FANDOM: Guiding Light
RATING: PG-13 for a naughty word.
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.
The smile playing on Philip's lips as he watched Natalia and his daughter was not quite friendly, yet not quite menacing. It made her more uneasy than outright hostility would have, and she instinctively looked over her shoulder to the restaurant. She could see Buzz clearing up their coffee cups, but he wasn't looking at her.
"Hello Emma," Philip said gently, pushing himself off the car door and moving across to his daughter.
Emma responded by clinging tighter to Natalia and turning her head slightly to watch him through half-lidded eyes. "Hi daddy." She didn't sound as pleased to see him as she usually was.
Natalia wasn't sure if her own anxiety was rubbing off on Emma, but she forced herself to calm down and smile as warmly as possible at Philip. "Hello Philip," she said. "I didn't expect to see you so soon."
"No, I don't suppose you did."
"We're going to the hotel and then we're seeing mommy," Emma said in a small voice, curling her fingers into Natalia's hair. Natalia grasped her even closer.
"I need you to sit in the car now, okay sweetheart?" she whispered directly into her ear. When she felt Emma nod she lowered her to the ground walked her round to the passenger side door. When she was securely buckled in to the seat she closed the door and turned to Philip.
"Emma really doesn't need to be upset right now," she began, crossing her arms across her chest.
Philip spread his arms out magnanimously. "What makes you think I'm going to upset her?"
Natalia barely avoided rolling her eyes at that remark. "We're going to The Beacon," she said. "Olivia has all her legal stuff there; we can discuss her instructions for Emma's care tomorrow. After Emma gets a good night's sleep."
Philip shook his head. "We need to talk about this now," he said.
Natalia sighed deeply and ran both hands through her tangled hair. "Fine," she snapped. "Then come with me and see what Olivia wants for yourself. Just don't expect me to drive you." With that she nudged him aside and got into her car. She watched in the rearview mirror as Philip stalked back to his own and turned on the engine. His lights followed her too closely all the way to the hotel.
* * * * * *
Emma barely protested at all as Natalia slipped her into her bed in the suite she was sharing with her mom. The girl fell prey to exhaustion almost the moment her head hit the pillow, her body curling around the stuffed rabbit Olivia had got her for Christmas so she lay in an almost foetal position. Natalia took a moment to smooth her hair back and kiss her forehead gently before she turned to Philip, who was hovering like an unwelcome spirit in the background.
"I could have handled that," he insisted, following her as she moved into the other room.
"Ssssh," Natalia scolded. "Don't wake her, for God's sake. She needs this."
"I'm not gonna wake her," he replied, forcefully but quietly. "Believe it or not, I know what's best for my daughter."
Natalia sat on Olivia's bed, watching Philip as she would a wasp in her kitchen. "Olivia is very sick," she said, somehow managing to keep the heartache from her voice. "She's in a coma. Emma is completely distraught. What exactly makes you think that dragging her away from a safe environment will do any good?"
"Safe?" His voice began to rise. "I'm not dangerous!"
Natalia's back stiffened. "That's not the impression I got at the hospital."
Philip held her gaze for just a moment before looking away, scraping his hands through his hair as he began to pace. "I was worried about Emma," he said tightly. "All I heard was that she'd been in an accident. I'm her father. I wanted to take care of her. I'm...sorry." The last word clearly cost him a lot.
Under normal circumstances Natalia would have felt sorry for him, parent to parent. Right now however she was far too tired and far too emotionally wrung out to care about his feelings. "Go home, Philip," she said, a note of steel in her voice. "I'll call you tomorrow and we can talk about what we're going to do."
Philip cast a long look to Emma's closed bedroom door, then back to Natalia. "We will talk tomorrow," he assured her.
"Fine." The tension in her voice was palpable. "But can you just go now, please? I meant what I said before. I can't deal with you right now."
There was a long pause before Philip finally nodded his head. "Tomorrow," he reminded her as he slipped out the door.
Natalia flopped back onto the bed, sighing deeply. "Whoop-de-fucking-do," she spat venomously before seeming to realise exactly what she'd said. "Well, I guess that's on my confession list," she muttered.
The urge to stay right where she was lying was incredibly strong. Every inch of her body ached and as for her mind...well, it was in pieces. And if her mind was in pieces then her soul had been ground to powder. She turned and buried her face in the comforter, inhaling Olivia's scent like it was a drug. "I need you here," she whispered. "Come back to me... Dear God, let her come back to me."
She had no idea how long she lay there. She might even have fallen into a fitful, restless sleep. All she knew was that when she finally opened her eyes they burned like fire. Her nerves were frayed and her muscles were alternately aching and twitching. She needed to sleep, but she also knew she needed ammunition against Philip. Groaning as she rolled from the bed, she stood and looked blearily round the room. There was a safe in the suite, she knew that, but it seemed likely that Olivia kept important documents in the main safe in her office.
She passed a couple of maids she knew to nod to on the way downstairs but couldn't muster up a smile for either of them. Nor could she manage to be civil to the desk clerk who offered a small smile and a look of worry. Natalia completely ignored her as she padded past, heading for Olivia's office.
The office was just average sized but it was dominated by a very large, very messy, desk. Olivia always claimed that she was simply using a three-dimensional filing system. It had caused their first and only major disagreement in a professional capacity when Natalia had tidied the desk soon after being appointed assistant. She'd really believed she was going to get fired that day, and she also believed that only the memory of her heart stopping during their last real battle of words had prevented Olivia from letting loose. Still, Natalia hadn't made the mistake of touching Olivia's desk again. And she had to admit, Olivia Spencer got things done, messy desk or no messy desk.
The safe required a combination which Natalia suddenly realised she had absolutely no idea about. "Okay, obviously the combination to the safe is not really important enough to tell me, right 'Liv?" she muttered. She tried Olivia's birthday, with no success. Too obvious, she supposed. Emma's birthday also yielded no results and she was just trying to remember Ava's when she found herself impulsively inputting her own.
The safe clunked open revealing a surprisingly neat pile of assorted papers and documents. "Olivia," she whispered, a flood of love for the other woman rushing through her suddenly and leaving her breathless. It took her a very long moment to recover from that, but when she did she decided to take all the papers upstairs to the suite so she could be there if Emma needed her.
On the way back up she met no-one, and was very glad of it. The news of her aborted wedding and Olivia's accident had been spreading around the small town for hours, and she knew that soon the whispering and the questions would start. The longer she could put that off the better.
The first thing she found was yet another power of attorney, this time
dealing specifically with Emma. Natalia sighed in relief as she realised
that she at last had something concrete to use against Philip for as long
as Olivia remained unconscious. Olivia had given her the most generous
powers she could, it seemed, allowing her to make decisions about Emma's
health, both emergency and routine, her education, even on whether or not
she should go on field trips. There was also a letter for her in
an envelope marked 'To Natalia, about Emma' in Olivia's neat sloping
I think you know how much I trust you with Emma. There's no-one I trust more. I've hopefully arranged everything so that you'll be free to take care of her if I'm sick. But if I die, Philip gets custody.
Natalia, I can't let that happen. I won't have my daughter brought up as a Spaulding, I won't. So that's why I need to ask you for something, something big. But I'm not afraid of what your answer will be because I know you and I know you'll do it.
If I die, go to my lawyer right away. He has adoption papers on file which I have already signed and dated. You just need to sign them too and use the same date I did. It's the only way I know to get my custody passed to you. And I don't want anyone else raising Emma but her #2 mommy.
Always remember, Natalia - you're a freakin' superhero.
Natalia read and reread the letter at least six times and would have gone on reading it if her tears hadn't threatened to wet the paper through. Suddenly her mind could supply no image but that of Olivia lying broken on the hospital bed, her eyes closed, her lovely face bruised and swollen. Unable to hold herself up any longer Natalia fell back onto the bed, surrounding herself with Olivia's blankets. The faint memory of her perfume clung still to the bedding and Natalia drank it in greedily as she wept over what she might have lost. It took a long time for her to cry herself to sleep.