FANDOM: Guiding Light
RATING: PG for this part
SUMMARY: Natalia needs to make a choice between her past and her future.
TIMELINE: Begins immediately after the episode on the 12th of May and goes off into its own little world at that point.
DEDICATION: This is dedicated to the memory of badtyler, a great writer and an even better friend.
A/N: I obviously couldn't stay away for very long. Still obsessed with Otalia, obviously. I don't think I'll manage daily updates on this one, but I'll do my best to be regular.
Natalia was glad Olivia loved her for her nurturing qualities and not her strength, because she didn't feel strong. She'd never felt weaker than she did sitting in her kitchen alone, ingredients for an abandoned cake strewn around her while she begged Olivia's voicemail to abandon her eldest child and come home. Because she needed her. Promises made in their little spa bubble, sealed with...well, not a kiss, but with hand holding which for them was practically the same thing, were suddenly much harder to keep.
She'd promised they wouldn't take a step back. She'd also said she wasn't afraid, and that was turning into a big lie. But what was she really afraid of?
Buzz's disapproval and anger were only to be expected - she'd jilted his son for crying out loud. His reaction to that would be the same whether she was in a relationship with Olivia or not. Buzz hadn't cast her into this sea of weakness and doubt.
Coming out, she'd said. Coming out? Coming out of what? What would she be coming into? And what the hell did Doris Wolfe know about it anyway? The woman was so far back in the closet she was practically in Narnia.
She banged her fist on the table, glad of the pain that shot up her arm. Anything to distract her from these questions and thoughts and fears swirling through her mind like a tornado. How could she possibly talk about these doubts with Olivia? She'd break her heart, or at least push her away. Olivia had made it pretty clear before they left for their weekend - if you can't handle this then you need to let me know. Now. That had been her chance. She could have said No, I can't handle it, let's just go back to being friends and let this love turn bitter and slowly kill us from the inside out. What kind of answer would that have been? Maybe a truthful one.
But it was too late for that. She'd gone away with Olivia, she'd held her hand, she'd made promises, she'd seen the light of hope dawn in those beautiful eyes she so adored. And she couldn't bear the thought of the pain in those eyes if she told her how shaky the foundations of her promises really were.
What do you think you are? Doris had asked. For the first time in her life she didn't know. How could she possibly promise Olivia anything when she didn't even recognise herself in the mirror anymore? How could she seek to share her life, her heart, her soul with another person when she didn't know what her life would be like, or the true desires of her heart, or the secrets that swirled through her soul like marble?
She was sure only of one thing. What she'd said to Olivia was true. They were intertwined. Linked, by Emma, by their history, by their friendship. And by love. But right now she felt like a diseased root grafted onto a healthy one. Wouldn't it be better to tear them apart for the healthy one's sake? Even if the operation wrenched pieces of it away?
Damaged was better than destroyed, right?
Her cellphone started to vibrate a second before it rang. She jumped and blinked hard, her eyes watering. She didn't know how long she'd been staring into space but her eyes were itching and her skin was crawling. She glanced at the display. Olivia.
She actually hesitated for a brief moment before she answered, her heart in her mouth. "H-hi," she said shakily, her eyes fluttering closed as the rich contralto of Olivia's voice washed over her and soothed places she hadn't even realised were broken. "It's really good to hear your voice," she admitted softly, trying hard not to cry. She could hear the worry in the other woman's tone as clear as a bell, despite the technology and the miles and the time zones separating them. "I'm okay," she lied, pressing her nails sharply into her palm. "I just...I just had a little moment of weakness back there. I saw Buzz...well, it didn't go too well." She didn't mention Doris. She couldn't explain why that visit had upset her, not yet. "No," she continued. "No, I didn't tell him about...us. He was just mad about Frank and about, you know, how I betrayed the family." She managed a tight, humourless laugh. "Maybe I'll wake up with a horse's head in my bed."
She stood, leaving the detritus of her ingredients behind, and wandered into the living room. She flopped down onto the sofa with a deep sigh. "How's Ava?" she asked, and floated away on the waves of Olivia's reply for long moments. "Hmm?" she said at last, when she realised that Olivia had said her name. At least twice. "Sorry," she said shyly. "I'm just...I've got a lot on my mind." She pulled a sofa cushion to her chest and curled round it. "No," she sighed. "You should stay with Ava. I just...I just miss you, that's all. And I wish..." She felt tears springing to her eyes, and she blinked them away, hoping her voice didn't betray her. "I wish it could be just you and me," she said. "I wish we didn't have to worry about anything else but loving each other."
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. "Olivia?" she said at last. "I love you." Relief blossomed in her chest as she heard the soft reply. "I'll see you in a few days, okay?" she said. "Give my love to Ava." They exchanged the usual meaningless words of farewell and Natalia ended the call.
Olivia had offered to come home and every atom of Natalia's being had been screaming at her to say yes. But she couldn't. If Olivia was there, sure, things would be easier. Maybe the world would still be terrifying, maybe everyone she knew would still be mad at her, but she'd have a refuge. A way to escape the maelstrom of confusion and doubt that had taken her over since she'd returned to Springfield.
But Olivia deserved better. And she couldn't talk to her about how she was feeling. Her best friend, her rock, the one person she could count on whatever happened...and she couldn't share this with her. She needed to deal with this alone.
So it was lucky then, she supposed, that she'd never felt more alone in her life.
* * * * * *
Nearly two thousand miles away Olivia Spencer flicked her phone closed with a pensive look on her face. The cafe was busy and conversation buzzed all around her, but she didn't hear it. A cloud passed over the sun and she shivered, a sudden chill creeping up her spine. She saw Ava picking her way through the tables, but couldn't manage to respond to the wave and bright smile on her face.
"You okay?" Ava asked as a waiter placed a martini in front of her. They hadn't skimped on the olives, Olivia noticed. Just the way she liked it.
"Yeah," she replied distractedly. She stirred her drink slowly. "It's just...I was talking to Natalia."
Ava rolled her eyes. "What now? You know you haven't stopped talking about her since you got here."
Olivia turned a deadly expression on her daughter. "I've talked about other things." Then she smiled quickly - too quickly for it be genuine. "Like your fabulous new apartment. Which I can't believe you can afford, by the way."
Ava raised an eyebrow but chose not to say anything. If her mother wanted to be in denial about her obvious obsession with one Natalia Rivera...well, who was she to argue?
The return of the waiter saved them from further conversation. "Are you ready to order, ladies?"
Olivia shook herself and returned her attention to the menu. Natalia was fine, she told herself. She just had a nasty shock when she got back to Springfield and discovered that things weren't going to be all puppies and rainbows. She'd get over it.
Olivia told herself all that and much more, trying to ignore the cold creep of dread edging into the corners of her heart. Everything would be fine.
It had to be.