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.
A/N - Some scenes in this fic have come to me spontaneously as I was writing - this one has been written in my head since before I started. You could say it was key (like onions.) So I hope it's good.
Natalia had always found something very comforting about baking bread. It was almost magical - flour, water, salt and a little yeast was all it took. It seemed simple, but whole civilisations had risen and fallen on that alchemy. She'd certainly felt its absence in the past, when tips were bad or jobs were lost and she could afford to feed Rafe but not herself. Those were the times when she found herself baking rather than buying bread, because she had a little more time on her hands, and because it was cheaper. Plus there was the therapeutic value to the physical exertion involved. Mix, knead, turn, knead, turn, knead until her muscles would scream and sweat would break out on her brow. But it was always worth it because she got to see it rise, grow, slowly take on a life of its own. Like bringing up a child. Like falling in love.
"I still don't see how this is better than buying it."
Natalia turned her head to Olivia, a dot of flour dusting her nose. Olivia's eyes honed in on it. She wanted to wipe it off, she realised; her fingers tingled with the desire to reach out and touch. She thought she'd done something like that before. She remembered leaning over a table...fingers searching...giggling...
"Well, it tastes better, it's cheaper and you have the satisfaction of knowing you made it all by yourself."
Olivia shook herself a little as Natalia interrupted her memory. "But it's so sloooow," she drawled. Emma looked up from her homework and giggled. Natalia rolled her eyes.
"Some of the best things that have ever happened to me have happened slowly," she said, turning her dough ninety degrees and pushing it out with the heel of her hand. Knead, turn, knead, turn.
Natalia grinned to herself. "Glacial," she said. She turned back to Olivia. "Besides," she added. "We're supposed to be all about routine, right? Well, every Sunday I go to church early then come home, make soup and bake bread while Emma does her homework and you criticize me." She smiled. "We're only following doctor's orders."
Olivia shot her a lopsided smirk, their eyes met and locked, and for a second it was just like old times. Something indefinable sparked between them and Natalia's breath caught. Then Olivia looked away. "What kind of soup?" she asked.
Natalia turned back to her dough. Butterflies. "Carrot and cilantro," she said, hoping the tremble stayed out of her voice.
Olivia pulled a face. "Carrots again?" she asked.
"They're good for you," Natalia replied instantly. "Extremely high in Vitamin A. Good for bone metabolism."
She expected some kind of sarcastic retort and when it didn't come she turned, a frown creasing her brow. Olivia was staring at her speculatively, with something Natalia couldn't quite name shining in her eyes. "You are so sweet..." Olivia murmured seriously, then blinked. She seemed to shake herself and quickly plastered a grin onto her face. "This is why Rafe's diabetic, right?" she said, raising an eyebrow. "He absorbed too much sugar in the womb."
It was almost a relief. Olivia was still Olivia after all - and there was nothing like a joke to cover up an emotional moment. Natalia barked out a laugh and returned to kneading her dough, a little more forcefully than before. Emma finished up her homework and excused herself, rushing off to catch her favourite TV show.
Natalia cast a glance over her shoulder at Olivia. "Hey, have you ever heard of the Road to Emmaus?" she said.
"That's in Pennsylvania, right?" Olivia replied instantly, but Natalia could hear the smile in her voice. She rolled her eyes.
"It's a Bible story," she explained. "Father Ray read it in church today."
Olivia sighed indulgently. "Go on," she said.
Natalia smiled. "Well, Emmaus was a town just outside Jerusalem," she began. "And on the day of Christ's resurrection two of his followers were walking there, talking about everything that had happened. A man they didn't recognise joined them and started talking to them and asking them why they were so sad. They told him all about what had happened to Jesus, and he walked with them the whole way, explaining to them the Jewish prophecies about the messiah..." She trailed off, kneading her dough harder and faster than before.
Olivia waited for a moment. "And..." she said, when it seemed as if Natalia wasn't going to continue.
"And," Natalia went on. "When they got to the town they invited the stranger to eat with them. And at the meal something amazing happened. The stranger blessed the bread and when he broke it their eyes were opened and they saw...it was him. Jesus."
Olivia stared at Natalia's back, watching the play of muscles underneath her white cotton T-shirt as she kneaded her bread. "Why are you telling me this?" she asked softly. Natalia slowed what she was doing, then stopped and turned to face her.
"The Road to Emmaus teaches us to have hope, even when things seem bleakest. The travellers thought they'd lost everything, but Jesus was with them all the time. They just needed to have their eyes opened." She paused, then took a deep breath. "We're on our own Road to Emmaus, right now," she declared. "It wasn't just you who lost something in that accident. I lost something too. Our life here...how close we've become...and now we're travelling back to that, together."
Olivia watched Natalia for a long moment, then held out her hand. "Come here," she said softly. Natalia obeyed without question, reaching out and taking Olivia's hand in her own. Olivia looked up at her with serious eyes. "I'm not going to get my memory back because you feed me a bread roll," she said. "You understand that, right?"
Natalia nodded tightly. "Of course I know that," she insisted. "Of course I do."
Olivia smiled. "But that's not to say I won't ever get it back," she added. "Some things are already slotting into place. Like this..." She reached up and wiped that spot of flour she'd been eyeing from Natalia's nose. "It was ice cream before...right?" Natalia nodded again, and Olivia could see tears springing to her eyes. "Hey, don't cry," she admonished gently, tugging on Natalia's hand to get her to move down level with her. Natalia crouched down, allowing Olivia to wrap her arm round her shoulders and pull her closer.
"I'm sorry," Natalia breathed, wiping her eyes harshly with the back of her hand.
"Don't be," Olivia soothed. "I..." she trailed off, looking for the words. "It means a lot to me...that you care," she said at last.
"Of course I care," Natalia replied instantly.
Olivia looked down shyly. "About me?" she asked. "Or about Gus's heart?"
Her question sat in the air between them for a long moment before Natalia's hesitant, trembling fingers moved up and ghosted over Olivia's chest. "I haven't thought of it as Gus's heart for a very long time," she whispered.
Emotion welled up in Olivia's throat and for a moment she couldn't speak. "Yeah?" she said at last, her voice low and husky.
"Yeah," Natalia replied in a breath, flattening her palm against the beat of Olivia's heart. "It's yours," she said. "Just yours..." She looked up into her eyes. "I know you won't get all your memories back just like that," she murmured. "I know this isn't like the story." She took a deep breath. "But you know, what the story teaches us is that salvation comes exactly when we need it. And it can come in the most unexpected of guises. In the most surprising ways..."
Olivia felt something fundamental shift inside her. She wanted to kiss this woman, she suddenly realised. She'd never wanted anything like that before...
She ran her hand through Natalia's hair without really thinking about what she was doing. "Yes," she breathed, her eyes locked with Natalia's. "I think you're right. I think it can..."