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.
Saturday was traditionally Natalia's day to sleep late. When Rafe was growing up she'd always tried, as far as possible, to make sure she had Saturday off from her various jobs. In the morning Rafe would get up really early, get his own cereal and watch cartoons while Natalia caught a well deserved extra hour or two in bed. Then they'd go out together - to the park or for a walk round the neighbourhood if the weather was good; to a museum or library if the weather was bad. Very, very rarely she might take him to a movie - if the tips had been especially good that month, or if a few numbers had come up on the lottery ticket that she shared with the girls at work. But generally Rafe seemed to enjoy their Saturdays together whatever they did - and they were her most treasured days of the week.
That morning, for the first time in almost twenty years, Natalia woke with the dawn on a Saturday. She had been asleep for maybe five or six hours and she knew her body really needed more but her mind seemed to have staged a mutiny. All the thoughts she'd tried to beat down had come back with a vengeance in her dreams - Olivia's stark "there is no us", Frank's kicked puppy eyes, Olivia's face as she lay in the hospital bed. She scrunched her eyes shut so hard she could see coloured dots flashing like fireworks but the images wouldn't stop coming.
She rolled over onto her side trying to escape the onslaught of thoughts and found herself pushing against something warm and solid. Her eyes snapped open but her brief confusion was erased when she saw the ear of a white plush bunny poking out from under the bedclothes. Emma had transplanted herself in the night and now lay burrowed under the comforter, her body curled around a stray pillow. Natalia felt a wave of love swell and break as she leaned down to press her lips to the girl's forehead. Emma didn't stir, but she did sigh a little, her breath tickling Natalia's chin.
Being very careful not to wake her, Natalia slid out of bed. Her body was crying out for coffee and a shower, though not necessarily in that order. She felt grimy and the skin on her face was tight with a layer of dried tears. She longed for the sensation of water on her skin, washing away all the bad things like a baptism. That was what life with Olivia had been like, she thought. Baptism. The death of one life and the beginning of a new, deeper, richer one.
The Beacon Hotel had very good bathrooms, and Natalia spent longer than she'd meant to just standing under the steady spray letting her mind drift. The hot water was delicious and she almost - almost - managed to forget everything that was going on. But eventually she knew she needed to get back to the real world.
A quick towel dry later and she found herself looking through Olivia's bureau for a fresh shirt. Right at the back of the drawer she found a grey T-shirt she immediately recognised - Olivia had worn it a lot when she first gout out of hospital. Natalia couldn't resist it. It was actually a size or two big on her, but she didn't care. She began to wonder if she'd ever wear her own clothes again. The desire to be near Olivia in any way she could was so strong.
As soon as she was dressed she placed a call to room service for breakfast - banana pancakes and milk for Emma; coffee and a bran muffin for herself. She wasn't sure she'd be able to eat but when she saw Emma toying with her food she forced herself to swallow, if only to provide a good example.
"Did you sleep well honey?" she asked gently.
Emma shrugged. "I had a bad dream."
Natalia frowned. "Is that...is that why you came in to sleep beside me?" Emma nodded. "Do you want to tell me what the dream was about?"
"Mommy," Emma said simply. "Her arm was all backwards."
Natalia held back tears with sheer force of will as she tried not to think about how scary yesterday must have been for Emma who had been conscious the whole time and had had to see Olivia broken and bleeding in the road. "It's in a cast now," she said. "And soon it'll be all better."
Emma shifted restlessly. "Can I ask you something?"
Emma wouldn't meet her eyes. "Is my mom going to die?"
Natalia was sure her heart was breaking. She crossed the room and knelt by the side of the bed, grasping Emma's hands in hers. "No," she said confidently. "She is definitely not going to die."
Emma seemed to consider that for a moment, and then her face broke into a wide smile and she hugged Natalia's neck hard. "I love you, Natalia."
"I love you too, baby," Natalia replied, surprised she could even speak through the lump of emotion in her throat.
"Can I ask you something else?"
Natalia pulled her head back so she could look at the girl's face. "Sure."
Emma smiled. "I don't want to call you Natalia anymore," she said.
Natalia felt her eyebrows rising to her hairline. "No?"
Emma shook her head. "Rafe calls you 'ma'," she continued.
"Uh...yeah, he sure does," Natalia replied, feeling like she was about two steps behind in the conversation.
"But when he was little he called you 'mama'," Emma said. "He told me once." She looked into Natalia's eyes hopefully. "Can I call you mama too?"
This time there was no way she could stop her tears from falling. Her hands covered her mouth as she cried the happiest of all possible tears. "Oh, my baby," she gasped, pulling Emma into her arms and holding her tightly. "My darling, darling girl." She rained kisses down on the girl's forehead and cheeks, her face clasped gently between her palms.
"Does this mean yes?" Emma giggled.
"Yes!" Natalia exclaimed. "I'd love you to call me mama. I would...really, really love that."
They hugged again, but only briefly as the moment was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Natalia?" came the voice from the other side. "It's Philip."
* * * * * *
When Emma was securely ensconced in the other room watching Saturday morning cartoons, Natalia turned to Philip. "I'm not letting you take her," she said bluntly. "I know what Olivia wants now." She passed him the document giving her permission to act as Emma's guardian while Olivia was sick. Philip read it over several times.
"I could fight this," he said blandly. Natalia sighed.
"You could," she agreed. "But Olivia will be awake in a few days and the point will be moot. And all you'll have succeeded in doing is turning me against you." She paused. "Do you know why Olivia lets you see Emma at all? It's not really because she sneaked off to testify for you that time." She met his eyes. "It's because of me. Because I told her Emma had a right to love her dad. Because I stopped her from badmouthing you in front of her."
Philip crossed his arms across his chest. "So what are you saying...?"
"I'm saying," Natalia replied sharply. "That I can influence Olivia. And if she wakes up and finds out you've been causing trouble it'll confirm everything she already thinks about you. All you'll do is push us so we're both against you. And let me tell you something, when Olivia and I are united? We are absolutely invincible." She finished with a note of pride in her voice and a defiant tilt to her chin. She was managing to look pretty invincible all on her own.
Philip lasted for a good ten seconds before admitting defeat, holding his hands in the air. "Okay, okay," he said. Natalia relaxed a little as she heard him laugh softly. "You know, you're quite something Natalia," he added.
Natalia rolled her eyes. "Don't flirt with me," she scolded.
Philip raised his eyebrows. "Wouldn't dream of it. Olivia's the one woman in the world who scares me. Well," he amended, taking another look at Natalia. "Actually, maybe that's one of two."
Natalia flushed, not quite knowing how to respond to his assumption that she and Olivia were together. She remembered a time when denial would have leapt instantly to her lips but now? Things were different now.
"But you know, I am supposed to get supervised visits every second Saturday," Philip was saying, pulling her back to the moment.
"Oh yeah, I remember," she said absently. Then she fully realised what Philip was saying. "Today? I don't know if that's such a good idea Philip..."
"It's a great idea," Philip argued. "You can call Jane to chaperone. I can distract Emma from what's going on. You don't want her seeing Olivia in her current condition, do you?"
Natalia didn't like it, but she couldn't deny it was true. "You'll stay with Jane," she said finally. "And text me every two hours."
Philip performed a small salute. "Yes boss," he said, and slid past her to get to Emma.
Natalia quickly called Jane, unable to shake her uneasiness, yet knowing she was being slightly ridiculous. Philip had taken Emma for visits with Jane before, and everything had been fine. Nothing was different today.
Except that I'm her mama now, her mind supplied. We're really a family. Rafe, me, Em and Olivia. We belong together.
She still wasn't exactly happy about Philip looking after Emma, but at least one good thing was coming of it. She was able to get back to Olivia's side now. She knew that was exactly where she belonged.