FANDOM: Guiding Light
RATING: PG for this part
SUMMARY: Natalia is forced to come to terms with her feelings alone when Olivia is injured.
TIMELINE: Begins immediately after the episode on 17th of April and diverges from the canon storyline at that point.
Natalia had spent more time at the hospital in the last twelve months than she had in her entire life. It seemed it was her fate to keep returning to keep vigil with people she loved, first for Gus and then over and over for Olivia. Sitting by Olivia's bed this time she just felt numb, unable to really comprehend what she was seeing.
One side of her face was almost black with bruises, swollen almost beyond recognition. Bandages had been wrapped round her head to stop the bleeding which had been, according to Frank, quite extensive. Her left arm and leg were both broken and had been set in splints while a team of doctors conferred over her case. Natalia was oblivious to them. She barely even blinked as she stared blankly, gripping Olivia's right hand in a grip that would have been painful had the other woman been conscious.
"The car just lost control. The snow, and everything. The driver tried to swerve, but there was nothing he could do. They were just crossing the street..." Frank trailed off and began stroking Natalia's back, the gesture meant to be comforting. She barely felt it.
"Emma?" Natalia croaked. It was the first word she'd spoken since Frank had told her that Olivia was in the hospital.
"She's fine, ma." It was Rafe who answered, crouching down to look up at his mother's face. "Olivia took the force of it. She must have shielded Emma, cause the kid's only got a couple of scratches."
Natalia exhaled very, very slowly. "Of course she did," she said, leaning forward to kiss Olivia's hand.
Rick chose that moment to come over and talk to them. His face was grave. "We need to get her into surgery right now," he said without preamble.
"Is it her heart?" Frank gave Natalia's shoulder a soft squeeze as he felt her stiffen.
Rick shook his head. "Worse than that," he said. Natalia looked up sharply.
"There's worse?" Her voice was choked and incredulous.
"She's suffered a serious head injury. There's some fluid build-up in her brain, Natalia. She could be bleeding internally, we're not sure, but we've got to relieve the pressure."
For a moment Natalia didn't seem to react. "Wh-I mean, what happens if you don't?"
Rafe was by his mother's side in an instant as she crumpled like a house of cards left next to an open window. "They need you to sign the forms, ma," he said, taking her hands in his and forcing him to look at her.
"Wha- forms? I don't underst-"
"Olivia gave you her power of attorney," Rick interrupted. He paused as a pair of shocked dark eyes snapped towards him. Obviously that had come as a surprise. How typical of Olivia to steam ahead without consulting anyone. "The document was in her medical records. I'm sorry Natalia, I know this is hard for you, but time is really of the essence here. If we don't get her into surgery right now she'll be leaving this room in a bodybag."
"Hey, go easy Rick, she's upset for cryin' out loud."
"I can't do anything about that Frank, but if she doesn't sign these consent forms Olivia's gonna die right here in this room!"
"You don't have to yell, man, my mom's trying her best."
"Don't you people understand how serious this is? For God's sake-"
Natalia's near scream brought the budding argument to an abrupt close. She turned her gaze onto Rick and grabbed his clipboard. "Pen!" she demanded. Someone pressed a ball-point into her fingers and she signed all the necessary places on the form with a firm and unshaking hand. Thrusting the clipboard back against his chest she turned to Olivia. "Give me a moment alone with her please."
All three men reacted to the tone of authority suddenly lacing her voice. "I'll tell the OR we're coming," said Rick.
"We'll be right outside," Frank added, leading Rafe from the room.
Alone with her unconscious friend at last, Natalia allowed her fear to crack through the surface again. "Please God," she murmured. "Don't take her away. She's my whole world, God. I need her." She cupped Olivia's cheek, avoiding the bruising even though she wouldn't feel the pain in this state. "I love you, Olivia. Come back to me. I promise I'll make everything up to you. Just don't leave me." With that she finally allowed her tears to fall. Burying her head in the blankets covering Olivia's torso, she wept, an overwhelming and debilitating terror spreading like ice water across her skin. "Don't leave me," she moaned into the blanket, and suddenly felt a pair of hands rest on her heaving shoulders.
"She'll be all right," Frank said softly. Natalia could only weep all the more bitterly.
Harley had said the same thing about Gus.
* * * * * *
The hours dragged by like decades as Natalia, Frank and Rafe waited for news from the OR. The ticking of Frank's watch, unnaturally loud in the silence, was the only sound. Natalia focused in on it, the rhythm, imagining it to be the steady beat of Olivia's heart.
This was the second wedding day she'd spent in a hospital for Olivia's sake. You're trying to tell me something, right? she thought, lifting her eyes towards heaven. She thought of all the major events of her life since moving to Springfield, and how they'd all seemed to involve Olivia. Peripherally at first, but at some point their orbits seemed to have shifted and suddenly just about everything revolved around her. And now their orbits were on the point of shifting again. They would either spin apart on their own paths, never to meet again, or they'd crash into each other and become something else. Natalia couldn't quite decide which would be preferable. To allow themselves to fall into each other, to let herself be taken over by these feelings, this passion that bubbled so close to the surface. Or to give it up, to go on about their own separate lives, levees in place to stop the raging floodwaters of frustrated love.
Just thinking of it made her blood run cold. If there was one thing she was sure of it was that she needed to have Olivia in her life. She'd never really had the kind of life that allowed her to make friends. Working three jobs and bringing up a child alone didn't leave much free time for drinking coffee, watching movies, talking on the phone, all the things that she supposed other people did to maintain relationships. It wasn't until moving to Springfield that she'd managed to make the kind of connections she'd always longed for with other adults. She always said that Rafe was enough, and when he was a child he was. But he was grown up now; soon he'd leave her and until now there'd been nothing in her life to take his place.
Until Olivia and Emma. Olivia was the first adult she'd ever lived with other than her own parents. And after a few weeks of living in the farmhouse with her and her daughter she'd come to rely and depend on her presence more and more. It was exactly what had been missing all those years with Rafe. Someone to share the burden, someone to talk to after the kid's bedtime, someone who could understand adult worries like lack of money, and the state of the economy. Not that Natalia really lacked money now. Olivia had given her raise after raise until she'd finally consented to stop working at Company and devote herself solely to the task of being Olivia's assistant at The Beacon.
And so that's how it was for a while. Their routine of mornings with Emma, days at work, and evenings together, and somewhere along the way they had both fallen deeply, hopelessly, irretrievably in love. It hadn't been like flicking on a light; there was no one moment she could point to and say: "yes, that's when my world, as I had always known it, changed." It was more organic than that, like the coming of dawn, or the slow rise of the bread she made every Sunday. But it was there nonetheless, the knowledge that at some point she'd started to crave their closeness a little more, that they'd begun to sit next to each other on the couch rather than at opposite ends, that they'd started holding hands for no particular reason. And because neither of them had ever had a real friend before it took some time to realise that their behaviour wasn't quite normal; that even 'best friends' didn't hold hands at school presentations or watch movies under one blanket wrapped around each other.
Olivia had known first, of course, her mind just naturally worked that way. Natalia had been so naive, so blind to the implications of what was going on between them. She wondered now just how long she'd have gone on taking Olivia's hand, wiping away her tears, holding her when things got hard, without realising exactly what she was doing. If Olivia hadn't kissed her that cold night in January, would she have gone on oblivious forever?
And what was she going to do now?
"Ma?" Rafe's voice jolted her back into the moment and she looked up to see Olivia being wheeled back into the recovery room she knew so well. Natalia was on her feet in an instant, hurrying to the other woman's side.
"Is everything okay now?" she asked Rick breathlessly.
Rick led her to the chair by Olivia's bed and made her sit down. "She's stable now," he said. "But still critical. There was some bleeding inside the skull, but we've stopped that. We're going to keep her asleep for a few days to let her body recover. But you should be prepared..." he trailed off, looking down at Olivia's battered face.
"P-prepared? For what?"
Rick took a deep breath. "For the possibility of brain damage."