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.
The gnawing feeling in the pit of Olivia's stomach was not in any way appeased by the text she received as soon as she was able to turn her phone back on after getting off the plane. Can you get a cab home? Will explain when you get here.
Natalia had been scheduled to pick her up. She'd even said she'd been looking forward to it. "I can't wait to see you," she'd said, just the previous night. Obviously she'd developed some patience since then. It was a shame Olivia hadn't.
With a deep sigh she shouldered her bag and headed for the waiting rank of taxis. She gave the address then leaned back in the seat, closing her eyes., "I'll tip you an extra ten bucks if you don't talk to me," she muttered. Forty minutes later the cab pulled up outside the farmhouse and Olivia paid the extortionate fare - including inflated tip.
"Natalia?" Olivia tried to keep the anticipation from her voice, but she had a feeling it crept in anyway. She tightened her jaw. She didn't want Natalia to know just how much she'd missed her. Especially as it seemed like the feeling wasn't exactly mutual.
"Oh hi, you're back." Natalia's voice was distracted as she came in from the kitchen carrying a sandwich wrapped in plastic. She didn't seem pleased to see her. The smile that had leapt to Olivia's lips at the sight of her dropped slowly from her face.
"Yeah, sure am," she said.
Natalia nodded absently, sitting on the couch and grabbing her purse. She placed the sandwich inside it carefully. Olivia suddenly noticed the suitcases by the door.
"You're going somewhere?"
Natalia closed her eyes wearily. "I have to go to Chicago for a little while," she said. "I wanted to ask you for a favour."
Olivia sat on the arm of the sofa. "Okay."
Natalia opened her eyes. "Can you stay here while I'm gone?" she asked. "I don't know how long I'll be gone and I don't like the idea of the house being empty."
Right, Olivia thought. Housesitting for a friend. That's all she wants from me. "Okay," she said aloud.
Natalia stood, smoothing down her clothes. "Great," she said. "One less thing to worry about..."
Olivia watched her packing up last minute things for a few minutes, waiting for her to say something else and getting more and more frustrated with the other woman. "Aren't you going to tell me why you're going?" she said at last, when no explanation was forthcoming.
Natalia stilled. She didn't look at Olivia as she replied. "My dad died," she said simply.
Olivia was on her feet and by Natalia's side in an instant, her earlier annoyance forgotten. Her hand came to rest on her shoulder. "I'm so sorry," she breathed. Natalia nodded and shrugged. Olivia's hand fell away.
"Thanks," Natalia said.
"Do...do you know what happened?" Olivia's voice was gentle.
Natalia shook her head and resumed her last minute packing. "I just know it was sudden. My mom called this morning."
Olivia hesitated before she said what was on her mind. "I, uh, haven't ever heard you talk about your parents," she said softly.
Natalia shook her head. "We...parted ways...before Rafe was born," she replied. "I haven't seen or heard from them in eighteen years."
Olivia was still and quiet for a moment while she processed that. "And you're still going to come running when she calls?" she said at last, unable to hide all her incredulity from her voice.
Natalia pinned her with a steady gaze. "She's my mom," she said simply, as if that said it all. And for Natalia, Olivia supposed, it probably did. She managed a tight smile.
"You're a better person than I am," she said. "But I've always known that."
Ordinarily Natalia would have argued with that but today she simply didn't have the energy. She settled for simply patting Olivia's hand as she grabbed her bags and headed for the door.
"Wait!" Natalia paused at the door and looked back. Olivia smiled almost shyly. "Aren't you going to say goodbye?"
Natalia seemed to hesitate briefly, then set her bags down. She crossed back to Olivia in two strides and ran her fingers through a lock of her hair, tucking it behind her ear. "Goodbye," she said softly, and pressed her lips to Olivia's cheek. Only the protraction of the kiss and the trembling of her hands betrayed that the gesture could be anything other than friendly.
"You're coming back, right?"
The question was out before Olivia had a chance to think about it and as soon as she spoke she wanted to claw the words back into her mouth. What an absurd question. Of course she was coming back.
"Of course I'm coming back," Natalia said softly. She tilted Olivia's chin up, forcing her to meet her eyes. After another brief hesitation she leaned forward again, and this time the kiss was for her lips. It was a peck, over almost before it began, but Olivia felt her heart clench almost painfully at the simple touch. Natalia's fingers traced the planes of her face. "Can't get rid of me, remember?" she whispered.
Olivia released a breath she hadn't been aware she was holding. "Right," she agreed.
Natalia watched Olivia for a moment, an unreadable expression on her face. Then she pulled away, leaning down to retrieve her suitcases. "I'll call you when things have settled down a bit," she said.
"Okay." Olivia nodded. She resisted the urge to reach out to Natalia again, to pull her back into her arms and never let her go. "Text me when you get there though, okay? So I know when to stop worrying."
Natalia nodded as she left, her mind already in Chicago and what was waiting for her there.
Olivia watched her go. She had a feeling that, despite what she'd said, she probably wasn't going to be able to stop worrying about her the whole time she was gone.
* * * * * *
Emma was delighted to see Olivia picking her up from school, but she was even more delighted to discover that they were both going back to the farmhouse. "Do we get to stay forever?" she asked, her breath coming quickly in her excitement. "Have you and Natalia stopped arguing?"
Olivia frowned. "We're not arguing, baby," she said. "Why would you think that?"
Emma shrugged. "You must be," she said simply. "You're acting weird. We're living at the hotel. If you weren't arguing we'd have moved back already."
Olivia closed her eyes briefly. She didn't think she was ready for this conversation. But she didn't want Emma to go on believing that she and Natalia were mad at each other. "We haven't been arguing, baby," she explained.
Emma frowned. "Then why did we have to move out?" she asked.
Olivia took a deep breath. "Emma..." she began. "You know Natalia and I both love you very much right?" The child nodded. Olivia stroked her hair and managed a smile. "Well...Natalia and I also love each other very much."
Emma shrugged. "I know," she said.
Emma looked at her mother as if she were slightly slow. "You're family," she said.
Olivia nodded. "Yes," she agreed. "We are a family. And we're friends." Another deep breath. "But we also love each other in a different way."
There. It was out now. Surprisingly, Olivia felt a little better. A little lighter maybe.
"What different way?"
Olivia smiled gently. "Well...in one of those weird, grown-up ways that even we don't understand," she explained. "And that's what we've been trying to do for the last little while."
Emma shrugged. "Okay," she said. "Can we have spaghetti for dinner?"
Olivia reeled slightly at the sudden change of topic. Adaptable little people indeed, she thought, and smiled. "I love you Jellybean," she said.
"Love you too mommy."
Olivia kissed her daughter's forehead. "Spaghetti it is," she said.
They went to Towers where, thankfully, there were no children and their video games or new cats to entice Emma away from her mom's table. Olivia's cellphone buzzed just as they finished their meal. Have arrived safely, the message said.
OK. I love you, Olivia sent back.
She checked her phone repeatedly throughout the rest of the evening, but she didn't receive a reply.