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 - This is a tiny bit shorter than normal, but you may get a little more tonight.
Natalia was familiar with this dance. It began with hostility, the partners circling each other like wary animals waiting to see who would pounce first. Then there would be a little change in the rhythm or the tempo and they'd find themselves - almost against their will - inching closer. Soon the wariness would disappear, replaced by a deep desire to continue the dance, wherever it led. Their hands would finally touch and then...just as they should have been falling into each other's arms...retreat.
Olivia was definitely in retreat. If she could have walked she would have bolted from the room after their last conversation. Natalia had watched the shutters come down in her eyes, the hardening of her jaw, the tensing of her muscles. Something had scared her badly and, from the look in the other woman's eyes, Natalia was pretty sure she knew what it was. Lust. Olivia had been staring at her with a very familiar expression...eyes half-lidded and dark, lips parted, breath shallow. Natalia's face had burned under that gaze and for a brief moment she was sure they were about to kiss...
...before Olivia abruptly dropped her hands to her sides and asked to be moved back to the living room.
Natalia sighed as she stirred her soup. History was repeating itself, albeit at a much quicker pace. How was she going to stop Olivia from walking away from her again declaring bleakly "there is no us"?
But then, was it Olivia's fear or her own that had caused that little catastrophe?
Olivia had demonstrated many times that she was willing to sacrifice her own happiness for Natalia's sake. And what had she heard that day? Natalia lamenting for the Coopers. Natalia saying "please just let go" and flinching as if burned when she'd tried to take her hand. Natalia asking "what good is that kind of truth?" Olivia's truth. Olivia's love.
She had rejected it, she suddenly realised. She hadn't meant to. She'd just been talking without thinking, without considering what subtext Olivia was going to read into her words. She'd said "I love you Olivia," but what had Olivia heard? Maybe..."I love you Olivia, but just saying that makes me miserable."
Natalia dropped the spoon into the soup and barely noticed the splash burning her hand. How could she have been so stupid? How could she have pushed Olivia away when all her body had been crying out for was to fall into her arms and never leave? She replayed the gazebo conversation in her mind again, this time seeing the hope that had ascended and then gradually died in Olivia's eyes as Natalia just kept talking...and talking...and talking...
This is my fault, Natalia thought, blood draining from her face. If I'd said what I really wanted to she wouldn't have walked away. She wouldn't have been on that street. She'd be here with me now, whole and healthy.
Sobs rose in her throat which she covered up with the sound of cold water gushing from the tap as she held her scalded hand under it. She held it there for a long time, and when she finally turned the water off her hand was numb.
"Hey, Em was wondering when dinner's going to be ready."
Natalia turned before she had time to paste a fake smile onto her face. Emma was grinning up at her, obviously proud of the fact that she'd managed to push her mom's wheelchair all the way from the living room to the kitchen. But Olivia looked stricken.
"What's wrong? Why are you crying?" she demanded.
Natalia smiled a watery smile and shrugged with one shoulder. "It's nothing," she said.
Olivia raised her eyebrows. "No, it's not nothing," she insisted. "What is it?"
Natalia held up her hand. "I just burnt my hand. It's nothing, really."
Olivia frowned. "Em, will you run and get me the first aid kit?" she said, half turning to face her daughter.
"Oh...really Olivia, it's nothing," Natalia protested.
Olivia shook her head. "Come here," she said, using her work voice. Natalia obeyed reluctantly, closing the distance and sitting in a chair so they were level. "I was a chef once, did you know that?" Olivia continued as Emma handed her the first aid kid.
Natalia couldn't quite hide the look of disbelief that stole across her face. "Then why do I do all the cooking?"
Olivia smirked. "Because it obviously suits me to pretend to be hopeless," she said. "Hey, can you get me the Saran wrap sweetie?" she asked, turning to Emma and missing the look of outrage on Natalia's face.
"You are unbelievable!"
Olivia chuckled. "That's why you love me, right?"
Silence reigned as both women realised what she'd said. Olivia's hands stilled and a deep frown creased her brow. A bomb could have gone off in the other room and Natalia doubted they'd have noticed. The universe had contracted suddenly and all that existed was the two of them and the place where their hands touched.
"So," Natalia began, trying to cut the tension. She coughed to clear her throat. "What does being a chef have to do with my hand?"
Olivia came back to life and grabbed the Saran wrap Emma was holding out to her gratefully, obviously glad of the distraction. "Just that I know how serious kitchen accidents can be," she replied, wrapping Natalia's injured hand gently in the clear plastic. Her fingers were soft and mild on Natalia's skin. Natalia watched her as she worked, her heart melting at the look of intense concentration on Olivia's face as she began to dress the wound with a second layer, this time a cotton bandage. "All done," Olivia said at last, but didn't release her hand. Their fingers played together for a long moment, seemingly of their own volition. Natalia smiled.
"Thank you," she said, then slowly and deliberately leaned forward. "We take such good care of each other," she whispered in Olivia's ear, then gently kissed her cheek.
For a long moment Olivia didn't speak. Natalia pulled back and smiled at her innocently. She's staring at my lips, Natalia thought almost giddily. She'd seen that look before so many times - but now she was willing to acknowledge what it meant.
Olivia coughed. "Yeah," she said finally. "I guess we do..."
"I'll just go and get the soup," Natalia said softly. She hoped she was projecting an air of calm because inside her stomach was doing cartwheels.
Natalia believed that human beings were made up of their own version of the holy trinity - not Father, Son and Holy Spirit but Mind, Soul and Body. Olivia's mind may not remember, Natalia thought with a grin. But her body does... She glanced over at Olivia who still looked a little shell-shocked.
I can use that...