaths out. She could do this. But as soon as she was back on campus, she knew she wasn't ready after all, and she managed to spend most of the day just making her way back to her dorm, courtesy of all the spur-of-the-moment shortcuts she took. She wondered how she was going to face everyone when she couldn't even face inanimate, once-loved places.
Inside, fighting off churning thoughts and distraught emotions, she grasped the doorknob, praying for more time to make sense of it all. The room was a shock of pastel, streamers everywhere, balloons bobbing between them. Definitely not the way it had looked the last time she had left it. She would have slammed the door shut except that, upon seeing her, everyone squealed and cheered and rushed to hug her.
They beamed at her and gestured upwards, around, everywhere. Yes, of course she got it. Mock baby shower. Great. How creative of them. Funny too, right? Yeah, yeah, sure.
She forced brief smiles, playing along as she listened to the excited chatter directed at her. They missed her. They were glad she was back. Was she feeling okay? Of course she was. Not really? Well that was just the hospital effect. A few days' rest and she would feel like herself again. Then she would laugh at how silly she was being now. Then she would see how fortunate she was that fate had intervened just when she had needed it. What extraordinary luck she had! Oh and congrats for having her life back on track again. That was what all this was about after all. No one once thought to ask her if the hurt had been more than just physical. No one thought to ask her if maybe losing the baby had not been part of the plan. No one thought to ask her if she thought she was lucky.
She lingered near the door, trying to gauge how realistic a chance she had of slipping out. But of course, Bree noticed her right away and she ended up on the receiving end of an inexhaustible stream of small talk, sipping water and nodding so that she wouldn't have to say much.
"So…" Bree lowered her voice conspiratorially, "How did you do it?"
"Get rid of the baby, silly."
"What?" She stared at Bree, the plastic cup in her hand slipping a centimeter.
"Are you okay, Lizzy?"
She ran to the bathroom, dizzy, and stood over the sink, palms and fingers pressed into the rim and against the side, taking long, shaky breaths in. She was okay. She had to be.
When she finally returned to the dorm, Rosie was shepherding everyone out, all smiles and gracious thank you's. Liz joined her, goodbyes and other pleasantries tumbling out automatically, saying more now than she had for the whole night.
Bree lagged behind, and by way of apology, she smiled brightly and said, "Hey, Nick's pretty beat up about this too. He'll come."
She shrugged, composed now. "I don't care if he does."
Bree looked to Rosie, eyes raised.
Liz crossed her arms. "I don't."
"But he will." Bree patted her shoulder. "You'll see."
Rosie closed the door behind her and leaned heavily against it, her lower lip caught between her teeth. "Lizzy…"
She crawled into bed, exhausted, and stayed there for the next three days. On Saturday night, Rosie announced she was staying in to do her nails. Liz was sitting up, her whole body gathered close together, but was in one of her moods and stared at the ceiling, not saying anything. She hadn't spoken to Rosie in more than single-word, clipped phrases since the morning after that night when, eyeing the pile of torn down decorations, she had asked her to please get rid of them.
Ten painted fingernails later, Rosie mimicked Liz's position and rested her chin on her knees. "I'm sorry about the other night… I told them that you probably wouldn't want a big to-do, you know, that that was partly why you didn't want any visitors at the hospital but… I guess I got caught up in wanting you back too."
Liz counted the cracks and sags on the ceiling. Had all of them really been here when they had moved in? She did not want this dorm again next year.
"I guess… I guess I should have realized it was too soon for us to talk about it the way we did. But we thought you were okay, you know? We thought… we thought you would have been glad to not have to figure it out… I mean, we're barely twenty… we wouldn't… we didn't… none of us would have thought that getting pregnant is anything to be grateful about. Or well, I don't know. I guess you weren't grateful exactly but… well, you know what I'm saying, right?"
Oh, yes. She knew exactly what Rosie was trying to say. The cracks and sags blurred into the rest of the ceiling and Liz blinked to get them back.
Rosie huffed. "Come on, Lizzy. Talk to me. I miss my roommate."
"I didn't want to be pregnant. Especially not with someone who didn't even want the baby…" she whispered. "I was—I am—confused about what I wanted, and I didn't want them to visit because I knew," she twisted to face Rosie, "I knew what they were going to say."
"Oh, Lizzy. Were they so wrong?" Seeing that Liz was intending to clam up again, she quickly added, "I'm not saying they're right; I'm just saying that maybe they had a point."
"Do you agree with them, then? Do you think I should have gotten an abortion from the start?"
"No! I know how much you hate kiddie sob stories and I wouldn't tell you to get an abortion without thinking it through first. But now that you've lost it anyway, I just think…"
"What?" Her voice was sharper than it had gotten in days.
Rosie gave her a look. "I think Quantico and a kid is tough."
"I'm a tough girl."
"But are you that kind of tough?"
"I could be. And Quantico isn't for sure."
"It isn't for sure."
"But it's pretty sure."
"Maybe I'm not even qualified."
"Of course you are."
"Well it doesn't have to be right away."
"You're only saying all these things because of the whole baby thing."
"Maybe I just realized that Quantico doesn't have to be the only thing for me."
"Hey, I'm on your side, okay? And you're right. You're right—it doesn't have to be right away. Or ever. If that's what you want."
Liz turned back to the ceiling and nodded, quiet again. After a moment and a quiet, resigned sigh, Rosie turned away too, leaning over her knees and brushing bright purple on her toes.
"You seen Nick around?"
Her hand stilled. "Not much."
"Did he seem… off… or anything to you? Even a bit?"
Purple slashed across her big toe furiously. "I don't know."
She let it go.
She woke up the next morning to find Nick sitting in a chair dragged out from her desk, watching her but not saying anything. When she stared at him and didn't say anything either, he let out a breath and smiled tentatively. "Hi."
"Hi." She didn't get up.
"How are you feeling?"
"What about okay?"
"Yeah. I guess so."
He pulled his chair closer and took her hand. She stiffened. He dropped it. "I'm sorry."
"That I got pregnant or that I lost the baby?'
He looked down. "Both."
"Really?" She pushed herself up.
"Okay." At least he hadn't said that she had lost the baby.
"I'm sorry about our fight too."
"I was serious when I said I was thinking about keeping it." She waited for his eyes to come up to hers. "I wasn't trying to trick you or anything."
"I know. That's why I freaked out."
"But you're sorry that I lost the baby?"
"Are you trying to trick me now?"
"I'm just trying to figure all of this out."
His fingers bridged and twisted. "I am. Sorry that you lost the baby, I mean."
She looked at him expectantly.
"Say it. Just say it: you're sorry that I lost the baby but…. First thing that comes to mind. You know this game."
"Why are you doing this, Lizzy?"
"There's nothing to say."
"Come on, Nick. You're telling me that you're not even a little glad? Or relieved? Because you sure don't look sad to me. You don't look like you've been losing sleep over it like I have."
"Come on, Lizzy. Don't do this to yourself. Drop it."
"I wish you would all stop treating me like I'm fragile or a little crazy or whatever it is you think I am. I mean, okay, I was a lot upset, I admit that, but was that so irrational?"
"And you're not still?"
"Would it matter if I weren't?"
"I've been sitting here, trying to figure out what else you want from me, and I can't, Lizzy, I can't. I mean, I am sorry that you lost the baby but I can't pretend to care as much as you do."
"What does that mean?"
"You know what it means."
"I don't understand why you're pushing this."
"I just need to hear it."
"You really want me to say it?"
"Lizzy, be serious now—"
"It's for the best, alright? I'm sorry that you lost the baby but it's for the best."
Her expression didn't change. "See? I can take it."
He looked steadily at her, not yet finished. "We would've been terrible parents," he said softly. "You busting criminals and me… I don't even know what I'd being doing. We would never have had time for the poor kid. And can you imagine you and me fighting about this all the time? And if not this, then us, or money, or me drinking. Because I'd probably be a drinker."
"This isn't funny, Nick."
"I know." He still didn't look away. "I've said too much now, haven't I?"
"No, you're right. Or… kind of right. I just… I need to be alone right now. Please?"
And finally, his gaze slid away and she was breathing again without fire and fight. She sank back into the blankets and started to cry.
"Aw, Lizzy…" He was back, like a knight in shining armor, except that even through her tears, she knew she would always see the ghost of tarnish on the shine. She tried to control herself, needing him to not be here. The tears came faster.
"Come on, I'm sorry, alright?" He was touching her hair now, and her shoulder. "Don't listen to anything I say. It's all bogus, you know that." When that elicited no change in her response, he scooted onto the bed and held her, running gentle fingers up and down her back, her arm. She let him.
She went slowly, putting one foot in front of the other and pressing down firmly on the already slushy snow as she counted the steps from the slender lamp to the sprawling, bare tree at the other end. She remembered doing this with Nick; it had been fun then. Now it was just something to do to pass the time, just a way to take her mind off the unanswered emails she had been mentally trying to categorize into "don't answer" and "maybe answer." She was at two hundred seven and her mind was beginning to wander back to the dilemma when she noticed the sandy-haired girl watching her from a weatherworn bench several yards away. The girl waved unabashedly and Liz smiled in answer, not wanting to be rude.
"Does it work?" she called out. "Walking and thinking?"
Liz abandoned her count and came to sit beside her. "I don't know. I was trying not to think."
"Oh. Well I guess that's easier."
Liz snorted. "Not always."
The girl laughed. "You new here?"
"Me too. Well, fall transfer, but that still makes me pretty new."
"Why'd you transfer?"
She tugged at one of her braids and shrugged. "I needed a change."
"Me too." Liz followed the chain of her footprints with her eyes, thinking of those emails again. At least she had already decided that voicemails were definitely under "don't answer." She glanced at the girl. "Do you regret it? Transferring?"
"Nah. It's a good place for change." She grinned. "The people here are great."
"Yeah? They talk about having families and kids and a fast-paced career all at once?"
"What?" She was laughing. "That sounds like a tall dream."
"Something you're trying to break from then?"
Liz rubbed a hand over her stomach instinctively. "I don't know. Maybe."
"Well I think it's a nice dream. Even if it's not yours."
She shrugged. "I mean, why not go for having it all, right?"
"Right," Liz echoed. She studied the girl's clear blue eyes and the easy upward curve of her lips. This was unexpected.
"I'm Emily, by the way. Em, if you'd like."
"Liz." She shook Emily's offered hand. "Just Liz."
She stood suddenly. "Hey, you want to see something? It's outdoorsy. A little wild. And weird. But I think you'd like it."
She blinked. Well, why not? She stood and told Emily to lead on with genuine cheerfulness. She eyed her already degenerating footprints one last time as she hurried to keep up with Emily and it occurred to her that there was a very simple solution to her dilemma. Delete. Just one click and her problems would disappear. No more ties, no need for messy follow-ups. All she would have would be the memories and that was okay with her.
Emily gave her a sidelong glance. "You look like you've just seen the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."
They skirted a pool of melted snow. Liz smiled. "Something like that."
Quantico. And the right guy if she found him. And maybe a kid. That was all she wanted. And the only tall thing about that was Quantico.