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.
Frank Cooper had made a lot of screw ups in his life but, he decided, what he'd done to Natalia was probably the worst. He'd felt so justified at the time. After all, Natalia had been stringing him along, using him for months to hide from her own feelings. But that was nothing new for Frank; in fact, it seemed to be his lot in life. He projected this image of goodness and decency and safety, and women had this way of seeing him as this non threatening brotherly figure. Natalia obviously had. She'd gone to him precisely because of her lack of passion for him. He remembered the time they'd made love. How could he not have noticed the signs? She had been so rigid and unresponsive to his touch, lying beneath him and staring at the ceiling as if trying to pretend she wasn't there. He thought he might even have hurt her a little as he pressed on, despite her palpable lack of excitement. And afterwards...the look on her face. Like something in her had curled up and died. And he'd been oblivious. He'd told himself it was all about her religion - everyone knew Catholic girls were sexually repressed, right? He'd been looking forward to spending a few years teasing some passion out of her.
From the way she looked at Olivia, Frank understood that she really didn't need any help with that.
Sighing, he took a long swig of his beer. He'd necked three bottles already and it was only lunchtime. Obviously he wasn't going back to work that day. But that was fine. He'd hardly been able to stand being in the station over the last week. Everything about his job reminded him of how he'd used his petty power against Natalia, striking out in his pain and anger to hurt a woman he had claimed to love. But how could he have loved her when he'd never really known her? He'd wanted to take care of her, but she wasn't a child. She'd been looking after herself since she was a teenager. She was strong, independent. Olivia had seen that from the start; he remembered her trying to tell him as much one day at Company. He hadn't listened. Olivia had said Natalia needed to be challenged...well, she had been, but not by him. The things he'd wanted to give her - security, safety, protection - were not what she needed. Olivia had given her what she needed. She always had. So how could he be surprised when, standing at an altar and faced with a choice between him and her, Natalia had chosen her?
Frank knew first hand just how attractive Olivia was, but he could see it wasn't all about that. There was more to Olivia than her looks, devastating though they were. Hell, he'd thought he loved her once, until she'd smashed his heart into a million pieces. But what he'd said to Natalia at the hospital wasn't true. Olivia had changed. Anyone could see it. She was a actually good person, and no-one had been more surprised to discover that than Olivia herself.
Frank glanced over to see his father sliding into the stool beside him. He nodded at the bartender to order another beer for him and inclined his own bottle slightly towards Buzz when it was placed in front of him. "Hey," he replied. They sat drinking together for a silent few minutes.
"So," Buzz said at last. "It's been a hell of a week, huh?"
Buzz watched his son steadily and took a deep breath. "You know, I've made plenty of mistakes in my time," he said quietly. "And sometimes I thought there was no way to make it right. But you know, what's important is to try."
Frank shook his head. "I really hurt her, pop," he said bleakly.
"And she hurt you," Buzz replied. "There's a lot of bad between you, and maybe nothing you can do will ever put things exactly right, but that doesn't mean you get to do nothing. You've gotta try, Frank."
A pensive expression stole across Frank's face just as Buzz's cellphone began to ring. "Hello?" he said, then frowned. "Hey," he said. "How are you feeling?" A low chuckle rumbled deep in his throat. "Is that so? Well maybe I can help you with that...uh huh...onions...okay...I won't be long." He flipped the phone closed and turned back to his son. "That was Olivia," he said. "I'm going to go out to the farmhouse and visit for a little while. Why don't you come with me? Maybe it'll give you a chance to talk to Natalia?"
Frank shook his head sadly. "I can't see her right now pop," he said. "She's not going to want to listen to anything I have to say, not now."
Buzz shrugged. "Okay...well, just think about what I said, okay?"
Frank nodded. "I will," he said, and meant it. If there was one thing that was crystal clear it was that he had a lot of thinking to do.
* * * * * *
In normal circumstances Buzz would have been flattered to have a woman so delighted to see him, but he figured it was actually the burger he'd brought with him that Olivia was really excited about. She'd fallen on it the moment he placed it in her hands, chewing with almost orgasmic delight, her eyes fluttering closed in pleasure.
"Oh Jesus tap-dancing Christ, this is so good," she murmured around another mouthful. "Why have I never had onions on my burgers before? The onions are freakin' key." Buzz smirked.
"Are you sure you should be blaspheming in this house?" he quipped. Olivia rolled her eyes.
"Don't start," she muttered darkly.
Buzz held up his hands. "Okay, okay," he said, laughing. "I take it the burger meets with your approval?"
Olivia nodded. "You have no idea how much I need this," she said, biting off another huge mouthful.
"Natalia's not feeding you properly?"
Olivia swallowed hard. "Oh, she's feeding me very properly," she said. "Fish, and steamed vegetables, and low fat milk, and calcium supplements. I swear, if I could walk I'd be out there right now murdering one of the cows." She licked some grease off her fingers as she continued. "Red meat increases calcium loss," she whined, making a game attempt at imitating Natalia's voice. "Salt robs your bone density."
Buzz chuckled. "Well, you know Natalia, she's-"
"I know, I know," Olivia interrupted testily. "She's practically perfect in every way!"
Buzz smiled. "I was going to say she's always taken care you."
There was a pause, and then a slow smile spread across Olivia's face. "Yeah," she said softly. "I'm starting to see that." They lapsed into silence for a few moments before Olivia looked around and took a deep breath. "Can you believe I actually live here?" she asked, a hint of wonder edging into her voice.
Buzz tilted his head and raised his eyebrows in acknowledgement of the unlikeliness of the situation. "Yeah, I remember thinking it would last ten minutes at best when you first moved in here," he admitted. "But you know, it really works. I almost can't imagine you anywhere else."
Olivia frowned. "Why?" she murmured, and Buzz could hear the sorrow at all she had lost seeping into her voice. He leaned forward.
"We've known each other a long time, right?" he said. "Been through a lot together?"
She nodded slowly. "That's a bit of an understatement, yeah," she agreed.
He reached out and took her hand, his face serious. "You're a complicated woman, Olivia," he began. "You're intelligent, you're ambitious, you're beautiful...but you've never really been happy." Olivia opened her mouth to protest, but he hushed her. "Please, let me finish," he said.
Her hand felt tense in his but she relented, settling back against her pillows. "Okay," she said guardedly.
Buzz squeezed her hand. "I wanted to be the one to make you happy once," he said, his eyes locked on their joined hands. "I wanted to...I don't know, fix you. Because you're damaged, Olivia. There's something about you, something...inside. Something missing that you've been trying to find for a very long time. That's why you've been moving around all your life, from San Cristobal to Springfield, or from man to man. You've always had your eyes open looking for something better, and you've never really let yourself just be content."
Her eyes were shining with unshed tears as he looked up at her. He let go of her hand and slid his fingers across her cheek. "I'm not trying to upset you," he said quietly. "I'm trying to make you understand...whatever it is, whatever's been missing from your life all this time that's stopped you from really being happy...you found it here. In this place, with her."
She swallowed hard. "How?" she asked, her voice watery.
Buzz shrugged. "Who knows how anyone finds happiness?" he said. "All I know is that you fit here. You're calmer. You're healthier. And you're...yourself. I think you're yourself for the first time."
There was a long, protracted moment of silence as they stared at each other. Olivia opened her mouth to speak.
"Hey, I'm home!" came Natalia's voice, floating in from the kitchen. Buzz dropped his hand to his side and Olivia quickly wiped her eyes.
"Hey there," he called back, smiling as Natalia entered the room to greet him.
"Buzz! Oh, it's so good to see you," she exclaimed, hugging him briefly.
She started to ask after his family (not Frank though, he noted) and how things were going at Company but he wasn't really listening. His eyes were focused on Olivia who was staring at Natalia like she'd never seen her before.