In the spirit of all these "A Christmas Carol"-ish fics, I also wanted to write a fic about one of the characters being taken around by someone and shown all the mess ups in their life. Only, this has nothing to do with Christmas.

"Bah, humbug!" me all you want.


Monday Morning

"Morning, Natalie," Dan greeted his daughter with barely a look. "Need any help with your lunch?"

"No, dad. I'm good," she grunted, sounding unhappy. Well, it was six-thirty in the morning; no one could blame her.

"Are you going early to practice piano?"

She looked up at her dad, balking. "Um, duh. I do that, like, every day."

He looked away. Of course he knew that. "I knew that. Don't be so snippy. I'll see you after school." He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

"Right."

"Bye, sweetheart."

"Whatever, dad."

He didn't know what had gotten into her lately. Honestly, it was like someone had taken over her mind and replaced his sweet, high-achieving Natalie with someone dark and moody. He couldn't help but wonder if all this time with that Henry kid had something to do with it.

He drove to work and put in a few hours on a house he was designing before leaving at the now-customary early hour so he could see Diana at the hospital. Well, he couldn't exactly see her; she was getting her ECT treatments. When she wasn't in treatment, she was resting and in secure conditions. Still, it made him feel better to be there than to be home or at work. Once there, however, he lost track of time and didn't look at his watch until after six o'clock.

Damn, he thought as he hurried to his car. Natalie.

But when he returned home, Natalie seemed unruffled by his tardiness. She just rolled her eyes.

"I already had dinner. I heated something up from the freezer," she informed him.

"Oh. Do you want anything else?"

"I would like you to be home once in awhile," she muttered, but he didn't hear her, preoccupied by trying to find something to eat in the freezer. With all this commotion around him, he'd forgotten to go grocery shopping.

"What's that?" he asked absent-mindedly.

"Nothing."

Later that night, he retired to bed, exhausted. Alone, he didn't have to keep up this facade. Sobs began hiccuping through his body, small and quiet, but all the more painful because of it.

Please, God, he thought. When will this end? What's wrong with Natalie? What more can I do? I'm doing the best I can... I think. I'm trying everything for Di, but something's happening with Natalie and I can't do anything about it. Help me understand her.

He heard nothing back, felt nothing. Sighing in pain, inside and out, he rolled over and turned out the light. He was asleep within minutes.

Funny how fate works. If he'd waited one more minute before falling asleep, he would have heard Natalie slip out of her room and go downstairs, slipping out of the house and driving away.

But alas, he was asleep, and missed everything.